What is a Good GRE Score & How is it Calculated?

By Subhashri Roy Updated On - Aug 16, 2021 03:22 PM

Applying to foreign grad schools? With lakhs of students taking the GRE every year, it is the most widely-accepted and competitive graduate admissions test across the world. Check out what a good GRE score is and how it is calculated to determine your target score and get into a leading university.

If you are planning to pursue graduate studies abroad, you are probably wondering what a “good” GRE score is. While there is no definite answer to the question, GRE test takers may often find themselves in a quandary while sending scores to grad schools. 

A “good” GRE score is based on a number of factors including average GRE score of the previous batch, parts of GRE that are comparatively more important, and so on. In other words, a “good” GRE score will depend entirely on you. 

With questions evaluating one’s readiness to transition to a graduate school, the GRE is the most widely-used and accepted admission test for graduate programs across fields all around the globe. From the structure of the GRE to how GRE scores are calculated, here is a guide for you to have a clear understanding of GRE scores. 

What is the GRE?

The GRE is an internationally-recognised admissions test for graduate and professional school including business or law. The GRE General Test is attempted on a computer conducted at over 1,000 test centres in more than 160 countries. Not only graduate school but also business school applicants from across the globe take the GRE to pursue a master’s, MBA, specialised master’s in business, J.D or doctoral degree. 

The test is accepted at thousands of universities by admissions panels to add to your undergraduate records, letter(s) of recommendation along with other qualifications.  

Structure of the GRE

Before we talk about what a “good” GRE score is, check out the GRE test structure to have a better idea of what the test aims to measure:

Part

Number of Questions 

Total Duration

Verbal Reasoning (Two Sections)

20 questions per section

30 minutes per section

Analytical Writing (One section with two separately-timed tasks)

One "Analyze an Argument" task and "Analyze an Issue" task

30 minutes per task

Quantitative Reasoning

(Two sections)

20 questions per section

35 minutes per section

Unscored- An unidentified section that does not count towards final score

Varies

Varies

Research- An identified section that does not count towards final score

Varies

Varies

What is a Good GRE Score?

There is no simple answer to this question and certainly no “definite” answer. What could be a “good” GRE score for you might not be a “good” score for another test-taker. The ideal way to determine a “good” GRE score is to identify your target score depending on the program of your choice, the average GRE scores at universities you are applying to as well as section-wise GRE cutoff scores. Here are the factors you have to consider while trying to find out what a “good” GRE score is:

Determine your Target GRE Score: 

A target GRE score, as mentioned above, is the score that you need to be accepted to a grad school of your choice. While you are at it, check out the university’s GRE cutoff for the specific program of study along with their average GRE scores over the past few years. 

Find out Which Parts of GRE are Important:

Some admissions panels may care more about your verbal reasoning score than the rest of the GRE parts. On the other hand, some universities depending on the program you are applying for, may want to look only at your quantitative reasoning score. So, it is significant that you have a clear understanding of the requirements of the specific program and university.

Check the Average GRE Score:

Based on data collected between July 2016 and July 2019, the average GRE score of Verbal Reasoning in 150.37, Analytical Reasoning is 3.58 and Quantitative Reasoning is 153.39. The average total GRE score would, therefore, be 303. 

The data also point out that the average score for Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning account for 47% and 48% respectively. This means that 53% and 52% respectively of the test takers obtained the same score or performed better than you. 

If you are in the 45th percentile, it might get you into a lot of Grad schools abroad but it will not be considered a good score for the highly competitive graduate programs. Usually, being in the 75yh percentile is a good enough GRE score. However, a 90th percentile will help you stand out and make it easier for you to get into the top foreign universities.

Figure out  if GRE Scores are Used for Something Else As Well:

International students often look for scholarships when applying for graduate programs. Many universities offer scholarships based on GRE scores and many applicants often regret not learning about it before deciding on their target GRE score. Also, GRE scores may also be used for course placement.

Given below is a table that will help you understand within which score range your “good” GRE score may fall:

 

Best GRE Scores

Better GRE Scores

Good GRE Scores

Below Average GRE Scores

Quantitative Reasoning

165-170

159-164

153-158

152 or lower

Verbal Reasoning

163-170

158-162

152-158

151 or lower

Analytical Writing

5.0-6.0

4.5

4.0

3.5 or lower

Also Read: What is a Good GMAT Score & How is it Calculated?

How to Calculate a Good GRE Score?

Here are the step-by-step guide on how to calculate a “good” GRE score:

Figure Out the Average GRE Score at the Intended University: 

To do so, there are two factors you need to remember. These include researching the average GRE score of last year’s department batch and last year’s class profile. These will give you an idea of the score you want to target. 

Assess Competition and Acceptance Rate:

This means you need to determine the level of competition you will be at while applying to the university of your choice. For instance, in case you are applying for a popular program like MS in Data Science, you should obtain a slightly higher score than the GRE average at the institution.  Likewise, the acceptance rate of the university will also matter because those with a higher acceptance rate will amount to lower competition.

Settle on Your Good GRE Score:

Now that you have an idea of the average score and level of competition, finding your target/good GRE score is one simple calculation away. To make it easier for you, here is an example:

Section

Supposed Average Score

Verbal Reasoning 

149.97

Quantitative Reasoning

152.57

Analytical Writing

3.58

Here, to get into the institution and stand out, you would have to score 160 in each section and be among the top applicants. So, that is what YOUR “good” GRE score would be. 

Average GRE Scores

Here are the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Tests average scores based on the performance of graduates who took the GRE between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2019:

GRE General Test Average Scores for Intended Graduate Major Fields:

Graduate Major

Quantitative Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning

Analytical Writing

Education

148

151

3.7

Business

155

151

3.6

Law

153

155

4.0

Engineering

160

150

3.4

Humanities & Arts

150

156

4.1

Social & Behavioural Sciences

151

151

3.0

Physical Sciences

160

151

3.5

Life Sciences

151

151

3.8

Also Read: Differences Between GMAT and GRE - Which is the Best?

GRE Subject Test Average Scores:

Subject Test

Average

Chemistry

689

Mathematics

664

Physics

714

Psychology

619

How is the GRE Scored?

It could be a little tricky to understand GRE scores for both General Test and Subject Tests. Read on to find out what GRE scores mean for each section and how they are calculated:

Understanding GRE General Test Scores:

Section

Score Range

Verbal Reasoning

130-170, in one-point increments

Quantitative Reasoning

130-170, in one-point increments

Analytical Writing

0-6, in half-point increments

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning:

The reported scores for these two measures are based on the number of correct answers to the given questions under the operational sections. Measures here are section-level adaptive which means that the computer picks the second operational section of a measure on the basis of your performance on the first section. All questions in each section will contribute to the final score. 

For every section in the two measures, a raw score is generated which refers to the number of correct answers you have. The raw score is then converted to a scaled score through equating- small variations in difficulty among different test editions and differences in difficulty by section-level adaptation. 

Eventually, a scaled score for each measure reflects the same level of performance irrespective of which second section was picked and when the test was attempted.

Analytical Writing:

Here, each essay is scored by at least one trained rater on a six-point scale for which raters assign scores on the basis of the quality of the essay in response to the task. An average of the final scores of both the essays is then calculated and rounded to the nearest half-point interval on the six-point scale (0-6).

The primary emphasis while scoring this measure is on critical thinking and analytical writing skills instead of grammar and mechanics. 

Understanding GRE Subject Test Scores:

The total score range of each GRE subject test is 200-900 in 10-point increments. For the subject tests of Biology, Psychology and Physics, subscores are reported on a 20-90 score, in one-point increments. However, the score range for any particular subject test is generally smaller.

What is the GRE Percentile Ranking?

GRE Percentile ranking is the percentage of test takers who scored lower than a specified score. The higher your percentile rank, the better your GRE score as compared to other test takers. 

For Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning:

Score

Verbal Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning

170

99

96

169

99

94

168

98

92

167

98

89

166

97

87

165

96

85

164

94

83

163

92

80

162

90

78

161

88

75

160

85

72

159

82

69

158

79

65

157

75

62

156

72

59

155

67

55

154

63

51

153

59

48

152

53

44

151

50

40

150

45

36

149

40

33

148

36

29

147

32

25

146

28

22

145

25

18

144

22

15

143

19

13

142

16

11

141

14

9

140

11

7

139

9

6

138

8

4

137

6

3

136

5

2

135

4

2

134

3

1

133

2

1

132

2

-

131

1

-

For Analytical Writing

Score

Analytical Writing

6.0

99

5.5

98

5.0

92

4.5

80

4.0

55

3.5

38

3.0

14

2.5

6

2.0

1

Note: The tables are based on the performance of graduates who took the GRE between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2019.

Learn more about the GRE:

In case you have further queries about GRE, write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com.

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