How GRE Scoring Works
Standardized testing is all about the numbers, and your score is the most important number of all. In this lesson, you'll learn all about scoring on the GRE.
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The GRE revised General Test is a standardized test taken by students applying to graduate or business schools. It’s not the only thing that schools consider, but it’s an important part of your application.
If you remember the standardized tests you took to apply to college, the GRE should look pretty familiar. But one part of it will seem very different: the scoring. On the GRE, scores are reported on a scale that’s totally different from the SAT or ACT, and you’ll also have to navigate a complicated system of score reporting called ScoreSelect.
In this lesson, we’ll break it down so you can understand how you’re scored and how to get those scores to schools once you have them.
Grading and Scoring
The GRE revised General Test has three subject areas: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.
Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning are both graded by machine. The machine counts up the total number of correct questions to get a raw score and then adjusts the score for difficulty level through a process called equating. The final equated score is reported on a scale from 130 to 170, with 170 being perfect.
The Analytical Writing test consists of two essays, so it can’t be graded by a machine. For each of the two essays, one human reads it and gives it a score from 0 to 6 in half-point increments. Then, the essay gets plugged into a computer program called an e-rater.
The e-rater is a program that double-checks the human score for your essay. It scores the essay and compares its score to the human score. If they’re basically the same, then the first human score is your final score. If they disagree, then a second human reads the essay and your score is the average of the two human-given scores.
Your final score for the entire section is the average of the scores for both essays.
That’s how the actual scoring works, but once you get your scores, you still have to worry about sending them to your schools.
The GRE has a score reporting process called ScoreSelect , which lets you manage your GRE scores and score reporting in detail. To break it down, here’s a timeline of what options you have and when.
Immediately after you take the test, you’ll be given two options:
Cancel your scores without seeing them and go home with no record that you ever took the test.
Accept your scores and see your unofficial Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning score.
If you choose to cancel, then there’s nothing more to say. You won’t see your scores and they won’t be recorded anywhere, and they won’t be sent to anyone. You’ll just carry on your life as if you’d never taken a test at all. If you choose to accept your scores, here are your options:
View your scores and go home without designating any recipients. They’ll be on your permanent record, and you can send them later, if you like.
Designate up to four recipients and choose whether you want to send them just your most recent scores or all the scores from every GRE you’ve ever taken.
The four score reports that you can send on test day are included in the fee for your test, so you won’t have to pay anything extra for them. This is the only opportunity you’ll have to send any GRE scores without paying an extra fee. So, if you have schools you’re sure about, take advantage of it.
Official scores take 10-15 days to arrive and once they’re up, you’ll be able to see them online on the GRE website. If you’ve designated any schools as score recipients on test day, your scores will automatically be sent to those schools at that point; you don’t have to do anything more.
But the score reporting saga doesn’t end there! At any point after the test, you can also pay to send Additional Score Reports , score reports to schools other than the ones you chose on test day. For each Additional Score Report, you can send just your most recent scores, any combination of your past scores, or all the scores from every GRE you’ve ever taken.
What you can’t do is mix and match. You can’t send a Verbal Reasoning from one day with a Quantitative Reasoning from another. That would be nice but unfortunately, it’s not an option.
In this lesson, you learned about scoring and score reporting on the GRE.
For the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections, you’ll get a score from 130 to 170. For the Analytical Writing, your essays will be graded by a human and checked by a computer, and then possibly graded by another human. Then, both essay scores will be averaged to give your final Analytical Writing score on a scale from 0 to 6 in half-point intervals.
You get four score reports included with each GRE test for no extra charge. Immediately after the test, you’ll be able to cancel your scores without seeing them. If you choose not to cancel, you’ll see your unofficial Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores, and choose whether or not to send them to the schools you choose on your four included score reports.
The actual scores will arrive to you and to the schools in 10-15 days. You can also send scores to schools other than those four after the test for a fee and you can choose to send scores from one or many GRE tests at the same time.
It’s all pretty complicated, but hey, at least you’re getting some Quantitative Reasoning practice from it!
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