How important is GRE for your Master's application?

posted at June 22, 2022, 4:04 p.m.


And yet again, we find ourselves amidst the GRE season. The season of frantic calls and curious queries. Will 45 days be enough to prepare for GRE? Is 310 a good score? Should I not apply altogether if I get just a 290? Should I just retire to the hills if I don’t get it right on the first attempt? (Okay, we know the last one is a stretch but you guys need to chill a little!)

It’s not the difficulty of questions that makes the GRE challenging. Rather, it’s the trying triad of qualities (that one can apply) that it tests: comprehension skills, quantitative aptitude, and patience.

In this article, we answer some basic questions about GRE. More importantly, we try to emphasize what it is not. If you’re someone who has decided to hold off on everything under the sun because of GRE, stop reading, make a cup of coffee and then sit down with this article. You need to take a breath and get out of your head for a little bit.

Ready? Here we go.

What is the significance of the GRE in the entire scheme of your application?**

  • It acts as a common filter: Universities get thousands of applications and reading each and every one of them is impossible. Hence, they use the GRE to figure out whether the application is worth reading. Rarely are decisions between two strong profiles taken on the basis of the GRE.

While GPA depends on the rigorousness of the coursework and grading system at each university and your projects can seem better or worse than those in competing applications depending on how you write about them, the GRE is the only constant parameter for admissions committees to judge candidates from all over the world.

If you get a decent score (often above a 310), the GRE score begins to matter less and less to admissions committees. The difference between a 290 and 300 is massive. Between 300 and 310 is significant. 310 to 320, not so much, and beyond a 320+ really doesn't matter.

A candidate with a 320 and a strong profile will almost always be admitted over someone with a 330 and an average profile.

  • It’s a measure of your aptitude + focus: Along with your verbal and quant skills, GRE is a test of your ability to concentrate for long periods of time. The questions are not difficult. Sitting down for over 4 hours and performing at your best is a task.

Think about it this way, when an admissions officer is making a judgment on your potential for success for a master's degree in structural engineering, he/she isn't going to let your impressive vocabulary become the deciding factor in your admission. However, showing good reasoning abilities and quantitative aptitude will certainly aid you to an extent.

Long story short, the GRE will largely decide whether your application will be read with some level of interest by the admissions committee.

What GRE is NOT:

  • Another (Indian) entrance test to obsess over: Never treat the GRE as an entrance exam. It is only a small part of the process. The other aspects of your profile like your GPA, Projects, Internships, and research papers are far more important.
  • THE deciding factor for the universities: Anything over a 315, and the GRE matters less and less to universities. While getting 295 v/s a 305 makes a massive difference in terms of the kinds of universities that you can apply to, the difference between a 320 and 330 is non-existent. If you are getting rejects from universities with a 315+ on the GRE, it’s probably due to the rest of your profile.
  • An “exam-result” kind of test: Understand that while universities may prefer scores in a specified range, there are no cut-off GRE scores that universities release. We’ve seen Indian students decide on which universities to apply to based on the GRE.

It should be the opposite.

Get a bunch of universities you are keen on and do your research before the GRE and prep for the GRE accordingly. Always figure out the courses and the universities that you’re interested in and gauge whether your academic profile is good enough for it. Once you’re done with that, you should have 6–8 options that you are keen on and you can send your GRE scores to the 4 schools (2 safe, 2 ambitious) from that list.

What is a good GRE score?

A general, one-size-fits-all answer is: Anything above a 315 and you probably won't be rejected because of a low GRE score for most programs.

At Gradvine, we've had candidates with a 312 make it to Stanford whereas there have been examples of people with a 320+ being rejected by the same program due to the rest of the profile being weak. From our experience, we've seen people with good profiles and scores in the region of 315 do make it to the top 10 schools for their program.

With a GRE of a 290, you run the risk of your application not being read with any level of seriousness at top universities. With around a 315, your application will certainly be read with interest at a lot of top schools and beyond that, it's up to your GPA, projects, vision in your SoP, and recommendation letters that are going to make the difference.

Sometimes, a dance between GRE and GPA can save you.

Sometimes in the past, we've asked our students to write to universities to check if they can apply to a program with their low GPA. A lot of top universities have replied stating that they can and that a higher GRE score can see them have their applications considered seriously. Now keep in mind that this is a subjective case and probably won't always work. But we've seen a student with a 2.5/4 GPA make it to Purdue with a 330 on the GRE. However, a lot of universities like Cornell and USC very rarely take in students with a low GPA irrespective of their GRE scores.

You are doing okay.

All in all, a little discipline and smart preparation can easily help you keep the GRE boat afloat.
If your GPA is good and if you have decent projects, don't let anyone tell you that you can't apply to good universities because your GRE isn't a 325. If someone tells you so, please ask them for past examples backing their answer.

Still unconvinced?

You can always reach out to us at (https://gradvine.com) for any further questions. Remember to choose your sources of information wisely. At Gradvine, you can speak to master's students and graduates from the finest global universities to help you with your application queries.