Friday, February 26, 2016

Exam Structure and Scoring System: What is a Good GRE Score?

By Naimeesha Murthy
World Education Services

If you're planning on going to graduate school, you may be required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  

The GRE is an exam that evaluates your ability to succeed at graduate school. Your GRE score is one of the main factors graduate schools use to determine whether or not to accept you into their programs. As such, it is important to prepare for the GRE and score as highly as you can.

Exam Structure
The exam is broken down into three main and one experimental sections:

  • Analytical Writing (two tasks for a total of 60 minutes)
  • Verbal Reasoning (two sections for a total of 60 minutes)
  • Quantitative Analysis (two sections for a total of 70 minutes)
  • Experimental (varies) 

The total time provided for the GRE General Test is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Here is the time per section:

  • Analytical Writing: contains a single section that is divided into two separate tasks. Each task must be completed in 30 minutes. The first task is to examine a problem, and the other is to analyze an argument.
  • Verbal Reasoning: has two sections with 20 questions each. The time allotted per section is 30 minutes.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: has two sections with 20 questions each and a 35-minute time limit per section.
There will also be an unscored section, which can appear at any time after the Analytical Writing section

The analytical writing section is always the first section, while the others may appear in any order. This is why even the unscored section must be treated as scored sections so that you can complete the test on time.

Questions within a section can be skipped and returned to later if you have time. You are also provided with ‘mark’ and ‘review’ features for each question. Answers can also be edited and corrected if needed.

The scores of the GRE exam are valid for up to five years from the date of testing, after which you may need to retake the test. These are the following scoring patterns for the GRE:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 130-170 with an increment of 1 point
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 130-170 with an increment of 1 point
  • Analytical Writing: 0 to 6 points with an increment of half a point. 
Remember that sections that go unanswered will be marked as ‘NS’ or ‘No Score’. See sample score report.

So, what is a good GRE score?

As per the Educational Testing Service (ETS), listed below are the average GRE scores according to the intended graduate major field:

To have a clear strategy and plan of action, create a list of your target programs and schools when you begin your GRE preparation. Next, you can begin researching  GRE score requirements through the available ETS data, school websites, articles, and other resources. Once you have done that, you will have a clearer GRE score goal in front of you.

While this table serves as a broad guide, the GRE score requirements or average scores will be higher for top graduate programs and universities. So, applicants should be sure to research requirements for their own target programs.

Also, do not get too focused on one GRE score. While it’s important to earn a good score, it is not the only factor that is considered for university admissions. Make sure that you follow the best preparation strategies and the scores will take care of themselves!

Good luck testing!

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