Average GRE Scores At The Top Business Schools

Of nearly 50 top business schools examined by Poets&Quants, 18 saw more than 20% of their applicants submit GRE scores, up from only eight schools last year

The rise of the GRE continues unabated — for the most part. The Graduate Record Exam is becoming the preferred test for an increasing number of students, and an increasing number of candidates are getting into business schools by submitting GRE scores rather than — or in addition to — scores from the traditionally preferred Graduate Management Admission Test.

An analysis by Poets&Quants of 50 elite MBA programs shows that while some have seen a slight decrease in the percentage of admits with GRE scores, far more have seen an uptick — something easier to define as students incline toward the GRE or choose to take both tests, and as schools increasingly make GRE score averages and related statistics available to the public.

The stigma long attached (fairly or unfairly) to the GRE is fading, and the exam is becoming a legitimate avenue for B-school aspirants.


Eleven schools saw a drop in GRE admits between 2015 and 2016, though of those declines, six were of just 1 percentage point. On the other hand, 24 schools saw increases, ranging from 1 percentage point to 24 points in a single year. While nine schools continue to have GRE admits in the single-digit percentages, 18 have eclipsed 20% and eight have surpassed 30%, led by Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, where a remarkable 42% of the 2016 intake were admitted with GRE scores.

Other notable schools: Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School (39%, up from 15% in 2015), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business (36%), Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (35%, up from 12% in 2015), Washington University’s Olin Business School (34%), and the university of Georgia’sTerry School of Business (31%). The previous year’s high-level mark for GRE scores was owned by Yale School of Management, with 23%.

At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the percentage of admits with GRE scores tripled in the three years from 2013 to 2015, from 4% to 12%. Last year it dipped to 11%, but according to Anneli Richter, assistant dean of admissions, that may be an aberration.

“We accept both GRE and GMAT scores,” Richter tells Poets&Quants. “We have seen an increasing trend of students taking both tests. In those cases, our admissions team evaluates candidates based the strongest score. We feel both tests gauge academic readiness and our team values them equally.

“We are seeing a slight increase in GRE scores submitted (in 2017), but it’s premature to give a final tally since applications are still open.”


Richter and other admissions officers say they have no preference between the GRE and GMAT. The biggest shift, consultants say, is in the attitude of applicants.

“MBA applicants are finally comfortable with the notion of taking the GRE instead of the GMAT,” says Dan Bauer, chairman and founder of academic and career counseling consultancy The MBA Exchange. “In prior years, most candidates found it difficult — or even embarrassing — to accept the fact that they simply couldn’t crack the GMAT, even after multiple attempts. Those individuals felt that opting for the GRE would confirm their ‘weakness’ and thus constrain their chances for admission. However, as more B-school websites and blogs have confirmed that adcoms are now officially indifferent between the two tests, more MBA candidates have overcome their reluctance to go with the GRE. The stigma surrounding the ‘non-GMAT’ option is disappearing by the day.

Harvard Law School’s much-ballyhooed decision to open its doors to GRE takers won’t have much effect on business schools, which already have largely come to accept the exam, Bauer says. But the reverberations are being felt nevertheless, he says.

“As with business schools, Harvard Law School’s decision to accept the GRE as an alternative to its traditional admission test (LSAT) is motivated by their need to grow the applicant pool,” Bauer says. “The only impact on business schools that we envision is that, if and when more law schools follow Harvard’s lead, more MBA applicants will pursue JD/MBA dual degrees, since there’s no longer a need to take a second test. Other graduate programs that are more likely to feel the impact of Harvard’s move are Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Administration programs — e.g., Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School, etc. Applicants to MPP and MPA programs will be more likely to add JD programs to their target list, since the same GRE test can be used for all.”


Even as the GRE gains acceptance, some major schools refuse to report GRE scores — notably Harvard Business School, but also the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, among others. These schools aren’t declining to accept students who take the GRE; they are simply not reporting scores, as a way to insulate the school from the repercussions of admitting students with lower scores. If no GRE scores are reported, then those scores can’t impact a school’s ranking.

Its a practice that may soon end. Robert J. Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News & World Report, which does the most complete annual ranking of MBA programs, told Poets&Quants last year that U.S. News may adjust its ranking calculation for schools that fail to report GRE scores.

What kind of scores would a prestige B-school be proud to report? Once again in 2016, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has the answer. The school led all elite programs with a 165 Quant score and a 329 total score, and was third on the writing score (4.9) behind the only two schools to score a 5.0: the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business. Stanford edged out Yale School of Management by 1 total point, though Yale topped all schools with a 165 Verbal score. Rounding out the top five in total GRE score were the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (326), NewYork University’s Stern School of Business (324), and Georgia Tech University’s Scheller College of Business (324).

On the other end of the spectrum, the top school with the lowest scores was the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, with a 153 Verbal and 152 Quant. Katz also had the second-lowest score in the writing portion of the test, at 3.8. The lowest in writing? The University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management, with a 3.7.

(See the following pages for tables showing percentages of GRE admits and GRE scores for top business schools.)

  • hbsguru

    dunno man, that is OK profile, and I do not think Stanford outcome is going to turn on GRE (ditto other M7 schools). I’d highlight Stat and Econ and any quant parts of your Ec Development job in some brief note explaining why low-ish Q score is not going to predict success at Stanford.
    That said, it is always hard to answer the question, duh, if you really, really want to go why not take GRE again and see what happens. If you have low GMAT or GRE, schools do kinda expect that you retake it once before going into EXPLAIN mode, something I can see.
    Not super clear in your case. On the other hand, you can only go to business school once, not true about taking GMAT/GRE.

  • Alfredo

    Another quick thing – my GPA was a 3.80 which I noticed is above average for any M7. Not sure if that plays any role in combination with test scores, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention.

  • Alfredo

    Thanks for the reply! To answer your questions – I hit most of the bonus points you outlined, but not all. I took Stats and several Econ classes in college and performed well in all of them. But my major was not quantitative by any means.
    Also, I’m a URM (Latino male) and coming from a relatively non-traditional background (TFA followed by international economic development).
    And on a related note, my assumption was that if my scores were good enough for Stanford, they’d be good enough for anywhere (including the other M7s that don’t report). Is that basically correct, or could my scores actually hurt more at other schools? If that’s the case, I’d probably want to retake, because I don’t exactly want to rest my M7 hopes on Stanford taking a chance on me!

  • OG

    Thanks for weighing in! I’m in a similar situation – same verbal score. My quant is a few points higher than Alfredo but still relatively low compared to verbal.

  • hbsguru

    grrrr. hard to say, to get one easy thing out of the way, have you taken Quant courses like
    Stats, Micro Econ, Calculus in college and gotten A’s?
    Just so we have some baseline ‘anchor’ that you can do the Quant work at Stanford.
    Also helps if your work has quant elements.
    Beyond that, it becomes a head game. Believe me, Stanford will take someone w. those very same GRE scores if they OTHERWISE super liked them. E.g. you are URM, or add some rare elements to the demo based on background, work, not being born on Earth but moving here at age 3 and learning how to breathe oxygen, etc.
    If you are instead fighting it out w. bankers, consultants and PE etc. white schmucks, etc. well, that little boo-boo could be an easy way for the Stanford Adcom to make a decision, they don’t really care who fills up the white, schmuck bucket, so why not go with stats as one strong filter. If they did that with you, it could be curtains.
    As to general question, do they just look at Total score vs. paying attention to the splits,
    well, once again, depends on what they want to do with you–if they want to ding you because are too vanilla for them, they will point to splits. If they want to take you, well they can point to total score and also chuckle that your admission will not cost them any “basis” points in the mag ratings.
    If you are white vanilla applicant, I’m not sure even getting all the GRE elements up to average would help. I’d be REAL interested in the number of vanilla bean admits (excluding guys who come fr. strong feeder firms that always place 6/7 applicants a year at Stanford etc, or have other connections, etc. ) present even AVERAGE stats. The vanilla beans is the cohort Stanford uses to get those high average scores in the first place.

  • Alfredo

    FWIW, I should mention the Quant score was several points lower than my more recent practice tests (161-166). I’m sure the experimental section and early start time hurt me a little. So I’m confident I could go up on a retake. But my verbal and AW were pretty great this time, so who knows if they’d go down. Just want to make sure it’s worth it before moving forward.

  • Alfred

    Looking at these stats and I have a question. I took the GRE recently and I’ve been debating whether to retake. I know the GMAT score is a composite of the Verbal and Quant sections, which are also scored individually. But I’m confused as to how much the composite matters for the GRE.

    My overall score was a 327 (169V/158Q/6AW). This puts me within a 2 points of the Stanford average, or 1 point if you count AW. But my quant is significantly lower than their average. In this case, would my above average Verbal and AW scores (and nearly average overall score) keep me competitive for top schools, or would the low quant likely kill my chances?

    I won’t go into my whole profile here, but based on my GPA, work experience, and extracurriculars, I should be competitive for M7 with a good application. Don’t want the GRE to kill my chances, but I also don’t want to waste time on more studying unnecessarily.