We updated this post in October 2014 to reflect the most recent data from GMAC. Enjoy!
According to GMAC, the folks who create the GMAT, the GMAT score percentiles reveal the link between GMAT score and percentile of everyone who takes the GMAT. To start, here are some of the correlations between GMAT score and percentile.
- 547.35 = mean & median score on the GMAT = higher than 50% of GMAT takers
- 650 = 77th percentile = above this, the top 22% of GMAT takers
- 700 = 89th percentile = above this, the top 10% of GMAT takers
- 730 = 96th percentile = above this, the top 4% of GMAT takers
- 750 = 98th percentile = above this, the top 2% of GMAT takers
- 760 and up = 99th percentile = above this, fewer than 1% of GMAT takers
(Notice that 780 and 790 and 800 all mean about the same in the great scheme of things.) What constitutes a “good score” to some extent depends on what you mean. If you score anywhere over 600, you have done better than the majority of folks who take the GMAT and gotten an above average GMAT score — you have an above average score, but far from a perfect score. If you score over 600, and certainly if you score over 650, that will be high enough to get you into reasonably respectable schools. What, though, if you have set your sights higher?
What’s a good GMAT score for top business schools?
Check out the GMAT Scores for Top Business Schools infographic for more info.US News and World Report lists the top business schools, and if you sign up with them, you can get the full information for these schools. Harvard and Stanford top the list. The average GMAT scores for students at these two universities are 724 and 729 respectively (read more about Harvard’s GMAT scores here). Remember, those are average GMAT scores, which means that individual scores at each of those schools vary both above and below those numbers. If your GMAT score is, say, 740, then it would be above-average for every business school in the world. For the other “top ten” schools, the average GMAT scores are between 710 and 723. If you score above 710, your score is in the territory of the elite schools, and if you score anywhere above 750, your GMAT score is stratospherically high. At that point, business school admission depends far more on the other aspects of your application, especially your work experience, your references, your interview, and your essays. A high, even perfect, GMAT score will not help you if you have no valuable work experience or cannot make a compelling case for yourself.
Perfect GMAT score, average GMAT score, or in between
If you are currently at, say, 600, getting up to 630 would be a big move —- a push from the 61st percentile to the 71st percentile. If you are at, say 680, then getting up to 710 would be enormous —- crossing the great 700 threshold, moving from top 16% to top 11%. BUT, if you already have scored between 710-750, adding another 30 points to your GMAT score really won’t do much for your application —- and if all the extra blood & sweat & tears it takes to get that additional 30 points take away from the rest of your application, it’s not worth it. With a GMAT in the 710-750 zone, you have already abundantly demonstrated your academic ability is quite sufficient to prosper at Wharton, Sloan, or Kellogg. There are other dimensions you need to demonstrate as well.
If you take the GMAT once, and score higher than 750, that’s great. If you take it once, get a 720, and want to take it again in an attempt to score higher, think again. There’s a diminishing returns problem here. In simple terms, once your GMAT score is more than about 700, the “academic achievement” box is checked. The schools know you can handle the academic load — both a 720 and a 770 make that basic same statement. What matters after that is whether the rest of your application is well-rounded — whether are you are good fit for the school and a person they can imagine with a promising leadership potential. If you have that, then all you need from the GMAT, even for the top schools, is something in the 700+ range; if you don’t have the well-rounded stuff, adding another 50 points to an already high GMAT score will not do bupkis for your application. Once you get a 700+ GMAT score, it’s insanity to spend more time trying to improve it: at that point, you are done with the GMAT, and your efforts should be directed to making the rest of your application demonstrate that you are an overall well-rounded candidate. Getting a 770 GMAT score is a neat trick, but if that is the only thing you have to your credit, you are just a “one trick pony” as far as elite business schools are concerned.
Want a higher GMAT score?
What if the hazards of the stratosphere are not your concern? If you have little idea of your own starting point, I would suggest starting with the Magoosh GMAT Diagnostic Test. What if your GMAT score is currently in the low 600’s and you would like to move to the high 600s or even low 700s? Read through the articles on this free blog and check out some of our resource recommendations. We have a series of study schedules you may find helpful —- check them out here. Also, check out our review of the best GMAT books and resources of 2013! Your personal best GMAT score is not necessarily a perfect score, but it’s what you can do when you are fully prepared and fully on your game — that’s exactly what Magoosh can do for you!
What are your GMAT score aspirations? What are your plans for the GMAT and for business school? What has been your experience in the B-school application process? What about taking the GRE instead? Maybe check out this GMAT to GRE score conversion to see where you would stand. Anyway, we would love to hear from you in the comments below!
PS. Are you also taking the TOEFL? Find out what a good TOEFL score is.