Average GRE Scores by School: Scores and Analysis

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Congrats on making the choice to apply to grad school! But what types of GRE scores are your schools, and more importantly your programs, looking for? In reality, you won’t dig up much if you’re searching for average GRE scores by school. But if you search for average GRE scores by program, you’ll get a clear sense of the scores you should be aiming for.

In this article, I’ll explain why it’s important to search for average GRE scores by program instead of by school, as well as how you can find GRE scores for grad schools and use them to set a personalized goal score, ultimately giving you the best possible shot at getting admitted to your programs!

 

Can You Find Average GRE Scores by School?

The truth is you’ll have little luck, if any, finding average GRE scores by school. The reason? Schools offering average GRE scores typically only do so for individual programs, not for the entire institution. In other words, if you’re looking for average GRE scores specific to where you’re applying, you’re way more likely to find scores by program than you are by school.

But why is this the case? Why don’t schools offer overall averages, too? One reason is that grad programs can differ a lot from one another. So if we fail to take into account unique differences among programs, the average GRE scores we end up with are extremely broad — too broad, really, to offer any insight into what scores you need for a specific program.

That said, there are some basic patterns to note. Naturally, the average GRE scores for extremely prestigious institutions, such as Harvard and Stanford, are going to be higher than the averages for less competitive schools such as UC Davis and the University of Kansas. Once again, though, these overarching averages aren’t exactly helpful for aspiring grad students. Unlike undergrad, you’re not really applying to the overall school but rather a specialized program, with its own GRE expectations and requirements.

When it comes down to it, two major factors affect the average GRE scores of a program: discipline and competitiveness. But we’ll get more into this in the following section. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about average GRE scores by major, check out our article.

 

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Don’t get confused yet! I’ll explain more in a sec, promise.

 

OK, so, let’s sum up what we’ve learned so far. It’s easier and more useful to search for average GRE scores by major than it is by school. But what about the overall averages? Despite how broad they are, average GRE scores are helpful because they highlight the general trends of test takers in each GRE section.

Currently, the average GRE scores are:

  • Verbal: 149.97
  • Quant: 152.57
  • AW: 3.48

Unfortunately, these averages aren’t great at predicting what scores you’ll need for your particular programs. Moreover, these scores are the average scores of all test takers, not admitted applicants. Therefore, we can’t know for certain whether these scores were actually high enough for applicants to get into grad school. After all, not all programs are looking for average; some are OK with lower, and others prefer higher.

We’ve taken a brief look at the overall average GRE scores as well as why we shouldn’t rely on average GRE scores by school. Now, let’s move on to average GRE scores by program.

 

Average GRE Scores by Program: 2 Factors

How do discipline and competitiveness influence the average GRE scores of a program? Let’s take a look.

 

Discipline

Mason is applying to a doctoral history program at Duke. Now, what do you think will help him out more: looking up the average GRE scores for Duke, or for the history program itself? As we’ll see, narrowing his focus to the history program provides him with a more specific set of scores he can aim for in order to stand apart as an applicant.

But why? Let’s break this down a bit more. First, by major.

History is an arts and humanities subject, a field focused mostly on reading and writing. A history program at Duke (really, at any school) likely values Verbal and AW scores over Quant scores. Therefore, we can assume the average GRE Quant score for Duke’s history program is lower than its averages for Verbal and AW.

Not sure what I mean? Look for yourself. As you can see, the program’s average GRE Verbal and AW scores are fairly high — 165 and 4.5, respectively — while its average Quant score is only 150.

In contrast, the average Quant score for Duke’s doctoral program in computer science is 167. That’s 17 points above the average for the history program! And what accounts for this discrepancy? Well, computer science is a math-heavy subject, and Quant scores are more relevant (and more important) to a computer science program than they are to a history program. (Meanwhile, the computer science program’s average Verbal score is markedly lower than that of the history program.)

As you can see, if we were to take the average GRE scores of the entire university, we wouldn’t be able to identify the distinct patterns among majors — namely, what GRE scores carry heavier weight.

 

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Some GRE sections are weighted more heavily than others.

 

Competitiveness

Another factor to consider is competitiveness. In general, competitive programs expect high GRE scores, particularly in the section more relevant to the program’s field.

Let’s return to Duke for a moment. According to its history program, “We admit very few students each year (fewer than 10), so our program is quite competitive.” We already know history values Verbal scores over Quant scores, so the program’s average Verbal scores are likely higher than they are for Quant.

But because this particular history program is also extremely competitive, we can therefore assume the average Verbal score is, objectively, pretty high. And this is true. Remember? The average Verbal score for Duke’s history program is 165 — that’s in the top 4 percent of test takers!

We’ve covered how discipline and competitiveness can affect the average GRE scores of a program. But how can you go about actually figuring out the average GRE scores of your programs?

 

How to Find Average GRE Scores by Program

As previously stated, looking at the average GRE scores by school and major (i.e., by the specific program you’re interested in) is especially helpful because it allows you to compare your scores with those of other applicants and gives you a specific set of GRE scores to aim for in order to boost your chance of admission.

How do you find average GRE scores? Follow the steps below for each of the programs you’re applying to.

 

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#1: Go Online

The first step is to go online and peruse your school’s official website and your program’s webpages for specific GRE score info. I recommend starting with the admission reqs and FAQ pages, as they commonly address questions regarding GRE scores.

While browsing, use ctrl + F to look for the keywords “GRE,” “GRE score,” or “average.” Another handy method is to search for “[Your School] [Your Program] average GRE scores” on Google.

Some programs lay out average GRE scores neatly. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something similar to what the University of Texas offers: a single document listing the average GRE scores of all grad programs available at the school.

Other programs, however, report averages a bit differently. For example, UCLA’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology offers average percentiles for incoming students. If you come across average percentiles, simply convert them to average scores using official ETS GRE data. (You can also check out our nifty article on GRE percentiles.)

On the other hand, you may get a wide range of averages instead of individual scores. Boston College’s Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment (MESA) program states the following in an FAQ: “Our GRE-Verbal range averages around 155-164, GRE-Quantitative scores average around 158-167, and GRE-Analytical around 4.5-5.”

Your job, then, is to find the medians of these ranges so you can get an average score (or a much smaller range of scores) for each section. In this case, the average scores come out to 159-160 for Verbal, 162-163 for Quant, and 4.5-5 for AW.

Sometimes, though, programs report GRE info in entirely different ways without using averages at all. Many schools, such as the Illinois Institute of Technology, ask applicants to attain minimum “cutoff” scores. These are not averages but absolute minimum scores you’ll need to have in order to have your application considered. Other schools may suggest target scores or offer recommendations for those hoping to be competitive applicants.

Another point to be aware of is this: if a program lists average scores for only a certain section of the GRE, focus on that section the most. For example, always score high on Quant for engineering programs and high on Verbal for social sciences programs. It’s important to score higher on the more relevant section to your program because it carries heavier weight. On less relevant sections, aim for at least the discipline’s average for less competitive programs and the 75th percentile or higher for more competitive programs.

Found average GRE scores for all of your programs already? Great! Go ahead and jump to the section titled “How to Set a Goal Score.” If you haven’t been as lucky, proceed to step two.

 

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#2: Call Your Program

If surfing the web is giving you trouble, get offline and call your program. Ask if they keep a record of GRE scores. If so, inquire about the average GRE scores of previously admitted applicants. Remember, it’s OK to be direct, as long as you’re being polite.

If your program can’t or won’t divulge the info (some schools don’t even track GRE scores at all!), ask if they have GRE cutoffs or if they can recommend a range of GRE scores to aim for.

Nobody’s budging? Head to step three.

 

#3: Verify the Competitiveness of Your Program

You’ve searched online and called the program, but you’re struggling to make progress. The final step is to do a little digging on the competitiveness of your program. You’ll primarily want to search for program rankings (or school rankings, if program rankings are unavailable) on reliable websites. U.S. News is an excellent resource to start with.

While researching, actively compare your program to similar programs at other schools and get a feel for the competition’s GRE score expectations. Specifically, look for programs with about equal competitiveness to yours and check if they offer GRE score info on their websites. You can then use their scores to estimate the averages for your own program.

Here are some general guidelines to remember while conducting your research:

  • Competitive programs expect high GRE scores, especially in the section more relevant to the program’s discipline.
  • In general, very competitive programs look for GRE scores in the 90th percentile or higher on relevant sections, and in the 75th-80th percentiles or higher on less relevant sections.
  • For less competitive programs, aim for at least your discipline’s averages. Consult official ETS data for exact averages.

By now, you should have a pretty clear idea as to what the average GRE scores are for each of your programs. Congrats! But what exactly are you supposed to do with all of this info you’ve collected?

 

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Why, set a GOOOOAAAAAAL score, of course.

 

How to Set a Goal GRE Score

A goal score is the score most likely to secure you admission to the programs you’re applying to. In order to set goal GRE scores for grad schools, it’s important you know how to effectively aggregate GRE score info for all of your programs (refer to the previous steps if you’re confused).

Got it? Now, let’s learn how to set a goal score, together.

 

Step 1: Make a Chart

Start by creating a simple table like the one below. In this table, you’ll record your schools’ names, what they say about GRE scores, and any Verbal, Quant, or AW scores they specify (as averages, cutoff scores, etc.).

Remember Mason? He’s applying for a Ph.D. in history. Here’s what he’d write in his table:

School What They Say Verbal Score Quant Score AW Score
Duke
University of Maryland
UC Berkeley
Johns Hopkins

 

Step 2: Fill It Out

Next, fill out the chart using the (average) GRE score info you’ve found for your programs.

If you didn’t find any GRE score info for a program, write “N/A.” If you found non-average GRE score info, such as cutoff or target scores, record the scores in the appropriate section columns. (Just be sure to specify what type of GRE scores they are using the “What They Say” column.)

Mason found the average GRE scores for Duke’s history program on its FAQ page. He records those scores in his table.

But the University of Maryland and UC Berkeley primarily release average GRE score info as percentiles, not specific scores. Using ETS data, Mason quickly converts these percentiles into average scores. Not all percentiles correlate to specific GRE scores, so Mason rounds the scores as best he can and records the info as follows:

School What They Say Verbal Score Quant Score AW Score
Duke Avg. scores: Verbal 165, Quant 150, AW 4.5 165 150 4.5
University of Maryland Avg. percentiles: Verbal 86%, Quant 44%, AW 79% 160 151 4.5
UC Berkeley Avg. percentiles: Verbal 96%, Quant 71%; Avg. score: AW 5.42 165 158-159 5.42
Johns Hopkins

 

Johns Hopkins is a tough one, though. Mason can’t find any GRE scores online, and nobody would give him GRE score info over the phone. As a last resort, Mason visits U.S. News to try to gauge the competitiveness of the Johns Hopkins history program.

 

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Nothing’s more competitive than these two snails.

 

According to this U.S. News rankings page, the Johns Hopkins history program tied for #11 in 2017. Mason thinks #11 is fairly high.

But he wants to know how the Johns Hopkins program compares to other programs he’s applying to. As a result, Mason takes a closer look at the rankings and realizes Johns Hopkins is seven spots above Duke (tied for #18) and seven spots below UC Berkeley (tied for #4).

Using this info, then, Mason can estimate the average GRE scores for Johns Hopkins’ history program. If Johns Hopkins is ranked right in the middle between Duke and UC Berkeley, its average scores are likely between Duke’s and UC Berkeley’s.

Mason makes a note of his findings in his table, adding his estimated scores for Johns Hopkins:

School What They Say Verbal Score Quant Score AW Score
Duke Avg. scores: Verbal 165, Quant 150, AW 4.5 165 150 4.5
University of Maryland Avg. percentiles: Verbal 86%, Quant 44%, AW 79% 160 151 4.5
UC Berkeley Avg. percentiles: Verbal 96%, Quant 71%; Avg. score: AW 5.42 165 158-159 5.42
Johns Hopkins No direct info; ranked #11 by U.S. News 165 (estimated) 154 (estimated) 5.0 (estimated)

 

Step 3: Find the Highest Score for Each Section

If you’re like Mason, you should have your table complete and ready to go! Now, it’s time to figure out your goal scores.

Start by finding the highest score for each GRE section on your table. For Mason, those scores are 165 for Verbal, 159 for Quant, and 5.42 for AW.

Next, add 2 points to Verbal and Quant to get your goal scores for these sections. Mason’s goal scores for Verbal and Quant are 167 and 161, respectively. To get your AW goal score, round to the nearest score and add a half point. Mason’s AW goal score is a perfect 6.

 

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Try to hit your goal scores for Verbal, Quant, and AW.

 

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Remember, goal scores are the scores most likely to get you into all of the programs you’re applying to. As for Mason, he’s applying to some fairly competitive history programs, so he’ll definitely want to score higher than his programs’ averages if he’s hoping to stand out a lot from other applicants.

That said, getting below your goal score, on any section, doesn’t automatically result in a rejection. If Mason scores a few points below his Verbal goal score — something, let’s say, closer to 164 — he still has a good shot at getting admitted into his programs, assuming the rest of his application is impressive. It’s only worrisome if your GRE scores, especially the ones in your more relevant section, fall well below your goal score. A good benchmark to use to gauge whether your score is getting too low is the lowest average score on your table.

If your goal score is extremely high, as is Mason’s Verbal score (167 is in the 98th percentile!), and you’re struggling to hit it, try to aim for at least the highest averages on your table. You won’t necessarily stand out for the most competitive program on your list, but you should still be a fairly competitive applicant for your other programs.

 

Average GRE Scores for Grad Schools

Now that you’re a total pro at researching GRE scores and making snazzy tables, I’d like to give you a small glimpse into how average GRE scores can vary by program.

The following table lists the average GRE scores of various programs and schools across the U.S.:

Program Avg. Verbal Score Avg. Quant Score Avg. AW Score
Stanford — Ph.D. in Economics 159 166 3.5-4
Harvard — Ph.D. in Education 160-161 155 4.9
University of Michigan — Ph.D. in Psychology 159 155 4.53
MIT — AeroAstro Graduate Program 162 167 4.5
UCLA — M.S. in Health Policy and Management 154-155 157-158 4-4.5
Rice — Ph.D. in English 160+
University of Washington — M.A. in Communication 162 154 4.6
University of Notre Dame — Ph.D. in Biological Sciences 157+ 160+

 

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Summary: Understanding GRE Scores for Grad Schools

Generally, it’s more helpful to search for average GRE scores by school and major than to search for just one. Program averages are more specific and take into account the wide array of differences among discipline and competitiveness, whereas school averages are overly broad and difficult to find.

Two major factors can help determine how high or low a program’s average GRE scores are: discipline and competitiveness. For example, engineering programs usually report high average Quant scores, as applicants are choosing to enter a math-heavy discipline. In terms of competitiveness, the more competitive a program is, the higher GRE scores it’ll expect, especially in the section more relevant to the discipline.

To look for average GRE scores by school and major, go online, call your programs, and research the competitiveness of your programs using reliable ranking websites such as U.S. News.

Once you’ve gathered all of your programs’ GRE score info, make a table to organize the numbers and determine your goal scores. A goal score is the score most likely to secure you admission to all of your programs. To set a goal score, take the highest average GRE score for each section and add 2 points (add half a point and round to get your AW goal score).

 

What’s Next?

Curious about average GRE scores by major? Or perhaps you’d like to see how your scores stack up against those of other test takers. If so, try reading about average GRE scores and GRE percentiles.

Want to know what a good GRE score is? Check out our guide to learn what a good GRE score is in general as well as for you specifically.

What’s a good Verbal score? A good Quant score? Our guides walk you through how to set Verbal and Quant goal scores so that you can get the scores you need for grad school!


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Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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