An Early Look At The Latest GMAT Scores

Studying for the GMAT

If you were thinking that average GMAT scores at the leading business schools could not possibly go higher than they already are, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

According to a new analysis of test scores by Poets&Quants, nearly every Top 10 U.S. school is reporting higher average GMAT scores for the past year with only a couple of exceptions: Wharton which maintained its already high 730 average and 740 median, and MIT Sloan which slipped a mere two points to 722. The largest jump for a Top 10 player goes to UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. At Haas, the incoming MBA class sports a record high 725 average, an eight-point rise from the previous year’s 717.

Most of the schools ranked among the Top 10 had gains of about four points, including Chicago Booth and Columbia Business School. The four-point boost in the average at Chicago led to a ten-point rise in the school’s median GMAT to 740, equal to Wharton and ten points higher than Harvard. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School moved its GMAT average by five points to a record 722, from 717 a year earlier. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business matched Haas’ eight-point gain, going to an average of 716 from 708.

KELLOGG’S RECORD 732 GMAT AVERAGE FOR INCOMING MBA STUDENTS PUTS IT SECOND BEHIND ONLY STANFORD

Yet, the biggest GMAT news clearly goes to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.The school’s new 732 average allowed Kellogg to leap frog Wharton with the second highest reported GMATs of any prestige business school in the world with the exception of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Though Stanford has yet to report its final numbers, admissions chief Kirsten Moss revealed in June that the new average was expected to hit 740, up three points from the previous year’s 737 mark. (After the publication of this article, Stanford finally released its numbers and they are unchanged. See New MBA Application Record At Stanford GSB).

The biggest year-over-year gain for any Top 25 school will, no doubt, be a surprise. It’s Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business which is reporting a whopping 21-point jump to an average GMAT of 711, from 690 a year earlier. Even more impressive, the average GMAT score for an incoming class of MBAs at Jones was only 676 two years ago. That’s a 35-point increase in merely two years.

Even several international schools are getting into the ever escalating GMAT game. At INSEAD, for example, the GMAT average for the latest incoming class of MBAs reached 712, up four points form the previous year’s 708. At Cambridge Judge Business School, average GMATs rose a half dozen points to696, from 690.

THE BIGGEST DECLINES? NOTRE DAME & OXFORD

Not all schools, of course, have released their final class profiles for this year’s incoming classes. But our analysis of both publicly available and requested data shows that many of the best schools are still hiking their reported standardized test scores. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School, for instance, saw a 12-point rise this year to a 703 average from 691.

Even some schools where MBA applications dipped were able to eke out gains on GMAT scores. At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where apps to the full-time MBA program fell by 18.6% last year, posted an eight-point rise in average GMATs to 678 from 670 a year earlier. That’s a little like defying gravity.

Not every school saw GMAT rises this year, however. That is also somewhat inevitable because the better schools appear to be dipping into the applicant pools of lesser rivals to fish out the candidates with the highest standardized test scores. Among the largest declines reported this year were Notre Dame University’s Mendoza School of Business, where the GMAT average dropped nine points to 674 from 683, and Oxford’s Said Business School, which lost seven points on its GMAT average of 685 this year.

AVERAGE VS. MEDIAN: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Most schools provide both averages and medians, but not all do so. Harvard Business School, for example, is now only revealing median GMAT and median GRE scores, the latter having been disclosed for the first time this year, along with the full range of scores for enrolled students. The reason: A spokesperson for the school explains that an average number “makes applicants much more anxious and concerned about the GMAT than the median – and that high anxiety level is something we have long been trying to counteract by emphasizing that the tests (GMAT and GRE) are just one of the many things they consider in the admissions process.

“Somehow, the average is much more of a red flag in people’s psyche’s than a median (below average, above average are part of everyday language).  This gives applicants a sense of the range of scores, rather than lead them to focus on one number that hangs over them like the proverbial sword of Damocles.”

For the record, HBS did reveal its average GMAT score last year: 729, just a point below the 730 median. The median GRE scores for this year’s entering MBA class are 164 for both the verbal and quant sections of the test. That roughly translates into a 710, 20 points under the actual 730 median GMAT score at Harvard, based on the score comparision tool from the Educational Testing Service, the administrator of the GRE.

LOWEST GMAT REPORTED BY A PRESTIGE BUSINESS SCHOOL FOR AN ENTERING MBA? 530

For schools that report the full range of GMATs for newly enrolled students, the lowest GMAT score was a 530 reported by three schools: Wharton, Columbia, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Given the averages and medians at those schools, an admit with a 530 is clearly an anomaly.

At Wharton, a 530 is 200 points below the class average and 210 points below the median of 740. That’s the difference between being in the 96th percentile on the exam, meaning that only 4% of test takers did better, and the 36th percentile, meaning that 64% of those who took the test outscored the person. A 530, in fact, is even below the average score for the test which is now 556.

What hasn’t changed is the school leader in GMATs: Stanford GSB.For Stanford, the expected 740 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. 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.

‘IT’S ONE DATA POINT, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT’

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.

When Stanford’s head of admissions disclosed the 740 number at CentreCourt, a Poets&Quants‘ MBA admissions event, she was almost apologetic about it. “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.”

That’s for sure.

(See following page for the latest GMAT averages, medians, ranges and year-over-year changes)

  • Beta

    They can also have 770. If there are 100 students and they are arranged in increasing GMAT score and say 11 guys after the 89th guy all have 770. Then 80% will be 770 and full range will also be 770.

  • Cam

    Ah yes of course

  • jim

    sloan does not have anything close to that

  • CJ

    Wharton and Booth have 730 averages, but is that correct they have 740 medians? I have not seen any sources for that.

  • cameroncankaya@gmail.com

    Wharton and Sloan have

  • OAK

    not an IQ test- keep telling yourself that

  • Oak, As you point out, GMAT is only one component of an application, however important. For a more complete picture of exceptional applicants who didn’t make the cut, check out our features that examine in detail the profiles of exceptional candidates who have been dinged from top schools. Here’s just one of them:

    https://poetsandquants.com/2015/10/25/you-wont-believe-who-harvard-business-school-rejected-this-month/

  • mark

    the slow and steady fall

  • jeze

    The video interview verifies that the applicants have amazing interpersonal skills and extraordinarily high emotional intelligence. Duh

  • OAK

    You can go to other sites that post the real time admissions decisions by candidate (clearadmit, gmatclub) and see the hundreds of 740+ candidates that don’t even get to the interview round at HBS and MIT. Seems to me they are looking for something different in a candidate, rather than the GMAT score alone…

  • The MBAdataguru forecasts need to be treated with some skepticism because they are based on small self-reported samples of the actual data. That is the best he could do at the time because unless you work inside an admissions office, you are not going to see this actual data.

  • Sam

    Hi John, I believe Columbia’s average GMAT last year was 717, not 720. Could you double check?

  • Cam

    What does the video interview have to do with this discussion in any way?

  • jeze

    Kellogg has a video interview, so clearly your worry is unfounded Cam. LOL

  • Melanie

    Agree- MIT scores have been embarrassing for years. HBS is joining them. SOM is in HBS territory now.

  • OAK

    Suuuuure….. I have no doubt those are great schools, but you cannot base the “top 4” ranking on GMAT alone. If that were the case Yale SOM would be right up there (NOT!). Can’t have the top 4 without Harvard and even throw in MIT Sloan in there as well, which many people pick over Booth & Kellogg

  • Cam

    I honestly hope it doesn’t work as much as I love Kellogg. If they succeed in rising in the rankings simply because they jacked up their average GMAT it will only add fuel to the fire of creating a GMAT arms race where the top 5 or 10 programs that all have insanely deep applicant pools start to place more weight on GMAT simply for the sake of rankings.

  • yamin

    None of those top schools has a 800 score, while it happens at non US schools such as London and INSEAD. Perhaps for the first time.

  • Delta

    Mostly 780s and a couple of 790s. Surreal! What is the acceptance rate like for people with 780s? MBAdataguru numbers look suspect.

  • Remember that a GMAT score is not the equivalent of an IQ test and that EQ is more important to career success, assuming a slightly above average level of intelligence.

  • Or higher.

  • Spartan22

    The fact that they can boost their GMAT scores at will without screwing up their employment stats is probably a decent proxy for school quality. The applicant pool has to be extremely deep for this to happen, otherwise every lower ranked school would be able to do the same to boost their ranking.

    TL;DR it takes a high quality applicant pool to successfully game the rankings

  • Delta

    With middle 80% for Wharton at 770, does that mean 10% of the batch has a 780?

  • somsquared

    Lol other schools can’t get close to matching SOM. Whartonites going into cardiac arrest because their scores didn’t change!!

  • somsquared

    lol other schools can’t get close to matching SOM. Whartonites having cardiac arrest because their GMAT did not rise!

  • Anon

    whatever you are smoking, it’s potent… you should bottle it up and sell it to Yale SOM.

  • trey

    It’s pretty clear that the top 4 schools are Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, and Wharton. If you go to those elite schools, you’re likely pretty smart.

  • True

    That is probably true.

  • Cam

    Does anyone actually think Kellogg’s huge jump in GMAT is a reflection of the candidates? It feels like an open secret that they’re blatantly just trying to boost in rankings because of Booth’s rise the last few years.