The Super GMAT Schools

by John A. Byrne on

The first hurdle every MBA applicant must jump to get into a great business school is the entry exam. Afterall, admission officers admit that a low score on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is the single biggest reason why business schools ding MBA applicants.

As the table below shows, average GMAT scores for the top U.S. schools are extremely high. The 13 highest scores are all above 700, with average undergraduate grade point averages of 3.4 and above. There are 29 full-time MBA programs in the U.S. with average GMAT scores for entering students in the 85th percentile or above of all test takers.

Just how important is the GMAT score? A recent survey, by Kaplan Test Prep, found that 48% of some 288 responding admissions staffers said that a weak GMAT or GRE score is the biggest application killer. A low undergraduate GPA placed second at 33%, while the lack of relevant work experience followed at just 10%.

Most admissions officials tend to downplay the importance of any one piece of the MBA application. The Kaplan report, which includes responses from the admissions offices of 22 of the top 30 U.S. business schools, confirms that an applicant’s GMAT or GRE score far outweighs consideration of any other factor in a candidate’s chances–regardless of what the school’s websites or marketing literature contends.

One likely reason for the GMAT or GRE’s outsized importance is that it is a recent objective measure of an applicant’s ability to tackle the academics of an MBA program. Another likely reason is that an entering class’s average GMAT score is heavily weighted in rankings of  business schools by U.S. News & World Report, The Financial Times, and The Economist. So some admissions offices often are under pressure to keep those scores as high as possible.

Here are the 29 MBA programs in the U.S. with the highest GMAT scores for the latest crop of students to enter their schools last fall:

Schools Average GMAT GMAT Range Average GPA GPA Range
1. Stanford 728 680 – 770 3.69 3.38 – 3.95
2. Harvard 724 NA 3.67 NA
3. Yale 722 680 – 760 3.52 3.12 – 3.95
4. MIT (Sloan) 718 670 – 760 3.57 3.22 – 3.88
4. California-Berkeley (Haas) 718 680 – 760 3.63 3.39 – 3.87
4. UPenn (Wharton) 718 670 – 760 3.50 3.20 – 3.90
7. Dartmouth (Tuck) 716 667 – 760 3.50 3.12 – 3.85
8. New York (Stern) 715 660 – 760 3.42 3.05 – 3.75
9. Chicago (Booth) 715 660 – 760 3.52 3.10 – 3.90
10. Northwestern (Kellogg) 714 660 – 760 3.52 3.13 – 3.86
11. Columbia 712 680 – 760 3.50 3.10 – 3.80
12. UCLA (Anderson) 710 680 – 750 3.53 3.21 – 3.88
13. Michigan (Ross) 704 650 – 750 3.40 2.90 – 3.80
14. Virginia (Darden) 699 640 – 750 3.41 3.00 – 3.80
15. Duke (Fuqua) 697 620 – 760 3.40 2.80 – 3.90
16. Washington (Olin) 695 640 – 750 3.48 3.09 – 3.90
17. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 694 640 – 750 3.23 2.58 – 3.77
18. Florida (Hough) 694 640 – 735 3.51 3.13 – 3.86
19. Minnesota (Carlson) 694 640 – 750 3.50 3.11 – 3.93
20. California-Davis 692 650 – 740 3.27 2.85 – 3.82
21. Southern California (Marshall) 690 640 – 740 3.30 2.93 – 3.67
22. Cornell (Johnson) 687 620 – 740 3.25 2.77 – 3.74
23. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 686 620 – 750 3.3 2.82 – 3.80
24. Notre Dame (Mendoza) 685 600 – 750 3.33 2.86 – 3.83
25. Georgetown (McDonough) 684 640 – 740 3.37 2.98 – 3.77
26. Texas-Austin (McCombs) 684 620 – 730 3.43 2.94 – 3.86
27. Boston University 681 620 – 740 3.35 2.80 – 3.90
28. Washington (Foster) 681 620 – 740 3.34 2.86 – 3.86
29. Emory (Goizueta) 680 620 – 750 3.34 2.84 – 3.80

 

Notes: Ranges for GMAT an GPA represent the 10th percentile to 90th percentile. So 10% of the entering class scored lower than the reported GMAT or GPA here, while another 10% scored higher. All numbers were reported by the schools to U.S. News & World Report.

DON’T MISS: THE 50 MOST SELECTIVE MBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S. or WHAT AN AVERAGE GMAT SCORE WILL GET YOU

  • jeevesA

    Would you have data on avg. GRE scores for the MBA programs that accept them? I’m applying with a GRE score next year and would love to find out what ti numbers look like.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    JeevesA,

    Unfortunately not. I could try to find that out but it would take some time involving an overture to each of the many schools on the list.

  • Ritesh

    Do b-schools have clearly defined sectional cut-offs? Any data around this?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Ritesh,

    No one would admit to this, but that is clearly the case. In fact, the director of the MBA program at Chicago Booth told me on the record that some schools won’t even do a full review of an application if a GMAT score is considered too low. They’ll just put it in a rejection pile without a full review.

  • International

    Hello John,

    Great blog.

    Can you do something on the most popular U.S business schools abroad? In order words, what business schools can get you jobs abroad? Is this data hard to complie?

    For example, in the U.S, people are aware of INSEAD, HEC Paris, LBS and so on…

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Yes, indeed. I’ll work on that.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve noticed on a couple of applications that you have to list your verbal sub-score and percentile, quant score and percentile, total score and percentile, and AWA score with percentile. What if you have a 5.5 AWA and below (school) average total score?

  • Madee

    Comparing this list with selectivity, Columbia seems to stick out. Columbia is one of the most selective B-Schools yet it ranks 11th on the GMAT. I wonder why…

  • wazim

    Hi John,
    My GPA is very low 2.3.I am planning to take GMAT.Have scored 700+ in all the practice tests so far.Do i stand a chance of making to a top business school like stanford,lbs,northwestern,cambridge etc?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Wazim,

    You would have to explain away your poor GPA and probably take a few academically challenging college courses and ace them. Yes, you stand a chance. But you’re going in with a key disadvantage that has to be pro-actively addressed.

  • Jane

    John,

    the Darden MBA is from 650-740 and not 640-750 :)

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Jane,

    That’s odd. The numbers Darden gave U.S. News are 640 to 750 for the class entering last fall.

  • Rebecca Black

    @Madee: Its pretty obvious that small class size is a big boost to average GMAT. Schools with small class sizes (Stanford, Yale, Sloan, Haas, Stern) do disproportionately well on average GMAT relative to their ranking, and other schools with large class sizes (Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia) seem to suffer.

    The explanation is that larger class sizes allow schools to “take chances” on those with more questionable GMAT scores while still ensuring a strong class of those with stellar scores.

    You’re clearly on the Columbia hating bandwagon with some axe to grind, and its a shame.

    PS: Stanford and Harvard at 1 and 2 is not entirely surprising, but Stanford’s avg GMAT being nearly a full standard deviation of the top 10 scores higher than Harvard (largest class size of any MBA program) is surprising. Yale is the biggest mover of [P&Q rank – GMAT rank], and its microscopic class size (around 200 students) is the likely culprit. Kellogg (nearly 600 students) and Columbia (over 700 students) have two of the largest MBA classes, and are clearly punished for it in average GMAT with their 10 and 11 rankings.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Rebecca,

    Very good point on small class size. Hadn’t realized that myself.

  • Yale Guy

    Yale is determined to move up the rankings. I wonder if their selectivity will end up meaning higher starting salaries for all 3 of their students.

  • Jane

    @Rebecca,

    these GMAT average scores do not affect people’s views on these schools. This is just informative….you sound upset…like you are correlating GMAT scores with the school’s/its’ student performance.

    Also, great point on the class size analysis, however, I really doubt John has anything against any school, not to mention a reputable school like Columbia :)

  • Mike Johns

    John, I think that people (including yourself) are getting carried away with the GMAT talk. I think that anyone who committs themself to earning a graduate degree is to be applauded. People come from so many different backgrounds and can’t focus soley on getting a 700 GMAT score when everyday life stuff is happening. I think that HBS is a wonderful school but I think that schools like Howard have a great value proposition as well. Also, I know people from above average schools that can’t find an average job. Yikes!!!! Guess they thought that GMAT score would work miracles during the interview. It’s up to the individual applicant to find the right fit and go for it. You must be running out of topic b/c these things are getting boring/redundant.

  • frustrated applicant

    I hate that schools downplay the importance of the GMAT. Adcoms should save people the headache and heartache. In fact they should have a disclaimer on their website “If your GMAT is below xyz, please reevaluate your app” Instead they emphasize on the so called “holistic approach” I am just bitter and jaded over this whole MBA application process. If your other parts of an application are great and the schools place you on a wait list, then turn around and tell you your GMAT is weak after encouraging you to apply, i am not sure what to call that.

    The GMAT weight on MBA rankings is partly to blame. Hence a lot of people who are really qualified and can handle the MBA curriculum, end up not applying because of the GMAT.

    I wonder what has changed over the past 20 years. The average GMAT has gone up for all schools. (Since the GMAT is supposed to predict a person’s ability to handle bschool work) Is this accurate?
    GMAC continues making the exam harder so as to control the percentiles.

  • eshwar

    Hi Madee,
    I have done my MBA from INDIA and i would like to pursue another MBA in the US. would US Bschools accept me? i dont want to transfer any credits etc. i am ready to study for another 2 years (or) 12 -16 month course would be even better. can you let me know on the chances of my acceptance into US schools?

    I would like to go to UK as the MBA programmes are for one year which really suites my requirement, but the market is troublesome and the immigrations rules have changed.

    My idea of doing another MBA is to move up the corp ladder soon instead of taking 7-8 years the normal way and do my dream job in the field of “consulting” probably in some world renowned work places like MOW, Mckinsey, Bain and Co, Booz, Allen Hamilton which is possible only if i have a graduate degree from the US or UK business schools.

    Do let me know on your thoughts.

  • Tommy

    Is it possible that the highest GPA is 3.95 :s that’s off i thought there would be 4.00’s

  • Bruce Vann

    Tommy, that’s probably the 80% range. I”m sure several people at top schools have 4.0’s

  • al

    Hi John
    My GPA was 2.1 at MSU . Right now my last 30 credits at community college was 3.1 .(will get AS degree this fall) I got 600 on my Gmat and I have 10 years of working exp.
    Do I have a chance at ASU online program , U of Iowa or U of Arizona , Georgia ?
    Maybe 30 % get accept ??
    Thanks for your reply !
    Al

  • Bhargav

    hi john,

    I am from INDIA. I have 4 yrs of work experience and i have a GPA of 2.8 and i got a GMAT score of 680. Can i get admission in Univ of IOWA or Univ of Illinois or Ohio State University or University of Florida (hough) with aid?.

    And are there any chances for me to get admission in Emory, Indiana (kelly)?

  • cjxiongdilian

    Hi, John, I graduated from George Mason University in Finance majoe and had a 3.77 GPA. I have already worked for a VC/PE company for a year and my GMAT is 680. Do I stand a chance to get into the top B-schools? Thanks a lot!!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Cjxiongdilian,

    Would need to know more to say with certainty but yes you certainly stand a chance. Most people would urge you to retake the GMAT and insure you have good curriculars that show leadership experience and accomplishment.

  • Malhotra

    My ward has scored 670. Has a 9/10 in University. 2 years work experience. Quite good in extracurriculars, College topper, gold medalist, demonstarted good leadership skills. Wants to join Harvard/Stanford along with Kennedy School for a joint degree. Pls advise if she should apply with this score or redo her test. 2. She wants to be in the first list and also apply for the scholarships.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    She should definitely redo the test. She needs to score at least a 700 to even be in the game for those schools.

  • Saurav

    I have a 690 on the GMAT and had applied to Duke in early action. Did not even get an interview call. But if you look at my break-up, I have a 42Q and 41V. My GPA in engineering was 2.8

    Is the low quant score really going to lead to my application being thrown into a rejection pile without so much as a look at my overall application?

    I have around 4.5 years work-ex in intellectual property and have received two promotions. Have decent NGO work as well.

    I was genuinely hoping that my career progression and the fact that I am working in a very niche field would definitely add value to my profile. But now I am not sure whats happening.

    John, it would be really great if you could shed some insights in to this.

    Thanks,
    Saurav

  • Ramneet

    Hi John,
    I have a Gmat score of 740 but a Gpa of 2.99
    Would my gpa have a negative effect on my application .
    Thanks a Lot

  • Justin

    @jbyrne
    Hi John,

    I have enjoyed reading several articles on poets and quants as I work through the MBA Admissions process. I am an Air Force Officer working in hospital administration. I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with an overall 3.37 GPA in 2004, and scored a 770 on GMAT 50Q 46V 6.0AWA in september of this year. I am in the process of applying to several of the top schools on this list but am concerned that my relatively low GPA from an unusual college (Military Academy) could hurt my candidacy. For full disclosure I had an upward GPA trend, I was originally a chemistry major and switched to business management at the end of my sophmore year, Junior and Senior GPA were 3.6 range. Could you comment on whether a GPA like this would be deal breaker at some of the top 10 schools on this list? Thank you for your time.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Justin,

    I don’t think your GPA is a deal breaker at all. I think you should, however, point out your upward GPA trend through the academy and say something to the effect that you found your passion wasn’t chemistry, but that is was business management. And once you aligned your passion and interests with your talent, things took flight. Your GMAT is so high that it will be easy for adcom to blink on the 3.37, especially if you explain that your GPA was 3.6 in your last two years. Good luck to you!

  • Mike

    Hi John,

    I must say this thread has been fantastic. Lots of good information.
    Onto my question:
    I am about to graduate from a non-target school with a 3.5 GPA ( did poorly my first two years as an engineering major, switched to Finance and got a 4.0 the next 2.5 years) I got a 730 on my GMAT and have solid extra-curricular activities. Do I have a chance at getting into a top-b school?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Mike,

    Absolutely. Given those stats are your extras, it sounds like you’re in the ballpark. So go for it.

  • http://www.davepaps.com Dave

    All the scores are typically high (even for some of the schools). I thought Wharton would be in top 3 for sure. Interesting list, digging it.

  • JCK

    just translate on a percentile basis.

  • Shamerika

    I can’t help but notice that maybe I shouldn’t even bother going to a non-super GMAT school? I applied to PVAMU and they do not require the GMAT prior to admission which is what sold me (cause I do not want to take that exam right now) but am reading people kind of obsessing over GMAT scores…..the top schools cost a lot…how is everyone thinking of paying those (just a thought) and are you more concern with a top B-school than the cost?

  • Raghu

    So,GMAT >Work experience . Isn’t it hard to believe John

  • Yirmin

    Judging from you name, I’m guessing you might be Indian… You should know that whether the schools want to admit it or not, they fill classes based on demographic quotas. If you look at a university like Harvard you will find that there is rarely more than a percentage point move in the breakdowns of say male to female students, white students, international students… In essence if you looked solely at the demographics of any given class and compared it to a previous class they would look nearly identical.

    So you are not competing against the average student you are competing against the average Indian male… For some races your numbers would be good enough, for others they would be a quick toss to the waste bin. It might not seem fair, but that is the way it happens.

  • mac

    Reason why schools don’t want to put a clear cut off on GMAT score is that the schools want maximum applications possible (and hence more revenue from the application fees)

  • Rohit

    Hi Yirmin

    You raise a very good point. I have a question which drifts slightly away from the issue you have raised. What is you have a person who is of indian ethnicity but born and raised in a country that is different to his native roots i.e in this case say he lives in any part of the world bar for India ? Would he still come under the same bracket of the over represented indian male ?

  • VM

    Great question. In the US, yes, in the sense that you are competing with an ever smaller niche demographic, Indian-American males, who have higher stats as well. But not as strong of an issue if your situation is US born applying to US school. No, if you are applying internationally – you are in this case more American than anything else.

  • Tom

    Good day. i’m from the Philippines, got 740 GMAT score, graduated cum laude in college, have good extra curriculars in college and have 3 years experience in a top multinational. Do you think i have a chance of getting a scholarship?

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