The dreaded GMAT has long been one of the most feared components of the MBA application process. For many years the importance of the GMAT has been a bit overvalued by applicants, with too much focus being placed on the score and not enough on other areas of the application process. Just as admissions committees’ consistent message of their reliance on holistic reviews of candidate profiles has begun to sink in, a shift has seemingly started back the other way.
Although there has been a consistent upward trends over the last few decades in GMAT scores across the board, over the last year or two in particular the average GMAT scores at top MBA programs like Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Chicago’s Booth School and Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have risen by record percentage points. These record averages should signal to prospective applicant’s the increased importance of the GMAT.
Now, GMAT scores have always been important aspects of the MBA admissions process, but should applicants be more concerned with the rising scores at these top MBA programs? The quick answer is no! But you do want to accept this answer with a bit of a caveat: with dramatically rising GMAT scores across the board, it is even more important for applicants to target programs that are a clear fit for their background and showcased aptitude (GPA/GMAT). More specifically, applying to programs where your GMAT score falls below the average score has become a riskier option.
The typical candidate should make sure they hit or are very close to the listed averages. Now for candidates coming from a more competitive applicant pool like the Indian male, White male, and Asian male, it is important to target a score above schools’ listed averages to ensure you stand out from the pack. For non-traditional applicants, a strong GMAT score can be a way to stand out in the face of rising scores and increased competition.
The main takeaway from this trend for all applicants should be to really focus up front on creating the right list of target schools. Mind you, this list should not simply be one of the top 10 programs. Instead, create a list where your academic aptitude, professional goals, and other data points all align with the programs you plan to apply to so that you are able to maximize your chances of gaining admission to your target schools.
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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.