Average GRE Scores
Thinking about grad school? Know that dreaded GRE exam is part of the admissions process? If you wanted an above-average score, the better to land admission with, what would that average GRE score be, anyway?
The answer to that last question is almost as difficult to determine as the cause of the common cold. Both are fraught with theories, comparisons, and evaluations that leave lots of room for discussion but no one single exact answer.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) doesn’t produce one average GRE score although averaging a couple of its component sections does derive a score for the Analytical Writing section. The other two sections – Quantitative and Verbal – are so different one from the other that they are reported separately so they can be more relevant to the subject matter of your graduate school studies.
It may be better to think of the average GRE score as the three averages of the three sections.
The Quantitative Reasoning section is designed to measure basic mathematical skills, concepts, and ability to reason and solve problems quantitatively. This part of the test is most highly scrutinized for students applying for admissions in subjects such as engineering, the theoretical sciences, and financial studies. There are 28 questions that will earn a score somewhere between 200 and 800.
The Verbal Reasoning section is more important when students are applying to study the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, where words, sentence structure, and verbal concepts are valued. It also provides a possible score somewhere between 200 and 800.
The scores from these two sections are combined to form one average GRE score although each one is reported to the school of application and analyzed there differently according to the intended field of study. This combined score can be as low as 400 and as high as 1600.
While this isn’t the ideal measure of average GRE score, 54% of all test takers score 480 on the Verbal section and 53% score 620 on the Quantitative section.
It’s the Analytical Writing section that makes establishing an average GRE score so complicated. This section is composed of an essay called an Issue Task and a second essay considered an Argument Task. Each essay is read by a reader who assigns a score from 1 to 6, in half-point increments. If the two scores are different by a point or more, a third reader makes the call.
It may be less important to worry about an average GRE score overall than to be concerned about what the average GRE score is for the school and its field of study you’re applying for. Some schools put a great deal of emphasis on GRE scores while others consider them a mere formality. Some schools don’t bother with GRE scores at all.