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You interpret it as the average. It's pretty straight forward. Schools will tell you that there are no GMAT requirements, so a relatively weak score like 660 could theoretically be overcome by other strengths in your application and lead to an admit; realistically, though, it seems to be unlikely. Schools apparently tend to use the GMAT as a first round tool to screen out people early on, so if you get below, say, a 700 on the GMAT, you will generally not be considered to any real degree by some schools because you will not make it past the initial screening. My honest opinion is that 660 is probably far too low to be competitive for a program like Duke's, but your chances are not quite 0, either. Best of luck!
Yeah average is average - but as a descriptive statistic by itself, you can't conclude much about range or deviation (i.e. 690, 700, and 710 average to 700 but so do 650, 700, and 750). Schools normally state they have no minimums but note that it is rare if they admit scores below a certain level. That level depends on schools quality but is typically mid to high 600's for the more competitive schools. The best way to interpret it is that for every 10 points you go below the average, other parts of your application will need to be increasingly spectacular for you to compensate (kind of like maintaining an equilibrium for your appliccation as a whole). If you're 50 points below the average, then you will probably need some pretty amazing accomplishments in the rest of your application.
I'd agree with PhD hope here and say that 660 is probably around the minimum considered for Duke. But even if you made it past that initial screen, you'd have to be above and beyond in all other areas to compensate. Honestly, if you're serious about Duke, you probably want to consider retaking the GMAT. If you don't want to retake it, then make sure you apply for some less competitive schools in addition to schools like Duke which may be long shots with a 660.
Re: Average GMAT Score for PhD
04 Jul 2010, 11:53