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Do you need 700+ GMAT score to get into a top business school?

Katie Schenk - June 25, 2018

Prodigy Finance looks at GMAT scores

The GMAT is perhaps the most stressful part of any MBA application, doubly so if you’re trying to get into a top business school. 

The GMAT is scored on a scale between 200 and 800; it’s tough to see average GMAT scores of admitted students and not worry. 

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, for example, has an impressively high average of 737 for their latest incoming class. (And, it has achieved such numbers year after year.)

You’ve just got to face those fears

As most universities and the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) which owns the GMAT exam will tell you, the GMAT is usually the only factor that allows an apples-to-apples comparison of applicants. Everything else stuffed into applications is personal and subjective.

Even undergraduate grade point averages aren’t a strong indicator as universities (and professors) don’t conform to a single set of grading guidelines. It’s much more difficult to achieve high scores in some countries than in others.

It’s difficult to dispute the equalising facets of the GMAT – even though it's only conducted in English. 

In 2013, the United States had more GMAT test takers than India and China combined thought the average test scores of those countries during that time were significantly higher than the American result.

In case you’re wondering, in 2013, 53 countries fared better with GMAT scores than the US¹, and many of them don’t recognise English as an official language in their country. (Actually, neither does the US; it doesn’t have any official languages. But that’s another topic altogether.)

China

India

United States

Test takers 2013

53,005

25,268

90,541

2013 mean score 

582

577

532

Test takers 2017

68,905

32,514

79,862

2017 mean score

585

583

553

Things have definitely changed over the past several years with a sharp decline in American test takers converse to the serious upswings in China and India. And, the increase in test takers translated to higher scores in China and India, while lower numbers of US test takers took home lower mean scores. 

Aiming for 700+

It's true that there are business schools that don’t require the GMAT and those that accept the GRE. But, for the most part, you’re just going to need to buckle down and take the test - aiming for the highest score you can achieve, hopefully one over 700.

And, every b-school you apply to is going to see your test results. And, while every one of them is quick to point out that applications involve a lot more than GMAT scores, they’re certainly going to take a look. And, they’ll need to find reasons to keep you in the mix if you have lower results than they would like to see.

A former member of the Wharton admissions team² has confirmed that committees exist to discuss applicants with GMAT scores under 650. There are certainly success stories, but that there all such groups at all shows the importance of high GMAT scores in the context of an application.

It almost seems incredible that Stanford has an average GMAT score of 737 (which is around the 97ᵗʰ percentile), doesn’t it? 

Granted, that programme currently boasts the top average, but in 2017, only one American business school in the top 25 of the 2017 Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking⁴ had a GMAT average under 700. 

That was Duke’s Fuqua School of Business with an average of 698 (putting it in the 87ᵗʰ percentile). Today, the school's average is 702, meaning that there isn't a US programme in the top 25 of the list with a GMAT average under 700

How hard is it to get 700+?

GMAC certainly paints it as difficult; two-thirds of test takers score somewhere between 400 and 600³. Of all the exams taken for the 2017 GMAC report, the mean score was 564. For the same period, a score of 700 puts a test taker into the 88ᵗʰ percentile; a 710 score reflects the 91ˢᵗ percentile.

Roughly speaking, you need to do better than 90% of everyone taking the test if you want to crack that 700 mark. And, if you just want to make it into that 650 discussion, you’ll need to do better than 76 percent of GMAT takers. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the top European business schools’ average GMAT scores don’t always rival those found in the United States. INSEAD’s average scores have consistently sat between 700 and 710 for the past five years, and London Business School also has rising averages moving from 701 to 107 in the past couple of years. 

The other European business schools in the top 25 of the FT 2018 Global MBA Ranking have averages between 670 and 690. (In case you’re keeping score, that’s between the 81ˢᵗ and 86ᵗʰ percentiles.)

Moving further along the globe, the Asian schools in the top 25 have GMAT averages between 662 and 686

Interestingly, HKUST posts a “typical range” of GMAT scores between 600 and 730 on their class profile page⁵. That’s quite a massive range if you look at it in terms of percentiles – between the 57ᵗʰ and 96ᵗʰ markers. Given that they’re currently ranked 14ᵗʰ, that should give some b-school applicants some hope.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you should blow off a low GMAT score if you can do better. There’s a big difference between a 640 and a 660 - especially if it means a special committee needs to discuss your merits for the lower score. 

But, there isn’t much of a difference between 720 and 740; you’re in the elite league anyhow and your time will be much better spent refining the other facets of your application.

Indeed, as much emphasis as the GMAT carries in top business school applications (admissions consultants tend to believe it’s worth about one-fifth of your entire application)⁶, the rest of your application is critical. It’s true if your score is 640 or you’ve managed an incredible 750; none of the top universities admit students solely on the strength of their GMAT scores – not even Stanford


Already have a great GMAT score? 

Once you have your GMAT in hand, it's time to start applying to your dream programmes. And Prodigy Finance can help you get there. Find out which schools and degrees accept Prodigy Finance loans here.


¹ poetsandquants.com/2014/01/04/why-53-countries-beat-the-u-s-on-the-gmat

² fortunaadmissions.com/2015/05/29/can-a-sub-700-gmat-take-you-out

³ gmac.com/gmat-other-assessments/accessing-gmat-exam-scores-and-reports/gmat-scoring-by-exam-section-normal-view.aspx

⁴ rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/global-mba-ranking-2017

⁵ mba.ust.hk/ftmba/faculty-n-class/our-class

⁶ poetsandquants.com/2015/08/03/business-schools-putting-greater-weight-on-gmat-in-admission-decisions


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