Here’s What the Average GRE Scores Look Like

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The Graduate Record Examination, commonly known as the GRE, is one of the most essential steps toward enrolling in graduate school. It’s often obligatory to sit for the examination if you’re applying to business or graduate school. However, it depends on the country and the school you’re applying to.

That being said, most MBA (graduate business programs) and graduate programs require the GRE to illustrate your competence level. It’s a multiple-choice test known as a computer-based standardized examination. Regardless of the purpose behind sitting for the exam, it’s essential to understand what the average GRE scores are. It will allow you to reflect, read, and compare the test scores.

This article is a comprehensive guide on how the GRE is scored and how one can understand what the numbers on the report reflect.

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

The process of scoring the GRE is a tad bit more complicated than most people believe. However, when you sit for the GRE, you’ll receive your official results on your ETS account in approximately 2 weeks. You’ll be notified via email when the results are available. The official report will immediately be sent to your chosen recipients.

That being said, you will be prompted with the unofficial test scores as soon as you complete the computer-based examination. The results compromise of three different scores for each section, and they are divided as follows:

  • Quantitative Reasoning: 130-170
  • Verbal Reasoning: 130-170
  • Analytical Writing: 0-6

GRE Scoring of Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning

Both quantitative and verbal reasoning increase by 1-point increments. However, the analytical writing is evaluated on a half-point basis.

To comprehend how the GRE is scored, you must understand how the testing occurs. It is based on adaptive testing, which is how the first two sections are graded. That entails a progressively difficult examination or similar level difficulty according to how you perform.

Adaptive testing is based on whether you answer the question correctly or not. Each of the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections has two segments in them. Your performance on the first segment will determine how difficult the second one is.

Hence, if you do not do well on the first section, the other one will be slightly easier compared to someone who performed excellently on the initial part. This adaptive testing allows a more diverse GRE score range to be generated.

Your final score is then generated through the equating method. It might be as straightforward as possible, reflecting the number of questions you answered correctly. However, the final result takes the number of questions answered correctly and the difficulty level. However, the official scoring methods are not publicized.

GRE Scoring of Essay

The essay part is also known as the analytical writing section. It tests you on:

  • Ability to contemplate complex concepts clearly
  • Being able to support ideas and reasonings with proofs and examples
  • Having a coherent and understandable discussion throughout
  • Grammar, spelling, and punctuation techniques

Since analytical writing is scored on a level of 0-6 and increases by increments of 0.5, the grading is generally more straightforward. Two qualified individuals evaluate your writing section and approach it holistically, which means there aren’t set criteria for deducting marks.

If those two test-graders differ in scores by more than one point, a third person is called in to evaluate the piece. As the writing sections include two essays, the average of both is taken and then rounded to the nearest half-point.

What is the Average GRE Score?

What is the Average GRE Score?

The average scores in individual sections of the GRE vary annually. Moreover, it is pretty challenging to generalize the exact average GRE scores, as hundreds of thousands of test-takers and individuals sit for different reasons.

Hence, the average will vary according to the degree program, age group, country, and school standards. In this section, find out the general average over the testing year 2020-2021. These are all based on official ETS analysis.

GRE General Test Score Information for 2020-2021

Number of test-takers

366,686

Average Verbal Reasoning Score

151.4

Average Quantitative Reasoning Score

155.8

Average Analytical Writing Score

3.6

Remember that the GRE compromises three sections. The first two are out of 170 points, and the writing section is out of 6.

Average GRE Scores by Top 15 Schools

My Prep Club GRE’s official database has gathered public information from various websites that reflect the average GRE scores by the school at the top universities and colleges in the United States. However, the content below reflects only ones from top business schools, and those related to law schools will be listed later.

In the table below, find all the information on grades received, such as the average GRE scores at Harvard. They reflect the composite, verbal, and quantitative scores. If the cell has been left empty, there isn’t enough online information to provide accurate data.

Average 2022 GRE Scores at Top 15 US Business Schools

US News 2022 Rank

MBA Program

Composite Score

Verbal

Quantitaitve

Writing

1

Standford University (CA)

329

165

164

5

2

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

322

161

161

3

University of Chicago (Booth) – (IL)

324

163

161

4

Northwestern University (Kellogg) – (IL)

326

163

163

5

Harvard University (MA)

326

163

163

6

MIT (Sloan)

7

Columbia University (NY)

8

University of California (Haas)

322

161

161

4.5

9

Yale University (CT)

328

164

164

4.6

10

Dartmouth College (Tuck) – (NH)

320

161

159

11

New York University (Stern)

324

163

161

4.7

12

Duke University (Fuqua) – (NC)

314

157

157

4.3

13

University of Michigan (Ross)

317

159

158

4.4

14

University of Virginia (Darden)

319

160

159

5

15

Cornell University (Johnson) – (NY)

321

160

161

4.2

 

All these scores reflect the scores gathered from the class 2022 profile. Hence, as you can see, the averages are pretty high. As these colleges are in the top 15 in the country, it makes sense that the criteria for admissions will be pretty competitive.

Average GRE Scores by Major and Degree Program

Average GRE Scores by Major and Degree Program

According to the ETS performance information analysis, the below undergraduate majors were the most commonly reported undergraduate major fields, along with the percentages:

  • Life Sciences (19%)
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences (12%)
  • Physical Sciences (11%)
  • Engineering (11%)
  • Humanities & Arts (4%)
  • Business (4%)
  • Education (1%)

There is approximately 40% of candidates left of individuals who have not provided a major, are within other fields, or are undecided. Below is a table indicating the averages achieved per undergraduate major field:

Average GRE Test Scores Per Undergraduate Major

Undergrad Major Field

Verbal

Quantitative

Writing

Business

151.1

154.9

3.6

Education

147.6

145.7

3.5

Engineering

150.9

159.8

3.5

Humanities & Arts

155.4

149.9

4.1

Life Sciences

150.2

149.7

3.8

Physical Sciences

152.0

160.0

3.6

Social & Behavioral Sciences

153.3

151.7

4.0

However, reflecting on the average GRE scores for grad school might be more appropriate. The scores below are also extracted from the ETS analysis database. The list reflects the percentages of the intended graduate major field. The table demonstrates the average scores of each intended area.

Percentage of individuals with their intended graduate major field:

  • Business: 10%
  • Education: 4%
  • Engineering: 11%
  • Humanities & Arts: 2%
  • Law: 1%
  • Life Sciences: 21%
  • Physical Sciences: 17%
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences: 12%
  • Other fields, undecided, and no majors identified: 24%

Average GRE Scores Based on Intended Graduate Major Field

Intended Graduate Field

Verbal

Quantitative

Writing

Business

152.6

158.8

3.7

Education

149.6

147.1

3.6

Engineering

150.6

160.8

3.4

Humanities & Arts

156.1

152.0

4.1

Law

155.1

152.6

4.1

Life Sciences

150.5

150.4

3.8

Physical Sciences

150.5

150.4

3.8

Social & Behavioral Sciences

153.9

154.3

3.9

Average GRE Score for Law School

Average GRE Score for Law School

While many believe that the GRE exam is taken by mostly law students, it turns out that it’s not the case. The LSAT is much more common for law school applicants, a many do not even accept GRE.

According to US News, lawyers are among the most highly paid individuals in the United States. Hence, being a lawyer is a prestigious occupation, and applying to a competitive law school is not straightforward. Instead, the average accepted GRE score is often relatively high.

Law schools that accept GRE scores, according to ETS, include:

  • Boston College Law School
  • Columbia Law School
  • Cornell Law School
  • Duke University School of Law
  • Florida State University College of Law
  • Harvard Law School
  • Massachusetts School of Law at Andover
  • New York University School of Law
  • Standford Law School
  • University of California (Berkeley, Davis, Hastings, Irvine, & Los Angeles)

There are many more schools, but this list compromises a few to provide insight.

According to Number 2 Online Education, below is a list of the average GRE scores for law schools.

Average GRE Scores at Top Law Schools

Law School

Average GRE Composite Score

Yale Law School

332

Harvard Law School

332

Columbia Law School

329

University of Virginia School of Law

328

University of Pennsylvania

328

University of Chicago Law School

328

New York University School of Law

328

Northwestern University

325

Duke University School of Law

325

University of California, LA School of Law

324

As you can see, the average GRE score in law schools is pretty high. This is mainly due to the high competition present in almost every college.

Average GRE Subject Test Score

Average GRE Subject Test Score

As the GRE examination is quite general, since it only tests your verbal, analytical, and writing skills, GRE subject tests were designed. They are mainly used to test those who have undergone an undergraduate degree in one of the following topics:

  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry

The highest GRE score is 340. However, the grading for GRE subject tests is quite different. Instead of the points increasing by 1-point, they grow by 10 points. The GRE subject tests are scored on a range of 200-990. So, what is the average GRE score for subject tests? Below are scores reflecting those individuals sitting for the examinations between 2017-2021, according to ETS analysis.

GRE Subject Tests Average Scores (2017-2021)

Subject Test

Average Score

Chemistry

692

Mathematics

668

Physics

717

Psychology

622

For further details, such as the percentile compared to composite scores on the subject tests, check out the ETS Interpretive data of 2017-2021.

What Does Your GRE Percentile Mean?

What Does Your GRE Percentile Mean?

The percentile is one of the most significant numbers on your official score report for the GRE. The percentile is often used to measure how well someone has performed compared to all other test-takers during the same period.

For example, let’s assume you receive a percentile rank of 96%. That number indicates that you have performed better than 96% of test-takers. Another interpretation method is saying that 96% of individuals scored lower than you did.

Many colleges, schools, and universities use the percentile to rank their students and decide who to admit. For example, let’s assume you are competing with someone else. You receive a percentile of 90%, and they receive a percentile of 96%. If the two of you have taken the test in the same year, that means the other person is more equipped for the examination than you are. It gives them a slight advantage over you when applying to the same schools.

Hence, percentile ranks are handy tools used by almost all universities. However, remember that achieving a percentile as the 100th is impossible, as that insinuates you are scoring higher than everyone, including yourself. Hence, the highest possible rank would be the 99th.

Below are two tables reflecting the GRE percentiles and the average GRE scores percentile for the years between 2018-2021. These scores were provided by ETS. Generally speaking, you might find it helpful to use this information when you’re trying to figure out what score you’re aiming for. It compares the scaled scores and what it translates into as percentile.

GRE Verbal & Quantitative Reasoning Percentile / GRE Composite Scores

Composite/Scaled Score

Verbal Reasoning Percentile

Quantitative Reasoning Percentile

170

99

96

169

99

93

168

98

90

167

98

87

166

97

84

165

95

81

164

94

78

163

92

76

162

90

73

161

87

70

140

11

7

139

9

5

138

8

4

137

6

3

136

5

2

135

4

2

134

3

1

133

2

1

132

2

1

131

1

 

GRE Analytical Writing Percentile / GRE Composite Scores

Writing Composite Score

Writing Percentile Score

6.0

99

5.5

97

5.0

91

4.5

79

4.0

54

3.5

37

3.0

13

2.5

6

2.0

2

As you can observe, the most challenging part seems to be the verbal reasoning, as a score of 170 places you higher than all other candidates. However, that doesn’t mean the section is impossible. Moreover, remember that most scores and percentiles will vary from one exam session to the other, depending on other students’ performances.

What GRE Scores Do You Need?

What GRE Scores Do You Need?

The most haunting question remains; what is a good GRE score, and what should you strive for? This varies from one discipline to another, and each school might have a minimum requirement. Hence, we recommend you refer to the tables above to figure out the average scores according to the subject test or discipline.

That being said, each individual should aim for nothing less than 160 on each section of the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections. As per the table above, the 75th percentile for verbal reasoning was approximately 157, and a tad bit higher for quantitative reasoning, standing at 163.

Aiming for a percentile score of 75 or higher is recommended because it gives you a fair fighting chance. It places you in a better position than others, where you scored better than 75% of test-takers in that examination. However, remember that each differs according to the school and the major you want to pursue.

So what is a good GRE score out of 340? Refer to the table below for a general idea of what scores reflect average, sound, and poor grades. These are all also based on data from ETS:

GRE Performance Reflection According to Percentile & Composite Scores

Percentile

Verbal Score

Quantitative Score

Performance

99

169-170

170

Excellent

90

162

166

Very Good

75

157

160

Good

50

150

153

Average

25

144

147

Below Average

10

139

141

Poor

Wrapping Things Up: Average GRE Scores

The bottom line here is that no specific GRE score sets the score you should strive for. The average GRE scores will vary according to numerous things. First, the averages shift depending on the reason you’re sitting for the GRE. Moreover, subject tests have varying mean scores. Lastly, individual schools seem to admit students who have specific average scores.

Regardless, there is no reason for you to feel intimidated. You can sit for the GRE again, and your scores will be valid for five years. That gives you a large margin for error. We recommend contacting your school of choice and checking whether they accept GRE scores. You don’t want to sit for the examination and then find out the school of your dream does not accept it.

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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