GRE score percentiles give you an idea of how well your GRE test scores stack up against other students who took the test. Each score corresponds to a percentile, which tells you the percentage of students who scored below you. We’ll share the current Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning GRE score percentiles for 2020-2021 (using ETS’s most recent data) so you can find where your section scores fall, and tips to help you figure out which GRE score percentile to aim for. Let’s get to it!
- ETS updates their percentiles in July, at the beginning of each new testing year. Check back then for up-to-the-moment updates to GRE percentiles!
GRE Scores and Percentiles: Table of Contents
- What is a good percentile on the GRE?
- What percentile is my GRE score? Try our Percentile Calculator!
- What are all the GRE percentiles for Verbal and Quant? (ETS’s GRE Percentiles 2020-2021)
- What percentile should I aim for on the GRE?
What is a good percentile on the GRE?
Just like a good GRE score overall, a “good” GRE percentile on the GRE general test varies a lot, depending both on the school and the type of program. GRE score percentiles and GRE exam scores will be different for each section of the exam. To get an idea of how this works, let’s look at a few example standards for GRE percentiles.
- The Economics program at the University of California Davis currently requires 60th or higher GRE score percentiles in Verbal (30th if you’re a non-native English speaker), and at least the 70th percentile in Quant.
- Or, as another example, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education advises a minimum of the 50th percentile for Verbal, while Quant scores can be as low as 30th percentile.
As you can see, many degree programs especially favor the 50th and 60th GRE percentile benchmarks (meaning you scored better than 50% or 60% of students who took the GRE). Other graduate admissions offices like to see you reach a benchmark score of 155 points. Additionally, some admissions programs may ask for one of these “big three” 50th/60th/155-point benchmarks on one section of the GRE, while asking for a different benchmark on another section. With all of that in mind, let’s look at each of the benchmarks that many schools highlight, looking at standards as of 2020-2021.
GRE percentiles: What is the 50th percentile on the GRE?
GRE score percentiles will vary from section to section. At the moment, there is no achievable GRE score that hits the 50th percentile right on the nose.
For Verbal, 150 is the 46th percentile, while 151 is the 51st. So either of those scores will put you close to the 50th. However, only a score of 151 or higher will put you above this benchmark for the Verbal section.
Quant scores for the 50th percentile are just slightly higher. A 153 in GRE Quant is 49th percentile for the section, while a 154 is 53rd percentile. So here, 154 is your minimum to be above the 50th.
In the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA/essays) section, there are far fewer points to be had. With a score range of 0 to 6 in 0.5 point increments, there are a limited number of possible Analytical Writing scores. This means there are only 10 possible GRE percentiles for AWA.
As you can imagine, there is a pretty big point spread between these percentiles. A 4.0 puts you in 57th percentile, a full 7 percentiles above the benchmark. But the next score down, a 3.5, places you at the 39th percentile. This is 11 percentiles below the benchmark, a dramatic drop!
What is 60th percentile on GRE?
For 60th percentile, your Quantitative score will again need to be slightly higher than your Verbal score. For GRE Verbal, a 153 puts you right at the 60th percentile. Just one score point lower, a 152, bumps you down to the 54th percentile.
For Quant, a 156 in GRE Quant puts you exactly at the 60th percentile. A 155 puts you at the 56th percentile.
What percentile is 155 on GRE?
As you might expect after reading the previous sections, a 155 means a higher percentile for Verbal and a lower one for Quant. A Verbal score of 155 puts you in the 68th percentile, but the same score in Quant is in the 56th percentile. That’s a large spread!
With the AWA’s very different range and scaling, there isn’t actually a 155 score. Still, a 4.0 AWA score is the closest equivalent to a 155 Verbal/Quant score. This will put you in the 57th percentile, which is not too far off from the Verbal and Quant percentiles we mentioned above.
What percentile is my GRE score? (GRE Percentile Calculator)
If you took a practice test or used an online GRE score calculator to predict your score, you can use those numbers to get an idea of your percentiles. Simply plug in your scores for each section in the fields below!
What percentile is my GRE score? (ETS’s GRE Percentiles 2020-2021)
I’ve reproduced the charts of the GRE score percentiles below. The first table shows the percentile that corresponds to each verbal reasoning score and quantitative reasoning score, separated by one-point increment on the 130-170 scaled score GRE score range. The second table shows the Analytical Writing section percentiles, separated by half-point increment.
GRE Percentiles 2020-2021
|Score||Verbal Percentile||Quantitative Percentile|
AWA GRE Percentiles 2020-2021
What percentile should I aim for on the GRE?
You’re probably wondering how your GRE score percentiles affect your chances of admission. As you saw earlier from my UC Davis and Harvard examples, in a very broad sense, a “good” GRE percentile is the percentile your target school would ideally like to see. But “aim for what your school wants” is perhaps too broad to be helpful—there are numerous factors involved in the admissions decisions and most of those aren’t determined by the GRE alone. And there are certainly a few ground rules for GRE percentiles, no matter where you want to go to school.
My universal recommendation is that you check where you stand compared to the GRE score percentiles above. Then have a look at the forums to see other students’ experiences.
Avoid the bottom half of the percentiles
Obviously, it’s best not to be below the 50th percentile, because that puts you in the bottom half. Most schools post a recommended or required score that is 50th percentile in at least one section. (Check out the graphs below for a rough estimate for each section.) If you’re below the 50th percentile in a section of the GRE, that may be acceptable in some cases.
However, even if your target school allows for this, such a low score could still be a red flag for an admissions officer. And if you’re below the 50th percentile in Verbal, Quant, and AWA, your score probably isn’t going to impress anyone. So although being below 50th percentile in just one section of the test isn’t always a deal-breaker, you should avoid being in the bottom half of the percentiles if possible.
- Feeling particularly ambitious? We put together a video on how to achieve a GRE Verbal score of 170! Don’t worry—even if your school doesn’t require this kind of score, you can still take advantage of these tips.
Check the scores for your academic discipline
If, for example, you’re wondering about GRE scores for your Engineering program, then your peers aren’t going to be exactly the same as the standard GRE test-takers (think: lots of math).
In Bhavin’s post on average GRE scores, you’ll see that the average Verbal score for Engineering majors is 149, the 41st percentile. In this case, being at 50th or just over could make you quite competitive. On the other hand, the average Quant score is 159. So if you want to go to grad school for Engineering, you’ll need a Quant section score that’s 70th percentile or higher.
To figure out the best minimum percentile for your discipline, check out the rest of that table in Bhavin’s post. Then compare your average score to the percentile information in this post.
For a detailed and a bit complicated breakdown of GRE percentiles by major, see pages 31-34 of the official GRE Guide to the Use of Scores.
Look at requirements for your target school’s program
After checking your discipline, remember school-by-school percentile requirements are all different. And top schools like Harvard, Stanford, and the like are looking for higher GRE score percentiles than your discipline might require. This is where our post on GRE scores for top schools comes in. You can use this post to compare the scores needed for your discipline against your target school to find which GRE percentile to aim for.
To use one last example, let’s say you want to study Biological Sciences at UCLA.
- Average GRE percentiles for Life Sciences
- Verbal: 151 (51st percentile)
- Quant: 150 (37th percentile)
- UCLA’s average GRE score percentiles for Biological Sciences
- Verbal: 162-166 (90th to 97th percentile)
- Quant: 160-164 (73rd to 84th percentile)
Therefore, you’ll want to aim for well above the 60th percentile for this program.
If you’re looking to improve your GRE score percentile, think about giving Magoosh GRE prep a shot. You can start with our free GRE Prep App and see if a little extra dedication to prep helps your confidence. Good luck!
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