The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States. It measures a candidate's skills in analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. Understanding how GRE scores are calculated is vital in helping test-takers strategize and prepare effectively. Let's delve into the process in detail.
1. Overview of GRE Score Calculation
The GRE consists of three scored sections: Verbal Reasoning (130-170 score scale), Quantitative Reasoning (130-170 score scale), and Analytical Writing (0-6 score scale). The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections follow a computer-adaptive by section (CABS) model, meaning the performance in the first section of each dictates the difficulty level of the second section.
2. Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning Scores
The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections each consist of two sections. The raw score, which is simply the number of questions you answered correctly, is calculated for each of these sections.
The first section of both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections is of medium difficulty. Based on your performance on this first section, you are then directed to a second section of a difficulty level that matches your ability as determined from your performance on the first section.
Scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections are determined by a raw score, which is the total number of questions answered correctly across the two sections. This raw score is then converted into a scaled score through a process called equating, which accounts for minor variations in difficulty between different test editions. The scaled score is what you receive in your final GRE score report.
3. Analytical Writing Scores
The Analytical Writing section consists of two essays: an "Analyze an Issue" task and an "Analyze an Argument" task. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a 0-6 point scale in half-point increments.
For each essay, if the two scores differ by less than one point, the scores are averaged to obtain the final score. If the scores differ by more than one point, the essay goes to a third reader, and the two scores that are closest are averaged to determine the final score.
4. Experimental Section
The GRE also contains an additional unscored Experimental section, which can be either Verbal or Quantitative. This section does not count toward your final score; it's used by ETS (the organization that administers the GRE) to test out questions for use in future tests.
5. Final Score Reports
Your official GRE score report includes your scores for the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing sections. It also includes percentile ranks, which indicate the percentage of test takers who scored lower than you.
GRE Scoring Example
A concrete example might make the GRE scoring process clearer. Let's imagine a test-taker named Jane, who is taking the GRE General Test.
Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning Scores
Jane answers 15 out of 20 questions correctly on the first Verbal Reasoning section. Given this performance, the GRE software decides to give her a second Verbal Reasoning section of medium difficulty. On this section, she gets 16 out of 20 correct.
Her raw score for Verbal Reasoning is thus 31 (15 from the first section + 16 from the second section). This raw score is then converted into a scaled score through equating. Equating is a process that accounts for minor differences in difficulty between test versions. So, Jane might end up with a final Verbal Reasoning score of, say, 155.
The same process applies to the Quantitative Reasoning section. If Jane answers 17 out of 20 questions correctly in the first section and 18 out of 20 in the second section, her raw Quantitative score would be 35. Let's say this converts to a scaled score of 160.
Analytical Writing Scores
For the Analytical Writing section, Jane writes two essays.
Her first essay (Analyze an Issue) receives scores of 5.0 and 4.5 from the two initial readers. Since the two scores are within one point of each other, they are averaged to give a final score of 4.75 for this essay.
For her second essay (Analyze an Argument), one reader gives a score of 5.0, but the other gives a 3.5. The difference is more than one point, so a third reader reviews the essay and gives a score of 4.0. The scores closest together (4.0 and 3.5) are averaged, yielding a final score of 3.75 for this essay.
The scores from the two essays are then averaged. In this case, the average of 4.75 and 3.75 is 4.25, which is rounded to the nearest half-point, yielding a final Analytical Writing score of 4.5.
Final Score Report
On her final GRE score report, Jane receives a Verbal Reasoning score of 155, a Quantitative Reasoning score of 160, and an Analytical Writing score of 4.5. For each score, she will also see a percentile rank, showing the percentage of test takers who scored lower than she did.
Remember, Jane's scores are hypothetical. The raw to scaled score conversion can vary from test to test due to the equating process used by ETS.
Understanding how GRE scores are calculated is essential for effective test preparation. It can help you focus on areas that need improvement and strategize how to answer questions to maximize your score. With this knowledge, you can approach your GRE test date with confidence.
Remember, preparation is key to achieving a high score on the GRE. Utilize this understanding of the scoring system to guide your study plan and manage your time effectively during the test. Take our GRE practice questions and test your knowledge.
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