700 is a magical number for MBA applicants. It is the GMAT score that breaks an invisible barrier. For some, it is a ‘predictor of success,’ a measure showing that a candidate can make it academically. Others consider it the point of diminishing returns, the time to shift towards positioning their achievements, assets, and ambitions in their essays and resumes.
Globally, the average GMAT score is 565. Elite programs didn’t earn their reputations by admitting the average. A 700 GMAT is the 88th percentile according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). In other words, just 12% of every test taken – or roughly 1 in every 10 – ultimately yield a score of 700 or above. In real numbers, just 32,500 of the 259,884 GMAT tests taken beat 700. A good number of those tests and the 700-plus scores, by the way, are taken by the same prospective students because GMAC only releases the number of tests taken and not the number of people who sit for the exam.
That number matters. At Harvard Business School, the average GMAT may be at 730, but the 85% range runs from 690-760. That means 700 and above applicants will get a second look, provided they differentiate themselves in other dimensions.
HIGHER NUMBERS, LOWER PERFORMANCE AMONG AMERICANS
You might expect the United States to produce the highest number of tests with 700 or above GMATs. Technically, you would be correct. In 2017, the 700 GMAT plane was broken 11,329 times by American test-takers. That’s 883 more tests than all of East and Southeast Asia, which includes China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand (among other countries). The American total more than doubles the number of 700 or above GMATs earned by prospective students from India. Not surprisingly, that number trickles down. Americans hold the majority of seats at elite MBA programs, including Harvard Business School (66%), Wharton (66%), and Stanford GSB (58%).
Alas, American volume doesn’t equate to American exceptionalism. Separating the percentage from the pool, American GMAT scores are rather pedestrian. Just 14.19% of American GMAT tests reached 700 or above in data from the GMAC’s latest Geographic Trend Report. That’s lower than India, Brazil, and Canada. More striking, it is nearly 11 points below Australia and the Pacific Islands.
The totals are even more stunning when you extend the universe out to a 600 mean GMAT. Just 41.95% of American GMAT tests hit 600 or above in 2017. That lags well behind top performers in their hemisphere, including Brazil (51.45%), Peru (48.14%), and Canada (46.74%). It also pales in comparison to the GMAT test-takers from India (53.99%), China (49.68%), Turkey (46.67%), and Russia (46.46%). Like previous years, Australia remains the envy of the world at 66.41% in this range.
TESTS DOWN AS SCORES RISE
That said, GMAT scores are on the rise around the world. From 2014-2017, the mean GMAT worldwide climbed from 549 to 564 (with 2018 coming in at 565). In India, for example, GMAT scores have risen by 8 points over the past five years. That improvement comes to 18 points in the United Kingdom and 20 points in the United States. Those numbers coincide roughly with some recent trends. For one, the percentage of women taking the GMAT rose by 3% from 2013-2017. At the same time, test-takers have grown younger, as the percentage of candidates younger has risen by 1.5%.
That’s not the only difference explains Vineet Chhabra, senior director and head of the GMAT product at GMAC, in a written statement to Poets&Quants. “The GMAT score performance across demographics has remained stable over time, though there are other external factors that help explain average reported GMAT scores rising in recent years,” Chhabra writes. “Shifts in the underlying candidate demographic mix have had a small, but predictable impact on calculated average scores and candidate-focused enhancements GMAC has made to the exam also have played a role, like the score preview feature. Candidates are now able to select the exam scores they want a school to see and cancel scores they don’t want to share with schools, and that contributes to a perception of score increases.”
Still, these score increases are coming at a time when the number of GMAT tests is down. After surging from 244,280 to 260,328 tests from 2014-2016, the number fell back to 250,761 in 2017 (and further slipped to 242,714 in 2018). Despite this, the percentage of applicants scoring 700 or above has continued to climb. Globally, this number has risen from 10.47% to 12.51%. That includes jumps in the United States (9.54% to 14.19%), Western Europe (10.54% to 12.27%), the Middle East (4.24% to 6.41%), and Africa (2.4% to 3.51%).
How many times did applicants score 700 or above in particular regions around the world in 2017? What were the scoring breakdowns in particular countries? How have these numbers changed from 2013 to 2017? Click on the links below to see detailed historical stats for your country and region.
Editor’s Note: 2018 GMAT range scoring data will be released by GMAC later in the fall.