Mean GMAT scores are influenced by all sorts of factors and are, of course, derived from compiling scores significantly above, significantly below, and all points in between a plotted average. Plus, it is certainly worth noting the vast differences in the individual human beings that are submitting these scores. These folks undeniably come from extremely different educational histories and socio-economic statuses. Each person decides on his or her own level of preparation in order to achieve wildly different target scores relevant to wildly different admissions criteria. And the list of mitigating factors goes on and on. Nonetheless, comparing arithmetic mean GMAT scores from nation to nation tells an interesting if not complete story and raises at least a few novel questions.
The U.S. has long been criticized for an educational system that appears to be less than it ought to be considering the wealth of the nation. Arguably, the most severe criticism originates from our nation’s populous. The 2010 documentary film Waiting for ‘Superman’ is an example of such self-directed condemnation. So, when United States is bested by 53 other countries on an exam given only in English and primarily used for admissions to US universities to study American-style market economics and business management, it is hard not to hold my head in my hands and sigh.
A recent article on PoetsandQuants.com attempts to discern Why 53 Countries Beat the U.S. on the GMAT. Through GMAC-released scoring data for the 2013 testing year, we learn that the mean score based on over ninety thousand administered GMAT exams to U.S. citizens is a less-than-impressive 532. Currently, that score puts in the U.S. in the 39th percentile on the 200-800 point percentile distribution scoring scale. Some of America’s business associates like Australia, the United Kingdom, China, India, and Germany rank 6th, 9th, 14th, and 20th respectively (note: Australia and the UK are tied for 6th place with a mean score of 590 of the exam), each position being a great deal better than our 54th.
For insights on the list, author and Poets and Quants founder John A. Byrne turned to Kaplan’s executive director of graduate programs, Lee Weiss. Lee observes that New Zealand’s top spot may well be “because they travel so far to go to business school so you are getting a very select group of high achievers. Clearly, they have the skills and the English language in their favor.” And in regard to the U.S. specifically, Weiss says that “U.S. candidates are scoring pretty similarly to their international counterparts. But there are a lot of business schools in the U.S. and as you get further down the rung you get applicants who can get in with lower GMAT scores. Whenever we talk about MBAs, we think about Harvard and Stanford, but there are plenty of business schools that require much lower GMAT scores. So you are looking at a more selective GMAT pool outside the U.S.”
The article goes on to make several other very valid comments on why the scores are what they are. Yet, as a citizen, I cannot help but feel disappointed in the overall performance of my compatriots on an exam that I firmly believe they should dominate. And, as a Kaplan GMAT instructor, I know they can dominate the GMAT.
So the charge is yours, my fellow Americans: bring up our average!
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