Do you want to go to MBA school? You may need a good score on the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). It is a 3.5 hour test that is supposed to predict how well you will do in MBA and other business graduate programs. GMAT results are used by many graduate business programs to help with admissions decisions. Getting a good score is often an important factor to gain admission to many programs.

Below is more information about what the GMAT is, what a good score is, average scores for popular schools, and how to increase your chances of doing well on the exam.

GMAT Overview

The GMAT measures four different skill areas: writing, quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and integrated reasoning. The GMAT measures these critical skills through four parts:

  1. Analytical writing assessment – 30 minutes
  2. Integrated reasoning section with 12 multiple choice questions – 30 minutes
  3. Quantitative reasoning section with 37 multiple choice questions – 75 minutes
  4. Verbal section with 41 multiple choice questions – 75 minutes

For each section, you receive a scaled score and percentile rank. A combined quantitative/verbal score is also given. This is scored and not pass/fail examination.

On the GMAT, you will get five scores:

  • A total GMAT score from 200 to 800
  • A math subscore from 0-60
  • A verbal subscore from 0-60
  • A score for your writing sample from 0-6
  • An integrated reasoning subscore from 1-8

The Importance of GMAT Scores in the Admissions Process

Every graduate business school has its own policy about how to use GMAT scores in the making of admissions decision. Many universities will screen applicants by reviewing both GMAT scores and bachelor’s program GPA. Then, they will rank all applicants in the pool according to both criteria.

See more about how to Choose the Right Business School

Some business schools also consider other factors in the admissions process, such as recommendations, personal interviews, writing samples such as personal statements, and work experience/accomplishments. While there are some universities that no longer require GMAT scores, a good GMAT score is still important for securing admission to many upper tier MBA programs.

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So, yes, a top test score increases your odds for getting a green light from an elite university, but one never knows. It was reported last year that Harvard accepted a student with a 510 GMAT, while Wharton’s lowest admitted student had a 610 score.

Breaking Down Different GMAT Scores

According to Kaplan Test Prep, below is a breakdown of various types of GMAT scores.

Each score you receive is accompanied by a percentile. This is the proportion of test takers scored lower than you did. The higher the percentile rank, the better you did on the exam. For instance, if you get a rank of 70, you have better results than 70% of people who took the test. The percentile score tells business schools where you fell in comparison to others who took the same test.

Your essay score is given a 0-6 rating by a human and a computer. Your writing sample will be graded holistically, and takes into account its content, style and grammar. If the two grades are virtually the same, that score is assigned. If they are different, another person will review the essay to determine the final grade.

The integrated reasoning or IR score is graded from 1-8. The majority of IR questions need more than one response, and you do not get partial credit.

Top GMAT Scores

These GMAT scores will put you in the top 10% of all test takers, and will make you a possible candidate for top MBA programs:

  • Total score of 710 to 800
  • Quantitative subscore: 51+
  • Verbal subscore: 40+
  • Integrated reasoning: 8
  • Essay: 6

Competitive scores

These scores place you in a competitive spot in the admissions process, in the top 25% of all test takers:

  • Total score of 650 to 700
  • Quantitative subscore: 48-50
  • Verbal subscore: 35-39
  • Integrated reasoning: 7
  • Essay: 5.5

Good enough scores

These scores will put you in the top 50% of all test takers; a score here may be enough to gain admission to many schools, but you may not have a high chance of admission to a prestigious program:

  • Total score of 550 to 640
  • Quantitative subscore: 38-47
  • Verbal subscore: 28-34
  • Integrated reasoning: 5-6
  • Essay: 4.5 to 5

Below average scores

These scores may be high enough to admit you to some business programs, but these scores are below average when compared to all test takers:

  • Total score below 550
  • Quantitative subscore: 37 or lower
  • Verbal subscore: 27 or lower
  • Integrated reasoning: 4 or lower
  • Essay: 4 or lower

Which Business Schools Require Top Scores?

If you want to attend some of the best-known and prestigious business schools, you usually need a high GMAT score, in addition to a very strong overall application. Kaplan reports these graduate business schools require the highest GMAT scores:

  • Harvard University: 727
  • Stanford University: 727
  • Yale University: 727
  • University of Pennsylvania: 725
  • University of Chicago Booth: 723
  • MIT: 713
  • Northwestern University: 713
  • University of California Berkeley: 714
  • Columbia University: 716
  • Dartmouth College: 718
  • New York University Stern: 721

A good rule of thumb for a ‘top’ score is in the 700 range. With that score, you are in the 89th percentile of all students. This means just 11% who take the exam did better than you did. The average GMAT score is 547. But that does not mean you must get above that to get into a good school. There are some part time and online business schools that are respected but have more average GMAT scores in the 600 range. These types of programs may be more designed for the full time professional.

Here are some average GMAT scores for admitted students at other universities around the nation:

  • Michigan State University: 664
  • Southern Methodist University: 656
  • University of North Carolina: 701
  • University of Michigan Ross: 708
  • UCLA: 713
  • Cornell: 697
  • Duke University: 696
  • University of Texas Austin: 694
  • University of Washington Foster: 688

Poets and Quants reports for 2017 that the top 50 business school with the biggest increase in average GMAT score was Michigan State University. Also, the University of Pennsylvania has closed a gap of 21 points with Stanford University to be just two points behind the top, elite score.

Raising Your Score and Making a Game Plan

Do you want to raise your GMAT score? First, remember you are more than your test score. Whether you get into the program you want or not, and whether you get scholarship money, depends on several factors. While upping your GMAT score helps, you also should earn a high undergraduate GPA, write a strong application essay, obtain remarkable letters of recommendation, and round out your resume with impressive business accomplishments on the job.

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Here are some proven ways to increase your GMAT score:

  • Do a lot of research. As you are considering where to apply to MBA school, learn everything you can about the university. What is the approximate GMAT score of students accepted in the MBA program? What does the admissions department say about the importance of the GMAT? The best place for information is the school’s website. There should be ample information available about typical GMAT scores and how important the test is for the admissions decision. You also can call or email the school and ask for more information about required GMAT scores. Once you know the goal to shoot for score wise, you will be more likely to reach it.
  • Set goals. Do you want to make up for a lower GPA in your bachelor’s program? Do you want a lot of scholarship money? Then you should study a lot so you can get a higher than average score. Once you have completed research about the MBA programs and know the scores you need, you will be ready to study.
  • Remember always the GMAT is a standardized examination and what it contains is very well known. You can study for it and with enough test practice, most people can score well enough to get into their desired program(s). The exam asks the same sorts of questions on every iteration of the test. If you are familiar with the content and have the tools available to study, you should be able to raise your score significantly. One way to get going is to take a diagnostic test that will give you an idea what your GMAT-specific knowledge level is before you begin studying. If you are not far from your goal score, you could be ok to study on your own. Otherwise, you may want to pay to take a GMAT prep course.

Now that you understand more about GMAT scores and what you need to get into your desired school, you can make a game plan to make it happen.

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References

Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Henry is Editor-in-Chief of Business Student.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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