What is the minimum GMAT score for good MBA programs?

Another set of questions that gets added to the ever-growing GMAT FAQ list – ‘What’s the minimum GMAT score for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, IIM?’

This question is not as obnoxious as it sounds though, compared to the other most frequently asked query – ‘What’s the average GMAT score for Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, IIM..?

Unlike the latter, which can easily be answered by a quick visit to the official MBA website, the answer to the former question is more elusive.

The official stand that most Admission Officers take when answering such questions is – “We don’t consider the GMAT score in isolation. There is no minimum GMAT cutoff for our MBA program.”

Technically speaking, as the GMAT score range varies from 200 to 800, what the Adcoms’ answer implies is that the minimum GMAT score for being eligible to apply to their program is 200 (!). But that’s not very helpful, is it?

When you look around for more information, instead of the lowest cut-off score, you see an 80 percentile depicting the GMAT score distribution. The average GMAT score range for the top MBA colleges abroad is 650 to 750.

And of course, there’s the more visible number depicting the average score for the matriculating class. But that’s not helpful either, as you probably already know that you are way below that number.

And thus, the teasing continues in the official responses.

[Read this related post: Average GMAT scores for Indians]

Hmmm…but I still want to know – what’s the minimum GMAT score to get into Harvard / Stanford / Wharton?

Persistent, aren’t we? Alright, here’s some more (real, but useless) data if that’s what you want.

In 2011 the lowest GMAT score at Harvard MBA was 490. In the same year, at Stanford and Wharton, the minimum GMAT score was 530 and 560 respectively. Over the years, candidates with abnormally low test scores continue to crack into elite schools, leaving those with strong profiles and high scores fuming, jealous and confused.

At MBA Crystal Ball, last season we helped an international candidate (not an Indian) get an admit from a full-time, top ranking European MBA program. His GMAT score was 510.

That’s the lowest score we’ve ever worked with. So we were looking forward to publishing his story on our blog (with a glowing photograph added for credibility, like we’ve done with many other applicants). But Murphy’s law played spoilsport. He wasn’t able to afford the fees and had to reject the offer. Now he’s applying to other (non-MBA) programs where there’s better scope for getting scholarships.

What is it about these candidates that helps them success despite embarrassingly low GMAT scores?

In short, it’s their life story.

While it is easy to be distracted and enthralled by their complete failure to deal with computer adaptive tests (CAT), there’s something about these candidates that helps them stand out among the other MBA applicants trying to get into the super-elite Ivy League universities.

We don’t know the specific backgrounds of the minimum GMAT scorers at Harvard, Stanford or Wharton. But we can surely guess that there were some overlaps with the candidate we helped – about fighting against odds, about showing resilience, about achieving unusual success in the fields they’ve chosen and demonstrating an uncanny ability to be a leader in testing situations.

In addition to their professional and career accomplishments, often there’s a strong personal storyline as well that makes those achievements even more commendable.

If you don’t think you have all those qualities and it’s too late to build your profile for the best bschools, there’s an easier option. Get your GMAT score up! Here are some tips and tricks to improve your GMAT score.

Easier said than done, we understand. But you don’t have to go from one extreme (lowest score) to another (highest in the class). Achieve a balance of your score and other elements from your profile.

Don’t allow one parameter (like test scores) to dip so low that the rest of your application components (essays, recommendations, resume, interview) struggle to get you out of the hole.

Stop worrying about the minimum GMAT score for IIM, NYU, Columbia, ISB, INSEAD…and focus on the overall application.

There are many low GMAT score stories of Indian students on our blog. They didn’t score the lowest in the class, but were pretty low by Indian application standards. Yet, they managed the application process wisely and ended up with admits from good MBA colleges abroad and in India.

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MBA Crystal Ball provides professional Admissions Consulting services. Hire us to improve your chances of getting into the top international universities. Email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. For professional Admissions Consulting or Career Counselling, connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook


  1. Orcale says:

    >>>> Over the years, candidates with abnormally low test scores continue to crack into elite schools,

    Obviously, lowering the bar encourages everyone to apply. Most of these candidates with low GMAT scores— buoyed by the overdoes of optimism—-will ignore the fact that they will be ruthlessly rejected with an automated mail, for which they will end up paying more than $200 grand. Instead of wasting money this way, they should probably consider re-taking the exam and focus on improving their scores. There is absolutely no short-cut to a respectable GMAT score for an INDIAN candidate applying to foreign schools.

    However, admitting handful candidates with lower scores, the school rakes in an whopping amount of moola, most of which was otherwise not coming their way. For them, the strategy indeed pays off in a big way.

    • Pritosh kumar says:

      Hey I am btech in civil engg, I have 7 yrs of job exp. But after 12th I hv 5 yrs of gap. Does it matter in gmat for good mba college.

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    Valid points, Oracle.

    Bschools are probably well-aware of the viral impact of such decisions.

    It’s unlikely that MBA blogs, forums and social media would go berserk when an Indian IT Male with a GMAT score of 740 gets into a Top 10.

    But drop the score drastically and watch how the burst of optimism starts overshadowing class averages and practicality.

  3. Harry says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I graduated in B.Com from School of Correspondence, DU in 1997. I have around 6 years of experience as Team Lead/Team Manager in KPO. I am looking for a career-enhancing qualification to grow vertically and not sticking to a particular industry. As it has been long time since I last prepared for any competitive exam, please guide me how to start preparing for GMAT. What level of maths preparation would suffice? And most importantly, is there any age limitation too?

  4. Praveen Bhatt says:

    Dear Sameer,

    I am working and having 10 years experience in accounts and finance and already started preparation of GMAT. But still confused, where i can get the proper information about all the university of abroad and India whose accept GMAT as entrance for MBA. I am a graduate with passing marks (44%). Would i eligible for getting admission on basis upon along with a decent score of GMAT ?

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Start off with any good MBA rankings (like Financial Times) and then start selecting bschools based on your preferences – geography, course duration, fees, average GMAT scores.

      If you get a high GMAT score, some universities may be willing to overlook the graduation performance.

  5. Japneet Singh says:

    Hello Sir,

    I completed my B-tech Mechanical Engineering in July 2013 with 72% from PTU, with Backlogs (11) completed during course duration of 4 years.
    working since august 2013
    10+2 with 55.5 %
    10th with 70 %
    and IELTS 7 bands … now i am planning to give GMAT exam in 2015….
    will i be able to get admission in good management college abroad…. Or my backlogs will always be a hurdle …???
    Does back logs matter even if i get good score in GMAT…?
    & also if i should gain more experience or not ..?

  6. Shikha Jha says:

    Hi, I am a 2014 year graduate and write now working in a software firm. I’m planning to pursue my higher studies in management. But I’m not able to select which stream and I don’t know whether CAT or GMAT would be better for me because I’ve to support my studies. I’m planning to prepare for 1 year and then give the exam in 2016. Would you please suggest me what would be better for me?

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      For this year and next, CAT would work better. After 3 years work experience, if you haven’t cracked into a good CAT MBA college, you could try for GMAT programs.

  7. ks says:

    Hi.. I completed my graduation in mechanical Engineering from Mumbai university in 2010. And have 5years of work experience in manufacturing sector, in operations. I am not looking for a job switch, but want to pursue my further studies and want to apply for academic year starting 2016. I am totally confused whether i should do masters or MBA? Should I prepare for CAT or GRE or GMAT. I have read too many post on gre , GMAT on various websites and it has left me all the more confused. Would really appreciate if you could attend to my queries at the earliest and alleviate my confusions..thanks.

    Also please note. I have absolutely no work experience in finance. But interested to pursue higher education in this field. Is this possible? Would colleges accept student who has no work exp. In the field of interest. And would a masters or an MBA be a better option. Because I read a post which said there is no point doing an MBA in US, if not from 10 top colleges because the job prospects keep falling with the lower ranks of colleges. Pls advise.

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      I’d pick GMAT as it’ll fit your age/experience the best. CAT and GRE based programs attract freshers, so you’d be taking your career back a few notches.

      I do agree that a good college is important, but that doesn’t mean ‘Top 10 or nothing’. There are good universities below the top 10 too.

  8. Domi says:

    Sir. I will be completing my UG this year and will be taking GMAT. Also, I’m planning to work for few years before joining universities. So, will my GMAT 2015 score be valid till then (below 5 years)? Also, can I block a seat with my score for 3-4 years?

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      The GMAT score will be valid for 5 years, but you can’t block a seat in advance. There are exceptions to this though, like ISB YLP, Harvard 2+2 and Yale Silver Scholars.

  9. anuj says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have done B.Tech and have 4 years work exp in embedded software industry.Currently looking for managerial role in consulting. Whether one year programme give more preference for work profile than GMAT score. I am looking for giving GMAT.

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Both – experience and GMAT score – would be equally important, Anuj.

      There are other elements in the application too that you shouldnt ignore – essays, recommendations, interview, academic grades.

  10. Lok ABhiram says:

    Hi Sameer,
    I am Lok, I want to get my profile evaluated for 1 year executive programme.
    10th – 75%
    12th- 61%
    Bachelor( Fashion and textiles) from NIFT hyd- 6.1 CGPA.
    work exp- 5 yrs
    i am planning to start GMAT prep. Could you please suggest me what would be the decent score in GMAT for admission.

  11. sravani says:

    hiii sameer
    this is sravani.i will complete my graduation btech in cse in 2016.i am planning to have gmat xam in august of 2015.and I want to apply for universities in 2015 and I want to start my graduation in 2016.is it possible for me??? if possible what should be the gmat score for me bcz I don’t have any work experience??? or as gmat score is valid for 5 years then I can do job for 2 years and then can I continue for mba in any university???? is their any restrictions on this??? plz tell me which is the better option…

  12. ajay says:

    Hi sameer,
    BITS pilani 8.5/10 CGPA,18 months eperience in e-commerce
    GMAT- 750 GRE- 330
    I am keen to join any of the top 10 MBA in us.
    Pl advise regarding probability of admit in any of top 10.



  13. Bhavya Solanki says:

    Hye, I am a law professional and currently working as HR-Legal. I wish to pursue MBA and planning to take GMAT. I have work experience of 3 years and wish to apply in ISB or other Top MBA colleges. Please advice whether I should go for GMAT or CAT?

  14. Uday says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have an experience of 2 years as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer in a global MNC, and I am looking to take the GMAT exam in the next year, Do my experience count in getting a good university and what should be my target score to get a scholarship too.

    Thanks in Advance


  15. Nikhil bhat says:

    Hi sameer,
    With work experience of 1year and 4months gmate score 720,tenth Cbse board 95.6%,class12cbse 92%andB.tec in cs with a score of 6.9 can I get into any good MBA college with scholarship? Please suggest.

  16. Ryan says:

    Hello Sir, I got 65% in my graduation in engineering in 2015 and preparing for cat exam, since I am confident in my quant and verbal part should i give gmat too? Can I get a good(Top 100-150) college if I score good in gmat??

  17. Gaurav says:

    Hi ,
    I am an electrical and electronics engineer from UP Tech University and Full time MBA from IBS hyderabad. I have 5 years of full time Work ex in MNC’s like Havells , Philips , Jubilant (current). I am in sales and have performed exceptionally well (had a fast track career so far ) .I Am heading a state (Manager) with team of 7 onroll employees who report in to me. My CTC is 16 lacs currently, I started at 4.5. I want to move into Product/Brand Management as i think i have spent enough time in sales function.

    Sometimes i feel PGPX from IIMA or MBA from ISB will help then i see their average packages hover around the same where i am today (or will be after my mba), Then at times i think why not try abroad and earn in dollars but is the really a good ROI.

    What are the options for me to propel my career in the right direction.

    Please Help !!!!


  18. malli says:

    Hi Sameer, i have been doing job in one Bio sciences limited for 10 years, i am a post graduate in science, i want to take gmat now, please give me suggestion for my bright future. SSC-66%, Inter-50%, BSc-66%, M.Sc-63%.. i have established one trust for my village poor students and old peoples.. now a days my money not sufficient, i want to earn some for them..please advise..

  19. deepak verma says:

    sir, right now i am pursuing BBA and i want to start preparation for GMAT and i don’t have any kind of work experience but i am a good debator as i have won a lot competition of debates . so should i start preparing for GMAT or should i go for any work so it can add as work experience to my resume ?

  20. Shivshankar says:

    First of all I would like to thank the author for such a wonderful post on GMAT. I have started preparing for GMAT and would like to appear in the month of June/July. I need your advice regarding some of my queries
    I would like to introduce my profile first, so that it could help you in addressing my queries
    Class 10- 85.6% , Class 12- 84.6% and B. Tech (NIT Bhopal)- 72.5%
    Work Ex- 7.5 years (Large scale Manufacturing/Production Company)
    Job Profile- Associate Manager- Operation and Maintenance
    Exp- Project management, Maintenance and Asset Optimization (Reliability Engineering)
    Current Responsibilities-
    1) Maintenance planning and Execution
    2) Planning, executing and monitoring Improvement projects, FIPs, Kaizens for COP reduction.
    3) Responsible for implementing Asset Management framework in the organization for Asset Optimization (Closely related to Reliability Engineering)
    4) Participates in the technical audits and follow up for Compliance

    So my query is according to my profile/work ex, which MBA specialization would suit me for my career growth. And secondly. How much minimum score should I target in GMAT to get short listed in Indian Colleges (as I cannot afford to study abroad)

  21. Anitha says:

    I complted by BE (Elec) with79% and worked as a developer for 2.5 years. Then I joined IIM and now working as product manager for 8 months. I would like to get into Stanford, MIT sloan – 2 year business course. Though I have been a good performer all my life, nothing stellar to get into ivy league of business schools.
    How much do I stand a chance? What do I need to do?


    I had scored 82.13% in SSC, 84.83% in HSC,B.TECH in Electrical Engineering 6.7 CGPA out of 10 and then recruited to HPCL in the year 2010 through campus placement. I had working experience of 5.1 years in the HPCL in Oil and Gas sector. Now I had left the company due to family reason but now confused about what to do take a another job or do MBA. I want to do MBA but not having confidence that i can do it as i had not prepared for CAT or GMAT in the last 5.1 years. Pl advise what to do to appear for CAT or GMAT? Which coaching to be taken for the same as i am residing in Mumbai.

  23. Kshitiz Narang says:

    Hello sir,
    i have always been an above average student. scoring 84 and 82 percentile in my boards. now i am in the final semester of my engineering college. i’ll be completing 4 year M.Eng program from GD Goenka World Institute (Lancaster University). my grades until now in college ranges between 68-72% throughout. I am now aiming to go for GMAT. should i be aiming for a 2016 admission i.e. straight after my graduation or getting some work experience would be preferred? if so, then how many years of work ex is enough? and how and where do i start preparing for it, since i am from a science background?

  24. Tarun says:

    Hi sameer, i want to pursue MBA .finished my Btech in civil engineering with 9.1 cgpa and 73% in 12th .i am currently working in a top real estate company. But I’m not able to select which stream and I don’t know whether CAT or GMAT would be better for me because I’ve to support my studies. I’m planning to prepare for 1 year and then give the exam in 2016. Would you please suggest me what would be better for me?ISB interests me but i am confused

  25. Naren says:

    Hi sameer,

    I request you to evaluate my profile and suggest few tips for GMAT

    B.TECH (Civil) -8.66
    GMAT-500 ( 1st attempt)
    I had worked as civil engg, but after 2 months I felt like it was not my cup of tea and entered the marketing field, which I always had interested in. I had 2yrs of work experience as marketing executive.

  26. Ajay says:


    I have GMAT score of 730, 3.8 GPA from BITS Pilani, done BE(Hons.), 96% in 12th and 94% in 10th and pretty OK extra-curricular as well as volunteering experience. I have almost 3 years of experience now working as a senior software developer and also have overseas experience as a consultant for two months. My major concern is financing my MBA, would it be wise to gain some more experience and then apply to land a better scholarship?


  27. Rahul Sen says:

    I have secured 81% in 10th, 61.5% in 12th(Science, P,C,M)
    I have secured 7.87 dgpa in bachelor of technology in computer science and engineering. I have done my final year project(one year time) from Indian Statistical Institute.
    My total job experience is 6 years(3.5 yrs in Cognizant technology solutions as Project Associate and rest from PricewaterhouseCoopers India as technical Consultant).
    I am aspiring to have an MBA career ahead. But am worried that my marks in 12th will affect my resume. Please let me know that will my profile suffice getting to a good institute(In India or abroad). Please guide me what are my options to add value to my career profile.
    Also to add, even If I manage to get in a good institute, will my career record be an obstacle getting jobs later? Please advise.
    Eagerly waiting for your comments.

  28. Prashant Kumar says:

    Hi Sameer,
    i did my B.E in 2011 with 8.02 CGPA. I scored 80.80 and 85.40 in my 10th and 12th board respectively. Just gave GMAT two days back. Totally disappointed with mere 560. Will be writing it again. Please let me know if my profile is good enough to get into Indian one year MBA program from a premiere B school. I have around 5years of exp. in IT industry. Also please suggest which Bschools shall i target . I want to take admission this year

  29. Anoop says:

    Sir i hav Completed my B.tech in 5 years due to backlogs…will any good reputed indian MBA college take me..if i have the required cutoff or scores..?? Or should i even try ? Plz reply. Thank u.

  30. vicky says:

    I got 630 ir :4 (Quant :49 Verbal :28) on GMAT .I have 5year telecom software industry and rest an average indian profile ..what are my chances to get in world top 20-40 b schools such as : queen’s university in Canada. .please suggest that whether should I retake gmat or start applying for applications…

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