Harvard GMAT Scores

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When you’re applying to business schools, shooting for a Harvard acceptance can feel like seeking the holy grail of MBA admissions. There are so many factors that go into business school admissions. Getting your GMAT score around the average Harvard GMAT score is difficult—but possible. After all, the admissions office did accept nearly 1,000 students in its class of 2021.

So what does this mean for you and your GMAT score? Take a look.

GMAT Scores for Harvard: The Range

The average GMAT score for admitted students in Harvard’s class of 2021 was 730. And, actually, the median GMAT score for Harvard’s incoming class of 2020 was also 730. Therefore, to get a good GMAT score for Harvard, you need to score a 730…right?

Not necessarily! Average scores can be misleading. Score ranges are more telling. Harvard Business School admitted—and has historically admitted—students with a huge range of scores. In this year’s class profile, students scored between 590 and 800.

Shocked? Surprised? Excited? Remember that 50% of students admitted to Harvard Business School got lower than the average score of 730. In fact, in previous years, students with 480 and 510 scores on the low end have gotten in, though in both cases, this was so exceptional that it was newsworthy.)

Harvard GMAT Scores: The Bigger Picture

With all of that said: 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.

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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. This is also true of other top programs. Wharton’s average GMAT score for the class of 2021 was 732, but the class had a range from 540-790. Stanford’s average was 734, with a range from 600-790.

But Harvard (and other top schools) can do this kind of thing because it’s Harvard (/are other top schools). 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!”

So the 2021 range of Harvard GMAT scores, from 590-800, is slightly misleading. Admitted students’ scores aren’t evenly spread across that range. Instead, it looks more like a bell curve. The bottom half of admitted students are still mostly in the low 700 range—in other words, a score in the low 700s still puts you 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.

What’s a Good GMAT Score for Harvard?

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. A score in this range is a good score for Harvard. Keep in mind, though, that even an 800 doesn’t guarantee admissions; at a school with an acceptance rate of around 10%, 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 the admissions committee off somehow or that there aren’t too many “yous” in the applicant pool.

The go-for-it zone: 690-740. 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. Will a higher score help? It depends–if you have one or more other stand-out factors in your application, there’s probably no need to re-take the exam. Otherwise, boosting your score above other test takers’ will probably help.

The questionable zone: 650-690. Your application is likely going to face some serious extra scrutiny. You must have something to offer HBS that no one else is bringing. Given the info that Harvard’s given us about that middle 80% range, you can expect that only about 10% of admission offers are doled out to applicants scoring below 690.

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 2021 Profile (Composition of Accepted Student Data)

GRE SCORE RANGEVerbal: 147–170
Quantitative: 163


Chart data from HBS website

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Additional sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Some other Harvard programs that accept GMAT scores:

Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Harvard Graduate School of Education

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22 Responses to Harvard GMAT Scores

  1. Alex January 26, 2017 at 5:07 am #

    Does my nationality/demographic play a role when top schools are reviewing the scores? Do I have a better chance if I come from Azerbaijan with a 700 score as opposed to someone coming from a Western European country?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

      Hi Alex,

      This is hard to say given that each school has it’s own approach for reviewing applicants. I will say that most schools state that they do not have quotas or buckets for certain types of candidates, but that their goal is to create a strong, diverse class. With this information, we can assume that programs may take into account information such as nationality/demographics when reviewing your scores and application as a whole. However, to what extent this impacts your decision is unknown and varies by program. At the end of the day, if you have not yet submitted your application, I would recommend that you continue to strengthen your application as best as you can. And if you have submitted your application, continue to work hard at work and strengthen you current position (in case you’re waitlisted). Best of luck Alex! 😀

  2. AK June 20, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    I am hoping to apply to PhD programs by the end of this year and have a 4.0 GPA from an accredited MBA program in the US. I also have 9 years experience in a financial institution and a couple of conference papers to my name.
    I have a GRE of 321 and unfortunately my quant score is only 153. While I am definitely not looking at Harvard , do you think I have a chance with a top 50 program at least? (My area is Org. Behavior)


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 23, 2016 at 1:33 am #

      Hi AK,

      While we try to give some admissions advice to students, our true area of expertise is test prep. You need to talk with an actual admissions counselor–whether someone at your former places of study or a professional admissions service like Accepted.com. The truth about admissions is that there is far more to it than just your GRE scores and we don’t have a lot of help for you in writing statements of purpose, essays, research proposals, etc.

      It sounds like you have some great stuff on your academic profile (e.g. those conference papers!) and, not knowing what a specific school might require for org. behavior studies at the PhD level, I am inclined to say your research proposal and writing samples matter as much as the GRE. You should definitely reach out to admissions departments and counselors anywhere you can find them–these people have the information because this is their job. 🙂 Good luck!

      • AK August 25, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

        Thanks for the reply! I retook the GRE and managed to bump up my quant score to 160. Hopefully that would improve my chances!

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 26, 2016 at 10:50 am #

          That’s fantastic, AK! Good luck. 🙂

  3. Harshit May 10, 2016 at 1:54 pm #


    I have done my graduation and post graduation in mechanical engineering from one of the top colleges (probably the top college) of India but my graduation and post graduation GPAs are 2.3 and 3 respectively. I have a pure technical (R&D) work experience of about 3 years in one of the biggest automotive firms. This year I got a GMAT score of 730. What are my chances of getting to top 10 b-schools in USA?
    How important a role does a person’s GPA plays in selection or rejection?
    Is it worth giving GMAT again and target a score of 750+ to improve my chances?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

      Because top 10 schools look at the “whole picture” when they make admissions decisions, you definitely have a chance of getting into Harvard or a school like Harvard with your current GPA/work experience/GMAT score combination.

      That being said, a 2.3 and 3.0 U.S. GPA equivalent are pretty low by top 10 business school standards. (Although it does help that the 3.0 is the more recent grade.) It likely is worth it to retake the GMAT and aim for an even higher score– that will put you on more solid footing for acceptance into top schools.

      • Harshit May 11, 2016 at 9:03 am #

        Thank you very much.
        Also, should I focus on my work experience as well or it doesn’t matter much compared to GMAT score? I am 25 years old right now so I guess I am not too old to ask all these questions now.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 13, 2016 at 5:53 am #

          Hi Harshit,

          That really depends on your particular program of choice. Some really emphasise work experience while others are less strict on this. You want to try to grow in all areas of your profile to get the best application you can. If you have a chance to do some work experience, that would be a great plan! 🙂

  4. Pushpal Maheshwari March 7, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

    Hello. This is Pushpal Maheshwari, Student at Nirma University. My GPA is 3.7 and GMAT score is 760. I have two start-ups by my name (one funded at valuation 1.8 Cr). Do these start-ups help make a better profile for me? So I get an edge over other students for being involved in them?

    What are my chances as a whole?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 8, 2016 at 4:11 am #

      Hi Pushpal,

      Thanks for reaching out! 🙂

      We are not admissions experts, but your profile looks incredibly strong. Your GMAT score is high and you have outstanding professional experiences. Make sure your admissions essays are strong as well and you should be a viable candidate in most business programs!

  5. Rajarshi February 17, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    Hi,this is Rajarshi. I am pursuing my PhD in Nuclear Engineering at Missouri S&T,USA. At this point I feel, that I should go for an MBA from top schools like HBS, Stanford or Wharton. I have no work experience since I spend all my life in academia. I am sure I can score more than 750 but I am lagging in work experience or leadership ability area. Is there any way, I can apply for top B schools without work experience? I have been both a research and a teaching assistant. I have published in peer -reviewed journal articles. Please help.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 23, 2016 at 1:37 am #

      Hi Rajarshi,

      Thanks for reaching out! 🙂

      We are test prep experts rather than admissions experts, so I am not the professional you need to make your case. I would reach out first to the programs’ admissions departments and ask essentially what it is that you’re asking me now. Typically, MBA programs look for work experience, but you are coming from a very different and interesting background. They will know best whether your profile fits what admissions usually look for, and usually they have some great advice when contacted outside of the busy application season.

      If you can write compelling essays explaining why you want to pursue your MBA along with what you’ve been doing in academia so far, I think you could have a strong argument for admission! Good luck. 🙂

  6. M.s.vivek February 12, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    Is it require to have some job experience to get into the top business school

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 12, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      That’s a good question! 🙂

      For many programs it is required and for many others it is highly suggested. You can get the best information from admissions websites, and the admissions counselors will be able to tell you even more! We are just test prep experts over here and we don’t know everything about admissions. But there are helpful people who definitely can help!

  7. Mayank July 20, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    hey i have an question from you that i am preparing for gmat and i am plannig to give a exam in jan 2016. so i had a question that if i cleared gmat exam with good score i.e approx 700 and above then can i get the admission in the us top university same year or not

    • Kristin Fracchia
      Kristin Fracchia July 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      Hi Manyank,

      That depends. If you take the exam at the very beginning of January–and have the rest of your application prepared and ready to go–you could still potentially get your application in before Round 2 deadlines (usually in the second week of January). Stanford, for example, will let you submit your application with an unofficial score. Top schools also have a Round 3 admission cycle with a later deadline, but things are VERY tough at this point. Most slots have already been filled. My suggestion, for a better chance at admissions, would generally be to wait until the following year if you can’t get your application in by Round 2 . Of course, there are so many variables to consider, and it depends on how strong your application is!

  8. Devesh July 15, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    2017 was?

    • Kristin Fracchia
      Kristin Fracchia July 16, 2015 at 10:00 am #

      That refers to the incoming class of 2017. Basically, the class of students that will be attending for two years starting this fall :).

      • Gustavo July 30, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

        Hi Kristin:
        Do you have useful information about the Doctoral program of HBS regarding test score?

        • Kristin Fracchia
          Kristin Fracchia July 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

          HI Gustavo,

          Well, Harvard will tell you that you should score at least in the 85th percentile to be competitive (so about a 690 on the GMAT; you could also do the GRE). For applicants I’ve worked with, my suggestion has always been 90th percentile or higher to REALLY be competitive (basically meaning your scores aren’t raising any eyebrows). The difference between MBA and doctoral programs in general is that MBA rankings and reputations are very much dependent on GMAT scores (which makes them a bit more important on the application as a whole). Doctoral programs often put a greater emphasis on other aspects of your application, and the test score is more of a “check” that you have what it takes (but “what it takes” at Harvard often means a 700+ GMAT score). Hope that makes sense!

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