Although GMAT scoring involves complex algorithms, you do not need to fully understand these in order to gain admission to a top MBA program. Knowing a few basic facts about GMAT scores are enough to help you understand what your score means, how admissions officers will interpret it and how likely you are to get into your target MBA program. You simply need to know the basics to put your GMAT score in context.
How GMAT Scoring Works
Your GMAT results will contain four scores: Total, Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing Assessment. Total matters most of all, Quantitative receives somewhat greater consideration than Verbal, and AWA typically matters least. GMAT Total scores fall on a bell curve, with two-thirds of all testers scoring between 400 and 600. The average GMAT score in 2010 was 544. Perfect scores almost never occur. In addition to “raw” scores, you may find it useful to consider percentile scores, which indicate what percentage of test-takers score below you. For example, a score of 544 (the average) ranks in the 50th percentile.
How Admissions Committees Interpret GMAT Scores
According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, GMAT scores matter for two reasons: They measure skills sets vital to success in MBA programs, and they correlate directly to student performance during the first year of MBA programs. Admissions officers often use GMAT scores as an easy way to narrow the applicant pool down to the students most likely to succeed in their academic program. According to a recent Kaplan survey, 58% of MBA admissions officers report that a low GMAT score is the factor most likely to disqualify an applicant. The good news is that most admissions officers only consider the highest score an applicant has earned, so if necessary, you can retake the test before applying.
How High of a Score Do I Need?
While a low GMAT score can endanger your application, you do not need to aim for a perfect score. Even top business schools accept applicants with a wide range of scores. Most schools publish the range of GMAT scores 80% of their applicants fall within each year, and you can view statistics for the top schools here. If you are in or even near this range, your application will warrant serious consideration. Once you have prepared well enough to feel confident you will score in the appropriate range, you are probably better off investing energy in other elements of your application than obsessing over a few extra percentile points.
GMAT Scores in Context
While your GMAT score is one of the most important elements of your MBA application, it is not the only element that matters. What is important is that you understand your score and how it will effect your overall odds of admission to the particular programs to which you are applying. Test takers often have unwarranted negative feeling about their scores. A score of 620 may not get you into Wharton, but it actually means you did better than 70% of test takers.