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GRE Percentile


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There are a large number of students who apply to colleges for graduation every year. They come from different socio-economic backgrounds and thus their school scores cannot be compared. The Graduate Record Exam is conducted for making the admission process uniform throughout US. The basic idea of GRE is that students seeking admission in a graduate course in US can be compared on a common basis. Since GRE is a standardized exam which is conducted by ETS, a private agency, its results can be used to compare students.

For a comparison of any two things we have to use the means of measurement. This measurement cannot be qualititative or subjective, it has to be quantitative. If we say that two students are good in studies, we cannot compare them unless we have some scores in hand. We cannot determine which student is better just on the basis of grades. For comparing any two students we need to have their scores in hand. Now, different schools have different scoring schemes. Where one school might be having a simple testing technique and liberal scoring the other might be having a difficult one. Hence we cannot compare two students from different schools, even if we know their scores. We need to have a system of testing and scoring which is common for both the students. This purpose is solved by GRE. This test has been very rigid and difficult throughout the world and the scoring scheme is also the same. During the exam, if you are unsure of a particular answer, you can always move ahead to the next question, and come back to it later within a section. For this purpose a major part of the test is objective.


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There are two types of scores for each section of the test. Firstly you will be given a raw score and secondly you will be given a percentile score. The raw score ranges from 200 to 800 in the two multiple choice sections and from 0 to 6 in the analytical writing section. The scoring scheme for the raw score is different for the computer adaptive test and the paper based test, because of the difference in their formats; but the two schemes give comparable results. The second type of score is the percentile score. This is the more important score and gives a better idea of your performance. The percentile score means the percent of test takers who have scored less than you. The percentile scores are given for each section separately. The highest score is above 90th percentile and the lowest is below the 50th percentile.

The percentiles of GRE are calculated in a very simple manner. Your individual score is compared with the scores of all the other students appearing for the test. The number of students scoring lesser than you is considered to calculate the percentile. This score literally tells you what percent of students you have scored more than. Say if your  percentile for a section is 75% it means that 75% of the test takers scored lesser than you did in that subject. And consequently 25% of the students scored more than you. Moreover the same score does not hold the same meaning for different sections. Say if you score 720 in the verbal section and get a percentile of 97% then it does not mean that a score of 720 in the quantitative section would also get a percentile of 97%. This percentile could be very different from 97%. The percentile score depends on how others have performed in that particular section and hence the corresponding differences occur. Also if you retake the test it is likely that even a higher score does not get you a higher percentile. For example, if you score 720 with 85 percentile once, then it possible that scoring 740 gives you 82 percentile in another attempt. Like you have performed better others too could have performed well. For unconditional admission, the minimum percentile score in verbal section is 46 and a minimum percentile score rank of 44 is needed in the quantitative section.

The GRE scores are converted into percentile scores as it helps in the admission process of a candidate. The four sections of the scoring scale are:

  • Analytical writing.
  • Quantitative section.
  • Verbal section.
  • Unscored and research..

The total scores comes up to 1600 and separate sectional score which is about 800. In the analytical writing section, range of scores is 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The scoring scale for verbal and quantitative sections varies from 200 to 800.

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