The GRE scores you’ll need for your graduate school application depend on two factors: the requirements of the school(s) you’re applying to and the overall strength of your application.
When you take the GRE, you will get three scores:
|Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)||1–6|
[Note: to see how these scores translate into percentiles (a percentile tells you how a score compares to the scores of all other test takers), see the testmaker’s table.]
How Competitive Is the Program?
Some graduate schools are highly competitive, with most successful applicants having GRE scores above the 85th percentile. Other programs are less competitive. Some programs in some fields don’t even require GRE scores. To determine the GRE score you need to have a good chance at acceptance, first research the requirements of the program(s) you’ll apply to.
[Related: What’s a good GRE score, anyway?]
Many programs provide this information on their website. Sometimes it is easy to find, and sometimes it is somewhat buried. If you have trouble finding this information, try searching for “[school/program name] class profile” or “[school/program name] GRE scores”. If the information is not available at the website, you can call the admissions contact and request it.
Here are some things to look for:
As a very general rule of thumb, most schools care a great deal about the Quantitative and Verbal scores and are only concerned about the AWA score if it is below a 4.0, indicating a potential deficiency in your writing ability. However, this varies widely. In fields that focus on writing, such English literature, journalism, and communications, programs may pay much more attention to your AWA score. In contrast, some science programs care very little about your AWA score. Furthermore, programs differ in how much they emphasize the Verbal and Quantitative scores, with some caring equally about both and others caring more about one than the other.
How Strong Is Your Application?
Almost all graduate schools consider your application holistically to determine whether you are a good fit for their program. They want to accept individuals who are capable of doing graduate-level academic work and who are highly motivated to complete a degree program. Thus, they are interested in your demonstrated academic aptitude and your passion for the subject or career field. Having said that, most schools weight the GRE score heavily as an indicator of whether you will be a successful graduate student.
The following are components of your application schools may consider:
- GRE score
- Undergraduate GPA
- GPA in graduate work you may have completed
- Relevant work or volunteer experience
- Personal statement
- Portfolio (fields such as fine arts or architecture)
To find out how much weight a particular program gives to these various components, reach out to the admissions contact.