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What Does my GRE Score Tell Universities?

You’ve studied until your brain turned to mush. You battled your way through the tough exam. Now you have your GRE score but you don’t exactly know if it’s a “good score” or a “bad score”. Beyond that, seeing your final exam scores makes you wonder if they are high enough to send to your university of choice.

Keep in mind that entrance exams to graduate schools are just as important and competitive as the entrance exams required for an undergraduate program. From these exam scores, the university assumes your intelligence level, dedication, work ethic, and ability to study. They want to see that you have taken graduate school seriously, starting from the first step of studying for the GRE exam. While it’s not entirely fair for a review committee of strangers to judge you so harshly and so unknowingly, that’s what happens. In fact, a graduate school admissions review team is created for the specific purpose of quickly judging an applicant’s admissions packet. That’s why a high test score is so important for increasing your chances of being accepted into the program of your choice.

How your GRE Exam is Scored:

You will receive three scores from your GRE exam:

  • Verbal Reasoning

  • Quantitative Reasoning

  • Analytical Writing

The Verbal Reasoning Section

In the verbal reasoning section, there are 40 questions total. Each question is scored in one-point increments. Meaning, you will gain or lose one point per correct or incorrect answer.

Average Score on this section: 152 (According to Kaplan Test Prep as of 2014)

The Quantitative Reasoning Section

This section is marked in the same way as the verbal reasoning section. Each question is grade with one point up or down based on correctness. In total, there are 40 questions to answer in this section.

Average Score on this section: 152 (According to Kaplan Test Prep as of 2014)

The Analytical Writing Section

The writing section of the GRE is scored in only a six point scale, starting at one with a maximum score of six. The score is given using a holistic rubric, which means that it scores your writing on all accounts such as vocabulary, organization, style, grammar, and staying on subject. If you take the computer-based exam, there is some strange marking that happens!

  1. A human examiner marks your writing section.

  2. A computer program automatically marks your writing section.

  3. If the two scores come to a close agreement, the average of those two scores is what you earn on the writing section.

  4. If the human score is very different from the computer score, a second human examiner marks your writing and you score the average of the two human scores.

Average Score on this section: 3.5 (According to Kaplan Test Prep as of 2014)

What your Scores Tell Universities:

Your Verbal Reasoning Score

The purpose of the verbal reasoning section is to see whether or not you can closely read and fully comprehend academic texts. Grad school is very heavy in reading and research, so schools want to ensure that you have the advanced skills it takes to deal with the heavy workload of reading academic and research papers while demonstrating a deep understanding of the content.

Your Quantitative Reasoning Score

Schools will use this score and determine whether or not you are capable of solving complex logical and mathematical problems. Most graduate courses of study, even if the program deals with linguistics, will require intense problem solving and ask for solutions. This is an important skill to master before attending a grad school.

Your Analytical Writing Score

Graduate school admission teams know that all programs are extremely heavy in writing tasks. However, at this level of academia, writing is no longer personal essays or narratives. All writing in this realm will be research-based and academic. This requires a strong ability to write analytically, removing yourself from the piece and using clear organization to get your point across. This task is about rigor, poise, and a strong omniscient writing style that is weighed down with confident authority.

Ultimately, your GRE exam score tells universities whether or not you are prepared and qualified to succeed in their rigorous program. This is highly dependent upon which graduate program you want to study in. By that, you should take both your intended course of study and your university hopeful into account. There’s nothing wrong with striving for a world renowned graduate program. There’s also no shame in wanting to attend a second or third tier program that’s convenient for your life. However, each school’s background, pedigree, and expectation for applicants will be looking for a different score from you. Do some research to see that the average GRE scores are for your specific area of study and the specific universities you’re hoping to attend.

If you’re looking for a shortcut, click here to read a well-organized list of top graduate schools and their average GRE scores of acceptance. Chris Swimmer compiled this blog post in 2016, so the information is current.

Acing your GRE Exam Prep

Being able to provide your university with impressive GRE scores starts with selecting the best study plan to help you prepare. At all costs, avoid studying alone. This is a difficult process, which can be enhanced by studying with other people as well as with an instructor. The best option is to dedicate hours each week if you have time to study in a classroom, face-to-face setting. If you’re too busy to travel, taking your GRE prep online is another great option. Both will provide you with study materials, professional feedback, and the motivation to achieve study milestones in your GRE preparation. An in-person classroom provides you with social and disciplined studying while PRE preparation online allows you flexibility to study when you have the time to focus on the task.

GRE exam preparation is not a relaxing event in your life. However, it’s important to do as much research about the programs you want to study in before you even take the exam. Focus on the average scores accepted by that program, and make that your minimum goal. Remember, even if your scores wind up falling below the average acceptance, that doesn’t mean you can’t still apply!

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