ReKap: What is a Good GRE Score?
November 21, 2013
We’ve discussed this hot topic before, but it bears revisiting: You’re prepping for the GRE, so one of your first questions is bound to be, “What is a good GRE score?” One of your next questions is sure to be, “How do I get a good GRE score?” (For tips on how to raise your score, check out our free GRE classes and events online.)
Quite simply, a good GRE score is one that gets you into the graduate program of your choice.
I’m going to give you more detail, of course, but that’s the simplest, most straightforward answer to your burning question.
For starters, here is what you need to know:
The GRE is scored on a 130–170 scale in each section. This relatively small range of possible scores means that small improvements in performance can increase your score quite a bit. It also means that small improvements in your score can make a big difference in your percentile ranking (sometimes, a one-point increase in your score can boost your percentile ranking by 5 points — check out the test maker’s chart of percentile rankings.)
Keep in mind that your GRE score does not stand alone. Whether or not you are admitted to a graduate program (and whether or not you receive scholarship money) depends on several factors. In addition to focusing on getting the best GRE score possible, you should also work on obtaining the best GPA possible, writing a spectacular personal statement, flattering professors and professionals into writing outstanding letters of recommendation, and rounding out your resume.
Here are some guidelines on how to set a good GRE score goal for YOU:
- Do your research! This is very important. What is the average GRE score of accepted students at the schools you’re interested in? What are the average scores for your specific programs? What do the admissions departments have to say about required minimum scores? [The best place to look is on the school’s website. If the information isn’t there, try sending an email or placing a call. Be polite but persistent. Most schools will provide you with a minimum score requirement or an average score range for admitted students. Since GRE scores are valid for 5 years, many admissions departments may still list averages on the old scoring scale. Here’s the GRE score concordance table to help you convert to the current scoring scale.] Once you’ve done your research, use these numbers in your goal-setting process.
- Set specific goals, and prep with them in mind. Are you working to balance out a lower-than-average GPA, or aiming to earn financial aid? Then you’ll definitely want to aim for a higher-than-average GRE score. Once you’ve done your research and gotten concrete numbers from your graduate schools and programs of choice, you’ll be able to set very specific score goals for yourself and strive to hit them.
- Know that a good GRE score for YOU is the highest score you can possibly achieve after a reasonable amount of prep time (about 100 hours over roughly 2–3 months). Take a diagnostic test as you begin your studies. If that diagnostic test places you within a couple of points of your goal score, you may be good to continue studying on your own. If you have a number of points to gain on either the Quantitative or Verbal section, consider signing up for a prep course. Kaplan has some great ones!
- Ultimately, you want to get a score that places you in the 50th–99th percentile range (higher is better, of course). That means that your goal score should be somewhere between 151 and 170 on both portions of the test. If you are wondering exactly where you should fall in that range, refer back to #1 on this list.
Above all, study hard, study smart, and study consistently. Learn the GRE test strategies. Remember the words of Stanley H. Kaplan: “Repetition breeds familiarity. Familiarity breeds confidence. Confidence breeds success.”
Whether you’re just getting started with your GRE studying or looking for some tips to take it to the next level, our free GRE Preview Class is for you. Check it out — it’s live and online, so you can join from just about anywhere!