GMAT Role/Weight in Business School Applications

The GMAT and U.S. National Business School Rankings

The GMAT should be viewed by prospective business students as very important to the success or failure of their applications. One major reason for this is the link between business school rankings and the average GMAT scores of an institution's accepted students. Programs therefore have a strong incentive to accept students with the highest possible scores, and a drop in a school's average GMAT scores is likely to lead to a decline in rank. The most admissions-relevant rankings in the United States are probably those provided by U.S. News & World Report. The methodology used by U.S. News devotes 25% of business school assessments to a category called "student selectivity." Almost two-thirds of this category (and 16.25% of the total) is derived from GMAT total scores and GRE scores. Since most business schools do not report average GRE scores for their students, GMAT total scores make up the vast majority of the testing data. GMAT scores are the second-largest sub-category in the entire U.S. News rankings methodology, behind only the "peer assessment score" at 25%.

Forbes magazine also publishes a ranked list of business schools, which allows users to easily view tuition rates, average GMAT scores, average salaries, and typical five-year increases in compensation for MBAs (U.S. News publishes some of this data as well, but access requires a subscription). The methodology used by Forbes is based on the idea of "return on investment," which has been criticized for prioritizing the top-tier schools. Bloomberg Businessweek is another source of business school rankings, and like the Forbes list, it does not consider admissions selectivity.

The GMAT and World Business School Rankings

Because the GMAT is only required or accepted in English-speaking countries, world business school rankings tend to avoid consideration of GMAT scores. The rankings published by the Financial Times, for example, use data drawn from surveys of business school alumni and are thus much more devoted to outcomes (employment, salary, etc.). Not surprisingly, these rankings often produce far different results than those complied by U.S. News. World rankings are worth examination, but prospective business school applicants should remember that they can be less than helpful in assessing selectivity of admission. Aspiring graduate business students would be well advised to gather as much information as possible on their preferred institutions, but they must not forget to emphasize all data that is relevant to acceptance.

Other Assessments of the GMAT's Weight in Applications

The intense competition for acceptance to top business schools has led to the creation of an admissions consulting industry. These professionals provide advice intended to maximize their clients' chances of submitting successful applications. The viability of this industry is completely dependent on getting results, and admissions consultants are intimately familiar with the business school application process. Both of these facts give admissions consultants some degree of credibility to comment on the important components of business school applications. In a recent survey of admissions consultants, 65% of respondents believed that the GMAT is now being given more weight than ever. They also estimated that the GMAT accounted for about 22% of admissions decisions, with total GMAT scores at 16% and quantitative scores at 6%. Other interviews with admissions consultants indicated that many believe the GMAT to be a better choice for applicants than the GRE, although there is some disagreement on this issue.

The GMAT's Weight as Reflected in Average Scores at Selected Business Schools

Most business schools publish class profiles of their accepted students online, which include average GMAT scores and score ranges. Viewing these class profiles will allow a prospective business student to confirm the importance of the GMAT for himself or herself. There is an almost linear relationship between the selectivity of a given business school and the average GMAT total scores of successful matriculants. At the most highly ranked institutions, mean GMAT total scores are generally in the 90th percentile or above. These include the Stanford Graduate School of Business (average of 733), Harvard Business School (median of 730 with middle 80% scores of 690-760), the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business (average of 726), the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School (mean of 731, median of 730, and middle 80% of 700-770), and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (average of 726). Lower ranked programs report much lower GMAT scores. At the University of Kansas School of Business, which is outside the top 75 in the United States, the average GMAT score is 570. At the unranked University of Tennessee Chattanooga College of Business, the GMAT average is 500.