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Average GMAT score trends for top schools in the world

It might be a tad too early for b-school hopefuls to let down their guard in their preparation for GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) based on reports of recent dips in the test scores.

Indeed, although 21 schools in the top-50 recorded GMAT-score declines in the two years from 2018 to 2019, trying to see a trend might be risky, as we are talking about only a couple of years.

GMAT class-average scores have hovered at nearly the same level (GMAT score range) from 2015 to 2019 for the top 50 schools (Poets & Quants rankings), with the class average scores dropping for only three of the top-25 full-time MBA programs, and only seven for the lower 25.

On the other hand, in the five-year period from 2015-2019, 19 schools in the top-25 recorded increases ranging from one to 34, and 13 schools in the next 25 saw upswings ranging from one to 41.

In the two years from 2018 to 2019, eight schools noted improvements ranging from one to four, and 15 schools in the next 25 did so with score increases ranging from one to 19.

Stanford topped the table of class average GMAT score of 734 for the entering class of 2019. Wharton followed with 732, HBS, Booth, and Kellogg with 730, and Columbia and MIT with 727.

Stanford has been topping the average GMAT score table since 2016, when it recorded 737, with its closest rival seven points behind. But, in 2018, Stanford, with an average score of 732 that year, had to share the top slot with three other schools in the P&Q top 50.

The lowest class-average GMAT score in 2019 among the top-ten schools, 721, was recorded at Yale SOM. The lowest among the top-25 schools was seen at Kelley, Indiana (666), and among the top-50 at Krannert, Indiana (634).

Five-year declines

Only three schools in the top-25 of the P&G rankings registered score declines over a five-year period from 2015 to 2019.

But the drops at these schools were rather small. The schools (with the name of the school and state) were Flagler, NC (dropped four points to 697); Tepper, Pennsylvania (dropped three points to 687); and Kelley, Indiana (dropped two points to 666). Other schools in the group recorded increases or “no change.”

Some schools in the next 25 schools saw bigger declines in the class-average GMAT score from 2015 to 2019: Smith, Maryland, came down from 658 to 638 in these five years (dropped 20); Mendoza, Indiana, from 682 to 671 (dropped 11); Vanderbilt, Tennessee, from 690 (median score, not average) to 680 (dropped ten); and Mays, Texas, from 654 to 645 (dropped nine).

Smaller declines were seen at Cox, Texas (dropped four to 652), and Krannert, Indiana (dropped one to 634). Other schools in the group recorded no change or recorded increases.

Two-year declines

But as many as 14 schools in the top-25 recorded declines in the two years from 2018 to 2019. Schools ranked 26th to 50th, however, fared better: only seven of them suffered declines. Therefore, 21 schools in the top 50 recorded drops, major or minor, in these two years. But it might be too early to forecast a new trend of falling GMAT scores.

Two-year declines (from 2018 to 2019) ranging from five points to 14 were recorded at Carey, Arizona; Kelley, Indiana; Flagler, NC; Columbia, NY; Darden, Virginia; and Wisconsin School, Wisconsin.

Six schools in the top ten (Booth, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Haas, and Yale SOM) dropped points between three and five from 2018 to 2019; after the drop, the class average GMAT score was the highest at Booth (dropped one to 730) and the lowest at Yale SOM (dropped three to 721).The biggest drop among the top ten schools was seen at Columbia (dropped five points to 727).

Taking the top 25 into account, as many as 14 schools recorded declines, as mentioned. The biggest drop (of eight points to 666) was recorded at Kelly, Indiana, followed by Flagler, NC (six points to 697), Columbia, NY (five points to 727), and Darden, Virginia (five points to 713).

The other schools were Kellogg, Illinois (dropped two to 730), Sloan, MA (dropped one to 727), Haas, California (dropped one to 725), Ross, Michigan (dropped one to 719), Johnson, NY (dropped two to 697), Tepper, Pennsylvania (dropped three to 687), Foster, Washington (dropped one to 695), and Goizueta, Georgia (dropped one to 684).

Of the second 25 (that is, bottom half of the top 50 list), Arizona Carey’s drop was the biggest (dropped 14 points to 680), followed by Wisconsin (five points to 665), Jindal, Texas (three points to 675), Hough, Florida; Smith, Maryland; and Terry, Georgia (all dropped by two points to 679, 638, and 663, respectively). Cox, Texas, dropped one to 652.

Five-year increases

As many as 19 schools in the top-25 recorded class-average score increase over the five-year period from 2015 to 2019. The increases were 34 points (to 710) at Jones, Texas; 29 points (to 708) at Marshall, California; 12 points (to 727) at Columbia; 11 points to (727) at Sloan, MA; 11 points (719) at Ross, Michigan; 10 points (to 704) at McCombs, Texas; 10 points to 690 (median score) at Carlson, Minnesota; nine points (to 705) at Fuqua, NC; seven points (to 713) at Darden, Virginia; seven points (to 695) at Foster, Washington; six points (to 730) at Kellogg, Illinois; six points (to 723) at Tuck, NH; six points (to 719) at Anderson, California; six points (to 684) at Goizueta, Georgia. There was no change at three schools: Wharton, Pennsylvania (732); Yale SOM, Connecticut (721); and Johnson, NY (697).

In the bottom half of the top-50 list, 15 schools recorded an upward trend. Topping these 15 schools were Haslam, Tennessee, with a 41-point hike (to 657). It was followed by Katz, Pennsylvania (33 points to 640); Smeal College, Pennsylvania (22 points to 658); Terry College, Georgia (20 points to 663); Fisher, Ohio (16 points to 680); Merage, California (14 points to 670); Carey, Arizona (eight points to 680); Scheller College, Georgia (three points to 681); Marriott, Utah (one point to 675); Questrom, MA (one point to 683); and Jindal, Texas (two points to 675). Olin, Washington (695), and Simon, NY (667 estimated score), reported no change, while the score-change data was reportedly not available from Hough, Florida (estimated score 678); UC Davis, California (669); and Gabelli, NY (659).

Two-year increases

Eight schools in the top-25 recorded two-year increases from 2018 to 2019. Stern, NY (four points to 721) and Jones, Texas (four points to 710) topped this list.

The other schools that recorded upward trends were Marshall, CA (three points to 708); Stanford (two points to 734), Tuck, NH (one point to 723), Fuqua NC (one point to 705); McCombs, Texas (one point to 704); and McDonough, Washington, DC (one point to 694). There was no change at HBS (estimated score 730), Wharton (732); and Anderson, CA (719).

In the next half of the top-50, 11 schools recorded score upswings in the two-year period. The highest increase in the two-year period was seen at Katz, Pennsylvania (19 points to 640). It was followed by Carlson, Minnesota (eight points to 690, median score); Broad, Michigan (six points to 674); Fisher, Ohio (four points to 680); Merage, CA (three points to 670); Simon, NY (one point to an estimated 667); Questrom, MA (two points to 683); Mays, Texas (two points to an estimated 645); Krannert, Indiana (one point to 634), Haslam, Tennessee (two points to 657); and Gabelli, NY (three points to 659).

There was no change at Scheller, Georgia (681) and Mendoza, Indiana (671), while change data was reportedly not available from UC Davis, California (669).

The European scene

What about the GMAT class-average score trend in some top b-schools in Europe? It’s a mixed bag, really.

The University of St. Gallen’s b-school, Switzerland, recorded an increase of 40 to from 2018 to 2019 to reach 674. The average score at Cranfield School, UK, went up by 20 in these two years to touch 660.

Oxford Säid increased by nine points (to reach 690), Warwick School, UK, by six (660), IE Business School, Spain, by five points to 685, and London Business School by one point (708).

IMD, Switzerland (680); Mannheim School, Germany (678); SDA Bocconi, Italy (665); Esade, Spain (665); Manchester Business School, UK (650); and IMD, Switzerland (680); reported no change.

Meanwhile, IESE Business School, Spain, dropped five points to 681; INSEAD two points to 709; Judge, UK, two points to 691; ESMT Berlin, Germany, two points to 638; and HEC Paris one point to 690.

The trend explained

Do the increases in the class-average GMAT scores, substantial or slight, point to the candidates becoming smarter? Could be. For one, there are more options for preparing for tests. Moreover, candidates know that higher GMAT scores would make them more competitive candidates, and they work harder at the test.

Candidates could also be becoming more strategic, a test prep director told an online publisher. Since candidates can now see their unofficial scores immediately on completion of the test and decide whether to cancel them, cancellations and test re-takes are higher, with candidates trying to achieve even better scores.

And with the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) no longer sending cancelled scores to schools, the test scores that schools take into account are overall higher and, consequently, their final class average also so.

Schools aver that candidates with lower GMAT scores may be ignored only in case their other qualifications are found wanting. Although schools say that the scores are only one of the criterion for selection, along with interview performance, academic record, demonstrated leadership qualities, etc., they still set great store by GMAT scores.

And with schools receiving candidates with higher scores, as the increase in the class averages shows, do they really need to consider those with lower scores?

Another reason for the average scores going up is that schools want to fill their classes with students with high GMAT scores, as the scores are one of the factors that decides their ranking. The higher the average GMAT score of a cohort, the more likely it is for the school to feature higher on ranking lists.

GMAT scores also help schools predict the likely performance of candidates in their MBA programs: yet another reason to opt for those with higher scores.


What the figures show

  • Only three schools in the top-25 registered score-drops between 2015 and 2019
  • Just seven schools in the next 25 saw declines in those five years
  • This shows that only ten percent of top-50 schools faced a downward trend in five years
  • 14 top-25 schools recorded decreases in the two-year period from 2018 to 2019
  • 7 of the next 25 schools saw drops in the two-year period
  • So 42 percent of these 50 schools registered declines in the two-year period
  • As many as 19 schools in the top-25 saw upswings between 2015 and 2019
  • 15 in the next 25 improved their scores during the five years
  • 8 schools in the top-25 recorded increases from 2018 to 2019
  • 11 schools in the next 25 reported higher scores in the two-year period


GMAT Score Trends

School/Years 2015 2018 2019
MIT Sloan 716 728 727
Columbia 715 732 727
Virginia Darden 706 718 713
Michigan Ross 708 720 719
Texas McCombs 694 703 704
USC Marshall 679 705 708
Kenan Flagler 701 703 697
Indiana Kelley 668 674 666
Rice Jones 676 706 710
Notre Dame Mendoza 682 671 671
Vanderbilt 690 678 680
Penn State Smeal 636 657 658
Minnesota Carlson 680 682 690
Ohio Fisher 664 676 680
UC Irvine Merage 656 667 670
Pittsburgh Katz 607 621 640
Maryland 658 640 638
TAMU Mays 654 643 645
Georgia Terry 643 665 663
Tennessee Haslam 616 655 657

Source: P&Q

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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 | Image credit: GMAC

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