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GMAT Percentiles (And Why They Don’t Really Matter) – Updated for 2024

Let’s dive into this year’s GMAT percentiles for the Quant and Verbal sections of the exam and discuss why GMAT percentiles might not matter as much as you think.

Skip Ahead to Legacy GMAT Percentiles.

Skip Ahead to GMAT Focus Edition Percentiles.

Legacy GMAT Quant and Verbal Scores, with Percentiles

GMAT Quant Percentiles

Quant ScorePercentile
5197%
5086%
4974%
4867%
4760%
4657%
4554%
4448%
4345%
4241%
4138%
4036%
3933%
3831%
3729%
3626%
3524%

Quant Score5150494847464544434241403938373635
Percentile97%86%74%67%60%57%54%48%45%41%38%36%33%31%29%26%24%

GMAT Verbal Percentiles

Verbal ScorePercentile
5199%
5099%
4999%
4899%
4799%
4699%
4599%
4498%
4296%
4194%
4090%
3989%
3885%
3782%
3680%
3576%

Verbal Score51504948474645444241403938373635
Percentile99%99%99%99%99%99%99%98%96%94%90%89%85%82%80%76%

(Source: MBA.com; Verbal score percentile for 43 omitted in source)

How are GMAT Percentiles Calculated?

It borders on a cliche that MBA applicants want to achieve an 80th percentile GMAT score on both the Quantitative and Verbal sections. This probably comes from the idea that acceptance rates at top MBA programs tend to be as low as 10-20%. Logically, it seems like being in the top 20% on both sections of the GMAT exam would make you more likely to be accepted. But is this rule of thumb really true?

GMAT percentiles are calculated by GMAC, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which owns and operates the GMAT.

In the Legacy version of the GMAT, they compare your scaled Quant and scaled Verbal scores, which have score ranges from 6 to 51, to other test takers. This is separate from your total GMAT score, which can range from 200 to 800 points.

Following changes to the structure of the GMAT exam in 2023, the GMAT Focus Edition includes an additional “Data Insights” section. As a result, the GMAC now compares your scaled Quant, Verbal, and Data Insights scores, which range from 60 to 90, to the scaled scores of other test takers. GMAT Focus Edition takers will receive a separate total score between 205 and 805, increasing in 10-point increments.

For both exams, your percentile for each section of the GMAT represents the percentage of applicants you outperformed on that section.

So, for example, if you score in the 80th percentile on the Verbal section, you did better than 80% of all other test takers on that section. By definition, the percentile ranges from just above zero, to 99.99. (You can’t reach 100th percentile because you can’t outperform yourself on the GMAT.)

Finally, you will receive an overall GMAT percentile score based on your total GMAT score. If you score highly, your overall GMAT percentile will probably be higher than either your Quant percentile or your Verbal percentile. This is normal and reflects the fact that although many people score well on one section or the other, only a small number score highly on both sections.

As of 2022, the overall average (legacy) GMAT score is 582.34 points, which is around 40th percentile. (The average would fall at the 50th percentile only if scores were evenly distributed above and below the average, which is not the case.)

For the GMAT Focus Edition, the average score across all applicants is 546.01 as of 2024, which is around the 35th percentile.

What does it actually look like to get into the 80th percentile on the Quant section of the GMAT Focus Edition? As of 2024, you need a relatively high score: 83 out of 90 points! Dropping just 3 points can bring you down to a 66th percentile score.

However, the Data Insights section on the GMAT Focus Edition is slightly more forgiving, and you can get an 80th percentile score with 79 out of 90 points. Tables of GMAT Focus percentiles, broken out by Quant, Verbal, and Data Insights are below.

GMAT Focus Edition Quant, Verbal, and Data Insights Scores, with Percentiles

GMAT Focus Edition Quant Score Percentiles

GMAT Focus Edition Quant Score Percentiles
Quant Score Percentile
90 100
89 97
88 95
87 94
86 92
85 89
84 85
83 81
82 76
81 71
80 66
79 59
78 52
77 46
76 40
75 35
74 29
73 25
72 21
71 17
70 14
69 12
68 9
67 7
66 5
65 4
64 3
63 2
62 1
GMAT Focus Edition Quant Percentiles. Source: GMAC.

GMAT Focus Edition Verbal Score Percentiles

GMAT Focus Edition Verbal Score Percentiles
Verbal Score Percentile
90 100
89 100
88 99
87 99
86 98
85 96
84 91
83 86
82 79
81 70
80 60
79 51
78 42
77 33
76 25
75 19
74 14
73 11
72 8
71 5
70 4
69 3
68 2
67 2
66 1
65 1
64 1
63 1
62 1
61 1
GMAT Focus Edition Verbal Percentiles. Source: GMAC.

GMAT Focus Edition Data Insights Score Percentiles

GMAT Focus Edition Data Insights Score Percentiles
Data Insights Score Percentile
90 100
89 100
88 99
87 99
86 99
85 99
84 98
83 96
82 94
81 90
80 86
79 79
78 73
77 66
76 58
75 51
74 45
73 39
72 34
71 28
70 24
69 20
68 17
67 14
66 12
65 10
64 8
63 7
62 6
GMAT Data Insights Percentiles. Source: GMAC.

The difference is noticeable and clearly something else is at work on the value of your GMAT score. In order to understand the average GMAT score, we need to look at the pool of GMAT test takers.

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Who Takes the GMAT?

The pool of GMAT test takers is very different from the pool of admitted students to the best business schools. There are a huge number of test takers with engineering or scientific backgrounds who may want to be admitted to a top MBA program… but do not have a suitable professional profile.

For example, imagine an applicant who was educated in China as a software engineer, and then worked as a programmer for six years on back-end software systems with zero client or partner interactions. Furthermore, imagine that the primary language at work is Mandarin. He may be amazing at what he does and have a promising career in software engineering. Such an applicant may have no difficulty in the quant section and score a perfect 90. On the Verbal section, because English is his second language, he scores lower, perhaps 75 out of 90.

A business school admissions committee is unlikely to admit him because:

Nevertheless, because of the incredible value of a top MBA, applicants like this take the GMAT anyway in the hopes of an acceptance letter. Unfortunately, without these other prerequisites, no amount of success on the GMAT will turn the odds in their favor.

Working with an MBA application consultant can help you strengthen your application and boost your profile to ensure you submit the best possible application.

Distorting the GMAT Percentile

There are thousands of GMAT test takers fitting this type of profile. Thousands of 89 or 90 Quant scores and 75 to 80 Verbal scores massively distort the average GMAT score percentiles and, as a result, it can seem to many applicants like they score very well on Verbal and very poorly on Quant.

But because those Q89 / V75 applicants were unlikely to be admitted for other reasons, they aren’t actually your competition when it comes to your own application. This distortion is why it is important to break down the average GMAT scores. Understanding what the stats behind the official GMAT score report mean in context, allows you to approach the test in a more level-headed manner.

It is always best to aim high, however, it is not always necessary to spend all your energy on getting the perfect score. The overall GMAT score only makes sense when you approach it holistically, meaning, that you focus on how it relates to your background and general profile. So how do you apply this information in your application?

What GMAT Score Do You Need?

Looking beyond the high average score, there is, of course, still a minimum bar on the Quant and Data Insights sections that you will have to clear. Business schools will need to feel comfortable that you can handle the finance and economics coursework, so it’s important that you don’t do abysmally. There is no specific cut-off, but depending on how much quantitative ability is visible in the rest of your background, you should probably aim to score in at least the high 70s in order to be a serious contender. There may be people admitted with lower official GMAT scores, but having a respectable Quant and Data Insights score will be part of most strong MBA applications.

Once you clear the bar on the quantitative side, the real trick of the GMAT is to get the highest possible 805 point score. In short, schools need to maintain certain GMAT averages in order to maintain their MBA rankings in publications like the U.S. News MBA Ranking. Thus, once you prove that you can handle quantitative coursework, the total score becomes more important than the Q / V / DI split.

Planning for the GMAT Based on Your Needs

Each applicant should set their target GMAT score with reference to their background and their target schools. We describe how to do this at Is Your GMAT Score Good Enough?, show a table of GMAT scores by school, and provide guidance on whether you should retake the test given your MBA profile and GMAT study history.

So, there you have it. Don’t stress out about your percentile score, least of all aiming for a near-perfect Q90. You can spend the time you might have wasted on trying to raise your Quant percentile on the rest of your MBA application, and refer to our MBA applications and admissions guide. Or, save even more time by working with one of our MBA admissions consultants—they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Are you seeking a reliable GMAT prep course to achieve your target score? We also offer a comprehensive GMAT prep course to help you prepare effectively.

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