All about GMAT Scores

Scoring Overview

Each of the GMAT's four sections (verbal, quantitative, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing) is scored separately. Test-takers receive a total score that is based on the verbal and quantitative sections only, individual scores for each section, and a percentile ranking that compares their performance to other students from the past three years. The total score is the most widely used number in business school class profiles and in everyday discussion of the GMAT. Many admissions consultants believe that the GMAT scores most relevant to business school acceptance are the total scores and the quantitative scores, which together may account for as much as 25% of admissions decisions. In most cases, the GMAT is a more significant factor in business school applications than undergraduate GPA.

Total Scores

The GMAT total score ranges from 200 to 800, to which the verbal and quantitative sections contribute an amount that is roughly equal. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) does not disclose the conversion formula, but some evidence suggests that the verbal score might be given slightly more weight. Scores are based on the number of correct answers in these sections and the level of difficulty associated with each question. Students receive unofficial scores, which are calculated by computer, immediately after finishing the test. According to GMAC, two-thirds of all test-takers score between 400 and 600, and the average total score is approximately 550. A score of 700 is in the 89th percentile, and a score of 750 is in the 98th percentile.

Verbal and Quantitative Scores

Students also receive verbal and quantitative section scores of 0 to 60 each. These are referred to by GMAC as "scaled scores," and they are determined by a computer-adaptive algorithm that accounts for the difficulty level of each question (or more precisely, the probability that a student at a specific score level will answer that question correctly). The number of correct answers that correspond to a particular scaled score will therefore vary (25 correct answers, for example, may produce a scaled score between 28 and 30). GMAC data shows that high verbal scores are far less common than high quantitative scores. Though scores for both sections are given within the same range, the mean quantitative score is about 39, while the average verbal score is below 27. A verbal score of 46 is in the 99th percentile of all test-takers, but a 46 quantitative score is only in the 62nd percentile. Verbal scores below 9 and above 44 are characterized as "rare" by GMAC, as are quantitative scores below 7 and above 50.

Integrated Reasoning Scores

Integrated reasoning scores do not count toward the total GMAT score. IR scores are reported on a scale of 1 to 8 in one-point increments. Scores for the integrated reasoning section are calculated from the number of correct answers, and each part of a multi-step problem must be answered correctly in order to receive credit. GMAC reports the mean GMAT integrated reasoning score as 4.23, with a score of 7 in the 82nd percentile and a perfect score of 8 in the 92nd percentile.

Analytical Writing Assessment Scores

The analytical writing score is the average of two independent assessments, and is reported from 1 to 6 in half-point increments. Each essay is scored by a human grader and by a software program. If these two scores vary by more than one point, a second human grader is brought in to provide an additional assessment. GMAC indicates that the average analytical writing score is 4.37, with 5.5 representing the 81st percentile and 6.0 the 90th. Analytical writing scores do not factor into the total GMAT score.

GMAT Averages at Selective Business Schools

Acceptance to the top business schools in most cases requires upper percentile GMAT scores. At Harvard Business School, the median GMAT total score of accepted students is 730, with middle 80% scores of 690-760. The overall GMAT range of students admitted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business is 570-800, with an average of 733. The acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School is approximately 13%, with a mean GMAT score of 732. One recent external analysis found that Wharton applicants who scored 770 or better on the GMAT were accepted at rates that were about 2.5 times the average (30%). Most business schools ranked in the top 25 in the United States have average GMAT scores of 700 or better, and top 70 business schools almost invariably average 650 or above. Students taking the GMAT will have the best prospects if they are able to exceed the institutional averages of their preferred business schools.