Just when you thought GMAT scores couldn’t possibly go any higher, guess what? At many of the the leading business schools, average scores for the latest incoming classes have set new records—yet again.
A Poets&Quants analysis of scores for the MBA cohorts that began their first year in the fall of last year shows that 16 of the Top 25 U.S. schools achieved year-over-year increases in their GMAT averages. Only five schools—NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, UNC Keenan-Flagler, Carnegie Mellon Tepper and Wharton—registered declines, with three programs falling by two or fewer points.
Not only did the increases outpace the declines by more than a three-to-one margin, some of the rises were surprisingly high for a single year. Rice University’s Jones School of Business registered a 14-point increase in its average GMAT score to 690. MIT’s Sloan School of Management upped its average score by eight points to 724, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business gained a half dozen points to post an average GMAT score for its latest class of 712.
STANFORD GSB SETS A NEW CLASS RECORD: AN AVERAGE GMAT OF 737
Even among schools whose full-time MBA programs are ranked between 26 and 50, 15 of the 25 programs reported increases in average GMATs. Only seven schools had declines. The biggest year-over-year gainers? Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business saw a whopping 23-point jump in its average to 659. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business reported a 13-point rise to 692. The business schools at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University both saw double-digit gains as well, rising 11 points to 665 and 10 points to 682, respectively.
Some 16 U.S. business schools and two European schools–INSEAD and London Business School–now boast average GMAT scores of 700 or up, one more than last year. Again, no school could beat the average at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business which set a new record of 737, up four points on its year-earlier 733. Stanford’s new record means that the school’s average is now in the 97th percentile of all GMAT test takers. In other words, only 3% of test takers are able to achieve a higher score on the GMAT.
“The continuing rise in average GMAT scores at top schools is not a surprise,” says Dan Bauer, founder and chairman of The MBA Exchange, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “Don’t be shocked to see Stanford’s average crack 740 within the next year or so.”
Every applicant, of course, need not score the average to gain an admit from Stanford. The school’s Class of 2018 had GMAT scores that ranged from a low of 590 to a high of 790. But admission consultants will often encourage candidates to an MBA program to attempt to hit the class average to have some confidence that an applicant has a good chance of getting into a school. If an applicant is an over-represented part of the applicant pool, such as IT engineers from India, consultants will urge them to score well above the average.
AVERAGE GMAT SCORES ARE CONSIDERED A BAROMETER OF STUDENT QUALITY
Rising GMATs often suggest that a school is improving the quality of its incoming students. More than any other admissions data point, the GMAT is often considered a barometer of student quality. Rising GMATs can also be an indication of a school’s aggressiveness in offering more scholarship money to compete with rivals and represent 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 on the test—where the highest possible score is an 800—is about 547.
More telling than year-over-year increases, however, are the five-year trends on average GMAT scores. Among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs, the biggest gains have been racked up by the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Foster hiked its average by 21 points since 2012 to 688 last year. Kellogg raised its average GMAT by 20 points over the last five years to 728—two points higher than the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
DESPITE LAST YEAR’S TWO-POINT DROP, WHARTON IS STILL UP 12 POINTS SINCE 2012
MIT Sloan, thanks to its significant eight-point rise last year, has boosted its average class GMAT by 14 points since 2012 to a record 724. Wharton, despite reporting a two-point slippage in the last year, has increased its average by a dozen points to 730 in the past five years. That jump allowed Wharton to post slightly higher average GMAT scores than Harvard Business School, which saw a four-point increase last year to 729.
Top 50 With Biggest Five-Year Increases In GMAT Scores
|School||Five-Year Change||Average 2016 GMAT||Average 2012 GMAT|
|Michigan State (Broad)||+29||670||641|
|Southern Methodist (Cox)||+23||662||639|
|Penn State (Smeal)||+16||659||643|
|Arizona State (Carey)||+10||682||672|
Source: Poets&Quants analysis from available GMAT data