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GRE Scoring

GRE Scoring

How do I let the schools know my score?

At the beginning of the test, you are allowed to select four schools to which you can, free of cost, send your GRE scores. This feature is called Score Select, and the nuances behind it are anything but straightforward. Check out the details here.


How do you get a perfect score?

Breaking a 4-minute mile, possessing a photographic memory, or climbing Mt. Everest are beyond the grasp of most people. The perfect score, while not existing in such a rarefied realm as the other three, is also very difficult to attain. However, with lots and lots of practice, unflagging persistence, and the best materials, a perfect score is not out of the realm of possibility.

I’ve coached students who had all three of these and, while they did not get a perfect score, they improved from the low 40 percentile into the mid-90’s. If such improvement is possible, then somebody starting at the 70th percentile mark for both math and verbal has a fair shot at a perfect score.

Here is an article in which I go into more detail about who is likely to get a perfect score and how you too can get one.


What is a good GRE score?

This is definitely one of those “depends” questions. Luckily, there is a great way to figure out how you stack up against the competition. And by competition, I mean those other students who are looking to get into the same school and program as you are.

Coming to the rescue is U.S. News and World Reports. This august publication has done all the grunt work by collecting the following stat: the scores of those admitted to a program.

If you are scoring right around the 50% mark—meaning halfway between the range—you are in an okay spot. Your GRE score is probably not going to help you or hurt you. If you are at the 25% mark, or below, then the rest of your application really has to stand out.

Conversely, if you are at the 75% mark or above, then you are a competitive candidate, as long as the rest of your application is strong. Contrary to popular belief, a perfect GRE score is by no means a one-way ticket to the Ivy League, especially if you went to a relatively unknown college, studied Renaissance painting, and graduated with a 2.5 GPA.

Some more information (scoring is a very often-requested topic, so we have a lot!):

What's a Good GRE Score

What is a Good GRE Score?

Average GRE Scores

New GRE Score Conversion


How many questions can I miss and still get a good score?

It’s hard to define what a good score is. For most, 160+ on each section is pretty good. To get such a score you can miss a little over a dozen questions in verbal and about 8-9 in math (math is curved a little harder). So that’s more or less good news, since there is a little room for error. Agonizing over that one question does not make sense.

For how long is the GRE score valid?

The GRE score is valid for up to five years. For many, that means submitting a GRE score based on the old GRE format (the score on that test ranged from 400-1600).

Technically speaking, schools should not judge new GRE scores as more favorable than old GRE scores that are still valid, though my guess is schools will inevitably not only favor a more recent score, but also a new test that is supposedly an “upgrade” over the old one.


Do I get my score the same day?

Yes, you do get a GRE score, based on a range of 130-170, the day of the test. More interesting, you get to decide whether or not you get to view your score. At the very end of the test, a window will pop up asking you this very question. If you answer ‘no’ (“I do not want to accept my scores”), you, along with anyone and everyone, will never know your score (This part of the test can oftentimes be more stressful than the actual test itself).

As for the essay scores, you will have to wait about two weeks. The scores—as well as a breakdown of your performance—are available through the GRE account you set up when signing up for the test.


Can I retake the test?

So here’s the deal: you can take the GRE as many times as you want without anybody knowing. When you see your scores at the end of the test, you do not have to use Score Select. You can now rest assured: you can take the GRE as many times as you want, finances permitting. The catch is that if you do not decide to send a score the day of the test, you have to pay a fee in order to send that score–or any scores from earlier tests.


How many times can I retake the GRE?

So here’s the deal: you can take the GRE as many times as you want without anybody knowing. When you see your scores at the end of the test, you can–for free–send the score to this program. You can also opt–again for free–to send the scores from all the tests you took in the last five years.

ETS has named this feature ScoreSelect, and many contend that it is just a brilliant money making scheme. Even if that is the case, if you were worried about schools learning about your scores, you can now rest assured: you can take the GRE as many times as you want. The catch is that if you do not decide to send a score the day of the test, you have to pay a fee in order to send that score–or any scores from earlier tests.


Should I retake the GRE?

Now that you know you can take the test as many times as you want–if money is no issue–perhaps the more important question is should you. After all, you don’t want to GRE to so dominate your life that you are taking the test monthly, obsessively trying to boost your score a few points, while other aspects of your application languish (not to mention the wonders ceaseless GRE prep will have on your social life – “Sorry I can’t accept the free tickets to the concert – I have a thousand flashcards to go through tonight”).

Here are some reasons you should retake the GRE:

1) Your score is significantly below the average for the program you hope to enter.

2)  The rest of your application is mediocre, and you scored around the program’s average.

3) You feel you have significantly improved since your last attempt. Paying the money and going through the grueling testing center ritual can be disheartening, to say the least. So make sure your mock test scores are significantly improved since your last actual test.

4) During your last test you had an attack of nerves and since then you’ve learned to cope better with test-day anxiety..

Some questions to ask yourself before you make the decision to retake.


How important is my GRE score to my grad school application?

The GRE is definitely a critical part of your application. It is not, however, a golden ticket to admission. Meaning a perfect score won’t open up the pearly gates of Harvard, if other aspects of your application are lacking. In general, GRE scores are not weighed nearly as heavily for graduate school admissions as GMAT scores are for business school, or LSAT scores for law school. Meanwhile, an average score won’t preclude admission to a competitive school, as long as an applicant is stellar in a variety of different areas.


What else can I do to help get into a good program?

If you’ve read through much of this document, you’ve likely come to the conclusion–and a correct one, mind you–that the GRE alone cannot get you into a top school. Yet, many spend months studying for a retake only to boost their score by a few points. Often, that time can be much better spent burnishing other parts of your application.

Take the essay. While it is not as important as a GRE score, an utterly hackneyed, ill-conceived essay can marginalize you as a candidate, even if your GRE score is above the average for that program. Likewise, having your friend–or that professor you had eight years ago–write you a letter of recommendation is probably not a good idea. On the other hand, assiduously scouting those likely to give you the most glowing letters of recommendation can make a huge difference whether or not you get admitted.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that retaking the GRE is hopeless. But if you feel that you did far more poorly than expected, or that your scores are significantly lower than the average, then retaking the GRE may be a wise decision. Regardless, don’t forget to spend some time tweaking that essay.


Introduction to the GRE
Studying for the GRE
GRE Test Format
GRE Verbal Reasoning
GRE Quantitative Reasoning
GRE Analytical Writing
Test Day
GRE Scoring
Revised GRE vs. Old GRE vs. GMAT vs. LSAT vs. SAT

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