Just like students had to earn a ranking by taking the SAT or ACT to get into college for their undergraduate degrees; you are often required to take a different exam for MBA admissions, especially to get into top business schools. Those who want to attend law school have to take the LSAT. Those who want to get a master’s in science or engineering take the GRE. And, if you are a student who wants acceptance to a competitive MBA program, then you’ll most likely have to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT exam). This is a requirement for success on applications for most MBA and business programs.
Experts Say a GMAT Score Between 650 and 690 is Good.
How is the Test Scored?
The scoring system for the GMAT is proprietary, so not much is known about the actual calculations. However, we do know that the four sections (analytical writing analysis, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal) are measured separately for a total score and then are combined to create average GMAT scores. The questions adjust their complexity depending on the previous question's response through adaptive computer testing, and there is no penalty if you don't answer a question correctly, but there is one for not answering, so a guess is definitely better than leaving it blank. An average score is between 550 and 600.
Who Decides What’s a Good Score?
A solid score on the GMAT is determined by each individual university and business schools. One which might be perfectly acceptable for one school might not be the best choice for another. For most schools, the GMAT score is just one element for admission. Work experience, undergraduate degrees, and references are often even bigger factors than a score on a standardized exam. You should always research admission requirements carefully when looking for a graduate program. For the most part, schools want students who fall in the 43rd percentile or higher, which is a score in the mid-550s. If you can score 550 or more on a practice test, then there's a chance you’ll get into a school. Now you just need to find out the target score for the school you want to attend and aim to get that on the actual exam by way of preparation and study.
How to Find Your Program's Requirements
When you’re reading about admission requirements, chances are that a school will disclose the minimum score on the GMAT needed for admission. This information should be one of the main things discussed for potential students but you may need to read the requirements closely to find it. Some GMAT score requirements fluctuate, so even if they publish a list of the rankings and scores that were accepted in the previous year's class you should keep in mind that the requirements may vary. It’s better to focus on attaining an acceptable score based on averages and what other schools require. You should also feel free to email someone in the admission department and check with them about the requirements if you are still confused.
- How Important is the GMAT to Admissions Officers?
The importance of the GMAT score varies from one school to another. One of the reasons schools might focus so closely on this measure is that it is an indicator of how much knowledge an applicant has in reference to business and management. The exam gives the school a tangible number to look at. In the event that two incoming applicants have a similar GPA, goals, and other factors, a GMAT score is more likely to be considered. An assessment of each candidate’s GMAT could help determine which student is admitted into a top MBA program. As a standardized test, it provides a standardized result that can be measured and compared between test takers.
- Average Scores
The average score on the GMAT is 550, which is in the 43rd percentile. Anything above 700 points places test takers in the 89th percentile. Most schools are satisfied with GMAT scores in the average range, but Ivy League schools prefer the highest scores for applicants.
Getting Into an IVY League or Top Ten Business School
If you want to get into an Ivy League school, then you should be prepared to do one main thing: study hard and get a great score. Ivy League schools often won’t consider accepting any student who scores lower than the 85th percentile on the GMAT. Numerically speaking, that is in the high-600s, low 700s. If that’s your goal, then get your study materials together, make a plan, and be willing to dedicate several months to improve your knowledge before the exam.
- What’s the Best Score for You?
The best score is the one that gets you into the program of your choice. But, for a point of reference, the average score for the GMAT that test takers have used to get into a school is 552. If you have loftier goals, such as Wharton’s School of Business or Harvard, then you’ll need to hit 750 or so. Find the requirements for the school of your choice and think about whether or not getting the desired score is worth it. If it is, then sign up for the test, put your GMAT study plan together, and work toward that goal.
- What Else is Important in Business School Admissions?
Business school admission policy depends on the program you’re trying to get into. Some schools cater more to students without a lot of practical experience, while other programs are tailored for people who are already working in their field, even in management positions. Some schools focus in on the GMAT essay, while others don't pay much attention to it and others will focus on the quant section and your ability to work with data. When you’re researching programs, keep both what is being offered, as well as your experience, in mind. You’ll want to choose the program that matches your experience. Applying to a program that requires several years’ management experience for admission when you’ve never been a manager is a waste of time and energy for everyone involved. On the other hand, if you’ve got several years of management experience, enrolling in a program that focuses on inexperienced students might leave you bored. Take your time and find the programs that match your experience level and support your interests.
You’ll want to line up your references, both personal and professional, before you apply. Knowing who you have that you can call upon for a full reference is helpful.
Tips for Earning a High Score
- Take a Diagnostic Test
Taking the practice tests is the best way to prepare for the real thing. It should be administered the same way the actual test will be administered. For example, use the allotted time for each section and take the breaks. Though optional, it’s a solid idea to take them so you’ll get a feel for how long the entire testing process is to take.
- Choose a study method and stick with it
Set up a study area and keep your materials in this area. This way, when you can study you won’t have to run around searching for your study materials and lose valuable study time. Ultimately, it is best if you set up a set hour or two to study each day, since it has been proven that studying a bit each day for a couple weeks leading up to the day is better than several long cram sessions.
- Don’t skimp on test prep
With each practice exam you take, pay close attention to the areas where your score is lower than you like. Those are the areas where you should focus the bulk of your study. You can use GMAT prep resources you find on a website, in textbook format, or a course at a local univeristy. You should make use of everything at your disposal in order to make sure you understand everything.