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The GMAT score you need for top schools

Katie Schenk - July 10, 2015

Woman reading on an e-book reader

Getting into business school is no easy feat.  The first challenge is often psyching yourself up to sit for another one of those dreaded exams.  And, the GMAT is no ordinary test.  It is more than challenging.  A low score is more than a marker of your ability; it could signify a radical shift in your entire future.

Does that mean a high score is what you need to get into a top school?

Yes.  And at the same time, not really.

GMAT Scores Are Rising

It seems as though the top business schools announce higher average scores every year.  But, that doesn’t mean you need to achieve that score before the admissions committees take a serious look at your application.  It doesn’t even mean that the programmes have much to do with higher score averages.  The better the reputation of a school, the harder applicants will work to get in.  And, it goes without saying that every business school wants the best candidates, so scores are on the rise.

Does that mean you need to work harder and score higher on the GMAT than you would have a few years ago?  Perhaps, but not necessarily.

It probably doesn’t surprise you that Harvard Business School has candidates that achieved 790 on the GMAT.  But you might be taken aback to learn that they also admit students with a score of 510.  We’re not exactly certain who those candidates are, only that the rest of their application would have been something special.  Still, the median GMAT score at Harvard Business School is 730.

While the median score and range of GMAT scores admitted varies from school to school, you can bet that top institutions all have similar scores.  Wharton admits range from 620 to 780 with a median score of 728.

European business schools tend to have a lower range of admit scores, but top institutions are top institutions are still drawing top testers.  At London Business School, admitted scores begin at 600 and round off at 790, but the median score still falls just shy of 700 – at 695.

How Do You Know Your Score Is Good Enough?

Even though Harvard admits students with a GMAT score of 510, that’s not necessarily what they’re looking for (and they will definitely look twice at a result of 790).

Many admissions consultants recommend applying with a score that falls within the mid 80 percent of the current admit results.  For Wharton, this would mean a result of 710 to 750.  Typically, this means that you want a score of 700 or above.  (Fortunately, most admissions consultants don’t recommend retaking the test if you’ve managed to reach this number.)

And this really means that turning to an admissions consultant or a recognised GMAT prep consultant is what’s needed to put your mind at ease.  Considering the stress of this exam, we think anything that makes you more comfortable is a win – especially if you want to get into Harvard with a score of 510.

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