If you are interested in graduate school in the United States, a GRE score is most likely required for entrance. GRE scores are used by admissions panels as a supplement to undergraduate records and other qualifications. In other words, your score is considered as one piece of your entire graduate school application. Let’s talk about this in further depth.
It is a general understanding that GRE scores provide common measures for comparing the qualifications of applicants. People’s undergraduate study is not homogeneous across all schools in the world… Many will have had different experiences with instructors, course difficulty, and workload. They also will have come from a variety of different majors and emphases. Thus, graduate schools need a way to measure applicant’s cognitive and academic skills given these differing histories and backgrounds of their applicants. The GRE helps them to balance other admissions considerations like GPA and recommendations.
In essence, then, the GRE is a tool used to gain a more circumspect evaluation the applicant and his or her abilities.
So, the question you might be wondering is… what is considered a good score on the GRE given the fact that thousands of people take it each year?
Well, what you should consider a good score on the GRE really depends on your major and intended course of study. Comparison is not that useful. If you really want data from across all majors and disciplines, the live score average score on the GRE is about 460 Verbal, 590 Quantitative, and 4.0 on the Writing. (Note: the scoring model changes August 1st, 2011.) But this will not tell you very much with regards to the particular program you are interested in, as it includes ALL test takers, including those who do not get into graduate school at all.
The score that you should be interested in will depend on your particular program. Schools will post their required GRE scores on the departmental website, but they vary widely from school to school. If you are applying to an engineering or computer science program, for instance, you can expect the average math score to be around 700, with the verbal not so high. If you are applying for an English or journalism program, though, you might expect the verbal to be approaching 700, while the math will be much lower.
What’s important in terms of evaluating your own personal score is to take a practice test and compare it to the program you are interested. There is free software that ETS sends you once you register for the GRE that can help you with this. It is called Powerprep Software. On the CD, you will find exhaustive scoring data regarding GRE scores, calibrated to undergraduate GPA, and graduate field of study.