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How Important is a GRE Score?

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If you're a student applying for graduate school and taking the GRE as part of the process, you might be wondering just how important that final score will be. This blog post answers that question.

A GREat GRE Score

High school students interested in applying to universities have no doubt that the SAT (and/or ACT) score they get is rather important in determining which colleges will accept their applications. But because a smaller percentage of college students go on to apply to grad school, the knowledge of just how important a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is not quite as common. This article will explain exactly how much the grad programs you're applying to are likely to care about your GRE score.

The GRE stands for the Graduate Record Examination

It Will Depend on the Program

First of all, it's important to emphasize that every academic institution and graduate program will take applicants' GRE scores into account in different ways. For some programs, like those related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it may be heavily weighted and viewed as very important, while other schools may barely consider it at all. Additionally, some programs at schools such as the University of Southern California, American University, and Boston University, will not even require you to take the GRE or submit a score to them in the first place. Your best bet in understanding how important your GRE score is it to research your programs of interest and speak with someone on the admissions committee.

It Won't Make or Break You

That being said, you should also know that your GRE score won't be enough in and of itself to make or break your application. Having a high, or even perfect, GRE score, won't necessarily make you a shoo-in when it comes to being accepted to one of the top schools in the country if the rest of your graduate school application isn't up to par. And, conversely, having a low GRE score doesn't mean you won't get in anywhere; it just means using your other application materials as an opportunity to showcase your suitability for the program.

A student takes the GRE

It Will Be Used in Different Ways

Now let's take a look at the different ways a grad school might take your GRE score into consideration. Here are a few of the most common ways:

  • As a prerequisite for looking at your application - certain schools will not consider applicants with a score below a certain threshold.
  • As a final factor at the end of the decision-making process in case a school is on the fence about a particular student.
  • As part of a complex formula weighing different factors, including your undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal statements, all with different degrees of importance.
  • As a part of your GRE score (verbal/quantitative/writing) that has more or less importance than the others.

A graduate school applicant

Make an Informed Decision

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do as a graduate school applicant is determining for yourself how much time and effort you plan to invest in the different components of your application. Your GRE score isn't everything. So don't make the mistake of overemphasizing it at the risk of turning in a curriculum vitae (CV) or personal essay that's not an ideal reflection of you as a candidate. It's all about balance, after all.

For more information and resources about the GRE, check out this GRE preparation resource on Study.com.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
November 2019

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