What's a good GRE score? [with GRE percentiles]

What's a good GRE score? [with GRE percentiles]

Almost all success and personal development literature talks about the importance of not comparing yourself to others, to running your own race and not getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. Some people talk about not comparing your back stage to someone else’s front stage (meaning that you’re still in process, and you can’t always know the real story behind someone else’s apparent success), and this seems to be a great advice in most cases.

But not on the GRE

In the world of graduate and business school admissions, we have to be honest about the reality that you’re competing against your peers for select and coveted spots at the top schools. And while numerous different aspects of your candidacy are evaluated, one of the more black-and-white elements of your application is your GRE score.

What is a Good GRE Score?

Do GRE test scores really matter? Is your GRE score good enough to get you into the grad school of your choice?

A “good” GRE score depends on the programs you are considering. For comparison, the average score for all GRE test takers is currently a 150 for Verbal and a 152 for Math (See how to achieve higher score by choosing the best GRE prep course and best GRE prep books).

Because the GRE General Test is used for such a wide range of graduate school programs (including some business schools), the relative weight it is given will vary from field to field and from school to school. Research the universities where you plan to apply so that you can create the best GRE prep plan for you!

Guide to GRE Scoring

You’ll receive three GRE scores on your score report, one for Quantitative Reasoning (math), one for Verbal Reasoning, and one for Analytical Writing (the essays).

GRE Scores Range

Verbal Reasoning   130–170, in 1 point increments
Quantitative Reasoning   130–170, in 1 point increments
Analytical Writing   0–6, in half point increments

The GRE General Test comprises the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The total test duration is 3 hours 45 minutes.

The GRE test scores that are reported include:

a. The verbal reasoning score. This can range from 130-170 in one-point increment.

b The quantitative reasoning score. This can range from 130-170 in one-point increment.

c. The analytical writing score. This can range from 0-6 in half-point increment.

The GRE score report also gives you the percentile rank for each of the above test scores.

The scaled score leaves you wondering whether the scores you’ve got would be considered a good score or not. How do you compare your test performance with others who have taken the test? The percentile ranks are a good way to know where you stand.

So what exactly are these percentile ranks?

Percentile scores are used to compare your scores with the scores of other test takers within a selected comparison group. Here, the percentile ranks indicate the percentage of test-takers who’ve receive a score below yours. For instance, if your score was reported to be in the 80th percentile, it would mean that you scored better than 80 percent of the test takers around the world.

These ranks are based on the GRE scores of those who tested earlier within a three year period. For those testing in 2016-17, the percentile ranks are calculated on the performance of those who were tested between July 1, 2012 and July 30, 2015.

GRE Score Percentiles for 2017 – 2018

Every GRE score has two components: a scaled score (i.e. 130–170) and a percentile rank. Your percentile rank is more important than your scaled score. Your percentile rank indicates how your GRE scores compare to those of other test takers. For example, a scaled Verbal score of 150 on the GRE translates to roughly the 47th percentile, meaning that you scored better than 47 percent of other test takers—and worse than the other 53 percent of test takers. Here are the most recent GRE percentile ranks, released by ETS.

Scaled Score   Verbal Percentile   Quantitative Percentile
170 99 97
169 99 97
168 98 95
167 98 93
166 97 91
165 95 89
164 94 87
163 92 85
162 90 82
161 88 79
160 85 76
159 82 73
158 80 70
157 75 67
156 72 63
155 68 59
154 64 55
153 60 51
152 55 47
151 51 43
150 47 39
149 42 35
148 38 31
147 34 27
146 30 24
145 26 20
144 23 17
143 19 14
142 17 12
141 14 10
140 11 8
139 9 6
138 7 4
137 6 3
136 4 2
135 3 1
134 2 1
133 1 1
132 1
131 1

Score Percentiles for Analytical Writing

Score   Percentile Rank
6.0 99
5.5 98
5.0 93
4.5 82
4.0 59
3.5 42
3.0 17
2.5 7
2.0 2
1.5 1

What are good GRE scores for MY goals?

The first step in figuring out how to prepare for the GRE is figuring out how your scores will be used. The only way to do that is to contact the programs to which you plan to apply. Here are some questions you should be asking.

1. What GRE scores do I need to be accepted?

You need to have a target score so you can figure out how much work you need to put in between now and test day.

2. Will you look at all parts of my GRE score?

Some programs may care about your math score, but not your verbal score, and vice versa(It is worth to know that calculators are not allowed in GRE quantitative section, which is approved by SAT). If a program doesn’t care about your math or your essay score, then you know exactly where to put your prep time.

3. Are GRE scores used for anything else?

If your scores will used for course placement or for scholarship consideration, it would be good to know that now, while you still have time to prepare.

4. How important are my GRE scores in terms of my entire application?

How much weight a program places on your score is often a function of how competitive admission to the program is. If it is a competitive program, every number will count.

5. What do you do with multiple GRE scores?

You might decide to take the GRE a second time. It would be good to know, however, the importance of that first score. If a school is going to take your highest GRE score, then you can relax a bit on test one, knowing that you can take it again if you need to.

How is the GRE percentile scores calculated?

The GRE test can be either computer-based or paper-based. Both the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning have two sections with 20 questions per section. The difficulty level in the second section depends on your performance in the first section. All questions in a section contribute equally to the score. Based on the number of questions you answer correctly within a section, a raw score is obtained which is then converted into a scaled score.

In the analytical writing section of the computerized test, each of the two essays is reviewed by an experienced reader and receives a score on a six point scale. The essay also receives another computerized score from a program developed by ETS – the‘e-rater’. In this section, you’d be required to tackle an issue and an argument separately, with thirty minutes for each. You’d be required to evaluate and critically analyze the given topic and present a concise and logical essay.

The GRE test can be taken multiple times. The scores are valid for a period of up to five years from the date of testing.

The GRE test also provides you with the Score Select option which means that you have the freedom to decide which score you wish to send to the schools of your choice.

Whether you’re targeting the top schools and trying to find out the ideal Harvard GRE score or a Stanford GRE score or you have an engineering background and interested in knowing the GRE score for MIT, a high GRE score percentile would undoubtedly be one of the criteria for getting into these top schools.

However, in addition to this, you also need to focus and spend enough time on the other aspects of the application – Statements of Purpose (SOP) in case of MS programs or the MBA essays.

Other Grad School Admission Factors

The reality is that good GRE scores are just one of the factors that can affect your admission chances. Grad and business schools are looking for the whole package, including:

Standardized test scores

  • Your GPA
  • Undergraduate coursework
  • Professional and hands-on experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose, etc.
  • Find out exactly how your GRE scores will be used so you can craft the right application strategy for your dream school.
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