Applying for an advanced degree is a daunting process. One must collect the requisite letters of recommendation, order transcripts, write application statements, and take the proper qualifying exams. The process may be even more complicated for individuals seeking to return to get an advanced degree after a hiatus of several years or more. Knowing how long Graduate Record Examinations (GREs) and Graduate Management Admissions Tests (GMATs) are valid can reduce some of the stress and complications of the application process.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE is a standardized exam that seeks to measure a range of academic learning skills developed by individuals over time. The GRE General and Subject Tests are admissions requirements for prospective students applying to most universities offering advanced degrees in the United States and advanced English-language degree programs taught worldwide.

The GRE General Test reports scores in three categories: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. Verbal and quantitative reasoning are measured on a scale ranging from 130 to 170 points; the analytical writing section receives a single numeric score ranging from 0-6. There are also seven GRE Subject Tests in the following areas: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. These tests are scored on a range from 200-990.

Both the General and the Subject Test scores are valid for five years after the testing year in which an individual took the exam. The testing year runs from July 1-June 30. Although it is possible to take the General Test on demand at testing centers around the world, the Subject Tests are only available on fixed dates. Prospective students need to plan their test dates carefully, so that the scores will be available before their admission deadlines.

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)

The GMAT is an admissions requirement for most graduate business programs in the United States. It measures prospective students' verbal, mathematical, integrated reasoning and analytical writing skills. The test is structured in four sections, three of which contain a number of multiple choice questions. There is a fourth section for the analytical writing assessment. Scores are based on the total number of correct answers, and the test is "computer-adaptive." The GMAT is administered on-demand in test centers throughout the world.

Like the GRE, GMAT test scores are generally valid for five years after a prospective student takes them. However, GMAT scores from five to ten years ago are available to be sent to schools on request. Prospective students should check the admissions requirements of each school to which they are applying carefully, to make sure a school will accept an older score. If students have taken the GMAT within the last five years, only the more recent score will be reported.

When applying to graduate programs, prospective students need to keep each school's deadline in mind, as most schools will not consider even the strongest candidate with an incomplete application. Prospective students need to make sure their GRE and GMAT test scores are still valid, and if they are not, they should plan to retake the exams by no later than October of the year before they wish to start the program.