Those Pesky GPA & GMAT Averages

by John A. Byrne on

studySo you want to go to business school, but you have no idea if where you want to go will accept or reject you?

Though an MBA application has many components, there are two raw scores that largely dictate your range of possibilities: your undergraduate grade point average and your GMAT score.

Admissions officials at highly selective schools have been known to blink once at a below average number. But rarely do they blink twice at both a GMAT score and an undergraduate transcript that fails to hit their averages. And their are some schools–most notably Stanford, Wharton and MIT–where high GMAT scores really seem to matter.

No top 50 business school has an average GPA below 3,0 or an average GMAT below 641.. In fact, the lowest reported average grade point average is 3.20 at the University of Illinois’ business school. The highest? Stanford and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management: 3.69. The lowest reported average GMAT at a top 50 MBA program is 641 at Michigan State’s Broad School. The highest? Stanford: a lofty 729 average.

If you want to get into Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, that pretty much means you need to have a GPA between 3.40 and 3.94 on a 4.0-scale and a GMAT score between 680 and 780 on an 800-scale. Those are the 10th and 90th percentile numbers for the Stanford class that entered in the fall of 2012. Few schools, by the way, publish the full range, though Harvard Business School is an exception. At HBS, class that enters in the fall of 2013 had GMATs as low as 550 and as high as 780, though your chances of getting into Harvard with a GMAT below 700 are awfully slim. The median for admits to the Class of 2015 was 730.

‘THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A 740 GMAT AND A 780 IS NOT GOING TO MOVE THE NEEDLE’

“At HBS, the difference between a 740 GMAT and 780 is probably not going to move the needle,” believes Sandy Kreisberg, a prominent MBA admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com. “At Wharton and MIT, ultra GMATs are recognized and rewarded although hard to quantify. The difference between a 640 and 680 GMAT can be critical at many places, especially if the rest of your profile is likable. With a 680, you are meeting them half way. With a 640, you are asking for a big favor.”

Wharton already has announced that its incoming MBAs this year (2013) boast a record average GMAT score of 725, seven points higher than last year. At Wharton, even the lowest score isn’t all that low: 630.

Face it: a low GMAT score or a low GPA are the biggest application killers. No matter what admission officials or consultants say, this is unfortunately one of the unshakeable truths of the B-school admissions game. In an ideal world, a GMAT score would just be another data point, perhaps equal to any other in your application, from recommendation letters to how you craft your essays. But last year’s survey by Kaplan Test Prep of business school admissions officers at 265 MBA programs across the United States – including 17 of the top 25 – showed that a low GMAT or GRE score is the single biggest reason why business schools ding MBA applicants.

The 2012 survey found that 49% of admissions officers said that a weak score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is the biggest application killer. A low undergraduate GPA placed second at 31%, while the lack of relevant work experience followed at just 18%. Asked which is the most important factor in the MBA admissions process, only 2% of the officers said recommendation letters and a mere 1% cited essays.

WHY YOUR GMAT OR GRE SCORE LOOMS SO LARGE IN AN MBA APPLICATION

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. Admission officials also consider the score comparable across countries and cultures by all applicants. That’s not true with a GPA and it may not be true for a recommendation letter.

Another likely reason for the GMAT’s importance 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.

Generally, these scores are highly correlated with a school’s given ranking because they are the easiest and most visible way to measure the quality of the candidates enrolled in an MBA program.

(The latest GMAT and GPA stats for the top 50 full-time MBA programs in the U.S. are on the following pages)

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  • Renault

    Nope.

  • JohnAByrne

    London Business School has a superb MBA program and its location in one of the world’s greatest cities is hard to beat. However, it would be wrong to assume that LBS “trashes” the top U.S. schools. In fact, the average GMAT score at London of 698 is currently below at least 14 U.S. business schools, including Yale, Virginia, Michigan, NYU, and UCLA. Of all the stats on student quality, the single most important measure–for good or for bad–is the GMAT score. By the way, INSEAD’s average GMAT score of 705 is behind 11 U.S. schools. Just a data point worth considering in this debate. If you were ranking on nothing more than average GMATs as a short-cut metric of student quality, London would be more equivalent to Cornell’s Johnson School or Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School, which is still awfully good company to be in.

  • Raymond120

    INSEAD avg GMAT is heavily affected by the fact that large portion of the student body come from very different backgrounds, educationally, geographically, culturally, and more..otherwise it’d very easy for INSEAD to get its avg GMAT increased by 15 to 20 points at least. I know personally many many student at INSEAD with score of 790 and 780, and on the other side there are people with score as low as 570 or even less. But, giving that INSEAD has the largest class of MBA more than any other schools in the world, yet, they managed to keep the GMAT above 700, with such huge diverse student body, this fact is really impressive. all this if we consider the numbers as sole measure of the student quality which is absolutely wrong.

  • poppa

    you have good chance at duke, virginia, and wharton.

  • demond44e3

    anyone know the release time of forbes ranking?

  • JohnAByrne

    This year, Forbes was hoping to release its new ranking in early September. But for editorial reasons, the editors may push it back until October. Will know for sure next week. In any case, it looks like the release date will be one month to two months later than last time which is here:

    http://poetsandquants.com/2011/08/03/hbs-nudges-aside-stanford-in-new-forbes-ranking/

  • CDM554FR

    in my humble opinion, and after watching rankings, analysis, forums, employment reports, …, I came to the conclusion that the top 10 full time MBA in the world are: M7 schools, followed by INSEAD, LBS, Tuck, and Haas (no order). This is general speaking, and everyone can make his/her own ranking out of those 11 schools based on his/her career goals and fit factor.

  • SouthernMAN

    John, can you please comment on the latest preliminary employment data of the Texas McCombs school full time MBA. I see their mean salary is 105k which is just 5k less than Columbia last year. and in investment banking, they both has the same salary! are wee seeing some shift here or what?

  • GeomAct

    HE DOES NOT LIKE SOUTHERN THINGS :)

  • gaston

    I agree to John’s commend about the GMAT scores. NYU is way better than LBS by miles so LBS and INSEAD is behind. In fact, I totally agree with John’s comment that both INSEAD and LBS are equivalent to top 15-20 US schools.

  • gaston

    totally agree LBS at par with top 15-25 US business schools at the very best. INSEAD the same.

  • Professor Weasel

    What do CBS and Stern students have in common? They all got admitted to Stern.

  • Rami

    partially agree. INSEAD and LBS at most compared to top 25 to 35 US schools (US news Ranking).

  • Carlos Escalante

    Hey! I am an international (Mexico) MBA hopeful, have an average of 93/100 on my undergrad studies about 3.8 or 3.9 if converted to the GPA system), have good work experience and have both a day job and a moderately successful advertising business venture, as well as nice extra-curriculars and social work. What is killing me is my GRE score. I did pretty averagely on it, and though I will take the exam again in a few weeks, I have been studying for more than 6 months, on and off, and my score really hasn’t improved much. I will give my all but again, but I am expecting around 155Q and 160+ verbal. My TOEFL ibt score is 111 so I am on the high range there. What would be some realistic expectations for me? My top schools are Kellogg and Stanford (very hard, I know), do I have any chance?

  • sedlar

    Let us be clear, we can not compare one year MBA with the traditional two year MBA, therefore, INSEAD can be compared only with those top schools in US that offer one year MBA. First, it is very obvious that Kellogg and Cornell are away ahead of INSEAD. Second, Emory one year and Notre dame programs are slightly better than INSEAD due to the fact they belong to a very established universities. The only program that I feel comfortable to compare it with INSEAD is Katz one year MBA at University of Pittsburgh, if we ignore the class size, it is quite equivalent to INSEAD.

  • ramon

    Agreed. Easy Top 15-25 US business Schools >= INSEAD or LBS. And by the way, I think INSEAD is better than LBS if we are talking about European Schools.

  • soible

    Blazing I agree with you. Its not only that top US business schools would serve you better for your own particular circusmtances. The fact and reality is that top 15 business schools are BETTER (its a fact) than INSEAD or LBS. Full stop. I also would like to remind you and will quote John’s comment above “London Business School has a superb MBA program and its location in one of the world’s greatest cities is hard to beat. However, it would be wrong to assume that LBS “trashes” the top U.S. schools. In fact, the average GMAT score at London of 698 is currently below at least 14 U.S. business schools, including Yale, Virginia, Michigan, NYU, and UCLA. Of all the stats on student quality, the single most important measure–for good or for bad–is the GMAT score. By the way, INSEAD’s average GMAT score of 705 is behind 11 U.S. schools. Just a data point worth considering in this debate. If you were ranking on nothing more than average GMATs as a short-cut metric of student quality, London would be more equivalent to Cornell’s Johnson School or Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School, which is still awfully good company to be in.”

    This IS the reality.

  • soible

    My above comment was to support your comments vis a vis those raised by Raymond120 which are completely untrue

  • Raymond120

    if the GMAT is the criteria here, then IIM-A (with avg GMAT 770) should be away better than Harvard and Stanford. am I right?

  • Raymond120

    I’d be always nervous to accept any argument that contains words such as “completely” or “absolutely”. Professionally speaking.

  • BlazingSaddles

    You are correct only if GMAT is the sole criteria – however we all know that it is not the only factor – and far from it. There are many other intangible and tangible qualities that make a great/premier business school. GMAT is a key/central metric and so obviously IIM-A excels and dominates in that one area. For most though – such quanitiative metrics are not the deciding factor – it is the intangibles…and so I would submit that a strong majority of global MBA aspirants would pick Harvard over IIM-A despite their superior GMAT scores…essentially no contest as this point in time. Does not mean IIM-A is not outstanding – it is – and so is Harvard…

  • Raymond120

    So, if we agreed that the GMAT is not the sole factor, then we should exclude it when compare (say) INSEAD to Harvard! right? I claim that INSEAD is on par with Harvard based on many things; global outreach, innovative dual campuses, mastering the cross-cultural management and particularly in consulting. I’d also claim that INSEAD and based on those previous factors is by far ahead of schools like Chicago, Haas, MIT, and Tuck. Only HSW could be really compared to INSEAD due to very obvious fact that they are the schools that established the business education itself from the scratch and still setting its standards except the globalization thing which is an INSEAD invention.

  • BlazingSaddles

    We agree that GMAT is not the only criteria to measure business schools – but where we disagree is what other tangible and intangible measures to weigh after GMAT that define a BSchools’s position/rank. My feeling here is that because of the variances in personal opinion about which criteria to weight most – than it is unlikely to get agreement. Thus our disagreement with one another. There is nothing wrong with your presumption that INSEAD is on par with Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton – in as much is there is anything wrong with my full disagreement with that statement. Two reasonable people will agree or not based upon what they value most in a BSchool.
    Perhaps the best indicator would be a Cross Admit Analysis in order to see what % of applicants admitted to two schools pick one over the other. not sure if that has been done or not – but I would speculate that a greater % of applicants admitted to H/S/W choose H/S/W over INSEAD and LBS…which would make a statement. I would also submit that that pattern would extend for a greater number of US top 25 BSchools than you believe.

  • Raymond120

    I really appreciate such wise statement. First, you implicitly agreed that INSEAD is comparable to Harvard so that you need to set up a percentage measure to differentiate between those two prominent schools. However, due to its massive brand value, wealth, long history, I’d not be surprised by the lead of Harvard. Stanford, and wharton? I’m not sure.

  • BlazingSaddles

    Thanks – I appreciate the interesting dialogue…
    However, to be clear I did not imply that I agree that INSEAD is = to H/S/W – quite the contrary actually. What I said was that there is nothing wrong with YOU thinking that and ME disagreeing with it…
    I PERSONALLY do not agree that INSEAD is equal to H/S/W – and that it is more likely a US 10-25 equivalent.
    Again I greatly appreciate the conversation.
    The Cross Admit Data I think would help resolve such a debate…
    Thx!

  • Raymond120

    OK. which ranking you mean by (10-25) US schools? because it is quite confusing to consider INSEAD equivalent to school number 10 and in the same time equivalent to school number 25!!! do you consider the top 10 US school is equivalent to top 25 US school?! or it is range someone can stretch it based on his own view, meaning, if I like INSEAD, then I’ll consider it equivalent to top 10, and if I do not like it, I’ll consider it equivalent to top 25!!!

  • BlazingSaddles

    Lots of thoughts on rankings – we could start a whole other massive debate about.
    So with that in mind, I tend to favor the Poets & Quants Rankings which is a composite of the major rankings publications…
    It is the one that I would favor…
    Thx

  • Raymond120

    well, on the latest P&Q ranking, the #10 school is Fuqua and 25 is USC, how can someone decide which one of those two schools is comparable to INSEAD?!!!

  • BlazingSaddles

    Well – I think lots of people could and do – you for example. You clearly think INSEAD is superior to those two schools. Some, many, few, or none may agree with you.
    I on the other hand, think Duke is superior to INSEAD. Some, many, few, or none will agree with me. I would have to consider hard between USC and INSEAD – I do not think it is so obvious.
    Again – we are debating personal preferences…not easy…since they are personal. Cross admit data would be useful…

  • Juan Aja

    Thank you poppa, those are excellent options.

  • nerdpolitic

    go for MIT, the head of admission there is originally from mexico, and love to have mexicans in the sloan school :)

  • Mike Porter

    Let’s take things in the right perspective, there’s a lot to do even if the GMAT is not 730!
    if you didn’t see this yet I recommend it: http://www.aringo.com/low_gmat.htm

  • score

    my undergrad gpa is 3,75, I have a PhD degree in economics and its gpa is 3,70. I am working for an international organization. My experience and resume is excellent. However, my Gmat score is 600. Do you think Tepper or Fuqua invites me for interview?

  • JohnAByrne

    I think you have a real shot at Duke or Carnegie, but I would definitely retake the GMAT and try to get a better score.

  • Apurva

    Hey I am an international MBA aspirant and am in my final year of undergraduate education. I have a GMAT score of 720 and GPA of 3.6 (after converting to a scale of 4) Do you think harvard 2+2 will take me? or Stanford will offer deferred admission. Do you know any other good B school that offers deferred admission?

  • Cecil

    Thanks for the insight Linda. Really wanted this..

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    Glad to be of help. Thanks for the feedback!

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s really impossible to say based on the limited information you provide. While GMAT and GPA scores are vital to admission, there’s a lot more that goes into this than that including your life’s goals, likely work experience, leadership experience in extracurriculars, recommendations, in-person interview, and quality of your essay.

  • Cecil

    Very few knows that the average GMAT score of IIM-A is 767 !!

  • Cecil

    Absolutely !!

  • Prashant

    I have 8.5 years of core Marketing Business Strategy & Entrepreneurship experience with Global Iconic Brands In consumer durable and sporting goods company. Most of the roles have been at Leadership positions which also includes an entrepreneurial experience of starting my own restaurant. I have had the unique opportunity to set up the Business of one of the Worlds leading camera company where I was the 1st employee to join them and was responsible for their India set up which includes a complete 360 degree business set up of Sales, Supply Chain, Service and Marketing.
    For the last four years I have been working with US based Golf Sporting goods company responsible for marketing. I have grown within the company and am now at a Senior leadership position, responsible for Revenue P&L . I have been with the company since inception and responsible for growing the share to 30% from less than 5%.

    I have taken the GMAT twice & my best score is 630.
    Do you think my experience will compensate for my low score to get a call from Wharton, LBS , Harvard, IMD ?? What are the top schools that will consider my experience ??
    Do you suggest I re-take the GMAT?
    Is age an important factor?

  • pingu

    Madam, I have a 5.5 points over 10,I’m a student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) I can improve my grade up to 6+ is there any chance that I may get into HBS or stanford or whitmore or any top colleges with a good G-Mat scores? I had many backlogs.

  • pingu

    I’m a undergraduate in Electronics & Communication Engineering

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    I assume you mean Wharton, not Whitmore.

    If you raise your grade point to well over 6, stop having the backlogs, excel professionally, show leadership i multiple arenas, earn a high GMAT, and perhaps complete a certification like a CFA or CPA or take grades classes and earn As in them,, then yes you would have a chance at top schools.

    Also provide context for what caused the low grades while showing that either those circumstances don’t exist or no longer affect your performance.

  • David Romang

    John and Linda, you both seem to have a lot of background in this and although I am yet just one more inquisitive greenhorn I would like to ask you to assess my chances based on your frame of reference. I took the GMAT in november for the first time and suprised myself with my performance. I scored a 730, have an undergrad GPA of 3.6 and have been a Marine Corps Officer for the last 4 years with multiple deployments. My main two reccomenders I have used are a retired Lt Col I worked for who has been part of the Marines for 40 years and a high school teacher of mine who was a Harvard MBA grad. What would you assess my chances are of landing Harvard/Stanford or one of the other top ten MBA programs

  • David Romang

    I have already submitted my Round II Harvard application and will submit Stanford here in a couple of days. I feel like I am in decent shape but I also feel a little over my head with as many applications as I have tried to put together this past month. Any advice and expertise you can impart is greatly appreciated.

  • Veggalam Sriram

    Do we need job experience to get seat in top20 mba colleges????

  • JohnAByrne

    Generally, you need anywhere from two to four years of job experience. A very small percentage of applicants do get in with no work experience, but you’re clearly at a disadvantage at the best schools.

  • AJ

    Hi, I would welcome some opinion with regards to my chances

    - Indian, 23 (by the time of applications), Male
    - Undergrad – BBA, (One of the better colleges in India)
    - GMAT – 740 (q50, v39, IR 8, expect 5-6 in essay), 1st attempt
    - GPA – 3.06/4 (Better than class average, top GPAs were around 3.55)
    - 2 years in a Financial Advisory Firm. Mainly assisted a big PE firm. Involved in a few of the investments that tool place. Killed at work. Received early promotion after the first year (1st time in the firm history), managed small teams after the promotion on projects, got offered another promotion but decided to quit
    - Next 8 months – helped out with family business, was about to launch a venture but ditched plans after a few months of work, travelled some
    - Presently, will be working with Acumen (Social Impact Investment) in a short term role for the next 3-4 months

    Schools I am targeting, in order of preference, are Harvard, Wharton, Booth, and Columbia.

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