Does a High GMAT Guarantee Admission? (Spoiler Alert: Nope)
Business school isn’t exactly a meritocracy. You won’t find only the applicants with the highest GMATs and GPAs making up your class. There are other “factors” (i.e. politics) at play. And, as Admissionado notes in their latest blog post, that only enhances the MBA experience. “The GMAT is a good starting point, and an important piece of the pie, but it’s never going to be everything. If it were, HBS would have a (very boring) class full of people with 800 GMAT scores.”
That doesn’t mean the GMAT isn’t a key factor in admission. In fact, it can reflect your odds for being accepted. How? According to Admissionado, you should look closely at your target school’s mean GMAT score for the last incoming class.
“If you want to have a decent chance at a specific school,” Admissionado observes, “you should have a score that is higher than the mean. So if Wharton’s mean GMAT for their last incoming class of 2016 was 728, you can feel comfortable applying to Wharton with a GMAT of 730 or above.”
However, another GMAT metric, the middle 80% score range, is also key. “If your score falls somewhere near the low end of that 80%, the school is a bit of a long-shot for you. So, since Wharton’s middle 80% goes from 710-750, if your score is lower than 710, you don’t really have much of a shot, unless the rest of your profile is totally awesome.”
That said, a school’s score ranges may tip you on what adcoms truly prize in candidates. Here, Admissionado contrasts Wharton, with 710-750 GMAT range against Dartmouth Tuck, where the spread is 670-750. “The middle 80% of the incoming class at Tuck is an 80 point spread – from 670-750. So Tuck, unlike Wharton . . . is focused more on the overall profile of an applicant than on getting students with insanely high GMAT scores. [This] means that at Wharton, if you are a good candidate with a so-so GMAT, your chances of getting in are lower than at a school like Tuck.”
However, there are exceptions to this principle, with international students often getting the short end. As Admissionado notes, business schools are deluged with applications from China and India, where candidates often come with high GMATs. As a result, those students may need to score 20 to 30 points above the average – with a caveat. “Once you get to the very high end of scores (say 730+),” Admissionado points out, “the schools are going to care more and more about your profile, your leadership, your passion, your vision, your originality, etc., than they will about 10 or 30 points more on the GMAT. But still, you do want to be on the higher end of that GMAT range so that your profile is more attractive.”
At the same time, a lower GMAT doesn’t necessarily doom the chances for non-traditional students like minorities, veterans, or artists, since adcoms are looking to shape classes with a wide range of backgrounds and viewpoints. “If this is applicable to you,” Admissionado writes, “and your GMAT score is 20-30 points lower than the last incoming class’ mean, don’t discount yourself just yet.”
In other words, GMATs are just one puzzle piece. They don’t guarantee you a spot if you score high. If you score low, they simply show that you need to focus your energies in other areas, such as essays, community service, professional growth, and references.
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