Average GRE Scores At The Top Business Schools

Of nearly 50 top business schools examined by Poets&Quants, 18 saw more than 20% of their applicants submit GRE scores, up from only eight schools last year. Learn more about average GRE scores for top mba programs

Of nearly 50 top business schools examined by Poets&Quants, 18 saw more than 20% of their applicants submit GRE scores, up from only eight schools last year

The rise of the GRE continues unabated — for the most part. The Graduate Record Exam is becoming the preferred test for an increasing number of students, and an increasing number of candidates are getting into business schools by submitting GRE scores rather than — or in addition to — scores from the traditionally preferred Graduate Management Admission Test.

An analysis by Poets&Quants of 50 elite MBA programs shows that while some have seen a slight decrease in the percentage of admits with GRE scores, far more have seen an uptick — something easier to define as students incline toward the GRE or choose to take both tests, and as schools increasingly make GRE score averages and related statistics available to the public.

The stigma long attached (fairly or unfairly) to the GRE is fading, and the exam is becoming a legitimate avenue for B-school aspirants.

EIGHT SCHOOLS SURPASS 30% IN ADMITS WITH GRE SCORES

Eleven schools saw a drop in GRE admits between 2015 and 2016, though of those declines, six were of just 1 percentage point. On the other hand, 24 schools saw increases, ranging from 1 percentage point to 24 points in a single year. While nine schools continue to have GRE admits in the single-digit percentages, 18 have eclipsed 20% and eight have surpassed 30%, led by Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, where a remarkable 42% of the 2016 intake were admitted with GRE scores.

Other notable schools: Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School (39%, up from 15% in 2015), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business (36%), Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (35%, up from 12% in 2015), Washington University’s Olin Business School (34%), and the university of Georgia’sTerry School of Business (31%). The previous year’s high-level mark for GRE scores was owned by Yale School of Management, with 23%.

At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the percentage of admits with GRE scores tripled in the three years from 2013 to 2015, from 4% to 12%. Last year it dipped to 11%, but according to Anneli Richter, assistant dean of admissions, that may be an aberration.

“We accept both GRE and GMAT scores,” Richter tells Poets&Quants. “We have seen an increasing trend of students taking both tests. In those cases, our admissions team evaluates candidates based the strongest score. We feel both tests gauge academic readiness and our team values them equally.

“We are seeing a slight increase in GRE scores submitted (in 2017), but it’s premature to give a final tally since applications are still open.”

STIGMA AROUND ‘NON-GMAT’ OPTION DISAPPEARING

Richter and other admissions officers say they have no preference between the GRE and GMAT. The biggest shift, consultants say, is in the attitude of applicants.

“MBA applicants are finally comfortable with the notion of taking the GRE instead of the GMAT,” says Dan Bauer, chairman and founder of academic and career counseling consultancy The MBA Exchange. “In prior years, most candidates found it difficult — or even embarrassing — to accept the fact that they simply couldn’t crack the GMAT, even after multiple attempts. Those individuals felt that opting for the GRE would confirm their ‘weakness’ and thus constrain their chances for admission. However, as more B-school websites and blogs have confirmed that adcoms are now officially indifferent between the two tests, more MBA candidates have overcome their reluctance to go with the GRE. The stigma surrounding the ‘non-GMAT’ option is disappearing by the day.

Harvard Law School’s much-ballyhooed decision to open its doors to GRE takers won’t have much effect on business schools, which already have largely come to accept the exam, Bauer says. But the reverberations are being felt nevertheless, he says.

“As with business schools, Harvard Law School’s decision to accept the GRE as an alternative to its traditional admission test (LSAT) is motivated by their need to grow the applicant pool,” Bauer says. “The only impact on business schools that we envision is that, if and when more law schools follow Harvard’s lead, more MBA applicants will pursue JD/MBA dual degrees, since there’s no longer a need to take a second test. Other graduate programs that are more likely to feel the impact of Harvard’s move are Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Administration programs — e.g., Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School, etc. Applicants to MPP and MPA programs will be more likely to add JD programs to their target list, since the same GRE test can be used for all.”

REPORTING, NOT REPORTING, SCORING HIGH, SCORING LOW

Even as the GRE gains acceptance, some major schools refuse to report GRE scores — notably Harvard Business School, but also the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, among others. These schools aren’t declining to accept students who take the GRE; they are simply not reporting scores, as a way to insulate the school from the repercussions of admitting students with lower scores. If no GRE scores are reported, then those scores can’t impact a school’s ranking.

Its a practice that may soon end. Robert J. Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News & World Report, which does the most complete annual ranking of MBA programs, told Poets&Quants last year that U.S. News may adjust its ranking calculation for schools that fail to report GRE scores.

What kind of scores would a prestige B-school be proud to report? Once again in 2016, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has the answer. The school led all elite programs with a 165 Quant score and a 329 total score, and was third on the writing score (4.9) behind the only two schools to score a 5.0: the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business. Stanford edged out Yale School of Management by 1 total point, though Yale topped all schools with a 165 Verbal score. Rounding out the top five in total GRE score were the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (326), NewYork University’s Stern School of Business (324), and Georgia Tech University’s Scheller College of Business (324).

On the other end of the spectrum, the top school with the lowest scores was the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, with a 153 Verbal and 152 Quant. Katz also had the second-lowest score in the writing portion of the test, at 3.8. The lowest in writing? The University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management, with a 3.7.

(See the following pages for tables showing percentages of GRE admits and GRE scores for top business schools.)

  • I completely agree with you! Another example of this is how HBS only discloses its median GMAT on its class profile but provides U.S. News an average because the magazine counts averages and not medians in its ranking. You’ll find quite a few of these discrepancies on a number of stats.

  • JamesP89

    I’m surprised that people in the admissions offices at these top schools don’t have a general idea of how the U.S. News ranking process works–people seem to care a lot about rankings. But I suppose it could be a lack of communication.

    What’s more interesting to me is that the U.S. News states that it factors GRE scores into the rankings so if that’s true and if the school is already reporting those stats anyway, why not put them on the class profile for free?

    I don’t know the detailed calculation of the Test Score part of the rankings. If the methodology converts GRE to GMAT using the ETS tool then I understand overall test scores will drop because all the school’s have GRE scores that are less (sometimes significantly) than their average GMAT scores.

    However if the Test Score component of the rankings is based on a comparison between the schools and GMAT and GRE scores are considered separately and proportionally then really there is no risk to the schools in showing the GRE stats. They would just need to have better score GMAT to GMAT vs. peers and better scores GRE to GRE vs. peers. What probably will happen by revealing the GRE stats on the class profile will be to encourage better GRE takers to submit scores as the average GRE scores seem more manageable to hit for most students at this point. GRE scores clearly have yet to experience the inflation that the GMAT scores have gone through in the last 15+ years. By revealing the stats the schools will attract higher GRE scorers thus raising averages and the schools rankings.

  • JohnAByrne

    U.S. news didn’t make the numbers up. The schools supplied the data. Often times, a person in admissions will not be involved in the completion of the U.S. news form so they don’t really no, except for the director of admissions. I think U.S. News will continue to keep this behind a paywall but as you point out more schools are disclosing this data in their class profiles. I predict many will follow HBS’ lead this year.

  • JamesP89

    Hi John,

    Can you verify that this data is indeed self-reported, i.e. the schools themselves send the data to the USNWR?. I called several top schools to confirm the GRE data. None did. They all said that they do not send GRE scores or GMAT scores to outside agencies. They also all said in one way or another that “they do not have enough student data on the GRE to release statistics on it.” I honestly do not believe these schools since it’s been 7 or 8 years since many began accepting it.

    With many schools posting their GREs this year on their class profiles (HBS, Wharton, Yale, Michigan, MIT) can we expect that the other schools will follow next year? and can we expect the USNWR to publish GRE scores, not behind a pay wall, but in the actual magazine?

    Thanks,

    James

  • hbsguru

    that is ~740+ GMAT, I’d stick with it.

  • Alfredo

    UPDATE: I decided to retake and my new score was Q:163 and V:168. I’m 99% sure I’m going to stick with that score, but I figured a second opinion couldn’t hurt. Thoughts?

  • Marc Ethier

    The links below the two tables have been fixed. Thank!

  • Rest assured, I do not work for any MBA admissions consulting firm and have no intention of doing so. Some of these firms advertise on our site and, of course, we have the most complete directory of consultants and firms on our site. But I have never consulted. So perhaps someone is misrepresenting me. Name the firm and let’s put it out there!

    As for the data, it all is self-reported by the schools to U.S. News which uses GRE data, just as it uses GMAT data, to rank MBA programs. That data is available to anyone if they pay for it because it’s behind a wall. Some schools, however, refuse to provide this data. In that case, we went to the schools and asked for the numbers.

  • Michael

    John – Thank you for the reply. Just two notes:

    1- My information regarding the consulting company is coming straight from an info meeting I had with one of their consultants in NYC while they were trying to pitch their services. They may be misrepresenting your name so I’d look into that. I may have misunderstood but the context was pretty clear and went something like:
    “how do we know the Yale and Stanford numbers are real from the 2016 P&Q post?”
    “Our director is also the director of Poets&Quants and maintains great relationships with the admissions folks at each school, so he called them up and they gave him the information.”

    2- The data source link under the table leads us to the US News listing of “Best Undergraduate Business Programs.” In another one of the Poets and Quants posts, I believe it was mentioned that the schools are not yet reporting their GRE scores, as to not affect their rankings and leave them with some leeway to admit lower scoring candidates that they still want. Can you clarify?

    Thank you

  • First off, there is no director of Poets&Quants. I am the sole founder, owner and editor-in-chief of Poets&Quants. I do not do MBA admissions consulting. Never have and never will. The source for all the data in the article are the schools. They report this information to U.S. News as part of its annual MBA ranking. That is made clear in the source note on the tables. So if you have faith that the schools are honestly reporting this information, you can treat it seriously. You also should know that if U.S. News believes a school is misreporting data, the school would be removed from its ranking–a pretty severe penalty that could result in a great deal of disruption for a school.

  • Michael

    I have to ask – Where are these figures coming from? Tuck ranked 8th on US News averaging a 320?

    I know the Director of Poets & Quants is also the CEO of and MBA admissions consulting company, but what is the source of these figures? Are they coming directly from AdComs or are these just speculations? I ask because treating speculation as fact is a dangerous game that would impact a lot of MBA hopefuls. Please let us know how seriously we can treat this data.

  • hbsguru

    dunno man, that is OK profile, and I do not think Stanford outcome is going to turn on GRE (ditto other M7 schools). I’d highlight Stat and Econ and any quant parts of your Ec Development job in some brief note explaining why low-ish Q score is not going to predict success at Stanford.
    That said, it is always hard to answer the question, duh, if you really, really want to go why not take GRE again and see what happens. If you have low GMAT or GRE, schools do kinda expect that you retake it once before going into EXPLAIN mode, something I can see.
    Not super clear in your case. On the other hand, you can only go to business school once, not true about taking GMAT/GRE.

  • Alfredo

    Another quick thing – my GPA was a 3.80 which I noticed is above average for any M7. Not sure if that plays any role in combination with test scores, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention.

  • Alfredo

    Thanks for the reply! To answer your questions – I hit most of the bonus points you outlined, but not all. I took Stats and several Econ classes in college and performed well in all of them. But my major was not quantitative by any means.
    Also, I’m a URM (Latino male) and coming from a relatively non-traditional background (TFA followed by international economic development).
    And on a related note, my assumption was that if my scores were good enough for Stanford, they’d be good enough for anywhere (including the other M7s that don’t report). Is that basically correct, or could my scores actually hurt more at other schools? If that’s the case, I’d probably want to retake, because I don’t exactly want to rest my M7 hopes on Stanford taking a chance on me!

  • OG

    Thanks for weighing in! I’m in a similar situation – same verbal score. My quant is a few points higher than Alfredo but still relatively low compared to verbal.

  • hbsguru

    grrrr. hard to say, to get one easy thing out of the way, have you taken Quant courses like
    Stats, Micro Econ, Calculus in college and gotten A’s?
    Just so we have some baseline ‘anchor’ that you can do the Quant work at Stanford.
    Also helps if your work has quant elements.
    Beyond that, it becomes a head game. Believe me, Stanford will take someone w. those very same GRE scores if they OTHERWISE super liked them. E.g. you are URM, or add some rare elements to the demo based on background, work, not being born on Earth but moving here at age 3 and learning how to breathe oxygen, etc.
    If you are instead fighting it out w. bankers, consultants and PE etc. white schmucks, etc. well, that little boo-boo could be an easy way for the Stanford Adcom to make a decision, they don’t really care who fills up the white, schmuck bucket, so why not go with stats as one strong filter. If they did that with you, it could be curtains.
    As to general question, do they just look at Total score vs. paying attention to the splits,
    well, once again, depends on what they want to do with you–if they want to ding you because are too vanilla for them, they will point to splits. If they want to take you, well they can point to total score and also chuckle that your admission will not cost them any “basis” points in the mag ratings.
    If you are white vanilla applicant, I’m not sure even getting all the GRE elements up to average would help. I’d be REAL interested in the number of vanilla bean admits (excluding guys who come fr. strong feeder firms that always place 6/7 applicants a year at Stanford etc, or have other connections, etc. ) present even AVERAGE stats. The vanilla beans is the cohort Stanford uses to get those high average scores in the first place.

  • Alfredo

    FWIW, I should mention the Quant score was several points lower than my more recent practice tests (161-166). I’m sure the experimental section and early start time hurt me a little. So I’m confident I could go up on a retake. But my verbal and AW were pretty great this time, so who knows if they’d go down. Just want to make sure it’s worth it before moving forward.

  • Alfred

    Looking at these stats and I have a question. I took the GRE recently and I’ve been debating whether to retake. I know the GMAT score is a composite of the Verbal and Quant sections, which are also scored individually. But I’m confused as to how much the composite matters for the GRE.

    My overall score was a 327 (169V/158Q/6AW). This puts me within a 2 points of the Stanford average, or 1 point if you count AW. But my quant is significantly lower than their average. In this case, would my above average Verbal and AW scores (and nearly average overall score) keep me competitive for top schools, or would the low quant likely kill my chances?

    I won’t go into my whole profile here, but based on my GPA, work experience, and extracurriculars, I should be competitive for M7 with a good application. Don’t want the GRE to kill my chances, but I also don’t want to waste time on more studying unnecessarily.