06. What Score Should I Aim For?

What Score Should I Aim For?

Perfect 170s and a 6 on writing is the easy answer, but that is not necessary. Your GRE goal depends on the programs to which you are applying, the amount of time you have to study, and your score on the initial diagnostic test.

1. Which graduate programs are you applying to?

Look at their admissions page, and they will often list the average scores by department. They may be listed on the Graduate Admissions page, but most are listed by department. For example, here is the Graduate Admissions page for the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Right-click to open the link in a new window:


If you cannot find the information on your grad program, you can use the contact info on the department's website to email admissions and ask what the average scores of accepted students are.

2. How does your score relate to others’?

You and your potential grad programs will receive a percentile ranking that compares your score with the other test takers' scores.

For entrance into a grad program, it is best to make sure that your score is above the 50th percentile. 

You can actually jump from the 49th to the 53rd percentile by earning one more point on the exam. That shows you how much of an impact studying can make.

Here are the percentile rankings for the writing section (right-click to open in a new window):


Aim for a 4.5 or above on that section if your program is not writing intensive. Students who want to earn graduate degrees in the humanities, however, should aim for a score of 5 or above.

If your score falls short of a grad program's average GRE scores, then you will still have a chance of being accepted into that grad program. Like undergraduate admissions offices, graduate schools consider your coursework, extracurricular accomplishments, entrance essay, and your recommendations. There are many factors that they consider, and the GRE is just one.