3 Things You Need to Know About GRE Scores | Top Universities

3 Things You Need to Know About GRE Scores

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Updated Feb 27, 2024



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Guest post: David Recine

Your GRE score will have a big impact on your future studies and your future career. So it’s important to know all the key facts about GRE scoring. Today, we’ll look at the three most important facts you need to know about your GRE score

1. GRE scoring is done only for individual sections of the exam.

Unlike many other standardized tests, the GRE does not offer a composite score for the entire exam. Instead, you’ll get an individual score for your performance on each of the three parts of the test: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

Quants and Verbal are both scored on a scale of 130-170. For these two sections, scores are calculated in one-point increments. Analytical Writing is scored on a scale of 0 to 6. For this section – in which you must write two essays – it’s possible to get a score that includes a half-point, so possible scores include 4.5, 5, 5.5, etc.

Because each section is individually scored, it’s very common for universities to have different minimum score requirements for each section. As you can imagine, some programs will emphasize one section much more than another. An MFA in creative writing, for example, might ask for a perfect or near-perfect scores in Verbal and Analytical Writing, while setting a quant requirement that’s average or even below average. And programs in disciplines such as engineering nearly always have much higher score requirements for Quants than for Verbal.

2. GRE scoring is adjusted for difficulty.

Your GRE score is based partly on how many answers you get right in each section. But the official score is also adjusted for the difficulty of the questions you get in your particular testing section.

ETS has a very large database of GRE questions, and each student gets their own unique mix of questions on test day. The GRE keeps statistics on how students perform for different questions. If you are randomly given extra questions that are harder than average, your score will be adjusted upward to make up for the extra difficulty on your test.

Another way that you can get more hard questions than average on the GRE does not involve random chance. The GRE is actually programmed to give you harder questions on your second Quant and Verbal sections if you do well on your first sections for these two skills. This is because the GRE is an adaptive test – it adapts to your performance, throwing harder questions at you if you seem to be doing really well.

This can seem unfair. If doing well leads to harder questions, it can almost seem like you’re being punished for good performance. But this really isn’t the case – remember, if you have to answer harder questions, your score will be adjusted upward. So doing poorly on a harder section after performing well on the first section will not necessarily hurt your score. ETS will understand that the second group of questions was more challenging, and will penalise you less for wrong answers. 

What should you do if your GRE score is too low? Look at the breakdown of your score and consider if retaking would enable you to achieve a higher score by facing more difficult questions.

3. GRE scores are valid for five years.

ETS will keep your score report on file for five years after you take the test. Since the makers of the GRE consider scores to be valid for five years, schools also accept scores that were originally issued up to five years ago.

David Recine is a GRE expert at Magoosh.com. Over at Magoosh, David and his colleagues offer additional information about GRE scoring, and extra support for your GRE prep.

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