What is a Good GRE Score?

By Rachel Shapiro Updated February 08, 2021

What’s a good GRE score? The answer to this question is different for every test-taker. The answer also depends on what your specific goals are. Here’s all you need to know about what a good GRE score is and how to reach your score goal.

The GRE Scoring System

The GRE features three sections: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170 in one-point increments. Unlike the SAT, it isn’t common to combine Verbal and Quant scores. These two scores are reported separately.

After you take the GRE, you’ll get your scores in an official score report. This report shows your scaled scores and your score percentile. You’ll get a PDF with your scores about 10 to 15 days after you do the test. You can also request a paper version of the report.

What’s a Good GRE Score

Top 10% GRE Scores

For the Verbal section, a top score is 163 to 170. This score puts you in the top 10% of all test-takers. For the Quantitative section, scoring between 165 to 170 puts you in this top bracket. To score within the top 10% for Analytical Writing, you’ll need a 5.0 to 6.0.

Top 25% GRE Scores

To score within the top 25% on the Verbal section, you’ll need a 158 to 162. You’ll need 159 to 164 for the Quantitative section. For Analytical Writing, you’ll need a 4.5.

Top 50% GRE Scores

For the Verbal section, you’ll need to get between 152 to 158 to score in the top 50%. You’ll need to score 153 to 158 on the Quantitative section. You’ll need a 4.0 on the Analytical Writing section.

Below Average Scores

A score of 151 or lower is considered below average for the Verbal section. A score of 152 or lower is below average for the Quantitative section. For Analytical Writing, a score of 3.5 or lower is considered below average.

Keep in mind that these scores may still get you into a variety of graduate programs. They’re just considered below average compared to the testing population.

GRE Score Percentiles

GRE score percentiles show how well you did compared to other people who took the GRE in the past three years. For instance, if you score a 170 on Verbal or Quant, you’ll be in the 99th percentile. This means you scored better than 99% of test-takers. Or, if you scored a 152 on Verbal, you’d be in the 53rd percentile. If you scored a 152 on Quantitative, you’d be in the 44th percentile. ETS has a table on their website showing all the possible score percentiles.

Percentiles are also used for Analytical Writing scores. If you score a 6.0, you’ll be in the 99th percentile. If you get a 4.0, you’ll be in the 55th percentile. You can also see all the possible Writing score percentiles on ETS’ website.

Your score percentile is included on your score report. Some admissions officers put more weight on percentiles than they do on the GRE scores themselves. Because of that, it’s a good idea to look at the average percentiles of applicants to programs you’re applying to.

Good GRE Scores for Different Programs

One of the most important things to understand about a good GRE score is that it’s all relative. A good GRE score is simply the score that will get you into your graduate program of choice. This score is different for every test-taker. It also depends on what type of program you’re applying to.

For instance, if you’re getting a master’s degree in English, your Verbal score will most likely be weighed more heavily. If you’re getting a master’s in Physics, the program will probably put more weight on your Quantitative score. Knowing what your school is looking for will help you set your GRE score goal.

Choosing Your GRE Score Goal

When you start studying for the GRE, be sure to set a score goal. This will give you a benchmark to work toward. To set your score goal, look at what the average scores are of students applying to graduate programs you’re interested in. This will show you what you should aim to score.

It’s also a good idea to get a baseline score. You can do this by taking a free practice test on ETS’ website. Getting a baseline score will show you where to focus your studies to ensure you reach your score goal.

How to Reach Your GRE Score Goal

Once you’ve decided on your score goal, it’s time to start preparing for the test. Spend time learning about the different concepts tested on the GRE. Learn different test-taking strategies. Read up on common question types and question traps. Do practice questions and practice tests. Take prep courses or read GRE textbooks. Being prepared is the best way to get your GRE score goal.

What to Do if You Don’t Reach Your GRE Score Goal

If you don’t reach your GRE score goal on your first test, it’s okay. Many people need to take the GRE multiple times to reach their goal.

One of the first things you should do is look at what questions you got right and wrong. Head to your account on ETS’ website. Here, you can look through your previous GRE tests. You’ll also see the questions that you struggled with and the ones you did well on. Seeing this will help you decide where to focus your studying the next time you take the test.

Once you’ve determined where you need to focus, create a study schedule for yourself. If you feel like you need more guidance, consider hiring a tutor or taking a class. Working with an instructor may help raise your score.

Other Grad School Admissions Factors

Grad school admission counselors often look at applications holistically. They evaluate GRE scores alongside the other information provided. Some of the other factors grad school counselors will consider are your undergraduate GPA and your undergraduate coursework. If you’ve been out of school for a while, they’ll also look at your professional resume. They’ll also use your letters of recommendation and your statement of purpose. Together, these factors will help admissions counselors decide who gets a spot in their program.

Questions to Ask Schools About GRE Scores

Before you take the GRE, consider reaching out to programs you’re applying to. See if you can get more information on how they use GRE scores. Also, ask them about the scores they’re looking for. Here are a few ideas for questions to ask grad programs about the GRE.

What GRE Score Do You Need to Be Accepted?

Even if this information is available on the school’s website, this is still a good question to ask. This way, you’ll be able to find out if the GRE scores on their website are accurate. An admissions counselor may also go into more detail about what the school is looking for. For instance, they may tell you if they weigh the Verbal or Quant scores more heavily.

Do You Look at an Applicant’s Whole GRE Score History?

If you take the GRE more than once, some schools will only look at your most recent GRE scores. Others will look at all your GRE scores. Be sure to ask schools about this before taking the GRE multiple times.

What are GRE Scores Used For?

Some schools just use GRE scores to help decide which applicants they’re admitting. Other schools also use the scores when giving out scholarships or fellowships. Make sure to ask schools about this. Also, ask about the average scores of scholarship recipients.

How Important Are GRE Scores on an Application?

Some programs place more weight on GRE scores than others. For some programs, GRE scores are a big factor in if they admit a student. For others, the scores are just a small part of the whole application. Finding out the weight a program puts on GRE scores can help you decide your target score.

Summing Up

When determining what’s a good GRE score, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Take a look at GRE score percentiles and average scores for the programs you’re applying to. Use this information to create a GRE score goal. Then, start practicing with this score goal in mind. Doing this will help you get a score you’re excited to see on test day.