If you’re applying to business school, you likely understand the importance of doing well on the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT™. Strong scores may help you get into your dream program. But qualifies as a good score? While there are a few rules of thumb, the answer largely depends on how competitive the program you’re applying to is.
In addition, (and complicating matters,) schools take a look at your unique background when evaluating your application to help them build a well-rounded student body. As a result, what qualifies as a strong score varies by school and by applicant.
How Is The GMAT Scored?
GMAT scores range from 200 to 800. On average, test takers score a 565, and two-thirds score between 400 and 600, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC), which administers the exam.
Generally speaking, a good GMAT score is in the 700 to 800 range. A perfect score of 800 is difficult to achieve, but can potentially counteract other weak points in a student’s application.
After taking the GMAT, students will receive a score report, which will feature five different numbers: total score, quantitative score, verbal score, integrated reasoning score, and analytical writing assessment. Of those five the three that are most important are the total, quantitative, and verbal scores.
Here’s a breakdown of how each is calculated, according to The Princeton Review®:
|Section||Score Range||How the Score Is Calculated|
|Total||200 to 800||This score is reported in increments of 10 and is calculated based on performance in the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections.|
|Quantitative||0 to 60||Based on the number of questions you answered, how many you answered correctly, and how difficult the questions you got right are. Reported in increments of one.||Verbal||0 to 60||Based on the number of questions you answered, how many you answered correctly, and how difficult the questions you got right are. Reported in increments of one.||Integrated Reasoning||1 to 8||Based on the number of questions you answered correctly, and reported in increments of one.||Analytical Writing Assessment||0 to 6||Based on an average of two scores assigned by two readers, and reported in increments of 0.5 points.|
How to Figure Out Your Range
Though a score of 700 or more puts you in more competitive standing, what functions as a good score is relative. In other words, a good score for you is the one that helps you get into the program of your choice and advance your career goals.
Students interested in attending a top B-school will generally need a high score. For example, 2019 incoming full-time MBA students at Stanford University had average GMAT scores of 734. However, if you’re interested in a less competitive program, you may only need a score in the 500 to 600 range.
Before taking the GMAT, do some goal setting. What type of program do you want to attend to achieve your business objectives? Does the MBA program’s affordability factor into your decision-making process?
For example, someone aiming to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, may want to attend a top-rated school. But those planning to lead a smaller business might pursue a less competitive program.
Related: Is Getting an MBA Worth It?
To figure out just how competitive your scores need to be, research the programs you’re interested in. Some schools will post the average GMAT score of their students. It can also help to reach out to school admissions, alumni, and current students to find out what factors have a big impact on admissions.
Researching Average Scores
Schools are looking at a student’s complete application to determine whether they’ll be a good fit. However, you can certainly get a better idea of the types of students your target schools are admitting by researching average GMAT scores.
The easiest way to do this is to log on to the school’s MBA class profile web page, which may give you all sorts of information, from the average GMAT test score to the number of applicants versus the number of enrolled students to demographic information.
Be aware that total score isn’t the only thing that schools look at, and the weight given to each of the five scoring sections on the test may vary from school to school.
For example, an MBA program with a focus in data science might scrutinize your quantitative score more than other programs. Reach out to school admissions offices to find out if they give special weight to a particular score section.
Knowing the average scores of your target program can help you understand how competitive your score needs to be.
Recommended: Is Getting an MBA Worth It?
How to Prepare for the GMAT
As you prepare for the GMAT—and to achieve your target score—make sure that you a lot yourself enough study time. You may want to begin the process as much as six months in advance of taking the test. Common test prep advice suggests that it may take 100 to 120 hours or more of studying and taking practice tests to adequately prepare.
Setting a study schedule can be supremely helpful. Start by setting up a calendar on which you schedule study dates and times to take practice tests. Keep the dates with yourself and resist the urge to procrastinate.
Review the material for each section of the test at a time. You can access free practice tests online that give you an insight into the format and the types of questions you’ll be asked.
Practice tests can help you identify areas that may require extra studying. Be sure to practice pacing. The GMAT is a timed exam, and time management is critical to finishing.
Recommended: Should You Hire an MBA Application Consultant?
Unofficial Scores: To Accept or Cancel?
When you complete your test, you’ll be shown your unofficial score and given a chance to accept it or cancel. Prepare your answer before you sit down to take the text. You’ll only have two minutes to make the decision once you’re finished. You may, for example, cancel your score if you don’t meet a pre-set target.
It can also help to familiarize yourself with the application policy at your target(s) school. Some schools prefer to see every GMAT score, while others only request the top score.
Even if you accept your score, you still have 72 hours to cancel it online if you change your mind. The good news is, if you cancel your score, you can study areas where you were weak and retake the test after 16 days.
What Schools Look At In Addition To The GMAT
A GMAT score that is on par with a program’s enrolled students can help demonstrate you are prepared for the academic rigors of the program. That said, business schools look at other factors as well, including gender, demographics, and your past resume to build out their student body.
In particular, they may be looking for signals that students have what it takes to become good managers and business leaders, examining previous accomplishments, quantifiable achievements, and progression in a chosen career path.
When applying to a business school, it’s critical to understand average GMAT scores, so you have a target to help you focus your studies and prepare for the test.
When you apply, you’ll also likely have a slew of other concerns from writing a resume that fully demonstrates your achievements to figuring out how you’ll pay for graduate school and your potential return on investment for getting an MBA.
As a result, the affordability of programs and whether you’ll need to take out student loans may be a big factor in deciding which schools you apply to.
After graduating, some students may refinance their student loans, which can help them secure a lower interest rate—and hopefully save them money over the life of the loan.
Refinancing federal loans means they’ll no longer qualify for federal benefits or protections, so it may not always make sense to refinance.
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