The GRE was revised in 2011, so the way the exam is scored has changed relatively recently. GRE exams taken prior to August 1, 2011 were scored from 200-800 in 10-point increments for the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam, and from 0-6 in half-point increments for the Analytical Writing portion of the exam.
The GRE revised General Test (this includes all tests taken on or after August 1, 2011) is the most current form of the exam. The GRE Verbal and Quantitative sections are now scored between 130-170 in 1-point increments, with 170 being the highest GRE score possible for the overall Verbal and overall Quantitative scores.
The Analytical Writing score range has remained the same: it is still scored from 0-6 in half-point increments (for example, it is possible to get a 4.5 in this section).
How is the GRE Scored?
Every GRE Score Report includes three different scores, one for each of the following sections: GRE Verbal, GRE Quantitative (or Quant), and GRE Analytical Writing.
As explained above, Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. Quantitative Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments, and the Analytical Writing score is reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments.
In order to get a good GRE Score, you should remember that this computerized test is section-adaptive. That means that how well you perform on the first type of a specific section will determine how hard the second section of that type will be. It is a good idea to go back and check your answers carefully in the first section of each type (i.e. Verbal or Quant) to maximize your opportunity for doing well in that section so you will be offered an even harder section next in order to get the highest possible score.
What is a Good GRE Score?
The GRE score you will need to be admitted to a specific graduate program will depend on the requirements of that program and how competitive it is. Most graduate schools have information posted on their sites about the average GRE scores of their most recent incoming class. You can also consult the annual graduate school rankings by U.S. News & World Report for GRE score ranges, or browse graduate student forums to get an idea of the GRE requirements for specific schools and programs.
ETS does not publish median GRE scores, however, based on the scores of a majority of test takers in recent years, the median hovers around 150-151 for the Verbal and Quant sections of the exam, and is about 3.7 for the AWA. To be competitive, you will need scores that are well above the median.
Some graduate programs have cut-off scores (i.e. students must have a baseline score to be considered for admission); other departments are only interested in the Verbal or the Quant sections of the exam. Most programs look at GRE scores as only one element of your application package, which includes letters of recommendation, your undergraduate transcripts and GPA, and your statement of purpose. That said, the following scores will put you in the top ten percent of all GRE test takers (above the 90th percentile) and are considered the most competitive:
Competitive GRE Test Scores
|Analytical Writing Score||5.0-6.0|
GRE score percentiles are printed on your score report so that you (and graduate schools) can tell how well you did in comparison to all other test takers since August 1, 2011. Specifically, the score percentile shows the percentage of test takers who scored lower than a specific scaled score. For example, if you got a scaled score of 163 for the Verbal section, that is equivalent to a score percentile of 92, which means that 92% of all test takers scored lower than you for the Verbal portion of the exam.
As a rule, the following scores are considered very competitive:
- Verbal Score between 158-162 (equivalent 0f 78th-89th percentile in 2014)
- Quantitative Score between 159-164 (equivalent of 74th-88th percentile in 2014)
- Analytical Writing Score above 4.5
Likewise, the following scores are considered decent (better than 50th percentile), and may be good enough to get you into some of the programs that interest you:
- Verbal Score between 152-158 (equivalent of 54th-78th percentile in 2014)
- Quantitative Score between 153-158 (equivalent of 52th-71st percentile in 2014)
- Analytical Writing Score of 4.0
GRE Score Calculator
Some graduate and business schools use formulas that take GPAs, GREs and/or GMAT scores into consideration in their admissions process. These formulas do not guarantee that you will be admitted or rejected, but they are sometimes used to determine who makes the cut. If your GPA/GMAT or GPA/GRE score is below a certain number, a school might not consider your application.
Different programs and schools use different formulas, but you can use a GRE calculator or a GRE/GMAT admissions calculator (readily available online) to determine the minimum GPA and GRE (or GMAT) scores you will likely need to get into a particular program. In addition, many GRE prep courses include practice tests as well as score predictors that give you a projected GRE score based on the scores you get on the practice exams.
GRE to GMAT Conversion
If you are applying to business school, you may be interested in a GRE to GMAT Conversion tool. Business schools that are more familiar with the GMAT than the GRE may want to look at the score range you would likely have gotten on the GMAT if you had taken it instead of the GRE.
ETS provides a relatively reliable tool to help institutions interpret GRE scores in comparison to GMAT scores. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools helps predict GMAT scores for applicants based on their GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Scores and is available on the ETS website. (ETS provides a predicted score range instead of specific scores because GRE scores may not be exactly equivalent to scores individuals would get on the GMAT. This is because of the measurement of error in both tests.)
There is no GMAT to GRE Conversion tool, but you could check the numbers for various GRE to GMAT conversions using the tool on the ETS site and work your way backwards to approximate the scores you might receive on the GRE based on your GMAT scores.
When Do I Find Out My GRE Score?
On the test date, you will see your unofficial score report for the Verbal and Quant sections immediately after the exam if you took the computerized version of the test. (The Analytical Writing score must be graded by hand, so it is not available the same day.) About 10-15 days after your test date, ETS will submit official Graduate Institution Score Reports to all authorized score recipients you previously selected. You will also receive an email from ETS to notify you that your official scores have been posted in your My GRE account, and that official score reports were sent to the programs you designated. If you take a paper-and-pencil exam, your scores will be available approximately 6 weeks after you sit for the test.
Accepted GRE Scores by School
Your GRE score will likely be an important factor in your application package. The GRE is accepted by very many different schools and programs in a large variety of disciplines (the Arts, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Business, Foreign Languages etc.), so it is difficult to give an overall answer about what kind of GRE score will get you into a particular program.
Many programs in the humanities are less concerned with your performance on the Quant section of the exam, whereas Engineering departments are likely to care more about your scores in that section. That said, the better your score on the GRE, the more options you will have when it comes to graduate school admissions. In general, top schools (for example, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Duke, Columbia, UCLA, and Cornell) will prefer candidates who score in the 80th percentile or above on either the Verbal or the Quant section of the exam, depending on the type of graduate program.
Your best bet is to research those programs that interest you most to find out the typical score range of admitted students. For example, Princeton University publishes detailed statistics on the GRE scores of applicants, admitted students, and those who enrolled each year. For 2014, average GRE Verbal scores for admitted students across all departments ranged from 159-164. The average GRE Quant scores for admitted students ranged from 156-165.
You should also remember that having an excellent (or even perfect) GRE score is no guarantee that you will be admitted to a particular program. Graduate school admissions committees in the U.S. tend to look at a student’s entire application, and may place more emphasis on your GPA, your letters of recommendation, and your personal statement than on your GRE scores.
Of course, it can’t hurt to get the best GRE score you possibly can so you will stand out from the crowd! Check out our reviews of popular GRE courses to give yourself a leg up against the competition.