Why is it so hard to get a straight answer?
The first question many students have when they begin to prepare for the GRE is what score they need to get. The first answers they likely receive—"it depends," "call the school," "there is no required score"—do little to assuage doubts or help students prepare effectively for the exam.
In fact, schools are far more forthcoming about median GPA scores for admitted applicants than they are about GRE scores. One need look no further than US News' Graduate School Rankings (subscription required) to discover that the median GRE score for the majority of programs is N/A.
There are exceptions. GRE information is widely available and published for Education (Verbal and Quant) and Engineering programs (Quant only), but if your interest falls outside these and a couple other specialties, transparency becomes the exception rather than the norm.
What's a student to do? You prepare and prepare, get a score, and have little idea whether it's great, good enough, or a liability.
You could look at the percentiles that correspond to your Verbal, Quant, and Analytical Writing scores, but these percentiles are for all test-takers by intended field of study, not percentiles for admitted applicants. For an analogous example, while the average score for all LSAT takers could be around 151, the median score of admitted applicants at Yale Law School is 173; the median LSAT score at Yale Law is a 99th percentile score!
Of course, a significant difference between grad school admissions and medical, law, or business school admissions is that the graduate school admissions process tends to be more "holistic;" in other words, most graduate programs (with some exceptions) tend to emphasize assessments of applications in their entirety, with no cut-off scores.
However, as the GRE gains more prominence in business and law school admissions, students rightly will want to know how their GRE score measures up against comparable GMAT or LSAT scores, which both have greater weight in their respective admissions processes and for which there is far greater transparency in released scores. For instance, the vast majority of business schools release information about the GMAT scores of admitted/matriculated students, but very few also release similar information about GRE scores, even though they all accept the GRE and claim it is viewed no more or less favorably than the GMAT.
In addition, even if a graduate department equivocates about the importance of GRE scores, this reticence may only aggravate students' concerns, as applicants to these programs may feel as though they are "flying blind."
While we cannot provide statistics that are not available, we have compiled information from twenty-five business and graduate programs that do release information about the GRE scores of admitted applicants. Below you may find a snapshot of this information as a pdf. For a more interactive format, here is a direct download link to the file: GRE Stats mhtml spreadsheet