If you are about to take the GRE, you are probably wondering what a good GRE score is.
The answer depends on the actual graduate programs you are considering applying for. It also depends on the scores of the other test-takers.
In order to find out how to define a good GRE score for your personal goals and needs, and how to achieve that score or surpass it, you can read on through our comprehensive guide regarding GRE scores, setting score goals and strategies for achieving your target good GRE score.
Once you determine what is a good GRE score for your needs, you can start planning your test prep.
How is the GRE scored?
The GRE test is divided into three sections, each of which is scored individually. These are the quantitative reasoning section, the verbal reasoning section, and the essay section titled analytical writing.
The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections of the exam are scored with one increment point in a GRE score range of 130 to 170 each. The analytical writing part of the exam is scored from 0 to 6 points in half-point increments.
The top scores for each section are the top 10%, which are 163 to 170 for the verbal score, 165 to 170 for the math section, and 5.0 to 6.0 for the analytical writing part.
The average GRE scores are 152 to 158 for verbal, 159 to 164 for math, and 4.5 for the essay.
Below average or low scores score lower than 152 for the verbal section, lower than 153 for math, and lower than 4.0 for the analytical writing part.
For the period of 2018 -2019, the average GRE score was 150 for verbal, and 153 for math, based on more than 1.7 million tests taken during the period.
What is an overall good GRE score?
While there is no single or straightforward answer to this question “what is a good GRE score?” in general, there is a way to calculate how good your own GRE score is. This can be done easily by checking your percentile ranking.
The percentile ranking will tell you how many test-takers scored better and how many scored worse than you at that same GRE.
For example, if you are in the 60th percentile in GRE, this means that you got a better GRE test score than 60 percent of the other people who took the exam.
The average GRE score percentile is 50th, and it equals a score of 150 on the verbal and 152.6 on the math sections. 3.5 is considered the average score for the analytical writing measure of the GRE.
The average GRE scores percentiles for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are as follows:
130 points = less than 1 percentile for both verbal and math
135 points = 3 verbal and 2 math percentile
140 points = 12 verbal and 8 math percentile
145 points = 27 verbal and 20 math percentile
150 points = 48 verbal and 38 math percentile
155 points = 69 verbal and 59 math percentile
160 points = 86 verbal and 76 math percentile
165 points = 96 verbal and 89 math percentile
170 points = 99 verbal and 97 math percentile
As you can see, the math scores are higher than those for the verbal scores. This is due to the fact that GRE score percentiles in verbal are higher than in math.
As can be expected, the test-takers tend to get scores which are around the middle, so a small score increase in the middle section (i.e. from 150 to 155) will get you a larger percentile increase than a small score increase in the higher section (i.e. from 170 to 175).
Overall, if your GRE score is in the 25th percentile, this can be considered a low score GRE, as 75% of the other test-takers have scored better than you.
A score in the 50th percentile is considered an average GRE score (around 151 on verbal and 153 on math).
A score in the 75th percentile is considered a very good score on GRE, and a score in the 90th percentile is excellent and should help you be more competitive in the majority of graduate programs.
As for the analytical writing measure scores and percentiles, they are as follows:
1.5 score = 1 percentile
2.0 score = 2 percentile
2.5 score = 8 percentile
3.0 score = 18 percentile
3.5 score = 42 percentile
4.0 score = 60 percentile
4.5 score = 82 percentile
5.0 score = 93 percentile
5.5 score = 98 percentile
6.0 score = 99 percentile
This means that the average GRE score is between 3.5 and 4.0, and a good GRE score in the percentile is above the average and in the top percentiles.
So, as you can see, what is a good score on the GRE depends on your preparedness and knowledge, but also on the performance of all of the other GRE test-takers as well.
So, striving for reaching a range of GRE scores at a higher percentile should become one of your goals during GRE prep.
What is a personally good GRE score for me?
The answer to this question is another question, namely – does your GRE score meet the qualification of the schools you wish to attend and is it high enough to get you in, given that you already meet all other qualifications.
Different schools and programs take the GRE scores into consideration differently. Some may use them to eliminate the weakest applicants. Others may consider a high score as a compensating factor for other minor deficiencies in your application.
But no matter what your GRE score is, if the rest of your application is not up to the requirements of the admissions committee of the program, your chances of getting accepted into your dream school are low.
Still, a good GRE score will help you get through to the more serious admissions considerations, provided that you have the required GPA, strong references, and other components covered.
A very good or excellent GRE score, on the other hand, can help you win a scholarship or fellowship in some programs.
So, what is a good GRE score for you and the target score you should strive for depends on the programs, disciplines, and the competitiveness in the schools you are applying for, as well as on the rest of your application?
How to determine your good GRE score goal?
As mentioned before, determining the score you should be striving for at the GRE test depends on a number of factors. Here is what to take into consideration for planning your target GRE score:
The program level
Determining the best GRE score depends on whether you are applying for a Ph.D. or a Master’s program.
In general, you should strive for a higher score for a Ph.D. program than if applying for a Master’s, because the open spots for Ph.D. are much less than those for an MS, and you can expect to be competing with applicants with higher scores and higher GRE percentiles.
The discipline you are applying for
Depending on the discipline you are interested in, your math or verbal scores may be of different importance during the application process.
As you can expect, if you are applying for a physics, engineering, or chemistry program, your score from the math sections would probably be the most important ones taken into consideration.
On the other hand, if you are applying for a humanities discipline, then your verbal score could be decisive for your application.
As a whole, the analytical writing scores are the ones that fewer programs really consider during the application assessments.
What level of importance do GRE scores have for the program you are interested in
Even when it comes to the same discipline, the different programs may have different approaches to the importance of the GRE scores.
Some schools and programs place significant consideration on the good GRE scores when it comes to student admission, and many of them display their expected average GRE scores and those necessary for applying for scholarships.
So, make sure you check whether the program and discipline you are applying for have published any requirements for the minimum or average GRE score for applying.
If a program states that the GRE high score is of essential importance, you should set your goal for the highest GRE score possible.
On the other hand, other schools and programs clearly state that the score on the GRE is not of importance when considering an applicant, or at least that it is of essential significance for the admission considerations. These schools usually base their admissions on more holistic approaches and take all of the elements of the applications of the students into consideration.
But, even if a school you’re applying for is not particularly interested in the GRE scores, make sure that you prepare for the GRE properly and strive for the great result at the standardized test, and at the same time ensure that your all-round application too. This is essential because a low GRE score can make a negative impression, and raise doubts about your preparedness for an after graduate study, even if all of your other application components and requirements are met perfectly.
The competitiveness of the program you are applying for
Depending on the competitiveness of the program and school you are applying for, one score which is considered high by some schools may be considered subpar by other top-ranked schools and programs.
So the higher the competition for a spot in your program, the higher your GRE score goal should be set.
The other components of your application
As we have stressed, even a top 99 percentile GRE score may not be relevant for your acceptance in a program if the rest of your application is weak. This means that you should spend time and resources preparing your complete application as well as study hard for your GRE.
What if the GRE score is not part of the requirements for applying?
If you are taking the GRE and you get a very good or excellent score, then it makes sense to add it to your application, even if it is optional. But an average or lower score may do you more harm than help you get in a program where providing a GRE score is not compulsory.
Setting your GRE score goal
Setting the goal for your GRE score is relatively simple if the program you are applying for has set a GRE score guideline, but you can also set a score goal even if your school has provided no guidelines at all.
If the program has GRE information guidelines
Make sure you do your research and find the information about the guidelines of the program you are interested in regarding the minimal or average expected GRE score.
You can find this information in the general application guideline, on the webpage of the program, in the FAQ section, or in other sources.
Once you get the information, it is recommended that you write down what the school says about the required or expected GRE scores. You can write down their overall GRE score guideline or the verbal and quantitative scores separately if such information is available.
If you are applying for several programs, it makes sense to create a chart with the school, their GRE score test guideline for a total score or percentile, such as the average or the minimal score of admitted applicants, and their verbal and math score requirements.
When you are done researching, you will be able to assess the score, which you should be striving for by finding the highest score in the chart and then setting your goal at 2 points higher than it. In some cases, this may mean that you won’t need to spend thousands of dollars and hours of your time preparing for the GRE and aiming at a super-high score.
The score you get after this research and calculation is what you should consider a good GRE score, which can help get you admitted to the programs you are applying for.
If the program doesn’t provide specific GRE score guidelines and information
If you can’t seem to find any information about minimal or average GRE scores for applying for a school at its website, or from other sources, you can try calling or otherwise contacting the admissions office to ask them for requirements or for the GRE score range or what is the average GRE score among admitted students. But it is very unlikely that they will give out more information than is officially provided already.
Still, there are ways to set your goals for the good GRE score for these programs as well.
First of all, you can try a quick Google search for the university of your choice and “GRE scores” or “what’s good GRE score for…”, “GRE scores range”, “average scores GRE” or others as keywords. The chances are that you will get search results that will provide you with the expected or required GRE score for your school and discipline, or the average GRE scores of the applicants who were already accepted.
Here are the current GRE average scores and GRE score ranges of the accepted applicants in some of the leading programs and universities, to give you an idea of what to expect:
– MIT – Engineering program – 162 for verbal and 167 for math
– UCLA – Psychology program – 163 for verbal and 154 for math
– Stanford – Physics program – 167 for verbal and 167 for math
– University of Pennsylvania – Chemistry program – 159 for verbal and 160 for math
– Yale – Mathematics program – 165 for verbal and 167 for math
– Columbia University – Computer Science program – 155 for verbal and 161 for math
– Northwest University – Education program – 161 for verbal and 153 for math
You can also perform an Internet search for the average GRE score for a particular program or major.
Here are the latest GRE scores average for some of the most popular majors:
– Engineering – 149 for verbal, 159 for math, and 3.4 for writing
– Business – 150 for verbal, 154 for math, and 3.5 for writing
– Life Sciences – 151 for verbal, 151 for math, and 3.8 for writing
– Humanities and Arts – 156 for verbal, 150 for math, and 4.1 for writing
– Social Sciences – 153 for verbal, 151 for math, and 3.9 for writing
– Physical Sciences – 151 for verbal, 158 for math, and 3.4 for writing
– Education – 151 for verbal, 148 for math, and 3.8 for writing
Check ranking and selectivity
You can also check the ranking and selectivity of the school to be able to make an educated guess regarding the expected GRE score. The higher the ranking of a program, and the lower its acceptance rate, the higher the GRE scores they will be expecting. So, for the highest-ranking programs in the top 10%, you can assume that the best GRE score is the highest score possible.
For less selective and ranked programs, you can consider setting a lower goal for a good score in GRE.
You may also check out the GRE score data about prospective graduate students in your area of interest. Such information can be found on the ETS website or from other sources. Check out the score stats for the disciplines you are interested in and the scores and percentiles for GRE of your potential competitors.
Then consider how competitive and selective your discipline is, and if it is very competitive, you should take into consideration the GRE average score of the top 5% of competitors. If it is less competitive, find the average GRE score of 20% of your potential competitors. For disciplines where the competition by other students is not high, you can consider the average GRE score of 50% of your competitors as a good guideline for setting your GRE score goal.
You may want to write down the results and then pick the highest total score, highest verbal, and highest math scores, and set them as goals for your test results.
Scores for GRE by section
Apart from this, you should consider whether a particular GRE section is more important than the others for your specific graduate school programs.
If you are applying for physics, chemistry, engineering programs, then it makes sense to consider the math section of the GRE more critical and set your goals for that section high enough to ensure that you are considered for entry.
If you are applying for a literary, English, or another discipline, then make sure you set your verbal GRE score goal higher than that of your potential competitors for the spot.
This means that you can spend more time and resources prepping for the section of the exam, which is more important for your application in order to get the highest possible score for it and can afford to get a lower score for the other section.
But do keep in mind that many schools consider all GRE sections equally important, so if that is the case, you will need to set a suitable high enough goal for the verbal, math, and essay sections of the exam.
You can also check out online message boards like GradCafe or Reddit and seek some information and guidance from students who are currently in the program you are applying for or by alumni from the same school. Usually, people are happy to share their own GRE scores and their other credentials. You may even receive some useful tips for the application process from these people who have already gone through the process and got accepted.
Based on the information you receive, you can adjust the score goals you have already set based on the other sources.
Although your core estimate may not be absolutely precise, you will at least get a general idea of the GRE to score you should be striving for.
Preparing for the GRE in order to achieve your best score goal
Now that you have the answer to the question of what is a good GRE score, and hopefully have determined your goal for what score is good for GRE, you will need to start planning on how to achieve it.
The obvious thing to do is to study the material which will be on the test. There are multiple books, courses, online prep courses, and resources you can use to get ready for the GRE.
A good strategy is to choose a study system that you know works for you. Some people study better by practicing, others by listening or watching videos and lectures, some may find reading and taking notes to be the perfect strategy, or using flashcards, and so on.
You should choose the method which has proven to work for you, rather than try new ones.
The chances are that you will be able to achieve your best score goal if you prepare properly for the GRE.
For great results, it is recommended that you set up a study schedule early on before the test. Cramming the material at once right before the exam is not a good idea. Instead, try setting up study hours every day, or every other day, and stick to your schedule.
It is a good idea to take a practice test before you start studying so that you can assess your results and identify the topics and areas which need improvement so that you can focus on them more if you want to get GRE scores good.
When taking a practice test, try taking a full-length and time exam, so that you can see how well you can perform for the time given, and where you can use some improvement. Make sure you check your verbal and quantitative GRE scores for the practice test, in order to determine whether you need improvement to meet your good GRE score goal, and how much more points you will need to achieve a higher GRE scoring. You can use an online GRE practice testing service, and receive a score as well as feedback at one of the GRE test prep platforms.
After your practice test, you can start studying using the method which works best for you.
In order to track your progress, you may want to take another full-length practice test before your actual GRE.
Then you will need to find the proper tools to help you prepare for the GRE. There is a wide variety of books, videos, online courses, in-person courses, tutors, and other methods for getting ready for the exam.
You may want to ask your dream school whether they recommend particular books or other sources for prepping for the GRE educational testing.
You can sign up for one of the many excellent online GRE prep courses or platforms, most of which offer a money-back guarantee if you fail to increase your score.
These platforms and other sources offer full-length GRE practice tests, practice quizzes, online lessons and consultations, and various other useful ways for you to get ready for the GRE standardized test.
By using some of these tools, you will be able to practice for the actual test and get feedback and information about the questions you got wrong, as well as detailed explanations for those particular problems. This is incredibly useful when preparing for an important exam like GRE.
There are also useful mobile apps that can help you with your test prep and allow you to study on the go from your phone, in order to get a good GRE score.
Remember to focus on the areas which need improvement more than on spending too much time on the material with which you are already familiar.
When the time comes for the GRE, remember to take a day off and relax, in order to prevent burnout during the actual test.
Once you are done, you can wait for your GRE scores and see whether you have met your target GRE good score.
The good news is that you can retake the test if you are not happy with the results, so make sure that you give yourself enough time for the GRE before applying for your dream school.
In order to get better GRE scores the next time around, it makes sense to increase the number of study hours for prep.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of what’s a good GRE score in general, and what a good GRE score is for you personally.
With the target score set, you are now ready to start planning on your test prep, working on your other application documents and components, and hopefully, with proper planning and a suitable study strategy, you will be able to achieve the good GRE score you have set for yourself and will increase your chances of getting accepted in the university of your dreams.
Good luck with achieving a good score for GRE!