While some sociology programs list minimum Graduate Record Examination scores that students must have to apply, that doesn’t mean those scores will make applicants competitive. Information about mean and average GRE scores, as well as score percentiles, is of greater use when determining what a good GRE score is for students applying to a sociology program -- that is, a score that allows the admissions committee to take your application seriously.
Verbal Reasoning Score
In the 2011 to 2012 academic year, 66,517 students who took the GRE planned to apply to graduate study in the social sciences. This category includes sociology as well as anthropology and archaeology, economics, political science and psychology. The mean verbal reasoning score for these test-takers was 152.9 out of 170 possible points. This score falls into the 57th percentile, meaning that 57 percent of test-takers from 2011 to 2013 scored below 152.9 points. However, most programs list a much higher average for their admitted students. For example, University of California at Berkeley reports an average verbal score of 165, in the 95th percentile, for current students, while the University of Minnesota reports an average of 162, in the 89th percentile.
Quantitative Reasoning Score
The mean quantitative reasoning score for test-takers planning to apply to social science programs in 2012 was 150.1 out of 170 possible points, which falls into the 47th percentile. Yet a much higher score is required for applicants to be competitive. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, recommends that applicants aim for the 75th percentile or about 159 points. Berkeley reports an average quantitative score of 157, in the 69th percentile, for admitted students, and Minnesota’s admitted students averaged 155 points, in the 66th percentile.
Analytical Writing Score
The mean analytical writing score for test-takers planning to apply to social science programs in 2012 was 3.9 out of 6 possible points, which falls into the 53rd percentile. As you might expect, though, this average score is not the average for admitted applicants. Rather, both Berkeley and Minnesota report that their admitted students scored an average of 5.0 in analytical writing, in the 93rd percentile, while University of Pittsburgh graduate students average 4.3 points, about the 70th percentile.
Major Field Test in Sociology
In addition to the general GRE, the Educational Testing Service also administers a major field test in sociology, commonly known as the sociology subject test. This exam tests core knowledge of the field, including questions on general theory, methodology and statistics and social and demographic issues, as well as critical reasoning skills. Almost no graduate programs in sociology require this test, and only about 9,400 students took it between 2006 and 2012, but an exceptional score could strengthen your application. The test is scored on a scale from 120 to 200 points, with a mean score of 147.8 and a score of 165 placing students in the 90th percentile.
- Educational Testing Service: A Snapshot of Students Who Took the GRE Revised General Test
- Educational Testing Service: Analytical Writing Interpretative Data Used on Score Reports
- UC Berkeley Department of Sociology: FAQ for Admissions
- University of Minnesota Department of Sociology: Common Questions
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Sociology: Frequently Asked Admissions Questions
- Educational Testing Service: ETS Major Field Test for Sociology: Test Description
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.