Average GMAT Scores At Top 50 U.S. Schools

The GMAT Prep Crunch

The GMAT Prep Crunch

The average GMAT scores of entering MBA classes at the top business schools often tell you more about the institutions than the applicants. How so? Because schools with stable or increasing GMATs are generally re-investing in their MBA programs, while schools with declining GMAT scores are more often than not milking the cow.

Interestingly enough, a new study by Poets&Quants of average GMAT scores shows that the competition at the top is more severe than ever. Some 19 of the top 25 U.S. schools are reporting higher GMATs over the past five years, with just five programs reporting a decline in average scores. It’s a different picture in the second half of the Top 50 list where more schools have shown a decline than an increase: 13 out of 25 are down, while nine are up.

Call it grade inflation or just plain GMAT creep. But most of the truly elite full-time MBA programs have seen ever-increasing scores for their latest entering classes. In the last five years, for example, Harvard Business School’s average GMAT is up eight points to 727, Stanford is up six to 732, highest for any U.S. business school, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is up nine points to a record 723 for the entering class in 2013.


Then, there are what you might call the more status conscious climbers. Vanderbilt University’s Owen School has increased its average GMAT score by 35 points to 688 in the past five years, the single biggest jump among the Top 50 schools. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagn has also posed some impressive gains: a 27-point increase to 661. Michigan State’s Broad School has upped its game with a 15-point rise to 655.

Gains like these don’t happen by accident. They occur because of a concerted effort by leadership to boost the school’s standing. Sadly, the reverse is true when GMAT scores go the other way. Double-digit declines, in particular, are a bright red sign that a school is losing the competitive fight for the best and the brightest. It’s also a sure bet that a school is not investing in its MBA program, but rather milking it for revenue to fund other parts of the university.

Top 50 Schools With Biggest Increases in Average GMAT Scores


School Five-Year Change 2013 Average GMAT 2009 Average GMAT
Vanderbilt (Owen) +35 688 653
Illinois-Urbana-Champagn +27 661 634
Michigan State (Broad) +15 655 640
Wisconsin +13 676 663
Washington University (Olin) +10 696 686
Texas-Austin (McCombs) +9 690 681
Iowa (Tippie) +9 671 662
Chicago (Booth) +9 723 714
Harvard Business School +8 727 719
Rice (Jones) +8 676 668

Source: Poets&Quants analysis from publicly available data from business schools

  • Joseph

    The quant section is definitely a good tool to measure skill assuming the test takers are equally educated both in test strategy as well as in fundamental mathematics. I read in the Kaplan book (which I will never use again) that the volatility for a single test taker between several attempts is tiny. I however, had a total different experience.

    In practice, my verbal section was always 38-42 over the course of several exams. My quantitative scores however, went anywhere from 39-47. The reason why was that because the quant section requires more knowledge coming into the exam than the verbal section which is based on pure logic, I was more exposed to getting “easy” questions wrong at the onset of the exam because I was weaker in the subject matter such as geometry, radicals, and exponents. If anyone else here has also experienced starting off the quant section poorly they know it WILL NEVER GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO RECOVER. On my first 2 official exams I started poorly and got stupidly easy questions from questions 5-37 which I answered easily and confidently even down the stretch of the exam. It had already classified me as mediocre, and the only question the algorithm sought to gain was whether I was a less talented mediocre candidate or a more talented mediocre candidate. Despite hitting as high as a 47 several times in practice setting me up for a possible 720 overall without any in-person classes or tutoring, I settled for a 700 (44/42) on my 3rd and final attempt knowing that the school I wanted to attend was within reach with or without a retake considering a I had a 3.8 in ECON from a decent university.

    In short, the quant score can mistake someone who is more talented for someone who has spent more time or money hiring a 1-on-1 tutor or truly gaining a mastery of the mathematical principles behind the answers. Someone who nails down 75% of these principles can still get tripped up on the 25% on the first few questions and end up with a 40, or not until the middle or end and get a 47-48. Clearly, in many instances the difference between someone who gets in to Harvard or who gets in to Cornell is not talent or intelligence but rather preparation.

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  • hernan cortez

    How many hours did you spend studying a day and how long did you study for?

  • SteveR

    You are absolutely wrong. I went to a state school, came out with a 3.0 GPA (addiction my sophomore/junior year killed my grades), and didn’t take a GMAT prep course. The main language spoken in my house was not English. I didn’t come out with a fancy job. I got free subscriptions to the New Yorker and the Economist to get a better handle of my verbal skills and just went through the Manhattan GMAT study guides.

    I got a 730 and am convinced that ANYONE can do well on the GMAT as long as they understand their learning style (kinesthetic for me) and address their main trouble areas. The quantitative side doesn’t go past algebra 2 and the verbal portion is straightforward to. Sentence Correction can be tricky, but if you pick up some well written magazines and literature, sentence correction becomes simple. There are no excuses to do poorly on the GMAT unless you just don’t put in the effort.

  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Wow, don’t know where all the hate is coming from.

    Before I go on I’ll disclose that I’m an alleged “Cornell pumper” but only because I went there for undergrad am considering it for my MBA.

    I think there’s a lot of confusion and misguided anger surrounding the support Cornell receives online. I believe the overwhelming support is not a planned or calculated effort by the school. I’d propose that it is merely an effect of the program and the people the institution attracts. The causality of a phenomenon is many times misinterpreted when in reality there is only a correlation between the two events. I’m sure many other top schools experience this effect similarly online, however I like to “promote” Cornell because I truly feel that it is many times underrated and deserves better praise. I had an excellent experience there and that experience is what drives me to promote the school whenever I can (online and in the real world).

    Just another opinion from another “Cornell pumper” 😉

  • LinK

    Further note to some concerns revolving around “some people lack common sense, they are just good studying machines”. Well too bad, if you cannot even outperform those people, what good is your judgement and opinion?

    If you see a bunch of people like that at your school, you probably didn’t get into a good school to begin with. Most top tier schools have rigorous interview process and screenings. There are also exceptions and weirdos, but it is highly unlikely you see a bunch of those folks at HBS or Stanford. Of course, it is entirely possible that you go to a mid-tier school that are “desperately trying to raise their GMAT average with geeks’ scores”, then I wouldn’t be surprised if half of your classmates are like that. After all, your schools probably do not deserve to be too picky anyway.

  • LinK

    MBA is a highly American thing to begin with. No one is forced to get his/her MBA so no one is forced to take the GMAT. If someone has an issue with it being fake/too Americanize/ meaningless, simply cut yourself some slack and don’t do it. Maybe you can have a better career without it. This is not for everyone, and thus I do not see the point of complaining after you screw up on something you might not even need.

    And most forms of higher education are reserved for a certain group of people, start an education revolution if you are that angry at the system. Or just sit back and relax.

  • Essjee

    I agree somewhat with “devils0508.” I am at a top program and have met some naturally gifted individuals with GMAT scores > 750; yet there are some who severely lack in key areas which business leaders truly require. Areas such as: personal grooming, interpersonal skills, out-of-the-box thinking (where there is not perfect quantitative solution), relationship building, and strong conversational skills.

    In some instances, with their raw talent, I wondered why they were not enrolled in graduate or PhD program for some form STEM program, where they would be judged less on how “client friendly” they present themselves.

    It takes a lot more to run and conduct a business than just blasting through equations and models. You really need the whole package…

  • midwestern

    I heard all 800s are rejected by top 5.
    people say that high IQ may lead to low EQ, and business school isn’t exactly IQ-focused–if your IQ is enough, they want more EQ.