We often hear MBA applicants ask some form of the following question: “Do I need a 750 to get into a top MBA program?” Although a 750 on the GMAT can only help, it is definitely not a prerequisite. We wanted to dispel this myth and put some who believe it at ease. Here are a few simple reasons why this is just not the case:
- The Average Is Lower. Average GMAT scores at the top 15 MBA programs range from approximately 700 to 730. Clearly, if the high end of the GMAT average range is 730, the schools cannot expect applicants to have a 750. That would mean that every applicant would be above average, which is not possible. Still, if a candidate’s score falls below the average, this generally places a greater burden on the other components of the individual’s application—so, for example, maybe his/her work experience would need to be stronger than that of other applicants, or maybe his/her extracurriculars would need to stand out even more. Or maybe we are straying from our main point! The bottom line is that mathematically speaking, many people have a GMAT score below 750.
- Dee Leopold Says So. Dee Leopold, the managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, told mbaMission’s Jeremy Shinewald point blank that she assesses each individual differently and neither expects nor demands a target GMAT score. The school just happens to have a high number of great applicants with high scores to choose from, and thus its average remains high. Leopold said that she would closely examine a journalist’s Quant score and pay particular attention to an engineer’s Verbal score, for example. She is concerned that people obsess over target GMAT scores and specifically said that she will not provide candidates with GRE guidance because she does not want to trigger similar anxieties with regard to that exam as well. She grudgingly acknowledged that no matter how many public declarations she makes to the contrary, applicants simply refuse to believe that she does not have a target—and then insisted again that she does not!
- Too Few Applicants Have a 750 or Higher. The top 15 MBA programs accept around 7,000 applicants each application season. Only approximately 3,700–4,600 GMAT test takers earn scores of 750 or higher each year (depending on whether GMAC counts the number of tests taken or individual test takers), and some are earned by people who do not ultimately apply to business school at all, do not apply to any of the leading schools, take the test only to become GMAT instructors, pursue an EMBA or part-time MBA instead, are rejected because other aspects of their profile render them uncompetitive… and the list goes on. Basically, the top 15 MBA programs do not receive applications from enough applicants with 750s to entirely populate their incoming class, as evidenced by the schools’ mid-80% GMAT ranges, which are typically 660–760.
- All Schools Accept the GRE. Applicants do not really even need to take the GMAT anymore. Of course, if you do take the GMAT, you should strive to achieve the highest score possible. However, if the GMAT is not even required, you obviously would not need to score a 750 to be accepted. (Note: the GMAT is “preferred” at some schools, but the GRE is still accepted).
We want to be unequivocal: 750 is a great GMAT score, and anyone who earns that score should be delighted. However, if you do not fare as well on the exam, you should still be quite hopeful and keep a positive mind-set because the admissions process is holistic.