Average GMAT Scores For The Top 50 Business Schools

Studying at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School - Ethan Baron photo

Studying at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School – Ethan Baron photo

Editor’s Note: The latest update to this story can be found here.

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
Pennsylvania (Wharton) +14 732 718
Southern Methodist (Cox) +14 656 641
Northwestern (Kellogg) +12 724 712
North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) +12 701 689
UCLA (Anderson) +9 713 704
Washington (Foster) +8 688 675

Source: Poets&Quants analysis from available GMAT data

  • sk

    lol looks like some is gonna have a tough time with the CR section…

  • BR

    Does anyone know typical GMAT scores of male students (of Indian origin) to get into the top MBA programs? Appreciate any information or where to look for, boards etc.

  • sherwinwill

    again your table is titled Average GMAT Scores At The Top 50 U.S. MBA Programs..Stanford’s GMAT score is the highest for every year you have listed yet is listed second.

    John.. I know you love harvard but misrepresenting these stats to curve fit your desired results is lame.

  • Not weird at all. It’s stated clearly in the article and a quick scan of the tables shows you the results.

  • sherwinwill

    weird that this is not listed by GMAT score?

    Stanford
    Penn
    Booth

    is the official ranking.

  • AH

    UCLA’s average has been 715 for the past three years. The increase is +11.

  • Josh

    Demonstrates that HBS is feeling the heat/competition from the other M7 schools in attracting top calibre students. Havard is a great school and has been recognised as the top B-School in the US and globally. The school has been relying on its legacy reputation and the fact that its older cohorts of alumni (those that graduated in the 70’s and 80’s) taking the leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies.

    However, that is changing given the changing global landscape where retail, consumer and manufacturing companies’ dominance is being replaced by the rising importance and dominance of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) industries. Schools like Stanford known for its strong technology focus and halo effect from its undergraduate programs may likely overtake Harvard in the near future. within the top B-schools or the M7, those that are revamping their offerings and curriculum with an all-rounded focus to meet the changing global landscape and needs of the new generation of leaders in business education like Northwestern University’s Kellogg and Dartmouth’s Tuck are likely to also attract a greater share of top calibre applicants. The rising average GMAT scores of Stanford (733), Wharton (732) and Kellogg (728) supports this. Harvard’s was at 725.

  • The 728 average is for the incoming class this year. This article tracks average GMAT scores for the previous class. So no mistake in the story or table. Obviously, we’ll revisit this issue when all the schools have announced their new GMAT averages for this year’s incoming class. At the moment, very few schools have released this data.

  • Will.S

    Hi John,

    I believe there’s a mistake in Kellogg’s average GMAT score stated in your article above. The article stated that the average GMAT score added +12 points to 724. If I am not mistaken, it should be +16 points (vs 2011 average GMAT score) to 728, ranking 3rd overall within the Top 10 Business Schools, just behind Stanford (733) and Wharton (732).

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  • Warren

    “Who needs that”, Mckinsey does, Goldman Sachs does, Bain does, not for their quality, No, for prestige and show off. For their previous classmates who are now clients. We all know that the “dirty work” is done offshore in INDIA.

  • Chester Sql

    The rankings don’t mean that much to me as an employer. I like to see where the applicants went for their undergraduate programs and how they paid for their schooling. Reliance of GMAT scores proves nothing. Give me a man or woman who is coming in with an undergraduate degree (and CPA) from a good school (Illinois) or engineering school (Johns Hopkins) and i would select that student right off the bat. Harvard Business School graduates expect too much and do not want to hustle. Who needs that.

  • The incentives are wrong. Many of the MBA ratings use GMAT scores as an input, hence schools are trying to push up the GMAT scores of their new students to get better ratings etc. I don’t think GMAT scores should be taken into account for program ratings.

  • craig.s.frazier@gmail.com

    Despite GMAT being a standard measure for a graduate candidate, obviously, the outcome of your performance in grad school is determined by other factors. I personally only aimed between 710-730.

  • Sean Meade

    Both are good scores. You can use both depending on the school you’re applying to. Use the first if it’s less of a quant-focused school and scholarships are based on GMAT. If you want to highlight your quant and reasoning ability use the second. Also, take a calculus course if you haven’t yet. This shows ability and initiative.

  • Cam

    Just a general question for anyone I would really appreciate help with. I took the GMAT and got a 740 Q47 V44 IR 2

    Decided to retake because of the IR and got a 730 Q48 V42 IR 7

    Now I don’t know what score to use, one is 10 points higher the other has a better quant and IR (with the first IR being a possible red flag) I have a 3.13 GPA and come from a very non quant background so it’s especially important I nail the gmat part of the applications and would really appreciate anyone’s input.

  • FuquaEw

    Pretty nuts that HBS can throw $31MM at prospective students.

    Also nuts that Duke has sub 700 gmat …. i may be a GMAT snob but I think GMAT really does illustrate some form of intellect. It’s tough to want to join the ranks of a program that has students that can’t on average get above 700 on a standardized test (especially with everything that has been written about the test over the years)

  • avivalasvegas

    You clearly don’t know Kellogg very well. I’ve made my dislike of the “consulting factory” vibe of school well known on these forums and am not a fan of the program entirely, but even I will concede that the students are very social leaders. That they also have higher GMAT scores is probably a bonus.

  • desi

    Its tough being an Indian gmat applicant.. my friends have ostracized me because of the low quant score (Q47).. never mind the V42

  • Interesting

    John,

    Thanks for the post and links! You are correct that Cornell and Duke were not in the top 10 per that article BUT in tone of the links embedded in that article that you posted was the link to your article:
    “MBA Scholarships At Top Business Schools
    by John A. Byrne…”
    In this article, Cornell and Duke are shown to have approximately 1/3 of their respective MBAs on scholarship, which effectively ties both schools with Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Dartmouth Tuck and UNC who all are between 33%-35%. Yale slightly lags at 31%.
    Clearly Cornell is competitive with the best schools on scholarships and perhaps even more so if you adjust for its smaller size…
    Thanks again!

  • The best reporting on MBA scholarships ever was an entire series of stories not that long ago. The numbers are really solid. Duke and Cornell are not among the Top Ten in scholarships. See here:

    http://poetsandquants.com/2014/12/30/falling-money-top-ten-schools-in-mba-scholarships/

  • Interesting

    Hmmm – Interesting notion for sure. Would you please post anything that supports such a claim because I have never seen anything that asserts anything at all like that? I believe fully that if that were even remotely true then it would be well reported upon and highlighted in forums and websites like this.

  • J K

    I don’t remember where I saw this but these two schools in particular are known for having less scholarship money available per student (compared to their peers), so perhaps they don’t have enough money around to attract high scorers.

  • Jimmy87

    In very rare cases, Harvard does so. with lower ranked schools there are some good schools such as UCSD Rady if you have PhD in technical field. IE in spain uses their own test.

  • Interesting

    I have no bones to pick here and am not a Cornell or Duke affiliate. However, I do like both schools. Realistically, I doubt either school would find it terribly difficult to raise their average scores by several points. And if they did for some reason find it hard, they could slightly shrink enrollment size to obtain it and go for those stats to look just like everyone else. It has been well-argued over the past years that Duke and Cornell purposely are looking beyond GMAT scores at other indicators for success in their programs. I think it is admirable that they have stuck to their knitting and not tried just to follow the pack. Certainly not for everyone of course. Of course if one really believes that a higher GMAT score means that someone is materially smarter then someone else who scored 10 or 15 points less then I suppose this would be a big issue. Just my thoughts.

  • J K

    Amazing how Duke/Cornell are in the top 15 with sub-700 GMAT scores. They really find it that difficult to raise their averages above 700? If I were an admissions director at one of those schools I would be embarrassed.

  • joe

    any data on schools that accept a majority of application without GMAT, or allow the school’s own undergrad to enroll into the master’s without a GMAT?

  • Stuart

    This will explain to you folks, especially at Wharton and Kellogg I imagine (who have high average scoring populations, why there is a certain segment of smart classmates who have no apparent social or leadership skills. This is a rankings-driven arms race to be sure….

  • Retired but still dabbling

    Hmmmm. I’m not buying your argument fully. The total number of GMAT test takers peaked in 2011-2012. It has plunged since – sometimes by double digit %. I see it as top schools are attracting more of the top scoring applicants in to the applicant pool. Having worked in Higher Ed for many years, I saw the number of full time program applicants trend downwards over the last decade as well. Mean GMAT scores have not changed significantly over last 5 years – from 544 in 2011 to 554 in 2015. Competition to achieve rankings success may have driven many top schools to weigh GMAT more heavily given the weighting assigned by the media institutions that rank B-schools, resulting in a higher average GMAT at the top schools.

    Full time enrollments have also decreased. Lower-ranked schools without heavy endowments and the inability to ‘take the loss’ of a declining enrollment have had to accept more lower-scoring candidates as well.

  • cfa2005@gmail.com

    Would someone @ P&Q please change the settings on this article so that it can be printed in its entirety without having to print pages separately??

  • alex@gaastra.co.uk

    It would be interesting from a stats side. The point I was trying to make was that as the number of GMAT takers has gone up the average at the top schools will also go up – if you could have the same 1000 top students in 1996 and 2016 they would have a higher gmat average in 2016 despite performing exactly the same on the test. I think you’re underestimating the disadvantage of being a none English speaker by the way – I’m an engineer from a top university and have done a lot of maths – my quant only puts me at 87% – the verbal 96%…

  • Apoorv Swarup

    Indians who apply to top schools do learn english from like 1st grade onwards and though not native speakers, they would certainly not be at a major disadvantage. Though the GMAT favoring native english speakers is something I agree with.

    I only asked since Indians are pretty much the largest set of candidates (and probably applicants as well) after domestic students in most schools, and this is the sort of input I got from not only several applicants but also from the representative of a prominent european business school, who almost explicitly mentioned that the average GMAT of the Indian candidate was typically far higher than their school average.

    And from what I noticed even among my peer group I had like a score on the lower most end (730 Q:51 V: 38) most of my peers have at the worst equivalent or higher scores (I know just one guy who scored lower than me a 710). Now this is obviously not a holistic representative of all Indian applicants and the example from the european school might not even be applicable for M7 schools (where all applicants might have amazing scores i.e. low standard deviation)

    Fact is since there are so many of us! there are probably thousands in India with like 730-740+ scores who end up applying, Thus the lot who do get accepted might have a score thats higher than most of the cohort.

    This story though might as well hold true and probably a few segments of the applicant pool (like the aforementioned group, the american consulting/IB background folks) might well be driving this mean score upwards, which can only be revealed through the standard deviation something the schools typically don’t disclose.

  • alex@gaastra.co.uk

    Basically the number of entrants has gone up dramatically and a lot of them are non-english speakers who struggle with the verbal. The scores are based on percentage of the population I.e. If there are 10000 entrants around 1000 can get over 700, however if there are 100000 entrants 10000 can go over 700. The number of seats at the top schools remains fairly static hence the overall score goes up. The top schools are American and recruit heavily from native English speakers. If you’re smart and a native English speaker the verbal section is pretty easy and you can train the quant. It’s a lot harder to do the reverse (which is the situation for Indian applicants etc). Plus the large number of non native English speakers doing badly on the verbal section makes it much easier to get a good mark if you are a native speaker (again because of percentages). End result is it’s much easier now for a smart American to get a really good gmat score as they have an inbuilt advantage over most of the competition. These people form the majority of the recruits at the M7 hence the average score goes up – the applicants aren’t any smarter. Ranking on gmat and gpa is a pretty crappy method. Gpas aren’t compatible between schools and subjects and gmat favours native English speakers.

  • Apoorv Swarup

    Extremely curious to know if any particular segment of the applicant base and enrolled candidates (Indian engineering grads like myself for instance) might be responsible for the increase to an extent. Does any school share the standard deviation of the scores perchance?

  • Remo

    race for higher gmat explains the low quality of recent graduates.

  • Esuric

    Rochester Simon shows up on both biggest gains and biggest declines lists.

  • AP

    It’s seriously becoming an arms race…