Using GRE® General Test Scores for Business School Admissions Decisions

SPEAKER: Welcome. This short presentation offers foundational information about the GRE® General Test, its structure, reporting, and interpretation. The presentation is designed to help you better understand and interpret GRE scores to build an outstanding class. ETS is proud that we've been serving the business school community for more than 15 years, and over 1,300 business schools accept GRE scores.

The GRE comparison tool was originally designed for newer score users. We encourage business schools to use other score interpretation resources available on the GRE website to assist in evaluating and interpreting GRE scores. We invite you to contact the business school team for any questions regarding this presentation, the GRE test, or the comparison tool at

Let's get started. In this section, you will learn about the sections and format of the GRE test. The GRE General Test structure is a section-level adaptive test and includes three sections — Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections each have two subsections of 20 questions each and are scored on a scale of 130 to 170. The Analytical Writing section has two prompts and is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point intervals. The Analytical Writing section offers a unique window on the test taker in that it asks the test taker to provide a work of production. It's an opportunity within the test where you, as an admissions professional, can evaluate writing skills that are not reviewed or edited by someone else.

Unlike other adaptive tests, the section-level format of the GRE General Test offers more flexibility to the test taker. So, just what does section-level adaptive mean? The computer selects the second section of a measure, either Quantitative or Verbal, based on the performance of the first section. Within each section, all questions contribute equally to the final score.

Both sections are important, since the final score on each measure is based on the total number of correct answers and the level of difficulty of the questions. Let's focus now on how section-level adaptation works on the GRE General Test. Within each section, there are easier and more difficult questions.

A test taker will begin the test with moderately challenging content. If the test taker performed well within the first section, the second section will offer more challenging content, leading to higher test scores. Likewise, if the test taker performed moderately well or less well, the second section will offer moderate or less challenging content, leading to corresponding score ranges.

Now, let's take a look at how question-level adaptive tests work. Here's an illustration of how this works in practice for a test taker. Each of these little numbered circles represents a test question. Typically, the first question is at about middle difficulty. Starting with the question of about middle difficulty makes sense since most test takers are going to be in the middle of the ability distribution.

After the test taker answers the first question, the computer selects the second question based on the test taker's response to the first question. If the test taker answered the first question correctly, the computer is likely to deliver a more difficult question. If the test taker answered incorrectly, the computer is likely to deliver an easier question.

The subsequent question selections work the same way. When questions are answered correctly, the computer is likely to present a more difficult question. If answered incorrectly, an easier question is likely to be presented next. As the test taker moves through his or her test, the computer is building up a pattern of responses to questions of different difficulty levels and making estimates of the test taker's ability based on their response to questions. So, high scores equal hard questions that were answered correctly.

You might be wondering about the benefits for test takers of section-level adaptive tests. There are several, one of which is that it may lessen anxiety in the test-taking situation. Test takers are able to preview, review, and return to test questions within a timed section. That's not possible in a question-level adaptive test. It's an efficient way of measuring skills and abilities, and it allows test takers to use their own personal test-taking strategies. So if a test taker feels more comfortable reading all of the questions first and then going back and answering the ones that they are confident they know, they can do so.

Now that you have a clear understanding of how section-level adaptive tests work, let's take a look at score reporting and score interpretation. In this section, we will review how scores reach an institution or program, options available to the test taker, and how to interpret GRE scores.

The GRE score reaches your program by way of a Designated Institution Code. A DI code is used by applicants to direct ETS to send scores to your institution. If you don't have a DI code for your business school and would like one, you may submit a request to ETS.

Your business school has three options for receiving scores. You can use the DI code that your university already uses. You may request a DI code for your business school, and you even may request a DI code for individual business programs. Having a dedicated DI code for your business school can help improve operational efficiency. Do you know who manages your school's DI code?

Yeah, let's take a look at how test takers decide to send scores to your institution. Using the ScoreSelect® Option, test takers can decide which GRE scores they can send to your school, either on test day or after test day. Test takers may send up to four free score reports, either the most recent option, or all scores from the tests in the last five years.

After test day, test takers may use additional score reports and send their most recent option, all test scores, or any test in the last five years. As a reminder, GRE test scores are good for five years.

Once a school receives a test score, what's next? As reviewed earlier, the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning measures are reported on a scale of 130 to 170. You can find detailed information on using scores at, but let's take a look at some general score information.

During the 2020-2021 testing year, the score information for the GRE test taker population looks a little like this. The Verbal Reasoning mean is 151.4 with a standard deviation of 8.6. The Quantitative Reasoning mean, 155.8, has a standard deviation of 9.6. And the Analytical Writing mean is 3.6 with a standard deviation of 0.9. What does this mean, and why is this important? Having a clear understanding of where your applicant's score ranges fall can help you define a recruiting and admissions strategy, as well as give you a good sense of what success in your program may look like.

Reporting the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning scores independently is important to both admissions professionals and to prospective students. For admissions professionals, it helps evaluate a candidate's potential academic success based on a comparison of other candidates or past admits to the program. For prospective students, it provides a score range to which he or she can aim and becomes an important data point to include on the class profile. These scores should always be reported separately and never averaged. In addition, sharing your average GRE test scores on your class profile demonstrates parity between the GRE and the GMAT. On this side, you can see an example of how one school has decided to display those scores.

As part of the holistic admissions process, GRE scores are just one data point in the application package. By reviewing GRE test scores from the past few admission cycles, you can get a good sense of the score range of successful students. Look at the minimum and average scores admitted in each section and compare those scores with the success trends of corresponding students.

Now, how can GRE test scores increase your applicant pool? Reporting GRE test scores informs prospective students that your institution values diverse knowledge and backgrounds. Including the scores on the website in your class profile allows the students to submit the test with which he or she feels most comfortable. For instance, candidates from the STEM or liberal arts backgrounds may have already taken the test. Knowing that this score can be submitted enables applicants to apply to your program more efficiently.

Accrediting bodies such as AACSB require that the test scores be submitted separately, as do the ranking bodies. Finally, any marketing materials should clearly convey that the GRE General Test is used as a valid and reliable measure and is viewed on par with the GMAT.

You can find more information on the GRE tests and services, holistic admissions strategies, and the GRE fluency series on our website or by contacting Following this presentation, you'll find an appendix with additional details on test taking and reporting resources.

On behalf of the business school advisory team here at ETS, we thank you for your attention. We and members of our business school advisory committee, comprised of some of the top business schools in the world, are available to guide you in the use of GRE scores or any of our other products and services. Again, contact us at

The following slides offer more detail on how the test is structured, how test takers receive their scores, and how to access score reports.

The Analytical Writing measure includes one section of two separately timed writing tasks of 30 minutes each. The task types include analyzing an issue task and analyzing an argument task.

The Verbal Reasoning measure includes two 30-minute sections with 20 questions per section, each section-level adaptive. Question types include reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence.

The Quantitative Reasoning measure assesses math skills in the following areas — arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis in two 30-minute sections with 20 questions per section. Question types include quantitative comparison, multiple choice, numeric entry, and data interpretation. Test takers are assisted by an on screen calculator.

Test takers get their official GRE scores in their ETS account about 10 to 15 days after the test date. It includes all scores in their reportable history over the past five years, and they can print a personal copy of their official test taker score report. Test takers can also order additional score reports to send official copies to institutions after test day.

Also available free to the test taker is the GRE Diagnostic Service, which details the types of questions that were answered correctly and incorrectly, and the difficulty level, and the time spent on each question.

Institutions access GRE score reports in the ETS Data Manager. They too are available about 10 to 15 days after the test date, and can be viewed or exported into Microsoft Excel, PDF, and Scorelink® formats. Score reports include scores and percentiles for the three GRE General Test measures. Users can access photos and essay responses of test takers by clicking on the appropriate icon.

For help interpreting GRE test scores, go to