When seniors in college decide to apply to graduate school, one of the first steps is to schedule the Graduate Record Examination. Most programs require that students take the GRE general test, and some require specific subject tests, such as those in chemistry or English. The Educational Testing Service measures average scores among all test-takers, but students should check with specific programs to see what scores they require, since they often exceed national averages.
The GRE has three sections, each scored separately. Both the Verbal Reasoning section and the Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a scale from 130 to 170. The scale is divided into one-point increments, so the highest combined score students can get is 340. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale from zero to six. The scale is divided into half-point increments. The Analytical Writing score is never added to the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning combined scores when discussing GRE scores.
The Educational Testing Service’s report “A Snapshot of the Individuals Who Took the GRE Revised General Test, August 2011-June 2012” includes average scores for all three test sections. For the 466,674 test-takers during that time period, the average Verbal Reasoning score was 150.8 out of 170 points. Men and women performed about the same on this section of the GRE. The ETS also provides average scores by projected field of graduate study. Those entering fields in the humanities had the highest average Verbal Reasoning scores, with an average of 156.5 points. Those undecided about their graduate field of study had the lowest average score, with 148.3 points.
The average score on the Quantitative Reasoning section for test-takers from August 2011 to June 2012 was 151.4 out of 170 points. On average, men performed about five points higher than women on this section. The combined score for Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning was 302.2 points. Those entering engineering-related fields had the highest average Quantitative Reasoning scores, with an average of 158.9 points. Those planning to study education had the lowest average score, with 147.3 points.
For test-takers from August 2011 to June 2012, the average Analytical Writing score was 3.7 out of six points. On average, women performed slightly better on the Analytical Writing section than men did. Those entering humanities fields had the highest average Analytical Writing scores, with an average of 4.1 points, and those entering engineering fields tied with those undecided about their graduate field of study for the lowest average, with 3.4 points.
Elissa Hansen has more than nine years of editorial experience, and she specializes in academic editing across disciplines. She teaches university English and professional writing courses, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in technical communication from Cal Poly, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.