What is a Bad GRE Score?

An acceptable GRE score would typically fall in the lower half of your graduate school program’s cutoff scores; you can find this information under Admissions Requirements for each program.

Reaching your dream program depends on more than academic credentials – GPA, research/work experience, stellar recommendations, and personal essays all play a part.


GRE scores are usually reported as numbers, but you may be unfamiliar with the term “percentile score.” A percentile score measures your test performance relative to that of other test takers and is used by admissions officials when reviewing applications; generally speaking, admissions officials consider it important that applicants’ applications fall in the top half of percentile rankings.

Percentile scores are calculated by dividing the number of test takers who scored higher than you by the total number of participants in an examination. You can access GRE percentiles for every section on ETS’ official website.

Calculating your percentile score requires taking into account both the difficulty of the questions you answered correctly, and their number. As more difficult the questions are, more points will be earned and your percentile rank will rise accordingly; but incorrect responses also have an effect – more inaccurate responses means lower percentile rankings overall.

As graduate school competition continues to rise, so does the importance of earning a high GRE score. Yet attaining such a result may prove challenging due to time and effort required for effective GRE preparation; thankfully there are several things you can do that may improve your odds of attaining one.

Make sure that you fully comprehend how the GRE scoring system operates, as well as any differences between Verbal and Quantitative sections of the test, before using this knowledge to plan your GRE strategy and target score.

As part of your goal score determination process, it’s also essential to research average GRE scores in your discipline. You can do this by consulting the official ETS website’s GRE requirements for top schools within this subject area.

For example, UCLA requires GRE scores that meet or surpass the 90th percentile in both Verbal and Quantitative sections before accepting you into biological sciences programs. Requirements may differ for other disciplines so it’s essential that you research their specific GRE requirements prior to setting your target score.


GRE scores are an integral component of graduate school applications. Achieve high GRE verbal scores will open more opportunities, while poor scores might force you to settle for something you may not prefer. No matter where your score lies, take every effort possible to improve it; doing so won’t take as long as you might think!

Step one towards improving your GRE verbal score is understanding its scoring system. The GRE uses an adaptive scoring system, meaning the questions selected by a computer depend on your previous section performance; harder questions may be assigned if you did well in earlier parts, while easier questions will be provided if your performance faltered during early parts.

But your overall GRE score depends on your performance in all parts of the test, meaning if your performance decreases during later parts, your total GRE score could still remain low.

Once you understand how the GRE works, it’s time to look at its percentile scores for each section. These percentages indicate your GRE score compared to that of an average test taker; they reflect normal distribution so most test takers fall somewhere in between this range.

If your percentile score for any section exceeds the 75th percentile, this indicates a very good GRE score and places you among the top 5% of all test takers. In order to attain such an achievement, at least 130 marks in verbal and 153 marks must be scored in quantitative sections of exam.

Be mindful that there are other elements which contribute to how competitive your GRE score will be; factors like undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, research experience and personal essays all can have an effect.


The GRE exam comprises two sections, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. You will receive scores based on how many questions are correctly answered in these two sections – with scores between 130-170 reported one point increments; additionally an analytical writing score can also be added on top. It has its own scale of 0-6 half point increments.

A poor GRE score would be considered anything below the 75th percentile in either section, although what constitutes an ideal GRE score will depend on your school of application and level of competition – for instance, 160 quant may suffice in state schools but would certainly put you below average at highly selective universities like MIT or Stanford.

Make an effort to score at or close to the 90th percentile for maximum benefit and to distinguish yourself among other applicants. If unsure, ask the graduate program you are applying to what their minimum GRE score requirement is.

As part of your grad school application, it is also crucial to assess how each section of your score will be weighted by grad schools. Most programs will place more importance on sections related directly to their field of study – for instance if applying to science programs, your Quantitative score should take priority over Verbal/AW.

Good news is that even those with low verbal and quantitative scores can excel at the GRE exam. Although initially intimidating, the exam is actually much simpler than first appears if you take time to familiarize yourself with its contents and scoring system as well as taking advantage of all available resources on the internet to prepare. Regular practice and making use of available tools will help improve your score considerably.

Other Tests

GRE scores are only one factor admissions committees consider when reviewing applications, but achieving high GRE scores can make your application stand out amongst its competition and increase its likelihood of being taken seriously.

An acceptable GRE score varies by graduate program, but generally falls within the 25th percentile or lower for Verbal and Quantitative sections respectively. A score in these ranges would correspond with scores between 150-153 on both sections respectively.

GRE scores are determined by both your answers to questions, and their difficulty level, which are taken together. Since this test is section-adaptive, the computer system monitors how well you do in each section and adjusts difficulty accordingly; unlike some standardized exams that include deductions for wrong answers, your raw GRE score simply equals how many questions were correctly answered.

As the GRE is administered via computer-based testing, scoring for its Quantitative and Verbal sections can often occur almost instantly after you take it; however, its Analytical Writing component must be graded manually so it takes longer for this section’s results to become available.

Most students strive for GRE scores close to 170; although this score isn’t required for most graduate programs, achieving such an ideal will put you in a strong position for scholarships and admission into your desired program. Your GRE score may also supplement other elements of your application such as undergraduate grades and recommendations; in some instances requiring subject tests such as Physics or Biology in addition to general GRE test. These specific tests assess knowledge related directly to future study programs.