Few things have the cachet of a perfect GRE score. Climbing Mt. Everest, and a perfect GMAT score come to mind. All amazing feats, ones in which you may be tempted to rest on your laurels. Yet, that perfect GRE score won’t open the door to every graduate program. Conversely, a score in the 330+ range can only help to get you into a top program (there is no attendant shame in falling short of perfection, as when you turn around thirty feet short of Everest’s summit).
What are schools actually looking for
Schools want a well-rounded candidate, one who has a strong GPA, excellent letters of recommendation, relevant work in the field (published papers don’t hurt!) and of course a competitive GRE score. Spending an extra month of study just so you make sure you can nail a perfect 170 on both the GRE math and the GRE verbal section takes away time that you could be working on other elements of your transcript. Again, being well-rounded trumps getting a perfect GRE score.
Average scores per programs
It may surprise you to learn that the average GRE scores for Ivy League schools are not all in the stratosphere. For instance, the average GRE quant score for Harvard engineers is 159. That means there are some Harvard bound engineers who are scoring near 150. Meanwhile, there is some math whiz with a perfect 170 on the math section who is not going to Harvard.
Does the same apply for the GMAT
For many b-school bound students, there is a raging debate: GMAT vs. GRE. If you fall into this camp, I want to make sure not to mislead you. In other words, don’t think that a perfect GMAT score can do what a perfect GRE score can’t—get you into the school of your choice. As coveted as that GMAT 800 may be, it by no means guarantees a one-way ticket to Yale or Wharton. Indeed, each year Stanford apparently turns away candidates with perfect GMAT scores.
Now that you know you don’t have to aim for a perfect score, only a very good one, you can give yourself a little bit of wiggle room. Faced with a tough triple-blank Text Completion that you just can’t wrap your head around? Guess and move on. There won’t be too many of these, and you’ll be able to relax, knowing that you don’t have to achieve perfection—just get pretty close.
This post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For help with GRE vocabulary, check out our free flashcards and Vocab Wednesday videos on the Magoosh GRE Blog.