The short answer? A good GMAT score is 650+. A great GMAT score is 720+.
This makes strong GMAT prep essential and worth the time and energy; a good GMAT score is essential if you want to get into a top MBA program. And a great score will make you stand out!
However, a good score is not necessarily the same for every person. In this post, we’ll cover GMAT score percentiles, good GMAT scores for top business schools, how to improve your score, and how to find a good GMAT score for your goals.
Table of Contents
- Understanding GMAT Scoring
- Average GMAT Score
- Your Total, Verbal, and Quantitative Scores
- How the GMAT Is Scored
- The CAT and Strategies
- What matters in the business school application?
- How long to study?
- Score Takeaways
Understanding GMAT Scoring
Why is it so crucial to get a good GMAT score on test day? The bottom line is, a great score shows admissions committees that you’re ready to take on the academic work that an MBA requires.
While your grades may be great, different schools (not to mention different teachers) can use different grading scales and curricula, so the GMAT is a way of leveling the playing field in one sense.
What makes a good GMAT score varies a ton according to different factors. Here are a few to take into consideration (and how you should account for them in setting your goal score):
- Your target school
- Research the programs you’re interested in attending and make a list of the business schools you plan to apply to.
- The program’s rankings
- GMAT score ranges can vary widely from one program to another. Top 10 schools will require a truly impressive GMAT score (think 720+). On the other hand, lower-ranked programs don’t typically require high scores.
- Scores of recently admitted students
- 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 most recent class. Start there. Next, Google “school name average gmat score” to find a range. Finally, you can always subscribe to US News & World Report to get more information if you can’t find it for free.
- If you are from an underrepresented population (as defined by the GMAC), GMAT scores are de-emphasized in favor of other factors, such as the strength of your personal statement or recommendations. While it’s still recommended to aim to score around your school’s average, it’s good to keep in mind that MBA programs understand that a GMAT score is not the most equitable measure of your ability to succeed in business school.
As you can see, there are many factors that make a “good” score—it’s not about just trying to get the highest GMAT score possible. In the words of Bhavin Parik, MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley (as well as CEO/Founder of Magoosh!):
While scoring a 700+ GMAT score is often considered quite good, there’s actually no such thing as a universally good GMAT score. Different schools have different admissions criteria and ultimately a good score is one that puts you in a position to increase the odds of acceptance at your target school. Do your research and aim to score above the average for your target program.
For even more information about GMAT scores, definitely check out this video by Magoosh expert, Kevin!
Average GMAT Score
The current average combined GMAT score is 568.21 (source: GMAC).
We can also break the mean scores down by section:
|Integrated Reasoning (IR)||4.6|
Standard Deviation: 114.73
Data Period: January 2018 – December 2020
Average GMAT Scores for the “Best Business Schools”
|Name of MBA Program/Business School||Average GMAT Score||Rank ||Enrollment,
|University of Pennsylvania|
|University of Chicago (Booth)||724||3||1,229|
|Northwestern University (Kellogg)||727||4||1,378|
|Harvard Business School||727||5 (tie)||1,538|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|Columbia Business School||732||7 (tie)||1,310|
|University of California-Berkeley|
|Darthmouth College (Tuck)||720||10 (tie)||569|
|New York University (Stern)||723||10 (tie)||668|
You need a top score to stand out at a top business school. At the top 10 business schools in America, you need a score of at least 720 to be competitive. Still, even in these top programs, some applicants are accepted with scores lower than 720. And a school’s own stated GMAT score preferences can change from year to year.
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). University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) and Stanford University (Booth) top the list.
The 2020 average GMAT scores at these two universities is 733. Remember, those are average GMAT scores, which means that individual scores at each of those schools can be either above or below those numbers.
GMAT Scores for PhD Programs
Few doctoral programs will explicitly require a GMAT score. Instead, they’ll often accept either the GMAT or the GRE if the field of study is business. Submitting GMAT scores for PhD programs is relatively rare, but we’ve put together a sampling of average GMAT scores for PhD programs that are considered pretty prestigious:
- UPenn Wharton: Verbal 38, Quant 50, Total 743
- NYU Stern: “above 700”
- HBS: “85th percentile or higher”
- Columbia: “90% and higher on each section”
- UChicago Booth: 738 overall, Quant 50
How to Compare Your GMAT Score to the Average
After you calculate your GMAT score and it comes out to, 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 721 and 734. If you score above 720, your score is in the territory of the elite schools, and if you score anywhere above 750, your GMAT score is stratospherically high. We’ll go over how a high GMAT score can help or hinder you in the next section.
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.
According to GMAC, the folks who create the GMAT, the GMAT score percentiles reveal the link between GMAT score and percentile rank of everyone who takes the GMAT.
What does this mean for you and your scores? Check out how GMAT percentiles work. (If you’re not sure about your score, check out Magoosh’s GMAT score calculator first, then check out what this means for percentiles!)
Your Total, Verbal, and Quantitative Scores
On your official score report, here are the scores you’ll see and their ranges:
|Section||Number of points|
|AWA||Half-integers from 0 to 6|
|IR||Integers from 1 to 8|
|Quant subscore||Integers from 0 to 60|
|Verbal subscore||Integers from 0 to 60|
|Total GMAT score (composed of quant + verbal)||Integers from 200 to 800|
(Note that this is different from your initial report; find out more about types of GMAT score reports !)
So which scores matter to schools? You’ll find that adcoms are most focused on your total score, your quant score, and your verbal score.
The GMAT exam total score, ranging from 200 to 800, is certainly the most important number here, and for some test-takers and some folks in adcom, this is the only number that matters at all. According to at least some sources though, Integrated Reasoning scores may be gaining traction as an admission tool.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score is arguably the least important score on the GMAT score report.
How the GMAT Is Scored
On the GMAT, you’ll answer questions in four sections: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and the AWA.
The number of questions you answered correctly in Verbal and Quant is then turned into a score of 0-60 in each section.
Finally, these 0-60 scores are combined and scaled to give you your overall score on a 200-800 scale.
Everything except the essay is graded immediately by the computer: as soon as you are done with your IR, your Quant, or your Verbal sections, the computer already knows your score. (Thankfully, it doesn’t share any of this score information with you until you are done with your test.)
At the end of your exam, you will see your initial GMAT score report and every subscore except the essay.
The essay takes longer to grade. It is graded once by a computer program (don’t ask us how this happens!) and once by a human grader. If those two are the same or close, that’s your AWA score.
If the human and the computer disagree, a second human adjudicates and decides the AWA score. You will find out your AWA subscore when you receive your official GMAT score report, about 20 days after the test.
The IR questions have a few unique features. The 30-minute IR section consists of 12 “questions,” but each “question” is really a computer screen, many of which have multiple questions. One such IR screen contains what I call multiple dichotomous choice questions (DMCQs). The screen with DMCQs will present some information, and then a box: each row will have a statement or question, and buttons to select in two columns. The columns may be “Yes/No,” “True/False,” or some other kind of simple binary choice, and your job will be to decide, for each statement or question, which button to select.
Now, here’s the kicker about how IR is scored: there’s no partial credit on IR. If there are two or three separate tasks or separate questions on a single screen, you must get every single thing correct on the screen to get credit for that screen. See the link in the previous paragraph for some of the strategies that this challenging condition implies.
The Quant and Verbal sections share many features. These two are the only two sections that count in the total GMAT score. They both last 75 minutes. They both consist exclusively of 5-choice multiple-choice questions—assuming that you recognize Data Sufficiency as a modified kind of 5-choice multiple-choice question!
Computer Adaptive Testing
Both the Quant and Verbal employ Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT). The CAT changes the difficulty, question by question, as you move through the section. As a general pattern, if you are getting questions right, the CAT gives you harder questions, and if you are struggling, the CAT will give you easier questions.
That’s the overall trend, although this highly complex algorithm also does sweeps through different difficulties: for example, you may get an easy question out of the blue even if you did nothing wrong. The grading for the CAT does NOT depend on simply the number of questions you answer correctly or incorrectly: instead, the score depends on the difficulty of the questions.
GMAT Scoring Algorithm
The complexity of the GMAT scoring algorithm means that it relies on this CAT model.
Therefore, the person who gets a 450 and the person who gets a 750 might have gotten about the same number of questions right and wrong, but the difficulties were in very different zones.
The complexity of the algorithm is such that it is impossible to suggest any strategy to profit from it. The only meaningful strategy on the CAT is to do your best with each and every question. Once again, CAT is employed only on the Quant & Verbal sections, not on IR and, of course, not on the AWA.
You may be curious about how the GMAT determines the difficulty level of questions. In general, this is a sophisticated topic known as Item Response Theory. GMAC gathers a vast amount of information about individual questions before they are ever used as GMAT questions. As a general rule, I don’t think it’s helpful to worry too much about the “level” of an individual practice question.
The CAT and Strategies
The computer-adaptive format of the GMAT can be intimidating at first if you haven’t taken an adaptive test before. But the more you prepare, the easier it’ll be on test day!
In short, here’s how GMAT scoring works:
Correct answers x difficulty level = score
What this means for the questions you’ll see is that the difficulty adapts as you go.
In terms of your strategy, first things first: you definitely need one to get a high GMAT score! Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Don’t guess on a bunch of answers in a row.
- Skipping questions is generally bad.
- Develop a pacing strategy.
As you work on perfecting your pacing, here’s what to keep in mind:
- You have 2 minutes for each Quant question
- You have 1 minute 48 seconds for each Verbal question
- With that said, different questions types will take you less or more time; take a look at GMAT timing strategies to prepare.
- The at-home GMAT is the same in terms of timing for MC questions on the CAT, so take that into consideration as you plan.
What matters in the business school application?
When you apply for an MBA, admissions committees (adcoms) look at many factors in combination. GMAC, the test-maker, polled business schools to find which factors they considered most strongly.
Chief among these? You’d be surprised—it’s not GMAT scores, though they came in a close second! It’s how you perform on your interviews.
However, not everybody gets an interview. And the way to get one? Have stellar materials. GMAT scores are one factor adcoms use to determine who gets an interview. Overall, they weight these scores nearly as much as the interview itself.
This means that in terms of approaching your applications, GMAT scores are incredibly important.
From there, in descending order of importance, adcoms consider:
- Undergraduate transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Student bio
- Short-answer questions
How long to study for the highest GMAT score?
The short answer is that you should plan for 2-3 months of intensive GMAT study. However, this can vary depending on other factors. Take Magoosh’s quiz to find out how long you should study for the GMAT based on your personal circumstances!
The best question to ask as you start your GMAT prep is not “what’s a good GMAT score” but “what does a good GMAT score mean to me?” This will depend on your baseline score, your goals, your target programs, and other application factors. However, once you know what you’re aiming for, you’ll be able to craft a plan to get there. Picking a goal score isn’t an easy task, but it’s well worth the payoff!
Ready to start studying for the exam? Get your free GMAT study schedule here!
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