By far the most common questions we have been receiving are those that deal with how revised GRE scores affect graduate admissions. The question that is on the minds of many people can be stated like this:
Are my scores high enough to allow me to successfully apply to the school(s) I would like to attend?
This is a very significant question, but unfortunately there is no short and simple answer to it. Different universities (and colleges and departments within the universities) handle GRE scores in different ways. For many programs, the way they view the GRE is changing as they now receive scores from students who have taken both the old and new GREs.
In many ways, these schools are in the same position that everyone else is in, unable to obtain an accurate picture of what new GRE scores amount to until more data comes in. This means that at the same time that applicants are wondering if schools will be impressed by their scores, the schools are also wondering what scores they should be impressed by. From what we’ve been able to gather, no two schools do this in exactly the same way, and most have not set hard and fast rules about how they consider scores from the new GRE.
As a case in point, here is a sampling of what some different departments publicize as their minimum GRE requirements:
University of Houston
- Department of Computer Science: 450 Verbal 750 Quantitative 4.0 AWA (note that these are still within the 800-point scale)
- Department of Education: Typical successful applicants will score in the 35th percentile or above with at least a 3.5 AWA score
- Department of Biochemistry: No minimum GRE scores required
- Department of English: No minimum, but successful applicants average at least the 85th percentile in Verbal
- Department of Education: No official minimum, but scores lower than 460 Verbal 580 Quantitative 3.5 AWA will jeapordize an applicant’s chances
- Department of Applied Sciences: No minimum
University of Michigan
- College of Engineering: Is in the process of reviewing the new GRE scoring system
- College of Architecture: No minimum listed
University of Colorado
- Chemical and Biological Engineering Program: No minimum GRE score required
- Applied Mathematics: No minimum GRE score required
If anything, this reinforces the idea that every school is unique. Notice that some schools list scores, some list percentile rankings, and many don’t even list a minimum score requirement (although they all require that you take the GRE). This does not mean that a 131 Verbal 132 Quantitative will get you into one of these schools, but it does mean that these schools are very hesitant to disqualify an applicant based solely on their GRE score. Because of this, do not jump to the conclusion that your GRE scores are not high enough before at least contacting the school you want to apply to. Remember, if you don’t apply to a school it doesn’t matter how high or low your GRE score is, you won’t get in. Of course, if you happen to find a school that does list a minimum revised GRE score, you can use that as a measurement. However, if the minimum requirement is listed in the old 800-point scale, don’t just assume that your school will use the ETS table to convert your revised score into the old scale. Give the graduate admissions office a call (or send them an email) and ask them.
Admission to a graduate program will always involve factors beyond the GRE, such as past grades, activities, letters of recommendation, etc. If unsure, why allow your perception of your GRE score prevent you from applying to a school that you want to attend? If your heart is set on going to an Ivy League school, take the initiative and get in touch with one. Just because Harvard might not be impressed with your scores does not mean that Yale will necessarily feel the same way. Keep in mind also that the various departments within the same university often have very different requirements.
Graduate admissions is much more than a search for the highest standardized test scores. The process requires you to market yourself in the best way possible to schools who are looking for their next scholars. It is about what you can offer the school as well as what the school can offer you. If having a high GRE score is an important part of what you have to offer (and this depends both on you personally and on the school you are applying to), and you are unhappy with your first revised GRE score, maybe you should take the test again. If you feel your score is borderline, do a little research. You might discover that it is better than you think. If not, sometimes professional test preparation is one of the best ways to boost your score. If you are interested in this, you can find more information about the proven test prep offered by Test Masters here.
Hopefully, this has provided a bit of clarity on evaluating your GRE scores. As always, if you have any questions, please feel welcome to post them as comments below.