10 Mar 2017

What’s a good GMAT score?

This is probably the first question most MBA program aspirants think about. It’s a valid concern and I’m sure we all feel better knowing what we are getting into before we just jump in. For this article, I’m just going to talk about the scores, not about how important the GMAT is in the admissions process. For now let’s just agree that it’s an important part of the admisions package. So let’s get this settled. Well, as much as we can.

When asked what a good score is, test prep folks usually say “whatever score gets you in.” I always felt that was glib. It’s true but doesn’t really tell you anything. We all know what the score ranges are; we just dont want to focus on them. We would rather focus on improvement. But I believe students need to have concrete goals. The following numbers are all available with some research. For specific schools, you should do the reasearch and lookup the important details for each program as part of your MBA application process. US News and World Report puts out a definitive ranking every year. GMAT club is also a good resource.

Tell me the numbers already.

Let’s start at the top, with the best schools in the world, HSW, better known as Harvard, Stanford, and Warton. 690 to 760. I should let you know that a 760 is the 99th percentile of all test takers. Candidates with a 750 or above make up about 25% of the applicants and the acceptance rate is still only in the 10s percentile. Most of the applicants fall between 690 and 750, with an acceptance rate below 10%. It’s just that hard. What this means is that for these schools you really need a standout package, and barring something truly exceptional, you need a 700+ just to have a chance.

The next top dozen schools have similar numbers for the 20-80; 680-750 or so. The difference with HSW is that the admit rates are higher. Generally speaking 700+ is around 25% and 700- is around 10%.

The next 50 or so top schools have numbers a little lower. The 20 is around 600; the 80 in the lower 700s. While there are exceptions, generally speaking the GMAT score range follows the ranking. Funny how that works.

What does this mean for me?

To make a bad analogy, the score you submit is like an introduction. While it may not be the sole determinant of admissions success, you want to make a good first impression. Generally speaking schools are looking for someone who “fits” well into their program. What it means for test scores is they don’t want too many “outliers,” well, at least not scores that will bring down the average. Think the 20% to the 80% range, or the 25% to the 75% range of admitted scores. The average and the 75% give you an idea of who you are competing against, and what you have to get to be competitive. If you are within that range you are in contention. Of course, if you want to be a strong candidate you should aim for a score closer to the 75% range. If you are in a higher band, you should be looking at a higher tier program.

Whatever your goals or outlook, the GMAT is an important part of your application. You should allow ample time to properly prep for the GMAT. I’ll continue to post articles about the test, but if you have any questions that you want answered or if you want to have a consultation, email me at [email protected].