GRE Scoring - Overview and Methodology

The GRE scoring system changed substantially in 2011, changing from a continuously adaptive test to one that only adapts between sections, and revising the scoring scale from 200-800 (10-point increments) to 130-170 (1-point increments) for each section. A score in the 90th percentile is approximately a 162-163; a score in the 75th percentile is approximately 157-158; a score in the 50th percentile is approximately 151-152; and a score in the 25th percentile is approximately 145-146. The analytical writing section scoring was not changed as part of the 2011 revision, and this section is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5-point increments. A score of 5 is in the 93rd percentile, 4 is in the 54th percentile, and 3 is in the 14th percentile.

One of the advantages of the 2011 revision to the GRE General Test scoring system is that it allows for greater differentiation of top-level test takers. Before, students who achieved the maximum score (800) would be clustered together with a percentile rank of 94. The new scoring scale widens the distribution at the upper end of the scoring scale, allowing greater differentiation for students who are trying to earn admission into highly competitive graduate programs. GRE scores are valid for five years after the year in which the test is taken.

The GRE uses an adaptive scoring algorithm that modifies the difficulty level of the second Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections based on the student's performance in the first sections. Students who perform well on their first Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections will "level up" to a more difficult test, and have the chance to earn a higher final score. Each test question contributes equally to a "raw score" for each section, which is equal to the number of questions is answered correctly. The raw score is then converted into a "scaled score" for each section, which is the score that will be reported to graduate schools. The process of conversion from a "raw score" to a "scaled score" is called "equating". Equating compensates for difficulty variation across different versions of the test, as well as the individual test differentiation due to the adaptive test algorithm. The scaled section score is intended to reflect a particular level of performance regardless of when the test was taken or how it was adapted.

The scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are combined before calculation, so your final score will be broken into three section scores: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. You will have the opportunity to see your unofficial scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections at the completion of your test, if you choose to report your scores. The Analytical Writing section takes longer to grade because it uses a combination of human and computer evaluation.

Scoring Confidentiality

GRE scores are valid for five years after the testing date, but the use of scores is entirely controlled by the student. Students who achieve an especially competitive score on the General Test or who demonstrate subject knowledge with the GRE Subject Tests may utilize their scores to demonstrate their aptitude and accomplishment in diverse work areas. Students who are merely using the GRE to get into graduate school, however, can rest assured that their scores will remain confidential unless they choose to share them.

Retaking Test

The computer-based GRE can be retaken only once 21 days have passed from the day of the first exam. The paper-based test can be retaken as often as it is offered, generally three times per year. After the completion of your test, you will have the option to submit only your most recent score, or all of your recent test scores. If you want to submit only the scores from specific testing sessions, you must wait to submit your scores until after test day. At the conclusion of your test, you will also have an opportunity to cancel your scores.

Cancelling Scores

After the completion of your test, you will be given the option to either Report your scores or Cancel your scores. If you decide to report your scores, you will be able to access the unofficial scores for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections. If you choose to cancel your scores, you will not be able to access them or report them to schools, and your Analytical Writing section will not be scored. Although ETS gives students the option to cancel their scores if for some reason they believe they did not perform at the level of their capability, they also give students flexibility in the reporting of their scores and guarantee confidentiality for whatever scores students choose not to report.

If you choose to report your scores, you will be given access to the "Scoreselect" tool, which will allow you to choose where to send your scores, as well as whether to send scores from all testing dates or only the most recent test. Your official scores, including your Analyical Writing score, will be available 10-15 days after your test dates, when they will automatically be sent to your selected score recipients. Your test fee entitles you to request that scores be sent to as many as four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors; you will be asked to designate your recipients during registration or on your admissions ticket correction stub. After test day, you can also send additional score reports for a fee.