What GRE Scores Do You Need for USC? GRE Requirements


If you’re applying to USC, it’s important to learn everything there is to know about USC GRE scores. What’s a good GRE score for USC? Is there a certain GRE score you should be aiming for?

In this article, we’ll discuss what USC is known for, explain how competitive it is for graduate students, and go over the USC GRE requirements for major programs. We’ll then conclude with a few tips on how to calculate your chances of admission to USC so that you can put forward your best application possible.

Feature image: John Beagle/Flickr


What Kind of School Is USC?

Established in 1880 in the heart of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) is a private research university that’s currently home to more than 40,000 students—25,000 of whom are graduate students.

Famous for its Trojan football team and School of Cinematic Arts, USC comprises more than a dozen schools spanning a variety of fields, from dance and music to business, law, and medicine. Several of its professional schools, including the Rossier School of Education and Viterbi School of Engineering, are currently ranked in the top 20 by US News.


USC GRE Scores: How Competitive Is USC?

USC is a fairly competitive school for graduate applicants.

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On average, the GRE scores of admitted applicants range from about 151 to 162 for Verbal and 155 to 167 for Quant, with many programs wanting scores in the mid 150s to 160s, or the top 10-40 percent. (Typically, Quant expectations are higher for math- and science-oriented programs, while Verbal expectations are higher for reading- and writing-oriented programs.)

As for Analytical Writing (AW)—generally considered the least important of the three GRE sectionsmost admitted applicants score in the range of 4.0-5.0.

Expectations for USC GRE scores can vary widely by program. For example, you’d likely need a higher Quant score for a business analytics program than you would for a music program.

Now that we’ve looked at the GRE score needed for USC in general, let’s go over how you can figure out the USC GRE requirements for your program in particular.




What’s a Good GRE Score for USC?

In this section, we give you an overview of the average and minimum USC GRE scores for some of the university’s biggest programs. In addition, we tell you what each program’s US News ranking is, whether the program requires GRE scores, and what the minimum GPA requirements are.

Before we look at the chart, let’s go over how USC GRE requirements will be laid out. GRE scores are usually presented in one of three ways:

  • Required scores: These are the minimum GRE scores you need to qualify for admission. Score lower than these thresholds and your application will most likely be rejected. (However, in some cases, these minimums are merely suggested, not required.)
  • Recommended scores: These are the ideal GRE scores you should aim for in order to be a competitive applicant. While you don’t absolutely need to get these scores to be admitted, reaching (or exceeding) them will give you a much better chance of admission.
  • Average scores: These are the average GRE scores of previously admitted applicants. You’ll want to aim for at least these scores (ideally, a few points higher) if your goal is to be a competitive applicant.

All USC programs below are arranged in alphabetical order by field and pertain to both master’s and doctoral degrees (unless otherwise stated).

Most USC GRE scores are minimums or averages, though some programs reported recommended or median (i.e., the 50th percentile, which is similar to the average) scores instead. Likewise, most GPAs are minimums, though you will also see average, median, and recommended GPAs.

Note that many of the minimum GRE scores below are suggested—not required—for admission. If you’re not sure whether your GRE scores are high enough, contact your program directly.

Program US News Ranking GRE Required? Min. GRE Scores Avg. GRE Scores Min. GPA
Business Analytics MS Must take either GRE or GMAT None V: 154
Q: 166
V+Q: 320
Business Fundamentals Graduate Certificate Must take either GRE or GMAT V: 80th percentile
Q: 80th percentile
AW: 80th percentile
Unavailable 3.0
Clinical Science 16 Yes None V: 161
Q: 160
AW: 5.1
Curatorial Practices and Public Sphere MA Yes None Unavailable None
East Asian Area Studies MA Yes V: 153
Q: 144
Unavailable 3.0
Economics 37 Yes V: 150
Q: 151
Q: 160-167 None
Urban Education Policy PhD Yes None V: 162
Q: 155
AW: 4.5
Engineering MS programs 11 Yes None V: 151
Q: 164
Engineering PhD programs 11 Yes None V: 153
Q: 165
English Literature PhD 33 Yes None Unavailable None
Master of Health Administration (MHA) 22 Yes V: 153
Q: 144
V+Q: 297-313 3.0


Health Behavior Research PhD Yes V+Q: 297 Recommended
V+Q: 311


Mathematical Finance MS Yes V: 150
Q: 159
Q: 790-800 (old scoring scale) 3.2


Online MBA 6 Must take either GRE or GMAT None V+Q: 313 Average
Global Medicine MS Must take GRE, MCAT, or DAT V+Q: 300 Unavailable 3.0
Molecular Microbiology and Immunology MS 66 (world) Must take GRE or MCAT V+Q: 300 Unavailable None
Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology MS 101 (world) Yes V: 144
Q: 153
Unavailable 3.0
Choral Music/ Sacred Music DMA Yes None Recommended
V: 150
Q: 145
AW: 3.5
Early Music MA/DMA Yes None Recommended
V: 155
Q: 148
Music Teaching and Learning MM/DMA Yes None Recommended
V: 155
Q: 148
Musicology PhD Yes None Recommended
V: 162
Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) 3 Yes V: 153
Q: 144
AW: 3.5
Unavailable 3.0
Optimization and Supply Chain Management Graduate Certificate Must take either GRE or GMAT None Recommended
V: 80th percentile
Q: 80th percentile
AW: 80th percentile
Pharmaceutical and Translational Sciences (PHTS) 9 Yes None Recommended
V+Q: 315


Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) 1 Yes V: 150
Q: 150
V+Q: 312 3.0


Political Science International Relations (POIR) PhD 51 Yes None V: 162
Q: 158
Applied Psychology MS 26 Yes None Unavailable None
Master of Planning (MPL) Yes V: 153
Q: 144
V+Q: 303-318 3.0


Master of Public Health (MPH) Yes V+Q: 298 Unavailable 3.0
Master of Public Policy (MPP) 11 Yes V: 153
Q: 147
V+Q: 313


Master of Real Estate Development (MRSD) Must take GRE, GMAT, or LSAT V+Q: 310 Unavailable 3.0
Regulatory Science MS Yes V: 153
Q: 144
Unavailable 3.0
Master of Social Work (MSW) 12 No None Unavailable 3.0
Sociology PhD 40 Yes None Unavailable 3.0
Spatial Informatics MS Yes V+Q: 297 Unavailable 3.0
Program US News Ranking GRE Required? Min. GRE Scores Avg. GRE Scores Min. GPA

Sources: USC.edu and US News




What Are Your Chances of Admission to USC?

Your chances of admission to a USC grad program depend on several factors. Before we discuss those, though, let’s go over some estimates.

For most USC programs, the following GRE scores and GPA should give you an excellent shot at getting accepted:

  • If Verbal is your most important section, around 163 on Verbal, 158 on Quant, and 4.5 or higher on AW. Reading-heavy programs at USC want to see good Verbal scores but don’t necessarily expect high Quant scores, so it’s a good idea to aim for around the upper 150s on Quant.
  • If Quant is your most important section, around 165 on Quant, 158 on Verbal, and 4.5 on AW. With math-heavy programs at USC, it’s important to get a super high Quant score. Though you usually don’t have to worry about your Verbal or AW scores as much, try to get in the high 150s for Verbal and at least a 4.5 on AW.
  • 3.6 (out of 4.0) GPA or higher. Essentially, between an A- and B+ average is best. You’ll have an even better shot at standing out if you have a 4.0 (or higher, if your undergrad college calculated GPA on a weighted scale). Remember that the rigor and relevance of your coursework are important as well, so even if your GPA isn’t as high as these, the difficulty of your undergrad courses could work in your favor!

Getting these GRE scores and GPA should make you a very competitive applicant for USC. However, there are a couple of caveats.

For one, GRE and GPA expectations vary significantly among USC grad programs, so you won’t always need to match the exact scores and GPA we’ve given you above in order to get accepted.

Secondly, because USC is a moderately selective school, in the end even high GRE scores or a great GPA can’t guarantee you’ll be admitted.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most important factors that can affect your chances of admission to USC.


#1: Is There a Minimum Required GRE Score or GPA?

One major factor to consider is whether your grad program requires all applicants to meet a particular GPA or GRE score minimum when applying.

According to the chart, many USC programs maintain minimum GRE score cutoffs. Most of these are suggested minimums, but if your program has a strict cutoff, you must get at least this score to qualify for admission. Not reaching this threshold will (most likely) immediately disqualify your application.

If your program recommends a certain GRE score (but doesn’t require it), you should still aim for at least this score. A lower score doesn’t necessarily mean your application will be disqualified, but it will give you a worse chance of getting accepted since it won’t be as high as the program wants.

As for GPA, most USC programs have a minimum 3.0 GPA cutoff (though many prefer 3.5 or higher). If your GPA is below 3.0, you will most likely be unable to apply to that particular program. If your GPA is higher than 3.0 but less than our recommended GPA (3.6), you can still apply but need to find ways to make up for your lower GPA in your application.


#2: How Does Your GRE Score Compare to the Average?

What’s the GRE score required for admission to your USC grad program? The easiest way to figure this out is to find the average GRE scores of previously admitted applicants.

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Typically, you’ll want to aim as high as, or even slightly higher than, your program’s average GRE scores. Doing this will make you equally good as other applicants and give you a solid shot at admission.

For example, if I were applying to USC’s business analytics program, my goal scores should be at least 154 on Verbal and 166 on Quant. Getting these scores ensures I’ll be as competitive as other applicants to my program. But if I score higher—say, 157 on Verbal and 168 on Quant—I’ll have an even better chance of admission!

Luckily, many USC programs offer GRE averages. That said, if your program doesn’t offer GRE averages, follow the tips in our guide to a good GRE score to estimate what scores you’ll need for a great chance of getting accepted.




#3: How Strong Is the Rest of Your Application?

In addition to GRE scores and GPA, other application factors can influence USC’s decision to either admit or reject you to a grad program.

Some of the most important admission factors include the following:

  • How well written and compelling your statement of purpose is
  • How cogent and complimentary your letters of recommendation are
  • How much research or extracurricular experience you have in your field
  • Whether your particular research interests match the faculty’s areas of expertise

Essentially, you’ll want to make sure that each part of your application is as strong as it can be. Don’t rely solely on great GRE scores and a high GPA to get you admitted to USC; work diligently to put together an all-around impressive application.

Ultimately, even just one problem with your application, such as a clichéd statement of purpose or sloppy CV, can make USC decide to reject you. So spend time making each element of your application shine!


What’s Next?

How can you find average GRE scores by school? By majorOur guides help you figure out what GRE score you’ll need to be on par with other applicants.

Applying to other selective grad schools? Then check out our GRE score guides for UCLA (coming soon), UC Berkeley (coming soon), and NYU (coming soon)!

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

We've written a eBook about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your GRE score. Download it for free now:

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.