Quite simply, the GMAT score you need is the one that gets you into the b-school of your choice.
Let's look at GMAT scoring in more detail to give this initial statement more context.
GMAT Scoring Basics
GMAT scores are used by business schools to provide a common yardstick to compare candidates for admission and to determine whether prospective students have the ability to contribute and perform well. On the GMAT, you will receive five scores:
- An overall score, ranging from 200-800
- A math subscore, ranging from 0-60
- A verbal subscore, ranging from 0-60
- A score for your AWA, ranging from 0-6
- An Integrated Reasoning subscore, ranging from 1-8
Your Percentile Rank
Each of the above scores will be accompanied by a percentile ranking. This ranking highlights what proportion of test takers scored lower than you on the test. The higher the percentile ranking, the better you did. For example, if you received a ranking of 75, you did better than 75% of GMAT test takers. This number shows business schools exactly where you fell with respect to other candidates who took the test.
What Makes a Great Score?
Although the median score is approximately 540 (approximately two-thirds of all GMAT test-takers score between 400 and 600), the average score for those accepted to the top schools is often close to 700 or higher. The latest U.S. News and World Report guide reports that the average GMAT scores of the top programs—such as Stanford, Sloan, Kellogg and Wharton—hover around 709. As you can see, the b-school admissions environment is extremely competitive—a 709 translates into the 92nd percentile.
What you consider a good score will depend on your own expectations and goals. Still, you should keep in mind that top MBA programs consider at least a 600 as competitive. Research the average scores of your target schools and then develop a prep plan to achieve it.
||Avg GMAT Score
|U of Chicago
Source: U.S. News & World Report Best Business Schools Ranking, 2009 edition
Your Essay Score
Your essay will be given a separate score on a 0-6 scale by two different graders—a human and a computer called the "e-rater." Your essay is graded holistically, taking into account content, writing style, and grammar. If the two grades agree, that score will be assigned. If they are markedly different, a third grader, a person, will read the essay to determine the grade.
Your Integrated Reasoning Score
Your IR section will be given a separate score on a 1-8 scale. Most Integrated Reasoning questions require more than one response, and there is no partial credit given.
Your Game Plan
Keep in mind that your GMAT score does not stand alone. Whether or not you are admitted to an MBA program (and whether or not you receive scholarship money) depends on several factors. In addition to focusing on getting the best GMAT score possible, you should also work on earning the best GPA possible, writing a very strong application essay, securing outstanding letters of recommendation, and rounding out your resume. However, you came to this blog post to find out about planning for your target GMAT score. Here's how to do that:
Here are some guidelines on how to set a good GMAT score goal for yourself:
- Do your research. This is extremely important. What is the average GMAT score of accepted students at the schools you’re interested in? What do the admissions departments have to say about required minimum scores? The best place to look is on the school's website. If the information isn't there, try sending an email or placing a call. Be polite but persistent. Most schools will provide you with a minimum score requirement or an average score range for admitted students. Once you’ve done your research, use these numbers in your goal-setting process.
- Set specific goals, and prep with them in mind. Are you working to balance out a lower than average GPA, or aiming to earn financial aid? Then you’ll definitely want to aim for a higher than average GMAT score. Once you’ve done your research and gotten concrete numbers from your MBA programs of choice, you’ll be able to set very specific score goals for yourself and strive to hit them.
- Know that the GMAT is a standardized test that you can study for and, with enough practice, conquer. The GMAT asks the same types of questions on each administration of the test, so if you know the content and have methods to tackle the material, you can see significant improvement. Take a diagnostic test as you begin your studies. If that diagnostic test places you within a couple of points of your goal score, you may be good to continue studying on your own. If you have a number of points to gain, consider signing up for a prep course. Kaplan has some great ones!
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