In our earlier article about acing the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), we had provided some insights to help you crack the exam. In the last point, we stressed on the importance of staying positive and having a target score in mind. How does one determine a target score? What is a good GRE score? In this article, we will look at some tips to help you determine the target GRE score.

One size does not fit all

As a student aspiring to bag a seat with most of the graduate programs at US universities, scoring well at the GRE is a must. Before you set about creating a target score based on hearsay, it is important to understand that different universities have different GRE score benchmarks. These benchmarks can also vary between different departments in the same university. The GRE tests your verbal and quantitative reasoning abilities along with critical thinking and analytical writing skills. Depending on the course, the university/ department might peg more importance on the scores of certain sections.

In simple words, the qualifying ranges for admission to Stanford will be different from those for MIT. Hence, you need to assess the GRE requirements of your target universities before determining the target score.

Some number crunching

As per ETS, the GRE administrator, the average scores of a GRE applicant are:

  • Quantitative Reasoning – approximate average score of 151 with a standard deviation of 8.4
  • Verbal Reasoning – approximate average of 153 with a standard deviation of 9.1

So, what does this mean? In simple words, if you score more than 304 (151 + 153), then you are better than half the GRE takers in the world.

But, is it good enough? No, but if you add the standard deviations to the average scores you get a composite score of 321.5. This score means that you are better than 80% of the GRE takers worldwide (around the 80th percentile). That certainly is a good score.

Remember, these average scores are across all programs. You can refer to the list of graduate programs with their respective average GRE score here and calculate your target score accordingly.

The University’s Perspective – Good GRE Score

Remember we said that you must take your target universities/ field into consideration before determining your target GRE score? Well, the good news is that most universities publish the average scores of their incoming class on their website every year. You can leverage this information to analyze what range you would want to target.

Another important aspect that you should keep in mind is the percentile approach of universities. Being a competitive exam, the score alone is not an indicator of your performance. It is the comparison with other test takers that determines your eligibility. To bring things into perspective, the 80th percentile is considered to be a good score by the top 30 U.S. universities.

Important: While an 80th percentile can put you in a place where your application can be considered for admission, it is not the only parameter.

Other aspects of your application

The other aspects include:

  • CGPA or Competitive GPA (as required by the university) – Your GPA speaks a lot about your application. You can expect to be considered for admission even with an average GRE score if you have a good and consistent academic record.
  • TOEFL/IELTS score (if required by the university) – While some universities consider a high verbal section score in the GRE, there are some who require candidates to TOEFL or IELTS exam.
  • Statement of Purpose (SOP) – Many universities peg a lot of importance on the SOP since it talks about the person behind the application.
  • Letter of Recommendation (LOR) – A genuine LOR from a person of repute can certainly add some weight to your application.
  • Research Work – This helps the universities understand your involvement with the academic community and can create an impact on the selection committee.
  • Work Experience – If you have been working at least for 2-3 years, then this can add impact to your application.

In a nutshell, determination of a good GRE score is dependent on the university ranking, score percentile, and other aspects as described above.

Before we sign off

Bagging a seat with your dream university requires a lot of preparation. Also, like all preparations go, the best place to start is by planning it in advance. After setting realistic and achievable targets, you can work on a study plan that can help you achieve it. Reputed GRE coaching classes offer guidance to help you determine a good GRE score.

We at Inspirus Education, have specialized GRE faculty, offering a personalized study plan for every student and a mentor to guide you. Our approach and mentoring has been showing results for our students. Our Alumni are currently learning at Stanford, Purdue, CMU, Georgia Tech and many other Ivy League Universities.

Remember, dreams can be fulfilled. All they need is the fuel of a good plan and hard work. All the best!


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