The average GMAT scores of entering MBA classes at the top business schools often tell you more about the institutions than the applicants. How so? Because schools with stable or increasing GMATs are generally re-investing in their MBA programs, while schools with declining GMAT scores are more often than not milking the cow.
Interestingly enough, a new study by Poets&Quants of average GMAT scores shows that the competition at the top is more severe than ever. Some 19 of the top 25 U.S. schools are reporting higher GMATs over the past five years, with just five programs reporting a decline in average scores. It’s a different picture in the second half of the Top 50 list where more schools have shown a decline than an increase: 13 out of 25 are down, while nine are up.
Call it grade inflation or just plain GMAT creep. But most of the truly elite full-time MBA programs have seen ever-increasing scores for their latest entering classes. In the last five years, for example, Harvard Business School’s average GMAT is up eight points to 727, Stanford is up six to 732, highest for any U.S. business school, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is up nine points to a record 723 for the entering class in 2013.
VANDERBILT LEADS ALL TOP 50 SCHOOLS WITH HIGHEST GMAT SCORE INCREASES
Then, there are what you might call the more status-conscious climbers. Vanderbilt University’s Owen School has increased its average GMAT score by 35 points to 688 in the past five years, the single biggest jump among the Top 50 schools. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagn has also posed some impressive gains: a 27-point increase to 661. Michigan State’s Broad School has upped its game with a 15-point rise to 655.
Gains like these don’t happen by accident. They occur because of a concerted effort by leadership to boost the school’s standing. Sadly, the reverse is true when GMAT scores go the other way. Double-digit declines, in particular, are a bright red sign that a school is losing the competitive fight for the best and the brightest. It’s also a sure bet that a school is not investing in its MBA program, but rather milking it for revenue to fund other parts of the university.
Top 50 Schools With Biggest Increases in Average GMAT Scores
|School||Five-Year Change||2013 Average GMAT||2009 Average GMAT|
|Michigan State (Broad)||+15||655||640|
|Washington University (Olin)||+10||696||686|
|Harvard Business School||+8||727||719|
Source: Poets&Quants analysis from publicly available data from business schools