How Much Higher Can GMATs Possibly Go?

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management - Ethan Baron photo

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo


If you assume that the Top Ten programs wouLd generally turn away anyone with a score below 700, it would easily mean that only one-seventh of the applicants who score 700 and up on the GMAT would get in. Luckily, the schools don’t merely admit the highest GMAT scorers into their programs. Harvard Business School, for example, enrolled in its Class of 2017 a student or students with GMATs as low as 510, while Columbia Business School gave at least one of its seats this year to a student who only scored 500.

How high can average GMAT scores possibly go? Symonds believes it would not be in the best interest of schools or students to drive GMATs up higher. “Scores of 700 and above that are well-balanced in both the verbal and quant section already demonstrate a level of critical reasoning and quant skills to master the core content of the MBA curriculum,” he maintains.

“Once those skills have been established, the focus should be on personality, values, accomplishments, experience and attitude, not an extra 10 points on the GMAT. And plenty of schools observe that applicants with scores over 770 are often lacking in other skills or maturity. There is a reason why the range of GMAT scores at the top schools never reach 800!”


Symonds says that he hopes Stanford will plateau at 735, two points higher than its current average. “Otherwise they will lose out on some extraordinary individuals who really will change lives, change organizations and change the world given the wings to take flight,” he says. “We could see Wharton with the highest average just once in that period. Yale under Ted Snyder will be hot on their heels.”

One thing seems certain. There remains every incentive to keep scores high. Most business schools dole out scholarship dollars to attract high GMATs and some of the more lucrative paying companies, especially in prestige management consulting, seek graduates who entered school with GMATs above 700.

“It is kind of a perfect storm,” acknowledges Shinewald of mbaMission. “I am not sure that the averages can go much higher but I don’t see this trend reversing.”


  • A_Sound_Bite

    The test IS a little easier, yes?

  • avivalasvegas

    I believe that some of the skills you mention are not correlated to the GMAT score at all, which is why the higher score doesn’t not necessarily reflect a better candidate.

    There are many abilities that a higher GMAT score DOES reflect rather accurately… but I do not believe that these qualities alone comprise a better MBA candidate.

    True quality comes when you admit people with varied, deep and diverse experiences with the highest scores possible.

  • MistaFabro

    Unless you’re assuming that things like business skills, social skills, etc. are negatively correlated to GMAT score (a questionable assumption), I see no reason not to think that, on average, you wouldn’t get more quality from a 98th percentile scorer than from a 90th percentile scorer.

    That’s obviously not to say that every 750 scorer is better than every 700 scorer, but on average over a large pool I think it’s fair to say you’re better off admitting more 750’s.

  • Person

    Not quite. A 690 used to be roughly the 90th %ile. Now, a 710 is 90th %ile. A 730 is 96th %ile. So schools have actually been taking people with higher scores that they previously would have denied over other candidates with lower scores but other factors. Some element of the GMAT rise (maybe 30-40%) is attributable to a percentile shift. The rest is due to a shift in strategy.

  • avivalasvegas

    I would be interested to see evidence that a 750 GMAT admit brings more quality to the table than a 700 GMAT student as I would be inclined to think otherwise.

    Sure, its great to boost ranking metrics – that’s clear. But do Ad Coms have some sort of internal cut off, whereby any score above X is as good as another score above the same X.

  • JohnAByrne

    Unfortunately not but given the rise in the average score you’re probably close on your estimate.

  • Al


  • Al


    Do you have data on the percentages. Was a 690 today’s 730?

  • Travis Mahoney

    Great post, but the math on the last table is wrong… Harvard 725-650 = +75 increase, not 45

  • Barbara Coward

    Interesting to note that women test takers increased by 43 percent since 1995 while men test takers increased by 25 percent for the same period. Also, the mean total score for women increased by 13 percent since 1995 while the mean total score for men increased by 9 percent for the same period Evidence that outreach efforts by b-schools to attract more female candidates and help them succeed are working!

  • C. Taylor

    Could go higher than ~745-750 mean, but would mean brutal overemphasis on test prep and almost certainly sacrifice outstanding talent. Unreasonable for most of the class to extensively prep for the exam . . . Has anyone done decently accurate surveys of GMAT prep time for accepted candidates at the top?

    735 is as close to the limit as minimally reasonable and would already sacrifice fantastic talent, at present.