What is a Good GMAT Score?

Applicant with GMAT score report

Applying to business school is never an easy process, especially when juggling your personal and professional life. You don’t want to take the GMAT more times than necessary, but you definitely want the highest possible chance to get into your target business schools.

Whether you should re-take the GMAT depends not only on the question of whether you already have a good GMAT score, but also on the question of how much effort it would take you to raise it.

If you have a great score, 770 or better, and you’ve already spent a lot of time on your GMAT study, you may be ready to move on. Everyone else should consider the merits of a retake, even if they’ve already achieved a good score. At many MBA programs, average GMAT scores are increasing (for example, see Poets&Quants article Columbia’s Average GMAT Soars 8 Points for Class of 2020), and raising your score can benefit you.

What Is a Good GMAT Score?

Rules of thumb such as “Anything over 730 or 740 is the same” are categorically false, which we’ll explain later when discussing how GMAT scores feed into MBA rankings.

Your target score depends on where you’re applying and on your profile (which determines who you’ll be compared against).

The starting point here is to research the average GMAT scores for your target schools (provided in the appendix at bottom) and use this as a baseline. A lower score may suffice if you have distinctive experiences or come from an under-represented group, but you may need to have an even higher score if you come from an over-represented group. Be honest about whether your experiences are truly distinctive; top MBA programs attract many accomplished applicants.

This average GMAT score, adjusted for your profile, can give you a guideline for the score that will make you competitive. You should also consider:

Watch our video to understand why you owe it to yourself to truly maximize your GMAT score:

Why Do Business Schools Care So Much About the GMAT?

There are several reasons why MBA admissions officers care about your GMAT score.

Good GMAT Scores Prove That You Can Handle the Coursework

Business schools look at your GMAT score to ensure that you can keep up with their academic program. Here, your score is used to evaluate whether you have the necessary quantitative, verbal, and critical thinking skills to complete the coursework, which includes subjects like finance, economics, and strategy. The #1 job of an admissions team is to recruit students who can succeed in the program!

Average GMAT Scores Drive MBA Rankings

Business schools care about rankings because… applicants care about rankings! When a school’s ranking improves, it will attract a larger and better-qualified pool of applicants. Enrolling a stronger group of students enhances the classroom experience and leads to better employment outcomes, both of which tend to further strengthen the school’s reputation and ranking. Naturally, business schools love this.

The GMAT comes into play here because it is a direct factor in MBA rankings — the 800-point total score, not the percentiles on individual sections, nor the integrated reasoning or analytical writing assessment scores. In business school rankings such as U.S. News, a school’s average GMAT score on the GMAT is a major ranking factor (U.S. News MBA ranking methodology), and one that the school can directly influence with its decisions.

MBA rankings process

The fact that these rankings use the average GMAT score (not the median) is the reason why every point matters. When calculating the average, it doesn’t matter whether student #1 increases from 680 → 690, or student #2 increases from 760 → 770. Both 10-point increases have the same positive impact on the average GMAT score, and therefore the school’s ranking.

The need to manage GMAT averages also explains why well-qualified applicants with high GMAT scores attract so many merit-based scholarships. Most top business schools, like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, have averages around 730. This means that a 740 score, “good” by most standards, is only +10 from a school’s average, but a 770 score is +40 points.

Those +40 points can be used to directly raise the average. The school can also choose to maintain its GMAT average while admitting students with lower GMAT scores but outstanding merits in other areas. Both of these outcomes are valuable to business schools, which explains why many schools use scholarships to incentivize students with high GMAT scores to enroll.

On the flip side, rankings mean that it can be difficult to win admission to top MBA programs like H/S/W with averages around 730 when your score is 670, 680 or 690, unless something else in your profile is highly valuable to the school. There are applicants with low scores admitted every year — even below these scores — but only when they bring something else valuable to the school.

GMAT Scores Matter to (Some) Post-MBA Employers

In many cases, your GMAT score is important in terms of potential employment opportunities. Many employers in finance and consulting (such as Bain, McKinsey, and BCG) use the GMAT as a factor when deciding which students to interview. Having a high score can position you as a strong candidate and give you a competitive edge.

How Much Effort Would it Take to Increase Your GMAT?

There are several clear indicators that you have extra points in the tank that could be unlocked with the right GMAT study plan.

MBA applicant studying for GMAT

Your (Official) Practice Exam Scores Were Higher Than Your Results on the Live Exam

Because the official practice exams include questions that have been used on past live exams, official practice exams are an accurate diagnostic tool for assessing your progress. (Read more about why you should trust only the official practice tests: Beware of Free GMAT Practice Tests). If you were overwhelmed on the day of the live GMAT and didn’t perform nearly as well as on your practice exam, you should consider retaking the exam.

You Never Used a Tutor

For the reasons described at Top GMAT Tutors: An MBA Applicant’s Best Friends, you should strongly consider using a tutor if you’ve relied on self study or group classes until now. Tutors can help you to reach a higher score, and to do so faster than you could on your own.

At Menlo Coaching, our GMAT prep program is designed around efficiency: we help you get you the maximum test results possible, in the least amount of time.

You Got a Great Score Even Without Studying

If you spent only a small amount of time studying for the GMAT, and got a high score anyway, you could score even higher with a small amount of additional study. We’ve seen talented applicants raise their scores from 750 → 770, or even 770 → 790, with modest investments in further study. It is not crazy to retake a 760 or a 770 if there are reasons to believe you could improve it without much effort.

As explained in the section about MBA rankings, the question is not “Is my score good enough?”, but “What’s the marginal effort to raise my score, and is it worthwhile?”

You’re a Great Test Taker But Didn’t Do Very Well on the GMAT

Graduated summa cum laude? Incredible score on the SAT or the ACT? If so, you should be able to score well on the GMAT. If your GMAT doesn’t measure up to your other academic achievements, it’s a sign that you should probably study more and retake.

Other GMAT Questions

How Does the GMAT Score Chart Translate my Raw Scores Into an 800-Point Score?

Good question. We discuss this fully at GMAT Score Chart. Understanding the scoring table can help you to figure out whether to study for the verbal section or the quantitative section.

Is it OK to Take the GMAT Multiple Times?

Yes. In fact, taking the GMAT more than once can show your desire to improve your profile. We once coached an applicant with a low GMAT score who had been waitlisted at a Top 10 program. We advised him to retake immediately, which he did, scoring 20 points lower than his existing score. Shortly after that, the school called to admit him! They told him that they appreciated the effort and saw it as a sign of the effort he’d put into the MBA program.

Taking the GMAT once, getting an OK-but-not-great score, and moving on can signal the opposite. Don’t let the school believe that you shy away from putting effort into self-improvement!

I Got 60th Percentile on Quantitative, But 90th on the Verbal, So I’ll Focus on Quant Because I Want to Get to 80th Percentile on Both.

This is a big mistake that can cause you to waste time chasing a near-perfect Quantitative score when you could have raised your overall 800-point score much faster by focusing on the Verbal. In another article, we talk about GMAT percentiles and why they don’t usually matter. There’s a rarely discussed issue that we explain fully: the percentile curve is broken by test takers from STEM backgrounds who are unlikely to be admitted to MBA programs even with a perfect Q51.

Looking for test prep? Learn more about our GMAT tutoring services.

Appendix: Average GMAT Scores at Top MBA Programs

To get an idea of how competitive your GMAT score is, review the average GMAT score of your target school. Many business schools’ admissions websites state the average GMAT of their incoming students, like this one from Harvard Business School.

Class profiles are also a great source of information to discover how you compare to the school’s average GMAT. Not only that it allows you to gain a better understanding of how you might fit into the class in terms of undergraduate major, work experience, and demographics.

Here’s a quick overview of average GMAT scores for some of the top ranking business schools (source: Poets&Quants).

Business School2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
HBS730 *729725726727
MIT Sloan728722724716713
Ross (University of Michigan)720716708708702
Yale SOM724727725721719
Darden (UVA)718713712706706
Johnson (Cornell)699700700697692
Fuqua (Duke)704702695696690

(*) As of 2018, HBS publishes median scores rather than mean scores.