What Is a Good GRE Score?
If you’re applying to graduate school, you’ve probably already started thinking about the GRE General Test. Taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a vital part of pursuing many different types of graduate degrees, and many graduate programs will not even admit students who do not achieve good scores. But what exactly is a “good GRE score?” This is a question that many test takers have a difficult time answering, especially since the GRE General Test (normally just referred to as “the GRE”) has such a confusing scoring process.
What a “good” GRE score is entirely depends on the type of degree you are pursuing, as well as the specific schools you are applying to that offer that kind of degree. Let’s go over some of the popular types of graduate degrees that require you to submit a GRE score along with your application, and what a “good” GRE score would be for you to be competitive in your applications to such programs.
What is the highest GRE score you can get?
The GRE is divided into three sections: the Verbal Reasoning section, the Quantitative Reasoning section, and the Analytical Writing section. The Verbal and Quant sections are each scored on a scale of 130-170 points, so the maximum number of points you can obtain on these sections is 170. The Writing section is scored on a scale of 0-6 points, so the maximum number of points you can get on this section is 6.
After you have completed the GRE, your raw scores for each section (the total number of questions you got right on each of these sections) will be converted to scaled scores. This is done by accounting for variations in difficulty level between the questions you got right and the questions you got wrong based on different versions of the test that are given out to students. These scaled scores are then considered your “final” scores and are sent to the schools you are applying to.
If you were to get every single question on the GRE correctly, you would receive a perfect score of 170 on both the Verbal and Quant sections of the exam. This, however, is extremely rare (Although Veritas Prep’s own instructor David Newland managed to achieve it!), as answering just one question incorrectly can be enough to lower your score on this exam.
Now, back to our big question: what is a good GRE score? The answer truly depends on which type of graduate program you plan on applying to.
Master of Arts (MA) Degree:
You can pursue a Master of Arts degree across a wide range of fields, including education, history, music, and communications. Most MA programs require students to submit a GRE score along with their application to be considered for admission.
In doing your school research before you apply, take a look at what a particular MA program’s average GRE score is for their students – this information is often posted right on a school’s website. This score will serve as a good benchmark to compare your own score to. At Veritas Prep, we recommend that your GRE score be no less than a few points lower than your target school’s average GRE scores to be competitive in your applications. For example, if you plan to apply to the Harvard Graduate School of Education to pursue your Masters in Education, it will be good to know that their average Quant and Verbal GRE scores are in the 80th and 60th percentile of GRE test-takers, respectively, so it would be in your best interests to achieve GRE scores in that range to ensure you put forward a strong application.
Master of Science (MS) Degree:
Similar to an MA degree, an MS degree can span many different fields. These fields include computer science, accounting, engineering, finance, and biology. MS degrees are also often combined with other types of graduate degrees or used as stepping stones to obtain a doctorate degrees in a person’s field of choice.
For some of these programs, a person who is looking to obtain an MS degree may choose to either submit a GMAT score or a GRE score. If you choose to submit a GRE score, keep in mind that many of these programs can have very high average test scores. For example, if you are applying to MIT’s Graduate Engineering School, you will want your GRE Verbal and Quant scores to be around a 160 and 167 (respectively), as those are the average scores listed by that particular program.
Juris Doctor (JD) Degree:
When people think of going to law school, the GRE very rarely comes to mind. This is because up until 2017, the only test scores accepted by law schools was the LSAT. Currently, only a handful of schools - including Harvard Law School, Georgetown Law School, and Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law - allow applicants to submit either an LSAT or a GRE score, although more schools are probably coming.
Before taking the GRE in pursuit of a JD degree, however, it is important to re-emphasize that only a few law schools allow JD candidates to submit GRE scores – this means if you are even considering applying anywhere other than these schools (which we strongly encourage you to do, so you have backup options in case you are not accepted), you will still need to take the LSAT.
If you are dead set on pursuing your JD degree at Harvard, Georgetown, or one of the other GRE-accepting schools and you want to take advantage of this new GRE score submission rule, know that you will need a very high GRE score to even be considered for law school admissions. It is unclear as to how these three schools are planning to compare applicant’s GRE scores against LSAT scores, but applicants choosing to take the LSAT will definitely need great scores to compete with the high scores of their LSAT test-taking counterparts. Additionally, consider that the Bar association has not yet commented on whether using a GRE to get into law school will affect a JD’s accreditation after graduation.
Regardless, having as high of a GRE score as possible will be in your best interest if you are interested in using a GRE to attend Harvard Law School – in this case, a “good” GRE score will be as high as you can possibly get it.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree:
Although the GMAT is still the more popular test to take for those considering pursuing an MBA, the GRE is accepted by most top business schools if an applicant does not want to take the GMAT. Some business schools do not post their GRE scores online (choosing to post average GMAT scores instead), so if you are having trouble finding a school’s average GRE score, be sure to contact the admissions office before you take the exam.
Like the other graduate degrees mentioned, an MBA application requires you to submit a good score along with your other application components. Although a GRE is not the only thing business school admissions committees will look at in evaluating your candidacy, having a good GRE score will put you at a greater advantage during the application process.
Having a high GRE Quant score will be especially important to your MBA application. Many business schools have Quant-heavy required courses, so having a high Quant score on the GRE will show them that you will be able to handle Quant-intensive classes once on campus.
I have a low GRE score, now what?
If you have a low GRE score, it is important to realize that it is not the end of the world – there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting into a graduate program. The best way you can mitigate a low GRE score is to take the GRE again. Although all of your GRE scores will be reviewed by graduate programs, only your best score will be taken into account, so if you have the time to devote to extra studying, it is worth the extra effort to try to take the test again and try to achieve a higher score.
Taking the GRE a second time also places you at a great test-taking advantage. Because you have already taken the exam once, you know what to expect in terms of the types of questions you will be asked and what pacing strategies you should implement to finish the test on time.
If you need help knowing where to start with your GRE prep, you may benefit from taking a GRE course or hiring a GRE tutor. This will allow you to seek the guidance of a professional so you know your studies are taking you on the right track to success. Check out a free GRE trial class to see for yourself whether or not hiring professional help will be right for you. If you choose to go it alone, search the web for free GRE study tools that you can use as you self-study to increase your knowledge for this exam.