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What are the GRE&Reg; Percentiles?

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  • Written By: Jane Lapham
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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The term "GRE® percentiles" refers to the percentile ranking of an individual score received on the Graduate Record Examination®. Each section of the GRE® is scored on a predetermined scale. After an examinee has completed the test, he or she will receive a report that indicates his or her score for each section of the test as well as the percentile ranking for each score. The GRE® percentiles indicate the percentage of test-takers who took the test during the same time period and received a score lower than that of the examinee.

Percentile rank is calculated by dividing the total number of scores below the score being ranked by the total number of scores in the batch, then multiplying the result by 100. For example, if an examinee scored the 125th-best score out of 500 test-takers, the percentile rank would be calculated by first dividing 375 by 500 to arrive at 0.75, then multiplying 0.75 by 100 to arrive at 75, or the 75th percentile. GRE® percentiles are calculated by the organization that administers the test and are reported to examinees along with their scores.

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GRE® percentiles correlate with scores received based on when the test was taken. A score that falls at the 75th percentile in one year might fall at a completely different percentile in another year. In other words, an individual who gets a certain score on the quantitative reasoning section of the test this year might rank in the 75th percentile, but an individual who received the same score three years earlier might have ranked in the 65th percentile, depending on the scores received by others who took the test during the same time period.

Another way to look at percentile rank is to compare GRE® percentiles received with the average percentile rank received by individuals from similar fields of study. This is because individuals from math, science and engineering fields tend to score higher on the quantitative reasoning section, and individuals who have studied social sciences and humanities tend to score higher on the verbal reasoning section. Graduate program admissions officers who use GRE® scores as part of the decision-making process compare scores among groups of potential graduate students from the same or similar fields of study.

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