A Record 740 GMAT For Stanford’s Next Class

Students at Stanford GSB 2017 commencement. Learn more about Stanford GSB average GMAT

A student looks up at the crowd during Stanford GSB’s Class of 2017 commencement. Photo by Nathan Allen

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has reached a new record GMAT score of 740 for its incoming MBA class this fall. For Stanford, the new average would reflect an 11-point jump in average GMAT scores in the past five years alone. Last year’s incoming class had a 737 GMAT average.

Though Stanford will not officially release its new class profile until late September, the new record was disclosed by Kirsten Moss, the newly named assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid. In recent years, Stanford has consistently boasted the highest average GMAT scores for any business school in the world, though that was not always the case. Back in 2004, for example, when Stanford’s GMAT average was merely 711–a full 29 points lower than the new number–Wharton led all schools with average class GMATs of 716. Two years later, in 2006, Wharton lost the lead to Stanford and never regained it.

Stanford stayed on top by reporting increases in its average GMAT scores for ten of the past 13 years. In only one year–2012–did the average fall and then by only a single point to 729 from 730. Still, with many of the elite MBA programs reporting ever higher averages, it will be hard for any other school to beat Stanford’s new record this year. Wharton last year was closest to Stanford with a 730 average, with Harvard Business School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management right behind it with averages of 729 and 728, respectively (see GMAT Percentile Scores By School).

‘I DON’T WANT TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE A 740 IN ORDER TO APPLY’

But a 740 average is a shockingly high hurdle for the vast majority of business school candidates. Only 3% of test takers achieve that level or above on a test with a maximum score of 800. Fewer than 7,500 test takers out of a total of roughly 190,200 in 2016 scored at that level or higher—and not all of them would have used the GMAT to apply to a two-year MBA program. Many applied to specialty master’s programs, part-time, executive and online MBA programs. Only 43% of test takers overall send their GMAT scores to full-time MBA programs.

Moss, appearing at the CentreCourt MBA Festival in San Francisco June 24th, conceded that she worried the new record could discourage quality candidates from applying to the school (see Facebook Live video for the full discussion). “Our score this year will be hovering in the class profile at 740 and that is hard for me honestly because I don’t want to send a message that you have to have a 740 in order to apply,” she said.

“But let’s face it. we are taking 5% (of applicants). So if you have time to practice for this test and you really want to go to Stanford and think you are one of those people who have made an impact in their community and is a leader, go take the test again because it will help. It’s one data point, (but) it is important.”

‘SOME OF MY FAVORITE ADMITS HAVE 500 GMATs AND WENT TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE’

In the previous year, the student who got in with the lowest GMAT score had a 590, while the highest reported score was 790. Hitting a 740 average means that many of the slightly more than 400 students who will enroll in what will be the Class of 2019 have GMATs considerably higher. Last year, a record 8,116 applicants sought the 417 seats in the class, roughly 19.5 candidates for every available seat. Stanford had the lowest acceptance rate of any prestige MBA program at 6%. Given Moss’ mention of a 5% acceptance rate, it’s likely the school has gotten even more selective in the most recently completed admissions round.

Despite the unprecedented GMAT average achieved this year, Moss suggested that among her favorite applicants are strivers with lower GMAT scores. “Some of my favorite admits is have 500 GMATs—because every year there will be some— who come from a community college and then worked really hard to get to a four-year program,” she said. “You will come in every shape and size. The only thing you need to tell me is how you have been this creative, curious learner and how you have touched people in your life. Because if you’re doing that then I want to know about you.”

Admission consultants expressed some surprise at the new record and, like Moss, worried that such high scores could make some candidates apply elsewhere or altogether opt out. “It is inevitable, as scores continue to inch higher each year, that some excellent candidates will not even bother to apply, as they will feel that perfectly acceptable scores make their candidacies less viable,” says Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions firm.

“It is disappointing, because the focus on averages doesn’t necessarily correlate with better applicants. An individual can prove his or her analytical competence with a GMAT score that is lower than a 740, of course. As Stanford strives to develop well rounded leaders and to present itself as a bastion of thought high-minded managerial leadership, they might take the pedal off an aspect of the application that–at these levels–is entirely superficial.”

  • RatRace

    I am an Indian and i dint get into a top 15 US b school because my GMAT was only 720! I took feedback from schools and my GMAT score appears to be the only deal breaker. It sucks! I have lost faith in US B Schools.. They are after GMAT..

  • kjo

    Basically, keep applying so we can lower our acceptance rate!

  • scott@personalmbacoach.com

    I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to retake a 750. It really depends on the rest of your profile. A 50 or 51 will of course be better than a 49 but if you want advice based on your whole profile, send me a note.

    Best,
    Scott Edinburgh
    Founder, Personal MBA Coach

  • Areyoucrazy

    I honestly think this isn’t worth it.
    750 is an incredible score and always will be. Don’t fall prey to the money minded system and waste 250 bucks on improving your score marginally at best. There is no way they say “750 is terrible, but 760 – WOW”. It just isn’t worth it. Work on the rest of your application.

  • HighHighHigh

    Do it! If you’re from an overrepresented pool – 760 is the new 740.

  • hbsguru

    When Moss tells you take the GMAT again, well . . . we are not in Bolton LA-LA land anymore where “anyone” could get in.

    I appreciate her candor but how about some, ahem, leadership on the part of leading schools and players like Ms. Moss to maybe do something about this not very valuable arms race???

    One start could be some innovative look backs testing just what GMAT predicts and what the outcomes were of folks admitted w. 700-710-720 etc. vs 740+, and I mean something more substantive than first year performance (which is what law schools used to say about LSAT, until people stopped going to law school, and now you can sumbit your horoscope). First year performance is just more test taking but sure I’d be interested in seeing if GMAT even predicts that. But beyond that,

    don’t top schools broadcast that they are looking for more than that?

    Moss’ admission in this story to keep taking the test is kinda signalling that

    the Stanford motto is “Change lives. Change organizations. But first — Change your GMAT score.

  • Dab

    I scored a 750, but my practice scores were 760+…seriously considering retaking now because I’m quite confident I could do higher (scored a 49Q on the real thing when I always got 50 or 51 in practice)

  • offtojog

    Even the under-represented are under pressure now.

  • offtojog

    There goes my Stanford app. I just saved $275. Yay! No need to subsidize the 740-790 scorers in their quest towards world domination.

    When she says some of her favorite admits scored 500 and went to community college, was the 4-year college they transferred to an Ivy League perchance?

  • HighHighHigh

    This is true. 740-750 is the new 730 (i.e. respectable, but not a clear differentiator)

  • AP

    The arms race is real folks, buckle up! If you’re an applicant from an over-represented group, you now have no choice but to absolutely slay it on the GMAT. Anything less than 720 and you’re toast!