Prepping for the GMAT is hard work! But it’s worth it; a good GMAT score is essential if you want to get into a top MBA program. At the top 10 business schools in America, you need a score of at least 715 to be competitive.
For perspective on this 715 minimum, the highest scaled score you can get on the GMAT is 800. The Verbal and Quantitative sections also have a scaled score that goes up to 800; the whole test score is an average of these two section scores. (You get these final scores right on test day, immediately after you take the GMAT.)
So you need at least 715 out of 800 at the 10 best b-schools, ideally. Still, even in these top programs, some applicants are accepted with scores lower than 715. And a school’s own stated GMAT score preferences can change from year to year.
So, what is a good GMAT score, and who defines this abstruse and perplexing standard? Can good GMAT scores and average GMAT scores differ by a single point? Do business schools agree on a single definition of good and bad scores at some top-secret GMAT Scores for Business Schools Convention?
When we discuss what’s a good GMAT score versus a bad score, there are a lot of questions to answer (see above). But the most important thing to know is that a good GMAT score for one person is not necessarily the same as a good GMAT score for another person. Your goal GMAT score may be 10 points above or below that of your friend or peer. So the question really becomes: What is a good GMAT score for you?
Before we get into a discussion of setting a target GMAT score for yourself, let’s take a step back and discuss GMAT scores in broad strokes.
GMAT Scores: Percentiles
The GMAT is scored from 200 to 800. Two-thirds of students score between 400 and 600 on the exam. 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.
The mean GMAT score is 551.94.
Sample Size: 757,035
Standard Deviation: 120.88
Data Period: 2013 – 2015
Note: GMAC has not yet released percentile data for 2016
Notice that 780 and 790 and 800 all mean about the same in the great scheme of things. What constitutes a “good GMAT 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 — you have an above-average GMAT 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 relatively respectable schools. But what if you have set your sights higher?
What is a good GMAT score for top business schools?
Each year, US News & World Report ranks the “Best Business Schools”, and if you sign up with them, you can get the full information for these schools (tuition, enrollment figures, average GMAT scores, average undergraduate GPA, acceptance rates, and percent of students employed at graduation). Harvard and Stanford top the list. The 2016 average GMAT scores for students at these two universities are 725 and 733 respectively.
Remember, those are average GMAT scores, which means that individual scores at each of those schools can be either above or below those numbers. After you calculate your GMAT score and 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 715 and 733. 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.
For more information on the GMAT scores needed for top business schools, I highly recommend taking a look at our GMAT Scores for Top Business Schools infographic.
Perfect GMAT score, average GMAT score, or in between
If you are currently at 600, getting up to 650 would be a huge move — a push from the 59th percentile to the 76th percentile. If you are at 680, then getting up to 710 would be enormous — crossing the great 700 threshold, moving from top 25% to top 10%.
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 that 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 same basic statement. What matters after that is whether the rest of your application is well-rounded — whether you are good fit for the school and whether the admissions people think you have 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 you should work to make the rest of your application show that you are a well-rounded candidate. Getting a 770 GMAT score is a neat trick, but if that’s the only thing you have to your credit, you’re 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 beginning with the Magoosh GMAT Diagnostic Test.
What if your GMAT score is currently in the low 600s and you would like to move to the high 600s or even low 700s? Read the articles on this free blog and check out our resource recommendations. We have a series of study schedules you may find helpful — check them out here. Also, read our review of the best GMAT books and resources! Your personal best GMAT score is not necessarily a perfect score, but it’s what you can do when you are fully prepared and on your game — that’s exactly what Magoosh can do for you!
So, what’s a good GMAT score for you?
Ultimately, you need to identify the GMAT score you would need to get into your target program or programs. Many students apply to target schools, safety schools, and reach schools. At the very least, you should apply to programs that you have a reasonable chance of getting into. Once you have your list of the schools you’d like to apply to, do some research:
- Identify your target school
- Research the programs you’re interested in attending and make a list of the business schools you plan to apply to.
- Research the program’s application requirements
- Go to the school’s admissions website and figure out what their application entails. Make note of important application deadlines so that you know how long you have to prepare for your GMAT and complete the rest of your application requirements.
- Research stats on the program’s most recently admitted class
- GMAT score ranges can vary widely from one program to another. Most business schools will openly state the average GMAT score of their recently admitted class on their admissions website. Some even offer GMAT score percentile ranges for the recently admitted class. Start there. You can always subscribe to US News & World Report to get more information if you can’t find it for free.
- Talk to current students and the admissions committee
- In addition to learning more about the program and the culture of the school, talking with current students and the admissions committee can help you gain insight into the admissions process. Maybe your chosen program values your essay and recommendation letters more than a top 20% GMAT score. Or maybe you really do need a 710 to get in. Either way, it’s useful to know how things work.
- Set your target GMAT score
- In order to increase your chances of admission, you’re going to want to aim for a GMAT score that is higher than the average score of the recently admitted class. If you’re scoring in the 75th percentile of students, then you’re in good shape. If you’re in the 50th percentile, then you’re going to either need to try for a higher score or spend a lot of time perfecting the rest of your application.
- Prep with your target GMAT score in mind
- Determine your baseline score, sign up for a prep course, start using a study schedule, take timed practice tests, and be sure to focus your energy on your weaknesses, not on re-affirming your strengths.
GMAT Scores: Summary
Who knew that determining your “good GMAT score” would be a challenge in and of itself? Hopefully you now have a better idea of how it’s accomplished and can go about researching your target schools and setting your goal GMAT Score.
So tell us: what are your GMAT score aspirations? What are your plans for the GMAT and for business school? Have you taken the GMAT cost into consideration? 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. We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Mike McGarry in February of 2013, and has been recently updated by Rita Kreig for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.