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New GRE Scoring – Five Most Important Things to Know

Update 11/4/11:

For up-to-date information on your new GRE score, head over to this post: The New GRE Scoring Scale: Your Updated Scores.


The good old days of the perfect 1600 are long over. Simply put, the new GRE scoring system is going to be very different, and, frankly, less glamorous. The math section and the verbal section will each have a score range between 130 and 170. Combined, that equals 340 points. So now, the cachet of a perfect score – not that many score that anyway – has definitely been diluted. Saying you scored 170 on the Verbal section doesn’t sound as dramatic as saying you scored 800. Regardless, there are some important facts that you should know about the new GRE scoring system.

1. The Points Will Differ By Increments of 1 not 10.

Remember when the difference between 590 and 600 seemed like the difference between your dream school and that other school? Well, ETS doesn’t want very small differentiations in scores to seem like much larger ones. By making the points in increments of 1, we will be less predisposed, at least ETS hopes, to think that a person who scored 600 did much better than a person who scored 590. At the same time, scores that end in two zeroes seem to be worth much more than scores ending in 90. With the new GRE, scores will end in a units digit, not only a zero. Still, a 150 will still seem much greater than 149, but ETS is hoping not as big as difference as 490 and 500.

2. Greater Variation at the Extreme Scores

Currently, an 800 in math accounts for the top 5-6% of test takers. If you are part of the CalTech Graduate Admissions Board, you may want to have a more finely graded breakup of the top scores. With the new GRE, a score of 170 will mean you are scoring at the top of that five percent. As to the exact percentage the 170 equates to, we will have to wait until November (see below).

3. New GRE Scores Will not Come Out until November

Your new GRE score, assuming you take the GRE in August and early September, will not be available until November 7th. Eventually, ETS wants to reduce this time to only a few weeks. That amount of time is still much, much longer than the few seconds it takes to receive your scores on today’s current GRE.

4. The Scaling Still Hasn’t Been Established

As far as the new GRE scoring goes, nobody really knows. See, as the scores trickle in during the first couple months of the new GRE, statisticians at ETS will be busy crunching numbers, otherwise known as “norming” the test. They will make sure that only a certain percentage score a 170, 169, etc. As for how many incorrect questions that equates to, and the type of incorrect questions, the statisticians will be busy figuring that out, while those who took the new GRE in the first month will be anxiously awaiting their final scores.

5. Your Old GRE Scores Will Still Count

Finally, if you’ve taken the GRE recently those scores will still be valid up until five years from when you sat for the test. While that number is clear cut, what is far more nebulous is exactly how the scores from the old GRE will equate to the new GRE scores. At the moment, not even ETS can give us anything more than a rough scoring range.

Final Thoughts

The future is unknown, and this is definitely the case with the new GRE scores. The key is to know the range in which you want to score and come up with a target percentage. After all, regardless of your final score, you ultimately will be competing against other grad-school bound students. Many grad schools will be looking at your percentage scores. Whether your 80% is 156 or 158 shouldn’t make too much difference. The key is to prep diligently so you can reach your full potential, whether that be 95% or 165.

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.