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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.

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16 Responses to New GRE Scoring – Five Most Important Things to Know

  1. Param June 14, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

    Hey, I’m from India and wanna appear for GRE to take a chance for Top Universities like MIT, Havard, Yale, Stanford to pursue MS in Computer Science. Being a novice, I wanna know about the scores required for admissions in such universities and what should be my probable move towards GRE, I’m good at Maths, Grammer and Writing but face difficulty in Vocabulary. How can i overcome this? Please Guide.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 18, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Hi Param 🙂

      Thanks for your message 😀 While most universities do not have minimum scores, for MS programs in Computer Science, a strong application would normally include scores in the 90th percentile. That said, I recommend researching each school you’re interested in to see their requirements or recommendations. Also, I think you’ll find this blog post on GRE Scores by Program Major useful 🙂

      It’s great that you’re confident in your math, grammar, and writing skills. While grammar is not directly tested on the GRE, a good control of English grammar is important to do well on the writing section. On the other hand, you’ll want to develop your vocabulary as you prepare for the GRE. To improve your vocabulary, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as MUCH as possible and GRE-level materials, such as articles from The New York Times or Arts & Letters Daily. This will improve your knowledge of vocabulary in context as well as your comprehension. As you read, make flashcards of the vocabulary words that you don’t know. Pause every so often and recap the main message in your own words.

      I’d also recommend that you take a look at our vocabulary flashcards and our vocabulary eBook! Together with that high-level reading practice, they are fantastic tools for bringing up your verbal score 🙂

      I hope this helps!

  2. Zach May 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Please do not view the many grammatical errors above as a reflection of my writing abilities.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      No worries :).

  3. Zach May 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    I have a question, not sure where to post it but am hoping someone on this thread might be of some help. I recently took the new GRE. My scores were as follows: 164 verbal, 146 math and a perfect (6) score on the analytical writing part. I am hoping to apply to some of the better grad programs in History and was wondering if these scores will disqualify me from consideration from a program such as, say University of Illinois or even the Ivy League. Essentially, I want to know where to aim my sites. I don’t want to aim to high if my low math score is going to automatically disqualify me. And I am not sure if I want to retake the test yet, as my writing and verbal scores are high. I know that there are other factors (letters of rec., statement of purpose, etc.) that grad schools consider, but just want to gain an approximate idea of what kind of schools would see my current GRE scores as sufficient for consideration.

    I appreciate any advice. Thanks.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Zach,

      It really depends on the grad schools. My experience is telling me that, as a history major, you should be worrying least about your math score. A high GPA and strong letters of rec (along with your writing/verbal score) will more than make up for your quant score. Perhaps a 136, may have given an admissions board pause. But I’d say you probably don’t need to take the test again.

      However, if your GPA is not highly competitive, then, against some other IVY bound candidates, your math score may be of greater concern. In that case, dedicating yourself to doing better on the quant section and retaking the test, would be a good idea.

      Hope that helps :).

  4. Tommy March 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    I need help in preparing for the new GRE. This will be the 3rd time I’ve attempted to make a good score. I’ve made 870s which is no where near what I need for graduate school. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. chaitanya January 30, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    What does a score of 140 in verbal and 146 in quant compare to in the old GRE?

  6. Juan P. October 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    WOW Thank you for sharing the information. I just took the GRE for first time and your post just answered lots of my questions.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

      Great! I am happy that my points were relevant. Because ETS has yet to scale the test, and thus yet adapted the old scale to the new, many students, understandably, are confused. Happy I could help!

  7. Anum October 22, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    A very helpful post =)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      Thanks for the kudos!

  8. ARIF July 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm #



    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks! I am glad it was helpful.

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