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GRE Percentile Chart

The GRE Percentile that you should Aim for and Why?

A very important aspect of taking up the GRE test is the score which one aims for. The aimed score always depends on the course and college in which one desires to seek admission. The better the scores are, the higher are the chances of getting admission in the college of one’s own choice. According to the revised test format, the scores are marked on a score scale of 130-170 for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections and 0-6 for the Analytical Writing section, while earlier the score scale was 200-800 for the Verbal and Quantitative sections. What stands as the best method, is to do prior research on the scores that are accepted by various colleges for the course that one wishes to take up and prepare accordingly. But along with the scores, the colleges and universities also look into the percentile ranks of the students.

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A question that has always confused the test-takers is that how are test scores different from percentile ranks. Understanding the percentile chart has been a heady task for the candidates. But it should be known that while scores are the marks achieved by the test-taker, the percentile rank is the position that the test taker has in relation to other test-takers. It is better to understand the term by considering an example: a test-taker getting 85th percentile rank means that he/she has scored more than 85% of the other test-takers. Therefore, whatever is the percentile rank of the candidate it refers to the fact that he/she has scored above that percent of other test-takers. So, the percentile score determines one’s position among other test-takers on the basis of the scores achieved. At this juncture, it becomes important to know that the percentile chart compares the scores of all the candidates who have taken the test in the past three years.

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The highest percentile that can be scored by anyone is 99. As per the records of the past years, an approximate score of 700 in the Verbal Reasoning section and that of 790 in the Quantitative Reasoning section has fetched candidates approximately a 90th percentile rank. But one should always bear in mind the fact that the percentile ranks should not be calculated after combining the scores of both the sections. The reason being, that the verbal and quantitative sections are marked by using different methods. It has been recommended by ETS itself that the scores of these sections should not be compounded but should be considered separately. It is better that one pays attention to the section which has more relevance in relation to the course that one wants to take up and concentrates on scoring a high percentile in that section. It is of no use to waste one’s time and energy on the section that is not going to affect one’s getting admission to a course. The better way is to score high on the percentile chart for that section and be sure of getting through the admission process.


There is no standard percentile chart which one can refer to and interpret the scores. ETS keeps on printing them time and again, but from the past records, one can have an idea of the approximate scores that they should try to achieve, in order to get the desired percentile. There are many candidates who have valid scores in hand (the GRE scores remain valid for five years) but due to the change in the test format, they feel confused about what would be their percentile with respect to the new test pattern. The answer lies in this chart that is supposed to be released in November, 2011 that shall help the candidates to translate their old test scores according to the new scoring range.


The GRE percentile is the criteria, which proves the capability and aptitude of a candidate. In the large crowd of candidates, the rank on the percentile chart is what makes a candidate stand out. There might be many students scoring the same score, but the percentile puts them on a hierarchy list, helping the concerned authorities choose wisely among them. A good percentile enables a candidate to get admission in the desired college and course as it gives a proof of the candidate’s knowledge and reasoning ability. On the basis of this, the authorities of the educational institutes are able to identify the potential of the candidate and take decisions regarding whether or not, he/she would be able to handle the opted educational course.

One can seek unconditional and probationary admission into various courses on the basis of the percentiles. The required percentile for Verbal section is 46% and 44% for the Quantitative section, when one applies for unconditional admission. Probationary admission can be sought if the candidate has a percentile below these scores. For admission into courses like MBA and other highly specialised courses, scoring well in the percentile chart is a vital requirement.


When one aims to seek admission into a course or a prestigious educational institute, it should be made sure what GRE percentile has to be scored so that one can prepare keeping that goal in sight. The required percentile ranks for some of the major courses are-

  • For a regular master’s course (non-specialized), the minimum scores in the Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing sections should be 40%, 75% and 52% respectively.
  • To seek admission in regular computer and electrical engineering graduation courses, one needs have scored at least 70% in the Verbal section, 90% in the Quantitative section and 50% in the Analytical Writing section.
  • For regular graduation courses in the fields of statistics and psychology, one should have acquired a minimum percentile of 89%, 73% and 80% in the Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing sections respectively.

Though ETS has never recommended the use of percentile chart and scores as the criteria for admissions, it has been seen over the years that the institutions have been giving preference to candidates who have scored certain ranks. They call them the ‘ballpark scores’ which are announced beforehand so that the students can prepare accordingly. The ballpark scores that have been put forward by some of the educational institutions are-

  • Michigan University- 80%
  • California-Berkeley University- 80%
  • Minnesota University- 60%
  • Missouri University- 25%(Verbal), 80%(Quant)
  • East Carolina University- score above 900
  • Columbia University- score between 650-800
  • Lehigh University- score 520(Verbal) and 560(Quant)
  • Iowa State University (Engineering)- 765(Quant)

These scores and percentiles give only a dull picture of the kind of scores that should be aimed for while preparing for the test. The scores and the percentiles are all dependent on the hard-work that one puts in while preparing for the test. It is a simple equation: the more effort is invested by the candidate, more will be the scores and percentiles achieved and in turn better would be the chances for getting admissions to the best colleges and universities. So, the best path is to set an aim on a certain score and work hard to get it.

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