The number one question I hear from candidates applying to business school is, “What GPA and GMAT scores do I need to get into my top choice?”

My answer is often an unsatisfying, “It depends.” That’s because MBA programs look at many aspects of a candidate’s background and profile when considering applicants. If a candidate is strong in other areas of the application, then he or she can sometimes overcome a lower-than-average GPA or GMAT score.

This makes applying to business school different from applying to law school or other graduate programs that place a greater emphasis on standardized test scores. MBA programs are looking for well-rounded candidates; they value skills and traits that don’t always show up on tests. That isn’t necessarily good news for those with lower test scores, though: a great GMAT score won’t necessarily get you into a top MBA program, but a really poor score can definitely keep you out.

Here are some general guidelines when it comes to test scores and GPA for business school applicants:

GPA:

Your GPA is valuable to an admissions committee because it provides an indication of how you perform academically over time in pursuit of a degree. This is different and in some ways more valuable than a standardized test score.

  • Most MBA programs publish the mean GPA of their current class. Review these scores at the schools where you are applying to see how you measure up. A GPA of 3.2 or higher is usually considered sufficient to avoid any red flags at most top programs.
  • Your undergraduate major is also taken into account when reviewing your GPA. Students with a more quantitative major (e.g. engineering or finance) may receive a little more leeway on their GPA. However, if you come from a less quantitative major (e.g. history or English), committees want to see a stronger GPA; they will also look at your transcript to see if you took any quantitative classes. Business school is highly quantitative in nature, so schools want to make sure you are strong on this front.
  • If your GPA is significantly lower than the mean at your target schools, consider looking for ways to show you can perform well in more quantitative courses by taking evening classes in subjects like finance, economics, or accounting, and submitting those transcripts.
  • Sometimes extenuating circumstances can impact a student’s GPA (a death in the family, working full-time through school, etc.). Rest assured that all schools allow candidates to submit optional essays for you to explain these circumstances.

GMAT:

The top 10 MBA programs are now claiming average GMAT scores of 720+ for incoming students. This can be a daunting number for candidates preparing to take the test. In general, try to score above 680 if you are targeting a top 10 school; this gives programs a good indication of your ability to perform in the classroom.

  • The quantitative section of the GMAT is more closely scrutinized by MBA programs, so try to be in the 80th percentile or higher on this section of the test.
  • If you are targeting schools outside of the top 10, familiarize yourself with their average published GMAT scores. Try to be within 20 points of their published average.
  • If you have a lower than average score, it becomes that much more important to show strengths in other areas of your application (leadership, work experience, extracurricular activities, etc.).

GRE:

Most MBA programs now accept GRE scores as part of their application process. The top 10 MBA programs are claiming a combined average score range of 327-331 for accepted students.

  • As with the GMAT, the percentiles for each section are often a more important metric for the admissions committee. Being in the 80-85th percentile (especially in the quantitative portion of the test) puts you in a strong position with most top programs.
  • Check out this blog post for more information on taking the GMAT vs. the GRE when applying to MBA programs.

Applying to MBA programs? Connect with us to speak to one of our business school admissions consultants.