Updated 13 August 2020
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is likely to be on your agenda if you’re applying to business school and, since competition for entry is increasingly fierce, it’s important to know what a good GMAT score is.
However, this question is highly subjective. A good score for one person isn’t necessarily a good score for another. So, we’ve put together a useful resource to help you determine what a good GMAT score is for you.
The role of the GMAT is to allow postgraduate institutions to assess the suitability of applicants with a standardized measuring tool.
You’ll be one of many candidates seeking entry onto your chosen program. Your competition will all have different backgrounds, levels of experience and career goals.
It’s therefore important that business schools have a means of benchmarking applicants against each other. Your GMAT score will play a significant role in this, along with your GPA.
It’s important to note, however, that your GMAT score is only one part of your application and will be considered in context alongside other parts of your application, such as your:
Every school will assess applications through its own set of standards.
So, whilst it’s likely to be very significant, the importance of your GMAT score will be relative to the program for which you are applying and how your application presents as a whole.
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to defining a good GMAT score.
Different schools have different expectations and a GMAT score that secures entry to an Ivy League business school will vary from a school ranking in the top 100.
This is further complicated by the fact that your GMAT score isn’t singular, but made up of five different scores:
The most important elements are your Quantitative and Verbal scores. The overall score is calculated using just the scores from the Quantitative and Verbal sections.
Some schools may focus solely on your overall score, whilst others may place greater emphasis on either your quant or verbal score. It will all depend on your chosen school and the program for which you are applying.
Although it’s impossible to give a definitive answer to what is a good GMAT score, understanding average scores can help you benchmark your current performance:
Of the Verbal and Quantitative sections, most test-takers achieve higher scores in the latter:
The Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections of your GMAT are generally considered less important, but a good score in each is around 5 and 4 respectively.
All that said, a good GMAT score is essentially one that gets you into your school of choice, so you’ll want to aim above the average mark for your chosen institution.
Most business schools make the scores of the previous intake publicly available, so do your research when setting your target scores.
Your final GMAT score will include five individual scores, with a corresponding percentile ranking for each. This allows both you and your chosen business schools to easily identify how you performed compared to other test-takers.
The percentile rank indicates the number of people that scored lower than you on that particular element of the test. For instance, a ranking of 60 shows you performed better than 60% of all other GMAT candidates.
Although useful, percentile rankings can be quite vague. They place you among every other person that has sat the GMAT exam and cannot give you an indication of how well others applying to the same school as you are likely to perform.
They can, however, help you set realistic goals and work towards giving yourself a competitive edge. The following shows the score margins of the higher-ranking percentiles:
Scores in the 90th percentile (achievers in the top 10%):
Scores in the 75th percentile (achievers in the top 25%):
Keep in mind that, although your GMAT score will remain the same, your percentile ranking is subject to change as these are recalculated every three years.
As discussed, there is no definitive answer to what is a good GMAT score, and the best score for you is one that gets you into your school of choice. To figure out what that is, you’ll need to do your research.
Start by looking into programs of interest and shortlisting your target and safety schools. Once you’ve finalized your choices, check the admissions criteria of each. Some may state a minimum GMAT score, whilst others may be vaguer on this point.
If you can’t find course-specific entry requirements, check to see if the school published the GMAT scores of its most recent intake. This won’t give you program particulars, but it will give you a pretty good idea of average standards.
For a broader picture, you can also consult the US News & World Report, which publishes average scores for many US schools.
It’s also a good idea to approach the admissions departments of your chosen schools. They may be able to provide more detail on the desired GMAT score, as well as offering guidance on the weight it carries in the admissions process. This will help you understand how strong your application is as a whole, and just how important your GMAT score is.
By this point, you should have a good idea of a strong benchmark score, so take a practice GMAT exam to see how your current performance compares. To give yourself the best chance of entry, you’ll want to set your target scores above average, but it’s important to be realistic.
Check the application deadlines and ask yourself if you have enough time to implement a GMAT study plan that will allow you to improve enough.
Once you’re confident you have an achievable target, and that the strength of your entire application is on par with the requirements of your chosen program, you’ve found the right GMAT score for you.
The question ‘What is a good GMAT score?’ is subjective. The answer depends on your abilities, the requirements of your chosen program of study and how much weight your score carries at each school.
By conducting thorough research in the initial stages of your business school applications, you should be able to pinpoint a target score relative to your circumstances and define what a good GMAT score is for you.
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