Many ambitious business school applicants set their sights on a 720 GMAT Total score. A 720 GMAT score is often thought of—rightly or wrongly—as something of a cutoff for the “M7.” The M7 is the informal group of seven prestigious business schools considered to have the world’s best MBA programs: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and MIT Sloan.
But how accurate is this mythologizing of the 720 Total score? Do you have to get at least a 720 to get into a top business school, and will it guarantee you admission? Conversely, is a 720 GMAT score really good enough for the elite business schools? If you’re applying to the M7, should you retake the GMAT and try to score even higher—even if you already have a 720? Do you need a 730 GMAT score for Harvard or Stanford? And what do the top 20 schools think about the 720 GMAT score, or the top 50, or the top 100?
In this post, we’ll give you all the answers to these questions, deconstructing the common thinking about the 720 GMAT score and delving into actual data from M7 business schools as well as thoughts on the GMAT from their admissions offices. Finally, we’ll help you think through the 720 and other score goals in terms of your own application and target business schools.
How Business Schools Evaluate Your GMAT Total Score
Business schools are all different—even the best ones—and thus they all have different expectations and uses for your GMAT scores. Generally, the GMAT is used to predict your likely first-year performance in comparison to fellow business school applicants, as studies have shown that a higher GMAT score is a fairly reliable predictor of a more successful first year in business school.
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That said, every single business school in the M7 states that they evaluate applicants holistically, meaning that the GMAT is only one part of your application. None of them have a GMAT score “requirement” that you must attain to be accepted.
In short, what the top business schools do want to see from your GMAT score is that you did well enough to prove that you can succeed in a rigorous MBA program. Of course, they also want to make sure that they either maintain or gain in external rankings, and the GMAT score composition of their student body does factor into such evaluations. So there’s a certain element of prestige for the school that’s at play in your GMAT score as well, though it’s hard to pin down exactly how much.
With that said, let’s talk about the mythology of the 720 GMAT score.
Is 720 a Good GMAT Score for Top Business Schools?
Is 720 a good GMAT score? On a basic level, yes: 720 is the 95th percentile GMAT score and is generally considered an excellent score overall. The top 7 schools are slightly more competitive, which we’ll get into below. But a 720 is the about the average GMAT score for the top 10 business schools in the country, so if you are applying to a top 10 business school, you should aim to either hit or surpass a 720 to land safely in the Total score averages for those schools. This way, you’re not an applicant that would be lowering your school’s GMAT score average and thus potentially negatively affecting their ranking.
However, it’s important to know that a 720 GMAT score doesn’t guarantee admission anywhere. No GMAT score—not even an 800—can ensure that you get into the school of your choice, because business schools don’t look at scores in a vacuum like that.
On the positive side, this also means that you can get into one of the top business schools with a score lower than a 720—even one of the M7. A 95th percentile GMAT score is a safe spot to be in, but it’s not any kind of “cutoff.” The GMAT data released from the M7 schools themselves shed light on why people fixate on the 720—but they also show that the 720 GMAT score isn’t a bottom line.
GMAT Score Averages and Ranges for the M7 Business Schools
Every year, the top-ranked business schools release GMAT score data on their websites as part of the class profiles for their incoming classes. Class profiles are worth visiting directly at some point—they offer a wealth of information about how you might fit into various schools in terms of demographics, work experience, GPA, undergraduate major, and GMAT score.
Using this information and US News & World Report’s 2017 business school rankings, we have calculated that the average GMAT Total score for the top 10 business schools in America is currently about 722.4, almost exactly at that 720 mark. This data is where the 720 “cutoff” mindset comes from.
However, when we start to look beyond that, the data tells a more complicated story. Below is all the GMAT score information released by the M7—the seven highest ranking business schools in the US.
Note that while all of the M7 business schools release data on GMAT scores for their incoming class, they vary on the type of GMAT data that they release to the public, which makes it difficult to compare and contrast. For example, Harvard Business School releases the middle 80% of scores and the median score, while Stanford Business School releases the entire range of scores and the average score. Still, we can use this information to evaluate your own GMAT Total score.
This data is for the class of 2018, the most currently available data set:
|Middle 80%||690 – 760||700 – 770||—||690 – 760||690 – 770||680 – 760||690 – 760|
|Range||—||590 – 790||570 – 780||—||—||550 – 780||—|
In the following sections, we’ll talk about what this data means for high scorers, low scorers, and everyone in between.
Can I Have a Low GMAT Score and Still Get Into a Top Business School?
You may have been heartened to see that, when released, the ranges of Total scores for students attending these excellent business school is actually quite wide. Columbia, Wharton, and Stanford have all admitted students who scored in the mid to high 500s. We can safely guess that some of the other schools do as well, even though they don’t release that data.
However, the middle 80% Total score ranges begin at a much higher score than the overall ranges, meaning that the 550-590 scorers are outliers. These students must have had an incredibly compelling application outside of their GMAT score to be admitted.
Ultimately, this information clearly shows that if you are scoring in the 500s on the GMAT and you want to go to a top business school, you should spend as much time as you can studying to improve your score. If you find yourself hitting a wall at or below that score level, then you should probably set more realistic business school choices for yourself, as the low 500s is just not enough to prove to admissions that you can handle the rigorous academic workload of a top MBA program.
If you’re scoring in the high 500s or low to mid 600s but you have an absolutely stellar professional and academic background, then you can see that you still have a chance to be admitted. If this is you, then you might want to take a look at our breakdown of The GRE versus the GMAT to see if you should potentially switch tests. More and more top-ranked business schools—now including Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Sloan, and Columbia—are accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. If your score is significantly higher on the GRE, it might be wise to submit that instead of the GMAT score, so that your test scores don’t put up a red flag on an otherwise excellent application.
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Should I Aim for Higher Than a 720 GMAT Score?
You probably noticed that the average GMAT scores for all the M7 schools except for Columbia are higher than 720, so if you’re applying to those schools, you might want to set your sights on a 730 GMAT score instead of a 720.
But in general, once you hit 720, you have signaled to elite business schools that you’re certainly academically prepared for an MBA curriculum, and there’s no need to take the GMAT again—unless you’re confident you can do significantly better. The 720 GMAT score is a baseline—it is great to do better if you can, it’s just not worth making yourself crazy over. If you have a 720 and another applicant has a 730 GMAT score, that 10-point difference is unlikely to be the deciding factor.
That said, if you believe you can get a 750 or above, it certainly will help your application. But unless you’re fairly sure that you can do so (as in, you haven’t already studied your heart out and know that there’s room to improve significantly), your time would arguably be better spent doing something that demonstrates your passion and commitment toward the kinds of pursuits an elite MBA prepares you for.
The main exception to this is if you’re looking for scholarships. Generally, because higher GMAT scores in their student body translate into higher rankings, business schools seem to be more willing to give generous scholarships to students with higher GMAT scores in order to entice them to attend. Again, a 730 isn’t likely to make much of a difference over a 720, but a 750 or above would certainly be impressive. A 750 GMAT score puts you in the top 2% of scorers worldwide.
Overall GMAT Score Guidelines for Top Schools
Based on the data, a “safe” GMAT score for the M7 business schools falls in the 720-750 range. “Safe” doesn’t mean guaranteed acceptance: it just means that your GMAT score is impressive and indicates that you can handle a challenging MBA curriculum. The 750-800 range counts as “very impressive,” and if you’re looking for scholarships, the higher the better.
An “okay” score for the top schools is a 690-710. You’d be below the average, but you’d still fall in the middle 80% for most of the M7 schools—though you’ll have to make sure you have a great GPA to back it up.
Scores in the low to mid 600s is risky territory for the top schools, so you’d better have excellent personal and professional experiences and a strong GPA to offset it. With a score below 600, it’s exceedingly difficult to get in—schools admit maybe one or two candidates a year at that score level.
If you’re aiming for the top schools, you should probably retake the GMAT if you haven’t broken 700, and spend as much time as possible studying and preparing beforehand. We highly recommend checking out PrepScholar GMAT’s comprehensive online course, which offers a 60 point score improvement guarantee to help make sure you hit your goal score!
As mentioned above, the class profiles are an excellent source of information with which to compare and contrast yourself as an applicant. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant when picking schools to target.
The Next Rung: Is 720 a Good GMAT Score for the Top 25 Schools? What About the Top 50?
There’s more leeway outside of the top seven or top 10 business schools, though GMAT scores on the whole have gone up in recent years.
The average GMAT score for the top 25 business schools is 706, and the average for the top 50 schools is 683.
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Taking out the top 10, the average for schools ranked 11-25 is 695, and the average for schools ranked 11-50 is 674.
So, yes, a 720 or 95th percentile GMAT score is a very excellent score once you get past the top 10.
If you’re scoring in the high 600s or above, you’re in the safety zone for a top 50 program. For the top 100 programs, that number stretches into the middle and low 600s.
Bottom Line: What does a 720 GMAT Mean for You?
Is 720 a good GMAT score? Yes. But there’s no GMAT score that is guaranteed to get you into a top business school, and above the mid-500s, there is no score that is guaranteed to get you rejected. Still, you should aim to hit the 720 mark if you’re applying to a top 10 business school, and a 730 GMAT score is an even better target if you’ve set your sights on the M7 (except for Columbia). A 750 or above helps if you’re looking for large scholarships.
You can also use our target GMAT score worksheet to determine what score you should aim for based on the schools you’re applying to. Happy studying!