GRE Scoring: What to Know Before Taking the Test
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- The GRE Verbal and Quantitative sections are each scored on a scale of 130-170.
- The Analytical Writing section, which consists of two essays, uses a score range of 0-6.
- The GRE is an adaptive test, meaning sections get harder or easier depending on your performance.
- You can generally get 1-2 questions wrong and still earn the max GRE score.
Many graduate programs use GRE scores to evaluate applicants. This popular exam tests your verbal, math, and writing skills to determine whether you're prepared to study at the graduate level.
A nearly four-hour-long, computer-adaptive test, the GRE can feel intimidating. But knowing how GRE scoring works can set you up for success.
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With a full understanding of the GRE score range and plenty of practice, you'll be well on your way to hitting your target store on test day.
How Is the GRE Scored?
Most graduate schools primarily look at your Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores. These two sections are each scored on a scale of 130-170 in 1-point increments. In other words, the maximum GRE score you can get for either Verbal or Quant is 170.
On the test, you'll get two 30-minute Verbal sections and two 35-minute Quant sections. You'll also get either an unscored or research section, which takes the form of an additional Verbal or Quant section. Your performance on this extra section does not affect your GRE score.
Each question within a Verbal or Quant section contributes equally to your final GRE score. There's no penalty for incorrect or blank answers, so it's best to answer every question.
On questions that have multiple correct answers, you'll only earn credit if you select all correct answers — no partial credit is given.
Your raw scores for Verbal and Quant are simply the total number of questions you got right on each section. ETS, which administers the GRE, then converts these raw scores into scaled scores with a range of 130-170 through a special equating process.
The equating process accounts for variations in difficulty among GRE administrations. In other words, no test-taker will get an advantage by taking the GRE on one test date over another. So if one version of the GRE is slightly harder than another, you would need fewer raw points to earn that same scaled score on the easier exam.
How Is GRE Analytical Writing Scored?
The GRE Analytical Writing (AW) section is scored differently than the Verbal and Quant sections. Each of your two essays is scored by a trained human rater on a 6-point scale. Then, it is given a score by a trained computer program.
If the two scores match or nearly match, your score for that essay will be the average of those two grades. If the scores are significantly different, a second human rater scores it, and your score for that essay will instead be the average of the two human scores.
The two essay scores are then averaged together and rounded to the nearest half-point to get your final AW score on a scale of 0.0-6.0.
How Does Adaptive Testing Affect Your GRE Score?
The GRE is a computer-adaptive test, meaning the difficulty changes based on how you perform on each section.
The first Verbal section and the first Quant section you get will both be of medium difficulty. Then, depending on how you do on the first part, you'll receive an easy, medium, or hard Verbal or Quant section afterward.
While each question is worth 1 raw point, the equating process will give stronger weight to those who received a harder section after the initial medium-difficulty section.
For example, if you got 10 out of 20 questions right on your first Verbal section and 20 out of 20 right on your second Verbal section, your final Verbal score would be lower than if you'd gotten 20 out of 20 right on the first section and 10 out of 20 right on the second section.
How Many Questions Can You Miss on the GRE?
Generally, you can miss at most 1-2 questions on the Verbal or Quant sections and still receive the max GRE score for that measure.
Below is a GRE score chart from the 2017 paper-based GRE practice book. Note that this test has more questions than the regular computer-based GRE and is also not an adaptive test. As such, it's not the perfect tool to show exactly how raw scores translate into scaled scores.
Nevertheless, for test-takers currently practicing, this GRE score chart can be used to estimate how your raw scores may convert into scaled scores on Verbal and Quant.
|Raw Score/Number of Correct Answers||Verbal Reasoning Scaled Score||Quantitative Reasoning Scaled Score|
Frequently Asked Questions About GRE Scoring
What is a good GRE score?
Any GRE score above the 50th percentile can generally be considered a decent score. That's a 151 or higher for Verbal, a 154 or higher for Quant, and a 4.0 or higher for Analytical Writing.
That said, many graduate schools want more competitive scores in at least the 75th percentile, especially for whichever section more closely relates to your intended field of study. This means you should aim to score around 157 on Verbal and 161 on Quant.
Ultimately, what a good GRE score is will depend on what programs you're applying to. Some grad programs are highly competitive and will expect scores in the top 10%. Make sure to check the programs you're interested in to determine what GRE scores you should aim for.
How did GRE scoring change in recent years?
In 2011, ETS changed the GRE scoring system in an effort to simplify it. Previously, the GRE score range for Verbal and Quant was 200-800 in 10-point increments. These changes made it simpler to compare test scores across applicants.
With the old GRE, scores would often bunch up toward the upper end of the GRE scoring scale. The new scoring system provides a bigger range of scaled scores. This means that small variations among scores are made clearer, with a difference of only 1-2 points instead of 10-20 points. Before, these larger differences often seemed bigger and more significant to admissions departments.
Where can you find reliable GRE practice tests?
By far the best place to find high-quality GRE practice tests is the ETS website, which provides several free and paid practice exams. These official tests offer the most accurate test-taking experience, with questions similar to what you'll see on test day.
Additional GRE practice tests and prep materials are available from a wide variety of test prep companies. You can buy a GRE prep book or enroll in a GRE prep course.