Information for Consideration in the Use of GRE® Scores by Employers

Below is information about the appropriate use of GRE® test scores for those who intend to use GRE scores, particularly for employment purposes. This information is based on the Guidelines for the Use of GRE Scores available to academic institutions and fellowship-granting organizations that use GRE scores, and is also intended to protect applicants from unfair decisions that may result from inappropriate uses of scores. Adherence to the information presented below is important.

The GRE® General Test and GRE® Subject Tests are designed to assess academic knowledge and skills relevant to graduate study. The scores from these tests, when used properly, can improve graduate admissions and fellowship selection processes.

In this context, any GRE test, however, has three primary limitations:

  1. It does not and cannot measure all the qualities that are important in predicting success in non-academic or employment settings or in confirming undergraduate achievement.
  2. It is an inexact measure; consequently, small score differences are not meaningful and may not be indicative of real differences in applicants’ academic knowledge and developed abilities.
  3. The use of GRE scores for employment purposes is an area for which the GRE Program does not have direct validity evidence. However, research in the area of Industrial and Organizational (I-O) psychology provides support for the use of cognitive measures for use in employment decisions (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Information for Consideration

  1. Use Multiple Criteria

    Regardless of the decision to be made; multiple sources of information should be used to ensure fairness and to balance the limitations of any single measure of knowledge, skills or abilities. These sources may include recommendations/references, interviews, samples of academic work, grade point average, and relevant professional experience. Scores, including cut-off scores, should never be the sole criterion in making any decisions about candidates.

    Use of multiple criteria is particularly important when using GRE scores to assess the abilities of educationally disadvantaged applicants and applicants whose primary language is not English. Score users are urged to become familiar with factors affecting score interpretation for these groups (see the GRE® Guide to the Use of Scores.)

  2. Accept Only Official GRE Score Reports

    The only official reports of GRE scores are those issued by ETS and sent directly to institutions and organizations designated by the examinees and to vendors the score recipients might designate to process the scores they receive. Scores obtained from other sources should not be accepted. If there is a question about the authenticity of a score report, the question should be referred to ETS. ETS will verify whether an official score report was issued, and if an official score report was issued, we will verify the accuracy of the scores.

  3. Conduct Local Validity Studies

    Organizations using GRE scores are encouraged, when feasible, to collect validity information by conducting their own studies. Job analyses should be conducted for different job titles for which GRE scores are used in decision making, as recommended by the Uniform Guidelines (Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures jointly adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Civil Service Commission, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and the Office of Personnel Management), Joint Standards (Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing adopted by the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education), and the SIOP Principles (Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures adopted by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology). The GRE Program staff will provide advice on the design of appropriate job analysis/validation studies without charge.

  4. Maintain Confidentiality of GRE Scores

    All GRE score users should be aware of the confidential nature of the scores and agree to maintain their confidentiality. Organizational policies should be developed to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. For example, GRE scores should not be placed on documents sent outside of the organization receiving scores.

  5. Consider Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing Scores as Three Separate and Independent Measures

    Since the level of skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing abilities required for success varies by field or department, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing scores should not be combined into a single score. (To understand factors related to using combined cut scores, view the GRE DataViews article, "A Balanced Approach to GRE Score Use."

  6. Conduct Reviews of Subject Test Content

    Although each Subject Test is developed and updated regularly by a committee of examiners who are actively teaching in the field, the match between the test and the curriculum in a given department may not be exact and may vary over time. Organizations that use GRE Subject Test scores are encouraged to periodically review the test content description in order to verify the appropriateness of the content for employment related decisions. Download the free practice books, which include information about the test structure and content.

  7. Avoid Decisions Based on Small Score Differences

    Small differences in GRE scores (as defined by the standard error of measurement [SEM] for score differences) should not be used to make distinctions among examinees. SEMs vary by test and are available in the GRE Guide to the Use of Scores.

  8. Use the Appropriate Percentile Ranks when Comparing Candidates

    Percentile ranks are provided on score reports and can be used to compare examinees’ relative performance among the measures. Percentile ranks indicate the percent of examinees in a group who obtained scores below a specified score. The percentile ranks are generally based on previous GRE examinees from a recent three-year period. Percentile ranks should be compared only if they are based on the same reference population. Percentile ranks are updated annually and are available in the GRE Guide to the Use of Scores.

  9. Do Not Compare Scores from Different Subject Tests

    Subject Test scores should be compared only with other scores on the same Subject Tests (for example, a 680 on the Physics Test is not equivalent to a 680 on the Chemistry Test). Percentile ranks should be compared only if they are based on the same reference population.

  10. Transition to the Current Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Score Scales

    The GRE Program began administering the GRE® revised General Test on August 1, 2011. Departments, programs and organizations are encouraged to transition from using Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores on the prior 200–800 score scales to using scores on the current 130–170 score scale. Any test taker that tested prior to August 1, 2011, has reportable GRE scores and requests that their scores be sent to your organization will have score reports sent that include their original scores on the prior 200–800 score scale, estimated scores on the current 130–170 score scale, as well as the percentile ranks associated with their scores.


GRE Guide to the Use of Scores

Learn about the appropriate uses of GRE scores