Sunday, August 22, 2010

GRE Score

Q. What's a good GRE score?

The weightage of the GRE score in the overall admission process might differ from university to university. Based on my own experience from being an admissions committee member at Stanford, GRE usually ends up being a filter, such that applicants above a certain cut off are moved forward for further consideration, those getting much lower than the cut off are rejected straightaway and edge cases are at times allowed to be saved if there's something remarkable in rest of the application. In the quantitative section, scores greater than 750 (the closer to 800 the better!) are preferred. In AWA, getting more than 3.5 (or 4 to be on the safer side) should be enough. Admission committees can forgive performance (especially for international students) in the verbal section, but it would still be better to get at least 500.

Again, some universities might be more lenient than the cutoffs I just mentioned, and some might be stricter. With enough practice and preparation, I strongly believe that a score of 1400/1600 (with 800/800 in quant and 600/800 in verbal) and 5.0/6.0 in AWA can definitely be achieved by most students. That should be a safe score to get you past the GRE filter of almost all the top universities.


  1. My question may be very clichéd but I request you answer it anyway.. I got q:730 and v:600..Will my low quant score affect my application process very seriously? I have maintained a fairly consistent GPA of ~7.8 throughout..

  2. @rk It depends on your target universities. For the very top universities (i.e the top 10, and a few others), I am afraid that the quant score, coupled with your GPA might stack the odds against you. But there are a lot of universities for whom it wouldn't matter so much. At the same time, it also depends on rest of your profile. I know a friend who had almost exactly the same GPA + GRE score as you, but in addition had strong projects and internships which helped her to get admits from quite a few universities in the 10-20 range.

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  4. Thank you so much for the prompt reply..I am interested in HCI and mostly going for 20-30 univs and Georgia tech..decent projects,so hope the quant score doesn't matter..thanks again

  5. hello!
    My aggregate is 80/100 and the University top marks is 87/100. So, I wanted to know if the Top Grad school in US estimates my academics with an an IITian who have scored 93/100(which was the least aggregate of an IITian) or with my University Top marks?

  6. @Honey

    From what I've seen, it's not easy for the committee to compare an absolute percentage with the 10 point GPA scale used in IITs, NITs, etc. So they do look at your marks in comparison to that of the top scorer at your university.

    But in case such information about the topper's marks is not available, committee members who have served in previous years have some idea of the range of grades usually given at a particular university. E.g., I was surprised when an American committee member at Stanford shared some data points regd. the range of grades that toppers usually get at Pune University. He was recalling this from his previous experiences of reviewing applications in the past. Of course this would work only if you come from an Indian college which has a history of students applying to that particular US university.

    To be on the safer side, do ensure that the topper's marks are mentioned somewhere in your application (reco letters or some additional info field elsewhere).

  7. hello kartik, I read ur paper on admissions to US universities. my profile is this :

    Wrote the new GRE and got Q : 156, V : 145 , in total 301 out of 340.
    TOEFL : 104 out of 120
    UG percentage is 82%

    I have 6 months of work experience at tata consultancy services, chennai

    Then I came to the US and nearly had an year's gap(I m thinking of applying in fall 2014). I did a fall course in San Jose State University on "information security and got a Grade of A (which is 90.25 percentage and a GPA of 4.0, since I topped the class in all the assignments, projects, exams)

    Currently I m working as a Community contributor at Mozilla Corp for 3 months, till date on their new operating system. My work is appreciated and recognised by all here.

    I have a publication in the IEEE journal in 2012. I can get LOR from the Director at mozilla and the professor at san jose state univ, both of them are reputed.

    Considering all this and a quite decent SOP, what are my prospects of getting into an A grade univ for MS in CS?

    PS : I badly want to get into UC Berkeley, CMU, etc.

    1. @sree

      I've responded to your personal mail, and we can continue the conversation there.

  8. Hi Kartik,

    I came across your paper accidently. Great job!. I have a query.
    I have a bachelors in CS from non IIT, top 30 ranked college in India (College of Engineering, Trivandrum). I am not sure this college is not known outside India, as very few students go for their MS. I have a CGPA of 7.95 on 10, gpa has consistently improved from bottom half in class in first year to top 5 in last semester. My question is how do Universities evaluate Indian grades. I have mostly B Plus and As in most CS courses. Now in my university, B + is 8/10 and A is 8.5/10 (it's on absolute scale and not relative). It is really difficult to score above A in theory subjects as the marking is very stringent, even course topper will have A/A+. My First year GPA is a very low (7.3), but i didn't have any CS courses (low grades in Chemistry, Civil etc). I would like to know grades for all CS courses equally important. Say I have bad grades (7/10) for Compilers and Data Structures, and excellent grades in my favorite courses like Networks, Databases, Distributed Systems, Cryptography etc. When Admission committee looks at transcript, do they give equal weightage for all courses or the courses which are specific to applicant's interested specialization?(I want to specialize in Systems). I would like to get some clarity.

    1. @George

      Each university evaluates Indian grades differently. Some of them specify a conversion table or tool while filling the online application to do the conversation for you. Others ask you to go via some organization like WES to convert the scores. And there are others (like Stanford) which just ask you to mention your GPA as it is without converting and mentioning how much it was out of. In such universities, the committee mostly goes by its past knowledge of how GPAs from a particular college, or region or country are like. So even if it doesn't know your college directly, it may try to compare you against other students' GPAs from India. They also use the transcripts to get some idea about how the grading works. Official transcripts issued by your college should have a legend detailing what range of marks translate into what grades and grade points. And may be in your case, it also mentions that the grading is absolute. If it doesn't, then you need to mention this in your SOP and/or get one of your recommenders (e.g., if you are getting a LOR from the head of the department) to mention it as well. The recommender could put things in perspective by saying what the usual range of GPAs from your college are and in what percentile of the class you stand.

      As for your other question, I think for the most part, all CS courses are given equal weightage. There are certain courses which are just considered to be fundamental courses in CS such as data structures, algorithm analysis, introduction to computing/programming, etc. in which they would want you to perform well. Beyond that, they may be somewhat forgiving if you've done badly in a course or two, if they are not in the field you are claiming to be your "field of interest". Of course, you'd need to back it up with really good grades in the courses that you claim to be the ones you are interested in, and want to specialize in.

  9. Hi, I cannot believe you even wrote a hefty paper to clear every ones suspicion. Really doing an altruist's job. Admirable!

    So, getting to the point I'm a ICT (you may consider that CS) UG student from DA-IICT. I'm interested Computational Biology in tier 1 university like MIT and Caltech. I already have publications presented 2 conference by me plus GPA of 8.5. Already working with one of the research labs at my clg since last 1.5 years now on the third research paper. I'm about to give GRE and TOEFL but not so enthusiastic about scores. I'm interested in PhD. You think I stand a good chance? Should I give importance to GRE scores?

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Shalin!

      Take a look at, since it's somewhat related to your query.

      One can get into a decent university for a PhD with a good GPA and research background (despite a low GRE), but I don't think you should deliberately give low importance to the GRE score. The more ammunition you have to throw at the committee, the better. A great GRE score will only help to strengthen your application even more, and if you can get something like 160/160 on Quant or a really high overall score like 330+, it's bound to stick in the reviewer's mind and make an impact.

      No doubt, give most importance to having a strong academic record and research record, but don't ignore the GRE altogether. When applying to top schools where there's a lot of competition, you can never be fully sure what each school does to break ties between equal or almost equal candidates. So your best bet is always to do your best and score well in all the parameters that they might care about (and GRE is one of them).

    2. Yeah right!! But do you think a GPA of 8.5 and two research papers will show that kind of record? I mean it's still not a 9+.

  10.  GRE exam is a requirement for admission in such programs i.e. Masters, PhD etc. But no where in the world..., they use it to grade your PhD or your working during PhD.

    gre practice

  11. So now do we have to write GRE or only GRE subject test (Math) or both if we want to join a grad college or they are all just moot now ?

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