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What Your GRE Scores Say About You

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Guest post: Chris Lele

Even if you’ve prepped a lot, your GRE scores are not set in stone. How you prep and who you prep with can make a difference. Yet, there will be only one set of scores that you send to admissions decision-makers. It is from these scores that schools hope to derive a lot about who you are.

So how exactly do schools view your GRE scores? What will they think about you when you send them your score report?

Your Verbal Reasoning score

For the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE, admissions tutors hope to get a sense of how well you handle the likely onslaught of academic texts. Will you make inferences that are not valid, leading to faulty research? Will you misconstrue the author’s meaning? Will you know many of the words that show up in your reading? In this sense, the GRE is a pretty valid test. That said, the GRE is limited in that it can’t necessarily tell who is going to generate original thoughts and make significant contributions to his or her field (if only!).

Your Quantitative Reasoning score

The Quantitative Reasoning section does a good job of measuring how you reason with numbers and solve problems that are mathematical in nature. Of course, the mathematical-based problems you get in grad school, if you even get such problems, are going to be different in scope. Still, a high GRE score in quantitative reasoning indicates that you are adept at problem-solving with numbers.

Your Analytical Writing score

Finally, the Analytical Writing section aims to test two distinct skills. The “Analyze an Issue” task tests your ability to articulate and defend a position. The “Analyze an Argument” task, on the other hand, tests your ability to deconstruct faulty reasoning and work out ways that it can be improved. Your ability to obey the conventions of written English is also reflected in this GRE score. In sum, a high Analytical Writing score translates to a strong writer, one who will not befuddle fellow graduate students with ambiguous phrases and misplaced modifiers. Or at least, so the thinking goes.


What I’m driving at is that you can change your GRE scores, and in doing so become better at some of these skills. I think one thing many students overlook is the fact that prepping for the GRE and getting better at the GRE translates to improving skills that you’ll need in grad school. And I’m not just saying this because I secretly work for ETS. Prepping for the GMAT, likewise, can help get your brain into grad school shape. The point is you shouldn’t think of GRE prep as wasted time. You will use these skills, broadly speaking, in grad school. And by improving your GRE scores, you can say a lot about yourself: that you can write well, for example, or in the case of a retake, that you can improve markedly.

Any way you look at it, the college admissions board is going to assume that your GRE score percentiles provide a reflection of your abilities, in terms of verbal and mathematical reasoning. Don’t give them the opportunity to undervalue you.  

This post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For help with GRE vocabulary, the Magoosh GRE blog provides free flashcards and Vocab Wednesday videos.

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