So you started preparing for the GMAT and you’re perhaps wondering, “What is a good score?” While there is no simple (or absolute) answer to the question of what a
“good score” is, here are two ways to evaluate your GMAT score and assess how much preparation you should do (or if you have taken the test already, whether you should apply with the score you have).
Personal Best Effort
Your personal best effort means you have done all you can to achieve your highest possible score. Defining your best effort can be tricky, but you must consider whether you have invested all the resources at your disposal to help you achieve your score. You will have to look critically at what you’ve done in preparation for the GMAT and what you could have done. You have to consider what you have invested (not just financially but also mentally) in preparing for the test, and whether that is all you could have invested.
The chart below shows the correlation between time invested preparing for the test and GMAT scores.
Over a period of 6 – 10 weeks this would mean investing no less than 10 hours per week on improving your GMAT score. Assessing whether you have given your personal best effort requires that you ask yourself, at the very least, the following questions:
1. Have I done all the homework and attended all the classes that were in the syllabus?
2. Have I taken all the practice tests that were recommended?
3. Have I evaluated my results and identified specific areas to improve?
4. Have I made my best effort to learn and implement the approaches prescribed?
5. Have I sought out additional help (tutoring, extra classes, email or other online support)?
6. Have I allowed myself enough time to learn, digest, review, and practice the things I was taught?
If you know you did not prepare as well as you should have, then it makes sense to continue preparing and to take the test again. However, if you know you have put in all the time, money, and mental energy you could into preparing and achieved a score that reflected your best effort, then you should put the GMAT aside and work on improving the other areas of your application.
Given that the GMAT’s only purpose is to help admissions committees (“adcom’s”) evaluate candidates for admission, a “good” score can also logically be defined as the score that doesn’t eliminate you from consideration at the school you want to go to. A high score is generally thought to indicate that a candidate possesses the quantitative, analytical, and verbal skills needed for the academic rigor of typical MBA programs. Submitting a score that does not force the adcom to question whether you can handle the work at their school will demonstrate you are serious about applying to the school and have done your due diligence on the program. When asking yourself if your GMAT score is a “good” score, you should know the range of scores for admitted students at the school you are targeting. For example, consider the table below, which contains several of the top 30 business schools in the country.
|Rank||School||GMAT mean||GMAT range
|1||Stanford Graduate School of Business||720||660-770|
|3||Leonard N. Stern School of Business (New York University)||708||660-760|
|4||The Fuqua School of Business (Duke University)||707||630-760|
|7||Tuck School of Business (Dartmouth College)||704||660-760|
|8||The Anderson School (University of California Los Angeles)||704||650-760|
|9||Yale School of Management||701||670-760|
|11||Ross School of Business (University of Michigan)||701||650-750|
|13||Haas School of Business (University of California Berkeley)||700||640-750|
|16||Tepper School of Business (Carnegie Mellon University)||691||620-750|
|17||Goizueta Business School (Emory University)||690||630-740|
|20||Marshall School of Business (University of Southern California)||685||640-730|
|23||Simon School of Business (University of Rochester)||673||610-740|
|24||McCombs School of Business (University of Texas)||670||600-750|
|25||Krannert School of Management (Purdue University)||665||620-720|
|26||McDonough School of Business (Georgetown University)||662||620-720|
|27||W. P. Carey School of Business (Arizona State University)||655||610-730|
|28||Olin School of Business (Washington University)||654||590-720|
|29||Kelley School of Business (Indiana University)||644||580-710|
If you had a GMAT score of 680 and applied to Stanford, which has a mean GMAT of 720, you would still have a “good shot” at admission, since you would fall within the range of accepted applicants. If you were to apply to Kelley, your GMAT score would place you above the mean but would not necessarily make you a better candidate for Kelley than for Stanford. At both schools your appeal to the adcoms will be based more on your other criteria than on your GMAT since your GMAT would be in the acceptable range. Your goal should be to get a GMAT score that makes the GMAT fundamentally irrelevant in your admissions decision (which means that it does not raise questions about your ability to handle the work). If your GMAT score is within the range of the school you would like to go to, then you probably have a “good” score.
Understanding what is needed and setting realistic goals will allow you to make more informed decisions about your continued preparation for the GMAT or whether it is time to move on to the other components of your application. No matter what, you must realize that getting a good GMAT score generally requires a significant commitment of time, energy, and money. This is especially true for those who are starting significantly below the mean score of 535. You should be ready to invest all that you can in your GMAT score and business school future.