Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has reached a new record GMAT score of 740 for its incoming MBA class this fall. For Stanford, the new average would reflect an 11-point jump in average GMAT scores in the past five years alone. Last year’s incoming class had a 737 GMAT average.
Though Stanford will not officially release its new class profile until late September, the new record was disclosed by Kirsten Moss, the newly named assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid. In recent years, Stanford has consistently boasted the highest average GMAT scores for any business school in the world, though that was not always the case. Back in 2004, for example, when Stanford’s GMAT average was merely 711–a full 29 points lower than the new number–Wharton led all schools with average class GMATs of 716. Two years later, in 2006, Wharton lost the lead to Stanford and never regained it.
Stanford stayed on top by reporting increases in its average GMAT scores for ten of the past 13 years. In only one year–2012–did the average fall and then by only a single point to 729 from 730. Still, with many of the elite MBA programs reporting ever higher averages, it will be hard for any other school to beat Stanford’s new record this year. Wharton last year was closest to Stanford with a 730 average, with Harvard Business School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management right behind it with averages of 729 and 728, respectively (see GMAT Percentile Scores By School).
‘I DON’T WANT TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE A 740 IN ORDER TO APPLY’
But a 740 average is a shockingly high hurdle for the vast majority of business school candidates. Only 3% of test takers achieve that level or above on a test with a maximum score of 800. Fewer than 7,500 test takers out of a total of roughly 190,200 in 2016 scored at that level or higher—and not all of them would have used the GMAT to apply to a two-year MBA program. Many applied to specialty master’s programs, part-time, executive and online MBA programs. Only 43% of test takers overall send their GMAT scores to full-time MBA programs.
Moss, appearing at the CentreCourt MBA Festival in San Francisco June 24th, conceded that she worried the new record could discourage quality candidates from applying to the school (see Facebook Live video for the full discussion). “Our score this year will be hovering in the class profile at 740 and that is hard for me honestly because I don’t want to send a message that you have to have a 740 in order to apply,” she said.
“But let’s face it. we are taking 5% (of applicants). So if you have time to practice for this test and you really want to go to Stanford and think you are one of those people who have made an impact in their community and is a leader, go take the test again because it will help. It’s one data point, (but) it is important.”
‘SOME OF MY FAVORITE ADMITS HAVE 500 GMATs AND WENT TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE’
In the previous year, the student who got in with the lowest GMAT score had a 590, while the highest reported score was 790. Hitting a 740 average means that many of the slightly more than 400 students who will enroll in what will be the Class of 2019 have GMATs considerably higher. Last year, a record 8,116 applicants sought the 417 seats in the class, roughly 19.5 candidates for every available seat. Stanford had the lowest acceptance rate of any prestige MBA program at 6%. Given Moss’ mention of a 5% acceptance rate, it’s likely the school has gotten even more selective in the most recently completed admissions round.
Despite the unprecedented GMAT average achieved this year, Moss suggested that among her favorite applicants are strivers with lower GMAT scores. “Some of my favorite admits is have 500 GMATs—because every year there will be some— who come from a community college and then worked really hard to get to a four-year program,” she said. “You will come in every shape and size. The only thing you need to tell me is how you have been this creative, curious learner and how you have touched people in your life. Because if you’re doing that then I want to know about you.”
Admission consultants expressed some surprise at the new record and, like Moss, worried that such high scores could make some candidates apply elsewhere or altogether opt out. “It is inevitable, as scores continue to inch higher each year, that some excellent candidates will not even bother to apply, as they will feel that perfectly acceptable scores make their candidacies less viable,” says Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions firm.
“It is disappointing, because the focus on averages doesn’t necessarily correlate with better applicants. An individual can prove his or her analytical competence with a GMAT score that is lower than a 740, of course. As Stanford strives to develop well rounded leaders and to present itself as a bastion of thought high-minded managerial leadership, they might take the pedal off an aspect of the application that–at these levels–is entirely superficial.”