Understanding The GRE Score Scale

What is a Good GRE Score?

GRE is an international, standardized test that brings the candidates of multiple nationalities, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities on the same platform and then judges them on the grounds of common criteria. The candidates take a common test and the scores achieved by them help them seek admissions to the courses and colleges of their choice. The scores that they earn by taking the test determine the future of the candidates, so it is vital to understand the as well. The scoring scale and how it works. Before going ahead, it should be known that with the change in the GRE test pattern that gets implemented from August 1, 2011, there have been changes introduced in the scoring scalescoring scale that ranged from 200-800 (on 10 point increment basis) in the earlier GRE pattern now ranges between 130 and 170 (on 1 point increment basis) for the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The score scale for Analytical Writing section which ranged from 0-6 (on half point increment basis) remains the same in the new pattern.

It is not enough to just be aware of the scoring scales but one should know the grounds on the basis of which scoring is done in the test. The scoring method differs with the varying sections and the two formats of the test.


The scoring scale for these sections ranges between 130 and 170. The basic criteria for scoring in these sections is the kind of performance that one puts up in the given amount of time.

  • In the computer based format of the test, the questions appearing in front of the candidate are level-adaptive i.e., the way one handles one question influences the questions that follow. The computer senses the difficulty level that best suits the candidate and gives questions accordingly. For instance, if one is able to answer a low difficulty level question, the next question to appear would be a bit more difficult than that and if the candidate is not able to answer that question, the level will go down to less difficult again. While scoring, the computer counts the number of correct answers given by the candidate and calculates a raw score that is converted into a scaled score that comes before the candidate after the test is complete.
  • The difference in the paper based test is that it counts the number of questions in which the best choice of answers is picked out. Rest of the process remains the same as the computer based format of the test.
  • The average scores that can be achieved by the candidates as per the new GRE test pattern can be predicted to be above 150. A clear picture would soon be available after the scores for the test-takers, who took the test after 1st August, 2011 come before us. As per the earlier GRE pattern, a good score for the Verbal section is above 450 and 560 for the Quantitative section. The scores gained by the candidate in these sections can be seen immediately after completing the test.
  • The scores gained in these sections are the most important but it is not necessary for everyone to score high in both of them. How high one should score in these sections depends on the course that one plans to take up. Some courses require high scores in a certain section only, e.g., for admission into most engineering courses, the credit is given to the scores in the Quantitative Reasoning section only. Likewise, for the language based courses, more credit is given to the scores achieved in the Verbal Reasoning section. Hence, the requirements of the aimed courses and colleges should be confirmed beforehand and then one should start preparing for the test accordingly so that the aspired position can be achieved.


The criteria for scoring in the Analytical Writing section is the overall quality and the effectiveness of the arguments posed in the essays. The scores are awarded in the range of 0 to 6 by two trained readers who give their separate scores, the mean of which appears on the GRE score card. In cases where there is a difference of more than one point in the scores given by the two readers, the scoring is done by a third reader. The average score that one can achieve in this section is between 3 and 4. It should be kept in mind, however, that it is not the language knowledge that fetches one scores in this section, but what counts is the talent to give justified arguments on the given topic.

A score of 6–5.5, though difficult to achieve, is rewarded to candidates who display exceptional capability to logically analyze the situation and interpret it. Scores ranging between 4 and 5 tell about the above average ability of the candidate to thoughtfully convey ideas about an issue. A score between 3 and 4 on the scoring scale is the average score that can be scored by a candidate. A score below 3 is an indicator of a lack of handling and reasoning skills. Like the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections, the scores for the Analytical Writing section are not revealed immediately after the test. They can be seen on the score card that is available 12-15 after the test date.


The scoring scale places one in a specific position with respect to all the other candidates appearing for the test. While the marks and grades scored by candidates in their respective countries and pre-graduation courses cannot be put into a comparison with each other because of the varying backgrounds and judgement criteria behind them, the GRE scores bring them to a common platform. Appearing for the same test and going through the same testing process, the candidates have a common ground from which they are selected by prestigious educational institutions.

The higher are the scores and percentile rank achieved by a candidate, the better are the chances of getting admission into the graduation colleges and courses that one wishes to join. The scores that one achieves are sent to the colleges and universities of one’s choice automatically which makes the selection process easier for the candidates.


  • The key to scoring high on the scoring scale would always be practice and lots of practice for all the sections such that one is able to handle them and the time factor efficiently. One should prepare in a planned manner and focus on the portions of the test syllabus which one finds difficult.
  • The attempt should be to solve as many practice questions as possible so that one is ready to face all kinds of questions in the test. Practice questions are available in the GRE preparation books, software and even online on various preparation websites.
  • Another way to prepare for the test and also to predict the scores that are expected to be achieved by the candidate is by taking practice or mock tests. The mock tests help one to know the weak and strong points in the test syllabus, on which one can concentrate more while preparing.
  • The best time to take a mock GRE for predicting the scores is just a few days before the test date. It is the time when one has prepared for the test completely and can get a clear vision of the scores that one can achieve ultimately. Mock or sample tests can be found online; they can be downloaded for free or bought after paying a certain price.

Scoring in GRE depends wholly on the effort and hard-work that one puts in for it. But this effort should be combined with complete knowledge of the test and its various aspects so that all the time, money and effort invested do not go waste and bear fruit in the form of high GRE scores.