Every student appearing for the GRE is racked by the question – How important is the GRE score? What is a good score? And what impact does it have on my admission?
While no fixed GRE score can be termed a good score, there are a few common factors to keep in mind. Your target score should take into account the selectivity of the program you’re applying to, the median and average GRE scores, the 25th percentile score, and the cutoff scores for your target college.
In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the GRE scoring system and end with a five-point methodology to help you pick the correct target score for yourself.
What is the GRE score range?
The GRE score range refers to your possible score’s upper and lower limits. There are three sections in the GRE, and their range is as follows:
- Verbal Reasoning – 130-170
- Quantitative Reasoning – 130-170
- Analytical Writing Assessment – 0-6
Testers are graded on an incremental scale of 1 point for the first two sections. The total of both sections represents your final score out of 340. The third section, AWA, won’t be part of your final score and isn’t considered by most to be a critical component of the GRE. It is scored out of 6 points at increments of half a point.
What is the average GRE score?
Now that we have the possible score range, let’s look at the average GRE scores. Going strictly by absolute numbers, the average scores for the Quant and Verbal sections are 153.66 and 150.37, respectively. This adds up to a total score of 304.
If we dig a little deeper, we can unearth the average scores of high-level, mid-level, and low-scorers.
- The best GRE scores
- Quant – 165 -170
- Verbal – 163 -169
- AWA – 5.0 – 6.0
- Competitive GRE scores
- Quant – 159-164
- Verbal – 158-162
- AWA – 4.5
- Mid-level GRE scores
- Quant – 153 – 158
- Verbal – 152 – 157
- AWA – 4.0
- Low GRE scores
- Quant – =<152
- Verbal – =<153
- AWA – =<4.0
Using this data, we can generally state that anything above 317 is a good GRE score that can put you in good stead for most competitive programs. While a score below 310 can still be good enough for most public universities, it makes you less likely to qualify for the more selective programs.
What are the GRE score percentiles?
Apart from the scaled score out of 340, a percentile factor is also associated with it. Each mark is attached to a percentile, representing the percentage of students you’ve performed better than. It basically compares you to the rest of the test takers and gives a clearer picture of your abilities. For instance, if your percentile is 55%, it insinuates that you performed better than 55% of the test takers. Below, we’ve compiled a list of all the scores corresponding to their respective percentile.
|SCALED SCORE||VERBAL PERCENTILE||QUANTITATIVE PERCENTILE|
For analytical writing, the table is as follows:
|SCORE LEVELS||WRITING PERCENTILE|
What is a good GRE score?
So, we get back to the original question – what exactly constitutes a good score? Is it scoring better than the average scores mentioned above?
Going by that ideology, a score above 150-154 in each section, totalling about 308, should work. But does it match up to the standards of the university you’re targeting? While 308 is an above-average score compared to all the test takers, it pales in comparison to the student bodies of the top programs. Stanford has an average score of 330 for its MBA intake, which is in the 90th percentile. Similarly, for most competitive programs, a good score would range from the 27th to the 7th percentile – meaning your target should be 160 in each section.
If you want to read more about the average GRE scores at leading universities, you can do so here.
How do you find the correct GRE score for yourself?
But simply chasing 320+ without first considering its merits might be a flawed approach. Instead, here are the five questions you need to answer to get to the correct target score for you.
What GRE score do I need to get accepted into my preferred program?
You should start by looking up the average, median, and 75th percentile scores for the program’s previous batch. Anything above the 75th percentile can be considered competitive. However, if you belong to an over-represented group, such as an Indian male engineer, your ideal score would be a few points higher than the 75th percentile.
For instance, the average GRE score for the MS in Engineering program at UC Berkeley is 322. Your target should be closer to 325+.
Will they look at my scores in all the sections?
Many programs, especially those in the pure sciences, will usually give more weightage to your score in the Quant section than the Verbal one. This gives you more leeway to choose a lower target score wherein your Quant score is higher than the Verbal.
What else will my GRE score be used for?
Many programs, such as the Kelley Business Program at Indiana University, offer merit-based scholarships. While applying there, it would be wise to shore up your GRE scores as high as possible to get a good scholarship. Your GRE score won’t sway other scholarships, such as the need-based one at Harvard.
How important are my GRE scores in terms of my entire application?
If your application lacks certain aspects, a good GRE score can help you add heft to the overall application. For instance, if you come from an Arts background and don’t have any Quant courses to show, a high Quant score will likely cover up those gaps. It will help you highlight your Quant aptitude adequately despite not having done Quant in college.
Does my school accept multiple GRE scores?
If your target school accepts only the higher GRE score, you can choose to relax a bit on your first attempt and then buckle up in the next one. On the other hand, if the school requires you to submit all the test scores, you might also have to do well on the first one.
Answering these questions should help you understand what a good GRE score looks like for you. Based on that, you can prepare a detailed GRE study plan using our 7-step guide. For more help, you can talk to our expert GRE mentors by filling out the form here.