The GMAT Score Explained: How are GMAT Scores Calculated?
  1. For most tests, it’s easy to evaluate your performance. Yet the GMAT has confused test takers for years with its quant and verbal score scales of 0-60 and total score range of 200-800.This blog explains how the scores are calculated, in order to shed some light on the process.

    How the GMAT is scored

    The GMAT is not a pass/fail test. For each of the four sections there is a separate scaled score and percentile rank. A combined Quantitative/Verbal score (called a Total score) is also given.

    In total, you’ll get 5 different scores:

    1. The AWA (scored 0-6)
    2. Integrated Reasoning (1 – 8)
    3. Verbal and Quant (each has a scaled score from 0 – 60)
    4. Verbal and Quant (200 – 800). Verbal and Quantitative sections are each worth 800 points.
    5. The final score is an average of these two scores.

    Your Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Score

    The AWA score is based on the Analysis of an Argument essay. The essay is independently scored twice, at least one of which by a human reader and then averaged. Scores for the AWA range from 0 to 6 (in half-point intervals).

    If the two ratings differ by more than one point, an expert reader gives a third evaluation. Expert readers are trained college and university faculty members who look at the following:

    • The quality of your ideas and your ability to organize, develop, and express them
    • The supporting reasons and examples
    • Your ability to control the elements of written English

    The readers are sensitive and fair when marking the responses of those whose first language is not English.

    As human readers do the grading for the AWA, students can’t see their AWA scores on the same day that they take the test. They receive a GMAT score report that includes their AWA score via regular mail around two weeks after they take their test.

    GMAT AWA percentile

    Source: http://www.mba.com/global/the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-scores/your-score-report/what-percentile-rankings-mean.aspx#tab5

     

    Your Integrated Reasoning (IR) Score

    IR scores range from 1 to 8.

    For most Integrated Reasoning questions there is more than one response and you need to answer all responses to a question correctly.

    As with the AWA, students can’t see their IR scores on the same day that they take the test. They receive a GMAT score report that includes their IR score via regular mail around two weeks after they take their test.

    2013 percentiles:

    Integrated reasoning percentile

    2015 percentiles:

    IR percentile table

    Source: http://www.mba.com/global/the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-scores/your-score-report/what-percentile-rankings-mean.aspx#tab2

     

    GMAT Score Percentiles – Distribution of GMAT scores across the population

    Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800.

    Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60. Because they measure different elements, they cannot be compared to each other. And although both the Verbal and Quant combine to give the total score, the average for each section is different, as you can see in the tables below.

    2013 Verbal percentiles:

    Verbal section percentile

    2015 Verbal percentiles:

    Verbal percentiles table

    Source: http://www.mba.com/global/the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-scores/your-score-report/what-percentile-rankings-mean.aspx#tab3

    2013 Quant percentiles:

    Quant section percentile

    2015 Quant percentiles:

    Quant percentiles table

    Source: http://www.mba.com/global/the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-scores/your-score-report/what-percentile-rankings-mean.aspx#tab4

    2013 total GMAT score percentiles:

    final GMAT score percentile

    2015 total GMAT score percentiles:

    GMAT score percentiles table

    Source: http://www.mba.com/global/the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-scores/your-score-report/what-percentile-rankings-mean.aspx

     

    Which factors influence the scores?

    Scores are based on 3 main factors:

    1. The number of questions answered correctly
    2. The number of questions answered within the time given per section:Every section of the test needs to be completed.  For quant, it’s 37 questions in 75 minutes, and for verbal, it’s 41 questions in 75 minutes. This means you have around two minutes per quant question and even less time for each verbal question.  It’s a really fast pace, and therefore time management is key.  There is no penalty for incorrect answers, but there is a penalty if a test taker does not complete a section of the test. If you run out of time, it’s best to guess an incorrect answer than leave an incomplete section.
    3. The degree of difficulty of the questionsAt the beginning of each section, the GMAT gives a question of medium difficulty. If the question is answered correctly, the next question will be harder and the score will go up. If the question is answered wrong, the next question will be easier, and the score will go down.

    Myths About the Scores

    “The first 10 questions count more towards your score, and you should spend more time on them.”

    Fact: All questions carry the same weight and help you in getting a good score. One should not take the initial questions lightly as the algorithm finds your real ability by around question 20. However, it evaluates your whole question profile.

    “I only need to study the hardest questions.”

    Fact: It is best to study those questions that are only slightly above your current level.  Missing easy questions harms your score more than getting difficult questions right helps your score.

    For more myths, see Dispelling the Top 10 Myths About the GMAT 

    What else you need to know about the GMAT score?

    Percentile Ranking

    The real value of a GMAT score is its percentile ranking. This shows the percentage of test-takers who scored at or below a certain score: the higher the percentile ranking, the more competitive the score.

    What’s a Good GMAT Score?

    A good score is over 600 (around the 70th percentile) and an excellent score is 700+ (90th percentile). The average scores for students admitted to the 50 top ranking MBA programs is around 660 and you can find this kind of information for a particular school on their admissions page. However, your score is just one data point used in making a decision.

    Getting Your Results

    Upon completing the GMAT, test-takers need to decide whether or not to keep their scores. Unofficial scores from the Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning sections of the GMAT exam, along with the Total score, are available immediately after you complete the test.

    Those who choose to keep their scores can view the total scaled score along with the separate Verbal and Quantitative scaled scores.

    GMAT scores are valid for five years, but some business schools might ask for a recent score.

    Your GMAT Score Report

    Online receipt: Within 20 calendar days of testing, you will receive an email with instructions to access your Official Score Report online. You may view, download, or print your report.

    Mail receipt: Around 20 calendar days after testing, you will receive your Official Score Report. Your scores will be available to the programs that you selected to receive your scores.

    In addition to your GMAT scores, your Official Score Report includes:

    • Digital photograph taken at the test center
    • Self-reported background information
    • Percentile rank

    Compare Your Scores with a Previous Version of the GMAT Exam

    If you have taken the previous version of the GMAT exam, your Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Quantitative, Verbal, and Total scores are directly comparable to the current exam.

    Enhanced Score Report

    For more information on your performance and a complete overview of how you did on your exam, get your Enhanced Score Report (ESR). It gives you a detailed analysis of your performance—by question type, areas for focus, and pacing—enabling you to fine-tune your preparation and do even better next time around.

    For more information about GMAT preparation, see The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Before Taking the GMAT 

    GMAT score chart – Estimation of final score based on Verbal & Quant scores

    GMAT score chart

    GMAT Score Cancellation Policy

    Once you finished your test you’ll see your score on the computer screen. You’ll have the chance to cancel it right away for free. If you decide to not cancel it at this point you’ll have a 72 hours window to cancel it online, but this time for a fee of $25.

    Cancelled GMAT scores won’t be listed on the report sent to the schools you asked the report will be sent to.

    Once you cancel you can reinstate your score at a later date, again for a fee.

    GMAT score expiration

    The GMAT score officially expires exactly 5 years from the date in which you took the test.

    GMAT Score Improvement Guarantee

    examPAL offers a score improvement guarantee for anyone who has taken the GMAT before and is unhappy with his score. We guarantee a 70 point (!) improvement or you are entitled to get a full refund.

    Sign up today.

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    Dave Green
    Senior tutor and professional test-prep writer. Interdisciplinary wizard, with Master’s degrees in economics, philosophy, and political science at HUJI.

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