What is a Good GMAT Score in the Era of the Focus Edition (2024)?
Now that the transition to the GMAT Focus Edition is complete, you may be wondering: how, if at all, will the new format impact admissions decisions?
And equally important, how do you answer the question “what is a good GMAT score” in 2024, specifically on the new exam?
In this article, we’ll explore some crucial distinctions that separate the GMAT Focus Edition from alternative exams, we’ll help you evaluate the competitiveness of your score, and we’ll explain why a good showing on the GMAT still has the potential to drive superior admissions results.
2 factors that set the GMAT apart
Here are two key reasons that make the GMAT an ideal choice for your MBA candidacy:
GMAT success predicts business school success
The first reason that business schools care about your GMAT score is that the exam is the best standardized predictor of success in an MBA program.
The GMAT is the only exam designed for business school admissions (compared to the GRE, which is used for admissions across the academic spectrum).
Thus, tough GMAT problems are designed to assess the exact skills required in business school: critical thinking, flexibility in problem solving, and hypervigilance for any “tricks” in the question. This goes far beyond pure math or grammar exercises, and is the reason why the GMAT really measures skills relevant for business.
The GMAT reigns supreme at top MBA programs
Given its close association with business school admissions, it is perhaps unsurprising that the GMAT is the predominant choice for applicants to business schools worldwide.
Not only is the exam accepted by more than 7,700 programs at over 2,400 institutions, but it’s also the favored exam for applicants to elite programs like Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.
Consider this data from U.S. News in 2023, showing the percentage of new M7 MBA program entrants providing GMAT scores:
- Harvard Business School: 74%
- Stanford Graduate School of Business: 67%
- The Wharton School: 71%
- Columbia: 55%
- Northwestern Kellogg : 75%
- University of Chicago Booth: 73%
- MIT Sloan: 54%
If you’re planning on targeting these programs, keep in mind that the GMAT holds a significant and dominant position in top-ranked admissions processes.
Why business schools care about your GMAT score
The elephant in the room is that the GMAT score is a factor in the U.S. News MBA rankings. To be precise, test scores (including the median GMAT score) contribute to the Quality assessment portion of the U.S. News MBA ranking calculation.
As described here, the GMAT score includes sub-scores for
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Verbal Reasoning
- Data Insights
The U.S. News calculation uses your total score, which is based on your performance in all three categories: the Quantitative, Verbal, and Data Insights sections.
Every MBA program wants to maintain or increase its ranking, because a higher ranking means more (and better) applications. Go on, admit it. You have looked at MBA rankings, too.
If you have a good GMAT score, admitting you will help the MBA program to improve its ranking. What counts as a good score depends on the MBA program’s median GMAT score, and whether you’re in a more or less competitive group of applicants.
What is a good GMAT score for me?
First, a warning about what not to do: don't fall into the trap of looking for a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, focus on understanding what score will make you a strong candidate for the specific program you're applying to. Every program has its own expectations, so it’s crucial to get specific here.
That is, the only way to figure out what makes for a good GMAT score is to determine the threshold at which you would be a competitive candidate for the program where you are applying.
Start by looking at your target MBA program’s historical median or average GMAT score. Calculate the percentile position of that benchmark. Then, determine whether your own score is above, below, or on par with this target.
Let’s look at an example (but note that this is, indeed, a rough sketch of how you can go about evaluating your score).
For an American man in finance applying to the Wharton MBA program, where the average score is in the 95th percentile in a typical year, a 98th percentile GMAT score would be good, and 99th percentile would be excellent. (The large number of American men in finance applying to Wharton means that this applicant is in a competitive group and should target a GMAT score that’s slightly higher than the overall benchmark in order to have a “good” GMAT score.)
Yet another reason to submit a GMAT score
The updated GMAT Focus Edition differs from the previous version of the GMAT Exam in terms of test content and length. Especially in 2024, we think this test duration factor is something to consider.
The updated GMAT Focus Edition aims to tackle exam fatigue. It only lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is almost an hour shorter than the previous version of the GMAT Exam.
Even though it's still a challenging test (like all tests) GMAT Focus makes the experience less stressful. It has fewer sections, takes less time at the test center, and introduces a new feature where you can review and edit your answers.
These structural improvements could influence how the admissions committee looks at your testing history. If you're considering an alternative exam, fewer attempts at the GMAT, or applying for a waiver, consider this: the person reviewing your application might not be as sympathetic if they think you didn't put your best effort into achieving a high score.
In navigating the era of the GMAT Focus Edition, recognizing the nuances that define a good GMAT score remains instrumental in securing superior admissions results and advancing one's MBA candidacy.
Our key takeaway is this: avoid a one-size-fits-all mentality and focus on understanding the score that makes you a competitive candidate for your target program.