What’s a “Good” GRE Score?

If you’re wondering “What is a good GRE score?”, you should know that there is no one answer to this question: all graduate schools have different GRE score expectations for their applicants.

In this article, we’ll help you understand those expectations. First, we’ll look at how the GRE is scored, and then we’ll point you in the right direction as you figure out what makes a competitive GRE score for your specific admissions goals.

How is the GRE Scored?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is available to a large pool of graduate school applicants, including prospective law and business school students. Administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service), the GRE general test measures skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

In addition to the GRE general test, there are GRE subject tests in Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. GRE subject tests are also conducted by ETS and are accepted by many different graduate programs.

GRE scoring varies between the three sections of the exam. The highest GRE score possible is 340, with the combined scores of the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections ranging from 260 to 340.

The verbal and quantitative reasoning portions of the exam are section-adaptive, meaning your performance in the first section determines the difficulty of the second section.

As a result, the raw score you receive after finishing the exam is converted to a scaled score to account for differences in difficulty between GRE test takers. Scaled scores are shown in your official score report.

GRE SectionScoringAdditional notes
Verbal Reasoning Section ScoringThe GRE verbal reasoning section is scored in one-point increments on a scale from 130 to 170. The verbal score is based on the number of questions answered correctly, with all questions being worth the same amount of points.There are 27 questions on the verbal reasoning portion of the exam .
Quantitative Reasoning Section ScoringLike the verbal section, the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE has 27 questions and is scored in one-point increments on a scale from 130 to 170.The raw quant score is also based on the number of questions correctly answered.
Analytical Writing Section ScoringThe GRE analytical writing section is scored in half-point increments on a scale from 0 to 6. The essays from this section are scored on a holistic scale by at least one trained rater. Essays are also scored by an e-rater engine which identifies elements of the essay related to writing proficiency.This section does not contribute to your final score.

GRE Subject Tests Scoring

The number of questions answered correctly on the GRE subject test determines your raw score. Raw scores are then equated to account for differences in test difficulty, giving test takers a scaled score.

Interestingly, there is no penalty for incorrect answers on this exam—so if you’re ever unsure, or you’re running out of time, remember that every question is worth answering.

There are approximately 166 questions in the Mathematics test, 70 in the Physics test, and 144 questions in the Psychology test.

Subject test scores range from 200 to 990, measured in 10-point increments.

Determining a “Good” Score For Your Admissions Goals

Now that you understand the scoring system of the GRE, we’ll discuss how you can determine a competitive GRE score for your admissions goals.

First, a warning about what not to do: many GRE students look at ETS-published GRE percentile rankings to evaluate their score (or to figure out what kind of score they need for admission).

Percentile ranks show you how your score compares to the scores of all other test takers. For example, scoring a 162 on the verbal reasoning section, which is in the 90th percentile, means you performed better than 90% and worse than 10% of other test takers on this section.

However, when considering average GRE score ranges, you should be aware that score percentiles are not an all-encompassing method of identifying competitive GRE scores.

Instead, the only way to figure out what a good GRE score is to figure out the threshold at which you would be a competitive candidate for the program where you are applying.

Thus your target GRE score range should be based on your research into the program’s GRE score statistics for admitted students (and on general acceptance rates). For a less competitive program, a GRE score at or slightly above the average would suffice. For a more competitive program (think single-digit acceptance rates), you may need to aim for a higher-than-average score to help secure admission.

If you’re unsure about whether your GRE score is competitive at your target program—or about how to achieve a competitive score—you should speak to an expert GRE tutor today.

What is a “Good” GRE Score for an MBA?

If you are applying to top MBA programs like Harvard Business School or Stanford Graduate School of Business, the general advice still applies: look at the average GRE scores for your target programs and aim to score at or above the average.

To make this research easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the average GRE scores at top US MBA programs.

However, because MBA programs across the top 20 are so competitive, it would be advisable to aim for a GRE score higher than the average—at ideally, much higher.

GRE Scores and MBA Scholarships

Each program is likely to have different criteria for awarding scholarships. Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB, for example, only award need-based scholarships, while other MBA programs like Chicago Booth and Wharton offer merit scholarships to some applicants.

For merit-based scholarships, MBA programs are likely to take your test scores into consideration, as your score is one of the only ways graduate schools can fairly and accurately compare you to other applicants.

Although a high GRE score does not guarantee a scholarship, it may be a consideration when admissions committees are evaluating application materials. Thus, if you are hoping for a grad school scholarship, you may benefit from setting a higher target score.

For top MBA programs, you should aim for a score above 329 to be considered competitive for merit-based scholarships.

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“Good” GRE Scores for Different Graduate Programs

Other competitive graduate school programs (besides business) have GRE section score averages between 160 and 165. This score range is a good guideline to keep in mind when preparing to take the GRE, but it is important to note that you should focus on the GRE section most relevant to your field of study.

For example, English graduate program applicants should spend more time preparing for the verbal reasoning and analytical writing sections of the GRE than the quantitative reasoning section.

In contrast, Computer Science program applicants should devote more of their time to quantitative reasoning section preparation as compared to the other two sections.

Graduate programs vary in terms of the importance they place on GRE scores, so make sure you research your target programs to determine whether your GRE score is good enough.

Other Considerations

It’s important to remember that GRE scores—and standardized test scores in general—are only one element of your profile. A strong GRE score alongside a poor overall application is unlikely to win you admission on its own, and a below-average GRE score is unlikely to be the sole blocker from grad school admission alongside an otherwise competitive application.

The Problem with “Average” GRE Scores

When it comes to a discussion of “average” GRE scores, most articles refer to the mean score of all GRE test takers.

But as you just learned, the mean of all test takers is irrelevant: the only stat that matters is the average at your target program.

To state it differently, if you’re applying for an MBA and you consult the average GRE score of all test takers, you’ll be diluting the data with test takers applying to creative writing programs or to graduate psychology degrees.

If you’re still curious, GRE score averages for all test takers are as follows.

But remember: The only “average” GRE scores you should concern yourself with are the average scores of your target programs.

SectionAverage Score
Verbal reasoning150.49
Quantitative reasoning155.44
Analytical writing 3.56

Average GRE Subject Test Scores

All three GRE subject tests have a different mean GRE score.

Here are the mean GRE scores for each subject test:

Subject TestAverage Score
Physics 714

When to Retake the GRE Exam

The answer to “when should retake the GRE?” depends on the grad school and program you are applying to.

If you are applying to top MBA programs and you have a GRE section score in the 150s or are in an overrepresented group, you should consider retaking the GRE.

Further, test takers who believe there were still points left on the table may want to retake the exam.

However, if your score is already around or above the averages of the program you are applying to and you’re from an underrepresented group, you may benefit from refining other components of your application instead of retaking the test.

Individuals planning to retake the GRE should ensure they have already addressed the fundamentals of GRE preparation and are using the proper structure, guidance, and targeted approach.

When in doubt, get in touch with a GRE expert to make sure you’re maximizing your study time.


Although it’s important for many higher education applications, standardized test scores are just one element of your application.

Schools use GRE scores to measure how prepared you are to enroll in your program of choice—as well as to compare you with other applicants. But your undergraduate GPA, professional experience, and letters of recommendation will also contribute heavily to your likelihood of admission to your preferred graduate program.

Further, it is important to keep in mind that GRE scores do not directly correspond to the scores of other standardized tests, like the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Finally, although high GRE scores may make you as strong of an applicant as high GMAT scores, the tests are different in terms of the number of sections and score reporting, meaning scores are impossible to directly equate—take a look at our GRE to GMAT Conversion page to find out more.

Don’t let GRE preparation overwhelm you. Our comprehensive online GRE tutoring ensures you’re fully equipped for success on test day.