Two Truths and One Lie (About GRE Scores)

As we launch our Ready4GRE app, we’re excited to help our users learn more about graduate school, the application process, and of course, the GRE. You may have already explored what’s on the GRE — from analytical writing to quantitative concepts and verbal skills. In addition to understanding what will be tested and how, it’s important to understand how the GRE is scored and how to tweak your test-taking for your best possible score.

First Truth:

This part is simple. The GRE is scored per section, from 130 to 170, in one point increments, for the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and from 0 to 6 in half-point increments for the analytical writing sections. The current scoring scale has been in place since August 2011, following an overhaul to the GRE test format and content. In its previous iteration, the GRE was scored on a 200 to 800 scale, in 10 point increments. Due to the distribution of scores, this lead to a perfect 800 score in quant to “only” equal to the 94th percentile. The new scoring scale allows for a wider range of scoring percentiles, especially at the upper echelons. On the current GRE, scores are tightly clustered around the middle.

Because of the tight clustering of scores and percentiles, a great test-taker knows that only a few more correct answers per section can catapult a score from a middling 45th percentile score to a more competitive 70th percentile. With only 20 questions per section, getting 1-2 more correct answers per section will make a huge impact on your score and more importantly — it’s easily doable with diligent practice in content and strategy.

Second Truth:

Your raw score on the GRE, based on the number of questions you get right, is then converted to a scaled score using something ETS, the test maker, calls “equating”. Equating takes your raw score and applies an algorithm to account for the variation between question sets and for the difficulty of the questions answered correctly. Remember that on a Multi-Stage Test like the GRE, your second Verbal and Quant sections will be dictated by your performance on the first.