Applying to MBA programs would be simpler if there was just one “good GMAT score.” If you scored above that mark, you’d be done with the GMAT; if not, you’d know you needed to keep trying. Unfortunately, a good GMAT score isn’t that simple. In this article, we’ll break down what counts as a good GMAT score, and how to know whether or not you’ve achieved one.
The Building Blocks of a Good GMAT Score
Your GMAT score isn’t just one score. It’s actually five different scores—so you could have both a good GMAT score and a bad GMAT score on the same test!
The most well-known part of your GMAT score is your overall score. This is a number from 200 to 800: a 200 is the lowest score you can get, and an 800 is the highest.
However, the GMAT rarely uses the full range of overall scores. Very few people ever score an 800, and many of them are probably GMAT teachers. Very low GMAT scores are nearly as rare: only about 3% of test-takers score in the 200s. Almost all of us—about 96%—will have an overall score between 300 and 760.
The next two parts of a good GMAT score are your Quant and Verbal subscores. Each of these will be a number somewhere between 6 and 51.
On Quant, the effective range goes all the way up to 51: a lot of people do get the highest possible Quant score on the GMAT. On Verbal, although you can technically earn a 51, it’s extremely rare. Practically speaking, the maximum Verbal score is more like a 45.
This doesn’t mean that the “good GMAT score” range starts at 760 overall or at 45 on Verbal. Think of a 760 as being like an A+ on a college exam. An A+ is fantastic, but an A is an excellent result too! We’ll go into what counts as an “A” on the GMAT in a moment.
The last two pieces of a good GMAT score are your Integrated Reasoning score and your Analytical Writing score. Since these two scores aren’t as important as the other three, it’s easier to say what counts as a good score. On IR, a good GMAT score is a 5 or higher (out of 8). On AWA, a good score is a 4.0 or higher (out of 6.0).
How Many People Get a Good GMAT Score?
Here are two good reasons to research what counts as a good GMAT score:
- You’re wondering what score you need to get into a good MBA program.
- You’re curious about whether a certain score is especially good, or just average.
Let’s address the “curiosity” angle first. The GMAC publishes data on percentiles along with their score data. These percentiles tell you how rare a particular GMAT score is. However, they’re based on everyone who takes the GMAT. That’s a huge and diverse group, including people who studied, people who didn’t study, people who took the test seriously, people who just took it on a whim, and even people who do test prep for a living! These percentiles can’t tell you how you compare against your competition. All they can do is tell you how common a certain GMAT score is.
Here’s a summary of the data from 2014 to 2017.
As you can see, most test-takers will score at least a 490. A 580 is still a pretty common GMAT score. However, once you’re up to the 670 mark, you definitely have a good score: only one out of every five people who take the GMAT will score that well. And if you want to teach for Manhattan Prep, you need a score that’s only earned by one out of every 100 test-takers.
It isn’t that rare to get a Quant score towards the very top of the range. Even the maximum score of 51 is earned by one out of every twenty-five test takers. Compare that to the numbers for Verbal:
Let’s put these numbers in context. How unusual is a 710 on the GMAT, really? Only one out of ten test-takers will score that well. In the United States, one out of every ten adult women is 5’7” or taller, and one out of every ten men is 6’1” or taller. Among 2018 Boston Marathon finishers, one out of every ten finished the race in under 3:06.
By comparison, one out of every 100 people will score 760+ on the GMAT. That’s the equivalent of a woman in the US being 5’10” or taller, a man being 6’4” or taller, or a runner finishing the Boston Marathon in under 2:44.
A Good GMAT Score, or a “Good Enough” GMAT Score?
While the percentile data is interesting, it doesn’t help you figure out what a good score is for you. To get into Harvard, do you need to be one-in-a-hundred, or is one-in-ten good enough?
Many programs publish data on the GMAT scores earned by their incoming class. In most cases, the only information published is the average overall GMAT score. Here are some of those scores for 2017. For a more complete chart, check out this article from Poets & Quants.
The average GMAT scores for top-10 programs are often in the low 700s, around 720-730; for other highly-ranked schools, the average may be anywhere from the low 600s to the low 700s. From the perspective of most top-50 schools, a 650 is a good GMAT score.
Your best bet is to research the average score data for the schools you’re planning to apply to. The average score might represent a good GMAT score for you. However, your own “good” score could be slightly higher or lower.
Calculating Your Own Good GMAT Score
Even a perfect GMAT score won’t guarantee you admission. But on the other hand, most schools admit many applicants with below-average scores. HBS admitted at least one student with a GMAT of 510 in 2017, and Chicago Booth had a recent successful applicant with a 570 GMAT. If your application is very compelling, a good score for you could be well below the published average.
On the other hand, your own good score may be higher than the average. For instance, you might have a weak quantitative background or a history of low grades in quant-related classes. If so, you might need a higher-than-average GMAT Quant score to impress an admissions committee. If you’re overrepresented among applicants, or if there are weaknesses in your application package, a good overall score for you might be higher than the overall average.
Start with the average for your target schools, then add or subtract a few points depending on the rest of your story. It’s tough to analyze your own application, so you may want to speak with an admissions counselor. mbaMission offers a free half-hour phone call, as well as admissions consulting services.
Don’t forget that while a good score will help your application, it isn’t the whole story. It’s easy to become so focused on the numbers that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Always think about your GMAT score in context: a good GMAT score for a top-10 school will look different from a good GMAT score at a top-100 school, and a good GMAT score for you won’t be the same as a good GMAT score for your neighbor. Work towards the highest GMAT score you can, develop a strong application, and you may surprise yourself! ?
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Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.