What An Average GMAT Will Get You

by John A. Byrne on

Former General Electric Co. Chairman & CEO Jack Welch with students at the Welch College of Business in Fairfield, Ct.

In the fictional town of Lake Wobegone, the creation of National Public Radio personality Garrison Keillor, all the children are “above-average” because no one can ever admit to being merely average.

In the real world, especially the harshly real and competitive world of getting into a top business school, average doesn’t get you very far. The average score of the Graduate Admission Management Test (GMAT) is about 540 on a scale of 200 to 800.

If you hit that 540 average, you’re not exactly Harvard Business School material. Last year’s entering class at Harvard had a mean GMAT score of 724, which put the typical HBS first year in the 95th percentile of test takers. At 728, Stanford’s average score was even higher. At 722, Yale’s School of Management wasn’t far behind. (See the “Super GMAT Schools” where average scores are in the 85th percentile or above).

Indeed, the average GMAT score for Poets&Quants’ top ten U.S. business schools is a remarkably high 716. And there are now 13 U.S. schools where the average GMAT score is above 700. Of course, the very definition of average means that there are many who score below that number and many who score above it.

Even so, what does an average score get you on the GMAT exam?

If you’re merely average–as so many of us are–it most likely means you can forget about going to even a ranked business school. By and large, the MBA programs that accept average scores are off the beaten path. Only one of the 35 schools on our “average” list–Howard University in Washington, D.C.–makes our top 100 list of the best U.S. schools. Some of these schools even lack official accreditation. As for elite corporate recruiters? You won’t find McKinsey & Co. Goldman Sachs, Google or Apple interviewing MBA grads at any of these schools.

On the other hand, you also won’t have much trouble getting in. Most of the schools decline to report the percentage of applicants they accept, probably because it’s so high it could be somewhat embarrassing. Of the schools on our list who do report this number, it’s worth noting that Union Graduate College in Schenectady, N.Y., accepts 96.6% of its applicants. The lowest acceptance rate? Howard University’s 38.7%.

So what kind of school can you get into if you have merely an average GMAT score? We found 35 MBA programs in the U.S. for the average person. The list below was compiled by taking the average score–540–and then searching for business schools that were no more than 10 points higher or 10 points lower than 540. Of course, your GMAT score is only one of many variables used by admission committees to accept or reject applicants. But it is, by far, the single most important factor at most business schools which is why the test–whether the GMAT or the GRE–cause applicants so much worry.

There are, by the way, five schools whose latest entering class hit the average score exactly on its head: the Jack Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Ct., and the B-schools at the University of Toledo, the University of Tampa, the University of Hartford, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania.


School Average GMAT Average GPA Applicants Accepted
Western Kentucky (Ford) Bowling Green, KY 550 NA NA
California State University Chico, CA 550 3.11 NA
California State University Long Beach, CA 550 3.15 NA
Morgan State University (Graves) Baltimore, MD 550 3.60 NA
Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT 559 3.32 NA
University of South Florida St. Petersburg, FL 550 3.40 NA
University of West Florida Pensacola, FL 545 3.42 NA
Union Graduate College Schenectady, NY 545 3.30 96.6%
Salisbury University (Perdue) Salisbury, MD 545 3.50 NA
St. John’s University (Tobin) Queens, NY 544 3.20 69.1%
Penn State University (Black) Erie, PA 544 3.31 NA
Canisius College (Wehle) Buffalo, NY 544 3.22 NA
Southern Utah University Cedar City, UT 543 3.50 NA
Clarkson University Potsdam, NY 543 3.31 87.1%
California State University San Bernardino, CA 542 3.43 NA
Arkansas State University State University, AR 541 3.14 NA
University of Toledo Toledo, OH 540 3.30 NA
University of Tampa (Sykes) Tampa, FL 540 3.40 43.7%
University of Hartford (Barney) West Hartford, CT 540 3.33 NA
Sacred Heart University (Welch) Fairfield, CT 540 3.46 NA
Clarion University Clarion, PA 540 3.47 NA
University of Memphis (Fogelman) Memphis, TN 539 3.20 NA
Pace University (Lubin) New York, NY 539 3.33 62.1%
UNC-Wilmington (Cameron) Wilmington, NC 538 3.30 NA
New Jersey Institute of Tech Newark, NJ 538 NA NA
Howard University Washington, DC 537 3.10 38.7%
West Virginia University Morgantown, WV 536 3.43 47.1%
University of Texas–Permian Basin Odessa, TX 535 3.03 NA
University of Kansas Lawrence, KS 535 3.29 81.9%
East Tennessee State Johnson City, TN 535 3.10 NA
Boise State University Boise, ID 534 3.16 NA
Washington State University Pullman, WA 532 3.44 NA
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA 531 3.24 NA
Widener University Chester, PA 530 NA NA
Minnesota State University Mankato, MN 530 3.20 NA

Source: School reports



  • Kenneth Chen

    There’s so much bullshit tossed around on this forum that its amazing.

    GMAT – GMAT is a data point. There are so many variable factors that GMAT is a test that standardizes a data point. How good are you at taking a test that everyone else is taking.

    Yes people with 520 can get into Harvard, but that person with the 520 also probably was the creator of a multi-million start up or has a recommendation from President Obama.

    If your GMAT is weak, then probability says you won’t get into a top MBA school. That’s all it means. Can you get into Harvard with a 520. YES. Will you likely get in with a 520 NO. So my question is why do you want to have a 1/10000 shot, as opposed to a 1/10 shot. That’s really what it comes down to. If you have a low GMAT, then EVERYTHING else on your application has to be dazzling, which is really really hard. Because if you got a job, how do you really stand out not just at your own job, but amongst other people that think they’re really great too. It’s really hard to measure. So GMAT is one way to measure. Salary is another way to measure. A company that regularly sends people to the school is another. Think of Admissions like the creation of a safety net. When you get into a school, you are part of a safety net in terms of salary and in terms of likelihood to fall through. Top MBAs have safety nets with higher salaries and fewer holes. Lower MBAs have lower safety nets with lower salaries and more people falling through the holes.

    Why some Bschools are better than others: RECRUITING. ALUMNI NETWORK. PEERS

    These are the three things however What you learn is similar; how you learn is different.

    At HBS or Stanford or even Booth or Insead, they all teach by Case methods. That means, you’re given a case study, and you have your set of tools that you have learned and how you would approach it. This is why consulting firms really like top MBA students – because consulting projects are very similar to case studies. So if you have a Private Equity Guy from KKR, with a BCG Consultant, with a Googler, with a military captain all on the same team – you get some pretty awesome approaches.

    At a lesser MBA, people come from less impressive backgrounds. It’s not to say they aren’t as smart. Not at all. Their backgrounds just offer less in terms of class participation.

    This is not to say Howard or whatever school isn’t great, its just the types of skills and types of background won’t be as impressive.

    Next is recruiting. Top MBA recruiters pay more. They want top talent and they want top talent young. They are willing to pay for it. So if you’re a Kellogg or a Wharton, people willing to pay your grads 130k + is very common and if you’re in Private Equity, maybe even as high as 400k.

    This is not to say the lower MBAs don’t get some high paying recruiters, they just don’t get as many so on average, probability says if you go to a lower ranked MBA, you will come out of it making less than (and most instances significantly less than) a top MBA. That’s all it means.

    The Number One guy at Howard probably can bat with the average guy at Harvard, but can the number 50 guy at Howard do so? Probability says no and statistically the answer is no too.

    Finally Alumni Network. Alumni Networks are there for life. The Two Best networks in my opinion are Harvard and McKinsey. Harvard Academically and McKinsey professionally. I think people from Harvard will hire Harvard and people from McKinsey want to hire McKinsey.

    This is not to say Harvard and McKinsey are the only networks that breed success, rather that Harvard and McKinsey have the highest quantity of people that are alive that are in positions of power or potential positions of power to help hire people.

    Are there also alum at lower MBAs. Of course. There are just fewer of them. If you look at any fortune 500 company leadership, most of the leadership is some combination of top MBA or consulting firm or both.

    So once again, please don’t take admissions personally. If you got a 520 GMAT and attend a lesser named MBA, it doesn’t mean you’re any less smarter, it just means you have a lower probability on average of landing a higher paying job.

  • sudhir
  • joe

    kudos on your GMAT score. but you should think that MBA tuitions are typically 50k a year. Less the fortunate full-rides, the students must show financial guarantee before matriculation. It could be right that GMAT scores are high for some Asian region people, but it is also true that they are more likely to have a pretty good background to start their education with.

    Btw too many 730 scorers are taking Top 15….they may not be bad choices, but some of them might not fit you

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