Wondering how to interpret the GMAT percentiles and GMAT scores? When you receive your GMAT score, you'll notice two significant numbers: the raw score and the percentile rank. To fully understand the implications of your score, it's essential to grasp the concept of GMAT percentile rankings. In this article, we will outline everything you need to know about GMAT percentile rankings and help you learn how to choose the right MBA program for you!

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Article Contents
8 min read

What Are GMAT Percentiles? How the GMAT is Scored Total GMAT Score vs GMAT Percentiles What is a Good GMAT Score? MBA Programs with the Highest Accepted GMAT Percentiles MBA Programs with the Lowest Accepted GMAT Percentiles How to Convert GMAT Total Score to GMAT Percentiles Should You Retake the GMAT? FAQs

What Are GMAT Percentiles?

The GMAT percentile you see when you receive your GMAT score represents the percentage of test takers who scored lower than you. It is not your "grade" or percentage of correct answers but instead an indicator of your performance in comparison to other test takers who took the test, roughly within the last 3 years.

This means that your GMAT percentile is conditional on how well others do on their test. For example, if your report says that you scored in the 90th percentile it means you performed better than 90% of test takers. If you see the 50th percentile when you receive your score, this indicates you scored right in the middle, with half of the test takers scoring below you and half scoring above you.

Before we dive deeper into the discussion of what GMAT percentile you need to get into the best MBA programs, let’s review how the GMAT is scored so you have a better understanding of what you’re up against.

How the GMAT is Scored

The GMAT has a complex scoring system with multiple components, but here's a brief overview of how the GMAT is scored.

Total GMAT Score: 200 to 800

This is the score most people refer to when they talk about their GMAT results and the one affecting MBA acceptance rates in the US and MBA acceptance rates in Canada. It combines scores from the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test. Both these sections are computer-adaptive. This means the difficulty of questions you receive is based on your performance. Answer a question correctly, and the next question could be more challenging. Conversely, answer incorrectly, and you might get a less difficult question.

The Quantitative section evaluates your skills in mathematical reasoning and problem-solving and includes two types of questions - Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. Your score here is determined not only by the number of questions you answer correctly but also by the difficulty and other statistical characteristics of those questions.

The Verbal section assesses your ability to read and understand written material, evaluate arguments, and correct written material to conform to standard English. Like the Quantitative section, scores here depend on the number of questions answered correctly, their difficulty, and other statistical attributes.

Verbal and Quantitative sections have scores ranging from 0 to 60 and are then combined to produce the total GMAT score, but the scores are not added together in a straightforward manner. The scores represent raw scores which are based on the number of questions answered correctly and the level of difficulty. Your Total Score is derived from both your Quantitative and Verbal raw scores but is not a direct sum or average of the two. Instead, these two scores are combined into a single scaled score using a proprietary algorithm by the GMAC.

Integrated Reasoning (IR) Section: 1 to 8

This section measures how well you integrate data from multiple sources to solve complex problems and includes question types like Multi-Source Reasoning, Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, and Table Analysis. The score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly. Unlike the Verbal and Quantitative sections, this isn't computer-adaptive, meaning the questions don't change in difficulty based on your answers.

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): 0 to 6

In this section, you must critique an argument. It evaluates your critical thinking and communication of ideas. Your essay is scored by a human reader and a computer scoring system, and the two scores are averaged. If they are significantly different, another human reader will provide a final evaluation and score.

Total GMAT Score vs GMAT Percentiles

Both GMAT percentiles and total scores are important, but they serve slightly different purposes in admissions.

As we already outlined, the GMAT Total Score ranges between 200 and 800. This score is the one most MBA applicants and admissions committees focus on initially. It is calculated based on your performance on the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the test.

The other sections, Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning, are scored separately. While the Verbal and Quantitative scores remain central to most admissions decisions, the AWA and IR sections provide additional data points that offer a more holistic view of your abilities. While a low score in AWA or IR is unlikely to make or break an application on its own, it's always beneficial to perform well across all sections for a well-rounded application.

The Total GMAT score is raw, but you can use GMAT percentiles to assess how you did compared to your competition. As we already outlined earlier, the GMAT percentile associated with your total indicates how you fared compared to everyone else who took the GMAT over a recent period, which is typically the last three years.

The interesting thing is that the percentile associated with a particular GMAT score can change over time based on the performance of the pool of test-takers. For example, a score of 700 might represent the 90th percentile one year and the 88th percentile a couple of years later. So, while the total, raw GMAT score is what the admissions committee will look at first and foremost, the percentile provides context. For example, it may be used to compare two worthy applicants or influence a decision on who should receive an MBA scholarship.

What is a Good GMAT Score?

Whether you have already received your score or just preparing to take the test, you should be aware of the possible GMAT percentiles and what percentile you should aim for to be a competitive MBA candidate.

Top-Tier Scores (90th percentile and above): Scoring in the 90th percentile or above places you in an elite group of test takers. Best MBA programs in Canada and the US have average GMAT scores in this range, so such scores are often seen as competitive for these institutions.

Mid-Tier Scores (50th to 89th percentile): Scoring in this range still places you above many test takers. While you might not be in the uppermost echelon, many reputable business schools accept students with scores in this range.

Lower-Tier Scores (Below the 50th percentile): Some of the easiest MBA programs to get into in the world would still consider these scores for admission. However, if your score is below the median, you might consider retaking the test if you're targeting programs that have average scores above yours. However, remember that there are MBA programs that do not require the GMAT and many great online MBA programs with no GMAT requirements, so you do have options.

MBA Programs with the Highest Accepted GMAT Percentiles

MBA programs often list average GMAT scores or a middle 80% GMAT score range of their accepted students. This score provides an initial metric to evaluate how competitive you might be for their particular program.

So do you want to see where you stand? Grab your practice GMAT score or the score you just got back in your GMAT report and see whether you qualify for the programs with the highest accepted GMAT score! It's crucial to note that GMAT scores, especially percentiles, can change from year to year. Always consult the school's official admissions page or contact the school directly for the most current data.

Here's a list of top MBA programs known for their high GMAT percentiles (usually 90th percentile or higher):

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB)

Average GMAT Score: ~733

University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~732

Harvard Business School (HBS)

Average GMAT Score: ~730

University of Chicago – Booth School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~730

Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management

Average GMAT Score: ~730

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Sloan School of Management

Average GMAT Score: ~720

Columbia Business School

Average GMAT Score: ~726

Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~723

University of California, Berkeley – Haas School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~725

New York University (NYU) – Stern School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~720

Yale School of Management

Average GMAT Score: ~720

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MBA Programs with the Lowest Accepted GMAT Percentiles

If you already got your GMAT score, but it’s not as high as you hoped, you may still be able to attend an MBA without retaking the test. Below is a list of several U.S. MBA programs with lower average GMAT scores. Remember that your GMAT score is just one component of the application – you can often offset it with a high GPA, impressive work experience, a strong MBA personal statement, and other MBA requirements.

University of Houston – Bauer College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~640

University of Alabama at Birmingham – Collat School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~630

Cleveland State University – Monte Ahuja College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~590

Illinois State University – College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~590

University of Mississippi – School of Business Administration

Average GMAT Score: ~640

Loyola University Chicago – Quinlan School of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~620

University of North Texas – College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~600

University of Texas at Arlington – College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~580

Texas Tech University – Rawls College of Business

Average GMAT Score: ~620

University of Akron – College of Business Administration

Average GMAT Score: ~570

It's worth noting that while these schools have relatively lower average GMAT scores, they still offer valuable MBA programs that can provide a solid foundation in business education and opportunities. A school's GMAT average doesn't necessarily reflect the entirety of the educational experience or post-graduation opportunities. Forget MBA rankings and apply to programs that you think fit your career and educational goals.

How to Convert GMAT Total Score to GMAT Percentiles

Use this chart to convert your Total GMAT score to the GMAT percentile. Keep in mind that this is based on the late scores, and the GMAT percentiles can change depending on each test-taking pool.

Should You Retake the GMAT?

While the GMAT score is a critical component of the MBA application process, it's essential not to get too fixated on it. A high percentile rank is undoubtedly an asset, but it doesn't guarantee admission. Conversely, a lower percentile rank isn't a definitive barrier.

When evaluating your GMAT percentile, look at the average scores for the schools you're targeting to see how competitive your score is. Consider taking the GMAT again ONLY if you believe you can improve. Keep in mind that you will need to restructure your GMAT prep completely! Because if it did not work the first time, it will not work again. You will not get better results with the same GMAT prep strategy.

If you do not want to retake the GMAT, focus on strengthening other aspects of your application. Most importantly, make sure that your MBA resume outlines really strong work experience. This can really offset a weaker GMAT score. Additionally, make sure to put 100% into your MBA admissions essays like the MBA statement of purpose or the MBA video essay. You can demonstrate your work experience and extracurriculars in the essays.

At the same time, focus on gaining quality experiences via your MBA extracurriculars because MBA admissions officers value more than just your professional skills, they also love well-rounded applicants.


1. What are GMAT percentiles?

Along with raw scores, your GMAT score report will also provide GMAT percentile rankings that indicate the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you over the past three years.

2. What is a good GMAT percentile? What is a good GMAT score?

A good GMAT score is in the 90th GMAT percentile. At the moment, this means a raw score of 710-800.

3. How are GMAT percentiles used in admissions?

Most programs simply look at your Total GMAT score, but GMAT percentiles allow admissions officers to see how you did in comparison with others. This can be used to award scholarships, for example.

4. How can I convert a raw score to a Total score or percentile?

It is not easy. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) uses complex formulas to convert these. Please refer to the table above to convert your Total score to GMAT percentiles.

5. Can I skip GMAT questions and leave them unanswered if I do not know the answer?

Not answering a question harms your score more than answering and getting it wrong. Hence, it's advised not to leave questions unanswered.

6. How do I submit my GMAT score to schools?

After your test, you'll be given the option to accept or cancel your scores. If you accept them, the scores are sent to schools and become a permanent part of your GMAT record. If you cancel them, they won't be sent to schools and you can retake the test.

7. Can I retake the GMAT?

If you're unsatisfied with your performance, you can retake the GMAT. However, you can't take it more than five times within 12 months.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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