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



  • Mike Johns

    John, I think that people (including yourself) are getting carried away with the characterization of these schools and the people that attend them. 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.

  • Rory Barratt


    Good article.

    Everywhere you look on the internet you see people talking about their 760 GMAT score and how the top schools regularly decline the applications of people with great scores. It’s good to see a little perspective, I think that many schools who are not listed in the top 100 have great programs and are great value for money, people shouldn’t be put off an MBA if they have only achieved an average GMAT.

    I have a 710 (he adds quickly). :-)

  • ben

    I think it is incorrect to assume that a poor GMAT means attending an average MBA program. I never had a 650+ on my GMAT, but I had superb transcripts, solid work experience and glowing referrals – and I got into a top 15 MBA program.

    Even Sandy Kreisberg, the HBS guru, stated in a 2010 Fortune article that someone with a 520 GMAT score (below the average of 540) got admitted in the 2012 class.

    I still say apply to a good school and take a chance, you never know which parts of your resume appeal to the admissions committee and you still might stand a chance.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/msshona/ Rishona Campbell

    I had a couple of thoughts while reading this article…

    1) How many of the high GMAT scorers have taken the GMAT multiple times? When I took the GMAT in 2009, the fee for the test was $250. Even with one re-take, you are spending a lot of money on an admissions test. It’s not so hard to rival what you would spend on CPA exams simply on taking the GMAT multiple times! Plus it is a 4 hour test. I agree with Mike in that many people cannot invest so much into an admissions test. With that being said, the GMAT probably does more weeding out than we think not only in regard to academic ability…but also social and economic status.

    2) Admissions rates are sort of interesting…but graduation rates would be golden! Of course I realize that I may be the only person worried about this metric. However my MBA program just recently LOWERED the required GMAT score for admission. However, looking at my cohort, I see quite a few people not finishing the program. My non-ranked MBA program is no walk in the park; especially in the quantitative subjects (my Business school also houses the computer science/engineering school so a few of my professors are engineers by training). Cash-strapped public universities are very hungry for tuition dollars right now. So admissions numbers don’t impress me as much as the graduation/completion rate.

    Nice article though; but a bit disappointed with the condescending tone.

    (my GMAT score = 560 btw)

  • http://www.veritasprep.com/blog Brian

    Interesting article, and I like that there is some coverage for good schools that fall outside that top 20-25 that tend to get all the hype online these days. But since it’s a GMAT-focused article and the GMAT does test statistics and the use of statistics to draw conclusions I figured I should draw a little attention to this. Saying that these schools whose average GMAT scores are equal to the overall GMAT average of 540 means that they’re schools that accept average students is a little tricky – that logic is taking the average of an average, which tends to cause trouble on GMAT problems. While the average score at one of these schools may be 540, the range is likely quite a bit wider, and the mean may not equal the median or mode. So on a statistical GMAT basis, it’s tricky logic and something that students should approach with caution. Similarly, the title of the table is a little misleading in a GMAT critical reasoning sense. That the average scores at these schools are within 10 points of 540 doesn’t draw the implied conclusion that these are “the schools you can get into with a 540”. Plenty of schools with averages in the upper 500s and low 600s will take quite a few students with 540-range scores.

    So for anyone reading this article and still considering a GMAT retake, keep in mind that part of your goal to score higher on the exam will require you to understand statistics and the conclusions drawn from them. For getting an idea of some of the more-unheralded MBA programs that are available in your region, this article does a great job; as a method of studying for GMAT quant and critical reasoning, it may lead you a little bit astray.

  • saurabh gaur

    Need some serious advise on the MBA Programs in US. Please help.
    GMAT 730 and AWA 6.
    Whats the prospects for an MBA from a top US school? Plus how much of a factor is for an MBA grad to land a job in US if he or she does not have work rights? Thanks a lot.

  • LondonCalling

    Interesting piece. Of course, some people who sit for the GMAT earn scores lower than they’d hoped and elect to not attend business school at all (and, hence, these people are part of the GMAT curve, but “disappear” from the admit statistics). Further, there are GMAT scores that respresent subsequent (or previous) tests taken by people who later/earlier earned better scores. Overall, the data here is not all that interesting, but the politics around which schools are accepting students with ordinary scores (and which will not publish their admissions rates) is somewhat interesting — more interesting would be what factors these schools are using to distinguish between many applicants with similar, unremarkable test scores.

  • Abdullah

    well, take it or leave it..I am from UAE..I was thinking that the only way to be a successful is by doing MBA at Harvard..I spent my childhood working with my father in our family business..I was doing great with him..I graduated from local Uni with avg grade..thinking about MBA was taking from my time and hence losing money!!! and some of my clients hired managers whom worked with Bain & Co as consultant and did their MBAs at top Schools..the reality which I was unable to see is that those consultants were doing MBAs to reach what I already had !!! what I eventually did is forget the GMAT and the MBA and focus on my business..and thank god..I am now generating seven digits USD profit and still under 35..

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


    Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like you’re getting an MBA by working in your own business. For many people that can be a far more valuable experience. Congrats.

  • Courtney Stokes

    Hey Mr.Byrne,
    I just wanted to add a little bit of personal experience to a comment some above me already mentioned. I think you are underestimating the value of “average” schools. Howard University is listed as an average school and one of the top 100 in the country. You also stated that you would not be recruited by big corporate recruiters like GS, Bain, Apple, Google, etc. I would like to let you know that all of those corporations, as well as numerous others from wall street/around the country all recruit HEAVILY at Howard University for UNDERGRADS. I have a number of classmates who just graduated in May, like myself, who now work at Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman, Barclay’s, Google, Apple, Bain, Intel, Exxon, HBS, Carlyle Group, etc, and they are 22. I myself, at 23, am an associate manager at a Fortune 500 company. We were all heavily recruited after undergrad on campus, and all of the firms you mentioned were heavily visible the entire 4 years of my undergraduate career. They also recruit at the graduate level. I think you may have underestimated the value that corporations may find in “average” schools. I don’t think you did that on purpose, but it’s easy to overlook other great places when they are in the shadow of Harvard and Yale. I’m also not sure where you got the information that those companies don’t recruit at the schools on the average list. Maybe some other universities you previously thought didn’t have many “big name” recruits actually do. Just wanted to give you some insight! Thanks.

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


    Thanks for weighing in with some very helpful comment. I think Howard gets such A-plus recruiters partly because it’s a great school to recruit highly talented African-Americans from. That puts Howard in a different category than many other business schools.

  • Joeblank

    You are all missing the point. Mr. Byrne is not talking about absolutes. He is not talking about black and white. He is talking about generalities. 

    Talking about this in a more juvenile manner…there are many stories of successful individuals who did not attend college, or even graduate from high school. However, there are many more stories of successful individuals who graduated from high school and attended college.

  • Londonbanker

    1) Nice try. But this is patently false. If economic status was a filter, then kids from China/India would be behind the U.S. in terms of GMAT scores. But in reality, the GMAT scores of kids from these countries is much much better than the U.S. (based on average scores). The economic status of of Chinese/Indian families is much worse than the vast majority of U.S. families. You might want to consider bringing race into this 

    2) you make a valid point, but again this is a phenomenon for non-ranked program only. For any program in top 20, the graduation % would be 100% or something very close. 

    3) I find GPA and GMAT figures semi-interesting, but what would be a much better predictor would be % of class that found jobs after 3 months and average/median salary post MBA

    (My GMAT score 730 and I sure as hell won’t be attending an MBA lower than Top 5 in the U.S.)

  • Sopbiz99

    I have more of a question than a comment.  What is it that makes the top business schools better than others?  Thinking purely from a probability perspective with an athletic metaphor, it would seem likely more of an ebb and flow would take place.  Much like the Detroit Lion’s almost winless season, while they remained in the NFL, they literally sucked in terms of outcome.  Are these schools more of an executive training camp or is the education simply that much better?  Statistically, how could the latter be with so many colleges offering exposure to quality curriculums and access to technology? 

  • Yirmin

    The schools are not really any better than a large public university program… what makes them different is the selectivity of the students they accept. A recruiter knows that he could find a good candidate in most any large university, but he knows that in some where they accept everyone and his dog that he would have to sit through countless interviews before he found that one stand out… on the other hand if the recruiter goes to a place like Harvard he knows that every student there was already pre-screened by the university and even the weakest candidate he has in any given group of interviews will be stronger than the ones he would find at the large public university.

    This then becomes a chicken and egg kind of thing… students that are strong will know that they can only get the interview for the best jobs by going to the best school… The down side is that when a school declines as Harvard has their is a very slow process of recruiters deciding to cross it off the list and for students to realize that and stop applying. If you look at the rigor of the program today compared to how it was in the 1970’s it is frightening. The work load has been reduced significantly, students that are currently admitted could not really have had a chance of being accepted a few decades ago when they were much more selective. In large part because the size of the class has grown.

  • Rob

    I read an interesting profile of Mickey Drexler (CEO of J Crew) in which he expressed an earnest preference for hiring a waiter with 10 years experience over an academic MBA grad with little real-world experience for a management position. Just goes to show the relative value of things. Real-world is nearly always better than classroom. Just ask the admissions people for any MBA program; students with real world experience benefit more from an MBA degree than those who don’t have that experience.

  • Factchecker from Howard

    This article is incorrect in terms of recruitments. It explicitly states that you wont find any elite corporate sponsor at any of the schools on your list, including Howard University. I went to Howard University Undergrad and Goldman Sachs was my business teams corporate sponsor. We visited Goldman and did case studies there. Freshman year, one student from my team (AS A FRESHMAN) got to intern at Goldman. And by the time graduation (from undergrad) came along, the entire business class as well as engineering students had the opportunity to interview for Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs–matter of fact all the wall street firms, Intel, etc. I preferred to work in development so I didn’t attend any of these interview sessions, BUT I have friends who only have their under graduate degree and went straight to Goldman Sachs and other wall street firms, and Google, Apple, etc. They also recruit for MBA students. I’m very disappointed by this article. I visit this site often and expect that you all know what you are talking about. Do some research before you say things about universities. Seeing this makes me rethink the validity of the other information that has been published on this blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=699566556 Zach Hoffman

    Keep in mind they aren’t talking about undergrad schools, but graduate schools. Often, schools that are very good schools for undergrads are not so great graduate schools.

  • Julia Smith

    that is a great work

    Skills for GMAT

  • nayar

    Each one has a different story… Its business for you & MBA for another …. success anyway !!
    so don’t discriminate

  • 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

    I have scored 720 in GMAT, can i get stanford business school for MBA or is there any chance of getting top university with full scholarship? if anyone has any details please send details to me at : sudhir.k1990@outlook.com

  • 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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