GRE percentile is an important metric when you take the GRE General Test. In this blog we will discuss on few important pointers on GRE Percentiles.
How is percentile calculated – in general?
A percentile based ranking, not just the GRE, calculates the metric as follows.
The percentile number provides information about the percentage of test takers who have scored below you in the test.
What then does a 95th percentile mean?
A 95th percentile in the GRE means that 95% of the test takers have a score that is lesser than yours. In other words, 5% of the test takers have scored as much as what you have or have scored higher than you did.
A 95th percentile test taker is in the top 5 percent of the test takers.
Percentile ranking came into existence to provide a relative performance metric and not just an arbitrary absolute number as scores tend to be. Plus it also helps evaluate a student’s relative standing compared between two similar tests. For example, how does a 720 in the GMAT compare with a 330 in the GRE. Despite the testing populations being different, a percentile is one kind of a leveler to get an estimate of a test taker’s relative standing.
In the GRE, who are you compared with to provide your percentile score?
The GRE computes percentiles using the scores secured by individuals who tested in the preceding 3 test years. A test year for GRE starts on July 1 of a year and ends on June 30 of the following year.
In its website (link provided below) ETS informs the test taker population that formed a part of the group to compute the percentiles. https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table1a.pdf
We have answered two important questions on Percentile in the GRE test. Here is another vital question on the same subject.
Will your percentile change for the same GRE score during the validity of the score?
Will your GRE percentile change during the course of 5 years – i.e., during the validity of your GRE score?
In short yes. Let us say, you scored 167 in the quant section of the GRE. That is a 90th percentile. ETS computes the percentile based on the scores of individuals who took the GRE General Test between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2018.
So, if you took the GRE today and scored 167 points in the quant section, you are in the 90th percentile.
A year from now, if you request ETS for a score card for the same test Your score in the quant section of the GRE General Test of 167 points will remain unchanged.
However, the percentile score may not remain at 90 because the test takers who took the test in the next 3 test years may have performed differently
So, which percentile number will a school look at?
Having said that, most schools look at the absolute value of the scores in the GRE or the GMAT. The schools do not really bother so much with the percentile numbers. You would have seen it on their websites – the median GRE score is 161 for the quant section. How often have you seen that the median GRE score is a 90th percentile in the quant section? The rationale seems obvious – the absolute score in the quant section was in your hands. It is an indicator of how well you fared on the day of the test. The relative score or percentile is a function of how a different set of population performed in the test.
So, let us focus on what is in your control. Start your GRE Preparation now and get set to increase your GRE scores.
K S Baskar, an IIM Calcutta alumnus. Two decades and counting – tutoring for GMAT and GRE.