The march of ever higher GMAT scores at the top business schools continues.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School today (Aug. 14) reported that the average GMAT for its Class of 2017 edged up four points to a record 732. In the past four years alone, Wharton’s average class GMAT score has now risen 14 points from 718 in 2012. A score of 732 on the test represents the 96th percentile of test takers, meaning that only 4% of those who take the test score at that level or above.
The increase confirms the view of MBA admission consultants who said in a recent Poets&Quants‘ survey that Wharton, above all other schools, is more heavily weighing the exam scores in its admission decisions (see Business Schools Putting Greater Weight On GMAT). Schools now appear to be in a race of sorts to report higher scores, largely because they are an important factor in U.S. News & World Report‘s annual business schools rankings.
WHARTON’S CLASS OF 2017 GMAT SCORE NOW MATCHES STANFORD’S NUMBER
Wharton places third behind only Stanford and Harvard in U.S. News’ latest ranking, but only one index point separates the school from Harvard and only two index points keep Wharton out of first place. This latest uptick in the average GMAT score–which accounts for slightly more than 16% of the weight in U.S. News’ ranking–could propel the school above Harvard next year. To the extent that GMAT scores are the most widely visible indicator of student quality, the higher scores also suggest that Wharton is continuing to attract the very best candidates in the applicant pool.
“Getting the Wharton GMAT to match Stanford is the easier part of maintaining the HSW Trinity and preventing it from devolving into a Harvard/Stanford duopoly,” said Sandy Kreisberg, a leading MBA admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com. “And that seems to be what is driving this–after all the other smoke and mirror explanations blow away.”
Wharton’s higher number now matches the highest reported score of any U.S. school: Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Stanford’s 732 score, however, is for last year’s incoming class. Stanford won’t report its class profile until sometime in September. The latest increase by Wharton follows reported rises by both Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School. Only last week, Kellogg announced an unusual eight-point rise in its average score to 724, while Chicago’s average score rose two points to match it.
WHARTON REPORTS A 7.8% INCREASE IN MBA APPLICATIONS
Most top business schools can easily raise their average reported GMATs but tend to hold back because many high-GMAT applicants fail to meet other admissions criteria that would make them highly successful students and graduates. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, for example, fails to admit more than 80% of the applicants in its pool with GMAT scores of 750 or above, according to Haas Dean Richard Lyons. “We are trying to find the most balanced candidates who bring a lot to the dynamics of a class,” he says. “The GMAT is just one element of the application.”
In releasing its class profile, Wharton said the median GMAT score for the class was 730, which is equal to the reported number by Harvard Business School, and that the scores for the class ranged from a low of 620 to a high of 790. The lowest score accepted by Harvard this year is 110 points lower at 510.
Wharton was able to achieve its new record on a 7.8% increase in applications to 6,590, up from 6,111 a year earlier. That outpaces the 1.5% gain at Harvard for the 2014-2015 admissions season. The school said it will enroll an MBA class of 861 MBA students this year, up two spots from last year. Some 20 members of the class are JD/MBA candidates, 74 will join its Lauder program, and 78 have chosen Wharton’s healthcare management class.