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 560,000 people took the GRE in 2016-2017, 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. Princeton Review says this 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

Score Percentile
170 99
169 99
168 98
167 97
166 96
165 95
164 93
163 91
162 89
161 87
160 84
159 81
158 78
157 73
156 70
155 66
154 62
153 58
152 53
151 49
150 44
149 40
148 36
147 32
146 28
145 24
144 21
143 18
142 15
141 12
140 10
139 7
138 6
137 5
136 3
135 2
134 2
133 1
132 1
131 1

Quantitative Subtest Score

Score Percentile
170 98
169 97
168 96
167 95
166 93
165 91
164 89
163 87
162 84
161 81
160 78
159 75
158 72
157 69
156 65
155 61
154 57
153 53
152 49
151 45
150 41
149 37
148 33
147 29
146 25
145 22
144 18
143 15
142 13
141 11
140 8
139 6
138 5
137 3
136 2
135 2
134 1
133 1
132 1
131 1

Analytical Writing Score

Score Percentile
6.0 99
5.5 97
5.0 93
4.5 78
4.0 54
3.5 35
3.0 14
2.5 6
2.0 2
1.5 1
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.