Average GMAT Scores At The Leading MBA Programs

Average GMAT scores at top schools continue to climb

Just when you thought GMAT scores couldn’t possibly go any higher, guess what? At many of the the leading business schools, average scores for the latest incoming classes have set new records—yet again.

A Poets&Quants analysis of scores for the MBA cohorts that began their first year in the fall of last year shows that 16 of the Top 25 U.S. schools achieved year-over-year increases in their GMAT averages. Only five schools—NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, UNC Keenan-Flagler, Carnegie Mellon Tepper and Wharton—registered declines, with three programs falling by two or fewer points.

Not only did the increases outpace the declines by more than a three-to-one margin, some of the rises were surprisingly high for a single year. Rice University’s Jones School of Business registered a 14-point increase in its average GMAT score to 690. MIT’s Sloan School of Management upped its average score by eight points to 724, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business gained a half dozen points to post an average GMAT score for its latest class of 712.

STANFORD GSB SETS A NEW CLASS RECORD: AN AVERAGE GMAT OF 737

Even among schools whose full-time MBA programs are ranked between 26 and 50, 15 of the 25 programs reported increases in average GMATs. Only seven schools had declines. The biggest year-over-year gainers? Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business saw a whopping 23-point jump in its average to 659. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business reported a 13-point rise to 692. The business schools at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University both saw double-digit gains as well, rising 11 points to 665 and 10 points to 682, respectively.

Some 16 U.S. business schools and two European schools–INSEAD and London Business School–now boast average GMAT scores of 700 or up, one more than last year. Again, no school could beat the average at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business which set a new record of 737, up four points on its year-earlier 733. Stanford’s new record means that the school’s average is now in the 97th percentile of all GMAT test takers. In other words, only 3% of test takers are able to achieve a higher score on the GMAT.

“The continuing rise in average GMAT scores at top schools is not a surprise,” says Dan Bauer, founder and chairman of The MBA Exchange, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “Don’t be shocked to see Stanford’s average crack 740 within the next year or so.”

Every applicant, of course, need not score the average to gain an admit from Stanford. The school’s Class of 2018 had GMAT scores that ranged from a low of 590 to a high of 790. But admission consultants will often encourage candidates to an MBA program to attempt to hit the class average to have some confidence that an applicant has a good chance of getting into a school. If an applicant is an over-represented part of the applicant pool, such as IT engineers from India, consultants will urge them to score well above the average.

AVERAGE GMAT SCORES ARE CONSIDERED A BAROMETER OF STUDENT QUALITY

Rising GMATs often suggest that a school is improving the quality of its incoming students. More than any other admissions data point, the GMAT is often considered a barometer of student quality. Rising GMATs can also be an indication of a school’s aggressiveness in offering more scholarship money to compete with rivals and represent a sign that a school is eager to move up in rankings that weigh GMAT scores in the methodology used to compute those lists.

A 700 GMAT score puts a test taker in the 89th percentile of those who have taken the exam. That means only 11% of those who sit for the GMAT have a score of 700 or above. The average on the test—where the highest possible score is an 800—is about 547.

More telling than year-over-year increases, however, are the five-year trends on average GMAT scores. Among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs, the biggest gains have been racked up by the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Foster hiked its average by 21 points since 2012 to 688 last year. Kellogg raised its average GMAT by 20 points over the last five years to 728—two points higher than the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

DESPITE LAST YEAR’S TWO-POINT DROP, WHARTON IS STILL UP 12 POINTS SINCE 2012

MIT Sloan, thanks to its significant eight-point rise last year, has boosted its average class GMAT by 14 points since 2012 to a record 724. Wharton, despite reporting a two-point slippage in the last year, has increased its average by a dozen points to 730 in the past five years. That jump allowed Wharton to post slightly higher average GMAT scores than Harvard Business School, which saw a four-point increase last year to 729.

Top 50 With Biggest Five-Year Increases In GMAT Scores

 

SchoolFive-Year ChangeAverage 2016 GMATAverage 2012 GMAT
Michigan State (Broad)+29670641
Southern Methodist (Cox)+23662639
Washington (Foster)+23691668
Northwestern (Kellogg)+20728708
Rice (Jones)+17690673
Penn State (Smeal)+16659643
Illinois-Urbana-Champagne+15665650
MIT (Sloan)+14724710
Pennsylvania (Wharton)+12730718
Iowa (Tippie)+12677665
UCLA (Anderson)+11715704
Arizona State (Carey)+10682672
Georgia (Terry)+10647637

Source: Poets&Quants analysis from available GMAT data

  • The primary language of the country where the students completed their undergraduate degrees has to be a factor here. Students who studied from first grade to the end of their bachelor degrees in the USA, England, Canada, or India have an advantage over students who studied in Mexico, France, or Romania. The trends in GMAT scores have also showed that years after years since 1997, students have become better at taking the GMAT. The reasons probably include the advent of the Internet and online training that had led to more possibilities for preparing for the tests. The data do not show that students who passed the GMAT in 2016 are smarter than those who passed the GMAT in 2012 but rather the data show that the 2016 students were better prepared for taking the GMAt than the 2012 students. Hence, Business schools’ admissions officials need to consider other factors besides the GMAT,

  • Terry

    John- It’s such a disingenuous metric to use a standardized score to relate the quality of the program. We all know the GMAT is learnable, and given time constraints, many qualified candidates do not have the ability to allocate serious study to remedial coursework in English and maths.

    It’s also widely known that Asians in particular perform exceptionally well on the test, and many schools posted large increases to their Asian demographic as a result of disinterest from American students- namely, those students being unwilling to leverage up significant debt to obtain what’s becoming a rudimentary business curriculum.

  • get a life

    So you are dinged and you are from IIT? Lol..Get a life!

  • The Good Doctor

    Keep dreaming. Anyone can boost their score over 100 points with a long prep course and enough time. However, no one should should waste their time learning something they’ll never use again.

  • The Good Doctor

    “How much more should I be impressed by a 760 over a 730?”

    Zero. Learning GMAT won’t make you a better manager.

  • morning_in_america

    Simpler solution is for the top 20 schools to refuse to consider students who take the test more than 2 times, and to require all scores be sent, not just the best ones.

  • w3124

    As a recent admit to a Top 10 program, I think that the GMAT is truly but one element of the application (cue the “holistic” evaluation AdCom spiel). I retook my 670 and was fortunate to hit the 700 mark, which is within albeit on the lower end of the middle 80% GMAT range of my target schools. At that point I decided to invest the time into crafting my application/story and honestly believe that’s what got me in. I agree with some posts above in that there are diminishing returns when it comes to GMAT scores. With a 700 (89th %) and assuming you have a solid GPA, the academic proficiency box is checked. For reference I’m an Asian male in CA biotech with a 3.6 UG/3.9 MS GPA and 6 years WE in operations.

  • w3124

    As a recent admit to a Top 10 program, I think that the GMAT is truly but one element of the application (cue the “holistic” evaluation AdCom spiel). I retook my 670 and was fortunate to hit the 700 mark, which is within albeit on the lower end of the middle 80% GMAT range of my target schools. At that point I decided to invest the time into crafting my application/story and honestly believe that’s what got me in. I agree with some posts above in that there are diminishing returns when it comes to GMAT scores. With a 700 (89th %) and assuming you have a solid GPA, the academic proficiency box is checked. For reference I’m an Asian male in CA biotech with a 3.6 UG/3.9 MS GPA and 6 years WE in operations.

  • Sarah

    Completely agree. One reason top B schools filled with Ivy league undergrads are those are some of the few capable enough to do well enough on the GMT to get in.

  • StraightTalk

    Hmm, you might be correct that there are diminishing returns to 760 versus 730, but it’s not really the case that it’s all study-able. It’s a standardized test and while people can increase their scores, there is definitely a limit to that increase based on generalized problem solving ability. You’re talking about a population of mostly ivy educated undergrads who are already good standardized test takers. You take the population at large and no way in hell is the average student studying their way up to a 760 on the GMAT – I don’t care if they spent 10 years non stop studying for it, they’re not getting there. Plenty of practice tests out there and more correlation between score and problem solving ability than score and time spent studying; I know people who got 790 on their first try and those who spent years studying struggling to get low 600’s.

  • M7 Admit

    Agreed. While GMATs are a good way to differentiate intelligent candidates from the masses, there a diminishing returns. Schools know this, but still play the game the USNWR has created by buying sky high GMATs

  • Andy

    Good luck!

  • Andy

    And this is why I’m retaking despite already having a 700. It really is amazing to think that a 700 is “disappointing” and puts you at a disadvantage, but I feel like in a couple years 700 will be considered well outside of target range for the top schools.

  • JohnAByrne

    If U.S. News were to no longer use GMATs in their ranking metrics, I predict that GMAT testing would fall at least 20% overnight. Many applicants wouldn’t have to take the test over and over again to get a better score and schools would immediately place less emphasis on standardized testing.

  • M7 Admit

    The increasing scores do not indicate higher quality applicants for the most part. It just means that applicants are not getting laid for 6 months while they study for the GMAT instead of 4 months as before.

    Fact is if you tell someone the need at least 7XX GMAT for admission, they will hit it eventually. USNWR should place diminishing values on GMAT scores above a certain point to halt this ridiculous trend so applicants can focus on work (I’d say around 720)

  • Gamingthesystem

    Interesting to see the clear intent by some programs to increase their GMAT scores over the years (MIT, Northwestern, Wharton) while others are more or less consistent (Tuck, Stern, Columbia). It seems to be an indicator of the school’s focus.

  • C. Taylor

    No prob., John. Thanks for your work in highlighting important topics.

  • fff

    oh shut up

  • C. Taylor, Thanks for catching the ASU error. It’s fixed now. Good point on the scores for Chinese and Indian candidates who are among those in the over-represented applicant pool today.

  • Underwhelmed

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve been really underwhelmed by the quality of Indian students at top MBA programs. They look great on paper but when we bring them in for interviews, we realize most of them lack soft skills and have terrible verbal communication. I wonder how they get past the b-school interviews.

  • C. Taylor

    The #44 entry for Arizona State has the correct GMAT for 2016 but is missing earlier data. The #36 double entry for Arizona State appears to have the correct scores for earlier years time shifted forwards.

  • Brandonb

    I believe that they should consider HOW the students study for the GMAT. Someone that enrolled in a prep course should not be on par with someone that only ran the free official practice tests. Of course, accurately gathering that information would be a big problem….

    Also, Duke is still under 700. Wow!
    To me that speaks very highly to the overall quality of their program. There must be some magic happening over there if they consistently place so well without heavily focusing on GMAT scores.

    I just applied to Duke during the final phase with a GMAT-710, IR-8, AWA-5.5. Wish me luck!

  • AP

    The thing that’s not talked about in terms of the GMAT is what has come to be expected from Indian and Chinese students. It’s obvious that no adcom will admit this, but the reality is that schools for some years now have been using Indian students with high GMAT scores as nothing more than means of increasing their average GMAT. There may well be a minimum requirement from Indian students in terms of their GMAT scores.

    This is even more evident when these students come to the States and while are good in terms of pure academic skills, lack enormously when it comes to interaction, social situations, etc.; areas, that are critical to get the most out of an MBA.

  • somsquared

    headline is not grammatically correct

  • MarketingMaven

    Hey John – caught a typo in the 2nd sentence of the 7th paragraph. “The school’s Class of 2018 had GMAT scores that ranged from a low of 590 to a high of 590.” The high should be 790, right? Surprised it wouldn’t be 800 though…

  • Question

    There has to be a point of diminishing returns with GMAT scores in evaluating a candidate. I know as a numerical value it’s an easy way to compare candidates (especially when the “bucketing” system is used).

    How much more should I be impressed by a 760 over a 730?

    Given what the test measures, it’s study-able and I would guess those with more resources (time or money) will tend to do better.

    Then you get into the argument of ORMs and how a high score is usually a must.

    Effing GMAT man.