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How important is the GMAT score?

Why is GMAT important?’. It would be, to put it in a nutshell, to show your sincerity and capability in pursuing a business school program.

And, who exactly are the 3 judges of this reality show waiting to analyse your performance?

1. Admission officers of the most reputed business schools around the world, who judge an aspirant’s earnestness in enrolling in their program.

2. Prospective companies, read multinational conglomerates paying huge salaries, who scout for international talent primarily from esteemed business schools that insist on GMAT scores.

3. Your classmates, who have cleared their GMAT exam with flying colours to earn their rightful place in the best MBA college.
No matter how many times you’ve heard the word ‘holistic’ from admission officers, the fact remains. In terms of quick and absolute impact, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) tops the list for business schools, with the rest like recommendation letters, essays / SOP and other requirements coming second in line.

What’s the perfect GMAT score to guarantee admissions?

After you understand why the score is important, the next crucial thing to know is – what’s a good GMAT score? Now herein lies the issue. There is no standard score that all business schools around the globe view with equal awe.

Most, highly ranked ones especially, have their own criteria to arrive at a minimum score, which will set the bar for applicants.

According to U.S.News, the highest average GMAT scores for incoming full time students in Fall 2017 in the US ranged from 737 for Stanford University to 722 for MIT Sloan. In Europe, it ranged from 712 for INSEAD to 670 in IE (Spain). Hence you see, it is difficult to predict what works where.

The GMAT assesses the higher-order reasoning skills of a candidate, including verbal, quantitative, analytical writing and integrated reasoning. The final score is derived as a function of each of these. Many test takers score between 400 to 600. Read this post to know what’s the average GMAT score amonst all test takers in the world.

The 80 percentile of GMAT score distribution that many B-schools publish lies in the 650-750 range. That puts 650 at the lower end. A score of 700 and above is quite common among the Indian applicant pool. Many test takers are engineers who are good at the quantitative concepts that are tested in the exam.

GMAT scores also include percentile ranking, indicating the percent of test takers that you performed better than, according to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). These rankings are recalculated every summer based on past three year scores (Read GMAT Percentiles for Quantitative, Verbal, IR and AWA scores and GMAT Scaled Score Table – GMAT Score Calculator).

Also read this post on How to get a perfect 800 GMAT score.


Can the GMAT pass or fail you in the applications?

Most applicants wanting to make it big with a foreign B-school degree often wonder, if the GMAT is the defining factor in their admission chances. Well, not always.

While top ranked B-schools do want to see a higher score in your test results, and the score is REALLY important to even make it to the list of shortlisted candidates, it is not always the case.

They also factor in the overall strength of the person, from his academic and work achievements, does s/he stands at par or above other applicants for the school, is the industry and role s/he comes from unusual, among other factors.

Sometimes, being from a minority background (under-represented is a better term) ups your chances of getting through. Having said that, don’t think that coming from a minority background ensures you are taken in.

International B-schools are hunting for prospective business leaders who can change the way the world thinks or functions. They can figure out who is brandishing his or her minority status to get into the big league and who despite his or her minority background wants to continue doing the amazing work they have been doing so far in their respective countries.

There is no thin line in here. With their years of experience, the admission committees can sniff out the difference. To know what is a minority profile and how B-schools treat minority MBA applications, read our previous blog here – Minority MBA Applicants.
On the whole, a score higher than 700 is usually a good thing as the universities feel you can take the stress that comes with the whole package of getting the degree from their respective institutes (How to score 700+ on the GMAT).

Let’s say, even if it comes to 710 or 730, and not 750, you are still in the safe zone and can now focus more on the MBA essays, SOP and recommendations and the other things you are submitting to them. The idea is that you come across as a person who gets maximum checks on their list.


What is a Low GMAT score?

Got a GMAT score of 600 or less than 700? Does that kill your prospects of getting into your dream university, say top 10? Actually, in most cases, it does have a serious negative effect.

For a high ranking university, there is a certain expectation from the candidate with a certain test score, while a low-ranking university may settle for a little less. Yet, not all are the same, hence the scores may differ wildly.

Before you think it is the end of the world for you, sit up and look at things, er, holistically (to borrow from the Adcom dictionary). Look at the criteria that B-schools take into account before admitting in terms of the weight they put on the same.

If the GMAT total score and quant percentile make up 22% on the weighing scale, it is your essay questions that come next with 15%, admission interviews 12%, undergraduate GPAs 10%, and so on.
Were you (or are you) involved in extra-curricular activities like pro bono work or maybe sports, music? Anything that is an extension of your profile as a student/professional.

Do you have solid work experience of several years?

Are you a consistent professional or your six years of job has been spent job hopping?

Are you conversant in a foreign language other than English? A major foreign language would help you interact better with fellow students who come from that part of the world, at the same time show your eagerness to learn something new.

Read more about what is important in MBA applications.

So, what do you do? Chuck your current score and plunge neck deep into preparing for another round of GMAT?

Depending on which schools you are targeting and how low your score is, and if you are in a position to take it again, it may actually be a good idea. It is an expensive deal for sure so weigh in your chances before taking it up. Read How to overcome a low GMAT score and get into a top MBA program?

If you decide to go ahead with the original score, then just focus on the overall quality of the program you want to get into. Figure out the school and its reputation in the business, look at its placement record. If the latter is good enough, which is actually the purpose of the degree, then try and not assess it with the rankings. Also read Impact of GMAT on getting a job interview.
Also read:
How to start preparing for GMAT
5 most common GMAT mistakes and how to avoid them
Low GMAT success stories
Colleges accepting low GMAT scores
How to study for the GMAT effectively: Expert tutor shares tips
GMAT score improvement from 540 to 740 in 5 attempts
How to apply with an unbalanced GMAT score – Low Quant and High Verbal

References: 1, 2, 3

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

7 thoughts on “How important is the GMAT score?”

  1. Hello Sir,
    My name is Harshada Dhage
    I am currently pursuing Bcom in Banking and Insurance
    This is my last year of graduation
    I would like to do MBA from USA
    May I please know when to prepare for GMAT or any other Exam and also when and how do I need to apply for the admission for MBA in the USA
    If i immediately want to do MBA after my graduation.

  2. Hi,

    I want to go for mba, i guess gmat is good to go with.
    I am wirking with United Health Group from past 3 years, couldnt find much time fir preparation.. And i am not too intelligent, sometimes i feel dusappointed too that i have to study… Can you please guide me with tge right path ??

  3. hello sir
    i m in 2nd year BBA(HON) and scored 615/800 in GMAT
    i m really interested in doing MIM
    which option will be better ?
    1 – do work 1 year then MIM
    2 – directly go for MIM after completion of graduation

  4. Hello Sameer Sir,
    I’m studying BSC in Finance from NMIMS , mumbai. Now my last that is third year of graduation is only left and I’m looking for really good MBA finance colleges in the USA. My parents want me to directly get into MBA after I finish my graduation in a year. I have 6 months work experience in an NGO and 2 months in a listed company. I also need scholarships for my MBA from USA. When should I start with GMAT exams and how to attain scholarship for MBA in USA ? My 10th marks from ICSE – 89.2% and 12th marks from ISC- 88.6%
    Current CGPA till 2 years of graduation is 3.4/4

  5. Hi Sameer,

    Please reply, need sheer help and in deep troubles!

    Graduation College: Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University, final year converted to Correspondence, SOL. overall percentage: 59.65%

    Work Experience:
    Barclays Shared Services: 2 years, in a financial process
    CPA Global: 2 years in a client servicing role
    Thomson Reuters: 2.5 years, Reporting Analyst, AM, manager – Operations
    Ernst & Young: Currently working – Assistant manager – Operations.

    GMAT Score: 550.
    (Will take a full amount loan to do an MBA)

    Do i stand a chance in a good college abroad except UK?

    My aim is to settle abroad. Which countries should i target?

  6. I am from lovely professional university, and have scored 7.9 CGPA ~72% , what if I get a good GMAT score with 3+ yrs of work experience? Are there any chances of me getting a good top 50 B school?

  7. @Harshada: You’ll find the MBA abroad application requirements here:

    @Shaina: If studying doesn’t interest you, think about whether you really want to go down the MBA route. No point jumping into something that you regret.

    @Arun: I’d choose Option 1. Btw, are you sure that’s the GMAT score? It is supposed to be in multiples of 10.

    @Anshika: You won’t get into a good GMAT MBA program abroad without experience. Try Indian 2-year colleges.

    @Itisha: It’s unlikely that any ranked MBA course will accept that GMAT score. It would be better to re-take it before applying.

    @Abhishek: These are the type of hypothetical questions that we dread answering.

    But if you insist, yes you do have a chance at the Top 50…if you get a good GMAT score, AND you have good experience, AND you write good essays, AND you crack the interview.


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