What Is a Good GRE Score?

A high GRE score can help you get into graduate school and may even qualify you for scholarships. Find out what's considered a good GRE score.

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by Tyler Epps

Updated August 15, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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What Is a Good GRE Score?
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The GRE General Test, or GRE, is the most commonly required admission test for U.S. graduate schools. If you plan to apply to grad school, you're probably wondering, "What is a good GRE score?" The short answer is, it depends.

Because graduate programs maintain different admission requirements, GRE score expectations can vary greatly by school and field of study. In other words, what qualifies as a good GRE score for you will depend entirely on the programs you're applying to.

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What Is a Good GRE Score Overall?

While there's no blanket cutoff that directly constitutes a good GRE score, in general any score above the 50th percentile, or median, can be considered a good score, since this would mean you did better than at least half of all test-takers.

Nevertheless, many graduate programs will expect above-average scores, often in at least the 75th percentile. This is especially true for whichever test section is most relevant to your field of study.

The GRE consists of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing (AW). The Verbal and Quant sections are scored in 1-point increments on a scale of 130-170, whereas the AW section is scored in half-point increments on a scale of 0-6.

Here are the median scores for each GRE section based on 2017-20 test-taking data:

In addition to the scaled score, every GRE score has a corresponding percentile rank. Your percentile indicates how well you performed compared to all other test-takers. For example, a 160 Quant score corresponds to the 70th percentile, meaning you outscored 70% of test-takers (but scored lower than 30%).

Refer to the tables below for a look at good GRE scores based on percentiles from individuals who took the test between 2017 and 2020. Note that percentiles for scores can change slightly from year to year. Some GRE scores are estimates based on available percentile data.

GRE Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning Percentiles, 2017-20
Percentile Verbal Score Quantitative Score
99 169-170
95 164-165 169-170
90 162 167-168
85 160 165-166
80 158 163-164
75 (good) 157 161-162
50 (median) 151 154

Source: ETS

GRE Analytical Writing Percentiles, 2017-20
Percentile Analytical Writing Score
99 6.0
98 5.5
91 5.0
80 4.5
54 (median) 4.0

Source: ETS

How Will Your GRE Scores Be Used?

Many schools weigh GRE scores in their graduate admissions processes. But before you can set a target GRE score, you need to figure out which scores will be used and how they'll be used. This requires you to research the programs you want to apply to.

In general, you should focus on scoring well in the GRE section that's most closely tied to your field of study. Many grad programs only look at one section score or weigh one section much more heavily. For example, if you were applying to STEM programs, you'd want to focus on earning a high Quant score (and at least an average Verbal score).

In contrast, humanities and social sciences programs would likely place more emphasis on your Verbal (and possibly AW) score. Note that most grad programs pay little or no attention to your AW score unless they're writing-centered programs, like a creative writing MFA.

Some colleges also use GRE scores for scholarship consideration. When it comes to institutional scholarships especially, standardized test scores may be one of the few meaningful ways a school can compare applicants across different fields of study.

What Is a Good GRE Score Based on Your Program?

A good GRE score is relative to the programs you're applying to. Some programs require a minimum score for admission, while others use admitted students' average GRE scores as benchmarks for new applicants.

If you don't meet a program's average GRE scores, you may still be accepted into that program. Your GRE scores won't help your chances, but your scores also won't disqualify you in many cases.

On the flipside, matching or exceeding a program's average GRE scores can increase your chances of getting into a program, though it doesn't guarantee admission.

Consider two factors when setting your target score: your program's GRE score expectations and how competitive the program is. To find this information, go to your school's official graduate admissions page and look for GRE requirements.

If Your Program Provides GRE Score Stats

Many schools provide GRE score statistics and clarify the weight they place on your scores in the admissions process. In general, your target scores should be comparable to or higher than those of admitted students in your program. This is even more true for top graduate programs for which admission is highly competitive.

For example, say you're applying to Stanford's extremely competitive MBA program. In many cases, matching the average GRE scores may not be enough to influence your admission chances. If you wanted to be truly competitive for this program, your target scores would need to be higher than the averages, even if just by 1-2 points.

The same applies to competitive graduate programs that require a minimum cutoff score. Generally speaking, merely meeting a program's cutoff score does not make you a competitive applicant.

If your program states that GRE scores are competitive or important, every number will count. The more competitive the program, the higher your GRE scores need to be.

But not all schools and graduate programs give significant consideration to GRE scores for admission purposes. If a program explicitly states that it takes a holistic approach to admissions, your target scores can comfortably sit around the provided averages.

If Your Program Does NOT Provide GRE Score Stats

Some schools don't require minimum scores for admission or publish the average GRE scores of admitted students. In most cases, these schools take a holistic approach to applications.

Nevertheless, if they ask for scores, they will use them — don't assume any GRE score is fine.

If you can't find any average scores on the school's website, it never hurts to ask for that information directly from a program administrator.

If the school doesn't provide average GRE score information, you can try to aim for your intended field of study's mean score. If the program is fairly competitive, aim for scores higher than these averages — ideally around the 75th percentile or above.

The following table shows the mean GRE scores based on intended graduate major for individuals who took the exam in 2017-20.

Intended Field of Study Mean Verbal Score Mean Quant Score Mean AW Score
Business 151 156 3.6
Education 150 148 3.7
Engineering 150 160 3.5
Arts and Humanities 156 150 4.1
Law 155 153 4.1
Life Sciences 151 151 3.8
Physical Sciences 151 160 3.6
Social and Behavioral Sciences 153 152 3.9

Source: ETS

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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