Every year, hundreds of thousands of students ponder over one of the most intriguing questions of the recent past – What is a good GRE score?
If you have taken or are planning to take the GRE, you’ll need to know what GRE score will give you your best chance of admission to grad school. Is a GRE 320 score good? Should you aim higher? Lower?
The fact of the matter is, most grad programs don’t look at total GRE scores but rather your individual scores for Verbal and Quant. Therefore, how good a GRE score is depends on two key factors:
What individual percentiles you scored in on Verbal and Quant
What kinds of GRE scores your programs want
Let’s start with percentiles. Percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers scored lower than you on a particular section or the test as a whole. The higher your GRE percentile is, the more competitive your score is.
Each year, ETS calculates individual percentiles for Verbal and Quant as well as for Analytical Writing, though this score is separate from your total score. Generally, you’ll want to get a higher score on the GRE section more closely related to your field. For example, if I were applying to English PhD programs, I’d benefit most by aiming for a higher Verbal score. We’ll cover this idea in more detail later.
So what percentiles are considered “good”?
Broadly, anything above the 50th percentile median can be considered a good score, and anything above the 75th percentile a great score.Using this definition, we can say that all scores in this chart are good GRE scores.
We can also argue that a Verbal score of 157 or higher and a Quant score of 160 or higher are great scores since both are close to the 75th percentile.
Ultimately, though, whether a GRE 320 is good isn’t determined solely by percentiles—you must also know what your specific programs are looking for in regard to GRE scores.
GRE Study Tips For Verbal
These two GRE strategies will help you really improve your Verbal score:
Study Vocab in Context
While drilling vocab with flashcards has its benefits, you also need to learn vocab in context. This means figuring out how to use the words you are actually learning in sentences correctly. This way you will get a sense of how you might actually encounter them on the GRE.
GRE Test Tips for Reading Comprehension
don’t try to absorb every detail of the passage on a first pass-through. it’s far better to read passages for main ideas first and then look back at the passage for more details when you are trying to select the right answer.
Tips for Quantitative Comparison
Simplify the comparison: Many Quantitative Comparison questions involve algebraic expressions. When this is the case, simplify where possible by factoring and/or cancelling out terms that appear in both Quantity A and Quantity B. Simplification often either makes the answer obvious or makes it easier to plug in numbers to get a better idea of the answer.
Plug in numbers: It’s not the most efficient strategy, but you can usually get a good idea of which quantity is greater by plugging in several numbers with different properties. So try 0, 1, a fraction, a positive integer, a negative integer, and so on. This will help you figure out if one quantity is always larger than the other or if there’s not enough information. Make sure that you stay within the bounds set by the question, though—if it specifies that x 1, don’t plug in 1 or any smaller numbers!
If there are no variables in the two quantities—only numbers—never select choice D, that the answer can’t be determined from the information given. Even if you aren’t quite sure how to simply the numbers so you can best compare them, you know the quantities can be compared.
Tips for Numeric Entry
Make sure the answer is in the correct format: Numeric entry questions sometimes ask for the answer in a very specific format—e.g. as a fraction, in particular units, rounded to two decimal places, etc. Be sure that your answer is in that format. It’s a waste of easy points if you can do the math but lose the credit because you forgot to convert inches to yards or something like that.
Be careful when transferring your calculator display: Because the format of the answer is so critical, be sure that the format is correct when you transfer your calculator display. Sometimes the answer should be rounded; transferring obviously won’t do this for you. For this reason it can be safer to just type in the answer instead of transferring the calculator display.
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