When counseling aspiring MBA applicants, or speaking to a larger group regarding the MBA application process, this is always the 1st question I get. The challenge with this question is that there is no easy answer. I always tend to respond with an unfulfilling “it depends.” The reason it depends it that for business school, there is no black and white when it comes to your GPA or GMAT score. Often, when applying to other graduate programs like Law or Medical Schools, your standardized test scores and historical GPAs tend to mean a great deal. Business schools, however, are willing to overlook certain weaknesses in an application, like lower GPA or GMAT scores, if you are able to show strength in other areas of your profile that schools value, like leadership and community involvement.
That said, there are some good guidelines when it comes to judging how to compare your scores to published mean scores at schools you are considering:
- GPA – Most top schools publish the mean undergraduate GPA of their incoming class in any given year. Currently the average GPA for incoming students at the top ten business schools range from 3.50 (Darden) to 3.75 (Stanford). A good rule of thumb is that anything above a 3.20 will clear any hurdles when applying to one of these top 10 schools. If your GPA is lower than this, look for ways to prove your academic ability, especially in more quantitative courses, by taking some evening classes in disciplines like economics, finance or accounting. Also, if there was a reason your GPA is lower (e.g. family death, working full time, etc.) make sure to use the essay question to explain this to the committee.
- GMAT – Top MBA programs are now claiming average GMAT scores north of 710, which equates to the 92nd percentile or higher for a combined score. This can be a daunting number to most preparing to take the exam. A good rule of thumb is to try to be in the 680 or higher range as a combined score. Generally, this level of scoring will put you in the running for any of the top programs. If your target school falls outside of the top 10 schools, a good rule of thumb is to try to be within 20 points of the published average score for that particular school.
- GRE – While applying to business school with a GRE score is far less common than a GMAT score, most schools are now accepting this as a viable test. Most business schools do not yet publish their average accepted candidate GRE scores, however a good guidepost is to be in the 80th percentile or higher in both the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE to apply to many of the top schools.
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