GRE percentiles and GRE score ranges required for top graduate schools

Tyler York
Planning your approach with GRE percentiles

Preparing to apply for graduate school would be easier if you had all of the relevant information laid out for you, wouldn’t it? The internet is indeed full of reference materials about what GRE score range or GRE score percentiles you need to get into a school or program. To help you get one step ahead, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the GRE percentiles that top universities require.

(And if you’re looking for GRE material, check out Achievable’s GRE course page – we’re free to try.)

First, let’s define first the difference between a good GRE score and GRE percentiles:

GRE Scores

GRE scores are the actual score you got on the GRE exam. To calculate your final GRE score, the baseline is your “raw score”, which is the number of questions you got correct on each section of the exam and the adaptive difficulty of those exam sections. This is then converted by ETS’s algorithm to the final GRE score you actually see, also known as the scaled score. While ETS’s algorithm is not public, we know that it takes into account your raw score, the difficulty of each section, and the distribution of other outcomes for your particular test cohort.

GRE scores are between 130 and 170 in 1-point increments for the Verbal and the Quantitative sections, leading to a total score of 260 to 340. This is what is most commonly referenced when people refer to their GRE scores. Additionally, the Analytical writing section is scored between 0 and 6 in half-point increments. The average GRE score between 2017 and 2020 was 150.37 for Verbal Reasoning, 153.66 for Quantitative Reasoning, and 3.6 for Analytical Writing.

Below are estimates for how raw scores are converted to individual scaled scores for the GRE Verbal and Quantitative sections:

Correct AnswersGRE Raw ScoreGRE Score (Verbal & Quant)
0-50-5130-135
5-105-10135-140
10-1510-15140-145
15-2015-20145-150
20-2520-25150-155
25-3025-30155-160
30-3530-35160-165
35-4035-40165-170

Source: TheCareerLabs

Having a higher GRE score will increase your chances of admission to a program, but whether a score is ‘good enough’ depends on what program you’re applying to. That’s why GRE percentiles are often a better way to determine whether you’re on track to reach a score that gets you into the program you’re applying for.

GRE percentiles

GRE percentiles measure how your GRE score compares to those of all other applicants to that particular school or program. GRE score percentiles represent the portion of your competition that you outperform, so it’s a much more actionable metric for evaluating performance. Percentiles range from the 0th to the 99th, and higher values are better. You can think of 90% percentile as meaning you’re better than 90% of this cohort of test takers, or, put another way, if you’re 90th percentile, that means you’re in the top 10% of test takers. More and more effort is necessary for smaller and smaller gains as you approach the ceiling of any test (or group of people, for that matter). For example, moving from the 80th to the 85th percentile is much easier than moving from the 90th to the 95th percentile. Think of it this way: going from worst to best swimmer in your high school is still way easier overall than going from worst to best swimmer among Olympic athletes.

Understanding GRE percentiles

The GRE General Test comprises verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. Your scores are then compared with other test takers within a defined comparison grouping. These are your GRE score percentiles. 

GRE percentiles indicate the percentage of test takers who’ve received a score below yours. So for instance, if your reported score is in the 80th percentile, it would mean that you scored better than 80% of the test takers around the world. Rankings are based on the GRE score range of those who tested years ago during a three-year validation period.

Here is a table detailing how GRE scaled scores correlate with GRE score percentiles on a national level:

GRE Score PercentileQuantitativeVerbalAnalytical Writing
99%1701696.0
90%1671625.0
80%1621584.5
70%159155
60%1561534.0
50%153151
40%1501483.5
30%148146
20%1451433.0
10%1421392.5

Source: ETS.org

And here’s how the average GRE scores for Masters programs in the US match up with their corresponding GRE Percentiles:

Masters DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business15050%15350%
Social sciences15360%15140%
Physical sciences15150%15860%
Life sciences15150%15140%
Arts and humanities15770%15040%

This shouldn’t be too surprising: the degrees that more heavily involve math are more competitive in the quantitative section, and vise versa. However, there is much more information lurking under the surface.

Below is our aggregation of the GRE scores and percentiles needed to get into the top 11 most sought after graduate schools in the US, broken down by program. This should give you a comprehensive view of what scores you need to reach your target grad school.

GRE percentiles for top universities, broken down by program

What GRE score do I need to get into Harvard?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16596%16382%
Engineering16085%16792%
Computer Science15569%16178%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology16393%15453%
Physics16798%16790%
Chemistry15464%16382%
Education16393%15867%

What GRE score do I need to get into Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Engineering16293%16792%
Computer Science16086%16487%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology15360%15453%
Physics16798%16790%
Chemistry16494%16382%

What GRE score do I need to get into Stanford?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16596%16586%
Engineering15982%16793%
Computer Science16086%16487%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology16393%15453%
Physics16798%16790%
Chemistry16494%16382%
Education16188%15660%

What GRE score do I need to get into Princeton?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16290%16691%
Engineering16290%16691%
Computer Science16494%16792%
Mathematics16898%16894%
Psychology16596%16894%
Physics16898%17096%
Chemistry16494%16894%

What GRE score do I need to get into Yale?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16596%16382%
Engineering15568%17097%
Computer Science15569%16178%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology16393%15453%
Physics16290%16484%
Chemistry15983%16073%

What GRE score do I need to get into University of California Berkeley (Cal)?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16596%16487%
Engineering15775%16589%
Computer Science16086%16487%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology16393%15453%
Physics16798%16792%
Chemistry16494%16382%
Education15983%15245%

What GRE score do I need to get into University of Pennsylvania?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16393%16279%
Engineering15568%16691%
Computer Science15568%16178%
Mathematics16086%16487%
Psychology15880%15141%
Physics16290%16487%
Chemistry15983%16073%
Education16290%15660%

What GRE score do I need to get into University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16494%16484%
Engineering15464%16589%
Computer Science15568%16178%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology16393%15453%
Physics16290%16484%
Chemistry15983%16073%
Education15880%15245%

What GRE score do I need to get into Columbia University?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16393%16691%
Engineering15568%16691%
Computer Science15568%16178%
Mathematics16596%16792%
Psychology15880%15141%
Physics16290%16484%
Chemistry16494%16383%
Education15880%15349%

What GRE score do I need to get into University of Southern California (USC)?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)15983%15970%
Engineering15151%16382%
Computer Science15568%16176%
Mathematics15776%16279%
Psychology15880%15141%
Physics15983%16279%
Chemistry15673%15867%
Education16188%15453%

What GRE score do I need to get into Cornell University?

DegreeAverage GRE VerbalGRE Verbal PercentileAverage GRE QuantGRE Quant Percentile
Business (MBA)16086%16073%
Engineering15464%16689%
Computer Science16086%16484%
Mathematics16086%16484%
Psychology15880%15141%
Physics16798%16790%
Chemistry16494%16382%

The percentile ranks are a good way to know how competitive programs are and where you stand in relation to other successful applicants for those programs. We hope this guide was helpful! If you have any specific schools that you’d like us to add, please mention us on Twitter at @achievableprep with your suggestions.

Lastly, once you’ve pinpointed your target GRE score and percentile, we would be remiss if we didn’t share the excellent GRE course that Achievable has developed. The course combines our author’s 15+ years of GRE expertise and tutoring experience with Achievable’s industry-leading memory science technology and easy to use program. Try it for free – GRE course page.

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