If you’ve been seriously considering applying for an MBA program for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the GMAT. If you haven’t, it’s a good thing that you’re going to encounter it here because it forms a considerable part of the applications process for many of the top MBA programs. But what is a good GMAT score?
This mainly comes down to your aims, with different schools having different scores that they tend to expect from their students. While the GMAT can seem intimidating, this article will break down everything you need to know about the GMAT, why it matters for MBA applications, and what you can do to maximize your chances of success when applying to business schools, whether you have a good GMAT score or not.
What is the GMAT?
The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is a multiple-choice, computer-based test used by many business schools as part of their applications process. It usually takes around three and a half hours to complete and comprises four sections that measure various verbal, quantitative, reasoning, and writing skills. When taking the test, you can choose the order you take each section, selecting from a set of patterns to prioritize whichever area you want to be first or last, for example.
The GMAT is not like an ordinary standardized test; it adapts to your performance while taking it. For example, you will usually be presented with a more difficult one for each question you get right afterward, while the opposite is true if you get a question wrong.
The GMAT is scored between 200 and 800, with most test-takers coming out with a score in the high 500s, but we will be discussing GMAT averages in more detail later.
The test aims to present a holistic view of your abilities across several of the skills that are, in the words of Vineet Chhabra, a senior director at the organization that runs the GMAT, “most relevant for business school.”
One of the skills that the GMAT explores that you might not necessarily have been tested on before is your ‘integrated reasoning.’ This aspect of the GMAT examines your ability to read data and solve problems, which is necessary for business settings.
How Important is my GMAT score?
Test scores are not the only part of your MBA profile. Top business schools look at a range of factors including your work experience, existing degrees, and entrance essay to decide if they want to consider your application. Your GMAT score is essentially a display of your academic potential.
Business schools look for candidates with good GMAT scores because it is an indicator that they can handle the academic pressures of an MBA program. It will be examined alongside other metrics like your GPA to gain a clear, empirical picture of your academic ability.
Your GMAT score matters for your MBA application because test scores help form part of MBA rankings, influencing a business school’s future success. Take a look at any significant outlet’s ranking of business schools, and you will see the schools’ average GMAT scores listed alongside other metrics such as average salaries after graduation from MBA programs.
This means that business schools are incentivized to obtain high-scoring candidates and boost their rankings, increasing their prestige and demand for their degrees.
What is a Good GMAT Score?
So, now that we know what the GMAT is, what is considered a good GMAT score? This depends on what your aims are in terms of schools or MBA programs. Considering averages across all the people who take the GMAT, getting a score of 590 will put you in the upper half of testers, and getting a score of 760 will put you in the top 1%.
Getting into the prestigious M7 group of business schools usually requires a GMAT score above 700. To put into context just how demanding getting into these schools can be in terms of test scores, the average GMAT score of students accepted into the Stanford Business school’s MBA program is 733.
This should give you a good idea of the caliber of test scores that are, on average, accepted by the most prestigious MBA programs in the world. Even outside of the M7, you will struggle to find a top business school’s MBA program that doesn’t have an average GMAT score above 700 for its accepted students.
Take a look at this table of the top business schools ranked by the average GMAT scores achieved by accepted students:
As you can see, high-ranked business schools generally require very high scores.
Applying to Schools Based on Your GMAT score
What do you do with this information now? Well, if you already know your GMAT score or know what kind of range you think you are likely to fall into, you can start looking at schools that tend to accept students within your GMAT range. This exercise will help you get an idea of where you would be most likely to be accepted because, as we have seen, the GMAT score forms a very significant part of the admissions process for top business schools.
To look at it the other way, looking at your desired school and the average GMAT scores of its accepted students will give you a target. Getting a score that equals or exceeds the average for your preferred school will mean you are much more likely to be successful in your application.
This doesn’t mean that your GMAT score will guarantee you a place at any school if you meet its averages. Especially for top business schools, a wide range of factors is vital to a successful application, including a good GPA, impressive resume, solid work experience, good letters of recommendation, and a killer entrance essay.
Don’t just assume that having a great GMAT score will allow you into any business school you please. It is only one aspect among many that admissions officers will be evaluating to choose which applicants they wish to allow into their programs. Still, it is a way that you can judge your chances of acceptance.
Top Tips for Scoring Well on the GMAT
If you feel that your GMAT score needs improvement, you can do several things to make a change. Maybe you’ve looked at the averages for your dream school and discovered that you are a fair few points shy of the usually accepted number (yikes!). This needn’t be a cause for concern as it gives you a clear and actionable area to improve your MBA profile that is sure to improve your chances of being accepted.
The first and most obvious way to improve your score is simply to put more work in. Obviously, if you’re serious about getting into an MBA program you have been putting in a decent amount of work already (or maybe you haven’t, we won’t judge), but data shows a clear correlation between more hours spent preparing for the test and higher test scores as a result.
Those who prepared for 80 hours averaged a score between 600 and 690, while those who prepared for 90 or more hours came out with a score above 700 on average. So while being told to hit the books might seem obvious, your level of preparation will almost certainly be an indicator of what you will get from it in terms of test scores. It is up to you to decide what score or school you aim for and adjust your preparation level accordingly.
Another thing you can do is further understand what the GMAT is and how it works. As we have already discussed, the GMAT does not function like standardized tests that you are likely to have come across before, as it values reasoning skills and the application of knowledge above one’s ability to simply memorize test answers. As such, reading articles like this one is a good start and maybe try expanding your research to really understand what the GMAT will be testing and how you can best deal with its unique challenges.
After putting in the work and researching the test until you completely understand its inner workings, maybe just try a retake. The price tag can, of course, be prohibitive for many. If money is an issue for you, you might want to make sure you are prepared as you can be; consider using some of the free resources the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) offers to certify that your retake will be worth it. But whether you can or cannot afford to retake the test numerous times shouldn’t worry you too much as data from GMAC shows that three-fourths of candidates who retook the GMAT test improved on their previous scores.
A final option for you to consider is to simply not take the test. This may sound like terrible advice, but if you are really struggling to improve your score to levels that you want or need, there are different paths to take. The GMAT focuses heavily on your mathematical abilities, so if you aren’t from a number-crunching background, you could seriously struggle in the test.
There is a saving grace – many top business schools also accept the GRE test in its applications process in place of a GMAT test. The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, is a much easier option if you are struggling with the mathematical aspects of the GMAT and might result in you having a much more impressive-looking MBA profile.
What to Do if Your GMAT Score is Low
So, let’s say it’s a worst-case scenario – your GMAT score is too low, and you don’t have the time, money, or means to improve it. As always, there are options. Test waivers are sometimes offered by business schools when you have some kind of other qualifying circumstance that might prove your suitability for an MBA program more than any test score might.
These can include impressive work experience, academic achievements, or other attainments that mean the school has reason to not ask for you to submit a test score. In fact, there are dozens of business school MBA programs that offer waivers on test scores instead of allowing aspects such as those discussed above to speak for the candidates’ suitability.
Of course, this plan relies on you having some other way to prove your worthiness to your desired business school. Yet, this can be a good option for you to consider if you think it would be easier for you to get a solid work or academic background to fill out your profile rather than test scores.
Another plan is to simply not worry about it! As we have talked about, your test scores form only part of your application. The averages for top business schools are only that – averages. Top schools always have a degree of variety in their accepted students. At Chicago Booth, for example, students with GMAT scores of 600 were accepted, although their median score is 730. This shows that even if you think your score is far below what would be accepted at your desired school, you always have a chance of success, as numerous case studies can testify. One example of Marcus, from the United States, got into Wharton with a GMAT score of only 660 using help from us at Inspira Futures!
1. Do you have to pay to take the GMAT?
Yes, taking the GMAT costs money, but it varies depending on where you are taking it. There are testing centers worldwide, but in the US the cost is $250. Also, as mentioned above, GMAC offers free resources to help you prepare and test yourself ahead of the actual test. If money is a concern, it could be in your interest to use those resources to maximize your chances of getting the score you want on your first try.
2. How long do GMAT scores last?
Your GMAT score will be valid for five years after taking the test and can be reported for 10 years.
3. How many times can you take the GMAT?
You can take the GMAT every 16 days, but no more than five times in 12 months and no more than 8 times in total.
4. Can you take the GMAT test online?
Suppose you would prefer to not incur the expense or disruption of getting to a testing center. In that case, there is the option of taking an online version of the GMAT anywhere globally, with the exceptions of Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan. There are some differences between the online test and that which you would take in a test center, so be sure to read more on this topic if it is relevant to you.
5. How long do you have to wait to receive your scores from a GMAT?
In most cases, your scores will be delivered 5-7 days after taking your test, although in some cases it can take up to 20.
6. What can I do if I scored badly on the GMAT?
Apart from simply retaking the test after the minimum 16 days wait, you can ask to cancel your score at the testing center, and it will not be shown to any schools. You can also have your score revoked online for a small fee if you ask within 72 hours after the start of your exam.
The GMAT is a key part of the MBA admissions process and if you are serious about getting into a top MBA program, getting a good GMAT score should be a priority for you. What is a good GMAT score though? Knowing what the averages are for your ideal school and the amount of work you are able to commit to the test should give you a clear idea of what a good score would be for you.
Luckily, this important aspect of admissions has a superb amount of support available to help you improve and is also a very clear indicator of how likely you are to get into certain schools. However, having a high GMAT score does not mean you are guaranteed a place in a prestigious program; it is only one part of many that schools use to evaluate their prospective students.
This also means that if you are struggling or will struggle to get the score you need to get into the school you want, there are many options for you to demonstrate your abilities without necessarily having a good GMAT score.
About Inspira Futures
At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.