Confused by the scoring used in the GRE? Let’s break it down. The GRE has three distinct sections that score differently:
- Quantitative, 40 questions, It reports on a 130-170 score scale in 1-point increments.
- Verbal, 40 questions. It reports on a 130-170 score scale in 1-point increments.
- Analytical Writing, 2 essays. After both essays receive a score, they are averaged and report on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments.
The ETS outlines each section and we highlight the main details below. But, before we examine them individually, let’s go over the computer-adaptive nature of the GRE. Because you’ll likely take the test on a computer, it exhibits certain unique characteristics.
The test makers give the following description of the computer-based GRE. “Your scores on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures depend on your performance on the questions given and on the number of questions answered in the time allotted.” They are also section-level adaptive. This means that the computer selects the second section based on your performance on the first. In other words, the first section of Verbal and Quantitative will be a medium difficulty section. If you score well, the computer will supply a somewhat harder second section on the assumption that your score is somewhere above that level. The computer will then use the questions within that section to help determine your exact score.
Essentially, this section “measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.” The content in this section includes high school math and statistics and generally no higher than a second-level algebra. You won’t run into any trigonometry, calculus, or other higher-level math. Your performance on the 40 total questions in the Quantitative section will determine a score from 130-170.
This section “assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.” As with the Quantitative section, the Verbal section has its own individual scoring scale ranging from 130-170.
Two separate essays make up the Analytical Writing Section. One is an Analyze an Issue task and the other is an Analyze an Argument task. Each allows 30 minutes for you to complete. The test makers say this section “tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.”
You receive a single score for the Analytical Writing section via averaging your scores from each of the two essays. Both essays receive a raw score from two professional readers. They use a six-point holistic scale. These readers are trained to assign scores on the basis of overall quality of an essay in response to a task. A third professional comes into play if the two readers assign scores that differ by one point on the scale. Otherwise, they average the scores from the two essays. ETS then averages the final scores of both essays and rounded up to the nearest half-point. This produces the single, final score for the section.
Ultimately, all of this does not change the inherent truth of the test. To score well you must answer questions correctly. However, a familiarity with the nature of computer adaptive score-determination is an invaluable asset to test-takers! Make sure you understand all the facets of GRE scoring before you take the test.