INSEAD To Welcome Lower GMAT Scores

INSEAD Students

News abounds on the topic of ever-higher GMAT averages among the world’s top business schools. As P&Q reported recently, 20 schools saw double-digit average GMAT gains in 2021. This includes a 5-point jump for Stanford GSB, which boasts a record-setting 738 average. Both Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan have a 730 average, which for MIT is a 10-point jump. It’s no wonder the pursuit of how to increase your GMAT score has taken on obsessive importance for so many MBA applicants. 

That’s why it was so refreshing to speak with INSEAD Director of Admissions & Financial Aid Virginie Fougea, who says that INSEAD has decided to change the threshold of its GMAT requirements to welcome candidates with lower test scores. 

“Yes, we are making the threshold evolve – I did mention it in an INSEAD webinar for prospective applicants recently,” said Fougea. “A lower GMAT needs to be paired with strong academics for sure. However, we are welcoming applications from those with lower scores because if everything else is of good quality, we can either interview these applicants or ask them to retake a test. There is a lot of myth about the ideal GMAT score at INSEAD and some well-rounded applicants tend to exclude themselves just because of a lower GMAT. If they don’t apply with those “lower” scores, they will never consider INSEAD, which would be a pity.”


As former INSEAD Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, I applaud INSEAD’s confirmation that qualified applicants can demonstrate their academic capabilities in a range of ways beyond GMAT score. It’s also an astute acknowledgement of how the ever more competitive nature of testing and retesting has affected the applicant pool. 

In our conversation, Fougea and I discussed how, for example, a 70th percentile on the quant nowadays is not equivalent to a 70th percentile a few years back. Says Fougea, “It is much harder now to get a 70% because of all the retakes and people who prepare for the GMAT quant particularly. We have admitted, and have on the programme now, people who are doing well academically, with quant around 50% and reassurances elsewhere.”

The practice of publishing the score range attained by the mid-80% range of candidates has become commonto give applicants a sense of where MBA admissions sets the bar. It can certainly be helpful for applicants to discern areas they may need to convey in their application given any potential gaps or gauge their competitiveness. However, these ever-higher median scores can also discourage applicants from picturing themselves at their dream school. As we often advise our Fortuna Admissions clients, don’t be misled by the summary statistics of the incoming class profile – adcoms are looking for diversity, not cookie-cutter candidates.

Caroline Diarte Edwards is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former INSEAD director of admissions, marketing, and financial aid.

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