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What Is a Good GMAT Score?

If you’re considering attending graduate business school, you may be planning to take the GMAT exam. Many test takers ask themselves, “What is a good GMAT score for my own plans to attend graduate school?” In answering this question, you need to first take a look at how the GMAT is scored, and what you are planning to do after you graduate with your MBA.


The highest score you can get on the GMAT

The highest score you can get on the GMAT is an 800. This score comes from the scores you receive on two out of the four sections of the exam - the Quant section and the Verbal section. The scores you receive the 3rd and 4th sections, the Analytical Writing Assessment and the Integrated Reasoning section, are not included in your final score, but are still important parts of the exam. If you want to understand more about exactly how the GMAT is scored, check out our helpful score breakdown.

Looking at this total 800 score, many applicants are confused as to just how high of a score they need to become admitted to business school. Do you absolutely need to have an 800 GMAT score to attend Harvard Business School, or will a 700 suffice? What about a lower-ranked MBA program, like the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon?

In short, no you do not need an 800 GMAT score to attend business school. Scoring a 760 on the GMAT already puts you ahead of 99% of GMAT test takers, so understand that scoring a perfect 800 on this exam is very rare, and is not something that MBA programs are expecting applicants to do. So if you don’t need an 800 to attend business school, what score is considered good enough to get you into your dream school?

Take a look at the average GMAT scores for the top 20 MBA programs in the US:

School Average GMAT Score
Harvard University - HBS 729
University of Pennsylvania - Wharton 730
University of Chicago - Booth 726
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Sloan 724
Northwestern University - Kellogg 728
Stanford University - Stanford GSB 737
University of California, Berkeley - Haas 717
Dartmouth College - Tuck 717
Columbia University - CBS 720
Yale University - Yale SOM 725
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - Ross 708
Duke University - Fuqua 695
New York University - Stern 710
University of Virginia - Darden 712
University of California, Los Angeles - Anderson 712
Cornell University - Johnson 700
University of Texas, Austin - McCombs 699
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Kenan-Flagler 700
Carnegie Mellon University - Tepper 686
Emory University - Goizueta 683

Based on the 2018 Best Business School Rankings of U.S. News and World Report.

What GMAT Score do you need to get into a top MBA program?
As you can see from this list above, all but four of the top 20 business schools list the average GMAT score of their admitted students as under 700 (and those schools that do have average scores below a 700 are in the high 600s range). At Veritas Prep, we recommend to those studying for the GMAT that they aim to score no more than 20 points below the posted average GMAT score at the school they are applying to. This is definitely something to consider as you determine what a “good” GMAT score is for your application. If you are applying to a top-5 school, you will want your GMAT score to be no lower than 700-710. If you are planning to apply to a school in the 15th-20th ranked range, a good GMAT score for you will be no lower than 660-680.

Note that we did not say, “If you score less than 710, then you will not get into a top-5 MBA program.” Perhaps the most common GMAT-related question we receive is, “What is the minimum score required to get into [Insert School Name Here]?” There is no minimum score, just as there is not score that guarantees you will get in. But we like to use the “20 points” guidelines to give you an idea of the kind of score you should aim for if you want to give yourself a realistic chance of being admitted. When you consider that Harvard Business School’s acceptance rate hovers around 10%, that helps you realize that you don’t want to stick out too much as someone who’s considerably below average compared to Harvard’s admitted students.

Now of course, your GMAT score is not the only thing business schools will evaluate in determining your candidacy, but it will make your application more competitive compared to those of your peers. If you do not have a good GMAT score – i.e. a score 20 points or lower than the average score listed by your target schools – the rest of your application will need to be stellar to make up for it. This means you will need to have very impressive professional and extracurricular experiences, great essays, and demonstrated fit with the school to even be considered with GMAT score that low. This is entirely possible, but it’s far from easy.


Why do business schools care about your GMAT score?
Many GMAT test takers are curious as to why their GMAT scores even matters to top schools. Why would schools make applicants write so many essays and attend interviews if they are going to place so much emphasis on a test score?

The biggest reason why business schools care about your GMAT score is that they want to make sure you can keep up with the academic rigours of MBA courses. Business school classes are tough (and chances are you have not been in a classroom since your undergraduate days), so MBA programs use the GMAT to make sure you possess the basic verbal, quant, and critical thinking skills that will be necessary to succeed in the classroom once you come on to campus.

Also, business schools care about rankings. Being ranked higher in publications like U.S. News and World Report or the Financial Times increases the likelihood that an MBA program will receive more top-tier applicants, and thus, more successful students both in and out of the classroom. It also increases the ability for them to raise funding from donors and alumni to make necessary improvements to their facilities and overall programs. As average GMAT scores are important to many business school rankings, MBA programs want to ensure their average scores are as high as possible, which is why they place such value on the scores you submit with your application. Even if they don’t freely admit this, it certainly plays a part in all of this.


Does your GMAT score matter beyond business school?
Many GMAT test takers are curious as to why their GMAT scores even matters to top schools. Why would schools make applicants write so many essays and attend interviews if they are going to place so much emphasis on a test score?

Most of the time, your GMAT score will not matter past the admissions process, however there are a few major exceptions, the largest of which are the consulting and finance industries. Many management consulting firms and financial institutions, such as Boston Consulting Group or Goldman Sachs, use GMAT scores as one of the many decision points they use in selecting MBA students for internship and post-graduate interviews, and even in making their final hiring decisions. Some tech companies have also been known to do the same.

Like the MBA application process, the job application process for these companies is holistic - they will look at much more than your GMAT score in determining whether or not you are right for the job – however, having a high score will make your application simply look that much more impressive on your resume and help position you as a strong candidate. Thus, if you are looking to head into consulting, finance, or even tech post-MBA, it is best to try and achieve a high GMAT score now so that you have it in case it is required in the future.


How to improve your GMAT score
If you do not have a good GMAT score, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of admission, however most of these require time. This means it is important to take the GMAT as soon as possible so you have time to take these steps before applications are due.

One great way to make up for having a low GMAT score is to take additional coursework at your local university or community college. This is especially true if you did not perform well on the Quant section of the GMAT – if you have a low Quant score it is important to take a course in a subject that is Quant-heavy, such as economic or accounting, to show business schools that you can keep up in the MBA classroom.

The absolute best way to make up for a low GMAT score is to take the GMAT again. It is not unusual for business school applicants to take the GMAT more than once. In fact, you can take the test once every 16 days. By taking the GMAT a second time, you will have the advantage of already knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are going into your GMAT prep. You will already be familiar with the format and scoring of the exam, which will increase your chances of getting a good GMAT score. If you’re looking to raise your GMAT score, talk to us the experts at Veritas Prep about what you can do to increase your score and improve your overall chances of admission to your dream school.