This post is courtesy of our friends at Magoosh, and an excerpt from their new ebook, A Complete Guide to the Revised GRE.
The new GRE scale may seem pretty arbitrary. After all, who has ever been graded on a test from 130 – 170? Not that the 200 – 800 scale was standard, but, still, there was a certain panache in being able to say, “I got an 800!” (a 170 sounds far from perfect). And, just to clarify, both these scales apply to the verbal section and math section, so, technically, the new GRE is out of 340 (which sounds equally awkward).
So, why the strange range (pardon the rhyme)? Well, according to ETS, they wanted to stick to three digits so that the colleges wouldn’t have to overhaul all the textbox entries that call for three digits. Fair enough. Also, to avoid confusion with the current scoring system, ETS made sure the two score ranges didn’t overlap (had they made the new GRE out of 200, then a person who’d gotten that score on the current GRE would suddenly look a lot smarter if they were to say a few years from now, “Hey, I got a 200 on the GRE verbal section”).
On the surface, the new GRE scoring range appears to be more limited than that of the current system. After all, 200 – 800, based on 10-point intervals, allows for only a 61-point spread, compared to the new GRE’s 41-point spread, based on one point intervals. The new GRE makes up for this more limited range by giving more significance to the extreme ends of the scale. For example, on the current GRE, there really isn’t much difference between 730 and 800 on the verbal—they are both in the 99th percentile range. On the new GRE, the difference between 165 and 170 will be the 99th percentile vs. the 96th percentile.
At the end of the day, you are not going to be tested on these statistical nuances. The important thing to remember is that many colleges base their rankings on a percentile score, which you will also receive as part of your score report.
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