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Data about GRE test-takers from 2018-2023


A Deep Dive into GRE Test Takers: Analysis of ETS's Report (2018-2023)


For those gearing up for the GRE, understanding the test-taker landscape can offer valuable insights into setting realistic goals and preparing effectively. The latest ETS report, "A Snapshot of the Individuals Who Took the GRE General Test (July 2018 – June 2023)," provides a comprehensive analysis of the demographics, performance, and trends among GRE test takers. This blog post will dissect the key findings and what they mean for prospective GRE candidates.

Overview and Purpose

The report aims to aid GRE score users in understanding test scores and promoting their appropriate use. It emphasizes fairness and equity in test administration, ensuring the GRE remains a reliable tool for evaluating applicants worldwide. The data spans five testing years and includes various demographic and performance metrics to offer a holistic view of the test-taker population.

Volume and Demographics of Test Takers

Declining Numbers

From 2018 to 2023, the total number of GRE test takers dropped from 532,826 to 319,101. This trend may reflect shifts in graduate admissions policies or alternative testing options. The decline could be attributed to several factors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on test accessibility and decision-making and changing preferences among students for graduate education pathways.

Gender Distribution

In 2022-23, men comprised 53% of test takers, while women made up 47%. This marks a change from previous years when the gender distribution was more balanced. The shift could be indicative of broader societal trends in higher education and workforce participation. Additionally, the introduction of new gender options such as "non-binary" and "prefer to self-describe" at the end of the 2022-23 testing year reflects a growing recognition of gender diversity, though these categories had minimal selections in the reporting period.

Age Trends

Most GRE candidates are 30 years old or younger, with a significant portion aged 18-22. Younger test takers generally scored higher, particularly in Quantitative Reasoning. This trend may be due to the recency of their formal education and familiarity with standardized testing formats. It is also noteworthy that older test takers, while fewer in number, bring diverse experiences and motivations for pursuing graduate education, which could influence their preparation and performance.

Performance Insights

Gender Differences

Men scored higher on average in both Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning, while women slightly outperformed men in Analytical Writing. The report suggests these differences could be attributed to varied educational backgrounds and preparatory practices. For instance, men’s higher scores in Quantitative Reasoning might reflect stronger emphasis on STEM subjects during their education. Conversely, women’s better performance in Analytical Writing may indicate stronger verbal and written communication skills developed through diverse academic experiences.

Citizenship and Scores

Non-U.S. citizens, who make up 69% of test takers, generally scored higher in Quantitative Reasoning but lower in Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing compared to U.S. citizens. This trend might reflect the global emphasis on STEM fields, where Quantitative skills are crucial. Additionally, language proficiency differences could contribute to the lower scores in Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing among non-U.S. citizens.

Racial and Ethnic Group Performance

U.S. Citizens

Among U.S. citizens, Asian test takers scored highest in Quantitative and Analytical Writing. White, Asian, and Other racial/ethnic groups outperformed others in Verbal Reasoning. These differences highlight the diverse educational experiences and opportunities across various demographic groups. Factors such as access to quality education, cultural emphasis on certain academic skills, and socio-economic conditions could play significant roles in shaping these outcomes.

Fields of Study and Degree Objectives

Popular Majors

Engineering, Business, and Social Sciences remain the top intended graduate fields. Notably, test takers aiming for Engineering and Business programs scored higher in Quantitative Reasoning. This correlation is expected, given the rigorous quantitative skills required in these fields. The preference for these majors also underscores the ongoing demand for technical and managerial expertise in the global job market.

Degree Objectives

A majority of test takers intend to pursue a Master’s degree, with a smaller percentage aiming for doctoral programs. This distribution aligns with the broad applicability of the GRE in various graduate-level disciplines. Master’s programs often serve as a stepping stone for career advancement or specialization, while doctoral programs cater to those pursuing academic or high-level research careers.

Regional Trends

Global Distribution

India, the United States, and China have the highest number of GRE test takers. However, there are significant differences in age distribution and performance across these regions. For instance, a higher percentage of test takers from China are aged 18-22 compared to their U.S. and Indian counterparts. This demographic trend might be influenced by the timing of undergraduate completion and immediate pursuit of graduate studies in China.

Analysis and Implications

Understanding the Competition

For prospective GRE takers, knowing the demographic and performance trends can help set realistic benchmarks. If you’re aiming for a top-tier program, striving for scores above the average reported in your demographic can enhance your application. Being aware of these trends also helps in contextualizing your performance and identifying areas where you might need additional focus.

Targeted Preparation

Identifying strengths and weaknesses is crucial. If your Quant scores lag behind the average for your intended field, focusing on that section with tailored prep can yield significant improvements. Utilizing diagnostic tests and targeted practice can help hone in on specific areas needing improvement. For instance, if you struggle with certain types of quantitative problems, dedicated practice in those areas can boost your confidence and performance.

Leveraging Resources

Utilize official ETS materials and consider professional tutoring to address specific areas of concern. Tutors, like those at Vince Kotchian Test Prep, can provide personalized strategies that generic study plans might overlook. Professional tutors can offer insights into test-taking strategies, time management, and effective study techniques tailored to your unique needs and learning style.


The ETS report offers a wealth of data that can inform and guide your GRE preparation strategy. By understanding the broader landscape of GRE test takers, you can better assess your own standing and make informed decisions about your study plan and test-taking approach. Remember, while the GRE is an important component of your application, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Focus on your overall profile and leverage your strengths to present the best version of yourself to graduate programs.

For personalized GRE prep and expert guidance, consider reaching out to experienced tutors who can help you navigate the intricacies of the test. Good luck, and may you achieve the scores you’re aiming for!

Appendix: Detailed Data Analysis

To further understand the nuances of GRE performance and demographics, let's delve into more specific data points from the report.

Examinee Population by Gender

In the 2022-23 testing year, out of 319,101 examinees, 53% were men, and 47% were women. Men had higher mean scores in Verbal Reasoning (151.7 vs. 150.7) and Quantitative Reasoning (160.3 vs. 155.8) compared to women. However, women scored slightly higher in Analytical Writing (3.5 vs. 3.4). 

U.S. Citizenship Status and Gender

Among U.S. citizens, men scored higher in Verbal Reasoning (153.9 vs. 150.5) and Quantitative Reasoning (153.5 vs. 148.6) compared to women. For non-U.S. citizens, the trends were similar, with men outperforming women in Quantitative Reasoning (162.2 vs. 160.6). 

Age Group and Performance

Younger test takers (18-22 years) generally scored higher in Quantitative Reasoning (160.0) compared to older age groups. This trend highlights the advantage of recent academic training in quantitative skills. Conversely, Analytical Writing scores were more consistent across age groups, indicating that writing skills may develop and stabilize over a longer period.

Country of Citizenship

India, the United States, and China were the top three countries by the number of test takers. Indian test takers excelled in Quantitative Reasoning (mean score 161.5), while U.S. test takers performed better in Analytical Writing (mean score 3.9). Chinese test takers also had high Quantitative Reasoning scores (mean score 166.2), reflecting the strong emphasis on STEM education in China.

Intended Graduate Major Field

Engineering was the most popular intended graduate major field among GRE test takers, followed by Business and Social Sciences. Those intending to pursue Engineering scored the highest in Quantitative Reasoning, reflecting the technical nature of the field. This data can help prospective students understand the competitive landscape of their chosen field and set appropriate score goals.

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