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GRE Scores Needed to Enter Grad School

written by: Kate Henschel•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 6/27/2011

Looking to go to grad school? Unsure of what GRE scores are needed for grad school? Want to improve your scores? Read on to learn more.

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    GRE Basics

    The Graduate Record Examination (or GRE) is an exam required by many graduate school programs. The scores typically need to be sent directly from the testing company to make up part of the application.

    Wondering what GRE scores are needed for grad school? The GRE is made up of three sections: verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing. The verbal and quantitative sections are scored about of 800 points, for a combined score out of 1600. The scores increase in increments of 10, such as 570 or 580, therefore making a score of 573 impossible. The analytical writing section is scored out of 6.0, with the score increasing by 0.5 points. There are two writings tasks, each worth a possible 6 points, and the two scores will be averaged. The scores sent to the graduate schools will therefore consist of two scores.

    It is also possible to take GRE subject tests in subjects such as biology, psychology, literature, and math. These tests are scored out of 990 points and can help you stand out by showcasing your more specific knowledge. Be sure to check with the programs that interest you to see if these specialized tests are required.

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    What Score Do I Need?

    Unfortunately, every graduate school program requires a different score, and each school places a different emphasis on the scores themselves. For some schools, the GRE is a formality, while other schools consider GRE scores to be a very important part of the application. Some schools do not even require GRE scores at all. Since each program and school has its own requirements, the best option is to research the requirements for the particular program of interest or contact the school directly.

    If you are curious as to how your score ranks overall, the Educational Testing Service (the people who write the GREs) has released data saying that, according to their records, the mean scores are 456 for the verbal section, 590 for quantitative reasoning, and 3.8 for the analytical writing portion.

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    Improving a GRE Score

    If you're still not happy with your GRE score, or if you want to prepare as best you can beforehand, there are a plethora of resources available. Upon signing up for the exam, the ETS will send you a booklet with a practice exam and information on test taking strategies. There are also a number of books you can purchase online or at your local bookstore that examine the three sections of the exam in-depth. The Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE and Barron's GRE by Sharon Weiner Green are two popular books. They cover strategy, helpful hints, and lists of recommended vocabulary, as well as practice exams. There are many websites offering GRE prep materials, some of which are free. Check out Number2 (www.number2.com) and a free practice test on the Princeton Review website (http://www.princetonreview.com/grad/free-gre-practice-test.aspx). GRE preparation classes are often offered, especially near college campuses. These classes can be expensive but may be a good option depending on the student. By choosing one or several of these preparation options, it may be possible to raise your score.

    Now that you know what GRE scores are needed for grad school and you are now fretting over your score, it is important to remember that GRE scores are often just a part of the overall application. Graduate school programs will also take into account your undergraduate grades, experience, letters of recommendation, and other required material in addition to your GRE scores. Just like high GRE scores will not guarantee you an acceptance letter, average GRE scores won't necessarily lead to a rejection letter.

    References:

    Educational Testing Service. "About the GRE General Test." http://www.ets.org/gre/general/about/

    Educational Testing Service. "Interpreting Your GRE Scores." http://www.ets.org/gre/stupubs.