GRE Verbal Percentile


A percentile is a measure used in statistics that indicates the value below which a given percentage of observations in a group of observations falls. This means that if you have a score of 95 percentile, you have performed better than 95% of the test takers and are among the top 5% of the performers.

Percentile influence in your GRE

Your GRE score percentile tells the universities how your score compares with that of all the other GRE test-takers. The higher your GRE percentile, the better your score is, as compared to others. Take a look at the list below for an estimate of what a student's percentile score would be, depending on the marks obtained in the Quant and Verbal Sections respectively.

How does Percentile work in GRE?

The GRE is designed to approximately have a normal distribution. This means, that an average performance on the verbal and quants sections translates to a score of around 150 in each. This is evident from the way in which a percentile score reflects on the scores in each section. Around the middle of the scale, a slight variation of even 5 points can cause a big leap in the percentile score. At the ends of the scoring scale, the same 5-point variation causes only minor variations to the percentile; for instance, a 165 on the Verbal section is the 96th-percentile score, and a 5-point boost to 170 only improves your percentile rank by 3, to the 99th percentile.

GRE Percentile Calculation

The GRE comprises three main sections, namely
  • Analytical Writing,
  • Verbal Reasoning,
  • Quantitative Reasoning
with each section being marked separately. While the sum of the verbal and quantitative scores forms your final GRE score on a scale of 340, the Analytical Writing Assessment section is graded separately on a scale of 0-6, with 0.5 point increments.
The minimum and maximum scores one can obtain on the GRE, are shown below.

It is important to note here, that different graduate programs have different expectations of GRE Percentiles. For a top program in Physics, it would be reasonable for the university to admit candidates with a percentile of 95 or higher on the quants section, while the percentile requirement on the Verbal section is likely to be comparatively more relaxed.

While selecting your program, keep in mind the relevance of the score on each section with your program.

For example, a high Quantitative Reasoning score will be more relevant for students who wish to pursue an MS in STEM fields whereas the Verbal score would be given higher priority in case of students looking to pursue their Master's in English Literature or thesis courses.

To understand the concept of the average score and how it is relevant for the admission officers, take a look at the table below.

GRE Percentile and Graduate Schools

The GRE, being a standardized test, takes into consideration the percentile score as it offers an in-depth analysis of a student’s aptitude. Such an analysis allows educators to compare students placing them side by side.

Graduate schools often mention the minimum GRE score requirements for admission to various programs. This means that in order to qualify for the interview process, you to have to clear the minimum cut. Other schools, however, mention the average score instead of mentioning the minimum score as a set criterion for admission. The Harvard Graduate School of Education, for instance, lists average verbal test scores for master’s students in the 83rd percentile, or the top 17 percent in verbal, but states 67 percent, or the top 33 percent, in quantitative. UCLA’s Engineering Computer Science graduate program, on the other hand, lists average student verbal scores in the 79th percentile, or top 21 percent, and the 85th percentile, or top 15 percent, in quantitative.

As these numbers indicate the GRE score you'd be needing depends heavily upon the type of program that you're applying to.
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