Understanding GMAT Score Ranges
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a 3.5-hour computerized-examination. The GMAT has been designed to measure a test-taker’s knowledge, logic, problem-solving, and reasoning abilities.
The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) oversees the GMAT’s management and issues GMAT score percentiles as guidance each year. Graduate business schools worldwide regard the GMAT score as a primary admissions-approval benchmark.
In fact, nine of ten decisions regarding MBA enrollments are determined using a GMAT score.
The GMAT is considered a computer-adaptive test. As a result, no two GMAT tests are exactly the same. A computer-adaptive test is so sophisticated that its test queries are tweaked by the test-taker’s real-time responses.
To answer "What is a good GMAT score?" you have to remember your main objective... to get into your top choice business school. This article will review how GMAT scores are calculated, how your scores compare to others (percentiles), and what average scores are for some top business schools.
In 1953, nine business schools crafted the first Graduate Management Admission Test. Their mission was to create a standardized exam that would improve the admissions process for graduate business schools.
The GMAT has undergone many modifications since its humble beginnings more than 65 years ago. Currently, the GMAT is organized into four sections.
|Test Section||Description||Time Limit (minutes)||Number of Questions|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Evaluates your ability to explore complex issues, articulate positions, and formulate critiques.||30||1 analysis|
|Integrated Reasoning||Assesses a student's ability to evaluate information from multiple sources and in different formats.||30||12|
|Quantitative Reasoning||Covers basic mathematical concepts such as problem solving and data sufficiency that are typical for a college graduate.||62||31|
|Verbal Reasoning||Evaluates your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.||65||36|
The GMAT Format
In 2017, GMAC revised a long-standing GMAT protocol. The new rule allowed test-takers, at the beginning of the test, to select the order in which the GMAT sections are completed.
|Option 1|| |
|Verbal||Analytical Writing Assessment||Quantitative|
|Integrated Reasoning||Quantitative||Integrated Reasoning|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Verbal||Analytical Writing Assessment|
There are diverse strategies regarding the ways in which to choose the most advantageous section-order. However, most GMAT strategists suggest to begin the GMAT with the those sections related to test-taker's strongest abilities.
About the GMAT Sections
- GMAT’s Verbal and Quantitative sections are delivered using a multi-choice format. The level of difficulty adjusts to real-time answers throughout these two sections.
- The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) requires each test-taker to critique a given argument. The written essay evaluates the reasoning and logic behind the critique - using critical thinking skills. A GMAC employee and a computer score the essay from an all-inclusive perspective - style, content, and grammar are represented in the final score.
- GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning (IR) section assesses one’s ability to calculate data-problems delivered from different data sources. Data types include graphs, 2-part analyses, and table manipulations, among others.
- For more information on the exam, see our other GMAT articles.
Scoring the GMAT
The purpose of the GMAT score is to highlight a test-taker’s executive (i.e. higher order) reasoning skills.
Over the past five decades, the global education community has seen the GMAT accurately, and consistently predict a student’s performance during their first year of an MBA program. In other words, the GMAT score has earned its reputation.
At the end of the GMAT exam, the computer reveals the test-taker’s unofficial GMAT Scores regarding the Qualitative, Verbal and Integrated Reasoning sections. The Essay Score and the official GMAT scores are released during the three weeks that follow. GMAT scores are valid for five years.
When the scores have been displayed, a test-taker has two minutes to decide if the scores should a) be forwarded to business schools, or b) be canceled. In addition, a test-taker can choose to cancel their GMAT score online, if done within a 72-hour window from the time the test began. Within five years from the test date, a canceled GMAT score can be reinstated for a nominal fee.
GMAT test-takers are encouraged to strategize about how to manage this ‘on the clock’ moment - before the GMAT begins.
Check out the GMAT Handbook issued by MBA.com, effective March 2019 for valuable insights.
GMAT By the Numbers
GMAT scores fall within a range between 200 and 800. The scores are demarcated in increments of 10, i.e. 550, 560, etc. The total score represents the test-taker’s verbal and quantitative performance on the GMAT.
The Integrative Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment sections are each scored separately.
When the official GMAT Score is issued, it will disclose five scores:
|Analytical Writing||0 - 6 |
0.5 pt increments
|Average of two scores (one human reader, one computer).|
|Integrated Reasoning||1 - 8 |
1 pt increments
|Number of questions answered correctly.|
|Quantitative||6 - 51 |
1 pt increments
Number of questions answered
|Verbal|| 6 - 51 |
1 pt increments
Number of questions answered
|Total||200 - 800 |
10 pt increments
|Based on raw section scores converted to a total score.|
GMAT Score Ranges
About two-thirds of all GMAT scores fall within the upper and lower limits of a 400 - 600 scoring range. GMAC offers some valuable insight regarding GMAT score ranges on their video entitled “Scoring on the GMAT Exam.”
GMAT scores are distributed along a bell curve. Statistically, a bell curve represents a normal pattern of distribution.
The scores noted below represent industry estimates issued by professional GMAT-related support service organizations and schools.
Best GMAT Scores
The Best GMAT score typically places the test-taker in the top 10%. Numerically, a best GMAT profile is represented as:
- A Total Score above 710.
- A Verbal Score of 40, or above.
- A Quantitative Score of 51 or above.
- An Integrated Reasoning Score of 8.
- An Essay Score of 6.
Test-takers who score above 710 are considered highly competitive candidates. Graduate business schools like Wharton, Harvard, and Stanford traditionally admit students with GMAT scores of 720 or higher.
Above-Average GMAT Scores
Above-average GMAT scores generally define the top 25% of GMAT test-takers. The above average GMAT profile is represented as:
- A Total Score between 650-700.
- A Verbal Score of 35-39.
- A Quantitative Score of 48-50.
- An Integrated Reasoning Score of 7.
- An Essay Score of 5.5.
Average GMAT Scores
An average score, by its very definition, denotes that the score is an arithmetic mean – with an approximate equal distribution of scores above and below.
The average GMAT score is approximately 561. Generally, an average GMAT total score places a test-taker ahead of half the test-takers. An average GMAT score profile is represented as:
- A Total Score between 550-640.
- A Verbal Score of 28-34.
- A Quantitative Score of 38-47.
- An Integrated Reasoning Score of 5-6.
- An Essay Score of 4.5-5.
Below-Average GMAT Scores
Below-average GMAT scores are good enough for many business programs. Generally, a below-average GMAT score places a test-taker’s score in the bottom half of test-takers. This below average GMAT score profile is represented as:
- A Total Score between <550.
- A Verbal Score of 27 or below.
- A Quantitative Score of 37 or below.
- An Integrated Reasoning Score 4 or below.
- An Essay Score of 4 or below.
GMAT Score Percentiles
A GMAT score percentile represents the percentage of scores that fall below a given GMAT score.
The Graduate Management Admissions Council calculates GMAT percentiles on a yearly basis – using scoring data from the past three years.
Here’s an example:
A test-taker receives a GMAT score of 710. This places the score in the 88th percentile ranking. (See Chart)
This reveals that 88% of the test-taking sample scored below 710.
The exact measurements of a percentile range will vary between each GMAT section.
GMAT Total Percentiles
GMAT Analytical Writing (AWA) Percentiles
GMAT Integrated Reasoning Percentiles
GMAT Verbal and Quantitative Percentiles
Average GMAT Scores by School
According to US News & World Report, the top five universities (in 2017) with the highest average GMAT scores by school include:
- Stanford University 737
- Northwestern University 732
- Harvard University 731
- University of Chicago 730
- University of Pennsylvania 730
To find the average GMAT scores for schools you are interested in, try searching on Google for: MBA class profile your school choice
For example, if you Google: MBA class profile Ohio State, you will get the following results:
Clicking on the Incoming Class Profile link will lead to:
Where you can see that the average GMAT score for the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University is 676.
What is a Good GMAT Score?
GMAT score percentiles are a reliable indicator of one’s overall performance when compared to all other test-takers over a 3-year span.
GMAT percentiles are effective tools. A percentile is a statistical technique that, when applied to GMAT historical scoring data, calculates quality MBA admission’s benchmarks. The GMAT percentiles create general boundaries along the bell curve that helps students refine their understanding of a graduate school’s admission requirements.
Additionally, consider the fact that the concept of good is a relative one. The notion of ‘good’ only exists in relation to other variables. So, a good score for one individual may differ from another.
Each test-taker must decide what a good score is for them. A good score meets the scoring goals of the GMAT test-taker.
To perform optimally, a test-taker must begin preparing for the GMAT well in advance of taking the test.
Preparing for the GMAT
Those planning to take the GMAT must:
- Begin to Research MBA Programs that Meet Education Objectives
- Create a Reliable Study Plan and Study
- Make a Firm Commitment to Follow a GMAT Study Plan
- Know What to Expect When Taking the GMAT
- Understand how the GMAT is timed, and have a plan on how to pace the test
- Take a Practice GMAT test as a diagnostic tool; to determine a baseline score
- Choose the Right Study Materials and Study Often
- Check Eligibility, Register, and Set Up a Testing Date with GMAC
- Take Advantage of Online Practice Tests and GMAT Software
- Study and Practice
The Graduate Management Admissions Test is a great way to showcase a test-taker's talents and skills before their preferred graduate business schools’ admission boards.
The best way to reach one’s optimal GMAT score is the same way to get to Carnegie Hall – Preparation and Practice.
Seize the GMAT!
A good GMAT score falls within the range of scores required for admission, to the graduate business schools of one’s choice.
Essentially, a good GMAT score is the key to an education pathway that leads to one’s professional objectives.