What's a Good GRE Score? Here's How to Tell

Student taking test
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So you received the results of your Graduate Record Exam. To determine if you did well, you'll need to learn about how the GRE is scored and how all test-takers are ranked. Nearly 585,000 people took the GRE in 2015-2016, according to the Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit group that developed and administers the test. How well you did on the GRE depends on how many questions you answered correctly and how you stacked up against all of the other test-takers in the U.S. and around the globe.

The GRE is a critical part of your graduate school application. It is required by nearly all doctoral programs and many, if not most, master’s programs. With so much riding on one standardized exam, it’s in your interest to prepare as best you can and fully understand your test results when you receive them.

GRE Score Range

The GRE is divided into three parts: verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing. The verbal and quantitative subtests yield scores ranging from 130 to 170, in one-point increments. These are called your scaled scores. Most graduate schools consider the verbal and quantitative sections to be particularly important in making decisions about applicants. The analytical writing section yields a score ranging from zero to six, in half-point increments

Kaplan's, which provides higher-education training materials and programs, breaks down the top scores as follows:

Best Scores:

  • Verbal: 163–170
  • Quantitative: 165–170
  • Writing: 5.0–6.0

Competitive Scores:

  • Verbal: 158–162
  • Quantitative: 159–164
  • Writing: 4.5

Good Scores:

  • Verbal: 150–158
  • Quantitative: 153–158
  • Writing: 4.0

Percentile Rank

The Princeton Review, a company that offers college test-preparation services, notes that in addition to your scaled score, you also need to look at your percentile rank, which it says is more important than your scaled score.

Your percentile rank indicates how your GRE scores compare to those of other test takers. 

The 50th percentile represents the average, or mean, GRE score. The mean for the quantitative section is 151.91 (or 152); for verbal, it's 150.75 (151); and for analytical writing, it's 3.61. Those are, of course, average scores. Average scores vary depending on the academic field, but applicants should score, at a minimum, in the 60th to 65th percentile. The 80th percentile is a decent score, while a score at the 90th percentile and above is excellent.

The tables below indicate percentiles for each of the GRE's subtest: verbal, quantitative, and writing. Each percentile represents the percentage of test-takers who scored above and below the corresponding score. So, if you scored 161 on the GRE verbal test, you would be at the 87th percentile, which is a pretty good figure. This would mean you did better than 87 percent of the people who took the test and worse than 13 percent. If you scored a 150 on your quantitative test, you would be at the 41st percentile, meaning that you did better than 41 percent of those who took the test but worse than 59 percent.

Verbal Subtest Score

ScorePercentile
17099
16999
16898
16797
16696
16595
16493
16391
16289
16187
16084
15981
15878
15773
15670
15566
15462
15358
15253
15149
15044
14940
14836
14732
14628
14524
14421
14318
14215
14112
14010
1397
1386
1375
1363
1352
1342
1331
1321
1311

Quantitative Subtest Score

ScorePercentile
17098
16997
16896
16795
16693
16591
16489
16387
16284
16181
16078
15975
15872
15769
15665
15561
15457
15353
15249
15145
15041
14937
14833
14729
14625
14522
14418
14315
14213
14111
1408
1396
1385
1373
1362
1352
1341
1331
1321
1311

Analytical Writing Score

ScorePercentile
6.099
5.597
5.093
4.578
4.054
3.535
3.014
2.56
2.02
1.51
1 
0.5 
0 

Tips and Advice

Aim to learn vocabulary, sharpen your math skills and practice writing arguments. Learn test-taking strategies, take practice exams, and if you can, enroll in a GRE prep course. There are also some specific strategies you can use to raise your GRE scores:

  • Answer every question: You aren't penalized for incorrect answers on the GRE as you are on other tests, such as the SAT, so there's no harm in guessing.
  • Use the scratch paper: You will not be allowed to bring paper with you to the testing center, but you will be provided with scratch paper. Use it to help solve math problems, outline your essay, and write down formulas or vocabulary words you've memorized before the test.
  • Use a process of elimination. If you can rule out even one wrong answer, you'll be in a much better spot for guessing if it comes to that.

Additionally, try to pace yourself, spend more time on difficult questions, and don't second-guess yourself too often. Statistics suggest that your first answer choice is usually correct as long as you've prepared well for the exam and have a solid knowledge base.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What's a Good GRE Score? Here's How to Tell." ThoughtCo, Feb. 8, 2018, thoughtco.com/do-you-have-a-good-gre-score-how-to-tell-1686221. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2018, February 8). What's a Good GRE Score? Here's How to Tell. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/do-you-have-a-good-gre-score-how-to-tell-1686221 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What's a Good GRE Score? Here's How to Tell." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/do-you-have-a-good-gre-score-how-to-tell-1686221 (accessed April 21, 2018).