1. Now comes time for the age old question: what scores do I need to get into the best possible schools? If you’re the type of person who was obsessed with this matter as a high school student, chances are you’re doing it again as business school applicant.


    General wisdom goes that the best standardized test score is the one that gets you into the school you want to go to. But if you want to go to the best business schools then, yeah, you’re going to need the best GMAT scores.


    This article will give a quick rundown of not just what scores certain business schools are looking for but why the average GMAT scores of successful applicants at these places are so high. The answers to that part may surprised you!


    First, the M7 Schools

    M7? Isn’t that the agency James Bond works for? Nope, but it’s just as mysterious! The M7 is a cohort of seven prestige business schools that comprises Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and MIT Sloan.


    The M7 is a literal organization that was formed by the deans of these schools. Twice a year, M7 meets to discuss trends in both the business world and the academic world. It’s an informal alliance amongst rivals, essentially. Seemingly the M7 exists so that they can all share wisdom with each other, but the real effect is that the exclusivity adds an extra layer of prestige to already prestigious schools.


    And yes, these are the most prestigious business schools. But remember that prestigious doesn’t always mean best. It’s not like Haas at UC Berkeley is by any stretch less of an incredible school than any of the M7 initiates. Haas just isn’t a member of the cohort.


    But… What Scores Do I Need To Get Into M7 Schools

    Sure, sure, you’ve heard a billion times that there are plenty of incredible schools that aren’t ranked at the absolute top. But just knowing that M7 exists makes you want to apply to all of them, right? Fine, we’ll tell you what scores they’re looking for!


    But we’re also including some other amazing schools in this list because, frankly, you will need to decide which program is best for you, and it might not be a stuffy East Coast or Midwestern legacy university.


    School GMAT Score Ranking (US News & World Report)
    Harvard University 730 (median) #1 (tie)
    Booth (University of Chicago) 730 (average) #1 (tie)
    Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) 730 (average) #3
    Stanford University 737 (average) #4
    MIT Sloan 722 (average) #5
    Kellogg (Northwestern University) 732 (average) #6
    Haas (UC Berkeley) 725 (average) #7 (tie)
    Ross (University of Michigan Ann Arbor) 716 (average) #7 (tie)
    Columbia University 724 (average) #9
    Tuck (Dartmouth University) 722 (average) #10
    Fuqua (Duke University) 702 (average) #11 (tie)
    Yale University 730 (median) #11 (tie)
    Stern (New York University) 720 (median) #13 (tie)
    Darden (University of Virginia) 713 (average) #13 (tie)
    Johnson (Cornell University) 700 (average) #15


    What To Make of GMAT Score Trends

    So, you might have come across information on various blogs about GMAT scores rising steadily over the course of the past few years. Why might that be?


    A big part of the reason is because more and more students are taking the GMAT. Any person from anywhere in the world can take the GMAT, often with the goal of attending one of those M7 business schools.


    So if, as is the case, more people in China are taking the GMAT and scoring well, then the applicant pool of high GMAT scorers at M7 schools is growing and, therefore, the average score of accepted applicants at those M7 schools climbs.


    Does it mean that smarter and smarter are applying to these schools? Well a higher average GMAT score at, say, Booth certainly means that more people who take the GMAT well are getting in there. Does it mean they’re smarter than the people who got into MIT Sloan, which had a lower GMAT score? It’s hard to imagine students at MIT Sloan are any less smart than students at Booth.


    The Rise of the GRE

    Many business schools now accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT. Where as the GMAT is specifically a business school exam actually developed by the top business schools in the ‘50s, the GRE is just a general graduate school entrance exam.


    The GRE is a more generalized test than the GMAT. Chances are that the people who are not as equipped with the specific problem solving skills that the GMAT test requires are more attracted to the GRE. Logically, that means the lower scorers are eliminating themselves from the GMAT pool, which means that there are a great proportion of high scorers taking the test.


    So an alternate reason why GMAT scores may be climbing is simply that fewer people who are worse at the test are bothering to take it.


    Should I Not Apply if My GMAT Score Doesn’t Meet The Average?

    This is a really common question. First off, what is your score? What schools are you interested in applying to?


    With some quick Googling, you an easily figure out the range of GMAT scores of a business school’s incoming class. All of the M7 schools seem to have accepted some applicants who had scores in the high 600s. Does that mean you should settle if you have a 690? Well, you should definitely apply but…


    Maybe you want to increase your score! If you’re scoring anywhere from the mid- to the high-600s, you can absolutely earn a score in the 700s with a serious GMAT prep regimen. It’s hard to say what score is a make or break when applying to business school, so simply present a score that you feel proud of.


    You want to put in somewhere between 100 and 120 hours of prep total if you plan on improving your score by 100 to 150 points.  Plan on prepping over the course of about 6 to 8 weeks if you’re a native English speaker and 8 to 12 weeks if you’re not.


    At examPAL, we offer a GMAT prep program that uses AI to tailor itself to your specific set of strengths and weaknesses. Even better, our program is computer adaptive, just like the actual GMAT. That means that your practice increases in difficulty as you get more questions correct. By the time you take the GMAT on test day, taking that computerized test will be a breeze.


    What If GMAT Scores At a School Are Declining?

    A lot of people make the logical leap to assume that declining GMAT scores at a school mean that the program itself is declining in quality. The common perception is that declining GMAT scores mean a program isn’t attracting top quality applicants anymore.


    First off, that is potentially true, but as an applicant yourself, do you really know what differentiates the quality of an M7 school from the quality of a school that’s not outside of M7? Really, if a school’s GMAT average is going down, it likely just means that more top scorers are exclusively applying to the top ranked schools.


    Additionally, some business schools actually publish lower GMAT averages than what is representative of an incoming class because they are trying to attract candidates who have more diverse talents than simply being good at the GMAT. That’s right, if a school’s GMAT scores are going down, they may well be placing more stock in the rest of the applicant’s application.


    If you’ve ever felt like a test score doesn’t fairly represent you as a person, then there are a lot of schools out there that agree with that philosophy.

    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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