What is a Good GRE Score: Here’s What We Learned

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Are you looking to further your education by obtaining your graduate degree? If so, are you looking into schools that require you to take the GRE? If you can answer yes to these questions, we have some information that might interest you.

You can use several different methods to prepare for the exam to get the score you need for entrance into an excellent graduate school. In addition to providing you with general information, we will answer the question of how is the GRE scored and help you understand what a good score is. If you want this information and so much more, all you have to do is keep reading.

How is the GRE Scored?How is the GRE Scored?

The GRE, otherwise known as the General Test, assesses skills deemed imperative for your success in graduate school. Yet a good score is different for each school. Are you even sure what that score is? Though this will likely depend on the school and caliber of program you are applying to, we will still be able to answer this question.

Before we go into how the test is scored, you will need to understand how the exam is broken down. The exam is broken down into three sections. These sections include

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • analytical writing

The scores for the first two sections of the exam, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning are based on the number of questions you answered correctly.

General GRE Exam

The scores for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning are reported in a range from 130 to 170. Questions are scored in one-point increments, and no score is given for questions that have been skipped.

While taking the test electronically, the questions you receive in the second section are based on how well you do on the first. Regardless of the exam’s difficulty level, all the questions are scored the same. The number you answer correctly is known as the raw score.

For the analytical reasoning section, scoring is a bit different. The item is scored on a 6-point scale, ranging from 0. Though it would be ideal for students to answer both essay questions, that is not always the case. Some students will only answer one question or will put more effort into one question than the other. However, if a question is left entirely blank, an NS, which stands for ‘No Score,’ will be reported.

The GRE maximum attainable score is 340; this score is reached by adding the verbal and the quantitative scores. This is for the general exam.

GRE Subject Tests

The GRE subject tests are for you if you are interested in showcasing your knowledge of a specific subject area. These tests allow you to showcase your expertise in a variety of subjects, including the following subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • Psychology
  • Chemistry
  • Math

The GRE Subject level exam is also scored around what you answer correctly. There is no cumulative scoring between the subject matter exams; each exam is scored independently of one other. A ‘good’ score on one subject may not be a “good” score on the other.

The GRE Score Range for the subject exams can be anywhere from 200 to 990 with 10-point increments. However, two subject areas have sub-scores. These include Physics and Psychology. These Sub scores will range from 20 to 99 and utilize 1-point increments.

How is Your GRE Score Calculated?

How is Your GRE Score Calculated?

One area of the exam that needs to be scored by individuals rather than a computer or machine is the analytical writing section. After the raw score is obtained, based on the number of questions, you answered correctly, a process called equating is used to get the scaled score. This process takes into account different variations of difficulty and test editions.

Analytical Writing Scoring Explained

The writing section is used with a 6-point scale, with half-point increments. This is known as a holistic scale. The scale and a short description of each rating are shown below:

Score Description
NS – No Score The student entered no text to be scored.
0 The level cannot be evaluated. The response does not answer the question. The text is in another language, or the text is not indistinguishable.
0.5 – 1 The student has provided minimal development. The essay is confusing, incoherent, and fundamentally flawed.
1.5 – 2 The essay is largely flawed, lacking proof of analysis and basic structure.
2.5 – 3 The essay displays some competency while lacking organization, limited analysis, and unclear language usage.
3.5 – 4 The essay displays competency in analysis. Main ideas are developed and supported. Some issues with clarity
4.5 – 5 The essay provides a well-thought-out analysis. The essay is logical and sound, and the arguments are well supported. Only minor errors are present.
5.5 – 6 The essay is well thought out, complex points are explained, and the vocabulary used contains meaning and adds value. Points are thoroughly supported, and sentence structure is excellent.

Who is grading your essay?

When using holistic scoring, two methods of scoring are utilized. These methods include

  • Manual reader: Using the manual reader, a score is determined based on quality.
  • E – Rater: The e-rater is a scoring mechanism to determine a student’s writing proficiency. The machine identifies parts of the essay which represent writing proficiency.

If both scores are within close proximity, the average of them is taken, and this is considered the final score. If, for some reason, the grader and the computer cannot come to a common score, a second manual grader is brought in.

This individual will grade the essay, and the average of the two manual scores will be taken. Once a score has been computed for each essay, both scores are averaged together to produce a scaled score from zero to six.

In addition to essays being scored by graders and computers, essays are subject to another check. This check is done by the testing center’s similarity detection software. This is used to ensure students are not cheating or essays are not similar to anyone else. All work done should be your own, as prompts will also vary.

GRE Subject Scoring & Sub Scores

Much like the general exam, your score depends on the number of questions you answered correctly with GRE subject tests. After these are accounted for, the equating process is used. However, this process is slightly different for the two exams with sub-scores.

For Psychology and Physics, the number of questions in each content area a student has answered correctly, and the overall number of questions contribute to making up the Subscore. These sub-scores help students identify where they are more robust and weaker. Equating is then used to get to a valid score.

What Does GRE Percentile Mean?

What Does GRE Percentile Mean?

The GRE score percentile represents how you stack up compared to your peers. For example, if you score a five on your essay, that equates to the 93rd percentile. This means that on your essay, you scored better than 93% of individuals who have taken the exam. This also translates to your scoring worse than 7% of all test takers, which is not bad at all.

What are Good GRE Scores?

What are Good GRE Scores?

A good score is relative to what you are looking to do with it. If you are looking to attend an Ivy League graduate school, chances are high that the score you need will not be the same as someone looking to go to a lower-tiered school. There are several questions that you can start by asking yourself to help you determine what a good score is. These questions can include the following:

  • What is a good GRE score for my major?
  • What will my GRE score be used for?
  • What other factors are utilized in tandem with the GRE score?

These are all critical questions to ask to ensure you know how your GRE score will be utilized and what you should aim for. For example, if you were taking the GRE simply as practice and with no intention of attending grad school. There may not be a number that you are striving for. You may simply be striving for progress.

The chart below shows the average score within each subject measurement area. This information considers the averages of test takers from July 2018 to June 2021. This information is taken from ETS.

Test Area Average
Analytical Writing 3.6
Verbal Reasoning 150.61
Quantitative Reasoning 154.34

 A good score can be categorized as scoring in the 75th percentile or higher. Scoring in this range would put you around the average and make you eligible to get into most graduate programs. In addition to these averages, several others can be shown to provide a fuller picture of the GRE. The information below will help you to understand the average GRE scores for various majors or schools.

Average GRE Subject Test Scores

The number of test takers for each subject area varies between 8 and 20 thousand. If you are looking for each subject test’s averages, we have that information for you as well. The averages will help you gauge where you might fall concerning your peers.

It is important to remember that subject tests are not mandatory and are taken by individuals looking to showcase their expertise in a specific area. If you are wondering what a good GRE score is for psychology, the overall average will help you determine that.

Subject Area Average Score
Physics 717
Chemistry 692
Psychology 622
Math 668

 Subject scores do not have to be submitted if you are unhappy with the score. Using the ‘Score Select’ option, students can designate during registration what scores they would like to send. This can be your most recent score or All scores. If sending all scores, these will include all scores within the last five years. Sending these scores is included in your initial testing fee for up to 4 reports.

After your test day has passed, students will have the option to send their scores for an additional fee. Their options will include the most recent scores, all scores within the last five years, or any combination you desire.

Average GRE Scores by Major

The ETS and Prep Scholar provide a breakdown of the average GRE scores by major, including all three scores you can expect to receive. This information was obtained from students taking the exam before June 2021. This information can help you gauge what a good score would be for you, depending on your major. Use the list below to get a ballpark idea of what you should be striving for.

Major Analytical Writing Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
Behavioral Sciences 4 152 153
Computer and Information Sciences 3.1 146 156
Business 3.7 152 157
English Language and Lit 4.2 157 149
Physical Sciences 3.5 160 160
Chemistry 3.7 153 158
Art & Humanities 4.1 152 151
Education 3.8 150 148
Law 4.2 156 153
Engineering 3.5 151 160
Life Science 3.8 150 150
Psychology 3.9 152 149
Economic 3.8 154 160

Average GRE by School

Often if you are looking into a graduate program and the GRE is a requirement, they will likely provide you with the average GRE score of admitted students. This can help you understand what to expect from the admissions cycle and a score to aim for when taking the exam. Though some schools accept GRE scores, they are not mandatory. The small subset below shows the GRE scores for top programs within the United States.

College Analytical Writing Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
Northwestern Law 5.0 163 159
Duke 4.5 165 150
UC Berkeley 5.42 160 151
New York University 5.5 167 162
Yale Law 5.5 168 166

What is a Bad GRE Score?

What is a Bad GRE Score?

Determining a bad score can be done by utilizing the GRE score percentiles. As mentioned previously, these percentiles provide information on how you rank against other test takers. A score is said to be bad or low if your scores fall under the 25th percentile. However, is it really bad if you can still get into your respective school with this GPA?

Much like determining a good score, this can be relative depending on your intent behind the score. If your score places you in a program, you love, that is the most important thing.

What to Do with a Low GRE Score?

What to Do with a Low GRE Score?

If you are someone who took the GRE test and didn’t do as well as they would have liked, this question may have popped into your head more times than not. However, you need to weigh your options and keep pushing. Getting a low score is not the end of the world. You are not alone at all. However, if you do get a low score, you always have the option to retake the exam. The tips below will aid you in understanding how to approach retaking the exam.

  • The time limit between your first attempt and your next attempt only has to be 21 days apart. However, there is a limit to the number of times you can do this.
  • If taking the exam multiple times, individuals will have up to five tries, with a 21-day window in between retakes to take the exam.
  • All five of your retakes must be completed within 365 days.
  • The retake exams are not free. Each time you take the exam you will be required to not only pay the traditional GRE test fee; you will need to pay a retake fee of $50.
  • Individuals can utilize something referred to as A Fee Reduction form. This is utilized when you might be struggling with making payments.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Good GRE Score?

When you go into the GRE, you should worry about doing your best and aiming as high as possible. What is a good GRE score? A good GRE score is relative to what you are looking to do with it and even the field you are going into. The average scores shown indicate a midlevel marker. These excellent scores give something to strive toward. If you are looking to showcase your talent in a specific area, the subject-specific exams will likely be the best for you. In a nutshell, a good GRE score is a score that lets you get into the school of your choice.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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