Understanding GRE Scores: What They Mean and How They Are Used

26/04/202326 minute read
Understanding GRE Scores: What They Mean and How They Are Used

Are you planning to pursue graduate studies and wondering about the importance of the GRE scores? GRE scores can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, especially for those who are new to the graduate school admissions process. The GRE tests your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills, all while sitting at a computer in a testing center. But don't worry, with enough preparation you can conquer the GRE and show those graduate schools what you're made of!

What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized test used as an admission requirement for many graduate schools. It is a standardized test that is used to assess the aptitude of students who are applying to graduate school. It measures the your abilities in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

How Are GRE Scores Used in Graduate School Admissions?

For some graduate admissions, GRE test scores play a very important role. GRE test scores are good for five years and can be used for a variety of graduate admissions, such as master's degrees and doctoral programs.

When applying for graduate programs, GRE test scores provide a strategic edge to your application package. Since GRE testing covers a range of skills, the scores you receive on the test will help to fill in particular gaps in your application. If your undergraduate GPA or other aspects of your application are weaker, a strong GRE score can help to compensate for these deficiencies.

In addition, a strong GRE score can demonstrate your academic potential and readiness for graduate-level coursework. Admissions committees may view high GRE scores as evidence that you have the necessary analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills to succeed in a rigorous graduate program. So it is important to understand how the GRE is scored and how you can ace the exam.

Sections of the GRE
SectionWhat it MeasuresTypes of QuestionsNo. of QuestionsTimeScale
Quantitative ReasoningAbility to understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information and solve problems using mathematical concepts- Quantitative Comparison - Problem-Solving4070 mins.130-170
Verbal ReasoningAbility to understand, analyze, and evaluate written material and recognize relationships between words and concepts4060 mins.130-170
Analytical WritingAbility to think critically and communicate complex ideas effectively through writing- Issue Task - Argument Task230 mins. each (60 mins. total)0-6

How is the GRE Scored?

Understanding GRE scores can get confusing as like any standardized test, it does not have a direct scoring system. As mentioned above, the exam is scored on a scale of 130 to 170 for both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections, with 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, with half-point increments.

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are computer-adaptive, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions adapts to your performance as you progress through the test. The first question in each section is typically of medium difficulty. If you answer it correctly, the next question will be slightly more difficult, and so on. If you answer it incorrectly, the next question will be slightly easier, and so on.

Your raw score is determined by the number of questions you answer correctly in each section, as well as the difficulty level of the questions. The scoring algorithm takes into account the number of correct answers, the difficulty level of the questions, and the number of questions answered in each section. The raw score is converted to a scaled score through a process known as equating.

The Analytical Writing section is scored by one trained reader and the e-rater scoring engine, a computerized program developed by ETS that is capable of identifying essay features related to writing proficiency. If the human and the e-rater engine scores closely agree, the average of the two scores is used as the final score. If they disagree, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores.

Based on your scaled score in a given test cycle in each section you can see what percentile of test takers you fall in.

Verbal and Quantitative Percentiles
GRE ScoreVerbal Reasoning PercentileQuantitative Reasoning Percentile
160 8676
Analytical Writing Percentiles

How Much do GRE Scores Matter?

The importance of GRE scores varies depending on the program and institution you are applying to. Some graduate programs place significant weight on GRE scores, while others may consider them as just one of many factors in the application process. However, generally speaking, GRE scores are considered an important component of your graduate school application.

High GRE scores can improve your chances of being accepted into a competitive program or receiving funding, scholarships, or fellowships. Additionally, many programs use GRE scores as a screening tool to determine which applicants they will invite for an interview or further evaluation.

ETS provides a mean score based on intended graduate major field for you to understand how students are scoring in any given year. This will also help you figure out what your intended score should be based on your area of study.

Mean Scores for Graduate Major Fields
MajorVerbal ReasoningQuantitative ReasoningAnalytical Writing
Humanities & Arts1561514.1
Life Sciences1511503.8
Physical Sciences1521603.5
Social & Behavioral Sciences1531524.0

Source: ETS

Tips for Preparing for the GRE

Preparing for the GRE can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but with the right approach, you can maximize your chances of success. Here are some tips for preparing for the GRE:

1. Get comfortable with test content

Familiarize yourself with the format and content of the GRE by reading through the official GRE website and taking a few practice tests. This will help you to identify areas where you need to focus your study efforts.

2. Keep an eye on the time

Since the GRE is a timed test, it's important to learn how to manage your time effectively. Practice taking timed tests and learn how to pace yourself to ensure enough time to complete all the questions. If you get stuck on a question, move on to the next one and come back to it later if you have time. Spending too much time on a single question can eat up valuable test time and may cause you to miss other questions.

3. Use test-taking simulations

Test-taking simulations can be an effective way to prepare for the GRE by providing a realistic testing experience that can help you identify areas of weakness and improve your test-taking strategies. The official GRE practice tests are the best simulations, as they are created by the same organization that administers the test. Use these tests to simulate the actual testing experience as closely as possible.

When taking practice tests, it's a good idea to make your environment similar to the testing environment you're going to be in. Find a quiet, distraction-free area and time yourself to mimic the actual test. Repeat the process of taking practice tests, analyzing your results, and adjusting your study plan until you feel confident in your abilities and are consistently scoring well on practice tests.

4. Use the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is a valuable tool for improving your GRE scores by helping you focus your study efforts on the areas where you can improve. You'll want to identify the 20% of concepts most frequently tested on the GRE that you struggle with the most. Once you've identified these concepts, you should allocate 80% of your study time to focus on these concepts.

5. Decide on a realistic study schedule

Once you've decided what you're going to spend your time studying, it's important for you to create a realistic study schedule. First, you should determine how much time you can realistically devote to studying each week based on other commitments you have on your plate. Allowing yourself time for breaks and relaxation is important, as this will help your brain absorb more information.

You could use a study planner or calendar to map your study sessions and track your progress. This will help you to stay on track and avoid procrastination.

6. Develop an error tracking list

As you’re taking practice tests, consider keeping an error tracking list. Every time you get a question wrong, write that question and the specific error you made down on the list. Doing this will allow you to identify patterns in your mistakes and help you find your weakest areas.

7. Use the Mark and Review feature

The Mark and Review feature is a valuable tool that can help you manage your time and improve your performance on the GRE. When you answer a question, you can use the Mark and Review feature to flag the question for review later.

As you're practicing, use the Mark and Review feature to flag questions you are unsure of, require additional thought, or are running out of time to answer. However, be careful using the Mark and Review feature too much. While this feature can be incredibly helpful, it can also cause you to lose focus and become overwhelmed if you have too many questions to come back to.

8. Review your work

Leave yourself enough time at the end of each section to review your work. You can start by reviewing the questions you flagged for review using the Mark and Review feature.

Also, make sure to read questions and answers carefully to ensure that you have understood them correctly. Be sure to check for typos or other errors that may have caused you to misread the question.

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Acing the GRE Test

Preparing for the GRE can be a challenging process, but with dedication and effort, you can improve your scores and increase your chances of success. Remember to focus on the most important concepts, allocate your study time effectively, and use test-taking strategies to your advantage. Additionally, it's important to take care of yourself and manage stress during the preparation process. By following these tips and strategies, you can confidently approach the GRE and achieve your goals. Remember, improving your scores takes time and effort, so stay committed and focused, and celebrate your progress along the way. Good luck!

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