Is 730 the New 700 for Top MBA Programs?

Harvard Business SchoolFor many years, a score of 700 on the GMAT represented the threshold that aspiring MBAs targeted to be competitive applicants to business school. This score served as the proverbial goal post for many applicants seeking admission to top programs, as well as a way to better position themselves for post-MBA employment opportunities in feeder industries like consulting and investment banking.

As applications to top MBA programs around the world have become increasingly more competitive, standards for admission have also risen, with the brunt of this competition being felt through rising GMAT scores.

Over the last five years, top programs like Stanford, Kellogg, and Wharton have reported record GMAT scores, with some programs even experiencing double-digit growth in a single year. This GMAT arms race from top business schools has accentuated the race for top talent that is currently underway in the competitive world of business school admissions – GMAT scores play a huge role in MBA rankings, which probably is the driving force behind this trend.

As this paradigm shifts, applicants must shift their expectations, as well. For many of the top programs, the former target score of a 700 is now almost 30 points lower than the average GMAT score of these same schools today – a change that has occurred in less than ten years.

The GMAT remains just one piece of the admissions puzzle, albeit an important one, with other aspects of an applicant’s profile holding considerable weight, as well. As such, it would be wise for aspiring MBAs to align their expectations with the new GMAT world order. Keep in mind that when it comes to GMAT averages, some people will score below the average and some will score above the average for each school, so there is certainly wiggle room here (in fact, most top programs still have 80% ranges that include the old 700 benchmark).

As you create your target school list, make sure you are identifying programs that not only align with your development needs, but also match up with your candidate data points.

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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 articles by him here.