The GRE General Test score is one of the most important factors in graduate school admissions, generally weighted below undergraduate GPA, equally with letters of recommendation, and above other admissions criteria. The importance placed upon GRE scores varies widely among schools and even among departments within schools. Its importance can vary from being a formaility to being an important selection criterion, depending on the program and on the student's record of achievement. Generally, GRE scores are most important for students who have weaknesses in their other application credentials. Some graduate programs my require GRE Subject Tests as well as the GRE General Test.
In 2011, the scoring system was changed from a scale of 200-800 to a "scaled score" of 130-170 in 1 point increments, with the analytical writing section scored on a scale of 0.5-6.0 in 0.5 point increments. Part of the rationale for this change was to make it easier to interpret differences between scores. ETS hopes that increments of 1 point will be easier to understand than the old system of 10 point increments, because single-point deviations between students reflect a very similar level of performance, especially because students are generally presented with customized tests, which are adapted based on their performance on the first Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections.
Within each section, all questions contribute equally to the raw score (the number of test questions answered correctly); this is then converted into a "scaled score" to account for variations in difficulty between test editions and as a result of the section-level adaptation. The "scaled score" is intended to indicate a certain level of performance that will be equatable across test dates.
Scoring for the the Analytical Writing section is focused on "holistic review" of the essay, and is intended to grade the critical thinking and analytical writing of the entire essay, rather than grammar, spelling, or other writing mechanics. For the computer-based test, grading is initially done by a human reader and a computer "e-rater" developed by ETS to identify features related to writing proficiency. If the human and the computer closely agree, the Analytical Writing score is the average of their ratings; if they disagree, a second human reads the essay, and the final score is the average of the two ratings by human readers. For the paper-based test, grading is done by two humans with the final score being an average of their grades; if their grades differ by more than one point, a third human adjudicates the difference.
GRE scores are valid for five years after the test date. The "Scoreselect" system allows students to choose which GRE scores are sent to graduate institutions. On test day it is possible to send either the most recent score, or all scores from the past five years; after test day it is possible to send specific test scores (but you cannot pick and choose sections from different tests; the entire test score must be sent).
GRE scores compared to GMAT scores
Especially when considering applicants who may have taken different tests, graduate schools also look at the percentile score for each section to evaluate how competitive an applicant is compared to their peer group. It is important to remember, however, that each graduate test measures a unique set of attributes, and must not be compared directly with other tests. Nonetheless, the GRE General Test and the GMAT, which is the main test used for business school admissions, are sufficiently similar that many business schools will accept either. The GMAT is designed specifically to test skills that are used in business school, and the GRE is intended to test more general communication, argumentation, and problem-solving abilities.
While both the GRE General Test and the GMAT test knowledge and abilities that are predictive of success in business school, the GMAT is reputed to be more difficult in the Quantitative sections and the GRE is regarded as more difficult in the Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections. The administrators of the GRE and GMAT have constructed score comparison charts to fascilitate comparisons between the exams, and the GRE has been gaining ground as an option for some students. If you perform well on language tasks and write clearly and concisely, then the GRE may be an opportunity for you to showcase your communication ability to business schools. Manhattan Review provides our students with practice tests for either exam; if you are uncertain which may be a better fit for you, try taking a practice exam for each test to evaluate which is a better fit for your skillset and study preferences.