The GRE score percentile is a ranking that determines how competitive your GRE score is as compared to other test-takers. 

Scores received on each section of the GRE correspond to some percentiles. Let us understand what percentile means:

“If you have received a score that corresponds to the 99th percentile in Quantitative Reasoning, it means that you have scored higher than 99 percent of test-takers in that specific section”.

Percentiles also help determine what GRE score you should target. They correspond to specific scores within each GRE section; that is, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing all have their own lists of percentile rankings. Therefore, percentiles vary within each section of the GRE. 

Getting an overview of one’s GRE score percentiles is as important as determining the GRE scoring pattern. This article will provide a detailed understanding of what GRE score percentiles are.

Why are percentiles important?

Some universities mention percentiles as an admission requirement, so knowing your percentile is important. Since the GRE is required for a wide range of graduate programs, a percentile helps universities determine the right candidates for their programs. For example, it would make sense that one of the admission requirements for a Maths program would be for applicants to have a high percentile in the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Below is an example of the official GRE score report of a student and its percentile ranking for each section against its scores.

Quant and Verbal Percentiles

The same scores in both sections would have a different percentile. For example: If someone has scored 330 in the real GRE with 165 in the Maths section and 165 in the verbal section. The same score would have a different percentile. In Maths, 165 means 86%, whereas 165 in verbal means 96% percentile, as shown in the table below. That means that the same score for Maths and Verbal will be put in a different percentile ranking based on the percentage of test-takers that are able to achieve that score. So a good GRE quantitative score percentile is achieved when the test-taker is able to score above 165. However, in Verbal, a good percentile is possible even when the student is not able to attain a verbal score above 160

Have a look at GRE score percentiles for both quant and verbal below:

Verbal Reasoning Section Percentiles:

Verbal Reasoning Percentile Rank Verbal Reasoning Score
96-99 165-170
86-96 160-165
68-86 155-160
46-68 150-155
26-46 145-150
11-26 140-145
3-11 135-140
1-3 131-135

Quantitative Reasoning Section Percentiles:

Quantitative Reasoning Percentile Rank Quantitative Reasoning Score
86-96 165-170
73-86 160-165
56-73 155-160
37-56 150-155
19-37 145-150
7-19 140-145
2-7 135-140
1-2 130-135

Analytical Writing Percentiles:

Score Percentile Rank For Analytical Writing
6.0 99
5.5 98
5.0 93
4.5 82
4.0 59
3.5 42
3.0 17
2.5 7
2.0 2
1.5 1

Which GRE Score Percentile Should Test Takers Aim For?

Percentiles differ for each student, so there is no one standard that everyone should target. Instead, it is important to realize what is important for the field of study you wish to apply for. For example, STEM programs would require students to be in a good percentile for the Quantitative Reasoning section, though not as much for the Verbal Reasoning section. It is not the same for every field. On the other hand, those wishing to study Social Science would not be required to be in the top percentile of the Quant section. Similarly, graduate programs in English would not be as concerned with a high percentile in Quant as they would be with a top percentile in Verbal. 

Alongside, different universities offering similar programs may also have different percentile requirements. It is important to note top universities are highly competitive and therefore, will require top percentiles from those sections relevant to your choice of program. So, an average percentile could mean that you would only be eligible for middle-tier universities.

There is no one-size-fits-all with the percentile scoring. It is, therefore, important to research the field of study, the university, and the scholarship you wish to apply to and look at their particular requirements. 

The GRE percentiles are useful tools. They are straightforward and efficient ways for you to look at how competitive your scores are with other test-takers. They prove beneficial for universities when narrowing down candidates for the admissions process. 

Read on: Critical Thinking on the GRE


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