A good Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score is one that helps you reach your goals, whether that involves admission into a specific MBA program or earning a merit scholarship at your desired university.
Since everyone has different goals, what qualifies as a good GMAT score for you may be different than your friend or colleague. Determining your target GMAT score can help you figure out what “good” looks like for you.
GMAT score ranges
The GMAT is scored across four sections:
Analytical Writing Assessment, with scores ranging from 0 to 6
Integrated Reasoning, with scores ranging from 1 to 8
Verbal, with scores ranging from 6 to 51
Quantitative, with scores ranging from 6 to 51
In addition to individual scores for each section, you’ll also receive a Total Score, composed of your Verbal and Quantitative scores. The GMAT Total Score range is 200 to 800. Of all the score areas, this is the score that most MBA programs tend to focus on.
To determine what a good GMAT score for you might be, you’ll need to decide what you’re comparing your score to.
Commonly, you can use averages and percentiles to determine how well you did on the exam compared to other test takers. Perhaps a more actionable metric might be to compare your score to that of other test takers with goals similar to yours: your target score.
Let’s take a closer look at how to interpret each of these means of comparison.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)—the body that administers the GMAT exam—two-thirds of GMAT test takers receive a Total Score between 400 and 600. The average score among all test takers in the past three years is about 568.
The average scores broken down by section are :
Analytical Writing Assessment: 4.43/6
Integrated Reasoning: 4.6/8
GMAC notes that for the Verbal section, it’s rare to score below 9 or above 44, and for the Quantitative section, it’s rare to score below 7 or above 50.
While it may be helpful to aim for an above-average score across all sections, most people admitted to programs tend to score above average. Achieving an above-average mark might not be enough to help your application stand out.
To get a more precise picture of where you stand in relation to other GMAT test takers, look to your percentile. This will tell you the percentage of test takers you scored higher than. To score higher than half of all test takers, you need a Total Score above 590 to 600.
To score among the top 25 percent of test takers, you’d need to score about 660. To be among the most competitive class—the top 10 percent of test takers— you’d want to aim for a score around 710 or higher.
Here’s how the top Total Scores translate to percentiles, based on all test takers in the past three years :
|GMAT Total Score||Percentile|
The mid-range, competitive, and most competitive scores for each section are roughly:
|Top 50th percentile||Top 25th percentile||Top 10th percentile|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||4.5||5.5||6|
Of all the comparisons listed, your target score is the only one that considers your circumstances and can give you the best idea of where you stand in relation to what you hope to achieve.
Your target score range can provide you with a more specific idea of the GMAT score that is more likely to help you reach your goals. Ultimately, that score is your best gauge in determining a good GMAT score for you.
To find your target GMAT score, it’s important to first understand your goals in taking the exam. GMAT scores are typically considered in three scenarios:
1. By business schools as part of the admissions application process
2. By business schools as a means of determining merit scholarship offers
3. By some employers as part of the job and internship hiring process (some companies are deprioritizing test scores during the hiring process but may still request them)
Different schools, and in some cases employers, judge scores differently. Figure out the GMAT score that will best position you to reach your goals with these steps:
Assuming your goal is to gain admittance into an MBA program, the first step toward determining your target score is to list those schools. If you’d like to be considered for a merit scholarship, note that next to those schools as well. You can also include companies you’d like to work at in the future.
Many people will apply to anywhere from four to 10 programs, however, there’s no standard recommendation. Generally, you should apply to several programs that can help you reach your ultimate career objectives without spreading yourself thin throughout the application process. Be sure to include a mix of dream, target, and safety schools on your list.
What are dream, target, and safety schools?
Dream schools, or reach schools, are schools you’d like to attend if money and qualifications didn’t matter. Target schools are those where your qualifications—including test scores and undergraduate GPA—are similar to the averages for the most recent incoming class. Safety schools are schools you’d like to attend, can afford, and you feel confident you’ll be admitted to.
Search for the name of the MBA program and “average GMAT score.” You also may find this located on a school’s website in a section detailing their current student profile. Write this down for each of your schools. If possible, include the average undergraduate GPA on this list as well.
Often, schools will only report an average Total Score for their admitted students. For example, the University of Illinois Gies College of Business reports an average GMAT score of 614 for their Fall 2020 admitted students, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.28.
If you included companies on your list, try to determine whether they consider GMAT scores in their hiring process. Many companies don’t, but include the scores they look for on your list if your desired companies do.
Arrange your schools and companies in order of average GMAT scores, from highest to lowest. Your target score will be around the highest score on your list, which can help position you as a top candidate for every other school on your list.
There is some leeway with this determination. Schools use both GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs to help predict academic success. Ideally, both your GMAT score and undergraduate GPA will be above the averages for your desired MBA programs. If your undergraduate GPA is lower than the program’s average, you may aim to score a bit higher on the GMAT to make up for that discrepancy.
Additionally, if you’d like to be considered for a merit scholarship, you’ll want both your GMAT score and undergraduate GPA to be higher than the averages. How much higher will depend on the specific program you’re applying to.
Improving your GMAT score can help you reach your goals more easily. Experts recommend spending about 100 hours over two or three months studying for the GMAT exam. Here are some tips to get started:
If you’ve already taken a practice test or sat for the GMAT, you should have a sense of the areas where you excel and those where you can do better.
As you determine your areas for improvement, keep in mind that the Total Score is the score most schools will look at, and you can increase yours by improving your Quantitative or Verbal score. It may not be necessary to divide your attention between both. Focus your studying on the area where you feel confident you can improve.
Taking practice tests and working to understand the questions you initially get wrong can help to improve your outcomes. Over time, you may pick up on patterns, like theories and phrasing that frequently appear on the exam. As you get more comfortable recognizing and interpreting these patterns, you’ll likely get more comfortable with finding the answers. Some people invest in GMAT classes, tutors, or study books for additional guidance.
If it seems helpful, you may also consider simulating a testing environment by timing yourself as you work through your practice questions. GMAC offers two free practice exams on their website, which can also help you know what to expect.
Once you feel more confident in your test-taking skills, retake the GMAT. Your score report will show all of your GMAT scores from the past five years, however, if your scores show improvement, it may signal to MBA admissions committees that you can work to achieve academic success.
Your GMAT score is only one part of your application, and remember that the reported GMAT scores for your target schools are averages. This means that people were admitted into the MBA program with scores both above and below the reported number.
If your score is below your target score, here are some options.
Your GMAT score is only one part of your application. Presenting a strong statement of purpose, letter of recommendation, or resume can still help you stand out. Additionally, some schools allow you to submit an optional essay where you can explain any perceived shortcomings in your application.
In some cases, in an effort to move toward parity, MBA admissions committees may be more lenient with GMAT scores of otherwise highly qualified non-majority applicants. Remember that you bring more to the table than your standardized test score.
In response to accessibility issues during the global pandemic, some MBA programs have moved to a test-optional model. Some schools also cite financial and identity-related barriers of entry surrounding the GMAT, as reasons to drop the requirement. In these cases, schools are confident they can adequately judge an applicant’s readiness for their MBA program through the rest of the application components.
If achieving the higher-than-average GMAT score you’d like doesn’t feel like a viable option for you, but you feel confident that business school is your next move, it is okay to opt out of taking the GMAT. However, one potential downside is that you may not be able to apply for certain merit scholarships without submitting a GMAT score. Look for your preferred program’s scholarship requirements to find out.
Many MBA programs will accept either GMAT or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. The GRE is another standardized test that people interested in applying to graduate programs may take.
Learn more about the difference between the GMAT and GRE to decide which format may be right for you.
If you are ready to join an MBA program, consider the iMBA from Gies College of Business, available on Coursera. Pursue your degree from anywhere with online classes while gaining the knowledge and skills you need to move forward in your career.
A good score for a test-optional program will generally be a score that’s above the class average named in the student profile report. An above-average score can help indicate to an admissions committee that you are prepared to take on the program workload.
Programs ranked highly on MBA ranking lists such as US News & World Report, Fortune, and Bloomberg tend to have average GMAT scores around 720 or 730. Scoring above a 730 is generally associated with a higher chance of admission, while scoring below a 730 is generally associated with a lower chance of admission. Learn more about taking the GMAT or GRE.
A score of 700 on the GMAT is in the 88th percentile, meaning 88 percent of test takers score below 700. Typically, a score that high will require a decent amount of effort. According to MBA.com, people who score a 700 on the GMAT report spending a median of 100 hours studying for the exam.
1. Graduate Management Admission Council. “GMAT Scoring by Exam Section / GMAT Benchmarking Tool, https://www.gmac.com/gmat-other-assessments/accessing-gmat-exam-scores-and-reports/gmat-scoring-by-exam-section-normal-view.” Accessed December 15, 2021.
2. Mba.com. “GMAT Official Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2 (Free), https://www.mba.com/exam-prep/gmat-official-starter-kit-practcei.” Accessed December 15, 2021.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.