How to Get a 330 on the GRE


How to Get a 330 on the GRE

A score of 330+ puts you solidly in the best GRE score range. Here’s how to get there!

How Good is a 330 on the GRE?

We’ve written about what makes a good GRE score here. The ETS doesn’t publish data on test-takers’ combined scores. However, here are some of the possible ways you could get a combined score of 330.

160 Quant (74th percentile) / 170 Verbal (99th percentile)

163 Quant (83rd percentile) / 167 Verbal (98th percentile)

165 Quant (88th percentile) / 165 Verbal (96th percentile)

167 Quant (91st percentile) / 163 Verbal (93rd percentile)

170 Quant (96th percentile) / 160 Verbal (86th percentile)

The first thing that should jump out at you is that you need a very strong score in both sections to earn a combined 330 GRE score. Particularly, you need to score at the 90th percentile in Verbal—or very close to it—no matter how strong your Quant score is.

How hard is it to get these scores on each section? In 2017, Brightlink Prep researched the relationship between your GRE score and the number of right answers you got on each section. The data are summarized here. Although the situation may have changed slightly since the time this research was done, here’s what the situation was at the time.

To understand this analysis, you’ll want to know a bit about how the GRE works. The test is section-adaptive, with exactly two scored sections of each type (plus an experimental section, which doesn’t count). No matter what, your first section of each type will be of an average difficulty level. Your second section could be easier, average, or harder, depending on how well you did on the first section.

GRE Quant: How to Score a 160+

To earn the best GRE score of 160 or higher on Quant, you need to get the harder second Quant section by answering at least 15 of the 20 questions in the first section correctly.

The performance you need on the second section depends on your target Quant score and on how well you did on the first section. If you did very well on the first section, for instance, you may only need 12 right answers on the second section to hit the 160 mark. However, if you want a 170 on Quant, you need to perform nearly perfectly on both of the Quant sections.

GRE Verbal: How to Score a 160+

On Verbal, you might actually end up in the best GRE score range even without getting the harder second section. If you do very well on the medium second section, you can score in the low end of the 160s.

However, if you want a higher Verbal score than that, you also need the harder second Verbal section. The scoring on Verbal appears to be slightly more forgiving than the scoring on Quant; you might get a 165 on Verbal with as many as four misses on each section.

Here’s a quick summary of what we know so far:

  • To get a 330 on the GRE, you need an average of 165 on the two sections. The lowest score you could possibly earn on either section and still get a 330 is 160.
  • This requires that you do well enough on the first Quant section to get the harder second Quant section. Also, you need to do at least moderately well on the second Quant section; to get a very high GRE Quant score, your performance needs to be nearly perfect.
  • You also have to do well on both Verbal sections, but you can get away with a few more wrong answers on Verbal, and you don’t necessarily need to get the harder second section to score a 160.

What This Means for You

If you’re aiming for a 330 on the GRE, then unlike most test-takers, you need to miss very few questions. That doesn’t mean you can’t guess! We still recommend allowing yourself one ‘free pass’ per section, to keep yourself from getting totally hung up on one tough problem and wasting precious time. Why? Because to get a 330 or higher, your overall number of misses has to be extremely low. That means you can’t afford even a single careless mistake—and careless mistakes happen when you spend too much time on a tough problem and then start rushing.

That means studying in such a way that you’ll miss very few problems. You need to be prepared for everything you can possibly see on the test, and you need to be prepared to use that knowledge to solve problems you’ve never seen before. Here’s how.

Studying for a 330 on the GRE

The difference between a 330 GRE score and a 320 GRE score isn’t what you might think. In fact, somebody who gets a 330 on the GRE probably doesn’t know all that much more than somebody who gets a 320. (Vocabulary is one possible exception.)

The GRE intentionally tests a relatively small amount of material. It doesn’t test calculus, trigonometry, art history, or underwater basket weaving, even though it could! This has the effect of keeping the test fair. The material on the GRE is limited to stuff that every high-scorer can realistically be expected to learn. And once you’ve learned that material, improving your score is no longer about learning more new stuff.

You do need to learn the material first, and you need to learn it thoroughly. That’s a prerequisite to getting a score of 330 or higher, even though it isn’t the whole story. Some good places to start include GRE Interact, the Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides, and/or the Manhattan Prep GRE Complete Course. Take our advice on studying for the GRE, keep a problem log, and frequently review topics that you haven’t looked at for a while.

The name of the game is “overlearning”: the GRE doesn’t test you on whether you understand the material when someone else explains it to you; it tests you on whether you can use it yourself to solve brand new problems, even when under significant pressure. So, you’re not done when you understand a topic! Keep studying material you feel comfortable with, until you get to a point where you could explain every problem in your sleep.

Okay, so you know the GRE material. You might already be scoring 330 or higher on your practice tests, in which case you’re ready for test day! But it’s more likely that you still need to polish your GRE skills. That’s where we get to the real difference between a 320 and a 330 on the GRE.

No Careless Mistakes

As you saw earlier, the GRE, at very high score levels, is unforgiving. You can afford one or two strategic guesses for the sake of timing, but you can’t afford to miss any problems that you could have gotten right. That means completely avoiding careless mistakes.

We’ve written quite a bit in the past about avoiding careless mistakes. Your consistency can improve, but it requires targeted practice. Check out this fantastic article from GRE instructor Tom Anderson, which includes a deep dive into where careless mistakes come from and how you can avoid them. The short version: know your mistakes, check your work, focus on what’s in front of you, and don’t blindly trust your calculator—or your mental arithmetic. The long version is worth a read, so go check it out.

Quick and Creative

The more quickly you can work without sacrificing accuracy, the more likely you’ll be able to get most or all of the questions in a section correct. This is true even if you’re already finishing each section within the time limit. Here are some exercises to improve your GRE timing:

  • Practice with a stopwatch until you can time lengths of 1 minute or 2 minutes in your head. The more aware you are of how much time is passing, the more likely you’ll be able to keep on pace while taking the test.
  • Do longer, timed problem sets, and don’t allow yourself to go past the time limit, even though it’s just practice! Start with shorter sets—5 problems—and work your way up. Make guesses during these sets if you need to. Try this with both targeted problem sets on specific topics, and randomly-selected problems.
  • Take your ‘too long’ problems just as seriously as your ‘wrong’ problems. If you spent too much time on a problem, there’s room for improvement, even if you got it right. Put these problems in your problem log.

The other part of the formula is being able to use what you know creatively and spontaneously on test day. The best way to do this is to use the ‘when I see this, do this’ method for review. This will train you to generalize about the problems you solve while practicing and recognize similar features in other problems. No matter how much you practice, you’ll never see the same problems that you’re going to see on test day. So you need to focus on learning things from your practice problems that will translate to brand-new problems later on.

In short, hitting the 330 mark isn’t about learning special material that only shows up once you’re doing very well on the test. There are a few topics that you don’t really need to learn at all until you’re scoring at a high level—combinatorics, probability, and three-dimensional geometry are the big ones—but those aren’t the heart of getting a 330+. Instead, it’s more about avoiding wrong answers, speeding up to buy yourself more time to think, and using what you know to its fullest extent. Check out our GRE study advice for more! ?

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Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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