What’s a “Good” GRE Score?
June 2, 2015
A “good” GRE score is one that gets you accepted into the graduate program of your choice.
That’s the simplest answer to the question, but it begs another: How do you actually achieve a good GRE score and get accepted into the graduate program of your choice?
What you need to know about GRE scores
GRE scoring occurs on a 130–170 scale in each section. This relatively limited range of possible scores means that small improvements in performance can increase your overall score quite a bit. It also means that those little increases to your GRE score can make big differences in your percentile ranking. Sometimes even a one-point increase in score can boost your percentile ranking by as much as five percentage points (check out the test-maker’s chart of percentile rankings).
Remember: your score does not stand alone. Whether or not you are admitted to a graduate program (or receive scholarship money) depends on several factors. In addition to focusing on getting a good GRE score, you should also work on obtaining the best GPA possible, writing a spectacular personal statement, getting outstanding letters of recommendation, and rounding out your resume.
How to set a good GRE score goal for yourself
Do your research. Answer some basic preliminary questions, including:
What are the average GRE scores of accepted students at the schools you’re interested in?
What’s the average GRE score for your specific program?
What does the program’s 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 five years, many admissions departments may still list averages on the old scoring scale. Use this helpful GRE score concordance table to convert to the current scoring scale. Once you’ve done your research, these numbers will help you know what to shoot for.
Set specific goals. Prepare for the GRE with these goals 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 a very specific range for yourself and strive to hit it.
Be realistic. Know that a good score is the highest you can achieve after a reasonable amount of prep time (about 100 hours over roughly two or three 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 in a good place to continue studying on your own. If you still have a considerable number of points to gain on either the quantitative or verbal section, however, you may want to sign up for a prep course.
Know your range. You want 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’re wondering exactly where you should fall in that range, refer back to the first tip in this list.
Above all, study hard, study smart, and study consistently. Learn the GRE test strategies and remember the words of Stanley H. Kaplan: “Repetition breeds familiarity. Familiarity breeds confidence. Confidence breeds success.”
What GRE score are you aiming for? Tell us in the comments. Then be sure to get our free GRE question of the day to help you hit that goal.