GRE Scores | What Are Considered Average & Good Scores?

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The GRE is a key component of your application to a graduate school, especially to a school in the USA or Canada. You will have to submit your score as part of your initial application, meaning schools will be comparing your score against other applicants. In this case, what is a “good” GRE score, and what is the average?

The average score for the Verbal Reasoning Section of the GRE is 151-152, 155-156 for the Quantitative Reasoning Section, and 4.0 for the Analytical Writing section. A “good” score, using statistics from the top 20% of GRE test takers 2019-2022, is as follows: 159 or above on the Verbal Reasoning section, 166 or above on the Quantitative Reasoning section, and 4.5 or higher on the Analytical Writing section.

In this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about the average and good scores for the GRE.

How is the GRE scored?

The GRE is broken down into 3 sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. You can read more about what the GRE exam is in this Think Student article.

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are both made up of a series of questions.

When these are marked, a raw score is calculated. The raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly. For example, the maximum raw score would be 27, as there are 27 questions each in the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections.

Then, the raw score is converted to a scaled score. This score ranges from 130 to 170.

You can find all of this information and more on this page of the ETS website.

The Analytical Writing section is scored differently.

The ETS website states, “Analytical Writing essay responses are evaluated on a 6-point holistic scale, including receiving a score from the e-rater scoring engine, a computerized program developed by ETS that is capable of identifying essay features related to writing proficiency.

In holistic scoring, scores are assigned on the basis of the overall quality of an essay in response to the assigned task.”

For the Analytical Writing section of the GRE, you will receive a single score. This score ranges from 0 to 6, divided into different brackets, as follows: 0, 0.5 and 1, 1.5 and 2, 2.5 and 3, 3.5 and 4, 4.5 and 5, and 5.5 and 6.

For more information on how the Analytical Writing section of the GRE is scored, check out this page of the ETS website.

The maximum score you can get for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is 170, which is the same for the Quantitative Reasoning section. The maximum score you can get for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE is 6.0.

What is the average GRE score?

For this section of the article, I will be using the collected data of all GRE scores from 2019 to 2022, as reported by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). You can find all of this data linked in this document.

Firstly, let’s look at the mean scores. A mean is a kind of average calculated by adding up all of the GRE scores, divided by the number of applicants. Essentially, the mean score is the hypothetical score you would get if every single applicant got the same score.

The data shows that the mean score for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE was 150.94 for 2019-2022.

The mean score for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE was 155.44 for 2019-2022, which means that on average, students scored around 5 points better on the Quantitative Reasoning than the Verbal Reasoning.

The mean score for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE was 3.56 for 2019-2022.

Therefore, for an ‘average’ score, you’d need to score around 151 on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE, 155 on the Quantitative Reasoning section, and 4.0 on the Analytical Writing section.

Secondly, let’s look at the percentile ranks of each section. Percentiles show the percentage of students who scored lower than a specified score.

For the Verbal Reasoning section, the percentile for students who scored 152 is 50. This means that 50% of students scored less than 152, and 50% of students scored 152 or higher. Therefore, according to the percentile data, the ‘average’ score for the Verbal Reasoning GRE is 152.

For the Quantitative Reasoning section, the percentile for students who scored 156 is 49. This means that 49% of students scored less than 156, and 51% of students scored 156 or higher. Therefore, according to the percentile data, the ‘average’ score for the Quantitative Reasoning GRE is 156.

For the Analytical Writing section, the percentile for students who scored 4.0 is 56. This means that 56% of students scored less than 4.0, and 44% of students scored 4.0 or above. Therefore, according to the percentile data, the ‘average’ score for the Analytical Writing GRE is 4.0.

Overall, an average GRE score is 151-152 on Verbal Reasoning, 155-156 on Quantitative Reasoning, and 4.0 on Analytical Writing.

Look at the following table to see this data more clearly.

Section Average GRE score
Verbal Reasoning 151- 152
Quantitative Reasoning 155- 156
Analytical Writing 4.0

What is considered a “good” GRE score?

For this section of the article, I will be using the collected data of all GRE scores from 2019 to 2022, as reported by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). You can find all of this data linked in this document.

Of course, any score that you’ve put time and effort into achieving is good! However, for the sake of this article, we’ll say that a good GRE score is in the top 20% of scores. I’ll also be going through the top 5% and 1%.

First, let’s look at the percentile data for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE.

The percentile for students who scored 159 on Verbal Reasoning is 81, meaning 19% of students scored 159 or higher. Only 5% of students scored 165 or higher, and the top 1% of students scored 169 or 170 (the maximum score).

Look at the following table to see this more clearly.

Verbal Reasoning scaled score Percentile
159 19%
165 5%
169 1%

Secondly, let’s look at the percentile data for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE.

The percentile for students who scored 166 on Quantitative Reasoning is 80, meaning 20% of students scored 166 or higher. 6% of students scored maximum marks (170) on the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Look at the following table to see this more clearly.

Quantitative Reasoning scaled score Percentile
166 20%
170 6%

As we’ve seen from both the ‘average’ score data and the ‘good’ score data, students tend to do better on the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Finally, let’s look at the percentile data for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.

The percentile for students who scored 4.5 on Analytical Writing is 81, meaning 19% of students scored 4.5 or higher. The top 10% of students scored 5.0 or higher, the top 2% of students scored 5.5, and the top 1% of students scored maximum marks (6.0).

Look at the following table to see this data more clearly.

Analytical Writing score Percentile
4.5 19%
5.0 10%
5.5 2%
6.0 1%

Overall, a ‘good’ score on the GRE would be 159 or above on the Verbal Reasoning section, 166 or above on the Quantitative Reasoning section, and 4.5 or higher on their Analytical Writing.

However, any score that you’ve worked hard to earn is good! Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t do as well as you anticipated or as well as the “statistics say you should’ve”.

What are good GRE scores for the Ivy League?

It is very rare that a university or college will set a specific target for a standardised test such as the GRE. However, this doesn’t mean that the prospective school won’t have a ‘target’ score and a lower band in mind when it comes to reviewing applications.

Your GRE ‘requirements’ will be dependent on the course you wish to study, and at which graduate school. I’ll take you through some of the examples for different Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Columbia.

The Harvard Business School states on their website, linked for you here, their ‘class profile’ is of students who scored between 150 and 170 on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE, and between 145 and 170 on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE.

As reported by Student Progress on this section of their website, the average GRE score of successful Princeton applicants is 161 in the Verbal Reasoning section and 163 in the Quantitative Reasoning section.

In this report, the Yale Business School stated that in 2022, their ‘class profile’ was of students who scored between 159 and 169 on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE, and between 164 and 170 on the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Cornell University’s Engineering School states on their website, linked here, successful applicants on average scored over 153 in the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE and over 160 in the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Columbia University’s Engineering school states on their website, linked here, successful applicants from previous years scored around 91% overall (around 310). This would also mean a score of at least 150 in one section of the GRE and 160 in the other.

It should be noted, however, that GRE requirements all vary by department. To know the specific GRE requirements for your field, you should consult that department specifically!

Can you still get into graduate school with a bad GRE score?

Yes, it’s possible that you can still go to a graduate school with a score below the average.

If your GRE score is lowered than you anticipated, there are a few options of how to proceed:

  • Retake the GRE and try to achieve a ‘better’ score
  • Apply with your current GRE score
  • Contact your programs and ask for specific guidance on GRE score requirements

Your application will be based off several factors, not just your GRE score. Even if you think other applicants may have a better score than you, your application may be stronger in other areas, and the prospective graduate school will not evaluate your application just based on one score

As well as this, it’s entirely possible for you to retake the GRE if you aren’t happy with your results.

The ETS website, linked here, states that you are able to take the GRE every 21 days and up to 5 times in a 365-day period.

Therefore, if you start taking the GRE a few months before the application period, you can resit the examination and still get your results in time for your application.

That being said, if you don’t want to resit the GRE, getting a score below the average is definitely not a deal breaker.

Depending on your score compared to the average, you could contact your prospective graduate programs and inquire about GRE score flexibility.

Many graduate schools will most likely have a lower bound of GRE scores they will consider acceptable, but they may be generous enough to accept a score a few points lower.

The most important thing is not to worry if your score is lower than you expected. As long as you give yourself enough time before you submit your application, you won’t have to make any big decisions right away.

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