GMAT exam scores are only one part of the MBA admissions journey, but they are critical to the process. Therefore, to help you get the best GMAT exam scores possible, I’ll explain everything you need to know about the scoring on the GMAT exam. This information will include a section-wide breakdown about GMAT exam scores to the average scores at the most competitive business schools.
All GMAT exam scores range between 200 and 800. About 50% of all students score somewhere between 400 and 600 on the exam, meaning a score of above 600 means you have done better than the majority of test-takers for that particular test. The higher you score, the more people you outscore, placing you in a higher and higher percentile. Percentiles are a way for college admissions officers to see how well you did not just on the GMAT scale of 800 but with respect to other test-takers.
After taking the GMAT, you actually receive 5 different scores.
Out of all of these scores, the ones that have the biggest impact on your chances of admission to your business school of choice are your Total Score and your Quantitative and Verbal scores, so let’s look at those in a little more detail.
Total GMAT scores range between 200 and 800 in 10-point increments. They are calculated using your Math and Verbal scores.
Quantitative and Verbal sections range between 0 and 60 in 1-point increments. The number of questions you get right, the difficulty level of the questions you get right, and the total number of questions that you answer are used to determine your scores Quantitative and Verbal scores.
All GMAT essays receive 2 scores. One score is from a person. The other score is from a computer program designed to grade writing assignments. Both graders assign you a score between 0 and 6 in half-point increments. Your overall score depends on your content, style of writing, grammar, and sentence structure. If the 2 grades given to you by the 2 graders are the same, you receive that score. If they are decidedly different, a third grader, an actual person, will read and score your essay to determine your grade.
Scores on the Integrated Reasoning section range from 1 to 8. You cannot receive partial credit. You will sometimes need to give multiple responses to each question in this section.
A percentile rank accompanies all 5 scores that you receive after taking your GMAT. Admissions officers use percentiles to compare you against other test-takers. As an example, if you have a percentile of 94 next to your Quantitative score, that means that 94 percent of the people who took the same test as you scored lower than you did on the Quantitative section of their test.
As of now, an overall score of 800 on the GMAT would put you in the 99th percentile. This figure means that 99% of all test-takers score less than 800 on the test, and a score of 800 places you in the top 1% of all test-takers. A score of 750 places you in the 98th percentile.
Since percentiles are calculated using a bell curve, the fall-off is not linear. So, for every 10 points scored higher or lower on the test, your percentile can change significantly. Between scores of 800 and 750 (a difference of 50 points), the percentile ranks changes from 99% to 98% (a difference of only 1%), but between 750 and 700 (also a difference of 50 points), the percentile rank changes from 98% to 88% (a difference of 10%). This inconsistency occurs because more and more people (in this case, 10% more people) score somewhere between 700 and 750.
Used this way, percentiles are a useful tool to separate good, great, and exceptional candidates, because earning a higher percentile becomes harder and harder the closer you are to the higher end of the spectrum.
With all of the above in mind, it is clear that not only a high score but a high percentile matters in determining whether or not a particular score is good enough for the school or schools you are targeting. However, here is a general guideline you can use to determine how good and competitive your scores are.
Top scores that will place you in the top 10% of all test takers (in the 90th percentile or higher) are as follows:
Competitive scores that will place you in the top 25% of all test takers are as follows:
Scores that are not too bad overall (because they are above average) but are probably not good enough for competitive or top-tier programs (because competition for limited seats at these institutions is fierce) are as follows:
Here are the average GMAT scores for the top-10 business schools in the US.
These scores are averages. This means that the actual scores of each student at each school can be above or below these averages. In summary, however, what is clear is that the range of scores for the top-10 schools lies between about 715 and 737, so you need to keep this target in mind if you plan to apply to a top-10 school.
Beyond scores, however, admissions offices also consider the undergraduate GPA, extracurriculars, work experience, references, application essays, and sometimes even interviews of applicants before making final decisions for MBA candidates. Just as a perfect GMAT score does not guarantee admission to any single program, a below-average score does not exempt you from admission either. Instead, it’s all about the strengths of your overall application and the judgment that the admissions office arrives at in regards to your fit for their program and your expected ability to succeed in their program.
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Saad is a GMAT teacher and mentor. As a member of the I Pass Team led by Stephanie Ng, Saad is our expert on all things GMAT!