When you’re deciding what score to aim for, it’s important to remember that the population of test-takers writing the GMAT is smarter and better-prepared than (probably) any other population you’ve been graded against before.
If you got a 95th percentile score on the SAT, or a 3.9 GPA at a good university, those numbers don’t mean that you “should” do just as well on the GMAT: many of your fellow test-takers are thinking the exact same thing, with the exact same background!
It’s the nature of a test on a curve: if a 680 is a 90th percentile score, that means 89 percent of test takers won’t reach a 680. Yes, that’s obvious, but it’s important to recognize just how good at this test you have to be in order to secure one of those spots in the top 5-10 percent.
Let’s take a closer look here.
GMAT Score Report: Percentiles & Raw Scores
Do you even need a 700 on the GMAT?
Here are client examples of lower test score admits to top MBA programs:
a) Male admitted to HBS, GSB and INSEAD:
670 GMAT, 67% Q/ V- 76%
b) Female admitted to HBS:
680 GMAT, 52% Q / 90% V)
c) Female admitted to CBS:
630 GMAT, 51% Q / 71% V)
She applied right on the deadline in Jan. Had her interview on March 4th and was admitted to CBS on March 23rd
d) Male admitted to CBS J term:
e) Male admitted to HBS:
620 GMAT, 44 Q / 31 V (raw)
f) Female admitted to NYU:
Stronger quant percentile or overall score: which to submit?
We had a client with the following 2 GMAT scores. Should the client submit the 690 given the higher quant score or the 700?
Total: 700 (89%) | Verbal: 42 (96%) | Quant: 43 (52%) | IR: 5 (54%)
Total: 690 (86%) | Verbal: 36 (81%) | Quant: 48 (71%) | IR: 6 (69%)
We had the client submit the 690 due to the much higher quant percentile. That 52% Q would probably be high risk.
When an applicant sends the GMAT score to schools, the report the schools receive will show *all* instances of the test on it anyway. The schools will use the score they prefer to report for their overall stats, but will see both. They’ll see the high math percentile on the one version of the test regardless, but also see the 700, which they’ll likely use to boost their average GMAT score if they end up accepting him.
Schools do want higher GMAT scores because that helps to elevate the overall GMAT average, which goes into school rankings. If a candidate has taken the test several times and can point to higher quant scores even if his overall GMAT isn’t as high, then AdCom understands that the candidate is capable of doing quant rigor.
Does importance of the GMAT percentile vary by applicant?
Yes. For example, for non-traditional and/or liberal arts educated candidates, the standardized tests are even more important because it’s one of the only ways the applicant can demonstrate quant proficiency, especially if the candidate doesn’t have the undergrad quant classes or analytical work experience. An essay alone explaining quant proficiency for some applicants is usually not enough for top MBA programs; that should be reinforced with a solid test score, as that objectively demonstrates ability to handle the curriculum any other way. We work with clients to also convey other areas of quant strength (work responsibilities, ancillary courses, etc).
Do GMAT percentiles change?
Yes. GMAC revises its scores every year. This is because they do a collective average of everyone who has taken the test over the last 3 years and then the % is adjusted based upon that. With a recent revision, applicants actually saw a verbal increase of 1% and a quant decrease of 1-2% which they are attributing to the increasingly higher levels of international quant applicants. There is never a significant change though.
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