When studying for your GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and practising the papers, you find yourself wondering whether you are doing well or not. It is not good to just compare your score with peers or to aim for perfection. Instead, you should try to understand how the questions are marked and what score you need for your specific graduate school’s admission or scholarship requirement. Humanities schools require higher Verbal reasoning scores while STEM careers expect higher Quantitative reasoning scores. Sometimes your graduate school does not provide the exact score it requires for admission so you can look at the mean GRE score generally required by your field of study (we will look at that in the details of this article).
Your GRE result is not just presented in a numeric score but also a percentile rank that compares your score with that of all the GRE takers so one correct answer or wrong answer can change the percentile that you fall in. Scores and corresponding percentiles can not be predicted beforehand because they depend on how well the overall population did in that particular GRE exam (an understanding of how percentiles work is required here).
Let’s find out more about how the test is marked and what scaled score range can put you in the competitive range.
Understanding GRE scores and percentiles
Your GRE result is provided in the form of a scaled score and a percentile rank. For example, if you fall in the 62nd percentile, it means that you did better than 62% of the test takers and worse than 38% of the test takers. However, while practising, you can keep in mind that the average score in the verbal section is 150, 152 for the quantitative section and 3.6 for the Analytical section (these vary every year, of course). These are the scores corresponding to the 50th percentile which means you did better than half of the test takers.
According to the 2017-2020 ETS data, these are the percentiles and corresponding scores for those percentiles:
|PERCENTILE||VERBAL SCORE||QUANTITATIVE SCORE|
|PERCENTILE||ANALYTICAL WRITING SCORE|
What is a good score for your field?
Spending on your research field, you will have to do well in the corresponding section in your GRE exam. You should also keep in mind what score is required to acquire the scholarship you are trying to aim for. Here is a summary of the most common fields of study for postgraduate seduction and their required GRE scores for the different sections.
|FIELD OF STUDY||MEAN VERBAL SCORE||MEAN QUANTITATIVE SCORE||MEAN ANALYTICAL SECTION SCORE|
|Arts and Humanities||156||150||4.1|
|Social and Behavioral Sciences||153||152||3.9|
In light of this information, you should focus on your relevant section and try to perform as best as you can in that section. Improve your score every day and aim for the GRE max score in that section.
What the graduate school requires
If you want to be among the most competitive candidates, you should aim for a point or two higher than the average score of accepted students and even then you can not be 100% sure that you will get in because there are other aspects of your admission application too. The cut off score is just an estimate of the accepted score- you have to reach for higher than that.
Your graduate school of choice mentions their required GRE score but sometimes it is not mentioned and it can get very difficult to predict or aim for the school without knowing their expectations from potential candidates. In order to deal with this situation, you can either call the administration and ask for the average accepted GRE score or you can just aim for the 75th percentile of that field. An important thing to remember is that you can not completely neglect the other sections if your field focuses on one so you should have a holistic approach.
The last word
Besides your GRE score, there are other factors that are part of the admission process like your GPA, undergraduate coursework, professional and hands-on experience, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, etc.
Another thing to consider is that PhD programs require higher scores than Master’s programs so practice, practice, practice! Research is a highly competitive field and only accepts the very best students into their schools. A helpful tip is to go on message boards and join groups of alumni so that you can talk to them and get a realistic view of the GRE scores that they got. In the end, the selectivity and ranking of the school also determines your success.
Take as many sample GRE tests as you can and keep in mind that even if you cannot score your desired GRE score, you can always retake the test and send the higher score to the university you are applying to.