Guide to Understanding and Using Your GRE Test Scores
You’ve taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and now it is time to find out how well you did. Unfortunately, standardized tests never make it simple on you. Reading the results aren’t like getting that math quiz back in high school where it said clearly at the top of the page “A” or “B.” You need a Guide to Understanding and Using Your GRE Test Scores, and that’s exactly what we’re giving you.
Let’s start with the basic scoring for verbal and quantitative sections of the exam. You’ll notice that these sections are gauged from 130 to 170. Scores increase or decrease in one-point increments. If you score 170, you’ll be beating the grad programs off with a stick. If you score 130, better cancel your Harvard plans. Generally speaking, 149 to 151 is that 50th percentile, and while it’s probably not where you want to be on these sections, it will probably land you a grad program. That program may not be the one that you want, but it’s a good start.
TIP: Take a shot. There are 40 scored math questions and 40 scored verbal questions for you to conquer. Answering just one or two more questions correctly can push you past tens of thousands of other candidates in the graduate program application process. Don’t go wild guessing, but do take a crack at it. If you try to eliminate the answers that are obviously wrong, then you’ve got a significant chance to improve your standing.
Moving on to the analytical writing section, these scores are issued in half-point increments between 0 to 6 with 6 being as good as it gets. Two readers will issue a score, and if those scores are within a point of each other, then they will be averaged to determine your final score. If there is greater than one point separating the two scores, a third reader will be brought in to aid in determining the final score. A score of around 4.0 will place you in the 50th percentile.
TIP: The analytical writing section is comprised of an issue task, an argument task, and an experimental section (which could be “issue” or “argument”). While the experimental section does not count toward your final score, you won’t know which of the three sections are experimental during the exam. Don’t risk it. Do your best on all three sections. It’s only an hour and a half of your life!
Is Your Score Good Enough?
Remember when you were in school and you cared more about your grades than you did actually learning something. Well, you may have a flashback here. You’ve paid your money to take the test. You’ve got college loans and masters program costs to worry about. You need financial aid, and you need it to be as much as possible.
The score plays a huge role in admissions and aid, so you’re likely going to walk out of the test caring less about getting a specific question right and more about what those scores are going to say when they are finally delivered. But once the scores come in, you can’t be for certain what is staring back at you will be good enough to get you into the school you want. Here’s how you can set your mind at ease.
Make Contact with the School
What’s that, you’re an introvert? Don’t worry. You probably won’t have to speak to anyone. Just visit the school website. (That counts.) Most post the information for you to see with no hassle. If not, then come on, what’s it going to hurt? Give them a call.
Once you do have the information in front of you, there will be two specific numbers you want to acknowledge. Start at the 50th percentile to get a feel for how the average applicant fared on the GRE. Then check the 75th percentile. The closer you are to 75th, the better your chances of gaining acceptance and financial aid.
Unfortunately, we can’t just give you a number and say, “That’s a good score.” While 130 isn’t where you want to be, and 170 means you’re in good shape, most of us perform somewhere in between, and every school is different for what their expectations are. A 150 may be fine at a state college program, but it isn’t going to impress the Ivy League.
A Word about ScoreSelect
Before you leave us to go check the mailbox, there is one more thing we’d like to cover. ScoreSelect is a post-July 2012 addition to the GRE score reporting system, and we believe it’s a good thing. Up until July 2012, your scores from the last five years were automatically reported each time you sent a report to a graduate program. Even the ones you didn’t want them to see.
ScoreSelect has changed that. Now you can determine how many scores to send and which ones are going. This gives you a great opportunity to put your best foot forward. Now scores must still be reported in sets. Say you scored a 160/140 on verbal and quantitative and then a 153/148. You can’t take the 160 and combine it with the 148. But you can send the best pairing to the school of your choice, and those scores will be good for five years with that institution.
Sending Multiple Scores
Not everyone is a great test-taker. Some people freeze up while others just stay out too late the night before and are sluggish the next morning. Who in their right mind would want to send multiple scores instead of only sending the best? Well, let’s say you don’t test as well as your grades would indicate. It gives you trouble, but you’ve shown steady improvement through your persistency. In this case, it can really be a help to demonstrate that improvement for your school(s) of choice by sending multiple scores – evidence that you care about getting in and earning your masters degree.
We hope this guide has been helpful in easing your mind about those GRE scores. Now get out there and wow ‘em!