What's a Good GRE Score?

December 3, 2018

You almost spend more time trying to determine the perfect GRE score than you could actually studying for it. With all of the online rumors and false information regarding the exam, its scoring rubric, as well as what separates a substandard score from a premium one—it's a wonder most people don't have panic attacks before they set foot in the testing center! Have you put much thought into what type of score you need for your own application purposes? Has your mind been swarming with Verbal, Quant, and Analytical Writing averages that seem to get you nowhere?

Learning about what makes a good GRE score is a major aspect of studying for it. Not only do you need to know how far you must go with your own studies, but learning the academic expectations and terrain of a given program through its GRE scores is highly beneficial prior to beginning the graduate program of your dreams. In this article, we are going to break down average GRE scores as cited through ETS. Additionally, we are going to examine median scores by major, country of origin and program or university. Hopefully, this accurate information will paint a better picture of your own course of study as well as score expectations. After all, knowing what is ahead better charts your immediate path forward, does it not? We hope this article brings you insight, but also acknowledgment of everything that is expected of you and this important test.

Okay, let's dive in.

GRE Score at a Glance

Before we delve further into the specifics of what makes a good GRE score, let's take a look at score averages at a glance. Below is a table detailing score averages from ETS, the makers of the GRE, from July 2014 through June 2017. Whether it's relevant or not, we should note that out of the test-takers featured in this table, 52% of them were female, 46% were male, and 2% did not provide a classification to gender.

Test# of Test TakersAverage GRE ScoreStandard Deviation
Verbal Reasoning1,727,225150.058.43
Quantitative Reasoning1,730,288152.809.13
Analytical Writing1,722,2313.50.087

With the average scores being 150.05 in Verbal Reasoning, 152.80 in Quantitative Reasoning, and 3.50 in Analytical Writing—hopefully, you have a better idea of the GRE scoring landscape while you pursue your course of study. It might be useful to compare your own diagnostic mock exams to that of the national averages above to see where you match up.

Now since the GRE is intended for graduate school across a variety of disciplines, perhaps it's valuable to examine average GRE scores by major/graduate school focus. Since some majors vary dramatically from others—not just in core content, but also GRE averages—picking apart medians by majors can bring about much-needed test-taking insight.

The information from the table below also comes from ETS. The scores averaged between the same time period as before, from July 2014 through June 2017. Please note—if your intended major is not listed, ETS has a more extensive list on their website for continued study. 

Graduate Major Field# of Test-TakersVerbal AverageQuant AverageWriting Average
Agriculture, Natural Resources & Conservation10,4501511523.6
Biology & Biomedical Sciences69,9751531543.8
Chemistry13,5431531583.7
Computer & Information Sciences50,7041461563.1
Health & Medical Sciences131,6251501493.8
Mathematical Sciences19,2831531633.8
Chemical Engineering8,5281521613.6
Industrial Engineering5,4481491593.3
Economics14,7351541603.8
Psychology65,4021521493.9
Sociology5,2881521493.8
English Language/Lit13,1031571494.2
History8,9371561484.1
Accounting1,8841491523.4
Banking & Finance5,8001511613.4
Communications & Journalism10,4261501493.7
Public Administration3,4471511493.7
Social Work7,6181481443.6
Other Fields100,8251491503.5

 As is to be expected, students who pursue quant and math-heavy subjects such as physics, mathematics, engineering as well as finance all have higher math GRE averages than majors where, say, literature or language rests. Of course, a student's major will directly impact his or her score, depending on their strengths and fields of study.

A final point of interest when it relates to GRE averages is by nationality. The following information is derived from a report published by ETS in 2016 on country-by-country GRE averages. If you are a non-U.S. citizen applying to graduate programs in the States, this will be of particular interest to you. Hopefully, this will illuminate your own thoughts and feelings about the competition you may be facing from your home country as it pertains to the application pool! 

Country of Origin# of Test-TakersVerbal AverageQuant AverageWriting Average
U.S.326,424152.8250.23.8
Canada5,171156.1154.64.2
China45,777148.4164.63.0
India99,376144153.22.9
South Korea5,826149.9160.33.2
Iran5,319143.5157.32.8
Saudi Arabia4,462137.5141.62.0
Bangladesh3,540144.8155.72.9

It comes as no surprise that the verbal averages are higher in countries where English is the native language; it may cause a small shock, however, to see the quant averages in other countries than the U.S. This correlates with research from 2014 performed by the National Science Foundation, which claims high school students in countries like Korea and Japan—among other countries—far exceed the math capabilities than students from the States. Long story short—if you're a U.S. citizen taking the GRE for graduate student in math—play to your strengths!

Average GRE Scores by School

While it's always beneficial to know average national GRE scores as well as ones on a country-by-country basis, having the information at-hand regarding your chosen university's GRE statistics is highly useful while continuing your course of study. When we know the average GRE of a particular school, we are aware of not just the competition, but also how much further we have to go. This can affect our tutoring or class curriculum, as well as the number of diagnostic mock exams. Whether you're far ahead of your school's average or lagging behind and in need of improvement, below you will see median GREs by institution. If your graduate program is not listed here, please refer to your school's website, as medians are often published there. This information was taken from a recent May 2018 US News & World Report Ranking—a reliable and authentic resource for education-specific statistics. Also note—because scores are divided not only by school but major, we are averages—which are all identical—for the following universities: Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, & Columbia.

Grad School MajorVerbal RangeQuant Range
Economics157-161162-166
Chemistry156-160163-167
Mathematics156-160168-170
History159-163150-154
Psychology155-159151-155
English160-164151-155
Sociology155-159151-155

Elite schools tend to have similar if not identical ranges, as you see from above. This hopefully paints a picture of what the student body looks like as it relates to test performance. How do your scores compare to your chosen school? Making sure they align within the range, if not surpass it—is a way to alleviate application anxiety and safeguard admission.

The Takeaway

With all of this information overloading your mind, you may be wondering: So what's my GRE plan of attack? Being saturated with average scores not only by school, but also major and country can be overwhelming when trying to chart concrete steps on how to get to your own idea score. Let's talk about some ways to improve your score with all of this data in the back of our minds.

First and foremost, finding the right course of study is imperative for GRE success. This not only includes top tier study materials with adequate explanations and practice exercises, but an actual class—be it in-person or online—with a highly skilled GRE instructor who can break down and elaborate on important test-taking strategies and points. Thankfully, this is 2018 and there are a lot of opportunities for GRE prep; long gone are the days where you were limited to a traditional "brick and mortar" classroom. Many online courses make studying for this important exam convenient and also intellectually stimulating, particularly when you can do so from the comfort and ease of your home or office. Furthermore, deciding whether or not you are best suited for one-on-one tutoring or more of an "in-class experience" is crucial, as both can play to your strengths, aspirations, and test-taking weaknesses.

Implementing your course of study—whether through Manhattan Review or another highly reputable academic services firm—with realistic mock GRE exams is also beneficial, as you are able to better track and pinpoint the progression of your score. These help in providing a "test day experience" where you feel the pressures and limitations of time against a ticking stopwatch. There's nothing more exciting than seeing your score improve over time—particularly as it inches closer and closer to your ideal score for the school of your dreams—so why not get started on a diagnostic test? The advantages are endless.

In the end, securing your score several points higher above your school's average is the best way you can utilize the GRE to your full advantage. This may involve more hours of tutoring than you initially imagined or even sitting for the official exam more than once. However you chart it—however you navigate it—getting an elite score is a sure-fire way to secure admission to an elite graduate school program. Whether you're aiming for continued study in Economics, Psychology, Chemistry or Business—with hard work and determination, the GRE is here to assist you in accomplishing your dreams.