Lots of grad programs require GRE scores, so you’ll need to do well on the test if you hope to secure admission to your top-choice school. But exactly what is a good GRE score out of 340?
Keep reading to learn why you shouldn’t worry about your total GRE score—and why you should instead focus on your individual section scores. We’ll then explain what a good GRE score is overall and how to determine your own GRE goal scores.
What Is a Good GRE Score Out of 340? Overview
Contrary to what you might believe, the definition of a good GRE score can be pretty subjective.
In reality, a good GRE score is any score that’s high enough to get you into the graduate program(s) you’re applying to. As a result, the GRE score you need for admission—a “good” GRE score, that is—can vary a lot depending on where you’re applying for grad school.
Unlike scores from other admissions tests—including the SAT, ACT, and GMAT—GRE scores are typically considered separately by section rather than as a composite score on a scale of 260-340.
But what does this mean exactly?
While colleges often look at total SAT scores—i.e., that score you get out of 1600 that equals the sum of your Math and Reading/Writing section scores—grad schools nearly always look at GRE section scores individually without adding them together to get a total score out of 340.
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Therefore, instead of wondering, “What is a good GRE score out of 340?” you should really be asking, “What’s a good Verbal score? A good Quantitative score?”
How Is the GRE Scored?
As you might already know, the GRE consists of three sections:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Analytical Writing (AW)
Both the Verbal and Quant sections are scored separately on a scale of 130-170 in one-point increments. On this scale, 130 is the lowest possible score and 170 is the highest possible score.
At present, the average scores for Verbal and Quant are as follows:
- Verbal: 150
- Quant: 153
Together, these two sections can be combined to get a composite GRE score out of 340 (Verbal maximum score of 170 + Quant maximum score of 170).
However, as mentioned above, the vast majority of grad schools consider the two section scores individually and do not look at your “total” GRE score. The reason for this is that most programs strongly value one section score over the other (Verbal or Quant). In other words, grad programs don’t care as much about total scores as they do how well you did on the GRE section that’s more relevant to the field of the program.
For example, if you were applying to an engineering PhD program, that program would most likely care a lot more about your Quant score than it would your (definitely not as relevant) Verbal score.
But what about the third GRE section, Analytical Writing (AW)? How does this section come into play in regard to scoring and grad programs?
AW is not included in the total score because it is scored so differently from Verbal and Quant; it’s also widely considered the least important GRE section. The scoring range for AW is 0.0-6.0 in half-point increments, and the current average AW score is 3.50.
What Is a Good GRE Score, Generally Speaking?
We now know that it’s not very common for grad schools to look at total GRE scores out of 340. But this still doesn’t answer the main question we have: what is a good GRE score overall?
Fortunately, we can answer this question by examining current GRE percentiles. Percentiles are numbers that tell us what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on a particular GRE section. The higher your percentile is, the better you performed on that section compared with other test takers.
Since the GRE is not typically scored on a total scale of 260-340, you won’t find percentiles for the test as a whole but rather for each section.
In general, anything above the 50th percentile (median) can be considered a good GRE score, as this means you scored higher than most test takers.
Here is a brief overview of the current GRE percentiles for Verbal and Quant, as well as what scores and percentiles are generally considered strong, average, and weak:
|132 and below
|134 and below
*Some Verbal and Quant scores are estimates if exact percentiles were unavailable
You can see in this chart that Verbal scores tend to be lower than Quant scores at the same percentile levels. This difference is due to the fact that more test takers score higher on Quant than they do on Verbal, making Quant a more competitive section.
Consequently, the definition of a good GRE score can be said to differ depending on whether you’re looking at Verbal or Quant. For instance, while a 162 on Verbal (90th percentile) is “Very Good,” this same score on Quant corresponds to a much lower percentile—80th—making it still good but not very good.
What about Analytical Writing? Although your AW score isn’t usually that important for grad schools, you’ll still want to get a decent score on this section as well.
But what exactly is a decent AW score? Here are the current AW percentiles and what they indicate about your performance:
|1.5 and below
Now then, what do all these GRE percentile charts mean for you exactly? To summarize, here are the thresholds to aim for if you’re hoping to get good—or even better—scores on the GRE:
Remember that these are very general scores to aim for on the GRE. Instead of focusing on percentiles, what you should really be doing is figuring out what GRE scores your particular programs expect—and then aim to hit those.
What Is a Good GRE Score for You?
Although percentiles can be helpful in determining what a good GRE score is broadly speaking, they don’t tell you what kinds of scores you’ll need to get in order to stand out from other applicants to your particular programs.
Simply put, what’s a good GRE score for you, based on the programs you’re applying to? To find your GRE goal scores, you’ll need to do some digging online. We explain how to do this next, step by step.
Step 1: Make a Chart
Before you get started on your research, make a simple chart. This is where you’ll record the GRE score information you find for each of the grad programs you’re applying to.
Here’s a blank chart you can use (click on the image for a PDF):
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Let’s say Alyssa is planning to enter a Master of Public Policy (MPP) program. Here is a chart containing all the schools she’s planning to apply to:
|What They Say
|U of Maryland
Step 2: Research GRE Score Expectations of Programs
It’s time to start researching! What you’re looking for in this step is information on GRE scores for each of the programs in your chart.
GRE score expectations can be presented in several ways. Here are the three most common ways grad programs talk about GRE scores on their websites:
- Average scores: These are the average scores of previously admitted applicants. It’s critical that you get at least this score to prove you’re on par with current students.
- Recommended scores: These are the GRE scores a program suggests you have to make yourself a competitive candidate.
- Minimum required scores: These are the lowest possible GRE scores you can get to be able to apply to the program.
Many programs publish GRE score information on their official websites and/or program pages, so start by searching for “[School Name] [Program Name] GRE scores.” You can tweak your search as necessary to narrow your results, such as by adding the words “average,” “minimum,” or “site:.edu” (this will bring up only school websites/pages).
Look for pages on the school’s official website since these will have the most accurate information—don’t rely on unofficial websites!
The most helpful GRE scores you’ll find are average scores, but if you can’t find these, see whether the program offers recommended scores or maintains a GRE score minimum.
If you can’t find GRE score information for one or more of your programs, you’ll need to do extra research on that particular program’s selectivity and prestige. Doing this should allow you to estimate what GRE scores it wants. Our article on what a good GRE score is offers a step-by-step guide on how to do this.
Step 3: Fill Out Your Chart
Once you’ve figured out the GRE score expectations for each of your programs by searching online, record the information you’ve found in your chart.
Let’s go back to our example student, Alyssa, for a moment. Recall that Alyssa is applying to various MPP programs. After researching online, she finds that all the MPP programs listed in her chart have published average GRE scores of admitted applicants.
The only exception is the University of Maryland, which reports average percentiles of admitted applicants; she converts these percentiles into GRE scores using current ETS data.
She then records all this information in her chart as so:
|What They Say
|Average scores for entering MPP class in fall 2018
|Average scores for MPP/MPA programs; no minimum score
|Average scores for 2017-18
|U of Maryland
Step 4: Calculate Your GRE Goal Scores
Now that your chart is filled out, it’s time to use the information in it to come up with your GRE goal score—that is, a good GRE score for you.
Find the highest Verbal and Quant scores in your chart. In our example above, this would be 164 for Verbal and 160 for Quant.
Next, add 2 points to each of these scores to get your Verbal and Quant goal scores. For Alyssa, this would mean that her goal score for Verbal is 166 and her goal score for Quant is 162.
By adding 2 points to the highest GRE scores in your chart, you’ll be aiming for a score that’ll definitely be high enough to impress all the programs you’re applying to. This is what you should consider a good GRE score for you.
Once you’ve found your target scores, it’s time to get started on your GRE prep so you can easily hit your goals on test day!
Recap: What Is a Good GRE Score Out of 340?
The GRE is an important test, and you want to do well on it so you can get into the graduate program of your dreams.
Though the maximum composite GRE score you can get is 340 (170 on Verbal + 170 on Quant), most grad programs won’t consider your total GRE score and will instead look at your individual Verbal and Quant scores.
This is because grad programs usually pay a lot more attention to just one of these section scores than they do the other. In general, math- and science-based programs will focus more on Quant scores, and humanities and social sciences programs will focus more on Verbal scores.
So instead of asking, “What is a good GRE score out of 340?” it’ll be far more productive to ask, “What’s a good Verbal score? A good Quant score?”
While percentiles can give you a general sense of what kinds of Verbal and Quant scores are considered “good,” what you really want to do is figure out what a good GRE score for you is based on the programs you’re applying to.
To do this, you’ll need to research the GRE score expectations of all the schools you’re applying to and then consolidate this info in a chart. For both Verbal and Quant, your goal score will equal the highest score in your chart + 2. Aim for at least this score and you’re sure to impress the admissions committees for your programs!