GRE Scores – The Good, Bad and Ugly - Power Punch Club
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GRE Scores – The Good, Bad and Ugly

Many of you question: Are my GRE scores 'good'? What GRE scores are needed to get into the top 10 grad schools?

Before I answer this question, let me correct one common misconception that GRE scores are the only criterion used to evaluate a college application.


Well, that’s simply NOT ACCURATE. GRE scores are only one of the many factors taken into account when evaluating a college application. Statements of Purpose, undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, research and extracurricular activities will contribute to your graduate school acceptance to varying degrees.

7 must-haves in creating THE statement of purpose

So now, what’s a good GRE score?

‘Good’ is a relative word.

According to reports from the ETS – creators of the GRE – the average GRE quantitative score is 151.3, with a standard deviation of 8.7. The average GRE verbal score is 150.8 with a standard deviation of 8.5.

This means that the world average for the GRE composite score is 151.3 + 150.8 = 302.1. So if you score 303, you’re better than half the test takers in the world. But is that good enough for your goals? Probably not.

Also, GRE scores needed to get admits will differ from program to program and university to university.

So, the appropriate question would be: What’s a good GRE score for the graduate program I am applying to?

Let’s use my alma mater university, Georgia Tech, as an example. Officially, the average GRE scores for the incoming class of 2015 in the Electrical Engineering program is 166 for quantitative and 152 for verbal. Cumulative average GRE score is then 318. Using a reasonable standard deviation of 17 (sum of the standard deviations of the worldwide data), a score of 335 would be a highly competitive score and a score of 310 would be considered low.

Take a look at this highly informative graphic from the popular GRE prep service Magoosh to gain a lot more insights into the average scores at various degrees around the country.

A report from US News collected average Quantitative GRE scores from various tier universities around the country.

Average Quantitative GRE Scores for universities ranked by tier

What about the verbal score for engineering programs? Let’s just say that if you score above the average for your particular program, you should be safe. Typically, engineering programs require high quantitative scores and average verbal scores.

So a good score would be one standard deviation (about 17 cumulative points) above the average GRE score for the particular program you are applying to.

Analytical Writing (AWA) scores are extremely important. Even more so than your GRE verbal scores. Most international students don't focus on AWA section. Scoring high on AWA can transform your application. Here are Top 3 ways to improve your AWA score.

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