According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the lovely company behind the GMAT, the GMAT score percentiles correlates GMAT score with the percentile of everyone who takes the GMAT, which will give you an idea of the score you need to land to get into the business school of your choice. See below to see what scores show up on your report and what reports business schools will see.
- Quantitative score (out of “51 questions” and percentile)
- Verbal score (out of “51 questions” and percentile)
- Your overall score (out of 800 and percentile)
- Essay score (out of 6.0, increments of .5 and percentile and which is a minor blip on the report as long as you don’t bomb the essay)
So first off, you’ll notice that your score is based out of 51 “questions”, even though the verbal really only has 41 questions and the quantitative has only 37 questions. The reason for this is that the raw score takes into account degrees of difficulty for the questions your answering as part of the computerized adaptive testing (CAT), where the computer adjusts its difficulty according to your performance on the test.
If you look at the results above, you’ll see that the GMAT is rewards those with a stronger performance in the Verbal section as far few people are able to score in the top percentile for verbal as opposed to quantitative, therefore the test those who have a strong performance on the verbal section get rewarded with a higher score.
In terms of overall score and percentile, here is the breakdown:
- 540 is the mean & median score on the GMAT, which means that 50% of GMAT test takers score better and 50% do worse
- 650 is the 78th percentile
- A score of 700 is in the 90th percentile
- Getting a 730 enters the top test takers as it’s the 96th percentile
- Scoring a 750 basically gets you to elite status as you’re in the 98th percentile, meaning only 2% of test takers have done better
- 760 and up is the elite class as it’s in the 99th percentile.
So now that we’ve broken down the scoring, let’s get down to what is considered a good score which really just depends on what your goals are. For example, getting a 650 already will get you into some respectable business schools. The question though is what if your have set your sights on something higher, like a top tier business school. While the GMAT isn’t everything, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to be in the 98th percentile…
What’s a good GMAT score for top business schools?
Visiting the US News and World Report will give you a list of what’s considered to be the top business schools, which typically has Harvard and Stanford at the top the list.
You’ll see that the average score of people getting into Harvard is 724, while those getting into Stanford have an average of 730. Looking at the score for what’s considered to be the top 10 schools, you’ll see that people that are admitted have an average of 715 on the GMAT. It’s important to remember though that these are average GMAT scores, meaning that there are people getting admitted who are scoring higher and lower than the numbers you see in the image above.
For example, scoring a GMAT score of 760 (99th percentile) means that you’ll have an above average score for any of the business schools you apply to and at this point admission into the school will depend on other factors such as your work experience, references and interview. It also means that if you bomb these other aspects, such as poor references or not having valuable work experience, an exceptionally high score won’t help you get in, whereas someone with a score of 700 (90th percentile) which is below average for all the top 10 schools (other than Duke) but who excels at the other aspects of the application process will most likely find themselves getting admitted into the school of their choice.
How to Decide if You Should Retake the GMAT
Again this all depends on your goals and your current score, but to give you an idea of whether you should consider taking the GMAT or not, let’s consider the following scenarios:
- If you are currently getting around a 600, taking the test again to get a 630 would be a huge push, moving yourself from the 62nd percentile up to the 72nd percentile.
- If you’re scoring a 680, pushing yourself to get to 700 would be a great move, as you’re moving from the top 15% of GMAT test takers to the top 10% of GMAT test takers.
- This is where things get a bit tricky. If you’re already scoring above a 700, adding another 20 or 30 points, most likely won’t do much for your application. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t retake it, but you’re now entering the laws of diminishing returns. Getting a score over a 700 shows business schools your academic ability, which means that they’ll now be focusing on other factors to decide whether you would be a good fit for their school – they’ll look at your work experience and reference letters, they’ll evaluate your interview, your application essay, etc to figure out a person they can imagine with a promising leadership potential. Few people, if any, who score above a 700 will benefit from retaking the test in order to increase their score. Once you get a 700+ GMAT score, it’s ridiculous to spend time, money, energy, and your sanity in hopes of pushing it up – instead use that time to figure out how you can round out the rest of your application to show that you’re the best applicant for the school you’re looking to be admitted to. Getting a 770 may give you some bragging rights, but it won’t do much over a 720 GMAT score in terms of getting you into business school.
Want a Higher GMAT score?
If your GMAT score is one that would benefit from improving on, such as being in the low to high 600’s, then you may want to consider using a GMAT prep course like 800score, Kaplan, or Manhattan GMAT. In future articles, I’ll be sharing my thoughts as well as reviews to these courses to help you decide what’s best for you. Remember that your personal best GMAT score may not necessarily be a perfect score which is okay – instead it’s what you can score when you’re fully prepared, which is why a GMAT prep course or a private tutor might be helpful as they can figure out your weaknesses and help you fully prepare.