What is a good GRE score for Harvard University?

Posted by on April 11, 2013 in GRE, GRE Scores | 98 comments

Each year thousands of applicants from around the world, and hundreds from Pakistan dream to go to Harvard. A very frequent question that I get asked by many of these applicants is that what role does the GRE play in getting an admission. Harvard being very competitive does not rely on any single criterion for admissions – infact it looks at a lot of factors ranging from your personal statement to your interviews and your letters of recommendation. However the GRE is definitely one of the most important factors that decide your fate.

SEE ALSO: Average GRE Scores for Stanford University

So what are the average GRE scores?

Unfortunately the average GRE score requirement varies from school to school within Harvard. For instance, Harvard Graduate School of Education accepted PhD candidates with an average of 158 (Quantitative) and 163 (verbal). On the other hand for the engineering school, the Quant scores were at 163 while verbal scores stood at 160. So broadly speaking you cannot aim for one specific score since it varies a great deal between disciplines and also depends on other broader criterion. A graduate program in English would obviously require a 90th percentile or so verbal score.

SEE ALSO: Average GRE Scores for MIT

Needless to mention, Harvard is intensely competitive so which ever discipline you are targeting aim from an above 85 percentile score. Moreover anomalies are always there – for instance last year someone I know personally got into Harvard business with a GRE score of 159 Q and 154 V. Now why did this happened? It is simple, he had more than 7 years of professional experience with over 4 publications of marketing in reputed international journals. So the key is not to fret a lot over the GRE scores given that you are a well rounded candidate – however if you lack in other areas then GRE can be a savior.


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    This is totally untrue. The highest score you can get on the verbal or quantitative sections of the GRE is 800. I don’t see Harvard accepting ANYONE with a score of 158, or whatever it was you said.

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      Nevermind, I was wrong.

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        Wow, embarrassing.

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    I have scored 330 in GRE (170 Q+ 160 V). My TOEFL score is 112. I am doing B.TECH in Computer Engineering from NIT. My current CGPA 7.7/10. I had scored 98% ( 100% in Maths, 99% in Chem & 95 % in Phy) marks in XII (CBSE, India) Examination. I want to apply for MS in Computer Science/Engineering in the Top 10 Engineering Schools viz. Carnegie Melon, UT Austin, Cornell , UCLA, plus some other schools ranked in the range 10-20 .
    Please let me know if I will have a chance of getting admission in these dream schools.
    Eagerly awaiting your reply.

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      Academics is just one part of the application. Your research publications, work experience and extra curricular activities are equally important. Moreover for these top schools i have seen people with pretty average scores get in as well. It just depends on your overall candidature.

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    Hi, I am wishing to apply for a ph.d program at Harvard. And I was hoping to know from you if I may be a suitable candidate.
    I have an undergraduate degree and a masters degree with average marks. However, I’ve had some research experience at a reputed national organization and one published paper in a reputed journal.

    I’ve also secured medals at the nationals in swimming in the past and am an accomplished pianist from the royal school of London. Do you think I make an eligible candidate? Does having a strong also e.c.a count in securing an admisiion at the Ph.d level along with other things I mentioned above?

    Thanks !

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    I am currently doing my bachelors in computer science . I want to apply for MS . Can I get admission in MBA in any good university of USA. My GRE score is not good. Its 295. My CCGPA is 3.37. I have a good experience of organizing events and leading people and have been actively participating in many extra curricular activities. Besides this , I have been involved in many community service activities as well . Can you tell me that can I get admission in MBA ?

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      Well 295 is a really low score – at least 320 is what is required for a decent MBA program.

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    Well, I see lot of information coming out of here.
    Can you let m know that what If i wana apply on full fee for Harvard, what will be the criteria. and other necessary things, and whats the most people priority for MBA harvard or stanford.

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      Harvard and Stanford are equally tough – but preference depends on what you want to do. I would advise you to contact the programs and see their strengths. Other criteria is also mentioned on their websites such as GMAT etc.

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    I’ve published a novel recently. Does that contribute significantly to extra curricular activities?

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      Hi Nihal – yes of course it does 🙂

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    Am a Nigerian, with a fresh B.Sc degree in Geography (GPA of 3.6/4), five years teaching experience as a volunteer and a certificate in Biology/Geography Education, seeking doctoral program in urban and regional planning at Ivy league schools.
    Little research have done revealed to me the importance of high GRE and TOEFL score in my apllication. However, my recent practice score was q148,v144. I seek advise and recommendations on best way and best books to improve to 165-170 for each and 5.5 AWA within 3 months, since application start around October.
    I also will like to know if I can get an offer with full finance package because of my humble background.
    You can reach me through adeyemidaremoses@gmail.com. Thank you

    Best Regard

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    Sir i am currently doing B.tech in Mechanical I dont Have good aggregate Its around 58% but my degree is of 63% but i dont have any extra curricular certificates so sir can i get a sit in some of teh best university in us with cheap cost and sir how can i get a scholarship and bank loan to study in us

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      Hello – What is your GRE score?

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    I scored 170/170 on Q and 153 on V.
    Do you think this is good enough for PhD in CS at Harvard ?

    I don’t have publications, but I do have research experience.

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    With a gre score of around 320(165Q/155V);73% as my undergrad GPA with no prior work or research experience,do I really have a chance of getting into the Harvard’s CS program?

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      Very hard – no publications etc. will make it a tough ask.

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    Hello Dear,
    I did Software Engineering from UET with CGPA 2.41 , I am planning for GRE , How much score did i require to get admission in well reputable university and from where can i get the scholarship links for universities awarding scholarship on GRE.

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      Hello – what is your field of application?

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    just wanna know the best 10 universities in US to send them my TOEFl score as im going to take the test next week and dont know best universities to apply for with a high chance to get in.
    Many thanks in advance

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    Hit Talha!

    I did my Bachelor’s from GIKI with a 2.67 CGPA.
    I recently graduated from NUST with 3.62 CGPA..Masters in Thermal Energy Engineering. 1 publication.
    GRE = 320 (Q: 162 V: 158)

    Any chances of getting accepted into a Harvard Ph.D program related to Engineering Sciences? Will my undergrad CGPA make the case hopeless for me? How much GRE score would be sufficient with this profile to get into Harvard?
    What other schools do you recommend where I can get admitted to a Ph.D program with this profile?

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      Hello, Well your profile is fine – though a few more publication will really help – GRE quant should be above 166+ so I would advise you to retake the GRE. Ideally 3-4 publications, 166+ GRE quant will make a competitive profile.

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    assalamu alaikum sir ma scholarship lena chahti hun harvard ma phd biochemistry k liay plz guide me

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    Hi Talha!

    My GRE score is V 157 / Q 152 / AWA 5 and I am thinking of applying for the English PhD program at Harvard. I also need the GRE Subject Test in English Literature, which I will be writing tomorrow. I have a Master’s degree in English from a Canadian institution and have a GPA of 4.0 from my Master’s. I also have an accepted peer-reviewed publication in a top Canadian journal, many awards and scholarships, and many other non peer-reviewed publications. I know that my GRE score is not the best, but I’m hoping that my other skills and experience offset it. Any chance of me making it into Harvard English?

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      Hey Anna – thanks for the email – well your publications and profile looks awesome. I am definitely going to say your chances are bright for Harvard English only if you GRE verbal score gets in the 163-166 range 🙂

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    Hi Talha,


    Well I am an aspiring student planning to apply for graduate degrees in the domain of biomedical engineering.. I am yet to take gre which I will be taking by wednesday. I am expecting a score between 300 and 305. I have a cgpa of 9 and I have a 7 in IELTS which is the overall band. As for work experience, I have had experience with NUS, university of Frankfurt and Duke-Nus Medical school. I have participated in a number of extra and cocurricular activities. I have also worked for a couple of start ups.

    What are my chances of getting into a top ranked university for biomedical engineering ? Can you please suggest some schools based ob this profile of mine.



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      Hello Rahul – Thanks for the message – I must say that the profile looks amazing especially the work experience but GRE 165+ in quant section is a must for bio med programs – else chances would get slim

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    Hello! Thanks for your post!
    Okay so I have a BSc in biology with a 3.25 cGPA. I am doing my MSc at imperial in neuroscience.
    I have research experience in psychology and at Duke in neuroscience with 2 publications in review.
    I have a 112 TOEFL and 8.5/9 IELTS but scored low in the verbal section of the GRE 151 verbal and 162 Quant.
    I’m applying for a PhD program in psychology at Harvard. What do you think?

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      Hello – I think you have a really strong profile and I would encourage you to apply. If you get published before applying it will be a HUGE plus for your app. Good Luck!

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    i am doing my BSc in electrical engineering ..and want to know from where could i prepare for GRE?

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    I am doing M.Sc Life sciences.It is able to do Phd in Regenerative Medicine as i choose a maths as a subject area in GRE

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      Sorry I didn’t get your questions

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    hy Talha

    Do gaps during academic career impede in the way of getting admission in Harvard if having good academic record and 320 plus score in GRE ?

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      ello – Gaps have to be justified.

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    I have completed M.Sc. Microbiology with 71.6% and recently working on publication of my thesis article on NDM-1 gene.Am i eligible to join Phd at Harvard University and how much GRE score is required?How can i get scholarship ?

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      Yes you are eligible – anything above 300 is fine

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    Salam, Hope you are fine.
    Currently i am doing LL.B, studying in 4th year, it is 5 year LL.B program. My CGPA is 3.0/4.0 and I am also working
    as a legal research assistant cum Editorial Assistant in Law Review Journal. After my LL.B I want to join Harvard Law School. My question is that how much GRE score is required for Harvard law school and How much GRE score is required for Fulbright Scholarship?
    Thank You.

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      WS Abrar, for FB law programs require only a 300+ since GRE is not a major requirement of law programs in US. So anything above 300 is good to go.

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        Thank You Sir!

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    Hello sir!!
    I wanted to ask that I m seeking for admission in harvard university for eco masters..so what gre score and and what extra curricular activities will be required??

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      Hello GRE score must be 165+ for econ program and 155+ on the verbal. For such programs social work is the best contributor to the apps.

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    What kind of social works sir?? Can u plz elaborate a bit??

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      Any community work helps – like running a society or heading any major college events.

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    Sir what kind of social work can be done while you are in college??

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      Any community work will help. Thanks

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    Hi Talha, I took GRE today and got 170 on quant and 158 on verbal. I have a first class honours from the LSE in UK (equivalent to 3.8+ GPA), and have internship experiences in various firlds and some strong extracurricular backgrounds. However I am a bit concerned about my verbal score- although I am pretty confident that with practice I can push up my verbal score, would you think retaking the test would worth the time and money? I’m planning to apply for Harvard’s new MS program in Data Science. Your advice would be invaluable – thank you so much im advance!

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      Hello! For Data Science only Quant matters so don’t worry about it 🙂 Good Luck!

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    I have scored 315 in GRE. I have 4 years of work experience in Corporate Sales. I am an engineer and have done MBA with decent score. What the chances of my selection for PHD in harvard

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      Hello – PHD is hard to get in without funding etc.

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    Hello Talha,

    I’ll pass GRE next monday and I aim to apply for Neuroscience (or BBS) program in Harvard.

    During practice tests, I got around 154 in Verbal and 163 in Quant (those are averages). So around 307 in total.
    Currently I’m a student in Pharmacy school, and will graduate quiet soon (Pharma.D. expected). My GPA scores from pharmaceutical studies are not exceptional, but I have various extracurricular activities (classic piano, humanitarian associative activities, University tutor et cetera). In parallel, I got some research experiences in French National Centre for Scientific Research, University of Oxford and Harvard University.Somehow I don’t have any publication yet. Actually, my colleague has submitted an article within she’ll put my name but it is still under the review.

    I got only 106 in Toefl (28/30 in all sections except 22/30 in speaking) and I graduated M.Sc Neuroscience degree in France with 4.0 GPA in average.

    Do you think that I have a chance to get accepted in Harvard’s PhD program?

    Thank you a lot in advance.

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      Hello Julie – Thanks for the message. Honestly publications are a HUGE ++ for admissions to PHD programs. That being said, we have seen several applicants getting admitted by Harvard and other similar high ranked programs without publications but with good prior research experience. As there is no thumb rule for being accepted by these top-nothc programs and no ideal profile as such, I would say keep your hope high. If your research experience is valuable to them, I am sure you will be accepted. Just keep trying and do not limit your options to a single program. Apply else where too 🙂

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    Hello sir, my GRE is 320 (Quant:170; verbal: 150), TOEFL 110(R:27, S: 27; L:29; W:27 ) and a CGPA of 8/10 from NIT Bhopal. I have 3 International journals in VLSI and 1 International Conference paper accepted for publication. I have no work ex but worked 2 months at VLSI research labs in Delhi. I am planning for MS in Microelectronics and VLSI and I would like to know my chance of getting admission for M.s in Harvard?.

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      Hello Abhinav, First of all I would like to congratulate you on your publications and your excellent GRE Quant score. Given your profile and publications I strongly feel that your chances of getting in a top program in your area will be high – Harvard I am not too sure of the competitiveness in your field but definitely you will make it to most good programs in Microelectronics.

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    Hi Talha,
    I did my MBBS from India and has been pursuing research as a post-doc fellow in Harvard University for the past 2.5 years(still going). I decided to pursue a PhD and applied o big 5 in the East Coast including Harvard.My GRE scores are pretty average (314,V;157,Q:157,AWA:4. I have a few publications (21 in International journals) and a few Abstracts which I have presented in national meetings in US. I am wondering if there is a filter thing when applying for Grad school (I am applying for Harvard BBS) which weeds out application based on GRE score or the entire application is being reviewed?
    Thanks a lot.

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      Hello Avash, Well the entire application is reviewed and decisions are never made on a single parameter. So don’t worry your profile looks very strong. 🙂

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    Hello sir
    I am a fresh graduate pursuing a masters degree in architecture and urban design at the top ivy leagues Princeton Yale Columbia and Cornell. I have 4 non ivy colleges as backups. My GRE score is 313. (155v 158q) TOEFL 111/120
    I have an 8.17/10 GPA
    Been a Mumbai University topper for two semesters with 9 point plus scores.
    Won four national level competitions
    My thesis got a special mention in a national level competition and was published online. I have also interned with one of the biggest architects in India who is an alumni of Columbia and has given me a recommendation.
    While I have tried my best to make the portfolio upto international standards since it is a very important aspect of an architecture students profile, the work abroad always feels better.
    Do you think I have a chance.

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      Hello – thanks for contacting! In my recent experiences, in architecture, the portfolio matters a lot more than anything else on the application. I had one student get into MIT with a 308 on GRE and 3.27/4 CGPA last year and he had a great portfolio. So yes your chances are pretty decent given that your portfolio is up to the mark!

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    I got a 338 on the GRE (170V/168Q) and I am applying for the master’s in public policy at Harvard and Princeton. At which school will my GRE scores be more of a factor?

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      Hello – Harvard gets impressed more by good GRE scores than Princeton is. So definitely Harvard.

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    Hello sir,

    I am an MBBS student from India, currently pursuing my final year.
    I am aspiring to join one of the neuro labs in harvard. I recently published two first authored publications in peer reviewed journals. I am yet to take my GRE. I have consistently been scoring 68% in my MBBS and have scored 94% in 10th and 91% in 12th.
    I would like to know if my profile makes me a potential candidate for the PhD program in harvard. If so how much should i aim to score in GRE?

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      Yes definitely your profile is pretty good especially your publications. You would need a GRE of around 320

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    I m just graduated in mechanical emgineering.I have good percentage from school to my engineering..i have 65.55 percentage in school and 69.8 in plus 2 examination and 70.9 in engineering..increasing percentage will help for aceptance?i have 315 gre score(q167 and v148) and i m applying for applied mathematics..i published my personnel article on new york times..i have no work experience..i was participate in international robotics challenge in TEchfest program in IIT ,bombay..will it help for addmision?will i apply harvard university?please suggest me…which will be important for addmision from my experience?

    • Avatar

      Yes you should apply to Harvard University – your profile is decent however your GRE verbal score is low for Harvard. Harvard has an average verbal score of around 160. I ll advise you to retake it.

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    I’m a recent graduate of Biological Sciences. I graduated with a cGPA of 3.6. My GRE scores are 167V and 161Q. I’m looking to apply to Harvard’s Molecular Biology Program. Are these stats sufficient or are they lopsided?

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      Hello – yup these are very competitive scores.

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    I scored 163 in Verbal, 158 in Quant, 5.5 in AWA. TOEFL is 111. IELTS is 8.5

    Which Universities would you suggest for me?

    My total experience 9 years of work experience in IT industry in India (7 years), Australia (1 year), Switzerland (1 year).

    I am looking for Computer Science programs. My undergrad was Mechanical Engg.

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      Your quant is low for CS programs. It will be a rarity that you get into a top program based on these scores. In my opinion you should look at the 25-50 ranked programs in usnews.com for CS.

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    My gre score is 323(167 in quant) and TOEFL 106(26 in speaking).
    Cgpa is 9.39/10
    3 years of work experience in R&D and 1 internship experience.
    1 IEEE presentation and several projects.

    Is it difficult for me with the profile above to get into Harvard or MIT

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      I am trying for masters in computer science

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      Hello, Your profile is pretty good for top programs.

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        Will that hold true for MIT, Harvard or Princeton too?

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    Hello Talha,

    My Bsc was in Mechanical Engineering from Nigeria and I am seeking a direct-PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I had 323 on the GRE (Quant- 165 and Verbal- 158) and 106 in TOEFL.

    I have 1 published research work in an international journal and multiple research projects and leadership opportunities on and off campus. Also, I have 1.5 years Mechanical Engineering work experience at a Pan-African FMCG.

    Please would this profile be strong enough to get into Harvard’s PhD program?

    • Avatar

      Hello, Yes this is a really good profile and chances of making it to a top program like Harvard are really strong!

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    I want to apply for Ph.D. programme in Bioinformatics at harvard or standford.
    I have completed my Master’s degree in Bioinformatic from a well reputated university in INDIA with a CGPA of 8.25.
    I have research experience.
    No paper yet published, but i am working on it.
    Will be writing GRE & TOEFL by november.
    Kindly help me with the perfect scores i should target on and other criterias to look for to seek admission into the programe by 2019.

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      Hello – 330+ on the GRE with at least 2-3 int’l publications in the relevant field. This is a must for Stanford and harvard.

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    I have a GRE score of 307,TOEFL 99. Did my Bachelors in Automotive Design Engineering (Mechanical) from decent college in India. Overall CGPA 2.82/4 (Since our college used scale of 4 at that time). Have 4 months research experience in USA, one LOR from the professor in USA. 1 year work experience in Project Management in a company having Joint Venture with USA based leading automotive company. Can you help me know the probability of getting in a PhD program in decent university.

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      If you have publications then you can get into a decent PhD program. Else the profile is not very strong

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    Hello Talha

    I wish to apply to Stanford and Harvard School of Education for PhD.

    My GRE Score: 323 (161 Q, 162 V, 4.5 AWA)

    Now, I am aware that in a PhD application, not just GRE but overall profile (Research papers, Work ex, SOP, LORs etc.) matter. I don’t have any research papers, but I am working on them.

    Nevertheless, I also know that I can improve my score by 4-5 points but it won’t go 330 or beyond (based on the mocks I took). I want to know whether it’s a good idea to take GRE again to improve my score by 4-5 points? Is it really worth the money (I am not very good financially)?

    Thanks a lot !

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      Hello – Well for Ph.D. in education, any score above 320 is pretty good. I would say that work on the publications rather than retaking the GRE.

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        Thank you so much for the response Talha !

        Just to be double sure, I am letting you know that I really can improve my score by 4-5 points. I am an engineer from NIT (though I changed by stream later), and I have had a very strong Quant. Even in the mocks I took, I never got such low score of 161 (not even in supposedly tougher Manhattan mocks).

        It’s the affordability part which is making me raise this question. If you say that a raise in score of 4-5 points will not make much difference to my application, only then I don’t want to put money in re-taking the exam, but if it makes some difference to the otherwise not so good profile, then please let me know.

        I apologize for bothering you again. You have been a great help, thanks !

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          Yeah so in education, I know many people who got in with lower GRE’s. So I would not want you to waste both time and money on the GRE thing 🙂

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            Thank You !

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    Hello Talha 🙂 I have 162V/157Q/4.5 AWA. TOEFL 108. I’m perfectly aware that good scores are not everything, but that’s my starting point. As for desired program, I’m applying to East Asian Studies PhD program (Japanese history). My uGPA (unweighted) is approximately 3.93. I have two master’s degrees, one in International Relations and one in Japanese Language (GPA: 3.83, 3.88). I have had some experience as intern in my faculty’s Oriental Library and as translator. I have studied four months in Japan, two months in a summer school program and two months in a language program in Tokyo. I also have fair knowledge of Chinese and Korean. Most of the professors I have contacted encouraged me to apply 🙂 What do you say? As for publications, I don’t have any (it is pretty tough in Italy in humanities to be published as a student), but I heard that sometimes research experience for master thesis counts too. Does that hold true? Thank you very much.

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      Well frankly, I am sold 🙂 I think you should definitely not wait to apply. Publications are not mandatory and if they are difficult to come by in your field, then 0 publications will not effect your app at all. Good research experience equally counts as well! Good Luck

  43. Avatar

    Thank you for helping others in your forum.

    I want to apply for Havard PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences. I have GPA 3.9/4, GRE (Quant 158 and Verbal 161) and a 7-year research experience with over 30 peer-reviewed publications. Do you think that is okay, especially regarding GRE score, or should i spend more time on my research.

    Kind Regards

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      Hello – Your profile is really good. Do not fret about GRE or more research. You are all set to apply!

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    Hi Talha,

    My university major is English and I want to apply for a master’s degree in Data Science in Harvard. My GPA is 3.6+/4.0 , my TOEFL is 107 and My gre is 154+169+4.5. I have a top ranking experience in Kaggle, several research experiences (one with Environment School of Duke lasting more than one year). I was also an exchange student in Columbia and my linear algebra Professor was happy to give me a strong RL. Do you think I enjoy any chance to be admitted by Harvard?


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      Hello – Yes definitely. Your profile is pretty pretty strong for Harvard!

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    Thanks for your information

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    Hello sir,
    I am udit and currently i am doing my B. Tech. In civil engineering. I am an 3rd year student now, my GRE score is 322 and bachelor’s percentage is 69 what should i do for improving my profile to get admitted in MBA programs after completing my bachelors.

    • Avatar

      Hello Udit, Aim for getting practical exposure which is multi-dimensional and also some int’l experience.

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