Trevor Klee Reviewed By: Trevor Klee
Authored By: Dave Evangelisti
What is a good GRE score?

The Graduate Readiness Exam, or GRE, is a standardized exam used by graduate schools to help determine admission for some of their programs. Learn everything there is to know about GRE scores below. 

What is a good GRE score? We will examine what is considered a good GRE score and breakdown various scores to help you determine where your score falls.

Summary: Learn about GRE scores and figure out what your score means. If you want a top score, consider a best GRE prep course.

Before discussing what a good GRE score is, it’s good to know how the GRE is scored. The GRE is broken down into three sections, and each has its own individual score. The three sections are verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. 

The verbal and quantitative reasoning scores range between 130 and 170. Within that range, scores are given in one point increments. An analytical writing score is given from zero to six in half-point increments. 

A “good” GRE score isn’t so much about the actual score you get, but rather the score you need to get into the school you desire. Of course, the higher the score you earn, the better chance of getting into your dream grad school. 

There are common baselines that can tell you what scores are considered a good GRE score and which scores will put you in the top 10% of test takers.

   Verbal  Quantitative Writing 
Top 10% Scores 163 - 170 165 - 170 5.0 - 6.0
Better Scores 158 - 162 159 - 164 4.5
OK Scores 152 - 158 153 - 158 4.0
Below Average Scores <152 <153 <4.0

To know what is a good GRE score for you to work toward, it’s best to look at the required score from all the schools you plan to apply to. If all of the scores are the same, you’re in luck! You’ll have the same goal for all of your applications. If one or any of the required scores are higher, that should be your goal.

Keep in mind that a good GRE score can average out another weak point on your application. For example, if your GPA is a bit low or you only met the minimum volunteer hours for admittance, a higher score than what is required can help overshadow those weak points some and make your application stronger.

Now that you know what scores are possible on the GRE, it’s good to understand what each score means to further help you determine what a good GRE score is for you. Each score is given based on how well perform against everyone else who has taken the GRE. The percentile you score in means you scored better than that percentage of test takers. For example, if you score in the 70th percentile, then you scored better than 70% of test takers in that category.

GRE Score Percentiles

  Verbal Quantitative
>90% 162 - 170 166 - 170
80 - 90% 158 - 161 162 - 165
70 - 80% 156 - 157 156 - 157
60 - 70% 153 - 155 156 - 157
50 - 60% 151 - 152 153 - 155
<50% <150 <152

The average GRE scores in each category for the 2018-2019 testing year were 150 on verbal reasoning and 153 on quantitative reasoning. The average analytical writing score was 3.5. These scores are calculated from over 1.7 million test takers throughout the year. 

Even if your overall GRE score is considered average, there is still a chance you might get into your desired program. Schools may value one part of your overall GRE score higher than the other. For example, for math-intensive programs, a high quantitative reasoning score combined with a lower verbal reasoning score could still get you admitted. Each school is different, so it is best to aim for the highest score you can on every section.

You’ve already learned about what an average GRE score is for all test takers, but the average score by school is more important to know when setting your goal score. Many schools publish their admissions data which includes GRE scores. It’s a quick google search to find out what the average GRE score is for nearly any school you are applying to. 

After you open your web browser and select a search engine, type in the name of your school and “GRE Scores” into the search bar to bring up the results. You’ll find a variety of websites, and sometimes the school’s direct website, that informs you on the average scores. Even if the averages are a couple of years old, they can still give you good insight into what a good GRE score is to be admitted compared to the required GRE score needed for your application.

If you’re not finding much luck online, you can call the school to see if they keep track of GRE scores for admitted students and if they can share an average with you. You may also ask students that have previously or currently are going through the program you’re applying to see what their GRE score was when they applied.

Average GRE Scores by School and Program

School and Program  Verbal Quantitative
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Engineering) 162 167
UCLA (Psychology) 163 154
Stanford (Physics) 167 167
University of Pennsylvania (Chemistry) 159 160
Yale (Mathematics) 165 167
Northwestern University (Education) 161 153
Columbia University (Computer Science) 155 161

Average GRE Scores by Major

Similar to searching for a school’s average GRE score, you can search what GRE scores are average for the major you are applying to. Instead of searching by school, type in your program or major name with “GRE scores” into the search bar. Searching for average GRE scores by major will also help you see if a certain part of your score is valued higher than another. 

For example, if you search for “engineering GRE scores,” you’ll see the average quantitative score for the top 10 engineering graduate programs is 166, but the average verbal score is 149. That verbal score is the average for all test takers! This means that you should focus on getting the highest quantitative score possible, but don’t completely forget about doing some studying for the verbal portion too. 

  Verbal Quantitative Writing
Business 150 154 3.5
Engineering 149 159 3.4
Humanities & Arts 156 150 4.1
Life Sciences 151 151 3.8
Education 151 148 3.8
Social Sciences 153 151 3.9
Physical Sciences 151 158 3.4


Alright, now that you know what the average GRE scores are and how to determine what a good GRE score is you may wonder what a bad GRE score might be. Basically, a bad GRE score is one that doesn’t meet the requirement for the school or major you’re hoping to be admitted to. 

The bottom 10% of test takers on average score below 140 in verbal and below 141 on the quantitative portions respectively. It’s always a good goal to aim for a score that is higher than average, and a better goal to earn one higher than the minimum requirement. 

If you’re afraid that you won’t perform well, be sure to have a solid study plan, take GRE practice tests, and select a GRE test date that is early enough to have time to retake it if you wish. 

As with any test, certain study strategies can increase the likelihood of receiving a high score. If you continue reading, you’ll learn a handful of methods that will lead you to a good GRE score.  One of the best way to prepare for the GRE is by using a GRE prep course.

The best way to get a good GRE score is to study the material that will be on the exam. You can study using whatever strategy you find or have found useful for you personally. The GRE is not a time that new study methods should be tried out because you could sabotage your chance of getting a good GRE score if the methods don’t suit your learning style. 

To enhance the time you have to study before test day, create a study plan. Depending on your schedule, you can create study times that are as short as 30 minutes and work their way up to 6 hours. It is not recommended to cram all of your study prep the next before or even within a few days of test day.

To use your study time best, there are several tools you can utilize to help get a good GRE score. Many books are available with study material based on the GRE so you know exactly what types of questions you will face on the test.

These books are great guides for studying, and your dream grad school might even recommend certain ones. Some universities have partnerships with companies that offer these types of test prep materials at a discounted rate for students.

There are several applications available for you to download on mobile devices and tablets for quick studying when you’re on the go. These are perfect if you’re in between classes, sitting in a waiting room, and other small spaces of time throughout your week.

If you do any sort of preparation to get a good GRE score, you should absolutely take at least one practice test. There are many free GRE practice tests available that will give you a baseline for your score. Ideally, you will want to take a practice test before you start studying to identify strengths and weaknesses and one closer to test day to see how you’ve improved.

Practice tests and study time can be done in an area that simulates the actual test day. Plan some study times for the same intervals as the test is given so you can see how long you last for the test. It is possible that you know the material, but your ability to stay focused can hinder you from getting a good GRE score.

If you’ve already taken the GRE and are questioning how to increase your score, the answer is likely in your study plan, or lack of a study plan, from the first time around. It’s wise to focus more on weak areas to improve your score, but you should not completely pass over studying items which you are well-versed. 

To get a good GRE score the second time, consider studying more hours. Here is a break down how much studying you should do based on how much you hope to increase your GRE score.

Increase score by...   Increased study hours
5 - 10 points 40 - 60 hours
11 - 20 points 61 - 80 hours
21 - 30 points 81 - 100 hours

You may decide to focus more on improvement areas more during the beginning of your study period. As you get closer to test day, be sure that you are studying all material equally so it is all fresh in your mind. 

The GRE, like the GMAT, is a standardized test widely used by schools to help in their admissions process for graduate programs. To do your best it is critical that you know your target score and prepare accordingly.


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