GRE Exam
Posted By Tyler York

GRE percentiles for top graduate schools


Planning your approach with GRE percentiles

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

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 or percentile rank 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 GRE and the 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 GRE scores and GRE percentiles:

GRE scores are based on your actual performance on the test. The sheer number of questions you answer correctly (your raw score) is passed through a scoring algorithm along with a few other factors (namely, the difficulty-level of your sections) to produce your scaled scores. On the verbal and quantitative sections, scaled scores range from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. Since this scale is completely arbitrary (just how good is a 162?), students and grad programs are also provided with a more meaningful metric: percentiles.

GRE percentiles measure how your score compares to those of all other GRE test-takers. Percentiles represent the portion of your competition that you outperform: so it’s a much more intuitive metric for evaluating performance. Percentiles range from the 0th to the 99th in 1-point increments — and higher values are desirable. 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 percentiles. 

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 scores of those who tested years ago during a three-year validation period.

Here is a table detailing how GRE scaled scores correlate with certain percentile markers:

GRE Score Percentile Quantitative Verbal Analytical Writing
99% 170 169 6.0
90% 167 162 5.0
80% 162 158 4.5
70% 159 155
60% 156 153 4.0
50% 153 151
40% 150 148 3.5
30% 148 146
20% 145 143 3.0
10% 142 139 2.5

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 Degree Average 

Verbal

GRE 

Percentile

Average Quantitative GRE 

Percentile

Business 150 50% 153 50%
Social sciences 153 60% 151 40%
Physical sciences 151 50% 158 60%
Life sciences 151 50% 151 40%
Arts and humanities 157 70% 150 40%

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?

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Harvard
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 165 96 163 82
Engineering 160 85 167 92
Computer Science 155 69 161 78
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 163 93 154 53
Physics 167 98 167 90
Chemistry 154 64 163 82
Education 163 93 158 67

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) N.A N.A N.A N.A
Engineering 162 93 167 92
Computer Science 160 86 164 87
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 153 60 154 53
Physics 167 98 167 90
Chemistry 164 94 163 82
Education N.A N.A N.A N.A

 

What GRE score do I need to get into Stanford?

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Stanford
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 165 96 165 86
Engineering 159 82 167 93
Computer Science 160 86 164 87
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 163 93 154 53
Physics 167 98 167 90
Chemistry 164 94 163 82
Education 161 88 156 60

 

What GRE score do I need to get into Princeton?

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Princeton
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Economics 162 90 166 91
Engineering 162 90 166 91
Computer Science 164 94 167 92
Mathematics 168 98 168 94
Psychology 165 96 168 94
Physics 168 98 170 96
Chemistry 164 94 168 94
Education N.A N.A N.A N.A

 

What GRE score do I need to get into Yale?

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Yale
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 165 96 163 82
Engineering 155 68 170 97
Computer Science 155 68 161 78
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 163 93 154 53
Physics 162 90 164 84
Chemistry 159 83 160 73
Education N.A N.A N.A N.A

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for University of California Berkeley
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 165 96 164 87
Engineering 157 75 165 89
Computer Science 160 86 164 87
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 163 93 154 53
Physics 167 98 167 92
Chemistry 164 94 163 82
Education 159 83 152 45

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for University of Pennsylvania
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 163 93 162 79
Engineering 155 68 166 91
Computer Science 155 68 161 78
Mathematics 160 86 164 87
Psychology 158 80 151 41
Physics 162 90 164 87
Chemistry 159 83 160 73
Education 162 90 156 60

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for UCLA
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 164 94 164 84
Engineering 154 64 165 89
Computer Science 155 68 161 78
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 163 93 154 53
Physics 162 90 164 84
Chemistry 159 83 160 73
Education 158 80 152 45

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Columbia University
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Economics 163 93 166 91
Engineering 155 68 166 91
Computer Science 155 68 161 78
Mathematics 165 96 167 92
Psychology 158 80 151 41
Physics 162 90 164 84
Chemistry 164 94 163 83
Education 158 80 153 49

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for University of South California
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 159 83 159 70
Engineering 151 51 163 82
Computer Science 155 68 161 76
Mathematics 157 76 162 79
Psychology 158 80 151 41
Physics 159 83 162 79
Chemistry 156 73 158 67
Education 161 88 154 53

 

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

Average GRE Scores and Percentiles for Cornell University
Degree Average Verbal Score Percentile pertaining to that score Average Quantitative Score Percentile pertaining to that score
Business (MBA) 160 86 160 73
Engineering 154 64 166 89
Computer Science 160 86 164 84
Mathematics 160 86 164 84
Psychology 158 80 151 41
Physics 167 98 167 90
Chemistry 164 94 163 82
Education N.A N.A N.A N.A

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.

Thanks for reading!

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