Looking at GMAT score trends over the past five years brings you to one unmistakeable conclusion: The more highly ranked schools are getting more of the high scoring test takers than ever before–and in many cases the average class scores at highly ranked schools are hitting new records.
Among the Top 50 U.S. MBA programs, only half show increases in their average GMAT scores for their entering classes in the past five years. More tellingly, though, 17 of the Top 25 ranked schools have been able to improve their average GMATs, largely by taking a higher percentage of those students from lesser-ranked institutions.
Among the schools reporting the biggest increases are the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, which saw a 14-point rise to an average GMAT score for last fall’s entering class of 732, up from 718 in 2011. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management boasts a 12-point jump to 724 last year from 712 five years earlier, while the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business school saw its average class GMAT also rise a dozen points to 701 from 689 (see below). Yet, the Top 50 school with the single biggest increase in GMAT scores was none other than Michigan State University’s Broad School where the average soared by 26 points to 664 from 638.
WHARTON HAS CLOSED A 21-POINT GAP WITH STANFORD TO BE JUST A POINT BEHIND THE TOP ELITE SCORE
Rising GMATs are not only an element of a school that is improving the quality of its incoming students. They can also be an indication of a school’s aggressiveness in offering more scholarship money to compete with rivals and be a sign that a school is eager to move up in rankings that weigh GMAT scores in the methodology used to compute those lists.
A 700 GMAT score puts a test taker in the 89th percentile of those who have taken the exam. That means only 11% of those who sit for the GMAT have a score of 700 or above. The average is about 547. Stanford’s leading average GMAT of 733 comfortably puts the incoming class among the top four percent of all test takers, though the latest entering MBA students have GMATs that range from a low of 570 to a perfect score of 800. Last fall, Harvard accepted a 510 GMAT scorer, while Wharton’s lowest score last fall was 110 points higher at 620.
Just as surprising as the schools that have had significant upticks in their GMATs are those that have reported falls. The biggest surprise occurs at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business which has long boasted the highest average GMAT scores of any elite MBA program. Stanford’s average has fallen six points to 733, just a point above Wharton’s record 732 last fall. Just five years ago, Stanford was ahead of Wharton with a 21-point gap, with Stanford then at 739 and Wharton at 718. Harvard Business School, by contrast, reported a class average of 725 for the Class of 2017, up just a single digit from five years ago and down two points from 2013.
Most likely, the difference has more to do with Wharton placing increasing value on GMAT scores in its admission decisions, a point of view subscribed to by MBA admission consultants. Likewise, the decline at Stanford has more to do with the school moving toward a slightly more holistic evaluation of candidates, with somewhat less emphasis on a standardized test score.
Top 50 With Biggest Five-Year Increases In GMAT Scores
|School||Five-Year Change||Average 2015 GMAT||Average 2011 GMAT|
|Michigan State (Broad)||+26||664||638|
|Southern Methodist (Cox)||+14||656||641|
|North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)||+12||701||689|
Source: Poets&Quants analysis from available GMAT data