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How do I Interpret GRE&Reg; Scores?

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  • Written By: Jane Lapham
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®) scores can be interpreted in a number of ways. Most people agree that the best way to interpret GRE® scores is to compare them to scores received by others who took the test during the same time period. This can be accomplished through analysis of the percentile ranking received, which will be indicated next to each score on the score report. It also is useful to compare the percentile ranking received with the percentile rankings received by examinees from a similar field of study who took the test during the same time period. This is because individuals from different majors tend to score similarly on different sections of the test.

The GRE® is a standardized test intended to assess an individual's readiness for graduate-level university coursework. The GRE® General Test is composed of an analytical writing section, a verbal reasoning section and a quantitative reasoning section. The analytical writing section of the test is scored on a scale that ranges from 0-6 using half-point increments. The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are scored on a scale ranging from 200-800 using 10-point increments. Approximately two weeks after taking the test, the examinee receives a report that indicates the score received on each section of the test as well as percentile rankings for each score received.

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Percentile rankings generally are considered to be the easiest way to interpret GRE® scores, because they tell an examinee how his or her scores compare to others who took the test during the same time period. Your percentile rankings tell you what percentage of test-takers received GRE® scores lower than yours. For example, a percentile ranking of 52 on the quantitative reasoning section indicates that 52 percent of people who took the test during the same time period received a score lower than yours on the quantitative reasoning section of the test.

It is also useful to compare your percentile ranking on each section of the test to the average percentile ranking for individuals from similar fields of study who took the GRE® during the same time period. Individuals from the fields of science, math and engineering tend to score higher on the quantitative reasoning section of the test. Individuals from the fields of humanities and the social sciences tend to score higher on the verbal reasoning section. Comparing your GRE® scores to others in your field will help you better understand how you stack up against your fellow students.

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