What GMAT Scores Do You Need for Top Business Schools?


If you’ve started to research trends involving GMAT scores for top business schools, you’ve likely noticed that the average GMAT scores for top MBA programs have been on the rise. But what does this increase mean for you as an applicant?

In this guide, I’ll list the GMAT scores needed for top business schools in the United States and explain what they mean. First, I’ll give you information on the average GMAT scores for top MBA programs across the country.  Next, I’ll talk about the upwards trend in GMAT scores. Why is this rising trend happening, and what does it mean for you? Finally, I’ll talk about goal setting in light of this information. If you’re looking to get into a top business school, what kind of score should you shoot for and why?

Average GMAT Scores for Top Business Schools

Have you heard of the M7?

The M7 is an informal grouping of the top seven MBA programs in the United States. The M7 includes Harvard, Stanford, Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), Kellogg (Northwestern University), Booth (University of Chicago), Columbia, and Sloan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

The M7 often represents a shining, seemingly unattainable dream for MBA applicants. But, while admission to these programs is undoubtedly selective, getting in isn’t impossible.

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The best way to secure admission to one (or all) of these schools is to make sure your application, including your GMAT score, is as competitive as possible with other applicants. To do that, it’s important to understand what you’re up against in terms of the qualifications other applicants have. In the following chart, we’ll look at average GMAT scores for top MBA programs.

Overall, you can see that these scores come together in three main groups. Stanford and Wharton have the highest average scores, in the 730s, while Harvard, Kellogg, and Booth have average scores in the mid 720s. Finally, Columbia and Sloan have slightly lower average GMAT scores of 715 and 716, respectively.

School (Ranking)* Average GMAT Scores in 2016
Harvard (#1) 725
Stanford (#2 tie) 733
University of Chicago — Booth (#2 tie) 726
University of Pennsylvania — Wharton (#4) 732
Northwestern — Kellogg (#5) 724
MIT — Sloan (#5 tie) 716
Columbia (#10) 715

*According to 2016 US News and World Report rankings.


I’ll talk about what these averages scores mean for you in a later section. For now, let’s look at the average GMAT scores needed for top business schools outside of the M7.

School (ranking)* Average GMAT Score
University of California, Berkeley — Haas (#7) 715
Dartmouth — Tuck (#8 tie) 717
Yale (#8 tie) 721
University of Virginia — Darden (#11) 706
Duke University — Fuqua (#12 tie) 696
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor — Ross (#12 tie) 708
Cornell University — Johnson (#14) 697
University of California, Los Angeles — Anderson (#15) 713
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — Kenan-Flagler (#16 tie) 701
University of Texas, Austin — McCombs (#16 tie) 694
Carnegie Mellon University — Tepper (#18) 690
Emory University — Goizueta (#19) 678
New York University — Stern (#20) 720

*According to 2016 US News and World Report rankings.

As you can tell, the rest of the top 20 MBA programs have scores in the upper 600s to mid 700s. Several have average GMAT scores that are just as competitive as schools in the M7, specifically NYU, Dartmouth, and both UC schools. Emory has the lowest average GMAT score of the top 20 MBA programs at 678.

Is It True That GMAT Scores For Top Business Schools Are Rising?

If you’ve read up anything on trends regarding the GMAT scores for top business schools in recent years, you’re probably noticed that experts all agree that GMAT scores needed for top business schools have been on the rise.

But what does that actually mean? And, how do rising GMAT scores affect applicants?

Well, data over the last five years indicate that many MBA programs have seen a substantial rise in the average GMAT scores of their admitted students. According to Poets & Quants, Northwestern’s Kellogg School has seen a rise of 14 points in the average GMAT scores of applicants in the last five years, from 718 in 2011 to 732 in 2015.

Lower ranked MBA programs have seen substantial increases, too. For example, Michigan State’s Broad School of Management has seen its average GMAT score of its admitted students rise from 638 to 664. 

Overall, the general trend of average GMAT scores for MBA applicants has been on the rise.


Average GMAT scores are on the rise - but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Average GMAT scores are on the rise – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


What Do Rising GMAT Scores for Top Business Schools Mean for Applicants?

While it may seem intimidating that the average GMAT scores of admitted applicants to MBA programs are on the rise, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. 

GMAT scores aren’t just rising at the top business schools — the overall average has gone up as well. Whereas the average GMAT score in 1995 was 503, the average GMAT score in the testing year 2015 had risen to 554.

One reason that GMAT scores are rising is that business programs are putting greater emphasis on GMAT scores of admitted applicants, which contribute to their rankings. As schools seek out candidates with higher GMAT scores, the candidates themselves spend more time and energy trying to achieve those higher GMAT scores.

According to statistics from MBA.com, more applicants are taking part in test prep before taking the GMAT. That means that more applicants are more ready for the GMAT now, because they have taken test prep courses or have done their own studying before taking the exam. If you prepare for the exam, you’ll likely achieve a higher score than someone who hasn’t prepared.

The good news about the increased influence of test prep programs is that you, as an applicant, likely have the opportunity to do test prep of your own. Whether that means doing a self-paced study guide, or entering into a structured test prep class, there are endless options out there to help improve your score. 

The bad news about rising GMAT scores is that more and more applicants are scoring higher and higher, which means it will be hard to stand out on GMAT score alone. As an applicant, it’s important to consider the rest of your application beyond just your GMAT score. If you have a solid GMAT score that is at or above the average GMAT score of your goal score, as well as a well-rounded application that highlights your other strengths, you stand a better chance at being accepted.


How Can You Set a Goal Score for the GMAT?

As you can tell from the average scores I’ve listed above, having a GMAT score above 700 puts you in a good place for being a competitive applicant at many of the top 20 MBA programs. But where you set your specific goal score depends on what specific schools you are applying to.

In order to set your GMAT goal score, consider the highest average GMAT score of the programs you are applying to. For instance, if you’re applying to McCombs, Kenan-Flagler, and Darden, you’ll want to set a goal score of 710 or higher. Since Darden’s average GMAT score is 706, and it is the highest average GMAT score of the bunch, achieving a goal score of 706 will mean that you’re competitive at all of those schools.

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You’ll also want to take a full-length, official GMAT practice test when setting your goal score, which helps you see where you’re currently scoring. Most GMAT test takers can improve between 50 – 150 points on their initial practice GMAT score based on the amount of time and breadth of their studying. Making an improvement over 150 points, however, is extremely difficult. If you need to improve more than 150 points to meet your GMAT goal score, you’ll want to consider changing the schools you’re applying to or boosting the rest of your application to truly standout as an applicant.


Setting a good goal score can help you get into the MBA program of your dreams.
Setting a good goal score can help you get into the MBA program of your dreams.


What’s Next?

Feel like you know all about the GMAT scores for top business schools, but still looking to learn more about how to make the rest of your application competitive? In our guide to how to prepare for an MBA, you’ll learn about long-term and short-term tips for making your MBA application stand out from the pack.

Want to learn more about calculating your GMAT score? Use our GMAT score calculator to determine what score you need on the quant and verbal sections to achieve your GMAT goal score.

Feeling frustrated by your GMAT score? Don’t worry. There’s a lot you can do to try to improve your GMAT score if you’re not meeting your goals. In our guide to improving your GMAT score, you’ll learn the steps you can take to better your GMAT score and increase your chances of MBA admissions.

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Author: Hayley Milliman

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.