In the test, you shall face 2 Analytical Writing tasks, 2 Verbal Reasoning sections, 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections, 1 additional Verbal / Quantitative Reasoning section that is not scored and 1 research section (might or might not come). Now, unlike most other tests that you would have taken in the past (for example, the paper-based high school exams of 100 marks) where each question carried assigned marks, GRE® follows a scoring algorithm that is difficult to comprehend in the first go. However, it is essential to understand how the test works and how the scores are computed even before you start your GRE® preparation so that you have your test-taking strategies right in place.
GRE® is a sectional adaptive test – the performance in the first verbal section determines the second verbal section. The 2 quantitative sections also work in a similar way.
The best way to understand this test’s scoring mechanism is by starting with the GRE® scorecard. Here is a snapshot:
As you can see, GRE® does not actually have an ‘out of 340’ score. The scorecard has 3 broad sections:
- Verbal Reasoning: A ‘Scaled Score’ which shows your score in the verbal reasoning section (on a scale of 130 – 170) and a ‘% below’ which simply indicates the percentage of test-takers who score below you in this section.
The test-taker in this case scored 160 out of 170 in the Verbal Reasoning section. 85% of all test-takers score below this.
- Quantitative Reasoning: A ‘Scaled Score’ which shows your score in this section (on a scale of 130 – 170) and a ‘% below’ score that indicates the percentage of test-takers who score below you in this section.
The test-taker in this case scored 165 out of 170 in the Quantitative Reasoning section. 81% of all test-takers score below this.
- Analytical Writing: A ‘Score’ which shows your raw score in the AWA section on a scale of 0 to 6.
The test-taker in this case scored 3.5 out of 6 in the Analytical Writing section. 37% of all test-takers score below this.
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.
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 66 percentile, and 66% of the 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 166 in verbal reasoning, you score the 97 percentile. 166 on Quantitative Reasoning however equates to 84 percentile.
Many of the technical master’s programs (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).
Here is how the scaled scores and their corresponding ‘% below’ look like (as published by ETS):
|Scaled Score||Verbal Reasoning (%ile Below)||Quantitative Reasoning (%ile Below)|
GRE® AWA section:
In the 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 is scored by a human reader and an ETS e-rater (a computer program) independently and scored on a 0-6 scale. For every essay, the two scores (given by the 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 the 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.
Score Levels Analytical Writing (%ile Below):
|Score Levels||Analytical Writing (%ile Below)|