Average GMAT Scores At Top 50 U.S. Schools

The GMAT Prep Crunch

The GMAT Prep Crunch

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.


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


SchoolFive-Year Change2013 Average GMAT2009 Average GMAT
Vanderbilt (Owen)+35688653
Michigan State (Broad)+15655640
Washington University (Olin)+10696686
Texas-Austin (McCombs)+9690681
Iowa (Tippie)+9671662
Chicago (Booth)+9723714
Harvard Business School+8727719
Rice (Jones)+8676668

Source: Poets&Quants analysis from publicly available data from business schools

  • nj

    Hi, My GMAT is 730. But this came in my third attempt in three years. Will this have a negative impact on my applications ? Thanks.

  • Joseph

    The quant section is definitely a good tool to measure skill assuming the test takers are equally educated both in test strategy as well as in fundamental mathematics. I read in the Kaplan book (which I will never use again) that the volatility for a single test taker between several attempts is tiny. I however, had a total different experience.

    In practice, my verbal section was always 38-42 over the course of several exams. My quantitative scores however, went anywhere from 39-47. The reason why was that because the quant section requires more knowledge coming into the exam than the verbal section which is based on pure logic, I was more exposed to getting “easy” questions wrong at the onset of the exam because I was weaker in the subject matter such as geometry, radicals, and exponents. If anyone else here has also experienced starting off the quant section poorly they know it WILL NEVER GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO RECOVER. On my first 2 official exams I started poorly and got stupidly easy questions from questions 5-37 which I answered easily and confidently even down the stretch of the exam. It had already classified me as mediocre, and the only question the algorithm sought to gain was whether I was a less talented mediocre candidate or a more talented mediocre candidate. Despite hitting as high as a 47 several times in practice setting me up for a possible 720 overall without any in-person classes or tutoring, I settled for a 700 (44/42) on my 3rd and final attempt knowing that the school I wanted to attend was within reach with or without a retake considering a I had a 3.8 in ECON from a decent university.

    In short, the quant score can mistake someone who is more talented for someone who has spent more time or money hiring a 1-on-1 tutor or truly gaining a mastery of the mathematical principles behind the answers. Someone who nails down 75% of these principles can still get tripped up on the 25% on the first few questions and end up with a 40, or not until the middle or end and get a 47-48. Clearly, in many instances the difference between someone who gets in to Harvard or who gets in to Cornell is not talent or intelligence but rather preparation.

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  • hernan cortez

    How many hours did you spend studying a day and how long did you study for?

  • SteveR

    You are absolutely wrong. I went to a state school, came out with a 3.0 GPA (addiction my sophomore/junior year killed my grades), and didn’t take a GMAT prep course. The main language spoken in my house was not English. I didn’t come out with a fancy job. I got free subscriptions to the New Yorker and the Economist to get a better handle of my verbal skills and just went through the Manhattan GMAT study guides.

    I got a 730 and am convinced that ANYONE can do well on the GMAT as long as they understand their learning style (kinesthetic for me) and address their main trouble areas. The quantitative side doesn’t go past algebra 2 and the verbal portion is straightforward to. Sentence Correction can be tricky, but if you pick up some well written magazines and literature, sentence correction becomes simple. There are no excuses to do poorly on the GMAT unless you just don’t put in the effort.

  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Wow, don’t know where all the hate is coming from.

    Before I go on I’ll disclose that I’m an alleged “Cornell pumper” but only because I went there for undergrad am considering it for my MBA.

    I think there’s a lot of confusion and misguided anger surrounding the support Cornell receives online. I believe the overwhelming support is not a planned or calculated effort by the school. I’d propose that it is merely an effect of the program and the people the institution attracts. The causality of a phenomenon is many times misinterpreted when in reality there is only a correlation between the two events. I’m sure many other top schools experience this effect similarly online, however I like to “promote” Cornell because I truly feel that it is many times underrated and deserves better praise. I had an excellent experience there and that experience is what drives me to promote the school whenever I can (online and in the real world).

    Just another opinion from another “Cornell pumper” 😉

  • LinK

    Further note to some concerns revolving around “some people lack common sense, they are just good studying machines”. Well too bad, if you cannot even outperform those people, what good is your judgement and opinion?

    If you see a bunch of people like that at your school, you probably didn’t get into a good school to begin with. Most top tier schools have rigorous interview process and screenings. There are also exceptions and weirdos, but it is highly unlikely you see a bunch of those folks at HBS or Stanford. Of course, it is entirely possible that you go to a mid-tier school that are “desperately trying to raise their GMAT average with geeks’ scores”, then I wouldn’t be surprised if half of your classmates are like that. After all, your schools probably do not deserve to be too picky anyway.

  • LinK

    MBA is a highly American thing to begin with. No one is forced to get his/her MBA so no one is forced to take the GMAT. If someone has an issue with it being fake/too Americanize/ meaningless, simply cut yourself some slack and don’t do it. Maybe you can have a better career without it. This is not for everyone, and thus I do not see the point of complaining after you screw up on something you might not even need.

    And most forms of higher education are reserved for a certain group of people, start an education revolution if you are that angry at the system. Or just sit back and relax.

  • Essjee

    I agree somewhat with “devils0508.” I am at a top program and have met some naturally gifted individuals with GMAT scores > 750; yet there are some who severely lack in key areas which business leaders truly require. Areas such as: personal grooming, interpersonal skills, out-of-the-box thinking (where there is not perfect quantitative solution), relationship building, and strong conversational skills.

    In some instances, with their raw talent, I wondered why they were not enrolled in graduate or PhD program for some form STEM program, where they would be judged less on how “client friendly” they present themselves.

    It takes a lot more to run and conduct a business than just blasting through equations and models. You really need the whole package…

  • midwestern

    I heard all 800s are rejected by top 5.
    people say that high IQ may lead to low EQ, and business school isn’t exactly IQ-focused–if your IQ is enough, they want more EQ.

  • hernan cortez

    Take the test when you are still in high school. Seriously, because at this age you are being constantly tested. Also you have memory of the math skills they are testing (high school level) and you will be able to get through the logical reasoning easier because you have not yet learned enough to use common sense to confuse yourself.

  • hernan cortez

    Simply not true, the only people who perform highly with test prepping are those who come from highly priviliedged backgrounds and are taught this in the first place as part of standard curriculum. Go to private school from grade 1, and these types of questions are just part of the curriculum. Go to school in the usa, free sat courses, are an advantage to countries where no such standard test exist.

    The point of the test is to judge skills but it doesn’t, it judges how much you paid and prepped, that is it.

  • KR78…

    It’s a terrible test. The only reason the GMAT has even a tolerable correlation to first year grades is because the same schools that emphasize the test and require a 700 are the same schools that give Harvard As (especially at the graduate level).

  • KR78…

    unaligned = meaningless = scam

  • Mark Taranto

    Getting a top score of 800 is not common, but not that unusual, either. If that is your goal, then there may be something wrong with your priorities.

  • Mark Taranto

    It hasn’t changed. The average score has consistently been between 540-560. While the mean hasn’t changed, the standard deviation changes every time they make changes to what they test, which is every few years.

  • UmNoJustNo

    You should probably not apply to b-school. It’s not the place for over-achieving academics. Go get a PhD in stats.

  • UmNoJustNo

    Probably not

  • UmNoJustNo

    It’s highly likely a low GPA candidate will be overlooked. Especially by schools that have a culture of elitism. No matter how good your GMAT, those schools hate to see low GPAs because it shows in their rankings.

  • anshul

    for admission in b schools through gmat, do i need ngo certificate.

  • marcus

    what the article failed to mention is that Stanford has the highest GMAT scores… just saying

  • DannyH

    You’re right, why ever go to school? Just read a book on the subject. Of course not everyone is that type of learner or has that kind of self-discipline. I know books didn’t work me (only raised my score 30 points). I didn’t really learn GMAT until I took a GMAT course which raised my score 120 points. It was a lot of hard work altogether and I couldn’t of done it without the class.

  • DannyH

    such a fake test

  • Quinn

    I paid 25$ for a Kaplan test book. Gave it a good read, took the test, and did very well. I think you overestimate the benefit of paying someone tons of money to essentially regurgitate what is already written in their books.
    Whether your scores actually make an impact on admissions is a different issue.

  • smak

    Can a low (600) GMAT be overlooked by a high GPA from a small private liberal arts school?

  • veteran222

    it’s a great way of evaluating clones.

  • I took the GMAT’s in July 1980 on a whim, which I used later to apply to MBA programs two years later. I scored only a 554, which was the average for Penn State at the time. Had I prepared for the test, I would have done better that summer.

  • Sky

    Its a tick mark on your application. Don’t fool yourself into believing its gonna have any extra weight . Even if its a 720 730. Unless you max out at 780 /790 its a No go.

  • AugustineThomas

    The GMAT tests basic quant. knowledge. There are a variety of ways you can study for it and plenty of test takers who have achieved high scores without test prep. services.
    Many people who are lacking in their quant. skills use test prep. companies to get better. So what? It makes them better at math for when they do go to business school and they’re more likely to get into the school they want to go to. Nothing seems unfair about that to me.

  • Saibal Chakrabarti

    I want to score the highest percentage of marks in the world in GMAT, what should be my strategy?

  • Ashish

    Well, thank you for your comment, it boosted my confidence.

  • I’d disagree. Someone with an average academic background might be overlooked.

    But combine that with a 700+ GMAT and this applicant will likely have a second look and be taken more seriously.

    The GMAT score can help counter the low GPA — especially a score that is balanced in both quant and verbal.

  • TA

    can you elaborate on what it is you noted ?

  • Those are great points (kudos to the 2 month non-stop studying…I did that as well).

    I would say that the GMAT seems to be a great test for work ethic (more you study, the higher your score). I know a lot of great talented workers that cannot apply themselves for a crazy 2 month study schedule… and to be honest it shows in the workplace as well.

  • I have found it primarily tests a particular set of logic skills (or GMAT thinking) skills, and it has been proven that the more you study, the higher your score will be. So even if the GMAT isn’t a great way for evaluating talent, I would argue that it evaluates certain skills that B-Schools seem to value and to a certain degree work ethic.

    At the end of the day, no test accurately evaluates future success (except of course the “grit” test).

  • Ashish

    Hi, I have a concern that if a person’s academic background is not good enough, though average, but have scored 700+ in GMAT, is overlooked by big notch schools, because of his academics score.

  • MBAApplicant

    I attended a dinner event and sat directly across the Director of Admissions
    I got a lot of good insight about admissions and one thing she mentioned was that Cornell Johnson is not overly focused on GMAT scores. She said that they could do that to rise in rankings but they are looking for well-rounded people who can contribute to the school and fit the culture.

  • Robert

    The GMAT is irrelevant as it’s all about paying for points, thus its results are impossible to interpret. Anytime a test isn’t based on core curriculum, it’s susceptible to invalidation by unfair expensive test prep advantage, as some can afford quality exposure to its obscure knowledge subset and some cannot.

  • MintedMBA

    No false flattery intended – it was genuine. And I did understand that you were quoting the second paragraph from the article, I was just going for funny.
    Again, you write really well and have a strong analytical ability. My misspelling of “strong” as “string” and your yarn reference was a great example…
    keep up the great work…
    Look no plug from on this one…am I learning?

  • haha!

    Agree. Cornell is clearly the string choice. Many top schools’ more yarn-centric curricula try to compete and ultimately come unraveled when they’re found wanting by comparison.

    Good plug but to give my honest opinion – and what I would personally do if I felt compelled to mention or pump my affiliations in any way – the best sale you can make is low-emotion evenhandedness. Of course you’ll also want to – and you did a decent job – try to imply YOU are typical and representative of the tribe you’re defending and those other wackos aren’t. This especially holds true if you’re pitching one of the #8-15 ranked schools which endure high standard deviations and are therefore constantly battling to move above their peers. It seems these are the schools that have large propaganda contingents, such as the Cornell Comment Army we’ve alluded to (note by no means would i try to claim Johnson is the lone offender) trying much too hard and sort of unintentionally putting out bad vibes. When a brand has a perceived negative equity position in a particular medium the best thing you can do is mitigate chastise or try to wash out that perception.

    Value is a strong proposition but that may be just because I’ve a background in value investing and wrongly mentally associate proofs of that strategy with this one. Also “hopefully a worthy top10 competitor” is a great defense: strongly agreeing with me that they’re not the hyperbole I’ve argued against is good to align with me and show reason-ability, and then this is the important part…your suggest of competition and “worthy” implies a fair let-the-best-man-win mindset. Less desperate…I suppose I posit defending your institution’s rep to recruits is analogous to picking up dates?

    BTW, when you said you disagreed with my original paragraph 2, I should point out those weren’t my words. Quoth the article because it was hilarious! The P&Q stance is never that aggressive (unless the topic is Wharton, hey-o!) so I wanted to call attention to it. They were using a single broad statistic, which while indicative of broader decline, could also have many other causes, and is therefore a somewhat flimsy premise that’s more intuitive than empirical. My contribution, which I added as a parenthetical, was to emphasize how intense I thought the recommendation. ‘You don’t want to go to a school that does X! See list of schools that do X below. That’s right, we’re pretty much saying DON’T GO TO THESE SCHOOLS – if X is terrible and group A does X ipso facto group A is terrible’. So I know you didn’t explicitly pin the opinion on me, but unsure if you thought it was mine.

    Now I’ve officially gone off the rails…don’t flatter me anymore, it’s been compelling me to respond a book at a time. I don’t want to write huge responses but I can’t help it. British? Indian? Appreciate the opinion and good luck at the school.

  • MintedMBA

    I think your response is outstanding! Great writing and insight into the mindset of many P&Q website addicts (myself included).
    You are totally spot on in many of your assessments and I found myself chuckling as I read it…
    Oh and just so I get one more plug in – Cornell Johnson is a really string choice and under-appreciated by many – a great value-add play over the next 10 years. I would NOT say top 3 though – but hopefully a worthy top 10 competitor!

  • MintedMBA

    As a “Cornell pumper”, I agree with your 1st paragraph, that this story must be false or biased because it does not “grossly overestimate” Cornell! This must be a plot to undermine Cornell and the Johnson School!! However, I fully disagree with your second paragraph.

    Great stuff, but you seem a little too angry? Being an advocate of your attended business school is a naturally occurring part of this website.

    Were you rejected by Cornell Johnson but wanted to go or rejected but got into a higher ranked school and could never let it go? Just seems like you harbor a lot of hate for the school and its advocates?

    In contrast, as a Cornell Johnson MBA, I tend to feel that Cornell gets little recognition compared to many in its peer set. Go figure.

  • haha!

    hmm where are the Cornell pumpers??? surprised the author or GMAT aren’t under attack yet, because Cornell is flying up the ranks in the minds of its Career Development Office and other comment posters, so obviously this story is false or biased or thrown in the same category as rankings that don’t grossly overestimate Cornell – irrelevant and conspiratorial!

    “look at the trend lines that show which schools are re-investing in
    their futures and which ones are merely milking the cow. You don’t want
    to sign up for an MBA degree at a school that isn’t investing in itself
    or its future (see table below).”

  • Qualified

    I agree. At my b-school i noted a number of young students who were academically talented but lacking in professionalism.

  • Yeezey

    How much has average GMAT increased among all test takers?

  • RealAssetsFTW

    Interesting article. Would be cool to see some sort of metric like change in program spending vs. increase in GMAT so that we can put some math behind the claim. I’m sure the former probably isn’t made public though…

  • devils0508

    What I’d like to see analyzed is, are qualified candidates merely studying harder for the GMATs and taking it more times, or are business schools taking less qualified candidates with high GMAT scores to push up their ratings? If it’s the former, I think the current system is fine (I got a high GMAT score by studying non-stop for 2 months), but if its the latter the business schools could potentially be shooting themselves in their foot (I’ve met a lot of weird kids with high GMAT scores on admit days, no way they succeed long term).

  • Jerome

    I look for the day when GMAT avg reached 770 or more, with avg age 22 or 23! at that time we will see a play park next to baker library!

  • ryan

    This is stupid. The GMAT isn’t even that great of a way for evaluating talent.

  • jimismash

    I’m concerned that some incomplete copying and pasting has resulted in an error on the table “Top 50 schools with the biggest DECREASES in average GMAT scores.”

    The last two values are the same values as in the table on the previous page. They are also positive values.