It goes without saying that the GMAT is a challenging test. Weeks of preparation boils down to just a few hours sitting in front of a glowing screen, attempting to demonstrate your aptitude for business school, which is supposedly what the test is designed to measure. Despite your best efforts to get a seven-handle on your score, however, you end up in the mid sixes. Will this be good enough to get into your dream school?
The average GMAT score at the top ten business schools has been on the rise for some time now. Just ten years ago, the average at these elite schools was in the high sixes, but now, it’s difficult to find an average score below 720 or more. What happened? Is everyone getting smarter? More likely, the reason for the meteoric rise in scores is from the simple nature of competition. With a fixed number of seats in the top programs, the increase in applications has raised the demand for those seats and therefore the level of competition and amount of preparation that goes into the GMAT. In short, more people are putting in more time to study and this has pushed up the scores.
The answer to whether or not you can get into a top school with “only” a 650 (a great score to be sure), is yes….and no. Put differently, there are people who will get in with that score (or lower) and people who won’t. What’s the difference? Everything else in the application. The GMAT of course is but one factor in an avalanche of information the adcoms consider. Perhaps the person who got in with the 650 had a spectacular undergrad record from a top school. Maybe they have achieved something great in their career, something that is going to add real value in the classroom. A 650 GMAT says to the committee that you can handle the academics, but in order to take the hit on their average, they need you to be bringing something unique to the table to make up for it. Again, they know from this score that you are likely sharp, smart, and able to be a successful student, but because there are far more people who score in the 650 range than the 720+ range, they simply have the “pick of the litter” at that point to fold in only whom they consider to be exceptionally prepared candidates.
This goes the same for the super-elite schools. They don’t have rules that toss out any application with a GMAT score under 700, for example, and every year they let in a handful of students with lower scores. The challenge for the applicant, however is the same: the lower scoring applicant must demonstrate something truly unique in thier application to stand out.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.