Average GMAT Scores At Top 50 U.S. Schools

by John A. Byrne on

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.

VANDERBILT LEADS ALL TOP 50 SCHOOLS WITH HIGHEST GMAT SCORE INCREASES

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

1 2 3 4
  • jimismash

    I’m concerned that some incomplete copying and pasting has resulted in an error on the table “Top 50 schools with the biggest DECREASES in average GMAT scores.”

    The last two values are the same values as in the table on the previous page. They are also positive values.

  • ryan

    This is stupid. The GMAT isn’t even that great of a way for evaluating talent.

  • Jerome

    I look for the day when GMAT avg reached 770 or more, with avg age 22 or 23! at that time we will see a play park next to baker library!

  • devils0508

    What I’d like to see analyzed is, are qualified candidates merely studying harder for the GMATs and taking it more times, or are business schools taking less qualified candidates with high GMAT scores to push up their ratings? If it’s the former, I think the current system is fine (I got a high GMAT score by studying non-stop for 2 months), but if its the latter the business schools could potentially be shooting themselves in their foot (I’ve met a lot of weird kids with high GMAT scores on admit days, no way they succeed long term).

  • RealAssetsFTW

    Interesting article. Would be cool to see some sort of metric like change in program spending vs. increase in GMAT so that we can put some math behind the claim. I’m sure the former probably isn’t made public though…

  • Yeezey

    How much has average GMAT increased among all test takers?

  • Qualified

    I agree. At my b-school i noted a number of young students who were academically talented but lacking in professionalism.

  • haha!

    hmm where are the Cornell pumpers??? surprised the author or GMAT aren’t under attack yet, because Cornell is flying up the ranks in the minds of its Career Development Office and other comment posters, so obviously this story is false or biased or thrown in the same category as rankings that don’t grossly overestimate Cornell – irrelevant and conspiratorial!

    “look at the trend lines that show which schools are re-investing in
    their futures and which ones are merely milking the cow. You don’t want
    to sign up for an MBA degree at a school that isn’t investing in itself
    or its future (see table below).”

  • MintedMBA

    As a “Cornell pumper”, I agree with your 1st paragraph, that this story must be false or biased because it does not “grossly overestimate” Cornell! This must be a plot to undermine Cornell and the Johnson School!! However, I fully disagree with your second paragraph.

    Great stuff, but you seem a little too angry? Being an advocate of your attended business school is a naturally occurring part of this website.

    Were you rejected by Cornell Johnson but wanted to go or rejected but got into a higher ranked school and could never let it go? Just seems like you harbor a lot of hate for the school and its advocates?

    In contrast, as a Cornell Johnson MBA, I tend to feel that Cornell gets little recognition compared to many in its peer set. Go figure.

  • MintedMBA

    @haha,
    I think your response is outstanding! Great writing and insight into the mindset of many P&Q website addicts (myself included).
    You are totally spot on in many of your assessments and I found myself chuckling as I read it…
    Oh and just so I get one more plug in – Cornell Johnson is a really string choice and under-appreciated by many – a great value-add play over the next 10 years. I would NOT say top 3 though – but hopefully a worthy top 10 competitor!
    Cheers!

  • haha!

    Agree. Cornell is clearly the string choice. Many top schools’ more yarn-centric curricula try to compete and ultimately come unraveled when they’re found wanting by comparison.

    Good plug but to give my honest opinion – and what I would personally do if I felt compelled to mention or pump my affiliations in any way – the best sale you can make is low-emotion evenhandedness. Of course you’ll also want to – and you did a decent job – try to imply YOU are typical and representative of the tribe you’re defending and those other wackos aren’t. This especially holds true if you’re pitching one of the #8-15 ranked schools which endure high standard deviations and are therefore constantly battling to move above their peers. It seems these are the schools that have large propaganda contingents, such as the Cornell Comment Army we’ve alluded to (note by no means would i try to claim Johnson is the lone offender) trying much too hard and sort of unintentionally putting out bad vibes. When a brand has a perceived negative equity position in a particular medium the best thing you can do is mitigate chastise or try to wash out that perception.

    Value is a strong proposition but that may be just because I’ve a background in value investing and wrongly mentally associate proofs of that strategy with this one. Also “hopefully a worthy top10 competitor” is a great defense: strongly agreeing with me that they’re not the hyperbole I’ve argued against is good to align with me and show reason-ability, and then this is the important part…your suggest of competition and “worthy” implies a fair let-the-best-man-win mindset. Less desperate…I suppose I posit defending your institution’s rep to recruits is analogous to picking up dates?

    BTW, when you said you disagreed with my original paragraph 2, I should point out those weren’t my words. Quoth the article because it was hilarious! The P&Q stance is never that aggressive (unless the topic is Wharton, hey-o!) so I wanted to call attention to it. They were using a single broad statistic, which while indicative of broader decline, could also have many other causes, and is therefore a somewhat flimsy premise that’s more intuitive than empirical. My contribution, which I added as a parenthetical, was to emphasize how intense I thought the recommendation. ‘You don’t want to go to a school that does X! See list of schools that do X below. That’s right, we’re pretty much saying DON’T GO TO THESE SCHOOLS – if X is terrible and group A does X ipso facto group A is terrible’. So I know you didn’t explicitly pin the opinion on me, but unsure if you thought it was mine.

    Now I’ve officially gone off the rails…don’t flatter me anymore, it’s been compelling me to respond a book at a time. I don’t want to write huge responses but I can’t help it. British? Indian? Appreciate the opinion and good luck at the school.

  • MintedMBA

    @haha
    No false flattery intended – it was genuine. And I did understand that you were quoting the second paragraph from the article, I was just going for funny.
    Again, you write really well and have a strong analytical ability. My misspelling of “strong” as “string” and your yarn reference was a great example…
    keep up the great work…
    Look no plug from on this one…am I learning?

  • Robert

    The GMAT is irrelevant as it’s all about paying for points, thus its results are impossible to interpret. Anytime a test isn’t based on core curriculum, it’s susceptible to invalidation by unfair expensive test prep advantage, as some can afford quality exposure to its obscure knowledge subset and some cannot.

  • MBAApplicant

    I attended a dinner event and sat directly across the Director of Admissions
    I got a lot of good insight about admissions and one thing she mentioned was that Cornell Johnson is not overly focused on GMAT scores. She said that they could do that to rise in rankings but they are looking for well-rounded people who can contribute to the school and fit the culture.

  • Ashish

    Hi, I have a concern that if a person’s academic background is not good enough, though average, but have scored 700+ in GMAT, is overlooked by big notch schools, because of his academics score.

  • http://grantmeadmission.com/ GrantMeAdmission

    I have found it primarily tests a particular set of logic skills (or GMAT thinking) skills, and it has been proven that the more you study, the higher your score will be. So even if the GMAT isn’t a great way for evaluating talent, I would argue that it evaluates certain skills that B-Schools seem to value and to a certain degree work ethic.

    At the end of the day, no test accurately evaluates future success (except of course the “grit” test).

  • http://grantmeadmission.com/ GrantMeAdmission

    Those are great points (kudos to the 2 month non-stop studying…I did that as well).

    I would say that the GMAT seems to be a great test for work ethic (more you study, the higher your score). I know a lot of great talented workers that cannot apply themselves for a crazy 2 month study schedule… and to be honest it shows in the workplace as well.

  • TA

    can you elaborate on what it is you noted ?

  • http://www.gmatpill.com/ GMAT Pill | Online GMAT Course

    I’d disagree. Someone with an average academic background might be overlooked.

    But combine that with a 700+ GMAT and this applicant will likely have a second look and be taken more seriously.

    The GMAT score can help counter the low GPA — especially a score that is balanced in both quant and verbal.

  • Ashish

    Well, thank you for your comment, it boosted my confidence.

  • Saibal Chakrabarti

    I want to score the highest percentage of marks in the world in GMAT, what should be my strategy?

  • AugustineThomas

    The GMAT tests basic quant. knowledge. There are a variety of ways you can study for it and plenty of test takers who have achieved high scores without test prep. services.
    Many people who are lacking in their quant. skills use test prep. companies to get better. So what? It makes them better at math for when they do go to business school and they’re more likely to get into the school they want to go to. Nothing seems unfair about that to me.

  • Sky

    Its a tick mark on your application. Don’t fool yourself into believing its gonna have any extra weight . Even if its a 720 730. Unless you max out at 780 /790 its a No go.

  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    I took the GMAT’s in July 1980 on a whim, which I used later to apply to MBA programs two years later. I scored only a 554, which was the average for Penn State at the time. Had I prepared for the test, I would have done better that summer.

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Tipping the Scales | Poets & Quants for Undergrads