If you can’t score a 700 on the GMAT, are you doomed to a school below the top 20?
A score of 700 on the GMAT just isn’t worth what is used to be. A comparison of the average scores at leading U.S. business schools with ten years ago shows that with the exception of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, you’d be within 10 points of the top M7 schools, and ahead of the game for the rest of the top 20.
And while breaking the 700 barrier back in 2003 would secure you a place in the top 92% of test takers, the same score today means you have scored in the top 89%. This is in part a reflection of applicants who are investing more time and effort to prepare for the test, and making the most of the wealth of test information and practice material available to them (see the ten-year trend data below).
So the competition to secure a competitive score on the GMAT continues to rise, but is it true that if you can’t score a 700 on the GMAT you are doomed to a school below the top 20?
It might be comforting to think that the range of GMAT scores for the class of 2015 is 550 to 780 at HBS, and 550 to 790 at Stanford. But the distribution of GMAT scores of students in a program will roughly fall according to a bell curve. So if you remove the outliers who had something exceptional to offer (or whose parents could afford to sponsor the new wing of the library), you are left with a more realistic sense of what constitutes a competitive score. At Wharton, for example, 80% of those admitted for the class of 2015 had a GMAT score between 690 to 760.
In fact, at Wharton, my colleague Judith Silverman Hodara explains that for anyone with a GMAT below 650 there was a committee that met to discuss the viability of the candidate. “Certainly if the quant score was below the 75% threshold we would need to understand why. Sometimes there were reasons for it, but there is a lot of accountability on the admissions team’s part to make sure that they are not admitting students who would struggle with the quant. You just did not want to do a disservice to the student, and have them spend all of their time trying to get up to speed when some of their classmates had been doing mostly quantitative work prior to enrollment. It would not be beneficial for them.”
Judith points out that Wharton is one of a number of schools which is quant heavy. I’d add Booth, Sloan and Columbia to that list, while the likes of Kellogg and Darden are less so.
THE UPWARD CREEP OF GMAT SCORES AT TOP SCHOOLS
|School||2003 Average GMAT||2013 Average GMAT||Change|
|Harvard Business School||708||727||+19|
|New York (Stern)||700||721||+21|
|Columbia Business School||709||716||+7|
|Yale School of Management||703||714||+11|