GRE Scoring Grid: What if Scenarios

Posted by on October 19, 2017 in About the GRE | 41 comments

Over the past years, I have seen a lot of debate going on regarding the GRE Scoring algorithm and the GRE scoring methodology. Confusions abound!

Students are unable to decipher how the ETS scores the GRE test and that makes it very tricky for prospective GRE test takers to strategize for the test.

How is it possible that one student can get a 155 on the verbal part by just getting 3-4 questions correct on the second verbal section? To answer that, I recently dug deeper into how the GRE scoring algorithm works.

We all know that the GRE is an adaptive test and the tests difficulty level varies according to your performance. If you do well in the first section, you will get a harder second section and vice versa. Similarly, harder the section, the more weight it has in your overall score.

Using 200+ GRE student’s actual test day score reports, I have tried to come up with an estimate of how you can earn the score you want. The table below is based on 237 actual GRE score reports and I have used that data to approximate, with some +/-2 error range, different GRE score scenarios on your actual GRE exam.

I have shared some sample score reports that I used for my analysis over here.

In this table, you will see that the total number of correct questions by no means gives you an idea of your actual score. For instance, by getting 20 questions correct out of 40 on the two verbal sections, you can get a score ranging anywhere from 147 to 155. It all depends on the section on which you got most of the questions correct. The outcome is that you must get most of the questions correct on section 1. For example, by if you score 20/20 on section 1 and 0/20 on section 2, you will get a verbal score of 155. However, if you get 0/20 on section 1 and 20/20 on section 2, you will get a meager 147. Hence section 1 is vital.

Quantitative Scoring Grid (Part 1)

# Correct in Section 2 (Q)
012345678910
# Correct in
Section 1 (Q)
0130130131131132132133133134134135
1130130131131133133133133134134135
2130130131131133133134134135135135
3131131132132133134134134135136137
4131131132132133134135135136136137
5131131132133134134135135136137138
6132132133134135135136136137138139
7133133134135136136137137138139140
8134134135136136137138138139140141
9135135136137137138139139140141142
10138139140141141142143144145145146
11139140141142142143144145146146147
12140141142143143144145146147148149
13141142143144144145146147148149150
14142143144145146147148149150151152
15146147148149150150151152152153154
16147148149150151151152153153154155
17148149150151152152153154154155156
18149150151152153153154155155156157
19150151152153154154155156156157158
20151152153154155155156157157158159

Important observations for the Quant Scoring Grid: If you want a really high score, you must ensure that you get at least 15 questions correct on section 1 of quantitative. Since that is the level where the algorithm will adapt. From 10 to 14 questions on section 1, the level of next section will remain the same. However, below 10 questions on section 1, the test will adapt to a lower level.

Quantitative Scoring Grid (Part 2)

# Correct in Section 2 (Q)
11121314151617181920
# Correct in
Section 1 (Q)
0136137138139139140141141142143
1136137139139139140141141142143
2137138139140140141142142143144
3138138140140140141142142143145
4138139140140141142142143144146
5139140141141141142143144145146
6139140141142142143144144146147
7140141142143143144145145146147
8141142143144144145146146147148
9142143144145145146147147148149
10147148149150151151152153154155
11148149150151152152153154155156
12150151152152153153154155156157
13151152153153154154155156157158
14153154154155155156156157158159
15154155156157158159160161162163
16155156157158159160161162163164
17156157158159160161163164165166
18157158159160161163164166167168
19158159160161162164165167168169
20159160161162163164166169170170

Note that in the quantitative table, how significantly your score will vary around 14-15 and 9-10 correct questions in section 1. These are the boundaries where the quant section adapts. You can greatly enhance or reduce your scores by scoring around these on each section.

Verbal Scoring Grid (Part 1)

# Correct in Section 2 (V)
012345678910
# Correct in
Section 1 (V)
0130130130131132133134135136137138
1130131132133134135136137138139140
2131132133134135136137138139140141
3132133134135136137138139140141142
4133134135136137138139140141142143
5134135136137138139140141142143144
6134135136137138139140141142143144
7135136137138139140141142143144144
8140141142143144145146147148149150
9141142143144145146147148149150151
10142143144145146147148149150151152
11143144145146147148149151152153154
12144145146147148149150151152153154
13150151151152152153154154155156157
14151152152153153154155155156157158
15151152153154154155156156157158159
16153154154155155156157157158159160
17154154155155156156157158159160161
18154155155156157157158158159160161
19155156156157157158159160161162163
20155156157157158159159160161162163

Important observations for the Verbal Scoring Frid: If you want a really high score, you must ensure that you get at least 13 questions correct on section 1 of verbal. Since that is the level where the algorithm will adapt. From 8 to 12 questions on section 1, the level of next section will remain the same. However, below 8 questions on section 1, the test will adapt to a lower level.

Verbal Scoring Grid (Part 2)

# Correct in Section 2 (V)
11121314151617181920
# Correct in
Section 1 (V)
0138139140141142143144145146147
1141142143144145146146147148148
2142143144145146147148149149149
3143144145146147148149150150150
4144145146147148149150151151151
5145146147148149150151152152152
6145146147148149150151152153153
7145146147148149150151152153153
8151152153154155156157158159159
9152153154155156157158159160161
10153154155156157158159160161162
11155156156157157158159160161162
12155156156157158159160161162162
13157158159160160161162163164164
14158159160161162163164164165165
15159160161162163164165166167167
16160161162163164165166167168168
17162162163163164165166167168169
18162162163163164165166167168169
19164165166167168169169170170170
20164165166167168169169170170170

In the verbal table, note how significantly your score will vary around 12-13 and 7-8 correct questions in section 1. These are the boundaries where the test adapts. You can greatly enhance or reduce your scores by scoring around these on each section.

Now hopefully by knowing how the GRE scoring matrix works, you’ll be able to gauge just how much you need to get on each section to hit the target. Of course, there will be a slight error in the table since it is predicted based on a sample data of 200+ GRE students. Nevertheless it is pretty much accurate and will unwind the confusions surrounding the GRE scoring mechanism.

If you would like to share your own GRE score report or experience with us so that we can improve upon the matrix, you can freely do that at info@brightlinkprep.com. We promise to keep your information confidential. J

1. Very informative.

• Hi Talha, I scored 13/20 and 16/20 in my Quants giving me a 160. According to the grid, I should have 156. Off by points but the Verbal was spot on! Scored 16/20 and 13/20 in the verbal and scored a 162

• Hello – thanks for the info. Yes, the ETS keeps on tweaking their algo 🙂

• I scored 13/20 and 8/20 on quant and got a 155! Took it on September 2019-

2. Hi,
I received a 156 on the verbal. For the first section, I answered 11 correctly and for the second section I answered 14 correctly. Thus, according to your scale, I should’ve earned a 157. I don’t know if this helps in your calibration process.

• Thanks Ana – we ll account for your insights!

3. The matrix is nearly true. On Verbal, I answered 9 & 12 questions correctly. I got 153 and this is what your matrix contains. Thanks. In Quant, I answered 18 & 16 correctly. I got 162. Your matrix contains 163.

4. In PowerPrep 2, I answered 13 & 9 questions correctly in verbal; I got 154 at the end (exactly what the matrix contains). In Quant, I answered 19 & 20 questions correctly and got 169 whereas it tells I should have the perfect score. Very accurate! Thanks for sharing, Talha.

• Thanks 🙂 Hope it was helpful!

5. The matrix is a bit off for this month’s Quant (Spot on for verbal) sections. My Quant scores were 17/20 and 15/20 giving me a 163. According to the table I should have gotten a 160. The test did seem a bit more difficult than usual.

• Yes Michael – There is always a +-2 chance of error in this grid since ETS keeps on tweaking their algorithm. Definitely the GRE is more difficult than what the power prep and ETS material represents!

6. I got 156 in Quant. (Test taken on 31 July 2018)

13/20 in first section
10/20 in second section

According to this algorithm, I should have scored 150. So it’s off by 6 points :/

• Thanks Daniel, Yes we are in the process of revising and updating this table based on the recent data from GRE scorers.

7. Say, If I get a Quant experimental section, so will all three (two graded plus one experimental) be adaptive?

• Not the experimental one…. but the graded ones will be!

8. The GRE exam consists of one extra section which does not count, how can we know which one is it? Will it be the very first section of either math or verbal?

• Hi Anna, There is no way to figure that out…. it is random and it can be any section!

9. I think it is off for Powerprep I Verbal, as I think ETS has made their scale MUCH harsher.

Verbal: 13 on first and 9 on second came out to 153, yours says 156
Math: 17 on first, 16 on second, came out to 161 just like your chart

• Yeah actually ETS keeps on tweaking their algo…. as I said above as well….it can be off by up to 2 points in most cases.

10. My score on ETS GRE practice test
V section 1 – 12correct
V section 2 – 11 correct
Score – 154

Q section 1 – 20 correct
Q section 2 – 18 correct
Score – 167

11. It is damm perfect w. r. t powerpreps however, varies with the manhattan mock the manhattan mocks seem to scale up the score pretty much.

• You should also note that, at least for the math part, Manhattan questions are generally harder. On the powerpreps my math scores were 167, and 165. On the manhattan test I am usually at 158-161 for math.

12. Practice Test Score:
Verbal:
Section 1- 17/20
Section 2- 11/20
Score: 160 (-2 from matrix)

Math:
Section 1 -19/20
Section 2-17/20
Score 164 (-1 from matrix)

13. Hugely informative! Gives a direction on how to improve. Many thanks!

14. My real exam scores are:

Quant: 157
1st- 13/20
2nd-11/20

Verbal:140
1st-5/20.
2nd-8/20

15. I just took a Kaplan practice test and

Verbal – 154
1st: 13/20
2nd: 16/20

Quant – 147
1st: 11/20
2nd: 9/20

Quant was spot on but verbal was WAY off.

• The algorithm mimick the actual GRE’s algorithm

16. seems a correct correlation as i got 160 in verbal in powerprep plus with 16 nd 11 right

• Hello,

I got 160 in verbal in the ETS practice 1 with 17 , 11 and 158 in quant with 16, 14.

Pretty accurate! ??

17. PowerPrep #1
Verbal: 19 in first, 17 in second. Table gives me 169, test gave me 168.
Quantitative: 19 in first, 19 in second. Table gives me 168, test gave me 167.

I’m taking it for real tomorrow, and I’ll reply to this comment with my VR and QR scores afterward.

• Got my finalized scores from the actual test: 170 verbal, 163 quantitative. And, for what it’s worth, my AW score was better than I thought it would be.

So, for me, VR and AW erred up, and QR erred down.

• Hi,

If you don’t mind me asking, how did you best study for the GRE? Also, congrats on such awesome scores!

• Hello – I prepared using Barrons and Princeton Review back in 2007!

18. I got a 4/20 on first section then 15/20 on second section for verbal, but my score was 145. And this was my official GRE exam. And in quant I got 14/20 then 9/20 and got a 156. How is that possible?

• GRE is adaptive – so getting 4/20 on section 1 puts you down. But 14/20 on the first section takes you up!

19. I think towards the mid-to-upper end this still remains quite accurate:
PowerPrep:
Verbal – 163 [1st: 16/20, 2nd: 16/20]
Quant – 167 [1st: 20/20, 2nd: 18/20]
Actual GRE:
Verbal – 162 [1st: 18/20, 2nd: 11/20]
Quant – 170 [1st: 20/20, 2nd: 20/20]

20. Just took the PowerPrep, Quant was close: 19/20 then 18/20, 166 (167 according to the chart). Verbal was quite a bit off for some reason: 13/20 then 14/20, scaled score was 157 (supposed to be 140 according to the chart). Any ideas why it was 3 points lower than expected?

• Well ETS keeps tweaking its algo from time to time hence the variation.

21. On the Power Prep Plus 3 test I scored a 151 which is unusual for me. In section 1, I scored 8/20, and in section 2, I scored 17/20. The grid scenarios have been fairly accurate in the past for me, but I was curious why the grid says I should have roughly received a 157? Do you have any insight into this? Thanks!

• Well, ETS keeps tweaking its algo from time to time, hence the variation

22. I scored 7 and 15 for verbal got 154
and 18 AND 19 for quant for a 168