GRE Scoring System
When one is planning to pursue higher studies, GRE scores are a mandatory application requirement. As a result, hundreds of thousands of students from all over the world take the test every year. Now, while we do know and getting a good score in GRE is important for getting admitted to a well-reputed institution abroad, are we aware of why graduate programs require students to take this test and how the GRE scoring system works?
Let’s find out!
GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination it is owned by Education Testing Services, an educational testing and assessment organization headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. Depending on the course that a student wishes to pursue as well as the admissions requirements of the desired program, a student can either choose to take the GRE General Test or the GRE Subject Test. The GRE Subject Test is in six distinct subjects – Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Literature in English, Physics, and Psychology.
Now, we will be focusing on the GRE scoring system of the general test, it is the most popular option both for universities as well as test takers.
The GRE (general) tests a student’s abilities in three areas:-
- Analytical Writing
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Verbal Reasoning
Coming to why GRE plays an important role in graduate admissions, the reason is that the student’s score in each of these areas gives a picture of how likely he/she is to succeed at a graduate program. All these things are considered in the GRE scoring system.
To go a bit more in detail, we have to understand what graduate study entails. At a graduate level, students study subjects at a specialized level and usually partake in research, which means they must possess an ability to read, understand, and analyze the content of academic texts and long-form research papers.
This ability is gauged by the student’s performance on the GRE’s verbal reasoning section. Graduate students not only have to read complex academic texts but must also be capable of writing reports and research papers based on a given problem statement. The AWA section of the GRE tests this skill.
Similarly, most graduate programs in the fields of science, mathematics, and economics require students to read, grasp and apply complicated mathematical and statistical concepts during the course of their study. For this purpose, the Quantitative Reasoning section tests the student’s competency in basic mathematics through questions in areas like algebra, data analysis, statistics, and geometry.
Format of the GRE
With an understanding of why students are required to take the GRE, let us move forward and get an idea of the format & GRE scoring system.
As mentioned above, the GRE tests three skills – analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.
The test consists of six sections, namely:
- Analytical Writing – 1 section (always the first section of the test)
- Verbal Reasoning – 2 sections
- Quantitative Reasoning – 2 sections
- Experimental/Research Section – Can either be quantitative reasoning/verbal reasoning (Doesn’t count towards the final score; Also, test-taker will not be made aware if a section is experimental or not)
Level of Difficulty:
Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning have two sections each, which contribute towards the test taker’s final score. The first section of each of these areas consists of questions with a level of difficulty ranging from easy to difficult. For the subsequent section of the respective area (verbal/quantitative), the level of difficulty is determined by the test taker’s performance in the initial section. This style of testing is called section-based adaptivity wherein the performance on one section decides the level of difficulty on the next.
GRE Scoring System
A test taker’s GRE score has three components that correspond to their performance in the three areas of analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.
The scale for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections is the same wherein it ranges from 130-170 with 1-point increments. The total GRE score is the sum of the scores obtained on the verbal and quantitative sections respectively and ranges from 260 to 340.
As for the AWA section, the score scale is 0-6 with 0.5-point increments and this does not contribute to the total score.
GRE Verbal Reasoning Section:
The test has two verbal reasoning sections which count towards the overall verbal score. While the level of difficulty between both sections may vary, the type of questions will be the same. A typical verbal reasoning section constitutes 20 questions which can be of the following type –
- Text Completion (Around 6)
- Sentence Equivalence (Around 4)
- Questions based on reading comprehension passages (Around 10)
Out of the forty questions on the Verbal, around 50% is the Reading Comprehension (or RCs), which means overall, 25% of your GRE score hook on your performance in the RCs. The other 50% of the GRE Verbal section is based on Text Completion questions (TCs) and sentence equivalence. Coming to RCs, Read, understand, and analyze often complex essays in order to figure out the author’s intention and viewpoint. Infer information from the paragraph, and grasp how one part of the essay relates to the others.
While in Text Completion. You must provide the missing phrase or word in the passage after taking a look at the overall sense and context of the essay, and then exhibiting GRE vocabulary and ability to comprehend the text at hand.
At last, with sentence equivalence, you need to fill in the blanks with the appropriate word. Then select a synonymous word from a choice of six.
GRE Quantitative Reasoning Section:
Similar to the verbal section, the quant has 20 questions each. And the difficulty level of the section is based on performance. The questions are based on the following topics –
- Data Analysis and Interpretation
The questions asked are as –
- Quantitative Comparison (Around 8)
- Problem Solving Items (Around 9)
- Questions based on Data Interpretation (Around 3)
Quantitative/Verbal Sections Scoring:
The GRE scoring system for both quantitative and verbal sections are similar since the number of questions are same. The final score in verbal/quantitative sections is a result of a two-step process –
Step 1 – Raw Score
Verbal/Quantitative Reasoning has two sections of 20 questions each. In the first step, a raw score is calculated by giving one point to all the questions which the test-taker got right on the exam. Iirrespective of the first or second section. So, one score for verbal reasoning and one score for quantitative reasoning is computed on a scale of 0 to 40 since the student answers 2 sets of 20 questions each for verbal and quantitative respectively.
Step 2 – Final/Scaled Score
The raw score is calculated by giving a point to each correct answer. However, factors like the level of difficulty and the given topic are also to be taken into consideration when determining the score. Therefore, the final score is obtained by scaling the raw score with respect to the level of difficulty, topic, and type of each question that was answered correctly by the test-taker. Specifically, since there is an overall difference in the level of difficulty between the questions in the first and second sections of quantitative/verbal reasoning, the section-based difficulty levels also weigh-in for the calculation of the final score. The GRE scoring system is different from other exams.
Verbal RCs are more challenging than single blanked questions. Similarly, triple-blank text completion questions are more challenging than double-blank text completion questions.
GRE Analytical Writing Section:
Analytical Writing Section consists of two tasks:
- Issue Task – Here, the test-taker must comment on a specific issue which is provided in the question
- Argument Task – The test-taker is provided with a set of facts and an argument; The task is for the test-taker to analyze the information provided and provide critique on the argument
GRE AWA Section :
Each task is scored on a 0-6 scale with 1-point increments. A human grader carefully evaluated and assigns the score. The final score is an average of two whole numbers, it is on a scale of 0-6 with 0.5-point increments.
What is a good score on the AWA section?
While we have a general awareness of the range of scores preferred in the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections. Let the numbers do the talking about what kind of score is preferred by some of the reputed universities in the US.
What is a Score Percentile?
Now we know about the GRE score computing process of all three sections. But there is still one concept that often appears to confuse students who wish to apply to grad schools.
The score percentile for any given score is based on the scores obtained by the test-takers in the specific time period.
Therefore, a score above the 85th percentile means that the score is higher for the test-takers.
Alright! Has this article helped in giving you a better understanding of why grad schools want GRE scores and how the GRE scoring system works?