How to Understand Your GMAT Percentiles
This post has been updated to include GMAC’s most recently published GMAT score percentiles, which represent a sample of more than 700,000 students who took the GMAT from 2014-2017.
First off, you’ve got a raw score in both the Verbal and Quantitative sections. Then there’s the ever-confusing Integrated Reasoning score. Then, you’ve got an Analytical Writing score. And, if you’re still with me, there’s the Total Score!
So what precisely matters when it comes to GMAT score percentiles?
We know it’s hard to keep your brain from seeping out your ears when trying to get a handle on your score report, but we’ve broken down everything you need to know in the following tables and explanations.
Table of Contents
The Basics of GMAT Percentiles
Your total GMAT score ranges from 200-800, and your section scores have their own score scales as well. How can you turn test scores and section scores into GMAT score percentiles? Simple! You’re in the 75th percentile if 75% of students scored lower than you, the 90th percentile if 90% of test takers have lower scores, and so on.
In other words, the higher your percentile number is, the better. At the 99th percentile, only 1% of students got a better score than you, and the 100th percentile places you at the very top among all GMAT test-takers.
In contrast, if you’re at the 50th or 60th percentile, you’re not that competitive. And once you drop below the 50th percentile, your score is quite poor, and you may need to retake the GMAT (and, unfortunately, pay the GMAT exam fee once more).
Knowing the percentiles lets you know if you’ve merely achieved an average GMAT score, or if you’ve shot through the roof with your scores. GMAC produces this information on GMAT score percentiles tables, and for your convenience, we’ve broken these scores down below.
GMAT Score Percentiles Chart
Let’s start with the big one: your overall GMAT score percentile, which is on a 200 to 800 point scale. This 200 to 800 score range is a pretty common one in standardized testing. See which score corresponds to your percentile in the GMAT score chart below.
While schools will see your sectional percentiles, this is the one that they’ll use as their main consideration. (To find out about how these are calculated from sectional scores, check out information on GMAT score calculations!)
Click here for the GMAT Score Percentiles Chart
GMAT Quant Percentiles
Where does your overall GMAT percentile come from, you might be wondering? It comes from your sectional scores in Quant and Verbal. And yes–there are percentiles for both of these sections as well!
GMAT Quant is scored on a scale of 0 to 60. To get a sense of how your scores stack up, take a look at the GMAT Quant score percentiles below. This isn’t a chart of GMAT raw scores and percentiles–rather, it’s a chart of your scaled sectional score in Quant and its percentile.
Click here for the GMAT Quant Percentiles Chart
GMAT Verbal Percentiles
So you already know that your GMAT quant and verbal scores combine to give you your overall GMAT score (and thus your overall percentile). It would make sense for GMAT Verbal to be scored on the same scale as Quant (from 0 to 60), right?
For once, yes! GMAT Quant scores and percentiles are different than they are for GMAT Verbal, but at least the scoring range is the same. Here’s the GMAT score and percentile table for GMAT Verbal.
Click here for the GMAT Verbal Percentiles Chart
GMAT AWA Percentiles
Okay, so far we have your overall GMAT score and percentile (200 to 800) and your GMAT Quant and Verbal scores and percentiles (0 to 60). Just for fun, let’s make this a little more complicated with your AWA (essay) scores!
GMAT essays are scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments. That’s right–on the writing section, half a point changes your GMAT AWA percentile, and sometimes drastically. Take a look.
Click here for the GMAT AWA Percentiles Chart
GMAT IR Percentiles
At this point, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) has its very own grading scale: it is scored on a scale of 1 to 8. Unlike the AWA, IR does not use half-point increments; these are scored in whole points. As you might imagine, this affects IR percentiles drastically.
Here’s what GMAT score vs percentiles look like for IR.
Click here for the GMAT IR Percentiles Chart
How Does GMAT Calculate Percentiles?
To come up with these tables, the GMAC (not a typo–that’s the GMAT test-maker) takes a look at the most recent cohort of test-takers. Currently (for the GMAT score percentiles 2019), this includes 761,738 test-takers from January 2015 – December 2017.
You may be wondering why they don’t compare your scores to people who took the same test you did. Well, remember that the GMAT is an adaptive test–you see harder or easier questions depending on how well you answered the previous questions. So in theory, very few GMATs are exactly alike.
But in that case…why not compare your score to everyone who ever took the test to get a sense of how you stack up to GMAT score percentiles over time? First of all, because the test does change every few years, sometimes a little bit and sometimes a lot, so that wouldn’t be entirely fair.
Secondly, and more importantly, it would be meaningless. GMAT scores are valid for five years, but realistically, most people will use their scores to apply to business schools within a year or two of taking the exam.
By giving percentiles from this most recent group of test-takers, the GMAC helps admissions committees see exactly where each score stacks up in a group that is very similar to the one currently applying.
GMAT Percentiles for Top Schools
To understand the GMAT percentile you’ll need to obtain for a top school, the best thing to do is look at averge GMAT scores for top programs. As you can see from running down this list, they all tend to be above 700–sometimes well above 700, as in the case of Columbia (736–wow!).
Put this in terms of percentiles using the chart above. A 700 on the GMAT is in the 88th percentile, while a 736 would be around the 96th percentile. From this information, we can draw the conclusion that top schools need top scores.
Rankings don’t correspond precisely to score percentiles–but in this case, it’s pretty fair to say that if you’re applying to a top-10 school, a score in the top 10% of GMAT test-takers (i.e. placing you in the 90th percentile above) is definitely a helpful tool.
At this point, you may be wondering about the number of test-takers who get each top scores each year–what’s the competition like? Some simple calculations can help us figure this out. If around 250,000 test-takers take the exam each year (as they did in 2017-2018), that means around:
Starting to see a trend? Yep! The GMAT scores fall along a bell curve: very few people with very high or very low scores, and most people falling somewhere in the middle. In fact, the GMAC tells us that around two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600 on the exam.
Takeaways about GMAT Percentiles
So many numbers! So what do you need to remember about GMAT percentiles?
Getting into a top percentile on the GMAT can seem overwhelming, even impossible–but if there’s one thing that these percentile charts should show you, it’s that it’s not! Thousands of students get great scores on the GMAT every year. With hard work and smart studying, you just might be among them!