How Important Is Each Part Of Your MBA Application?

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School


Of course, an emphasis placed on any component of an application differs from one school to another. At Wharton, test scores are perceived by the consultants as being far more important than at either Stanford or Harvard Business School (see table above). The evidence would suggest that is true. Last year, for the first time ever, the average GMAT score for Wharton’s incoming class exceeded the score for Harvard Business School, 728 at Wharton vs. 726 at HBS.

In the past five years, in fact, Wharton’s average GMAT has risen ten full points, more than any other prestige business school. Chicago Booth, where average GMATs have risen nine points to 724 last year versus 715 in 2010, is right behind Wharton in reporting significantly higher average scores.

The Poets&Quants survey found that consultants estimated that GMATs account for 25.5% of MBA acceptances and rejections at Wharton versus 16.8% at Stanford and 18.8% at Harvard (see table below). That’s the general consensus based on the survey, but individual opinions vary–sometimes significantly.


Sandy Kreisberg, a leading admissions consulting veteran who heads up, believes Stanford puts greater importance on the GMAT than Harvard which is largely why Stanford’s average GMATs of 732 is the highest reported score for any U.S. business school. “I think Stanford relies too much on the GMATs,” he insists. “Yeah, I know they always brag about rejecting x number of applicants with an 800 GMAT but I see a lot of non-URM (underrepresented minority) applicants who have very powerful Stanford assets  and 680-710 GMATs and almost never get in. The list of white people at Stanford with GMATs below 680 would make really interesting reading. Stanford admissions is just really a very snobby place in many ways, irony of ironies.”

Admission consultants generally say that schools known for either finance or more quant work are more likely to put more focus on the GMAT. “The adcoms at Wharton and Columbia seem to be under orders to use higher GMAT scores to boost or preserve U.S. News rankings,” adds Kreisberg. “Those schools have an excess of highly qualified applicants from finance and consulting who are very interesting and very accomplished but not interesting or accomplished in any break out way. Given their very large pools of promising talent, it is impossible to predict who the smaller group of super-star alums are going to be. So given that challenge, why not use the GMAT? It is not likely to hurt, and it’s more difficult to compare interview notes over large groups of very similar people. An interview can help you get rid of a obvious no-fit candidate, but after that, the thinking is, you go with the GMAT.”