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How Much of a Score Increase is Possible on the GRE?

On Oct. 1st., 1932, the American baseball player Babe Ruth stepped to the plate. It was the sixth inning of the World Series, so a lot was at stake. Most players would walk gingerly to bat, take a deep breath and hope for the best. Ruth, upon coming to the plate, lifted his finger and pointed towards centerfield. The gesture was clear: he was going to hit a homerun. After a few pitches, he did just that, sending the ball an estimated 450 feet from home plate.

Now I don’t mean to encourage Ruth’s brash mix of hubris and chutzpah. Yet, given the gravity of the moment Ruth could have easily been content with a single. He aimed high—literally—and now his homerun has been forever memorialized.

If you are thinking of retaking the GRE, then don’t hope for a few more points. Aim much higher. If you scored 150 on Verbal, then look for a 160. If you score 137 in Verbal, then aim for 150. If you scored 162 on Math, then aim for 168. A lot of this is very dependent on what percentile you’re at and how much room you have for improvement.

You may fall short of your goal; even then, you may very well amaze yourself with your score differential. I’ve had a few Babe Ruths, so to speak, over the years, students who set what many would deem unrealistically high expectations. Their unrelenting determination and belief in their own capabilities made their score improvements possible (we can boast a Magoosh user who improved by 27 points!).

If you scored very well– ask yourself, is it even worth taking the exam again?

So the answer to the question posed in the title is wherever you want to point. That is, whatever score you believe you are capable of.

At the same time, there are constraints. Babe Ruth had a lifetime of practice to help him drive the ball 400 plus feet. Many of my students studied for months and months. Nonetheless, with even one month of prep you can still increase your score significantly.

All that said, you will need more than just raw willpower to help you hit a GRE homerun, to continue the metaphor. Use this blog as much as possible, digesting the tips and strategies. You will learn to tackle everything from a grueling three-blank Text Completion to stress management during the test. Most importantly, you will learn about the best way to go out about preparing for the test, so that when you sit down to the computer you will be able to make the most of your potential.


About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

25 Responses to How Much of a Score Increase is Possible on the GRE?

  1. A January 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    I took the gre cold turkey and got a 137 Q and a 147 V…pretty horrible..I have a 4.0 gpa in college just a horrible test taker and didnt answer more than 20 questions..Can i improve dramatically in one month? or should i take a one on one class elsewhere thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi A,

      You can definitely improve a lot in one month. Your 4.0 shows that you are a hard worker, which will pay off when you use Magoosh. Everything you need to do well on the GRE is here. Technically, you can use Magoosh AND get some extra help if you have identified some weak areas and need a tutor to focus specifically on those.

      Hope that helps, and let me know if I can answer anything else :)

  2. Nissan October 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    I am taking the test tomorrow and haven’t studied at all. My only practice test was V: 147 and Q: 157. I am confident that these scores are no where near what I could get and that I just procrastinated/didn’t take it seriously for too long. With another test date in a month on Nov. 28th, will Magoosh significantly raise my score? I will be happy with a V:155 and Q:165

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 31, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi Nissan,

      Magoosh can definitely raise your score in a month time–esp. if you’ve done very little prep. I say go for it :)

  3. Devon October 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi! My name is Devon and I just took a practice GRE test cold online under timed conditions. I scored a 163 on the verbal and a 158 on the quantitative section. These are the exact average scores for the PhD program I want to get into, so I was happy to have gotten them on my first try. My question is, how much do you think someone with my scores might be able to improve? I took the LSAT after months of practicing (and thousands of dollars spent) and only improved 2 points. With that test I once again started with a very solid score, but I was hoping to at least 5 points better on the actual test to have a shot at scholarships at the best law schools.

    I want to set myself up to be as competitive as possible for top fully funded PhD programs, but I don’t want to waste time/money if its not likely to pay off. Let me know what you think.

    Much thanks!


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 27, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Hi Devon,

      You can definitely improve more that 2 points, esp. if you took that practice test without any prep. The truth is that many people take expensive test prep programs without noticeable improvement. I know this is going to sound kind of “salesy” but check out our testimonial page. Students are going up pretty significantly. And the good news is we are only $99.

      You can do it for even cheaper than that. Our blog is free. As are our apps. You can pick up a manhattan guide for 20 bucks or so and get access to 6 free tests. With all that prep at your fingertips, a mere two points shouldn’t be a problem :).

      Hope that helps, and good luck with the Ph.D program :)

  4. Jennifer September 15, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Hi there,

    First off thank you for such a great site. I am planning on ordering the premium Magoosh study plan package and already have the Manhattan GRE 5 pound book of problems. I took the official GRE yesterday for the first time and scored 153 Q 159 V with zero preparation except for taking two power prep tests and a mgre test both timed, The lawn all of these I scored slightly higher on quant (158). I am trying to apply to graduate programs in economics and need to improve my quantitative score substantially (verbal at least 5 as well). Considering I had no preparation whatsoever is it even possible to raise my quant score over 10 points? I am planning on following the 2 month study plan.



    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      Hi Jennifer,

      It sounds like you definitely have a shot of raising your quant score by 10 points, esp. since you barely prepped the first time around. But for competitive econ. degrees you may need even a 165 do be competitive yourself. With 2 months, Magoosh and the 5 lbs. book, you should be in pretty good shape.

      Let me know if you hit any snags/plateaus while prepping :)

  5. Preeti Bora April 10, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I scored 313 in GRE in my first attempt.I have admit from the school which i wanted.But I am also looking for scholarship with School and they need a score of 325 for that.

    I want to re-take GRE,should I?

    I scored 313 after studying for a month last time.And I guess I was glued to tricky questions in Quant last time and wasted some minutes.Also In Vocab I focused too much on Vocab and went to exam even without preparing for RC’s…

    If I work in these areas,does it makes sense to re-take GRE?

    Please let me know..

    How can Magoosh help ?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Preeti!

      I’m so sorry but it seems this comment fell through the cracks. I’m only just seeing it

      Again, my sincere apologies. To answer your question: you can definitely improve, esp. because you identified exactly what needs to be done. Focus on RC (which is half of the verbal) and improve pacing on the quant side.

      Magoosh can you help there because we have such a vast trove of questions. Our specific lessons videos on RC can help as well.

      So def. take the GRE again (if you haven’t already). And best of luck :)

  6. Steve April 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    My name is Steve Dang and I plan on taking the GRE test on the 6th of July. I am very nervous not only because I score a 140 on the Magoosh verbal portion, but also because the programs that I am applying to this summer requires a minimum 150 Verbal for my application to even be considered. I have the Magoosh program, I am currently taking 18 units so it is kind of hard to use that 6 month stud plan at the moment. Do you think 1 month of pure studying will be enough to raise my score by ten? and is it really necessary to memorize all those words provided by Magoosh to attain that 150?



    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      Hi Steve,

      Good questions! I think one month is a very aggressive time frame to increase by 10 points. That said, you aren’t trying to go from 155 to 165 but have many points you can make up. Also, it seems that you are a native English speaker, so you should, with some practice, improve. My guess is you’ll need to tweak your approach a little. A good GRE tutor–though not necessarily easy to find–can easily help you change up your strategy. Combine that with some serious vocab study sessions (you should learn all the Magoosh words) can definitely propel you passed 150. In one month? Well, that depends on how hard you work. But it is possible.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Gabe March 10, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I am writing to you for advice. I took the GRE for the first time last November, and had gotten a cum of 309: Q score of 154 and a V score of 157 with an ASA of 2.5. I retook the GRE in February of this year and a cum of 298: Q score of 144 end of the score of 154 with an ASA score of 3.0. I’m trying to get into nurse anesthesia school. My undergraduate GPA though it is a 2.693. I’ve made up for that with my 13 years of critical care experience, national certification. I’m emailing you to find out what I can do to improve my ASA score. I tried using the various textbooks Kaplan and Barron. Essays have never been my strong suit. What can you recommend? I’ve read lots of them from your examples as well as others. I felt this last time that I really had written 4.0 essays. From what I’d written and what I’ve read I was truly surprised by my score. I had seen Lester more grammatically inappropriate examples receive higher scores than I had. HELP. I want to take it one more time to see if I can’t improve my ASA score.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Gabe,

      Those are strong GRE scores, and from your writing in general I can tell that you are clearly capable of getting more than a 3.0.

      I’m curious as to see what you are doing wrong in your essays. I think the biggest mistake students make on the Issue of the AWA is by simply taking one side and then choosing a few half-baked examples (or no real examples at all beyond mere hypotheticals) to back up their points. First off, show that there are two sides two the issue–two extremes, if you will. But that you see the truth as more in the middle but closer to one side. The key is to clearly explain why this is the case (Don’t just say the truth is somewhere in the middle).

      Secondly, and this goes for both the Issue and the Argument, make sure you right a lot and are as specific as possible. If you get think of anything and get stuck, practice at home writing yourself out of vague generalities/examples. Remember, always try to provide as much support as possible. But it is better to develop a point fully, then just the list of a bunch of cases that support your thesis.

      Without really seeing your essay it is hard to say how you can improve. Have you checked out or Both are forums where you can post your essay, and where someone may give you feedback.

      Good luck, and I hope to write some more AWA-specific posts over the next couple of months. Make sure to go through all of the other AWA-related posts on this blog. I’m sure there is still some helpful stuff there that you’ve yet to read :).

  8. Yael January 18, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Hi Chris!
    First of all I’d like to thank you all for this site. It’s a huge help.
    And second, I just took the GRE powerprep (the test they offer for free in the ETS site) and got 157V 159Q.
    This score is without studying at all yet, just to see if I am close to getting what I need for a Phd in Literature in a very good university.
    According to everything I read on Magoosh I’ll need at least 165V for the schools I want.

    So my question is, do you think I can improve from 157V to 167V? Maybe I should add that my first language is not English (does is matter to them?) and that my Undergard is not from and English speaking country. I think most of my mistakes were do to lack of vocab.

    What so you think?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 24, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Hi Yael,

      If you scored 157 V with absolutely zero prep, then you have a chance of getting 167–even if English isn’t your first language. Spending the next few months working on vocab and honing your test taking skills can get you within striking distance of your goal.

      Good luck!

  9. Carlos Samyan December 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Hi guys,

    I just wanted to thank you for creating Magoosh. I paid $99 for the materials you provide in preparing for the GRE and I am in love. You guys have helped me so much. So far I have almost completed the quant. section and my range is from 161-166. My test is on Jan. 17 and I’m aiming for a 167 on quant! Thank you again!

    Will definitely recommend…

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 17, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      Great Carlos!

      Thanks for the kind words :). Happy the prep is going well.

      Good luck test day!

    • Jolene February 23, 2014 at 7:58 am #

      Hey Chris,
      So I took the Gre the first time and got a 141q and a 145v and 4w. One of my schools want 147v and 150q. Do you think it’s possible to improve that much?

  10. Sepehr December 25, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Hi, I took Gre two times.With studying Barron`s+ETS+BigBook i got Quantitative=153 in both of them,but i wanna get 159!! i have two months to my next exam,and i`m studying Nova+magoosh for quantitative section and 1100 words+kaplan for verbal with this schedule can i get higher than 159 in q and 145 in verbal sections?If not, what should i do to get best results?
    thanks alot

    • Chris Lele
      Chris December 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi Sepehr.

      That plan sounds good. However, I would warn against using Kaplan for verbal. The questions are nothing like the actual test, and, in general, are poorly written. Manhattan GRE verbal is a little bit better, though they focus too much on obscure words. Only Magoosh’s Verbal questions were written after the new GRE came out, so our questions actually reflect what you’ll see test day.

      Also, for both Quant and Verbal (but esp. Verbal) take advantage of the Magoosh blog. There are many useful tips and strategies. Much of this insight is gleaned and conveniently distilled in our ebook:

      Good luck, and with enough prep (don’t forget to take ETS timed test), you’ll get that 159 :).

  11. simon December 19, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Hi Chris

    I took my score this week.
    Q:156 ( I really ruined my Q score.I do not know why?)
    Last year : 290
    I used your package.Thank you and you staffs so much. Right now I am bewildered. there is another paper-base at my country for February.My Math is strong.Do not laugh at me.I do not know whats happen for my Q.So that I am sure in another exam I can boost my Q.But I am not sure because the February exam and the score will come after 50 days.I fear I lose my deadlines.Mostly they are in 15 January. Pulse, after 17 November I did not read vocabulary for GRE until now.I was wondering if you’d mind giving me some piece of advice.What should I do?I mean it mays at another exam I boost my math but my verbal decrease.Please help me.I am in a junction.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris December 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Hi Simon,

      I think you should definitely try to take the test again. If you are confident you can do better on quant, you will do better. I also think that you should apply now with the scores you currently received. Then, just as a back up, take the test again Feb. The best case scenario, you are able to get into the program of your choice based on your Nov. test. If you do not get in, then you will be able to reapply based on your Feb. score.

      And remember, Magoosh will be with you, helping you reach a verbal score that is even better than the last test.

      Good luck, and let me know what you decide to do :).

  12. J December 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    I like this post. The attitude mentioned describes me to a tee.

    It is my personal belief that one should always shoot for the moon. In 6th grade I remember my classroom had a poster and it said “shoot for the moon, if you miss, you’ll be among the stars”.

    Cheesy right? It sure is. But, I never forgot that. As someone who was not a good student early on in life, does poorly on standardized tests, and takes a while to learn things, I have had a rough road with education.

    That being said, I have come to realize that no matter where you start, as long as you are doing things beneficial to help you learn, you really go as far as you want to go.

    The more you’re willing to fight through the areas you do not understand, the better off you’ll be. I’m not sure exactly when I will take this test, but whenever I do, I know for sure I will have no regrets.

    If you give any endeavor all your effort in an intelligent way, I think that should be viewed as success in and of itself.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris December 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      J., Thanks for those awesome positive words. It is exactly that attitude that will get you to the stars :).

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