Photo by Florian Pilz
Harvard’s Median GMAT Score and the “Average” Student
Since most applicants shooting for a top 10 business school have pretty much memorized the GMAT data of each program, you probably haven’t landed on this post to find out the median Harvard Business School GMAT score. (But in case you have, for the class of 2017, the median score was 730.) You probably want to to know if you could get into HBS with your GMAT score.
Maybe you’ve seen the incredible range in scores amongst new HBS students. In this year’s class, students scored anywhere from 510-790. That’s right: 510 on the low end. So I don’t blame you for googling something along the lines of “Can I get into HBS with a 510 [or 600 or 650] GMAT score?”
But why is there such a range?
It’s not unusual for Harvard to admit a very small number (we are talking a handful) of students in the 500s or low 600s; it’s done this consistently over the years. But these are students who are exceptional. The few success stories I have heard have come from students who have academic or career accomplishments so extraordinary they make me feel like I do when I watch 16-year-olds win Olympic gold medals: woefully inadequate.
So, the answer is yes, someone can get into HBS with a 510 GMAT score. Whether or not you can get in with a score in the 500s or 600s is a different matter.
Here’s the good news. In some ways, HBS appears to be a bit more open-minded in its treatment of GMAT scores than some of its closest competitors. Wharton’s class of 2016, for example, boasted a range of 620 to 780, and Stanford’s lowest-scoring student beat Harvard’s by 40 points.
But it’s important to realize that Harvard can do this kind of thing because it’s Harvard. Schools just a little bit further down in the rankings often won’t publish the full range of accepted student scores; presumably this helps preserve an image of high-scoring students. Harvard doesn’t need to worry about its clout. So it can gain some good PR by admitting a low-scoring student without damaging its reputation as one of the top B-schools in the country, giving us all the pipe dream that Harvard is saying “Hey, test scores aren’t everything here!”
Just because the median score at Harvard is 730 and the low end is 510 of course doesn’t mean that bottom half of admitted students are equally spread out in that range. Many of them are hovering in the low 700s, and, once again, keep in mind that this still puts them below half of new students that are above the golden 730-number.
So let me break it down with some score ranges to better answer the question about what GMAT scores you need for your Harvard dreams.
Harvard GMAT Score Ranges
The safe zone: 750-800. If your scores are in this range, as long as your work experience, GPA, resume and recommendations are on track with the average HBS hopeful, you have a good shot. Keep in mind, though, that even an 800 doesn’t guarantee admissions; students with perfect scores get rejected every year. Even in this range you need a dash of luck or some pull. You need to hope that you don’t turn an admissions officer off somehow or that there aren’t too many “yous” in the applicant pool.
The go-for-it zone: 700-740. You are definitely in range here for a chance at admissions, but other aspects of your application are going to need to also A. impress or B. help round out the diversity of the class.
The questionable zone: 650-700. Your application is likely going to face some serious extra scrutiny. You must have something to offer HBS that no one else is bringing. Although Harvard doesn’t publicize exact percentages for admitted students in different test score ranges, judging by information from other top schools, you can expect that roughly only about 10% of admission offers are doled out to applicants in this range.
The shot-in-the-dark zone: 450-650. In case you are wondering, the lowest score ever admitted to Harvard was a 480. Again, those admitted in this range are the superstars; the individuals whom Harvard is willing to let impact its published GMAT score median and ranges because they are that special. But you can bet there aren’t going to be too many people Harvard considers special enough to be in this category.
If your scores are in the “questionable” or “shot-in-the-dark” ranges, I highly recommend you do some serious GMAT prep or consider the GRE as an alternative, a test that is now well-accepted at HBS. Although statistics show there is still a slight bias towards GMAT applicants, if you can score much better on the GRE, that is without a doubt the way to go. Your extra laurels may be able to get your foot in the door, but why not make their decision easier by giving them scores that are going to raise fewer eyebrows?
Harvard Business School Class of 2016 Profile (Composition of Accepted Student Data)
|US ETHNIC MINORITIES||262||28%|
|GMAT SCORE RANGE||510-790|
Some other Harvard programs that accept GMAT scores:
We’ll be writing posts like this for many of the other top programs, so if you have any suggestions for information you’d like included in these posts, let us know! 🙂