How do most people perform on the GRE? The simplest way to answer this question is to look at average GRE scores.
In this guide, we’ll go over the GRE average scores for all test-takers, the average scores by intended graduate field, and the average scores by gender, country, and ethnicity. We’ll also illuminate what these averages actually mean and how you can leverage this information for your own GRE needs.
Average GRE Scores of All Test Takers
Here’s a chart with the GRE average scores of all test-takers for each section, as well as the standard deviation for that section. The standard deviation helps illuminate how spread out from the average most of the scores for that section are.
|Section||Average Score||Standard Deviation|
From GRE Table 1A.
Based on data of all test-takers from July 2013 and June 2016, the average GRE score among all test-takers is about a 150 on Verbal, a 153 on Quant, and a 3.5 on analytical writing.
The GRE is designed to have a “normal” distribution. This means that the majority of test-takers (about 68%) score within one standard deviation of the mean (and 95% score within two standard deviations of the mean!). So on Verbal, the bulk of test-takers score between 141 and 159; on Quant, most score between 143 and 162; and on Analytical Writing, most score between 2.5 and 4.5.
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Those are the overall average and standard deviation stats for all GRE test-takers, but we can see some interesting phenomena if we examine the averages for different subgroups of test-takers. Next we’ll look at prospective graduate programs of test-takers.
Average GRE Score by Intended Graduate Major
We see pretty stark differences in GRE score averages when we striate students by intended graduate major field.
|Intended Graduate Major Field||# of Test-Takers||Verbal Average||Quant Average||Analytical Writing Average|
|Agriculture, Natural Resources and Conservation||10,450||151||152||3.6|
|Biology and Biomedical Sciences||67,975||153||154||3.8|
|Computer and Information Sciences||50,704||146||156||3.1|
|Earth, Atmospheric and Marine Sciences||11,596||154||155||3.8|
|Health and Medical Sciences||131,625||150||149||3.8|
|Physics and Astronomy||12,710||156||162||3.8|
|Other Natural Sciences||297||150||153||3.5|
|Anthropology and Archaeology||5,888||156||149||4.0|
|Social and Behavioral Sciences – Other||6,827||150||148||3.7|
|Art History, Theory, Criticism||2,508||157||150||4.1|
|Performance and Studio Arts||3,922||153||151||3.7|
|English Language and Lit||13,103||157||149||4.2|
|Foreign Language and Lit||2,983||156||151||4.0|
|Other Arts and Humanities||2,913||157||152||4.1|
|Education Curriculum and Instruction||297||151||149||3.8|
|Early Childhood Education||1,076||148||146||3.6|
|Education Evaluation and Research||4,752||151||148||3.8|
|Student Counseling and Services||3,131||148||146||3.6|
|Banking and Finance||5,800||151||161||3.4|
|Business Administration and Management||14,529||150||151||3.6|
|Architecture and Environmental Design||10,842||150||155||3.4|
|Communications and Journalism||10,426||150||149||3.7|
|Family and Consumer Sciences||1,255||149||147||3.7|
|Library and Archival Studies||1,345||156||149||4.0|
|Religion and Theology||1,647||157||151||4.2|
From GRE Table 4 – Extended.
As you would expect, future students in math-heavy disciplines—chemistry, computer science, math, physics, engineering, and finance—have higher average Quant scores. Students in writing-heavy disciplines like English, history, philosophy, library science, and theology tend to have high average Verbal scores. The highest Analytical Writing average—4.3—goes to future philosophy students, and the lowest—3.1—goes to aspiring electrical engineers and computer scientists.
When you’re considering what GRE scores you should aim for, you should definitely check out the average for applicants in your field. For a mid-range program, you’ll want to score several points above the average. This is particularly salient for the more relevant section, whether Verbal or Quant.
Remember, the averages shown here are for applicants, not admitted students! Therefore, you’ll need a higher score than the average for average programs.
If you’re applying to a top-tier program, you’ll need to get a top score on the more relevant section, so the average score statistics may not be quite as useful for you. (Or both, if both sections are relevant like for science writing—sorry!) But it’s still a useful tool to see how you’re positioned within the general pack of applicants in your discipline.
Thus, average scores by intended graduate field can be a useful comparative tool to give you an idea of how you stack up with the other applicants in your field.
Average GRE Scores by Gender
See below for average GRE scores by gender from July 2012-June 2015.
|Gender||% of Test-Takers||Verbal Average||Quant Average||Analytical Writing Average|
Data from ETS Test-Taker Snapshot 2016.
As you can see, the average scores on Verbal and Analytical Writing are higher for women, and the average score on Quant is higher for men. This does not actually indicate an underlying phenomenon of men naturally being better at math and women naturally being better at communication.
It’s likely due to a combination of factors. One factor is stereotype threat. Another likely factor is that more men pursue math and STEM fields and more women pursue humanities-focused disciplines, so they are more likely to have advanced skills in these respective areas. This itself is more an indicator that sociocultural forces tend to push people towards these choices than anything else.
Let’s move on to the average scores by citizenship status.
Average GRE Score by Citizenship
GRE average scores per section are also different by the country of citizenship. The chart below covers the ten nations with the most GRE-takers.
|Country||# of Test-Takers||Verbal Average||Quant Average||Analytical Writing Average|
|Republic of Korea||5,826||149.9||160.3||3.2|
Data from ETS Test-Taker Snapshot 2016.
Unsurprisingly, those in English-speaking countries (Canada and the US) perform better on Verbal and Analytical Writing than those in other countries. This makes sense. It’s much easier to do well on a test of your language skills in your native language!
You may also note that in many of these countries, the average Quant score is higher than the US average. Only Saudi Arabia and Nigeria scored lower. This tracks with country-level trends in how students perform at math on the high school level. When we zoom in on the U.S. citizen test-taker population, we see that different ethnic groups also have different GRE average scores.
Average GRE Scores by Ethnic Group
See below for average GRE scores by ethnic group (among US citizens).
|Ethnic Group||% of Test-Takers||Verbal Average||Quant Average||Analytical Writing Average|
Data from ETS Test-Taker Snapshot 2016.
Performance by ethnicity hews closely to score trends for the SAT, with Asian and non-Hispanic White students performing far better on average than Hispanic, black, and American Indian students. This is considered a symptom of unfortunate social and educational inequity within the United States.
What Do Average GRE Scores Mean for You?
For the overall GRE test-taker population, the average Verbal score is 150, the average Quant score is 152.6, and the average Analytical Writing score is 3.5.
However, when we subdivide the test-taking population along various characteristics, we see different GRE score averages between subgroups.
The most useful of these subdivisions for a test-taker is prospective graduate area. Those going into quantitative disciplines score higher on Quant, and those going into communication and English-focused disciplines score higher on Verbal.
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For a mid-tier program in your discipline, you should aim several points above the average for prospective applicants in your discipline. But if you’re going to top-tier programs, you’ll need to go for a top score on the more relevant section!
Some other trends:
- Women, on average, score higher on Verbal and Analytical Writing, while men score higher on Quant.
- U.S. Citizens score higher on Verbal and Analytical Writing, while non-U.S. citizens score higher on Quant.
- Within U.S. citizens, non-Hispanic White and Asian students have higher average scores, while Black, Hispanic, and American Indian students have lower averages. This hews with the inequities in scoring observed on the SAT.
Obviously, you can’t do a whole lot about your demographic characteristics, and many of the factors that lead to score variation between subgroups are out of your control.
For your own application, the most relevant averages are those for students within your discipline. This will give you an idea of how you perform compared to other people applying for the same general sort of programs.
If you’re wondering what the acronym GRE stands for, we’ve got the answer.