Understanding your GMAT Score
Preparing for the GMAT? Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions gives some guidance on how the test is scored, and what you need for a successful graduate application.
GMAT scores, valid for five years, are used in the business and graduate school admissions process to provide a common yardstick to compare candidates for admission, and to predict graduate student success in business school.
Your GMAT score
What exactly does your GMAT score look like? Believe it or not, you will actually receive four scores on the GMAT:
- An overall score, ranging from 200 to 800
- A math subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
- A verbal subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
- A score for the Analytical Writing Assessment, ranging from 0 to 6
Each of the GMAT scores above is also accompanied by a percentile rank. The percentile rank highlights what proportion of test takers scored lower than you on the test.
The higher the percentile rank, the better you did. For example, if you received a percentile rank of 85, you did better than 85% of test-takers. This number tells business schools exactly where you fell with respect to other candidates who took the GMAT.
On the analytical writing section, each essay is given a separate grade on a 0-6 scale by two different graders a human and a computer called the 'e-rater'. These grades are assigned holistically, taking into account all aspects of content, writing style, and grammar.
If the two grades for an essay agree, that score will be assigned. If the two scores are markedly different, then a third scorer, a person, will read the essay to determine its grade.
In addition, business schools may receive copies of your typewritten essays. The essay score is separate from the math and verbal sections of the test in that it does NOT affect your 200-800 overall score.
What's a GMAT average?
Although the mean GMAT score is approximately 530, the latest US News and World Report guide to graduate schools reports that the average GMAT scores of the top business schools in the country such as Stanford, Sloan (MIT), Kellogg (Northwestern), and Wharton (Penn) hover around 707.
As you can see, the environment is extremely competitive. In fact, 707 translates to a percentile figure of approximately 94 and up.
What's a good GMAT score?
There is no exact answer to the question of what a 'good' score is, as it depends on what schools you are applying to, though obviously the higher your percentile ranking, the better you are scoring when compared with other test-takers.
What you consider a good score should depend on your own expectations and goals, and you should research what the average GMAT scores are at the graduate schools you are interested in applying to.
Keep in mind that top business schools consider a score of at least 600 as competitive. Information on average test scores at different schools is readily available. Find out what their average GMAT scores are and then develop a preparation plan to achieve it.
- More advice on preparing for the GMAT >
About Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions
Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, a division of Kaplan, Inc., is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With 4,000 classroom locations worldwide, a comprehensive menu of online offerings and a complete array of books and software, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 80 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as English language and professional licensing exams.
This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in September 2021