The GRE is scored in three areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Before August 1, 2011, the verbal and quantitative sections were scored on a scale from 200 to 800 points in 10-point increments; however, since that date, scores in those two sections have instead ranged from 130 to 170 points, with scores calculated in one-point increments. The analytical writing section has always been scored on a scale from 0 to 6 points in half-point increments. The test is scored differently when taken on the computer than when taken on paper.
Verbal and Quantitative Scoring
Scores for the verbal and quantitative sections are based on the number of correct responses. Test-takers see two sections for each measure, which are equal in difficulty for the paper test but adaptive for the computer-based test, meaning that the computer selects the second set of questions for each section based on how well the test-taker did in the first section. All questions in a section contribute equally to a raw score, which is then converted to a scaled score to account for variances in question difficulty and to allow for score comparisons among all test-takers.
Analytical Writing Scoring
For the computer-based test, each essay is scored using a holistic scale by a reader, who considers the overall quality of the essay. That reader's rating is then reviewed by a computerized program called e-rater. If their scores disagree, the essay is then reviewed by a second human reader, and the two readers' scores are averaged to the nearest half-point. For the paper-based test, each essay is scored holistically, using the same rubric, by two readers. E-rater is not used, but a third grader serves as a tiebreaker in the case of disagreement.
Analytical Writing Rubric
There are two writing tasks for the analytical writing section, but according to the Educational Testing Service, only an average score is reported because it is a more accurate measure than the score for either writing task alone. Both tasks, "Analyzing an Issue" and "Analyzing an Argument," are scored using the same six-point rubric. An outstanding score of six indicates writing that contains insightful analysis, many supporting details, sound logic and good organization and mechanics. In contrast, a poor score of one indicates writing that does not display much critical reasoning and is thus flawed by being confusing, irrelevant or poorly developed.
In the official "GRE Guide to the Use of Scores," the GRE Board reports that the test is designed to assess knowledge and skills that relate to graduate study, but that in and of themselves, scores do not measure all the skills necessary to succeed in graduate school and are not a consistent predictor of academic success. The GRE Board recommends using multiple criteria to evaluate graduate school applicants, judging scores for each section of the GRE separately, accepting only official score reports and using the percentile ranks from applicants' score reports to determine how an applicant compares with other test-takers.
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