The GRE Scoring System

What is the scoring procedure of GRE?

The changes in score scale:

The scoring procedure used in the GRE has gone through significant changes in the new revised version of the test which will start from August 2011. The biggest change is in the score scale itself. While the previous score scale for both the Verbal and Quantitative Sections was 200-800 with 10-point increments, the new score scale is 130-170 with 1-point increments. However, the score scale for the Analytical Writing has not been changed, and ranges from 0 to 6 with 0.5-point increments.

According to ETS, the new score scale will make it easier for the admission authorities to compare the scores of students. The point is that the new score scale will not exaggerate minor differences in scores. That is, a minor score difference of a few points looks like a major 10-20 point difference in the current scoring system, but the new revised scoring system will minimize such minor differences. At the same time, major differences in score reports will be easily recognizable.

Changes in the scoring procedure:

The Verbal and the Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored depending on how many correct answers you give within the allotted time, and also how well you perform in the two sections. The revised version of the GRE test is no more computer adaptive (CAT), so it no more adapts to your standard. These sections are section-level adaptive, i.e. your performance on one section determines the difficulty level of the next section. However, the questions of each section are of equal importance. How many correct answers you give determines your raw score, and the difficulty level of each of the sections determines your scaled score. This is done through the process of equating, which calculates the differences in the difficulty level of the sections. The same procedure is used to calculate the scores of the paper-based format of the current version of the test. It should be mentioned, however, that the current version of the computerized format of the test is computer adaptive, which means that the difficulty level of the questions changes according to the answers you give. In this case, along with the number of correct answers, what matters is the difficulty level of each of the questions. If you are taking the test before August 2011, keep in mind that your performance on each question matters, not only the number of correct answers you give. Moreover, the more wrong answers you give, the lower the difficulty level shall be for the next questions. As a result, you will receive a lower score. It can be the exact opposite, too. Even if you give a few wrong answers, it is still possible to get a higher score if you continue to give correct answers to the questions you face next.

In the Analytical Writing section, each of the two essays is checked by two readers, and the average of the two scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than one point, a third reader checks the essay to decide a final score. In the current version of the GRE test, the scoring procedure is slightly different if you are taking the computer adaptive test (however, the paper-based format is scored in a similar manner). In this case, each of the essays is usually checked by one human reader, and the e-rater software developed by ETS evaluates how accurate the scoring is. If these two scores match up, the average is taken as the final score. In case they differ by a certain amount, a third human scorer checks the essay. The final score is the average of the scores given by the two human readers. Once the final score of each of the two sections are received, the average score is recorded as the total score for the Analytical Writing section. Thus, you get only one score for this section. Rather than judging your grammatical knowledge, this section measures your abilities for critical thinking and analytical writing. Also, this section checks the essays for Independent Intellectual Activity, which basically determines how original your writing is. If part of an essay is similar to other essay responses, or if any quote, reference, etc. is written without proper citation, ETS can cancel the scores of the concerned student. Nevertheless, this cancellation is not mentioned in any future score reports.

Changes in the question structure itself:

For the Verbal and the Quantitative Reasoning sections, however, a few changes have been introduced in the revised version of the test. You need to be aware of these changes to get a higher score, because the changes in question patterns affect the marking scheme, too. For example, the common conception about the GRE test is that it tests your vocabulary extensively, and that the mathematical problems presented are of average standard. However, this is changing with the revised version of the test. The new version of the test shifts stress from out-of-context vocabulary to real-life situations. Analogies and antonyms are no more there in the question paper. Similar changes can be seen in the Quantitative section as well. The problems are now harder, and a new question type is included which requires you to provide an answer rather than choosing it from a list. To help you with minor mathematical calculations, a calculator is provided. The thing you need to understand to get a higher score is that you are tested on your abilities for logically thinking and analyzing a given problem.

When to expect your scores:

Now that you know what the test evaluation procedure is, note that the scores of the new revised version of the examination will not be available before mid-November. Thus, to know when you need your scores is very important. Most students are worried about this huge gap in the GRE score reporting cycle. For a few months, scores will not be available; as a result, students who need their scores by this time must choose either to take the current version of the test to get the scores earlier, or go with the revised version of the test, accepting the delay. For instance, if you need your scores before November, you must take the current version of the test. Be sure to check the score reporting schedule on the official website to get details of when to expect your scores depending on your test date. After November, the score reporting will revert back to normal, i.e. you will get your scores within 10-15 days of taking the test.


If you are wondering whether the scores of the revised version of the test will be compatible with your previous scores, the answer is that the scores of these two versions of the tests are NOT directly comparable, but the percentile score can be compared. You probably know that it is the percentile score that matters the most to the admission authorities, and not your total score. This percentile score shows how you performed when compared to other test takers within a three-year span. It determines how many of the test takers got a lower score than yours. Finally, the scores of your GRE test are valid for 5 years, and that is not changing for the revised version of the test.