1. In most tests, you can easily calculate your score based on the number of correct answers. The GMAT, however, has confused test takers for years with its Quant and Verbal scales of 0-60 and total score range of 200-800, which are not correlated to the number of correct answers like we’re used to. This blog explains how the scores on the GMAT are calculated, helping you to interpret your score cards.


    **Update: This post has been updated with new data from the GMAT® Percentile Ranking report.

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    How the GMAT is scored

    The GMAT is not a pass/fail test. It is compiled of four different sections, and provides five different scores: one score from each of the four sections (separated into a scaled score and percentile rank), and a fifth Total score calculated from the Quantitative and Verbal sections combined.

    In total, these are the scores you’ll receive:

    1. Analytical Writing Assessment (on a scale of 0 to 6)
    2. Integrated Reasoning (on a scale of 1 to 8)
    3. Verbal (on a scale of 0 to 60)
    4. Quant (on a scale of 0 to 60)
    5. Total score – Verbal and Quant together (on a scale of 200 to  800)

    Percentile Ranking

    In addition to a raw number, the GMAT also comes with a percentile ranking, which shows the percentage of test-takers who scored at or below a certain score; the higher the percentile ranking, the more competitive the score. Note that, as rankings are recalculated every summer using exam data from the prior three years, the same score in different years might have a different percentile value.  In practice, this shouldn’t bother you too much unless you are submitting an application based on an old GMAT (~from 3+ years ago). If you are, it would be best to check if the percentile has changed much, and if so mention it in your application.

    For example, the table below shows that 73% of the test takers in the period between January 2015 – December 2017 scored less than 650, whereas a previous version of the table, from 2013 – 2015,  showed that 76% scored less than 650.

    800 99%
    750 98%
    700 88%
    650 73%
    600 56%
    550 39%
    500 27%
    450 17%
    400 10%
    350 6%
    300 3%
    250 2%
    200 0%

    MEAN SCORE: 561.27

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    Your Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Score

    The AWA score is based on the Analyze an Argument essay. The essay is independently scored by a specially designed computer software and by a human rater, with the two scores then being averaged into your final AWA score. 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 (human) rater gives a third evaluation. These experts 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 raters are sensitive and fair when marking the responses of those whose first language is not English.

    As human raters do the grading for the AWA, students cannot 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.

    6 88%
    5 53%
    4 17%
    3 4%
    2 2%
    1 1%
    0 0%

    MEAN SCORE: 4.48

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    Your Integrated Reasoning (IR) Score

    IR scores range from 1 to 8 (in one-point intervals).

    Most Integrated Reasoning questions contain more than one part and you need to answer all parts of a question correctly in order to get points for that question.

    As with the AWA, students cannot 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.


    Out of the 12 questions in the Integrated Reasoning section, up to 3 are experimental questions, which are not factored into your total IR score. However, as there is no way to tell which questions are experimental, you should put your best effort into all questions. Similarly to the other sections, your final IR score is not the number of correctly answered questions, but rather a number from 1-8 which takes into account your overall question profile. So for example, if you answered 7 out of 9 non-experimental questions correctly, then while your raw score would be 7, your scaled score would likely be 6 or 7, depending on the difficulty of these specific questions.


    In the IR section you’ll get a Percentile Ranking as well, which also changes from one year to the next. Here’s a recently published table.

    8 92%
    7 82%
    6 70%
    5 54%
    4 38%
    3 24%
    2 11%
    1 0%

    MEAN SCORE: 4.29

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    Your Quantitative, Verbal, and Total scores

    The Total GMAT Score is calculated from both the Quantitative and the Verbal scores, and ranges from 200 to 800. We’ll first describe these two sections and then describe how they combine into the final score. Note that if all that interests you is what Quant/Verbal combination gets you your desired score, there is no need to read this! Instead, just type you desired score into the table at the top of the blog and see what comes up.

    The Verbal and Quantitative sections are each scored separately, with scaled scores ranging from 0 to 60. Because they measure different elements, these scores should not be be compared to each other. Rather, each should be viewed independently, and in fact each has its own percentile distribution. As an example, look at the two tables below: while a score of 46 on the Verbal section is equivalent to a percentile of 99%, a similar score on the Quant section is equivalent to a percentile of 58%.  In practice, what this means is that when considering what target Verbal and Quant scores to aim for, you should also take into account their percentiles – for most people achieving a 46 on Quant is far easier than achieving a 46 on Verbal.

    Verbal percentiles

    51 99%
    46 99%
    40 90%
    35 76%
    30 58%
    25 39%
    20 23%
    15 10%
    10 3%

    MEAN SCORE: 27.04

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    Quant percentiles

    51 96%
    46 58%
    41 41%
    36 29%
    31 18%
    26 12%
    21 6%
    16 3%
    11 2%
    6 0%

    MEAN SCORE: 39.93

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    Total GMAT score percentiles

    800 99%
    750 98%
    700 88%
    650 73%
    600 56%
    550 39%
    500 27%
    450 17%
    400 10%
    350 6%
    300 3%
    250 2%
    200 0%

    MEAN SCORE: 561.27

    Date Period: January 2015 – December 2017

    Source: mba.com


    What is a Good GMAT Score?

    A good GMAT score is over 640 (around the 70th percentile) and an excellent score is 700+ (around the 90th percentile). The average scores for students admitted to the 50 top ranking MBA programs is around 660 – you can find this kind of information for a particular school on their admissions page. However, always remember that your score is just one data point in a holistic application including your essays, admission interviews, undergraduate GPA, recommendation letters, work experience, work prestige, and extracurricular involvement. So while getting a top-notch GMAT is important, it is not everything.


    Going back to the previous GMAT score chart, here’s how you can interpret your score:

    800 99% Genius
    750 98% Amazing
    700 88% Excellent
    650 73% Very good
    600 56% Nice
    550 39% Subaverage
    500 27% Low
    450 17% Very low
    400 10% Extremely low
    350 6% Unusable
    300 3% Unusable
    250 2% Unusable
    200 0% Theoretical

    Which factors influence the scores?

    Scores are based on 3 main factors:

    1. The number of questions answered correctly – There are 31 questions in the Quantitative section and 36 questions in the Verbal section, but not all of them count towards your score. 3 of the Quantitative questions are ‘experimental’, so only 28 Quantitative questions are taken into account, while 6 of the Verbal questions are experimental, which means that only 30 Verbal questions impact your score. Like in the Integrated Reasoning section, there’s no way to tell which questions are unscored (and thus we advise you not to skip any question because you think it looks ‘weird’!).
    2. The total number of questions answered: Every section of the test needs to be completed.  In Quant, this means 31 questions in 62 minutes, and in Verbal, this means 36 questions in 65 minutes. So, you have two minutes on average per quant question and a bit less for each verbal question.  This is a really fast pace, and as such practicing your time management should be an important part of your study process. Note that there is a penalty for not completing a section of the test! As such, if you run out of time, we strongly recommend guessing the remaining answers rather than leaving a section incomplete.
    3. The difficulty of the questions answered: A simplistic description of the adaptive nature of the GMAT is that it starts with a question of medium difficulty. If the question is answered correctly, the next question will be harder and the total score will go up. If the question is answered incorrectly, the next question will be easier, and the score will go down. The actual mechanism by which questions are selected and score is calculated is a bit more complicated, but the general idea is correct: your overall score is not dependent only on the number of questions answered correctly, but also on their relative difficulty. Additionally, it is dependent on the difficulty of the questions answered incorrectly. If you like, you can picture the difficulty of the questions you got right as your ‘minimal score’ and the difficulty of the questions you got wrong as your ‘maximal score’, with your actual score being somewhere ‘in the middle’.

    Myths About the Scores

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

    Fact: All questions carry the same weight in the final score calculation. Moreover, your final score is based on your entire question profile, which emphasizes question difficulty, and not the question’s location in the exam.

    With that said, you should not take the initial questions lightly, as getting too many of them wrong is like starting off on an interview on the wrong foot – you’ll ‘make a first impression’ that you are a weak student and thus have a hard time ‘convincing’ the algorithm to see you in good light. In practice, if the algorithm infers you are a weak student it will give you easy questions, and you’ll have to solve many of these before it gives you the harder ones you need for a high score.


    #2: I need to put more effort into practicing and solving the hard questions.

    Fact: It is best to study those questions that are only slightly above your current level. Learning is a step-by-step process; if you don’t understand the basics, you will be incapable of understanding the advanced material. Moreover, on the exam, missing easy questions harms your score more than getting difficult questions right helps your score. So, if you somehow get the hard questions right at the expense of easy or mid-level questions, you won’t be doing yourself any favors…

    GMAC myth 2: Implications to test preparation

    © Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). All rights reserved.


    #3: “There is a ‘best order’ in which to take the GMAT”

    The order in which you take the sections doesn’t matter too much. Mostly, it should reflect your personal test-taking preferences. As the GMAC puts it, are you the type of person who likes to ‘warm up’ before taking on the stuff you’re weak at? Then start with the section you’re strongest in (Verbal or Quant) and then continue onto the next one. On the other hand, would you rather tackle your hardest section when you’re still fresh and at peak concentration?  Then start with your weakest section. Either way, we recommend you put your AWA and IR sections last. Usually, your performance in these sections isn’t a major part of your application and it would be best not to waste too much mental energy on them.

    GMAC myth 3: GMAT section order

    © Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). All rights reserved.


    #4: “If I keep retaking I know I will break that 700!”

    Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. Official research done by the GMAC shows the that the majority of improvement occurs during the first or second retake. In particular, the lower your original score, the easier it will be to improve.  As an example, students who score in the 600s or above usually don’t improve by more than 30 points or so. So – if you’ve already taken the exam 2-3 times, then unless you drastically alter the way you’re approaching your GMAT studies (for example – by using our AI-based learning program!), there’s a good chance you’ll have difficulty significantly improving your scores. For those of you who have only taken the exam once, no worries!  You’ve finished your test run, know how the GMAT works and are ready to prepare for the real thing.

    GMAC myth 4: Score gains for repeat test takers

    © Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). All rights reserved.


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

    What else you need to know about the GMAT score?

    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 completing 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 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.



    Tips for getting the best possible GMAT score

    Play to your strengths; manage your weaknesses

    As many of you know, and as described elsewhere, getting that desired GMAT score is not about blind practicing, but about learning.  In particular, it is all about your ability to recognize, out of all the tools available to solve a given question, which tools work best for you.  Do you prefer to jump directly into equation manipulation? Do you prefer to start by eliminating impossible answers? Maybe you prefer to take a step back to assess what the question is actually asking and if there exists a shortcut?  Each of us has our own natural strength and we must learn to leverage this to the maximal ability.


    Additionally, getting that high score involves putting significant effort into learning from mistakes. Do we have difficulty translating word problems into algebra?  Do we tend to miss small details or make silly mistakes? Are there certain concepts that give us difficulty? The better we are able to identify and manage our weaknesses, the less they will adversely affect our scores.


    So, playing to our strengths and managing our weaknesses are two of the more important skills to learn in your GMAT prep (and in life in general).  At examPAL, we have built our entire system to help you do this: after learning the material with our interactive video lessons, each practice phase is divided into 3. The Diagnostic phase helps you identify both your strengths and your weaknesses, the Improvement phase helps you to hone these skills and the Optimization phase takes you to the next step, by giving you additional practice, tips and tricks with the set of skills that works best for you. All of the questions you’ll see will be specially chosen for you by our patented PALgorithm, which utilizes both your personal learning experience and ‘crowd wisdom’ – that is the experience of tens of thousands of other students – to build you your personal path to success.

    How to improve a previous score

    In brief, improvement is all about (1) setting a target Quant / Verbal breakdown, (2) researching your previous mistakes and (3) building a study plan to get you to our target score by fixing your previous mistakes.


    In particular, mistakes can often be divided into 3:  ‘fundamental mistakes’, which reflect a lack of knowledge about the actual material – this indicates there are topics you simply do not understand properly and need to review; ‘technical mistakes’, which refer to various silly errors such as calculation mistakes, missing a detail, forgetting an edge case, etc. – which are generally solvable by more careful work and more focus; and ‘strategic mistakes’, which refer to choosing the wrong solution approach, struggling with a question that should have been skipped, and so on.


    Notice that often, improving a score is best done by relearning from the ground up and not by focusing only on the ‘difference between the current and desired score’ (which usually translates into studying only the harder problems). Your second time through the material, you’ll have an eye for details and techniques you didn’t recognize before, and it is especially important that you use this increased understanding to revisit the same questions as before – what methods work best for you? Where should you be careful?  As before, at examPAL our AI-based approach does much of the heavy lifting for you by helping you find those methods that work best for you and focusing in on them. In fact, we believe in our method so much we provide a 70 point guarantee for all retakers – if you don’t achieve an improvement of at least 70 points, we’ll provide you with a full refund! (see details here)

    Take home messages:

    1. Your score contains both a ‘scaled number’ and a percentile score. When considering how high of a score you need, see what your target school requires and plan accordingly. Once you know what to aim for, use the interactive table to see what combination of Quant and Verbal you’ll need.
    2. The total score is created from a Quant and Verbal score. Each is calculated separately and each has very different percentiles:  a scaled score of 46 on Verbal is the 99th percentile but only the 58th percentile on Quant!
    3. In addition to Quant/Verbal, your score will also contain an AWA (essay) score and an Integrated Reasoning score. These are usually less important for admissions (but don’t ignore them completely)
    4. To get the score of your dreams, you’ll need to work on both your strengths and your weaknesses. At examPAL, we’ve built a special AI-supported system that does much of the hard work for you.  Especially if you’re retaking, this rapid improvement and learning is what you should focus on. We believe in our system so much we offer a 70-point improvement guarantee for all retakers.

    Start your 7-day trial today!

    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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