Using Scores

GRE® tests play a vital role in the admissions process for graduate and business school programs around the world.

  • The GRE® revised General Test provides an assessment of the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills that graduate-level programs value.
  • The GRE® Subject Tests gauge undergraduate achievement in specific fields of study and can help predict a candidate's potential for success in graduate school.

Both tests provide a common measure for comparing applicants with differing educational and cultural backgrounds and furnish independent information to supplement the evaluation of grades and recommendations.

Guidelines adopted by the GRE Board provide information about the appropriate use of GRE test scores for those who use the scores in graduate and business school admissions, fellowship selection processes, and for guidance and counseling for graduate study. See Score Use Guidelines and the GRE® Guide to the Use of Scores for more information.

Transitioning to the 130–170 Score Scales for the GRE revised General Test

Departments and programs that accept GRE scores are encouraged to transition from using the prior 200–800 score scales to the current 130–170 score scales. To aid in the transition, the GRE program created Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning concordance tables. These concordance tables show the relationship between scores on the prior scales and the new scales. Corresponding percentile ranks are also provided.

Concordance tables may be appropriately used for translating an institution's historical guidelines for GRE scores on the prior score scales to the new score scales. Using the tables in this way should result in the selection of approximately the same proportion of students.

It's important to note that the scores in the concordance tables are approximations, not equivalences, and that a test taker who has a particular score on the prior scale would not necessarily obtain the exact concorded score if they had taken the GRE revised General Test.

Score users should use special care in evaluating test takers who received a Quantitative Reasoning score at the top end of the prior 200–800 score scale. With the current 130–170 score scale, we can provide more differentiation for higher ability test takers. However, test takers who took the prior test and received an 800 on the Quantitative Reasoning measure, received the highest score possible that they were able to earn on the measure. Therefore, this information should be considered when making admissions decisions.

Comparing GRE revised General Test Scores to Scores Earned on the GRE® General Test Administered Prior to August 2011

Since GRE scores are valid for five years, institutions will receive scores from applicants who have taken the current test, the prior test or both. This mix will be most prevalent in the first year of the GRE revised General Test but can continue for the next five years until prior scores are no longer valid.

Following the guidelines below will help you transition to the current score scales while also making the best decisions for your program.

  • Use actual scores from test takers who have taken the GRE revised General Test.
  • Use the estimated scores on the current 130–170 score scales that are provided on score reports for test takers who tested prior to August 1, 2011.
  • For score reports that were issued before November 2011, use the concordance information to convert Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores on the prior scales to the current 130–170 score scales.
  • If an applicant presents scores from both the current and prior tests, use the scores on the current test as part of the consideration for admissions, since the test is more closely aligned with the skills needed in graduate and business school programs.
  • Do not translate the current 130–170 score scales back to the prior 200– 800 score scales.

It's important to know that all official GRE scores are valid and should be considered with equal preference in the admissions decision.

Percentile ranks are also very helpful and informative when comparing scores on the prior and current tests because they're indicative of how well the test taker performed in relation to other test takers. Additionally, score reports for both the prior and current tests use the same set of percentile ranks for each measure, which indicates how the applicant performed in comparison to the reference group from a recent three-year period.

GRE Scores and Graduate-level Admissions

Many factors play a role in an applicant's admissibility and expectation of success as a graduate-level student. GRE scores are only one element of this total picture and should be considered along with other data.

Particular attention should be paid to the use of GRE scores for test takers described below. See the GRE research reports for more details.

Repeat Test Takers

It may be to a test-taker's advantage to take a GRE test more than once if they don't think their scores accurately reflect their abilities. Those considering repeating a test are advised that large score increases are unusual, and for some test takers, scores will go down. With the ScoreSelect® option, test takers who retake the test can decide which GRE scores to send to designated institutions. Scores for a test administration must be reported in their entirety. Institutions will receive score reports that show the scores that test takers selected to send to them. There will be no special indication if other GRE tests have been taken.

If an institution would like applicants to submit scores from all GRE tests taken, the GRE program advises institutions to communicate this information directly to prospective applicants. The GRE Program encourages test takers to refer to an institution's policies with regard to the GRE tests if the test taker is unsure of which scores to send.

There are several ways in which graduate departments and programs can judge multiple scores for an individual (e.g., use most recent score, use highest score). Whatever approach is adopted, it should be used consistently with all applicants. In cases where an applicant has scores from both the prior General Test and the revised General Test, the GRE Program advises using the scores from the revised General Test.

Test Takers from Underrepresented Groups

GRE scores, like those on similar standardized tests, cannot completely represent the potential of any person, nor can they alone reflect an individual's chances of long-term success in an academic environment. It should be remembered that the GRE tests provide measures of certain types of developed abilities and achievement, reflecting educational and cultural experience over a long period. Special care is required in interpreting the GRE scores of students who may have had educational and cultural experiences somewhat different from those of the traditional majority.

Research indicates that GRE scores are valid predictors of success in the first year of graduate school for all students. Available samples of students from underrepresented groups, however, have been very small.

Information about specific research regarding test scores and minority groups can be found in the publication titled Factors That Can Influence Performance on the GRE General Test.

Test Takers Who are Nonnative English Speakers

Various factors complicate the interpretation of GRE scores for international students. The GRE tests measure skills important for graduate education where the language of instruction is English. Obviously, an understanding of English is important since lack of fluency in English may affect test performance.

ETS offers tests developed specifically for testing the English-language proficiency of nonnative English speakers. The most widely used academic English-language proficiency test is the TOEFL® test. The primary purpose of the TOEFL test is to measure the English proficiency of people who are nonnative speakers of English and want to study at colleges and universities where English is the language of instruction. For more information, visit the TOEFL test website.

Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-Related Needs

ETS provides testing accommodations for test takers who have current documented disabilities or health-related needs. The tests are administered in a manner chosen to minimize any adverse effect of the test-taker's disability upon test performance and to help ensure that, insofar as possible, the resulting scores represent the test-taker's educational achievement.

Depending on the nature and extent of the disability, a test-taker's scores may not fully reflect his or her educational achievement and, because there are so few disabled persons taking GRE tests and their circumstances vary so widely, it has not been possible to provide special interpretive data for these test takers. Therefore, graduate schools should seriously consider waiving GRE requirements for applicants with certain disabilities.

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