Update: We updated this post with all of the new information we have in 2016. Here at Magoosh, our students regularly ask us what a good GRE score is. The short answer is that a “good” score is different for everyone. But in this post I’ll give you a longer, more comprehensive answer.
Determining what a good score is for you will take some time and research. But if you can identify your target score early in your GRE prep, you’ll be more likely to hit that target since you can focus your study plan accordingly. It’s well worth it! Just follow the steps below to determine your target score…
Identify what is a good GRE score for your program
A good score on the Revised GRE varies significantly by program. For instance, applicants admitted to the top 10 Engineering programs last year had an average GRE quant score of 165.6. That score is at about the 91th percentile on the revised GRE. However, applicants admitted to the top 10 Education programs had an average GRE quant score of 157.2 (up from 156.6 last year), about 68th percentile on the new GRE. That’s a quite a difference!
Better yet, check out our GRE Scores Infographic to learn the average GRE scores of admitted students in your chosen academic discipline! Just click the image below to start identifying your target GRE score:
Identify your target school
Are you aiming for a top 10 school or a top 50 school in your program? Do you have a specific dream school? By answering these questions, you can better determine what type of score you’ll need on the new GRE. Let’s build upon the Engineering example above. Applicants admitted to #1 ranked MIT had an average GRE quant score of 165 (90th percentile), while those admitted to #23 ranked Maryland had an average quant score of 163 (86th percentile). That’s a 2 point difference on the new GRE scoring scale (165 vs. 163). Clearly, what’s a good GRE score can vary from school to school.
Use this GRE scores percentiles chart borrowed from ETS to determine how the averages from previous years compare to the new GRE scoring scale.
You can also use this school finder to help you find and request more information from schools for free.
Talk to current students and the admissions committee
Some schools care more about quant and others care more about verbal. Find out which a target program/school is interested in by talking to the admissions committee and current students. Go to their website and find a contact to email. Let them know you are a prospective student and provide some background about yourself. In many cases, schools will try to connect you with a current student who has a similar background to you. Use that opportunity to learn about the admissions process and the program as a whole.
Aim for a better than average GRE score
The admitted students who perform below average on the GRE may have extraordinary stories, great GPA’s, and/or fantastic work experience. To improve your odds of acceptance, do better than average. But there’s no need to overdo it. If you are aiming for a program that has an average quant score of 155, and you score 160, you likely don’t need to take the GRE again, even if you think you could get 165. You have already demonstrated that you have quantitative aptitude and now it’s time to focus on the rest of your application.
Prep for the GRE with your target score in mind
By researching GRE scores ahead of time, you can determine what areas to focus on for your GRE prep. For instance, if your program is more interested in quant, then spend more time working on quant. We have a quite a few GRE study plans to help you with your prep. They provide options for students preparing for 1 week, 6 months, or anything in between. Keith, one of our customers, recently increased his quant score from 152 to 165 using Magoosh. Read about his GRE experience here We also have a score increase guarantee for those re-taking the exam.
But really, what’s a good GRE score?
As I mentioned scores depend on your particular target school and program. But in general scores above the 75th percentile in either section are good – that’s about a 159 or higher in math and a 157 or higher in verbal. Scores at least one standard deviation from the mean are even better, 160 in math and 159 in verbal. And scores two standard deviations from the mean put you in the top 5%, 166 in math and 165 in verbal, at which point your GRE score will certainly not be an impediment.
PS. Are you also studying for the TOEFL? Find out what a good TOEFL score is here. 🙂
Update for 2014
Hi all – We’ve decided to close comments for this blog post so that we can focus our time on providing support and service to the paying customers of our Magoosh GRE product – responding to every comment is very time consuming 🙂
Also, between the blog post and the answers to the comments below, we hope that you’ll find an answer to your question, as most questions and answers fall into only a few categories. I promise that in 2013 good GRE scores are the same as last year. 🙂 Thanks!