What is a Good GRE Score?

Students are often unsure about the assessment of a GRE score. Questions arise as to what a good GRE score should be, and how one may go about applying to schools based on estimates. To get clear answers to such questions, it is essential to understand the various elements of the GRE test and the basis on which the scores are calculated.

Sections in GRE
The GRE is conducted online and has a total of 6 sections

Analytical Writing: A 30 minute section involving 2 essays of the ‘issue’ and ‘argument’ type
Quantitative Reasoning: Two sections testing the mathematical abilities of candidates
Verbal Reasoning: Two sections testing English comprehension and vocabulary
Experimental task: A section which can be a mix of any other section, but is not part of the total score of a candidate. However, the section is not identified as such.

Change in Pattern
ETS changed the pattern of the GRE in August 2011. Although much of the sectional questions remain similar to the old format, the new exam has made major changes to the score pattern.

Quantitative reasoning: New Score ranges between 130-170 opposed to the previous 200-800
Verbal reasoning: Also between 130-170 against the previous 200-800
Analytical writing: Remains the same ranging from 1 to 6, 6 being the 99 percentile mark.

The GRE lasts 3 hours, and can taken 5 times a year. The scores are valid up to a maximum of 5 years. The change in pattern has made it a little tricky to calculate what a decent score in the new GRE might be. A significant difference being that the schools using GRE will find it easier to compare scores. The old format used a 10 point increment system, so even if a test-taker got a score of 450 and another achieved a 460, they were still only a point apart. With the new system the increments are in single points making the differences between scores easily recognizable to selection panels.

A Good Score under the New GRE
Looking at the new scoring pattern we can estimate what an average score would be. A range of 130-170 leaves us with 40 points which averages out to about 150 to 155. This may be a decent score for certain courses, where the focus is on sectional performances rather than on overall scoring, but it is by no means a high one. A ‘good’ score in both quantitative and verbal sections would be above the 165 mark. There are other factors we must look into when estimating a good GRE score:

Score requirements of the school or program: The concept of an acceptable GRE score largely varies from school to school and university to university. A particular college may consider a score of 340 as an acceptable score, but other colleges may not. A satisfactory GRE score also differs from program to program, as the requirement criteria for different programs vary at the time of admission. A university may require a high score in a specific test section, but may accept average scores in other sections.
Websites and word of mouth: There are some colleges which also evaluate GPA and your research experience for eligibility to a college course. To know more on a good GRE score, you may obtain information from students who are already studying in the university you wish to study at. The simplest way of obtaining related information is to look for the minimum GRE score requirement on the university’s website.
Estimates: The GRE tests candidates for knowledge and expertise in various facets of education, and is considered to be an important indicator of student performance. If you are looking forward to take up a graduate course in life sciences, a 147 in mathematics, and 152 in the verbal section, is an acceptable score. If you want to take up a physical science course, 158 in mathematics and 152 in the verbal section is recommended. In case of a graduate course in engineering, 158 in mathematics and 151 in the verbal section is considered acceptable. For a social science graduate program, a satisfactory score would be 145 in mathematics and 152 in the verbal section.

Considering the requirements of the revised GRE, one can now prepare accordingly, a knowledge-essay based approach is recommended for optimal coverage of the written sections, along with developing speed and accuracy in solving the mathematical and reasoning sections. A well-planned strategy will go a long way in helping you attain a good GRE score.

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