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Graduate Record Examinations or the more popularly known GRE is a standardised test conducted by ETS (Educational Testing Services). The GRE scores are often accepted by most of the top graduate level schools for masters degree programs (like the popular Master of Science degree – MS in the USA).

GRE is a computer based test that is section-level adaptive. In GRE, you will come across 2 verbal sections and 2 quantitative sections. There is a reason behind having 2 sections each for verbal and quantitative reasoning – the GRE test adapts between sections. Your performance in the first section shall determine whether you get an easy or difficult second section.

GRE Verbal Reasoning section:

The verbal reasoning section score is reported on a scale of 130 to 170 with a 1 point increment (therefore possible scores are: 130, 131, 132, 133….167, 168, 169, 170). So is 155, a good or a bad score? Difficult to guess, right? Given that GRE follows a (weird) scale, the best possible way to understand a score is by looking at the corresponding ‘% below’ – the percentage of test-takers who score less than that score. Here is how the scaled scores and their corresponding ‘% below’ look like (as published by ETS):

Verbal Reasoning
Scaled Score % below Scaled Score % below
170 99 150 45
169 99 149 41
168 98 148 37
167 97 147 33
166 96 146 29
165 95 145 25
164 94 144 22
163 92 143 18
162 90 142 16
161 87 141 13
160 85 140 10
159 81 139 8
158 79 138 7
157 74 137 5
156 71 136 3
155 67 135 3
154 63 134 2
153 59 133 1
152 54 132 1
151 50 131 1
150 45 130

While the ‘Scaled Score’ is an absolute number, the ‘% below’ introduces relativity which helps universities compare candidates. Given that a ‘Scaled Score’ of 155 in Verbal is basically 67 percentile, 67% of test-takers score below this, it is now easy to gauge the level of the candidate.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning section:

The scoring system for quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning sections work in a similar manner. The quantitative section score is reported on a scale of 130 to 170 with a 1 point increment. However, the scaled score – % below conversions in Quantitative Reasoning differs from that of Verbal. If you score a 166 in verbal reasoning, you score a 96 percentile. 166 on Quantitative Reasoning however equates to 92 percentile.

Quantitative Reasoning
Scaled Score % below Scaled Score % below
170 98 150 40
169 97 149 37
168 95 148 32
167 94 147 28
166 92 146 25
165 90 145 21
164 88 144 18
163 86 143 15
162 83 142 12
161 80 141 10
160 78 140 8
159 75 139 6
158 71 138 4
157 86 137 3
156 64 136 2
155 60 135 2
154 56 134 1
153 52 133 1
152 48 132
151 45 131
150 40 130

Many of the technical masters program (especially the engineering ones) look for a good score in this section. We recommend that you score above 160 in this section (above 165 for top programs).

GRE AWA section:

In GRE Analytical Writing section, you shall come across 2 essay writing tasks – Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. The AWA is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 with a 0.5 point increment (possible scores are 0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0,….5.0, 5.5, 6.0).

Each of the AWA essays are scored by a human reader and an ETS e-rater (a computer program) independently and scored on the 0-6 scale. For every essay, the two scores (given by human reader and e-rater) are compared and the following process is followed:

  • If the scores are not significantly different, the average of the scores is the score for the essay.
  • If there is a significant difference between the scores given by the human reader and e-rater, a second human reader grades the essay. The final score is the average of the two human reader scores.

The final score in AWA is the average of the scores in the two essays. We recommend that you score 4.0 or above out of 6.

ETS has published AWA Score Level descriptions to give clarity on how the AWA essays are rated. Read more.

Summary:

To summarize, the GRE revised general test consists of the following (apart from the unscored Verbal/Quantitative Reasoning sections :

Tasks Duration Score Range Nature
Analytical Writing 2 essays 30 mins per essay (1 Hour) 0-6 with 0.5 point increment Graded by human reader and e-rater.
Verbal Reasoning 2 sections of 20 questions 30 mins per section 130 – 170 with 1 point increment. Adaptive between two sections, not within a section
Quantitative Reasoning 2 sections of 20 questions 35 mins per section 130 – 170 with 1 point increment. Adaptive between two sections, not within a section

 

 

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