GRE percentiles give you a simple way to compare your scores to the rest of the GRE test-taker population.
If your verbal reasoning score is in the 71st percentile, then your score is better than 71% of all GRE test takers. In other words, your verbal reasoning score is in the top 29%.
You can find a full listing of the current GRE score percentiles in the Educational Testing Service (ETS) PDF report GRE Guide to the Use of Scores.
You might also be interested in the differences between the GRE and the GMAT.
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Where can you find your GRE percentiles?
After you finish the GRE test, your unofficial scores for verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning are available immediately. If you are taking the computerized version of the test, then your estimated scores will be displayed after you submit the final section.
These are not your official GRE scores, so they may be adjusted when you get the final score report.
Your official GRE results will be available 10-15 days after the test. ETS will send you an email notification that your scores are ready to view.
You can find your GRE Test Taker Score Report on the ETS website when you log into your account.
Go to the ETS sign-in page for GRE test takers. If you do not have an account set up yet, you can create an ETS account, or you can log into your existing account.
After signing into your ETS account, you will be asked to verify your personal information, choose whether you want to receive notifications as text messages, and decide if you would like to receive marketing promotions from the ETS.
Click the “Next” button and you will be taken to the Terms and Conditions page for using your online ETS account. You have to agree to the terms and click “Submit” if you want to see your account.
To see your GRE Test Taker Score Report, select the “View Scores and Score Recipients” option.
The score report includes your verbal reasoning percentile, quantitative reasoning percentile, and analytical writing percentile (see example report below).
If you are not happy with your GRE percentiles, remember that they don’t mean much by themselves.
The percentiles rank your scores against the entire population of GRE test takers, which is more than 500,000 people per year (source: GRE Worldwide Test Taker Report – July 2013-June 2016).
You are not competing with all these people.
Your goal should be to get accepted into specific programs. If your scores are comfortably within recommended ranges set by their admissions process, then you should be fine.
How can you improve your GRE score percentiles?
The first place to start when trying to improve your GRE percentiles is the free diagnostic report listed on your account page.
The report is available in your GRE test taker account for 6 months after each test you take.
You can see the types of questions you answered correctly or incorrectly, the difficulty of the questions, and how much time you spent on those questions.
Did you feel short on time during the test? Focusing on the types of questions that used a lot of your time could be a good starting point for improving your scores.
You could also work through a GRE test review book, review flashcards, and try some practice tests.
If you studied for the test using these methods already and you want to invest more seriously in your next attempt, then you can try an online GRE prep program.
If you are not sure if one of these services are in your budget, then you can always use the free trial periods and free practice tests to glean what benefit you can.
You might find one of the services more helpful than another, and then you can make a decision about purchasing the service or not.
Your GRE score percentiles are an easy way to compare your GRE scores to everyone else taking the test but they don’t mean much by themselves.
Your application will be reviewed according to several criteria and your GRE score is only one of them. If you feel uncertain about what GRE score is good enough to get into a program, then talk with your admissions officer to see if your scores are in the right range.
You may have nothing to worry about.