If you have taken or are planning to take the GRE, you’ll need to know what GRE score will give you your best chance of admission to grad school. Is a GRE 320 score good? Should you aim higher? Lower?
In this article, we discuss how good a 320 GRE score is by analyzing both percentiles and average GRE scores of popular programs. We also talk about how important it is to get a 320 GRE score and what you can do to reach (or even exceed!) this score level.
Is 320 a Good GRE Score?
The fact of the matter is, most grad programs don’t look at total GRE scores but rather your individual scores for Verbal and Quant. Therefore, how good a GRE 320 is depends on two key factors:
- What individual percentiles you scored in on Verbal and Quant
- What kinds of GRE scores your programs want
Let’s start with percentiles. Percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers scored lower than you on a particular section or the test as a whole. The higher your GRE percentile is, the more competitive your score is.
Each year, ETS calculates individual percentiles for Verbal and Quant (as well as for Analytical Writing, though this score is separate from your total score). As such, how your scores add up to 320 can vary: you could get 160 on Verbal and 160 on Quant, 165 on Verbal and 155 on Quant, etc.
Generally, you’ll want to get a higher score on the GRE section more closely related to your field. For example, if I were applying to English PhD programs, I’d benefit most by aiming for a higher Verbal score. We’ll cover this idea in more detail later.
Now, what are the current GRE percentiles exactly? The following table offers a 10-point range of GRE scores (that are most likely to add up to 320) and their corresponding percentiles:
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|Score||Verbal Percentile||Quant Percentile|
In this chart, Verbal percentiles range from the top 4 percent to the top 31 percent, while Quant percentiles range from the top 11 percent to the top 41 percent.
Interestingly, Verbal percentiles are consistently higher than Quant percentiles. This is because more test takers score highly on Quant than they do on Verbal, making Quant a more competitive section. Thus, to get the same percentile on both Verbal and Quant, you’d need to earn more points on Quant than you would on Verbal.
So what percentiles are considered “good”? Broadly, anything above the 50th percentile (median) can be considered a good score, and anything above the 75th percentile a great score.
Using this definition, we can say that all scores in this chart are good GRE scores. We can also argue that a Verbal score of 157 or higher and a Quant score of 160 or higher are great scores since both are close to the 75th percentile.
Ultimately, though, whether a GRE 320 is good isn’t determined solely by percentiles—you must also know what your specific programs are looking for in regard to GRE scores.
GRE Score 320: What Are Your Chances of Admission?
What’s more important than percentiles? Knowing what kinds of GRE scores your grad programs want. And the best way to figure this out is to see what the average GRE scores of your programs are.
Typically, you’ll want to aim for GRE scores at or above your program’s averages. If your programs’ averages are around 320, this will be a good score for you as it’s likely to make you a competitive applicant. But if your programs’ averages are more than 320, you’ll need to aim higher to give yourself a better chance of admission. (And if the averages are lower than 320, you can either aim lower or still go for 320 to give yourself a very high chance of acceptance.)
To learn how to find your programs’ average GRE scores, read our guide to setting a GRE goal score.
Below, we give you a list of schools and programs you’d be competitive for with a GRE 320 score. We also give you examples of harder “reach” programs that want scores higher than 320 as well as easier “safety” programs that want scores a little less than 320.
|School / Program||Average GRE Score|
|Duke — Music PhD||320|
|USC — Business Analytics MS||320|
|UPenn — Education PhD||320|
|University of Michigan — Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD||320|
|Emory — Political Science PhD||320|
|University of Minnesota — Earth Sciences||318|
|UT Austin — Clinical Psychology||320|
|School / Program||Average GRE Score|
|University of Michigan — Business PhD||325|
|MIT — Chemical Engineering||325|
|UC Santa Cruz — Economics PhD||324-325|
|Duke — Genetics and Genomics PhD||324|
|Notre Dame — Clinical Psychology||324|
|School / Program||Average GRE Score|
|Harvard — Graduate School of Design||316|
|Boston University — MBA||315|
|UT Austin — Educational Psychology||316|
|Florida State University — Statistics||313|
|Georgetown — Arab Studies MA||315|
|Ohio State University — Chemistry||314-315|
|University of Florida — Psychology||315|
How Important Is Getting a 320 GRE Score?
Ultimately, how important getting a GRE 320 is depends on where you’re applying.
Some programs—usually competitive ones—will strongly consider GRE scores during the admission process. Why? Well, with a more selective admission process, these programs need more application components to use in order to evaluate potential students.
So if one of your programs is fairly competitive and has an average 320 GRE score, getting at least 320 will be critical. Not getting this score doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically rejected but does mean it’ll be harder for you to make a good impression on the admission committee (and thus get accepted).
In addition, master’s programs tend to place slightly more emphasis on GRE scores than doctoral programs do. This is most likely due to the fact that PhD programs typically focus more heavily on relevant work or research experience than standardized test scores. Because master’s students often have less experience in their fields than PhD students do, GRE scores tend to play a bigger role in admission.
For some programs, such as MFA programs, GRE scores might be required but aren’t that important. Some programs will even outright say that they don’t place a lot of emphasis on GRE scores. With these programs, getting below 320 won’t look that bad, as long as you have a strong portfolio, statement of purpose, etc.
Another factor to consider is which GRE section is more important to your field or program. Typically, grad programs look more closely at one score (either Verbal or Quant)—and some don’t even look at the less relevant score at all!
Verbal scores are more important to writing- and reading-heavy programs, such as those in the arts and humanities and social sciences. On the other hand, Quant scores are more important to math-related programs, such as those in the STEM fields.
For example, a top-ranked PhD program in engineering will want to see a super high Quant score and (most likely) at least an average or above-average Verbal score. In this case, getting 320 overall isn’t as crucial as getting a high Quant score. Thus, you’d probably have a better shot at admission if you were to get 168 on Quant and 150 on Verbal (adding up to 318) instead of 160 on both sections.
How to Score 320 on GRE
To score 320 on the GRE, you must first make a GRE study plan. Since you already know your goal score (320), all you need to do is take an official GRE practice test to get your baseline score (i.e., the score you have before beginning any test prep).
Next, figure out how many hours you need to study in order to hit your goal score by test day. Use the table below to determine (roughly) how many total hours you’ll need to commit to in your GRE prep.
Note: The following GRE point improvements are overall and not per section. So if you wanted to make a 10-point improvement by studying 80 hours, you could end up gaining 5 points on Verbal and 5 on Quant, or 7 on Verbal and 3 on Quant (and so on).
|Total Point Improvement||# of Study Hours|
|5 pts||40 hrs|
|10 pts||80 hrs|
|20 pts||160 hrs|
|30 pts||240 hrs|
Finally, divide up the number of hours you must study by the number of weeks you have before your test date to get an estimated weekly number of study hours. For instance, if I plan to study 80 hours over the course of three months, I’ll need to prep about seven hours per week.
Once you have your study plan, make sure you’re doing everything you can to hit your target score of 320. Here are some of our top GRE tips:
- Understand the format of the test: Learn the overall GRE structure as well as its question types and content so that there are no surprises for you on test day.
- Use high-quality resources: You’ll get the best GRE practice by using official and highly rated unofficial materials, including PDFs, prep books, and practice tests. And the best part is, many of them are free!
- Know which section you need to target: When aiming for 320, you’ll likely need to score higher on Verbal or Quant (versus simply aiming for 160 on both). Figure out which of the two sections is more important to your field and then start dedicating a little more of your prep time to that section.
- Learn key strategies: Know how to attack different question types on test day as well as how to use your time wisely so that you can give yourself your best shot at hitting 320.
But what if you’d like to score higher than 320? In addition to using the tips above, do the following in your prep:
- Closely analyze your mistakes: You won’t make any improvement on the GRE unless you understand exactly what you’re doing wrong. Look for patterns in the mistakes you make on practice questions to figure out how you can avoid making these same errors in the future.
- Target your weaknesses: Basically, pay special attention to any areas you’re struggling with. For example, if you’re consistently getting Numeric Entry questions wrong, drill this question type more often, test out new strategies, and re-solve any questions you get wrong.
How good is a 330 GRE score (coming soon)? A 300 (coming soon)? Our in-depth guides go over what these scores mean for you and your admission chances to various types of grad programs.
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