Knock knock.

A white male peeking through curtain blinds with the caption

Graduate school!

You’ve done the research for your top 5 schools and scholarships. However, the applications require GRE General Test scores before submitting.

Panic ensues! You think to yourself:

  • How is the GRE scored?

  • What’s a good score to secure your spot?

Well, you’ll need to find out sooner than later.

The GRE General Test

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The graduate record examination (GRE) is a popular admissions test administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The results are usually sent:

  • Directly to the institutions that you have applied to, or

  • By uploading the report onto the application portal

The GRE general test is an approximately 2-hour exam broken up into 3 parts:

  • Quantitative Reasoning

  • Verbal Reasoning

  • Analytical Writing

In simpler terms, we can say that it’s broken up into:

  • Maths quizzes

  • A Comprehension piece

  • An essay

The GRE score breakdown

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The scoring process for the three GRE sections differs for each section.

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How is the GRE scored for each section?

Quantitative Reasoning

(Maths Quizzes)

  • Time: 47 minutes

  • Score range: 130-170

  • Scoring increments: 1 point per question

  • Methodology:

    • 27 questions

    • Question types: Multiple choice questions and number entries

Flaticon Icon Verbal Reasoning

(Comprehension piece)

  • Time: 47 minutes

  • Score range: 130-170

  • Scoring increments: 1 point per question

  • Methodology:

    • 27 questions

    • Question types: Multiple choice questions and select-in-passage

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Analytical Writing

(An essay)

  • Time: 30 minutes

  • Score range: 0-6

  • Scoring increments: 0.5 point

  • Methodology:

    • An essay graded by human readers and a computer program

    • You will analyze an issue

    • Scored based on several criteria, including:

      • Argument analysis

      • Writing clarity and persuasiveness

      • Organization and logic

      • Language and grammar use

    • The final score is the average of human and computer scores, rounded to nearest 0.5 point

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores are based on the number of correct responses to all the questions. Their questions adapt difficulty based on your answers, and your final score reflects both accuracy and question challenge.

The Analytical Writing scores, on the other hand, are evaluated on a 6-point scale, including receiving a score from the e-rater® scoring engine.

The GRE test scores are usually released 10–15 days after your test date in your ETS account. 

Good scores

So, what exactly are "good" scores?

Well, as you’ve guessed it…it depends.

Good scores are results that will not only meet the requirements but rank you as a competitive candidate for a seat at grad school.

Very few grad schools or scholarships will explicitly describe what scores are required, never mind what "good" scores are. Sometimes, this is only determined after all applications (scores) have been reviewed.

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In most instances, you’ll either have to:

  • Watch videos of successful applicants who share theirs (there are plenty on YouTube)

  • Connect with program advisors and individuals who sit or have sat on admissions review committees

  • Read about the history of the school/scholarship and alumni, and attend information sessions & other events or workshops about the application prep — not just exam prep

  • Prepare for the test by following through on your study plan, mock tests, and various test prep resources

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Good scores and great applications

GRE test scores are a great way to:

  • Demonstrate your readiness for graduate school

  • Highlight your strengths (like writing) beyond your educational and professional experience

  • Counter certain elements of your application that aren’t as great as you are now (for example, previous pre- or post-secondary school results that may be required)

White woman staring at a computer and asking asking a white man looking over their shoulder:

In essence, they can go a really long way. Knowing what the admission committee is looking for, helps you with:

  • Guiding you on how to prepare for the test

  • Compiling your whole application package holistically

  • Knowing how hectic the program may be (i.e. the higher the required scores, the higher the likelihood of a rigorous program)

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Now that you understand the ins and outs of how the GRE is scored, can you help Samantha understand her scores?

Samantha is an international student applying for a scholarship to study her Masters in Physics at a prestigious university in the United Kingdom. The scholarship is mostly interested in her research publications, but the institution is well-known for focusing on GRE scores. Here are Samantha's recent scores for the GRE General Test:

  1. Quantitative reasoning: 162

  2. Verbal reasoning: 154

  3. Analytical writing: 3.5


How will Samantha's GRE scores affect her overall scholarship application?

Take Action

Lady looking at computer screen saying “I passed” and man looking over her shoulder saying “Really?”

When you understand how the GRE is scored, this can empower you to not only score well but also increase the odds of scoring a seat and being successful at grad school.


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