What Your GMAT Score Means

Composition of a 700 – updated June 2019

GMAT scoring is not obvious at first glance and many instructors and consultants focus on percentiles rather than the scaled scores, fueling more confusion. If you have read that business schools “need to see 80th percentile” in both quant and verbal and that you need at least a 700 to gain admission, you may have a hard time understanding how to get in once you see your first practice test.

Your percentiles will probably not look so good.

… especially for quant. A frequently misinterpreted part of the GMAT is the scoring. Not all 700s are created equal.

750Don’t be distracted by your percentiles in quant and verbal. The story is in the scaled score. Some students have very balanced scores, 42/43. While others have wildly diverging scores, 35/50. What do these scaled scores mean? And does anyone notice or care?

The student with the 42/43 has a lower than desired quantitative score for a competitive program. That doesn’t mean she will be rejected, but neither a 42 nor a 43 is anything to write home about for quant. It equates to a mid-60s percentile. If you are aiming for a top tier school, it is wise to study more thoroughly and retake the test in order to increase your quant score. Top tier schools push for 80th percentile.

“As of June 2019, I am seeing 48 scaled score
quant as the basic minimum
at top programs! So among
strong candidates, those with
less than a 48 Quant are getting
pushback: waitlisted or questioned
about the low quant in interviews.”

The student with a 35/50, high math low verbal or high verbal low math GMAT, is in a rare space. The scaled scores are out of a total of 51 (60 actually, but scores above 51 are super super super rare) so one of the subjects is close to perfect. But is it the math or the verbal? If the quantitative score is 50, you have rocked the quant. You are 94th percentile. Good work! Your GMAT score will not keep you out of bschool. Your verbal may be weak, but a business school will be much less concerned about a 35 in verbal, 74th percentile.

If the 35 represents the quant score, you have bombed. That puts you close to 28th percentile. Approximately 72% of all test takers have done better on quant than What your GMAT Score Meansyou did. Go back to start. As an application reviewer, I would have serious misgivings about a student with a 35 for quant. I would be concerned that he will struggle with the program’s quantitative courses. The 50 on verbal is off the charts spectacular top 1%, but that doesn’t buy you the safety net that a 50 in quant would.

Those are extremes based on 700. How does your score stack up?

My rule of thumb for GMAT test takers applying to top 5 programs is to aim for a quantitative score 48+. This satisfies the approximate 80th percentile most state as recommended on their application websites. If your quant score is 48+, your total GMAT (670, etc.) may not hold you back. Your weaker scaled score will determine the top combined score you can obtain, 200-800. For example, imagine you are (now) solid with quant and have no problem reaching the 48 scaled score, and your verbal scaled scores is below 35, you are stuck in the 670-680 zone. You’re locked out. Your top score will max out at 680 basically. Even if you take again to score a 50 on quant, your 35 on verbal will hold you back. A tiny bit of work on verbal however will net some great gains. No amount of quant work will be worth your time until you bring your verbal score up.

But what does a GMAT Score640 look like?

Balanced student might have a 39/40 – either way, too low on quant, please retake.

Unbalanced student might have a 35/44. If the 44 is quant, that’s probably okay for some programs – don’t expect fan mail from top 10 programs. If the 35 is the quant score, it is just too low – please retake.

Questions about your score? Leave a comment below with your scaled scores, and I’ll give you feedback when I can. Or check out the hundreds of score reports I’ve address below – in comments and some listed in the right column under Ask Kate.

OPTION 1: Taking for the First Time?

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OPTION 2: Think you need to Retake? Read This first.

Common questions I receive in private sessions: will hbs allow me to take the GMAT again, will stanford accept retake, etc. (once I’ve submitted my application). In brief, no. That’s not 100% true, but it is 99.9999% true. There are special cases. You are probably not one of them. So don’t hit submit on your application if you are not ready for them to judge you based on your best score to date. More practical advice about retaking in the GMAT Retaker’s Guide.

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190 thoughts on “What Your GMAT Score Means”

  1. Hi Kate,

    Despite scoring 3/4 mocks well above 700, I scored very poorly on 2 gmat attempts. I want to apply for MSc Finance at LSE and my question is whether I should rather submit the higher overall score (660 Q43 V38) or the slightly lower overall score with a slightly higher quant (650 Q45 V34).

    I am well aware that either score will probably be a killer for my application but since I consider the rest of my profile competitive (top 10 europe undergrad with good gpa, BB IBD and large cap PE internship), I still want to give it a shot (also no time for retaking).

    Thanks very much in advance.

    Best wishes!

    • Hi David, I suspect you’ve already made your decision. Your note got buried in the Spring rush. I would go with the stronger quant on this one. MS Finc is a more technical degree and while they appreciate your ability to communicate in English, they appreciate your ability to communicate in math more.

      Good luck!

  2. Hi Kate!

    Im a little different than the rest but your insights are incredible I would love it if you could give me your thoughts on the following:
    -I am an undergrad at IE Business school madrid, Entrepreneurship scholarship holder GPA 3.5/4, participant of various clubs. I will also be receiving a bachelor from the Bschool were I started my university in LATAM, possibly the #1 or #2 of the country (similar gpa and activities)
    -Just today got a 710 (47q, 40v, IR 8) after two previous uncanceled scores of 660 and 670 inside the time span of a month and a half.
    -WE: 1. Biggest VC investment of LATAM finance team summer analyst. Possibly I will be offered to return.
    2. Important local PE firm in Colombia summer analyst, have some incredible experiences to talk about here. I did impacting work. Offered to return (and considering it).
    3. I had my own company, a small delivery company started out of the garage (sold to my partner, seized to exist, think very small scale but legal and registered). Have some very interesting experiences as well here, this got me my scholarship.
    -I am a LATAM Male age 23

    Goal: I want to apply to the HBS 2+2 and Stanford early admission MBA’s. I understand that they are geared towards STEM majors but never the less I wonder If I have a Chance. My goal in life is to be an entrepreneur as you might of guessed from my WE and vc and startup experience. My short term goal is to start exploring the industries were i am likely to be and entre/intrapreneur. That for me means I will be applying this january to tech/finance/media industries. My applications to the MBA I would go for first round this september.

    Im not entirely sure I could be taken as the optimal candidate. Do you have any suggestions to what I should do or the way I should present myself. Im not sure what I should right my essays about or what companies I should apply to and be in “talks” if I get asked in the interview. Any insights you might have are very welcomed and appreciated (even harsh ones).

    Thank you!

  3. Hello Kate,

    My name is Nicolas, and I am an international student in the U.S. I am an economics student with a 3.93 GPA and an internship in J.P. Morgan Chase as well as several several officer positions in student organizations.

    I am currently applying to Master’s in Finance in the U.S. and Europe. Most of the schools I am applying to accept scores above 600. However, the schools do not provide any information as to the distribution between quant and verbal scores. I recently took the GMAT for a second time, and got a 660 (Q38/V42). Even though I got a good (enough for the schools I am applying to) total score, I am worried that my low quant scores will count against me. What do you think?

    As background information, I dedicated the whole summer doing the interactive Manhattan Prep course, and I have been able to get Q46,43,42,40 scores on GMAT prep tests (Free,Pack1,Pack2). However, on my first attempt I got a horrible 520 (Q36,V26). I was very nervous that day, and everything went wrong. I decided to take the test again, and only 20 days later I got my 660.

    I am still in college, and I have not started working on the rest of the application. Do you think it is worth the time taking the GMAT for a third time? I feel that I know all of the concepts, but for some reason I can’t perform that well on the official exam on the quant section. When I am taking the exam, I feel that the quant section is challenging and that I am at a higher difficulty than I actually am. It was so disappointing to see the Q38 on my last exam, and I cannot figure out why that happen. Do you think it is time to move on to the rest of my application?

    I have been also thinking about moving on to the rest of my application and then after I complete the essays and letters of recommendation give the GMAT a one last try. Do you think this is a crazy idea? The applications close after mid-November, so I was thinking about retaking the exam the last week of October.

    Thank you in advance, and I appreciate any help or guidance that you can provide.



    • HI Nicolas,

      1. the quant is TOOOOOOO low to apply to better Masters of Finance programs. I would be very concerned with a program that accepted that GMAT quant score. It is really bad news to see a student – even on a terrible day – score below 45 on Quant.

      This isn’t just a question of retake. You would benefit from an evaluation from an expert. You are missing key foundational math concepts. The score also points to potential weakness with critical evaluation.

      Thankfully your verbal is fine.

      2. I would not apply to programs until you have demonstrated quantitative dominance in at least 2 spheres: academically, professionally and test-wise.

      That may not be what you had hoped to hear, but your application make no sense at this point. Consider applying in 2017 so you can fix the GMAT this year and work for a full year before you start your Masters. You’ll be a better MF student with more relevant experience under your belt.


  4. Hi Kate! Your blog has been quite helpeful; thanks for all your advice.

    I am on the fence about retaking the GMAT and am hoping for some guidance. I’m female from the US and studied Economics and International Relations at an Ivy League school with a 3.85. I’m a senior consultant at a Big Four in Latin America and so am fluent in Spanish with almost 5 years international work experience. My target schools are in the US 5-10 range with Stanford as a reach.
    My first score was 710 (Q42, V47, IR7) so I doubled down on quant and just took it again for a 730 (Q46, V45, IR8). I’m tempted to keep studying to lift my quant to 47 and hopefully verbal back up to 47 as well. Even if it’s not necessary from an admissions standpoint, perhaps from a scholarship standpoint it would be a good time investment. Do you think it’s worth it?


    • Hi Emily!
      You have a strong profile. My first thought was why top 5-10 rather than top 5? You seem to be throwing yourself under the bus. Let’s assume your work experience and recommendations are at least on par with top 5 school candidates. The 730 even though 46/45 is fine. Scholarships are practically non-existent. Don’t hold your breath.

      My biggest question for you is this: Why are you determined to go to a school that offers you cash to attend?

      Are you concerned about graduating with debt?

      If so, is that because you don’t plan to work in a for-profit position after graduation? If that’s the case, many schools have loan forgiveness programs for those who pursue not-for-profit post graduation – AS LONG AS the position is in concert with your peer group. In effect, if you become an admin assistant at a local homeless shelter, that’s not going to fly. If you become an executive at an international aid agency, that may be enough to get your debt or some portion thereof forgiven by your school.

      If you’re concerned about debt because you don’t want it hanging over your head, pretty please get over it. I say this as someone who chose the no-debt situation. I’ve seen the repercussions professionally (among many who made similar choices), and I do not recommend downsizing your aspirations to avoid the discomfort of debt.

      Your MBA is likely the last educational brand you’ll stamp on yourself. This choice impacts the first impression you make before you enter the room for the rest of your professional days. It impacts what rooms are even open to you – let’s be honest. It impacts who steps up to help you along the way.

      Top 2 schools are necessarily different positioning statements than even 3-5 and certainly from 5-10. You should be clear what your long term goals are before you choose your school. Rankings don’t mean squat. We all know who’s at the top, who almost made it and who is better off in middle management. Be true to who you are. If you want to be in middle management at P&G, cool. You don’t need HBS or GSB. Michigan and Northwestern and many, many other schools will do nicely.

      So my second question if you’re still “listening” is what do you really want to do 5-10 years post MBA?

      Answer that before you consider schools. Make them earn your dollar. Then spend what you need to get the best experience.

      Back to your GMAT question, you have far more important goal work to do before a change in score becomes meaningful. High five for the 730. Once you’ve addressed questions 1+2 above, hit me up for a quick phone consult – I’ll help you figure out “To GMAT or not to GMAT” depending on your answers.

      Kick butt!

  5. I’m currently a college senior and will work in one of the MBB consulting firms after graduate. People have been telling me to take GMAT before graduate, so I just took it today but only got a week to prepare for it.

    I didn’t do very well, especially for the verbal part. 720 total, 7 for IR, 51 for Quant, and 35 for Verbal. When I was practicing using OG and Princeton, I generally got reading questions right and did terrible in Sentence Corrections (6-8 mistakes) (it used to be my strength in hs when I was taking SAT sigh :/)

    I’m targeting HBS, GSB, Sloan and Kellogg. Graduated from a top undergrad program with a 3.9 GPA in Economics and Math.

    I’m wondering if I need to take GMAT again? If so, I’m thinking about to retake it in September before I start working, and work on my SC specifically.

    • Hi Lucy,

      Your English is choppy so the 35 is not a surprise. If you are in school in the US, the 3.9 and 720 will carry you well enough. You’d be better off with an improved verbal score, but it won’t kill your application to apply with the 720.

      If you’ve been in school overseas, the programs will want to see better mastery of English. Improving your verbal score is the most efficient way to do that.

      The shortcut is to fix SC. That takes 3 weeks if you study the right stuff. Don’t waste time with Princeton Review materials. They don’t edit their books. Stick to OG materials only. Retake sooner rather than later.

      Good luck!

  6. Hi Kate,

    I know it’s been a while since you’ve written this post, however I sat for the GMAT exam today and was wondering if you could give me some advice. I scored a 42Q (50%ile) / 41V (94%ile) – 680 total. I’m quite pleased with my performance on the verbal section and my score overall, but my performance on the math part worries me. I’ve consistently been able to at least hit a 75%ile ranking on the GMATPrep software, which I hear consistently includes tougher math questions than on the actual exam (which I agree with after taking the real GMAT). Do you think I should retake the test, or would you consider this score decent enough to get me into graduate programs at schools like LSE in the UK or top 10 programs in the US alongside other strong components of my application? I have the option of cancelling my score within 72 hours of me writing this letter, and I don’t know if that would be a wise thing for me to do.

    I hope this finds you well, I hope this finds you at all.


    • Hi Asaad,
      The quick response: don’t cancel your score and definitely retake.

      1. Leave the score, you may have (unfortunately) peaked on this test and there’s no sense canceling/reinstating after a failed 2nd/3rd take. Let it be. It won’t harm your application.
      2. Retake. For sure. The test should NOT have felt easier than mba.com practice tests. That tells me something went very wrong with your quant performance and you did not recover. A true 75th percentile person does not drop to 50th percentile. So you may have over-learned the material on the mba.com test (they’re readily available in official guides, practice sets, etc.) or you really, really bombed on test day or a bit of both.
      3. Great work on the verbal. Keep it up!

      You’re not going to be very competitive at your choice of schools. Unless you are backed by a major family, major industry or other non-merit group, you’re swimming uphill with this score – the 42 on Quant more than the 680 – so fix it while you can.

      Good luck!

  7. Kate,

    Thanks for this great resource! I’ll be applying to business schools in a couple of years and was hoping you could provide some insight into how my GMAT score might look in conjunction with the rest of my application. I’ve taken it once and scored a 740, but with a 45Q / 47V split and 6 on IR. I’ll be 36 years old when I apply, and am currently an attorney in the military (judge advocate). I’ve mostly practiced in intelligence/operational law areas (law of war type stuff), but also have experience supervising and being a direct advisor to a commander. I don’t have a quant background and don’t do anything math-heavy in my current job, so I’m not sure whether that cuts in favor or against my quant score. I did well in undergrad and law school grade-wise, so I’m not too worried about my GPA; I just don’t have any math courses (aside from an A in a statistics course) in my background. Any feedback would be great!

    • Hi Patrick,

      You’ve got a strong, non traditional profile so I wouldn’t sweat the 45/47 too much. You’ll be reviewed far more on the merits of your work than the 45Q. The 740 is no problem. Depending on the story you craft for why you’re bothering to do an MBA – after all if you are talented you can jump to corporate/private equity/your own venture without spending 2 years slugging with 25-28 year olds who have even less business experience than you do…. Just sayin’

      So my question reading your app would be, does he understand why he’s coming to my school or does he think he gets to “book learn” again. Bschool ain’t about books.

      BTW, consider reading some old favorites: 10 Day MBA and Economic Warfare.

      Military background will be a boost, but don’t throw yourself under the bus by going soft with platitudes about the institution or the concept of business school. Focus on your strategy and tactics.

      Good luck!

  8. Hi Kate –

    I’m having trouble stomaching my GMAT results and I’d like to see if you could provide me with some insight and/or guidance.

    I have been studying for the GMAT since July of 2015. I have taken a Veritas Prep online course, and I have supplemented the VP material with the Official GMAC 2016 guides. I am an American expatriate living in Guangzhou, China so I was fairly limited in my options for in-class tutoring, as none of the larger brands (VP, Manhattan, etc) hold any classes here. After taking 12+ practice tests (at the end of which I was consistently scoring 45+ on Quant – my weak spot) I decided to take the real test. My first score was a 640 (I.R. 8, V40, Q39). I decided to cancel the scores right away as I felt like the Q39 was not doing me any good. I do not believe that it was a true reflection of my capabilities and I was coming off of a pretty rough week, so I decided to re-take the test.

    I just finished my second test – literally hours ago – and I received a 700 (I.R. 4, Q42, V44). At this point I am comfortable with my Verbal but I do realize that my Quant is very low. However, I’m just not that optimistic that I can raise my score in a big way. Math has always been my weak spot, but it has not stopped me from excelling in my career, which often involves a lot of math-heavy analytics. I do believe that I have a well rounded application profile and at this point I’d like to understand if you’d recommended that I take the GMAT again (and thus probably missing application deadlines for INSEAD’s January 2017 intake), or whether you think I can overcome the low quant with great essays, letters of recommendation, and interviewing.

    Just to put this in perspective, I am a 27 year old American living overseas in Guangzhou, China. I am working as a Global Sourcing Manager in the Consumer Products industry for a medium-sized startup company and throughout my 5 year tenure with the company, I’ve lived and worked in three Chinese cities. I now speak (nearly) fluent Mandarin Chinese, I manage a team of over 15 people in over 5 Global offices, and I’m also the de-facto branch manager of our Guangzhou office. I graduated from a large, respectable public university in the U.S. (NCAA Big Ten) and I majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice. I was an admit in their honors college and graduated with a 3.7 GPA. During my time as a student, I also served as a Legal Advocacy Coordinator at shelter for abused women and children, helping them to secure legal representation in their upcoming proceedings/legal battles with (primarily) their abusive spouses. Rather than take a cushy corporate development job with AT&T upon graduation, I took a leap of faith and joined the ranks of those moving into the startup world.

    I want to make a move into Strategy Consulting and am only looking at the more traditional consulting-heavy schools like INSEAD, Kellogg, Ross, and Darden. Hopefully – at minimum – my application package (when reviewed holistically) will seem competitive at Ross or Darden. Again, any insight or guidance that you can provide will be tremendously helpful as I plot out my next steps. Thanks!


    • Hey Adam, you have a strong professional profile. Remember, the schools are looking for

      “Your functional job skills, breadth and depth of experience, demonstrated leadership and management skills, as well as your potential for growth. We are more concerned with what you have learned in your positions than in your length of time in the workplace.”

      So it sounds like you’re probably solid there. Since Branch Manager can mean many different things in terms of responsibility, make sure you’ve gotten more than Sales-Function experience. Weak quant scores + sales backgrounds often end up on the cutting floor. So it seems.

      The quant score will be a detriment at all of the above. The rest of your profile makes you a contender, the quant score pushes you to bottom 50% of contenders. Not everyone who applies is a contender! So the good news is that you’ll be viewed seriously. The bad news is, you’ll be in the bottom half of those viewed seriously.

      Your statement: “After taking 12+ practice tests,” leads me to believe you don’t know what you’re doing. My students take 1, maybe 2 practice tests. Taking practice tests over and over only makes you better at taking PRACTICE tests. It won’t make you better at the real deal. So stop that. Seriously. You have FUNCTIONAL math problems – which you allude to knowing. You must fix that before going to business school or you’ll have trouble really keeping up/understanding the full breadth of what’s going on.

      1. Consider immediately completing mbamath – you’ll be directed to do it before classes begin if you get accepted (or something like it) so jump on that boat now. Let INSEAD know that you’re doing it in the extra essay. Own your subpar math performance. Do not blame the test. It’s all you so start fixing it.
      2. Get the INSEAD app in. They may love you. The 700 is good enough. Expect to get pushback on the quant of course so see #1. If you appear to be on-the-ball, they may forgive your Q score.
      3. Once INSEAD is in, prep for quant properly. Start with Schaums Elementary Algebra. Work all the way through – except for the trig and more crazy geometry stuff – this is your new math bible. Work every problem. Three times.
      4. Once you’ve legitimately done that, you will see GMAT progress because you’ll have fixed some functional knowledge issues and mechanics issues.
      5. Begin working through the Official Guide and Question Pack 1 (mba.com software). Manage your timing. It should feel much better and a new kind of challenge.

      You’ll be a better man for going through this process.

      Don’t waste your time with private label material/courses. You’re trying to take shortcuts, and you’re in no position to take shortcuts.

      Good work on verbal. Good luck with the process!

  9. Hi, My GMAT score is 740- (Q50 – 89%le, V39 – 88%le, AWA 5, IR 8 – 93%le). Do you think this is a balanced score or should I try to improve my Verbal score further?

    I have a non-quant background.

    • It’s not a balanced score because you have 50/39, but the 740 is fine. If you have nothing better to do than improve your verbal, you have bigger problems professionally which will come out in your application. In almost every case – once a student is 730+ – time is better spent improving your professional profile and credentials.

      Have you managed a team? Do you have P&L responsibility? etc.

      If you have that and a great score, kudos! But keep working on improving your professional impact. All the best in your application process,

  10. Hi Kate,

    I went through this blog and I am really grateful for the insights you have provided to many MBA aspirants! Would be of great help if you could provide your valuable insight into my profile as well.

    I took the GMAT again for the third time and could manage a 620 (Q 49 V 27 IR 6 AWA 5.5) only
    My previous GMAT scores are as follows :
    GMAT 1 : 590(Q45 V27 IR3 AWA5.5) – Nov 2013
    GMAT 2 : 580(Q47 V22 IR5 AWA5.5) – Oct 2015

    I am an Indian male and from a “Non-IT” background

    I have 5 years of experience in a Manufacturing Industry, including a 6 month experience in the UK as well. I have an undergraduate degree from reputed college with a CGPA of 8.62/10.

    I currently work as a Senior engineer-Electrical and Automation responsible for an entire shop floor

    I am responsible for a team of 10 shift technicians on a 24×7 basis to support and meet the needs of customer(production)

    I have a consistent career progression with 4 different roles in total

    A gist of my extra-curricular activities include :

    1) In college : Responsible for cultural events of the entire majored dept (from 1st year till 4th year students) and team lead of my batch (for the 4 years of study done in college) for skits-includes dialogue write-ups,acting mentoring and entire concept/story

    2)Post college :

    a)Active member of a blood donation trust ; motivated many people in the city to donate blood which helped in saving many lives- Certified and appreciated by the Managing Trustee of the organisation

    b)Corporate social responsibility activities such as eye camps,health camps,etc for a medical trust in – Appreciated by the Marketing team of the trust for the involvement and commitment shown

    c)CSIR activities in the firm I work for

    d)As an active member of Lion’s club, influenced my company to organize for a blood donation camp in the company which resulted in the participation of around 500 employees

    Awards in Company : Awarded twice for motivation and efficient transfer of technical know-how and downtime reduction through efficient shift manpower management

    I would like to apply to the below 3 B-schools :

    1)SDA Bocconi
    2)Rotterdam school of business
    3)Copenhagen Business school

    But given my low GMAT score, could you please give your insight for my chances at these schools?


    • The score is low and your professional experience is likely to rank “low” as well. I would be concerned about applying. That said, I’ve found SDA Bocconi to be more lenient on GMAT scores than the other two. BUT!! Only for Italian candidates. It appears you are not Italian so I would not expect them to be very forgiving of your score.

      The biggest challenge with your score is the incredibly low verbal. It points to either problems with English – which your writing does not share (good) – or problems with comprehension and logic. It looks like the latter is the culprit. That is a PROBLEM for academic programs. They may be concerned that you are less likely to succeed than class peers or that you will drag down the class conversation. You should work to improve your verbal score, specifically through Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. That work will improve your score, your chances for admission, and your working life well beyond this process.

      Good luck!

  11. Hi Kate – I was hoping to get your thoughts on my GMAT performance. I’ve written twice and obviously can again if I need to, but would rather to put it behind me if things look ok. I got a 750, but would like to confirm that my breakdown (and more specifically quant) is ok: 47q/46v (and IR7).

    I currently work in private equity and previously worked in investment banking.


    • Hi MG,

      With a 750, you’re good to go. The quant is “low” but your overall more than makes up for that. GMAT is done. Focus on the rest of your app.

      Good luck!

  12. Hi Kate,

    I have a 700 on GMAT [49Q, 37V, 5AW, 6IR]
    I want to apply to the top 15 US colleges. I have a good percentage from the top commerce college in India. My extracurriculars are good [organised a national level management fest, head of two clubs, some ngo experience]. my work profile is decent. internships with world bank and Bain and company etc
    should i retake the gmat?

    • Hi Mani,
      Your GMAT is ok. It would help to improve your verbal score, but it is fine at the moment. If you have only taken once, yes, I would prepare for a 2nd take. If that is the best of 2-3 score, then consider yourself finished.

      If your experience is high quality at the brands you mentioned, you write excellent essays, and your letter writers produce insightful and positive recommendations, you should be able to get an interview at at least a couple top 20 programs.

      Good luck!

  13. Hi Kate,

    This is a great blog post and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments! Thanks for posting.

    I’m struggling with what to do about the GMAT and my application. I am applying Round 2 for Top 15 schools (Ross, Haas, Sloan, Fuqua, Kellogg). I have taken the GMAT 3 times and am signed up for a 4th time in just 2 weeks. My dilemma: do I keep studying for the GMAT or do I focus on my essays?

    I am very concerned about my quant score. I am afraid that it is a bit low (Q42). While I have a high GPA of 3.79, I was a political science major and the only quant classes I took were micro and macro econ (B+ in both) plus stats (B grade). In my current job, I work in marketing for a tech company and do some analytical work, which my recommenders mention a bit. But I am afraid that it will not be enough to prove my quant capabilities.

    Here are my score breakdowns:
    June 2015: GMAT #1: 610 (V37, Q37, AWA 5.5, IR 6)
    October 2015: GMAT #2 – 640, but cancelled scores
    November 2015: GMAT #3: 680 (V41, Q42, AWA 6.0, IR 7)

    Any advice on what I should do? I feel like I am a bit behind on my essays, so it seems hard to justify studying more for the GMAT. Is there anything else I can or should do?

    Thank you!
    – Penny

    • Hi Penny,

      The 680 is low for your target schools if your quant is 42. 🙁

      (Warning this may sound harsh)

      If you’re behind on the essays with only two weeks to go, you’ve basically failed the first test of business school. You didn’t prepare properly. If you’ve only recently had the epiphany that you need to apply this year, well, that happens, but have you really pulled out all the stops to get the essays and GMAT prep done?

      Please note, 100 hour work weeks are not an excuse. There are 168 hours in every week. Even if you sleep 7 hours a night, screw around/eat/shower for 1 hour a day, you still have 168 – (100 + 56) = 13 hours a week to prepare for business school by writing essays and learning how to handle the GMAT.

      I wouldn’t go hunting for a tutor or essay help. Anyone who takes your money at this stage to reach round 2 is not doing you any favors. If you seek help, do so with an eye toward round 3 or round 1 2016.

      I’m not saying you can’t get in anywhere. Some program will be willing to take you. But will it be a program that can advance your career? Or will you just be their cash cow?

      Business Schools are a business. You’re basically buying a franchise, McDonalds for example. Would you throw down $250,000 and just take the first franchise opportunity – random sandwich shop on the backside of a poorly trafficked strip mall – that comes your way?

      If you want the best of what the MBA can offer, make sure you’re doing the work to vet the opportunity properly.

      I wish you the best and will keep my fingers crossed for you.

  14. Hi Kate –

    I scored a 720 on the GMAT: Q 44, V 46, IR 5, AWA 5.0

    I rewrote to try to boost quant and IR and I managed to push IR up to an 8 but unfortunately couldn’t get the quant up. My overall score fell below 700 so I cancelled the score.

    Do you think I need to write the optional essay explaining my low quant and IR scores? I am a management consultant and did my undergrad in business and economics so I have many proof points that I am capable with analytics.

    Thanks very much!

    • Hi,

      First, don’t worry about IR. Second, the 720 is nice and will give you some options. However, the Q is definitely low as you know and will put you in a bigger question mark zone than someone with 47+.

      I wouldn’t write the extra essay on this one. Not yet. You want to focus heavily on creating the most competitive package. Your 720 gives you a checkmark on the overall score. I wouldn’t bring attention to your deficit until you get asked about it point blank – in an interview for example. Hopefully it never comes up.

      When you get an interview invitation, make sure to prepare talking points to address any question they could ask about the low quant – can you demonstrate a time when you applied heavy analytics to a situation, can you discuss a time you’ve discovered errors in analytical work, etc.


  15. Hi,

    I recently took the test and I have 47 in Quant & a 35 in Verbal. I know i can do better in Quant because I used to score 45-47 even in the Manhattanprep mocks which are significantly more difficult than the actual GMAT.

    I plan to retake it soon and I’m aiming for a 740. Could you give me the possible breakdowns of this score? I think so far I only blinded attacked the test. I want to organize my prep now, focusing on my strengths now.

    Please advise


    • Hi Rikta,

      ManhattanPrep mock tests feel more difficult but are not actually more difficult. Chris Ryan (if he’s still there) takes great pains to adjust the algorithm to match the difficulty of the GMAT. It’s very tightly watched. The tests feel more difficult because the questions were written by instructors like me. We’re human. We write things that amuse us and we write answer choices that can get a little crazy.

      The GMAT writers do a much better job of both question writing and answer choice selection. If you pay attention to the Official Guide you see that many, many, many!! questions can be answered without needing to use precise mechanics. Quick estimations are often sufficient to solve the questions on the real GMAT. That is not the case on Mprep. On the Mprep tests you have to solve questions out the decimal place in too many cases. It’s an internal gripe (from teachers) of the mprep tests. But no other private label does any better.

      Your quant is okay for now. Your verbal MUST come up dramatically to get you in the 740 range. That 35 in Verbal is preventing you from crossing over 700 no matter what your quant score is. You can hit 740 with a 47 quant, but you’ll need approximately a 44 verbal. Focus your energies on verbal. Exclusively. At least until you can score 43+ on verbal. Then spend 2-3 weeks working on both quant and verbal to bring it all together.

      I’d start you with critical reasoning. Usually when a student improves with CR he/she improves reading comp. Sentence correction can be learned very quickly if you focus on sentence structure.

      Good luck!

  16. Hi Kate!

    First off, happy early Thanksgiving!

    I’ve taken the GMAT three times (660 > 680 > 700 a week ago). Quant for the first two was 48 and 49 / Verbal was… less than desired. On my 700 I got a 44Q / 41V (clearly I under performed on my Q). I’m wondering if a 700 is sufficient to make a run on programs like Tuck (top choice), Yale SOM, Ross, Darden for fall 2016 applications. Absolute reaches would be Kellogg and Sloan.

    I know Tuck takes your highest Q and V into consideration and is more focused with the whole package. I’m just wondering if my “combined” 49Q / 41V would be palatable for them and make me a realistic applicant.

    For your reference I have a quantitative background (3.5 GPA from a Top 20 LAC in economics and math). Current job is corporate development at a Fortune 20 (will have ~5 years of work experience at matriculation, previous experience was in corporate banking). Leadership and ECs in college were strong (varsity captain, co-founder of a club sports team that went to club nationals, managing editor for school paper, economics tutor, etc.). Still doing volunteering and other ECs now as well.

    Thanks in advance and happy holidays!


    • Hi Jon, Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

      SO . . . I’m on the fence. Thankfully Tuck takes the combined, but they do like to see a solid single score. In this case, the 700 is low but you’ve covered your base with the 49Q. It’s acceptable. GPA is low so hopefully your in-major GPA is better. If you have a BS in Math, particularly if you have a 3.7 within Math, great. If not, the GPA is (only) acceptable.

      You’ve taken 3 times so a retake isn’t particularly worth your time unless you have a light December.

      Viable at Other schools:
      Ross, probably – but make sure you’ve shown them love – visits etc.
      Yale . . . too low. If you have a special relationship with them, maybe, otherwise you’re a weak candidate.
      Darden, maybe. Increase your shot by visiting, engaging grads, etc.

      Your comment, “Absolute reaches would be Kellogg and Sloan,” made no sense. Do you think they’re too hard or are they backups? I ask because Yale is probably the hardest to get into of your list (on average). If they’re reaches because you aren’t that interested, don’t apply. An app that isn’t interested is not likely to survive review.

      I suspect all of the schools will give you a checkmark for “ability to survive academically.” You’ll certainly get points for sports, though not as many as your colleagues in Big Sport (i.e. football, basketball, not club – unless Tennis or Golf). The service component is nice, but hard to capitalize on unless it ties to your professional aspirations.

      Assuming you have thoughtful, compelling, on-point recs, your essays are profound, and you’ve demonstrated interest at each of the programs you care about, you have a shot. You’re basically comparable to a candidate with 720-730 but no extracurriculars. It’s not where you want to be, but you are in the mix. Concentrate your energies into the 1-2 programs that most excite you.

      If you have the apps almost done and December will be light at work, call me during office hours (11a-noon M-F). I can talk you through GMAT retake yes/no decision. Let me know what happens and good luck!


  17. Hi Kate,

    I took the GMAT twice and I got the following scores:

    1st attempt: 720 (94%) – Q49 (85%), V38 (78%), AWA5.0 (59%), IR6 (67%)
    2nd attempt: 700 (89%) – Q47 (67%), V39 (89%), AWA6.0 (91%) , IR7 (81%)

    I think I should go with the first score but I’m not 100% sure. I do understand that the total and quant scores are the most important, but at the same time the improvement in terms of percentile were quite significant in the AWA and IR section. Are these two sections important at all? Which score do you think I should go with?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Marcelo,

      No one cares about AWA or IR (yet). Go with your first attempt for sure. Better overall and better quant. No doubt. Good job!

      Best wishes with applications!

  18. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for this great post. I recently took the GMAT for the first time and scored a 750, Q46 V47 IR6. I’m happy with the composite score, but I’m wondering if my Quant score is a little low–it’s at the 64th percentile. I’m aiming for some of the top programs including HBS, GSB, Kellogg, Sloan. While I’m not an engineer, I’ve a fairly quantitative background from college and work. I also have an 800 for math on the old GRE from nearly 5 years ago (still valid for some places I’m applying to, miraculously!). Could that be a good complement to put on my app?

    Do you think it’s worth hunkering down for another month or so to try and raise my quant score past the 47 threshold, or is 46 close enough? (Not sure how important IR is yet, but would the 6 there be a deal-breaker too?)

    • Hi John, you’re good to go. I wouldn’t spend time on another take unless you have time to kill, and even then, I would rather see you bolster other aspects of your application. So only if you have time to spare AND there’s nothing better you can do to improve your bschool odds (which . . . would concern me if you said no) would I suggest any more GMAT time. Your composite gets you a check plus so the low quant – you’re right, it’s low – isn’t really an impediment. Good work. Get cracking on school decisions and essays.

      Have I had students retake in your position, yes. But only those applying in future years (not in a month) who also clearly left something on the table when they took and who were part of a peer group that scored 760+ – so purely for ego reasons. Bragging rights only.

      The score won’t be a reason to turn you down. You’re in good shape. Good luck!

      P.S. IR is low, but not a deal breaker anywhere yet.

      • Thanks, Kate, I really appreciate your helpful reply! I feel the same way and think I should focus on the rest of my applications now.

        Quick follow-up: does it ever hurt to submit both GMAT and GRE scores, if you registered stronger quant performance on one than the other? Doing so would be virtually effortless, but I’m unsure if it would be helpful (show higher quant performance, even if on a different test taken 5 years), or ill-advised (show that your quant abilities may have actually gone down over time, or that you’re unnecessarily insecure about your GMAT score). I don’t mean to be too fussy about this–I know these tests are just one part of the application–but also don’t want to miss an opportunity to bolster application in a small way for want of asking!

      • It doesn’t hurt to include the GRE quant, but please consider the story your GRE verbal will tell them. It looks insecure to include just the GRE quant – what is he hiding?

        If your GRE verbal was 720+ sure include both gmat and gre where they ask for the scores in the application. If your verbal was below 720 . . . I’d probably leave it off. An 800 on the GRE quant does NOT demonstrate decent quant capabilities. The GRE is a sh*tty little quant test and can be mastered through memorization so…. an 800 is not that impressive. It means you’re competent with rapid fire drills that require very little critical evaluation – i.e. monkey work. When I took the GRE 8% of test takers scored 800 on quant. For my PhD program (Finance at a top 5 school) I was told that I had to submit an 800 or my app wouldn’t be considered. Just to give some perspective.

        Side note: If you get an interview and you get pressed about the low quant, then bring out the gre quant 800 if you think it will pander to that interviewer. The interviewer who would give you grief despite 750 GMAT is an ass. And (seriously) anyone who is impressed with 800 gre quant doesn’t know the test and isn’t someone to revere. So judge that interviewer and the school accordingly.

      • Thanks again for the advice here, Kate! I know a ton of people got 800 on the old GRE quant, and that it isn’t comparable to the GMAT, not even if you look at percentiles since very different populations take the test. That’s why I wanted your take on it–and appreciated your reply! Thanks!

      • Glad to help! The GRE has added an extra layer of ambiguity to the application process. It’d be nice to see schools be honest about how they talk about GRE v GMAT behind the scenes. GRE isn’t even up to the level of red-headed step child….

        Kick some application ass and let me know how you do!

  19. Hi,
    I took the GMAT the first time and scored a 640: 42 (51%) on Math and 36 on Verbal (815). While I did well on the verbal I knew I needed to improve my math score.

    Second time: 620: 47 on math and 28 on verbal.

    applying to INSEAD and was encouraged to report all scores since if one section is lacking on one test they can look at others. This info was provided by the INSEADfield marketing manager for the middle east. INSEAD’s application asks you to provide all GMAT scores which I believe is different from US programs.

    Can I please get your insight.

      • Second take did not hurt your chances. If you are an otherwise stellar candidate, INSEAD will look at the 47 math as sufficient (though not great) and the 36 Verbal which is also sufficient but not great. You are confused thinking that you did well on verbal. You did not. 81st percentile indicates an acceptable command of verbal skills. The drop from 36 to 28 means your native skills are likely closer to the 28 which is even more problematic in a fast-paced program such as INSEAD. Your overall profile has to be quite strong to get past your current scores. I would recommend speaking to INSEAD directly if you have a personal connection there. It is a very competitive program. If you do not have a connection at the school, consider a 3rd GMAT. Work on BOTH math and verbal.

  20. Hi,
    I am an undergrad student majoring in management studies. I recently gave the GMAT.
    My score breakup was: 48Q/40V. and 4 on IR.
    I plan to apply to top-tier business schools for Msc(Finance) programs.

    I have two issues regarding this:
    1. My quant score is 47+ but a 48 score is only 73rd percentile.
    2. My IR score is 4. Which does not reflect my true abilities since I was constantly getting 7-8 on mock CATs. However, the questions on the test day were ridiculously difficult.

    My question is: Should I retake the GMAT considering the program and schools I want to apply for?

    • For the Finance Masters your quant is low. A top tier program now has much greater expectation for its candidates. You really want to be 50+ on quant for the MFE or MSc Finance. That said, plenty of people are admitted with 47/48/49.

      Good work on the verbal. Clean up IR. You may have simply had a bad day.

      1. Yes, retake the GMAT. Focus efforts on improving quant, and make sure you continue to improve your Verbal. A second take with a dip in verbal will bring your overall score below current levels even if you are able to nudge the quant up. Avoid that.
      2. If IR is terrible on the second take, don’t worry about it. But you really should be able to demonstrate competence with IR.

  21. Hi Kate. I am currently a masters student at TU Delft in the Netherlands. I want to do my doctors (Phd) in management at INSEAD or at London business school. I just gave my GMAT and got a 690. However I managed only 44 in my quants section with a 40 in the verbal section. Quants comes to just 57th percentile. Should I give a retake?? Thank you

  22. Hi Kate – I wanted to get your thoughts on my GMAT score: 740 (47 Q, 44 V). I’m fine with the overall number but concerned with verbal given the low percentile. I’ll be applying with 3 years work experience (~2 at BCG as a consultant, ~1 at a fashion start-up in strategy / marketing). I attended Harvard as an undergrad, studied Economics and Drama, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA (cum laude). I’m aiming hard for HBS, GSB, and Wharton. Just want to make sure my score won’t be a deal-breaker, especially for HBS and GSB?

      • Hey Robert,
        No concern with the 47Q. While the quant is low, the 740 makes up for it. You’re in the clear on the GMAT. One side note though regarding your application. You mention a fashion start-up . . . if it was indeed a start up – something that has the potential to scale massively because technology has been introduced – then it’s appropriate to call it a start-up. If however it is a new brand, especially a new, but failed brand such as Reed Krakoff or Carlo Pazolini (at least in the US), then refer to it as retail. You’ll get judged by a different set of readers. Not that you would make this mistake, but others before you have. The tech/start-up readers seem to get peeved when they see ordinary retail or young small business claim to be start-up.

        Just because a company is new, small and even growing quickly does not make it a start up.

      • Hi Kate – That’s helpful advice. I hadn’t thought of the start-up vs. retail distinction. How would you classify Gilt? It’s obviously Tech-y but has been around for a while…

      • Okay, that’s a bit of a sweet spot and near and dear to HBS’ heart. You can make a decent case for either retail or tech. If you were involved with the tech – strategic team acquisition, deployments, systems, go tech for sure. If you were “marketing/strategy” for the buyers – as in a support role for the buyers – I might go retail. Might. But probably would stick with tech. 40% of my decision on that depends on your long range goals. If you see yourself in tech or supporting tech – finance is a support role, even though they have the purse strings – 100% you’re in a tech company. Gilt is still messy enough to have growing pains (but this is from an outsider looking in) and perhaps still fluid enough for small positions to have big impact relative to similar positions at Nordstrom.

        But if you think you want to go hardcore retail, you hope to be CFO of Neiman Marcus in 10 years, you can call Gilt retail.

        Good luck! Let me know how you do and what you decide,

      • Kate – Thanks for the detailed response! I’m leaning retail. Sent you a longer e-mail explaining why. Thanks again; your site is awesome!

  23. Hello,

    I got a GMAT score of 680(Q49,V34,AWA 4, IR5) –second chance.
    I intend to do a Masters in Finance .. What are my chances at top schools say a MFIN at Princeton or Columbia or Computational Finance at Carnegie Mellon.

    I have done my Masters in Computer Technology from a top institute in India.
    Working since a year at a start up founded by two Harvard grads . We develop financial research investment tools.
    Have a fair bit of activities other than acads.

    What would be your advice..
    Is it sensible to aim for these schools or i should try gmat once again.

    • HI,
      My advice differs a little bit based on your location now.

      1. If currently in the US, with a few years of working in the US, I would cement a solid application – letters, essay, portfolio, interviewing with faculty (go visit them – it is easier to defend an applicant you’ve met and liked), and then I would sit for a GMAT retake before final application submission. Start working on verbal immediately however. It’s hurting your score and doesn’t reflect well on you as a candidate. Admittedly, the programs of interest are not as concerned about your English abilities as an MBA program, but still, you want to nudge that up a few marks. It will help the overall package.

      2. If you are not in the US or Western Europe, please get that GMAT score up. It becomes a little more likely to be evaluated harshly if you are seeking admittance from outside the US and Western Europe. Take the GMAT up to 3 times in order to get both your verbal (most strongly needed) and your quant up.

      Strategic move: Have you published papers in journals of note? Can you get something submitted to top 3 journals before your application is due? Particularly one that counts your future faculty members as reviewers??? Do that if you can.

      Your weak verbal hurts the overall score. So any improvement with verbal will bring up into the 700s. To be outstanding you really need a verbal scaled score of 43+ to go with a quant of 49+. Given the quant heavy nature of your programs, aim for 51 on quant. It’s not trivial to move from 49 to 51, but is certainly do-able. Avoid brute force mechanical solutions. Think elegant, clever, clean solutions.

      Good luck!

  24. Hi Kate,
    I am from Pakistan. I intend to apply to Kellogg, INSEAD and London Business School.
    My extra curriculars (particularly sports) are strong and I already have an MBA+ Engineering from Pakistan.
    I worked for 3 years for one of the world’s top engineering firms in Pakistan and have been working in the UAE with a regional giant for the past 2 years. I also spent a semester on Exchange in France during my MBA. My academics are average with around 3.4 CGPA
    My GMAT is 670 (47 Q, 35 V and 8 in IR) in my second attempt.
    Does this GMAT score give me a realsitic chance of competing for admission? or should I retry for a higher score?
    Thanks in advance

    • A couple of notes:
      1. Given that you have a degree called MBA you will want to explain why you need an additional MBA in the Optional Essay portion. You may want to explain the MBA curriculum you covered would be on par with undergraduate business education in the US, hint, hint.

      2. The GMAT is a bummer. If you made gains between first and second attempt, you’ve probably maxed out. Verbal is keeping your score down. To fix that verbal, you’ll need 5-8 weeks and a solid lesson plan.

      If you didn’t have a score change between the first and second – and you actually put in effort between – you’re done. Unless you’re willing to invest a lot – time and money, you’re not likely to improve.

      3. If your profile is great, the score won’t be what keeps you out. It won’t help you, but it won’t keep you out.

      Without knowing more, I’d recommend that you focus on creating killer essays.

      Good luck!

  25. Hi!

    I just wanted to ask if , in the UNOFFICIAL test score, will I be shown my IR PERCENTILE?
    I came to know that IR scores are shown , but please clarify about percentile, as I have scheduled my exam only a week before last date of application of a school which do accept unofficial score but is asking for the IR percentile as well.


  26. Hi Kate,

    I recently took the GMAT and received an overall score of 680 with : Q47 /V35, and IR 5/12 . I am hoping to apply for top 5-10 full time MBA Programs. I have an MS from Univ of Michigan Ann-Arbor in Mech Engg. with GPA 3.7 and have been working as an Engineer with Forbes 500 company for 3.5 years. This was my first attempt with GMAT, do you recommend I retake the GMAT or focuss on applications ?


    • Double whammy, your overall score is low and your quant score is low for an engineer. If the rest of your profile rocks and you’re able to convey just how much you rock via your essays and letters of recommendation, the 680 will be a small minus (not great) where a 710+ Q48+ would be a check (ok).

      I would spend 30 days focusing 70% of effort on Verbal – learn a handful of methods to see structure in SC and really get clear about arguments in CR, RC will improve if you improve CR. The 30% of time on math should be used to refine how you answer questions and the way you think through them. ONLY use retired GMAT questions for your prep work. ONLY!!

      Good luck!

  27. Kate,

    I’m very frustrated, and I’ve messaged you before, but I wanted to reach out again. I have managed to get my Quant score up to 46 on the latest retake, but still cannot crack 700 due to a low verbal score, 38 (680 overall). I am obsessed with getting a 700 because I know it will help my chances of reaching my dream: getting into Big 4 Management Consulting. I feel that I only need to tweak a few things on Verbal to reach my goal. I haven’t tried personal tutoring yet (like Manhattan GMAT or something). My data:

    Undergrad: Texas A&M, Aerospace Engineering, 3.3 GPA
    WE: 5 years experience in Software Test Engineering/Development
    Job: Currently work at Dell as Software Test Engineer

    As I’m already in a top-tier business school (UT-Austin), am I foolish in continuing to try to supplant this GMAT demon? (I simply CANNOT accept that I am not of the caliber of person that cannot score a 700+). Or should I focus more heavily on networking and outside consulting projects that UT offers to make my chances the best they can in 2 years for a consulting offer?

    Really appreciate it, thanks!

    • Hey Leyton,
      You’re in a bad spot. The 700 isn’t what will help you with the consulting firms at this point. That’s a first hurdle. You have a few more hurdles to overcome than other candidates. Here’s how I’d evaluate you off the cuff.

      Undergrad: rigor high, gpa low
      WE: only interested if you have managed staff and concurrent projects
      Job: same as WE, but at least a brand name

      Overall, probably not getting an interview. UT is a fine business school, but at the top, no one thinks UT is a peer. Go to UT to get the brass tacks of business – and don’t you dare become a longhorn! – it is a practical school that requires you to learn very practical skills that managers need in their careers.

      Network with purpose . . . aggressively. Demonstrate capabilities in case competitions. Win case competitions if you want to be able to break into the strategy side of the Big 4 consulting. You may be able to get an offer, but you are more likely to end up with an offer in project management, not strategy. The 30,000′ difference: PM gets deployed to a site for 9-18 months, Strategy gets deployed to determine project needs and win the deal 1 week – 4 months. Which do you prefer?

      About networking – once you’ve made it to age 30 your value to a firm is tied to the vastness of your network that spends money on the things your company sells. A network of 3000 friends under the age of 30 is therefore most likely worthless to a Big 4 Consulting firm. A network of 300 colleagues ages 45+ in decision making capacity at Fortune 1000 companies – who always take your calls – is golden. Don’t ditch your friends, but understand that now it is time to build your career.

      Gig ‘Em and God Bless,

  28. Hi Kate,

    I recently took the GMAT and received an overall score of 710 and scored the following in the breakdown categories: Q47 (68th percentile) and V41 (94th percentile), and IR 6/12 (67th percentile). My quant and integrative reasoning scores are lower than I would like them to be but I am trying to figure out if it is worth it to take the GMAT again. I am hoping to apply to a top 15 MBA program. This was my first try at taking the GMAT so please let me know your thoughts!


    • Hey Sani,
      Good work on the 710. Don’t sweat the IR score. Take a look at the candidates you will be compared to at the top 3 schools you most care about. In other words, if you are a consultant now, look at the scores of other consultants at those 3 schools, not the whole class. If you think you’re in the bottom half of that pool, retake. A second score won’t hurt you and it would be a shame to get passed over as less than competitive because you are getting compared to a subset of the class.


  29. Hi Kate

    Thank you very much for your feedback. I am a European candidate and my target schools are Booth, Haas, Kellogg, Sloan and Stern. I have taken the test twice.

    The first time I took the gmat was on January 2015:
    Jan 15: IR 3 (25%), Q45 (63%), V41 (94%), T700 (89%)

    I was not happy with the quant and IR scores, so I decided to retake, focusing on enhancing the quant score. I retook in May 2015, and my second score was:

    May 15: IR 7 (81%), Q48(74%), V26(43%), T610 (64%)

    I am obviously concerned with the V26, as I never scored such low verbal and total scores! Do you think I should retake again? If possible, I would like to focus on getting a good score in the Toefl and acing the essays. However, if required, I am of course willing to study harder and retake again in order to get a balanced score.

    I have degrees in business management and law and 4 years of experience (2 in london) in the strategy & development team of a leading industrial company.

    Many thanks, Kate!

    • So that score profile is a bit too crazy. You don’t need to retake, but you do want to keep the attention on the 1st test. I would not mention the 2nd test.

      No one cares about your IR score (really). It isn’t helping you, but it falls into the category of, “not good but, so what.” However, verbal of 26 . . . holy cow that’s bad. Really, you want to avoid discussing that. I have not seen a student go from a legitimate 41 in V to 26. So unfortunately you showing a 26 makes me think something is really wrong with your first test. If I loved you as a candidate at my school, I might look at your AWA – they can do that – but chances are I’d just toss your application.

      If you have time to sit for another test, do. You shouldn’t need to study that much more if your ability level is Q 45+, V41. If that second test was just a really bad day, you should be able to clear 47+Q and 38+V with a now improved IR.

      Quality of time is more important than quantity. Good luck!

  30. Hi Kate,

    I just sat for the GMAT and walked away with my unofficial score of 710: 43Q (56%) and 44V (98%) and 8 IR (92%). I’m confident I got at least a 4.5 on the essay also. The Verbal and IR scores are right in line with how I’ve scored on 3 different practice tests, but the Quant score was a few points below my normal range, and I am pretty concerned by that 56 percentile rank. I was able to study seriously for about a month and half (towards the end I used the Economist online program, but was not able to get through more than half of it) before I sat for the test.

    I knew going in that Quant was my kryptonite, and I know that Quant is really the more important score for adcoms for candidates with non Quant-y experience, but is there any way around re-taking? I have a very busy work and travel schedule for the next 3 months and I wanted to be able to focus on my applications this summer.

    I am not shooting for the tops of the tops, rather I’m hoping for B schools ranked in the 5-15 ranks mostly (Northwestern, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Yale, Michigan, UT Austin).

    Background: I graduated from a top 15 Liberal Arts college in the NE with a 3.55 GPA in History and Arabic. I took some intro econ classes, but was more focused on politics and international relations in my elective work at the time. My years after graduation were spent living in the Middle East studying Arabic and then working for a small foreign energy services company in marketing and business development for whom I still work for but in the US. I have some good essay fodder there about being able to learn highly technical subjects, quadruple the company’s revenues in the US and build networks with high-level international oil company managers blah blah blah, not to mention stories from living in the Middle East during revolutions and relating that to personal growth and becoming intimately aware of how other parts of the world work (not trying to sound cynical, just concise).

    So should I dig down into some more Quant studying and plan to retake the GMAT? Or could I take some CC or online econ and stats classes to make up for it?


    • Hi David, Good news, mediocre news (it isn’t bad, but)…

      The 710 is okay with those programs. Your balance with score – not totally dominant in verbal with horrible quant, comparable quant and verbal – will make a retake not absolutely necessary. However, you’ll get dinged if you’ve only taken once. A little bit. The rest of your profile sounds kick ass so you may be able to make up for it, but to give some perspective, I saw (not my student) a candidate get invited to 5 interviews: 690, strong military background, great undergrad performance and school, yet admitted to none. There are a variety of reasons that can happen, but given that you have some time, if you’ve only taken once, please consider a retake just to put a second on the board. It’s less about the actual score and more about demonstrating that you know the 43Q is not great.

      I would NOT use the extra essay to explain that you were too busy to retake. That would be a bad idea. Retake or just let it ride.

      Good luck!

  31. Hi Kate,

    I scored a 700 on the GMAT with Q41 and V45, IR 5. I’ve a background in management consulting in Kenya. I’m pretty sure I can write stellar essays and my recommendations will be great. One of my recommenders features in a top3 b-schools case study.

    My challenge is I struggle with std testing. I can’t improve my quant score dramatically. I started out at 32 and got it up to 41. But I work in a highly analytical and quantitative job and excel at it. Math scores from undergraduate are in the 85th percentile.

    My target schools are top10. Do you think I can wing it based on my work ex and the fact that I come from a pool with relatively low competition.


    • Hi,

      32 to 41 is a nice jump. Good work. I might disagree with you about your ability to move it to 47. Plenty of students have before you. That said, if you aren’t willing to, that’s that.

      If you’ve taken 2+ times, you can be done and yes you can gain admission to top 10. If you have only taken once, you need to sit for a second test or you risk looking profoundly ignorant (of the bschool game) or arrogant (as though the “rules” don’t apply to you). Some readers – adcoms – will penalize you harshly for sitting once. As it is, you may gain admission, but conditional based on your completion of quantitative coursework. Really depends on what your job is and the level of proficiency you can demonstrate.

      If you have successful quant coursework or easily understood quant skills, please write the extra essay describing those skills so an adcom can give you a better read. DO NOT say “I’m bad with std tests.” That’s a total cop-out. Know that you will be judged even more harshly by some adcoms if you say you stink at std tests. It’s a common pet peeve. No matter what ails you, there’s someone who overcame a bigger hurdle so don’t go there.

      All the best with your applications.

  32. Hi Kate

    I just took the GMAT a week ago and got a 730 with 47 Quant and 42 Verbal. I was happy with the score but I’m reading a lot about how a 47 in Quant would not be good enough for the top 20 B-Schools. Is that true? Do you think I should take the exam again?


    • Hi!

      With a 730, the 47 is fine. 47 is basically a minimum threshold for quant – percentiles have jumped upward, but 47 today is comparable to a 47 five years ago. You’ve made it and you have a 730 so you’re at or above average for each of the top schools. The GMAT won’t hold you back. I would not bother with a retake. Focus all efforts on the application. Good luck!


  33. Hi Kate,

    I took the GMAT for a second time and got a 690 (43 – Q, 41 V) , the first time I got a 680 (42. 42). I have a 3.95 GPA in finance and work in management consulting. I’d like to take it again anyways, but am concerned that it will look bad if I don’t improve. My math score is so volatile (39-45), depending on how I do on the first 10 questions or so. I took an online class from Princeton review and studied ~100 hours between the first and second tests. Would love your advice! For reference, I’d like to go to Kellogg.

    • HI!

      Well, at least you’re consistent. 🙂

      If you studied for 100 hours – legitimately, not checking email every 20 minutes type study – then I would not recommend a retake unless you have the resources to work with a professional. A very good one. You are not likely to improve much with self study. Scores below 44 in quant indicate serious flaws in problem solving. Not improving despite 100 hours of effort means you’re still making the same mistakes without learning from them.

      Your quant score is very low for a top 5-10 program, but not so low that the rest of your application can’t compensate for it.

      As a side note, your choice of Princeton Review materials for prep indicates that you are out of touch with the caliber of students who go to bschool. If you’re in management consulting then perhaps you’re at a small firm that doesn’t send many students to bschool each year?

      Based on the 39-45 you profess for the Quant score I’m guessing you’re using PR tests too. Those are terrible. Stop using them if you decide to take a 3rd time. Ditch all PR materials. Frankly, PR is the weakest of the major brands. They barely edit their materials. For best results ONLY use GMAC materials from now on. The official guide, the verbal review, the quant review, and question pack 1 will give you all the questions you need. They’re well written and well edited.

      Best wishes,

      P.S. FOR ALL STUDENTS: kaplan and princeton review have cr*p materials. Don’t give them your money. Stick to materials produced by the GMAC, the makers of the test. On a tight budget? KahnAcademy now has free resources as well. (I don’t love these – too many lessons are unnecessarily complicated, but they are free.)

  34. Hi Kate,

    I recently scored a 700 on the GMAT with a lower quant score than in many of my practice tests, but much higher verbal (Q42 V44). I also did much better on the integrated reasoning than any of my practice with a score of 8. Awa of 5.5. I had been studying for about three months before I took the exam.

    Given that I am pleased with three out of the four sections, and am targeting top 30 business schools (not top 5) is a retake necessary to boost the quant score? For reference- I was a business major at Wake Forest graduating magna cum laude. Additionally, I have worked in corporate banking for 3 years.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Hannah,
      Here’s the scoop, no one cares that you did well on the AWA or IR. They really only might-possibly care about those 2 sections if you totally flame out. Good work, you covered your bases.

      RE: top 30 versus top 5, okay, but why? I know that wasn’t what you asked about, but why are you even going to bschool? A. Can one of those programs specifically help you or B. do you want the general knowledge? Or C.do you just need the designation to get a promotion down the line?

      If A. ok, go for it and your 700 should suffice, but consider a retake in 30 days anyway (since it sounds like this was the first prepped test). Keep sharp on verbal, get some help on quant. A 42 points to foundational challenges.

      If B. Get a few good books on marketing, operations, finance. Save yourself 2 years and 200k.

      If C. It is what it is. Corporate banking and Industry still like middle and upper management to have MBAs. Consider a part time or EMBA that gives the same MBA degree (some give a different degree once completed, ask!). Bonus, get the bank to pay for it. Follow case A.

      If not A.,B., C., please, please consider revisiting the motivation for going. It’s an expensive 2 year vacation. And many programs will not yield the return you hope for.

      The MBA is a great degree and overall pays off, but it pays off better when you get a specific strategic advantage from the school or school’s network. Be clever with your choice and good luck!


      • Kate,

        Thanks for the response. I should have clarified that I am targeting specific schools in the Washington, D.C. area – and my number one program is Georgetown McDonough. My goal is to break into commercial real estate, and also stay in D.C. Given that real estate is very much a “who you know” business and having a well-connected alumni base is critical – I thought that one of my best options would be to get an MBA at a school in this area with a strong real estate program. In my preliminary research on Gtown, including the recent launch of its real estate center, it seems to be the right choice.

        To go back to the GMAT- I suppose I could have posted this question on the school’s blog. Still wanted your input as an additional resource as I decide whether or not to continue studying based on the low quant score, at the risk of not doing as well again in verbal.

        Thanks again.

      • Ok good! You have a plan. You’re right about real estate. It is a super small industry at the top so you can look a little more broadly than Gtown because there are so few (relatively speaking) schools that pump out great grads. UNC Chapel Hill is one I can recommend. Strong presence in the DC area as well. If you haven’t already investigated the backgrounds of the people you hope will hire you, please do. Target the schools they went to – for sure. It is a chummy club and you need the profs who taught these (almost always) guys to recommend you to these guys.

        1. Still retake. Stay sharp on verbal by treating it seriously. You have the chops already, don’t fret. A female – based on your name I’m assuming such – in RE is not as common so there are departmental funds to woo strong female candidates. Get your GMAT score up. STRONGLY recommend.
        2. I hear you on stay in DC, but there are some very strong programs (in terms of placement) not too far from DC that may give you a better leg up than the hoyas.
        3. Wharton is a strong program that may seem like a stretch but may actually set you up far better than you expect. Please consider it.

        P.S. I used to be in Real Estate – primarily commercial construction, but also mixed use development and large scale residential.

  35. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the detailed post on the scoring and scaling!

    I took the GMAT in early May and scored a 680 (Q49, V34, IR6, AWA6). – this is my first attempt

    I am a non-native speaker. However, I was surprised with my verbal score because my English skills are pretty good. Also, I am a female candidate from India.

    I’m aiming at schools such as Wharton/Kellogg/Stanford/Ross (I intend to do Corporate Stratgy post MBA). Do you think my score will be a problem? Also, does a perfect AWA balance out my average verbal score?

    While I dont mind retaking the GMAT, I am going for an international assignment via my company and think I may not be able to focus on the exam.

    • Hi Ak,

      Good work on Quant. The AWA score is considered essentially worthless so no, it won’t balance your verbal score. Six on the AWA is little better than top 50th percentile (at last measure it was 54th).

      You probably got the breakdown of your performance – don’t read too much into that, but do take a look. Was one area of verbal particularly weak? My suggestion would be to retake, but don’t sweat hundreds of hours of GMAT problems. Instead, read a a logical reasoning prep text – focus on really, really understanding assumptions and pick up a simple, practical grammar text that has lots of examples. Email me directly and I can send you one of each. You don’t need a heavy duty grammar text – it will cause more harm than good.

      The good news is that you will need 1-2 months of reading and re-reading that material and practicing in limited spurts before you’ll be ready to sit. It takes that long for this stuff to really sink in. You can definitely do that while on assignment.

      If you were my student, I’d have you retake. You don’t “have to” but it is a really good idea. With great essays and letters you’ll be an okay candidate for 2 of the 4. Your verbal really dinged your overall score. If you do what I suggest your score should move into the 720-730 range. That will be a much better spot for you – you’ll be a great candidate at 2, a decent shot at 1, and “not out of the question” at the last.

      All the best!

  36. Hi Kate
    I just prepared the GMAT for 1 month and hurried to take it yesterday. First I am Chinese so I’m not a native English speaker. I have been out of school and haven’t taken any test for over 10 years. When I was in university I felt like I was really bad with math and it has never been my strong point and on the other hand I have been excellent with languages and scored definitely the top 10% in any English tests(8 on ELTS without preparation).
    I had time to focus and prepare for the Quantitative section for 3 days in total last month and I scored 49 there(also found it very easy) however a incredibly low score of 29 on verbal. I score 38 in my prep tests. I somehow really don’t understand what this means since my biggest concern about going to business school was that I would struggle with the mathematics. So according to the GMAT score I actually suck at languages and good with quantitative?

    • Hi Lisa,
      Congratulations on the 49 for quant. You’re in good shape there. While it doesn’t mean that you are good at mathematics, it does mean that you’re good enough for bschool.

      The verbal is a problem. The 29 doesn’t mean you’re bad with languages, but it does indicate that you have trouble synthesizing material in English. Synthesis is a much higher order skill than proficiency. Since your writing here doesn’t demonstrate terrible use of language, there’s no reason to think you can’t fix your GMAT with appropriate help. If you’re going to get a coach, consider LSAT Logical Reasoning Experts as well as GMAT Verbal Tutors (very few GMAT tutors can do both Verbal and Quant well). Ask for example scaled score changes. Expect to take 5-8 weeks to make significant progress – that assumes you can put in 12-15 hours a week of study time.

      If you need to tackle this on your own, my Critical Reasoning Book (available to the public in 2 weeks) and Logical Reasoning texts for LSAT prep are likely to be a good use of your time. Here’s the caveat: you may have bombed the Sentence Correction and your other areas are fine. If that’s the case, you need a decent grammar guide and a practical lesson on grammar. For comparison, I typically cover that with a student in 1-3 lessons. Miss Mentor’s Little Black Book of Grammar is a decent guide available at Amazon.

      You can clean this up. One of my students just jumped from 34 to 47 on Verbal (8 weeks total – the first 7 of which didn’t look like that much progress had been made). That’s extremely rare, but I’ve had several 34 to 43 and 28/29 to 38 so at the very least you can get to a point that the verbal won’t embarrass you. Good luck!


  37. Hi Kate,

    I took my first shot at the GMAT today after about 150 hrs of study and scored 640 (42Q 35V). I am pretty disappointed because I scored a 620 (40Q 34V) on my very first Gmatprep practice test. I am certainly going to retake in about a month or two, but I am concerned that I may have a fundamental flaw that could be impeding my improvement. I have always thought of myself as a quantitative person (3.5 GPA as a Finance Major, A’s in Calc courses etc.) so I am surprised that I have not been able to improve that score. Have you seen cases like this (barely beating baseline after long period of study) and do you think I am capable of reaching my goal of a 48Q? My fear is that because so much study led to so little improvement that I might have hit some sort of ceiling and I am really hoping this is not the case.

    Thank you for any help!


    • Hey John,

      1. There is no real ceiling (below 780, or 50Q, or 43V), but there are practical ceilings based on your socio-economic-cultural upbringing.
      2. There are also factors that contribute to such a poor performance despite the time put in. You didn’t give the particulars of how you spent the time so here is the most common problem I’ve seen:

      Students who start within a reasonable distance of their target often work the areas for improvement that are incremental not foundational, for example, geometry. Geometry, probability, combinations, etc. these are tested, but are not profoundly important. Spending more than 10% of your prep time on those (all three total) is a waste. They comprise not even 5% of the overall test. But, they are easily picked out as areas of weakness so many students spend time on them.

      Number properties, number line theory, remainder theory – those are profoundly important. These are where you make the quant gains. These are also the least sexy of all the Quant topics. But just cranking through the OG won’t get you any further.

      You need to see an expert – specifically a GMAT expert – to properly diagnose your quant challenge. Don’t hire a math tutor for the sake of learning math. GMAT quant is more about logic and thought process and less about math.

      You also need to work on Verbal. That score will hold you under 700. Not all 150 hours are created equally. Your time is worth something. If you can afford to invest the time, invest a few dollars so you’ll at least get a positive return on your time.

      All the best,

  38. Hi Kate,

    I am a Senior graduating from an ivy league school summa cum laude (4.0) with lots of extra curriculars. I am not a “diverse” nor “legacy” candidate and intend to apply to HBS 2+2 R3.

    I took the GMAT once, scoring a 750. However, my Quant and IR were low:

    Quant: 48 (74%)
    Verbal: 45 (99%)
    IR: 4 (37%)
    Total: 750 (98%)

    Should I retake to bring up the IR/Quant?

    Thank you in advance for your input. The deadline is next month!


    • Hey James,
      Yeah, that IR is super awful. Did you actually try to answer the questions? But the Quant is ok. 48 scaled score is sufficient. If your app presents a solid candidate otherwise, your score will be fine. I wouldn’t put more time on the GMAT. Focus on the app. 2+2 is very competitive – wow them with the rest of your app.

      FYI: If you get dinged and decide to apply in a few years after working, still focus on the app and don’t sweat the score. You’re over all the averages and hit the sweet spot for the better programs. Good work.

      Best wishes with 2+2.

  39. Hi Kate,

    Please let me know how I must prepare for my 3rd shot at GMAT?
    (Yes, I’ve already decided to retake).

    I’m an Indian IT guy targeting US top 20 MBA programs. So my target score is 730+.
    Total Work Experience: 7 years (at the time of application)

    I have couple of months to prepare – planning to apply in Round 1 (around Sept 2015).

    On my 4 GMATPrep practice CATS I got above 720.

    But here is my real GMAT performance:

    2nd GMAT – 690 (Q 49, V 35, IR 7, AWA 6)
    1st GMAT – 680 (Q 47, V 37, IR 6, AWA 4.5)

    I have improved in all the sections, except verbal which dropped a couple points – quite a shocker as Verbal was my forte.

    Now I’m thinking if I can put more effort on Quant and push it to 50/51 and pull Verbal up to 39/40 I might end up in the 720-740 range.

    Please advise, if my strategy looks good.


    • Hi Kishore,
      I’m not sure why you believe Verbal is your forte. The scaled score for verbal is not even close to your scaled score for quant. Yes, your percentile is higher, but that is relative to other people who take this exam.

      Percentile – relative to the other people taking the test
      Scaled Score – your performance on the test, your grade

      Only moving verbal will be worth your time. If verbal makes a jump, your overall score will as well. You do not need to do anything other than maintain in quant.

      There are only 2 currently published GMATprep CATs so you may be mixing old paper tests and CATs or private vendor CATs or your take and retake of the same GMATprep CATs. If you have access to super old CDs of GMATprep CATs, this still applies – your score is artificially high because you’ve seen a large portion of the problems.

      Focus on verbal. 80% of your time.

      Best wishes!

  40. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for your eval! I took the GMAT twice – in December scored 650 (Q39, V41, IR3, AWA6). Went in for a retake this week and scored a 690 (Q46, V38, IR6, AWA6). I’m concerned that this score is sub-700 and sub-Q47. The verbal slide cost me a 700+ score this time around – was a bit too slow! I’m American but targeting only EU schools (INSEAD, Said, Judge, HEC, LBS, etc). What are your thoughts toward scheduling a 3rd exam? Or…should I just move ahead with applications?

    • Hey JT,
      1. Retake. It shouldn’t take more than 3 weeks to refine from where you are. Make sure you spend 20-30% of your time on verbal, refine, optimize.
      2. While sub-700 won’t keep you out of any school technically, it sets you back a bit and you have to overcome it. Better to make the GMAT a non-issue with 47+ on quant and 710+ on score. You’re close enough to make that a reality.
      3. Get some help on quant if you can afford it. You made great progress this go-round but a little bit of time with an expert can really ramp up your game.

      Good luck! LMK what happens,

  41. Hi,

    I wrote GMAT for the first time and scored 710 (Q-50,V-36, IR-7). I’m a male IT engineer from India. I’m worried about my scores in AWA. The score is 3.5. Should I retake the exam? Is it going to be a big hurdle for me in getting into an MBA program?


    • Hi Rajat,
      The AWA is not likely to be of much concern – itself. Your bigger challenge is likely to be your profile as compared to your peers. If you have an outstanding profile (experience, letters, essays), your score is fine. If you have a more average profile, you may want to try a two-pronged approach: 1. retake aiming to get your verbal to 42+ (fix the awa too) and 2. target programs where you can win them over – visit, engage students, faculty, and admission officers (Flattery will open doors). This is a sustained effort. Start now if you’re applying in 2016 – double time if you’re applying in 2015.

      Best wishes!

    • Well, first, I’ve never known someone strong at quant to score a 39 – even on a supremely bad day, not even close. Which says to me that you are not clear on your strengths and weaknesses relative to your peers.

      Giving you benefit of the doubt, I’d wager that your troubles start with your comprehension in English. If English is not your native language, please dedicate your effort to learning English more solidly so your Reading Comprehension and Critical Reading can help you pull the Verbal portion up. The bonus is – with better RC/CR skills – you will understand what you’re being asked to do on quant. GMAT quant is not interested in mental math and brute force calculations, but rather concerned with critical evaluation.

      Spend significant time with American English language resources. I have a list of free and paid Americanize My English resources here. Good luck!

  42. Hello Kate,

    I believe you have made interpreting GMAT scores less confusing! Your rule of thumb is great advice for any test taker and will make testing less stressful.

    Great Job!

  43. Hi Kate,

    I’m a Brazilian female applicant to the Wharton / Lauder program. I scored 700 (Q44/V41) and 7 on IR. I am concerned with my quant score. I have good track record on calculus and statistics at college and I work as an investment banking analyst, which could show my quantitative ability. Should I retake it?

    Thank you,


    • Hi LG,
      If this was your first take, retake. The Lauder program is very competitive. Not putting a second attempt on the books looks lazy or as though you didn’t take the program seriously / understand how competitive it is. CAUTION: If you use brute force, you’ll continue to land low. You don’t need to do a million problems, you need to do 100, but understand 3+ different ways to work each of the 100. More like a dance, less like a test.

      If you’ve taken three or more times, do not retake.

      Good luck!

      P.S. We’re starting live practice session on an experimental basis this weekend. Send me a note if you want to join (we’re working out the kinks, but live Q&A should be available). (hi_at_prepwise_dot_com)

  44. Hi Kate,

    Would love your opinion on my score as well as my chances on getting in to the top 10 schools. This is my third attempt of the GMAT- first attempt 600, second attempt 630 and latest attempt 650 (q41,v39) while overall percentile is 77, quant is unbalanced (49%) and verbal is 89%. I have 5 years of varied work experience- including being a corps member to teach and worked in the edtech sector. Do you think I need a retake?

    • Hi A.J.,
      Good work making progress on your score over time. You are incorrect however in your assessment of your score. You are very balanced. 41/39 is balanced. And low. Your quant is far too low to be considered acceptable at a top 10 program and your verbal does not mask it. For example a 41/48 would put you in the 710 range so the 48 verbal masks the low quant.

      Five years of varied work experience was also disconcerting. Feel free to clarify below. Think about business schools as wanting to groom the future leaders of the (business) world. Random variety is less desirable than planned diversity. That’s nice that you joined the corps though without knowing which one I can’t say how “nice” that would be considered by the schools. Some are selective, others are not.

      Based on very little known about you, top 10 looks out of reach.

      RE: GMAT retake?
      It’s easier to cancel scores now – not a great strategy, but at least you can see your score and now cancel as opposed to the old days (pre-June 2014). Prepare for one final take. You are aiming for massive quant improvement and moderate verbal improvement. 70%/30% time split. I don’t like to see students take a 4th time, but your profile thus far would keep you totally out. You will have trouble at top 20 without improvement. ((Unless there are other keys of your profile you didn’t share))

  45. Hi Kate,

    I read through your post, thanks for your writing 🙂

    I have a particular query- How bad is 47 Quant for an Indian, Non-IT, female? It is 68 percentile only!

    My overall score is 710 (Q47/V41). Target schools = Global Top 20.

    Many thanks!

    • Hi A,
      For global top 20 you’ve cleared the benchmarks. Good work. I know the percentile is hard to see, but take to heart the quant percentile has sunk like a rock in clear water over the past 5 years. It was 78th percentile 5-6 years ago. The people taking the test and the level of preparation have changed.

      If you’re in the midst of applying (round 2 or 3 this cycle), focus 100% on your app now. If you’re applying next cycle (Class of 2018 or later), AND this was your first test, okay, consider a little bit of work and take a second time. I wouldn’t spend (or allow you as my student) any more than 3 weeks for additional prep. We’re launching a self prep resource with problem sets and office hours Jan 1. Send me a note if you want early access.

      Good luck!

      • Hi Kate,

        Thanks for your reply. I plan to apply next cycle and this was my first test. I might take it again, but truly the concern is building up my profile first. With 13months of work experience, it is futile to apply this time around, is it not?

        Thanks for the tip about the self prep resource, i do not need it currently, but have made a note for future use.


      • Yes, definitely get more work experience. Even next cycle you’ll be very green relative to admitted candidates at better programs.

  46. Katie,

    Hope all is well. I have finance/accounting undergraduate degree from a top tier business program and I took the GMAT twice. On my first attempt I got a 680 (47q 36v 6 awa 7ir), and I recently took the test again and scored a 710 (47q 40v 6 awa 6ir). I have a background in investment banking and corporate strategy and am currently a live and online course instructor for banking and corporate finance professionals at a well reputed financial training firm. Should I be concerned with my quant or ir scores if I’m aiming for Kellogg, Stern, Sloan or Columbia? I’m stretching for harvard, Stanford and Wharton. I’m a male US citizen of South Asian descent. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi HC,
      Depending on the admission cohort you get assigned, you may have some push back – the schools determine who gets to read you. Are you read by adcom focused on IB+PE folks or Consulting or Retail, etc. Even in the FINC bucket, I would expect the GMAT push back to be minimal. You basically earned a regular check mark on your second test with the 710, (47Q). Depending on how you describe your current experience and where you plan to take yourself, you may be able to avoid the FINC adcom readers. It isn’t that many (as percentage) of the IB+PE candidates are doing that much better, but there are soooo many that enough will have done much better. So consider how you craft your application strategically.

      For scores you’re aiming at – check mark.
      For reach schools – check mark and check minus (GSB is score-brutal).

      Focus energy on the app. I’d leave the GMAT alone unless you’re applying in future years (for class of 2018 or later).

  47. Hi KATE, GREAT WORK!!!

    I have given GMAT twice. Unfortunately ended up with same overall score of 650.

    1st Attempt – Q-42 V-36

    2nd Attempt – Q-47 V-32

    Should I retry? I am targeting at Top B-school programs only. I worked on my Quants and improved it by 5 points and I really feel that at 49 is achievable as I have got it in my practice tests many times. What are your suggestions? Is it worth trying again? If yes then what can I do to get back to at least 36 in Verbal? My SC is fine. Problem areas are CR and RC!


    • Hi Rahul,
      Bummer to have your verbal drop. If your objective is over 700 . . . that verbal needs to come up past the 36. Technically you can earn 700, even 710 with a verbal of 36, but that is very difficult to do and requires an almost perfect quant. With a quant of 49/50 and verbal of 36 you are likely to just barely scrape 700. (there are high and low 49s, etc.)

      IF CR and RC are a problem, you’d be wise to spend some time fixing those before school anyway. Start with a Logical Reasoning book. I like ManhattanLSAT’s Logical Reasoning book, chapters 2 and 3 are the keys to get your head wrapped around. Spend 2 weeks focused on that and then switch back to GMAT work.

      Aim to increase your verbal as much as possible. It will make you a better candidate overall. Good luck!

  48. Hi Kate,

    I scored a 730 the 2nd time I took the GMAT (47Q 68%, 42V 96%). The first time I scored a 700 (49Q 79%, 36V 81%). Should I be concerned about my low quant score (in particular the percentile) if I am applying to top 10 MBA programs? I did not take any quant courses in undergrad, and my work experience isn’t particularly quant related.


    • Hi AJ,
      You’re in good shape. The 730 and the 47 on quant are sufficient. I would not expect any adcom pushback on that score profile. You’re set. No more worries about the GMAT. Start cracking those apps!

      Good work. Best wishes with your endeavors!

  49. Hi Kate , I just gave my gmat today and was disappointed with my scores 650 q44, v 35 ir 7. I’m planning to go for masters in finance or masters in mangement. Is my score good enough or should I retake the gmat ? My undergrad degree is in commerce with a gpa of 3.7. Please advise

    • If you are aiming for a top tier program, you should retake. The score and especially the quant scaled score are just too low. A top notch Masters in Finance program will have very competitive candidates. Q44 won’t cut it. You want to raise that to 48+. They won’t care as much about the verbal. But the verbal will impact your overall score.

      Good luck!

  50. Hi Kate,

    I recently took the GMAT for the first time, and I scored a 710 – 6.0 AWA, 7.0 IR, 41Q, 46V. Strangely, I actually have a quantitative background, as I am a former engineer who now works in finance. My undergrad degree is in electrical engineering, and I recently earned my CFA charter. Unfortunately, I took an engineer’s mindset into the GMAT, which was not good, as I focused too much on calculation and ended up running short on time. I am aiming at top 10 programs (HBS, Stanford, Booth, possibly Columbia, Wharton, Haas, and Tuck). My question is whether or not I should retake the test. I have had a couple of people tell me that my time would be better spent putting together the rest of my application, but I would love to get your opinion. Given my background, will my lower quant score be an issue?

    Thank you for your feedback!


    • Hi Matt, as a first time test taker you did fall into some traps. It happens and won’t be held against you with a decent second test. You should need very little re-work to get your score across the 760 threshold. If you were my student I would have you cranking on the essays for apps and spending a few hours on GMAT quant each week. If you focus on the right stuff, you may be able to get the quant from 41 to 48 in 4 weeks. That would put you in 760-770 territory.

      There’s no way I’d let an engineer with “quant” background apply with a 41 on quant and only one test under his belt. No way. It looks foolish – as though you did not understand the instructions on quant.


      P.S. If you want to come “in” (online or NYC) for an evaluation that can point out exactly where to spend your quant time, reach out to my asst: hi@prepwise.com. We can fast track you so you can get that second take knocked out at your 31 day mark.

  51. Hi Kate,

    I am a third time test taker and my score has gone from an initial 550 to now a 620. My score is however not balanced. I got a 39 for quant (43rd percentile) and a 47 for verbal (83 percentile). My practice testing took me to a high of 700 but that included a number of retaken tests (so i cannot state whether it was because of seeing the questions again or because i genuinely improved). I am a lawyer and so my strength is not quant. My aim is definitely a good school. My quant has improved slightly from when i begun but i am not certain about how much further i can take it. What are your thoughts especially in relation to applying to a decent school?



  52. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for your article. I’m surprised to learn that a 50Q/35V is a rare space since that’s been my consistent range of scores. In light of the bad 35V number, I’m pleased to read here that a 47+ quant is favored over the opposite of 35Q/50V as I’ve scored 51+ several times on the mock tests.

    Can you possibly elaborate what that “rarity” means? Good? Bad? Ugly?

  53. Kate,

    I’m a prospective applicant with a 710 (49Q 38V) but my IR score is really bad (2 / 8). I am a reapplicant at my top choice – I was waitlisted after applying in the third round last year with a 660 GMAT. The admissions officer gave me two pieces of advice – 1) apply in Round 1 this year and 2) Get a 700+ on the GMAT.

    I’m planning on applying in Round 1 to this school within the next few weeks. But Is the IR score a real cause for concern? I’m a former investment banking analyst with, what I believe to be, above average analytical skills as shown in my 3.9 GPA and 49Q score.


    • Hey Colin,
      That’s certainly not ideal, but your GMAT is safe (IR is a separate test), GPA is good, and you are (obviously!!) applying round 1. You didn’t mention which school, but at most, with the notable exceptions HBS and Columbia, that gives you until approximately October 1 and your time at this point is MUCH better spent on creating riveting, authentic essays and making sure your letters of recommendation are specific and compelling.

      **HBS already submitted round 1 and Columbia “round 1” should also have been submitted by now though technically you have a little time. Columbia has been accepting apps for several weeks and is already interviewing candidates. If you’re applying to Columbia, get your app in!

      • Thanks for your input, Kate.

        Could you comment on how seriously they are looking at the IR section currently? Does it hold much weight if an applicant has shown that they can handle the quantitative rigor of an MBA curriculum in other areas like coursework and on other parts of the GMAT?

      • I don’t want to say it isn’t considered . . . but I’m not seeing any pressure created by the IR section alone. If your app points to other reasons to ding you, it might be the icing on the cake.

  54. Kate,

    I would love to hear your expert opinion on my GMAT score of 680 (Q47, V37), and this is my first attempt. I’m an Indian male IT guy, and hence a bit concerned about my Quant scores, given the very competitive applicant pool that I represent. I’m targeting the top 15-25 B-Schools in US.

    What do you suggest my strategy be?

    Option #1: Hold back on Round 1, retake GMAT and apply for Round 2 (hopefully with a better score)?

    Option #2: Apply for Round 1 with the 680, coupled with stellar essays and take a call to retake GMAT depending on the response from R1?

    Option#3: Divide my target schools into 2 lists – targeted for R1 and R2.
    Apply to first list in Round 1 with the 680, coupled with stellar essays and in parallel retake GMAT so as to bump my round 1 application and/or apply to 2nd list in R2, with the new (better) score?

    Please help me make this decision, so I can better concentrate on my time and effort in order to maximize my chances of getting into my target schools.


    • Hi Jrnymn,
      Round 1 isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Too many applicants who are better than average competing for a small number of spots relative to round 2 does not make for better odds. The percentage of applicants in the pool who are admitted is higher than for round 3 (and usually round 2 too), but that’s not the whole story.

      Before you choose options 1,2,3, consider which of the schools will accept additional information. Some used to but no longer and others never have (gsb…), but many will accept updated GMAT scores. Read this year’s policy re: GMAT at each school. It is not one size fits all and it does change year to year!

      Stellar essays will trump your 680. 47 is good enough, but not good. If you were my student and I believed your essays would indeed be stellar (which means – beyond well written, bring strong men to tears, move conceptual mountains, etc.) my push for round 1 versus round 2 would depend on precisely which school was your number 1. If the school accepts information updates, submit the app asap. If they do not, wait for round 2. Either way, plan to retake. Other than the time drain – cost of doing business – there is no downside to a retake. Bschools really only care about your best score. You will self report your best score on your app and unless you give them reason to, they won’t even look at your other scores when they verify your official score. Some schools even let you report your top scaled scores for quant and verbal – though no speculating on a franken-GMAT score had you earned those on the same test.

      Thanks for your patience, it’s been a busy 2014/2015 cycle! We’ve opened an office in the Bay Area (very near Stanford). Come say hi if you’re ever in NYC or Palo Alto. Best wishes,

  55. Kate,

    I was recently accepted to the McCombs School of Business at UT-Austin. I will be entering the Part-Time program. I have 4 years work experience, a 3.3 Undergrad GPA in Aerospace Engineering (Texas A&M), currently work as a Software Engineer at Dell, and a 670 GMAT (44Q, 38V). I’ve taken the GMAT once before and scored a 560 (33Q, 34V), but this time, I really studied hard for the GMAT.

    I really want to enter the world of management consulting at one of the Big 4, and plan to supplement my low GMAT with extracurricular activities (UT Graduate Consulting Club), networking, and planning to switch career trajectories in about a year to a hybrid engineering-finance role before I graduate. Should I retake GMAT given my profile?? It’s been weighing heavily on my mind..


    • Hi Leyton, I may be the bearer of bad news, but your metrics are not good. The GPA is low and the Q/V are super low. Your best bet with big 4 is to aim for a regional office that has a specialization you already demonstrate mad skills in. Avoid hopping around to make yourself look good to general HR. You’re best bet is to go for the pity/expert hire directly from an area of business that needs you.

      It isn’t that you can’t get past the HR vet. You just won’t be their top 10% so you’ll be at the mercy of the general economic market. Build your expertise. So, the rest of my advice would depend on what kind of software engineering and what your hybrid finc-engr job would look like.

      The MBA will be a fine switch point if you build yourself in that direction, but the best way to make the switch is to have something rare enough to offer that they will overlook your grades and scores. If only one had been low: GPA or GMAT, you could play a more general strategy. Please do not play a general strategy.

      All the best,

  56. Hi Kate,

    First, thank you so much for the great advice. I scored 37 Verbal, 44 Quant (660), 5.5 Analytical Writing and 8 Integrated Reasoning. My target school is Emory’s One-Year MBA program. I come from a liberal arts background, but will have been in consulting and advisory for 5 years upon enrollment.

    Should I plan to retake the GMAT given my low-end Quant score, or focus more time on essay and interview prep?

    Thanks again!


    • Hi Zach!
      I’d focus on the essays and interview prep. That said, if they put you on the waitlist or give you push back in the interview on your quant capabilities, be ready to propose brushing up on quant skills with supplemental math courses before the MBA program begins. Statistical analysis programs can be helpful for BAs entering bschool. You may even wish to enroll in one now so you can include it as supplementary work in the extra essay, “What else should we know about you.”

      Have a great journey!

  57. Kate,

    I was hoping you could help give me some advice. I recently took the GMAT and on the first take received a 700 with a 47Q 40V split. I am targeting top ten schools so the quant score is a little bit low. These days a 47 quant is only in the 68th percentile, my verbal at least was in the 91st percentile. Do you think I should give it another shot and try to boost my quant score? or is my time better spent working on my essays?

    To give you a little bit more color, my cumulative GPA is on the lower end at a 3.3 (upward trend – last 60 units were a 3.7). I double majored in Accounting & Finance with my Finance GPA being a 3.8 and Accounting GPA being a 3.3. I also have a Masters of Accounting from a top 5 program that was a 3.5.

    • Hi MT, I still use the 47 as the minimum line for bschool apps. Even though the percentile has slumped downward, it is sufficient. The rest of your profile sounds generally fine. You’ll want to produce OUTSTANDING essays. Go for the gusto. You’re basically a candidate in the middle of the pack – as are most students. So be authentically outstanding.

      Leave the GMAT alone until you get push back from the program of interest. Best!


    • Hi GL, the only time I would be concerned with an AWA score is if you earn a 3 or below. A 3, at last publish of percentiles, is 6th percentile. 94% of test takers score better than a 3. One should be embarrassed with less than a 4, but it isn’t worth retaking. The AWA has such huge grade inflation that it isn’t really taken seriously. You need to do well enough, but don’t sweat perfection.

      Good work with the GMAT. Get cracking on your essays! Best,

  58. Hello,
    I scored a scaled score of 48 on quant & a 40 on verbal (overall 710).
    Is this a balanced score?
    Also, is this good enough for a top 5 school in the GMAT category?

    A 48 on quant is a 76th %ile when I took it (a 48 is now a 74%ile) so is the %ile a problem or does the scaled score matter?

    • Hi Jeyur,
      A GMAT score of 48/40 is certainly good enough for top 5. I’d worry less about the percentiles. The quant percentiles have been dropping like rocks the past 3 years. On the plus side, the verbal percentiles are going the other way. You may be slightly below average on the score, but you are in safe “check mark” territory. I would ramp up efforts on the overall application. Good luck!

  59. Hi kate

    I recently gave gmat and received 730. Q 51 and v 37 along with IR 6. My verbal score was below average as I was scoring 40+ in the simulated tests. I have a mechanical engg degree in ug along with an industrial engineering masters and been working as a purchase professional in FMCG company. My gpa is also 3.6 + in both degrees. By the time I apply to b schools I will have 3 years of work ex.

    Since i was targeting top schools I wondered if its worth to retake the test in order to boost the verbal and have a more balanced score. Will the current scores be an impediment in applying to good schools.

    • Hi! Great question. Your current scores aren’t likely to be the challenge. As much as schools enjoy a solid technical professional, you want to be careful about being all tech all the time. Make sure your essays create a compelling case for what you will do with an MBA. Show your humanity as best as possible. If you were my student I’d high five you on the GMAT and move to preparing you for the essays. Or . . . I may even ask you to delay a year in order to get very specific work experience if I think you’ll be weak because you are lacking X, Y or Z.

      Don’t sweat the GMAT, you’re good to go there. Congrats on that! Best wishes in the application rounds.

  60. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for offering your advice. I just took the GMAT for the third time and got a 42 quant, 41 verbal for a 690 overall. The quant is obviously quite low but is not going to go up at this point. I did get a 7 on the IR section. If I’m still aiming for a top 5-15 school, how would you advise I tackle this low quant score? Some people have suggested writing the optional essay to talk about your quantitative background, your willingness to take more math courses and explain your low GMAT score (in a non excuse making kind of way). My undergrad GPA was 3.5 in political science, economics minor. I realize my quant score will hurt my chances at the top schools but I’d like to think that if I write a compelling application I still have a shot.


    • HI Lawrence, interesting case!

      So, yes, your quant is low. But for your chosen school grouping, you are probably within the “Average plus or minus 20 points” range – check at your intended schools. So, the good news is, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything about the low score. 690 is not itself a low score. Writing the extra essay for this one can come across as self flagellation. I would not ask you to write it. You can always explain later if necessary.

      You are correct that a compelling application can help you overcome the deficit. Your undergrad mix isn’t doing you any favors – major and *low* GPA (PoliSci doesn’t tend to get the same respect that EE gets so 3.5 is low) – so your overall application needs to knock the socks off. Make sure the school understands how/what/why you are the right candidate. Show them some love.

      Because your profile is not yet outstanding (only based on what you’ve shared so far), you really do need to make a super strong connection for the school. As in, you need to write your app as though they are the only school for you. This is tough when you don’t know that they will say yes, but it really is your best shot. So, apply as early as possible; make sure you know exactly what about the school will help you make your next career move; make sure the school knows that you know that, and finally, make sure the school believes that you will be able to follow through.

      This can all seem absurd at the time you start the process. You don’t really know that much about the school (most likely), and if you are like most bschool students you don’t really (REALLY) know what you want to be when you grow up. So spend some energy figuring out what you want to do long term in your life and career and back your way into your next 2-3 steps to making that happen. You’ll share some of this in your essays.

      You need to demonstrate that you know a significant amount about the school and are committed to to them so go get to know them. Find recent grads, find super old grads, visit campus, do the tour, etc. If you’re applying to the 5-15 bracket, it almost does not matter which one. There’s no substantive difference between Number 6 and Number 12. So pick the best fit.

      Best wishes and good luck!

  61. hi! I took the gmat this week and scored 720 – 47 on Quant and 42 on verbal, but only a 5 on IR. should i be concerned about the quant + IR for top ten schools? i will have five years of work experience in consulting.

    • Hi Rebecca, you’re in decent shape. IR isn’t likely to keep you out. The 47 on quant is good enough, the 42 on verbal gives your score nice juice. If this was your first take and you have bandwidth for a 2nd . . . there’s no harm in a retake. If you do retake, clean up IR, and see what you can do to boost quant a touch. If this was your second take, call it done.

      Good for you! Great work this past week. Nice to have a solid score on the board. Best wishes!

  62. kate ,

    i took my gmat today and score 500 (q43,v 18). i am shocked. i took gmat prep test a day before and score were almost similar 550(q44, v20) . i am a non native speaker of english please suggest when should i retake the test.

    • Hi!

      I’m not sure why you were shocked given how close the scaled scores are day to day. I wouldn’t want you to retake the test until you have prepared much better. Your verbal score will keep your overall score down. To give you an idea, a verbal score < 34 prevents you from reaching 700 no matter how great your quant score is. The question shouldn't be when to retake the test, but what to do. Focus your grammar lessons on subject-verb identification, parallelism, and pronouns. Grab a logical reasoning text that steps you through basic elements of arguments. I like the ManhattanLSAT Logical Reasoning book. Chapter 3 will rock your world. Be patient. You have a long way to go, but I have seen (my own student!) go from 310 to 650, in 4 months. Anything is possible with the right effort. Kate

  63. Hi Kate!

    I’m currently applying to a Top 15 MBA program in its final round and scored a 660 (44Q/37V) back in 2010. I’m hopeful that my 3.92 undergrad GPA and W/E will allow the adcom to overlook the below average GMAT (by about 40 points, still within the middle 80%). What are your thoughts? I know the final rounds are more competitive – good lesson learned. Still room for me to apply next year or the year after and retake the GMAT. Chances average/good/bad?


    • Hi Colin! Well, my answered is a little delayed, but as awesome as the 3.92 is . . it kind of depends on the subject matter you studied. Double E, awesome. English Lit . . . mmm, well okay. English Lit at an Engineering School, shame on you.

      So in short, the 44Q is low, the 37V didn’t help and the time lag is not ideal. Killer essays? I hope so. If you were my student, I’d be concerned for your interview opportunity. If you get an interview, prepare like nobody’s business. You are heading for a big battle. I’m forever optimistic. Hope you get what you want or something even better!


  64. Hi Kate,

    I’m applying for an MBA in Nonprofit Management at a New England school with a big focus on social justice — so definitely not a Harvard- or Stanford-tier program. I just took the GMAT without any serious studying and scored 39/39 for an unofficial score of 640.

    I studied English and Peace & Conflict Studies in college and graduated with a 3.9/4.0 I also started my own nonprofit and I’ve been having very good success in my current job.

    I have a hard time believing I’ll really struggle through this MBA program. Is the GMAT really that strong an indicator of MBA success — or do many people nail business school with less than stellar GMAT scores? I’ve never been big on these standardized test monopolies, so I’m very reluctant to cough up another $250 to demonstrate how capable I already know I am.

    Would be curious to hear your thoughts — especially as it relates to the humanities/nonprofit perspective.

    (If you ask me, good writing and strong verbal skills will take you much further than stellar math skills…but, hey, I could just be an English major in denial!)



    • Hi Jason,
      You are an English major in denial.

      I understand your perspective, but the chances are you don’t fully understand the math and logic processes to be a stellar candidate. Does that mean you can’t get in? No! But, you would be wise to beef up your quantitative skills before matriculating. The 39 on verbal is mighty disconcerting for an English major. That is fundamentally weak. You appear to be in denial of both your quantitative and verbal abilities. The GMAT is a critical thinking skills test – the math skills are 6-8th grade. So . . . one need not have stellar math skills. 8th grade proficiency is all that is needed.

      For your chosen tier of schools, you may not have much trouble getting in with the 640. Expect to have trouble with your first year Accounting and Finance courses. I would be much less blase toward those. But buckle down year 1 and you may right the ship after all.

      Best wishes!

      • Hi Kate,

        I have situation where my GRE is a 161 M and 165 V. Is there hope for top 10 B-School with that. My GPA is extremely low, but I’m finishing up an MA with a 4.0 while I work full time as a TFA. I’ve worked for years as an AmeriCorps volunteering in blighted schools.

        I hate the GMAT format and I like the GRE a lot more. Should I retake GRE since I didn’t work hard and earned a decent score, or should I shift gears to GMAT?

      • Hi Jamie,

        The math is low and you definitely want to show you can improve the quant. B-school isn’t rocket science, but you do need proficiency with quant to hold your own ground in class and future recruiting. If you’ve sat for the GRE more than once, it’s probably better to consider enrolling in a stats class at a local community college or wherever you are finishing the MA. Stick with GRE and take again if you’ve only taken once so far. Do not switch to GMAT. The quant is much more challenging for most students.

        Which is why you really need to pull the GRE quant up. It’s 80th percentile on the GRE, a notoriously weak exam. It’s like being 80th percentile on the Junior Varsity team. Schools want 80th percentile or better on the Varsity team.

        You’ll need to spend significant time crafting your story of where you are headed based on your experience and why bschool is the necessary next step. Based on what super limited info you shared, you are a tough sell. You’re starting to rack up degrees and not demonstrating any substantial interest in business. Bschools don’t need pity cases. You want to put yourself forward as a strong candidate. Industry disruptor, education game changer, Something. Think big and go for it!


  65. Kate,

    I recently took the GMAT (second attempt) and I scored a 650, 47Q/34V and both were 70th percentile. I am targeting schools in the 15-25 range. Should I be concerned about my score?


    • Hi SB,
      Your verbal is weak, but you’ve taken twice and that may be the best that will be worth your time. You will be on the low end of the range for your chosen schools. That is not a deal breaker. What may hurt you is the rest of the profile. Make sure your story of who you are, where you are headed and how business school can take you there is tight! Map our your application from the 20,000′ level before you start writing essays. Be very strategic with how you put the bschool application together and you will only have to count the GMAT as a check minus (as opposed to a minus).

      If your essays are weak . . . bad news. Good luck!

  66. Kate,

    Thank you for the promote response. I am looking at part time program and not a full time or executive program. I failed to mention that my IR and AWA scores are 6.0 and 4.5 receptively. Would these have any role to play in the application process?


    • Gladly! Well, you should be in pretty good shape for a part time program once you emphasize your other skills (beyond quant). I wouldn’t worry about the IR and AWA, those are fine. If you’re having trouble coming up with demonstrating your non-quant skills, consider team leadership (even if work-related engineering team) examples.

      Do use the supplemental essay to add the examples of your team leadership since they may not flow in your assigned essays. It is okay to start the essay with something like this: I would appreciate the admission committee using the following examples to determine my fitness as a candidate rather than my GMAT as the verbal score poorly represents my abilities – please use your own wording.

      Good luck!

  67. Hello Kate,
    I took GMAT for second time and scored 620. The breakdown is Q48/V28. The results are not too different from when I took it the first time. I have a Masters in Aerospace Engineering with 3.8 GPA and a 8 years of work experience. What word of advice do you have for me?

    • Assuming you are targeting a top tier program for full time MBA:
      Well, the quant is in the clear as one would expect from an Aerospace Engineer – so good work there. Unfortunately, you are in a position where your verbal score is crushing your opportunity. In the past 5 years business schools have demonstrated more concern for a student’s ability to perform well in class. Specifically, for a student to understand the lecture and then take the understanding and build upon it, on his own. Assignments are less, do problems X,Y,Z and more here’s a concept, how might you apply this concept to businesses X,Y,Z and what are the potential outcomes.

      Can you demonstrate success with non-engineering curriculum? It need not be a literature class, but something that demonstrates more qualitative thinking and critical position development. Classes that are largely discussion oriented may be good examples. Since you’ve taken twice and the performance has not changed, you want to demonstrate other positive ways for them to consider your candidacy. If you’ve managed the leadership group of a community organization, run a political campaign (even if very small local…) or done something else that says, “Hey this candidate is trusted by a group,” that can demonstrate the qualities many programs seek.

      You will need to show that you are not just a quant jock. You will also need killer essays and recommendations.

      If you are NOT targeting top tier or full time . . . you have a lot more breathing room. A 620 is not ideal, but you have enough work experience in years to be a strong executive program applicant if your career has had a decent trajectory. You’ll still need to put together a compelling application, but the burden is not as heavy as if aiming for top 10 full time MBA programs.

      Best wishes with the application process. I’d set the GMAT aside and go for broke on the essays.


  68. Hey Kate, I took my GMAT for a 3rd time and i scored 710 total (42q and 44v) i am a female Egyptian, working as an equity analyst with a GPA equivalent to 4.0 in management with a double major in finance and economics. I am applying for the top 10 schools with a full scholarship from a social fund in Egypt, do i need to retake the test?

    • Hi Maria, It sounds like you are fine. You can demonstrate math proficiency through work assignments and or undergraduate work. Since you’ve already taken 3x, they won’t care to have you take again. Create some killer essays and make sure you help your recommenders understand what you want highlighted (It really can be difficult for folks to write recs, give them some decent ideas). Good luck and best wishes!

  69. Hello Kate,
    I took the GMAT for the first time today and scored a disappointing 610 (Q45, V28). I was particularly shocked when I saw my verbal score. Despite being a non-native english speaker I scored V41 and V39 on my two GMATPrep tests (I did the two tests as closely as possible to exam conditions, with IR and AWA). During the verbal part I felt a bit “rushed” and I ended up with 14 minutes left to finish the last 4-5 questions.

    I am going to retake the test in early January and thus would like you opinion on the following points:
    – How can I explain the low verbal score? Can overconfidence be the reason of such a low score? Is V28 my true verbal score?
    – Since I will have some time to practice until I retake the test, what is the best way to move from Q45 to Q47 and above?

    Thank you very much!

    • Hi Romain,
      Wow, that is a dramatic hit to your verbal. I’m a bit confused by the statement that you felt rushed with 14 minutes and 4-5 questions. 14 minutes is MORE than enough time to answer 7 questions, and certainly enough for 4-5. If you recognized any of the questions when taking the GMAT prep, the 28 may be your true score. Given how close your GMAT prep tests are you either 1. have seen the official guide/gmatprep material so many times that you have (accidentally?) memorized it and so the 28 is likely true, or 2. you didn’t shake the stress off from the first 2/3 of the test and lost your cool on verbal, in which case your true ability probably is closer to V40.

      Which case are you?

      RE: explaining low verbal – Don’t. You are retaking. Make sure that you are well above the V28 and you will not have to explain the V28. A business school is only concerned with your top score. Make sure January will be better than November and you can forget about Nov. The Nov test will be written off as a blip.

      If you do not increase the verbal score, you won’t score more than 650 no matter what your quant score is. At which point, you won’t have the opportunity to explain the verbal – you’ll have a hard time making it to the interview round at top 10 programs . . . unless of course you are an effing rockstar.

      RE: Pick up quant – work on connecting problems. How is this problem like 67 and 93 and 112 and 125, etc. Draw a network of how problems resemble each other and you’ll see that the GMAT is mostly concerned with testing your logic and flexibility. Sure, a quant jock can crush you with his/her mastery of problem solution paths memorized over the years, but you can’t dial back to 3rd grade to start training with the Physics team. So instead, win by looking at the problems in terms of Number Theory, Boundaries and Constraints, Mechanics, and Geometry. Most problems are hybrids of those areas. Don’t worry about memorizing a formula chart. You probably remember all you need: area and perimeter for round things, three sided things, and four sided things.

      Good luck!

      You may have noticed I now have a GMAT hotline open for 20 minute sessions. All sessions are (online and over the phone) with me – office hours. 60% discount through 12/31/2013 if you use the code beta in the promo code area. Verbal, quant, apps, happy to help however I can. https://www.prepwise.com/book-session

  70. Hi,

    I took my first swing at GMAT today and ended up with a score of 690 (Q47V38). I am an Indian Male, who is a self employed Attorney. I have had a fairly wide spectrum of professional experiences, ranging from representing oil companies before the Supreme Court of India to assisting the Government in policy framing. I have also started 2 social sector enterprises and was involved in pro-bono work during law school days.

    I am targeting top tier B-schools in US. Would you advise me to retake the exam or rather invest time in polishing my application and the essays?

    Thanks !

    • Hi Apoorv,
      I wouldn’t say the GMAT is behind you, but I would definitely get cranking on your applications. The more compelling your essays and letters of recommendation, the easier it is to let the 690 slide. If a school pushes you to the wait list or rolls you to to the next round, GMAT retake becomes a strong part of your strategy. The GMAT won’t help your application, but isn’t likely to kill your app. Soo why not take the GMAT one more time before applying?? I’m betting that you are hoping to make the round 2 deadline…. Time to get those essays done!

      One surprise (among many) for students applying from outside the US – the admission process for bschool is incredibly subjective. Make sure you are clear why bschool is a logical and necessary next step for you. I’ve heard non-admitted candidates compare themselves to admitted candidates (usually work colleagues), expressing shock and dismay. You never really know what the admission committee sees.

      Best wishes with the process,

      • Hi Kate,

        Thanks for your reply! I must have slipped in some sort of hibernation to get back after so long.

        I have been working on my applications, particularly Booth, since I feel it is a school which would be most suitable for why I want to pursue an MBA and also appreciate the background I hail from.

        Due to work engagements and emphasis on penning down those stellar essays, I haven’t been able to prepare for GMAT and hence I not retaking it as of now. If Waitlisted, then perhaps I would give it a shot.

        Your views would be most appreciated !


      • Good for you. You are close enough that stellar essays can be the game changer. Dig deep. 20% deeper than you think you need to go . . . and then another 50% beyond that. Too often a student will give a well written, but unengaging set of essays. Show depth of character. Show the school that you are a good bet for them to make. They stake their reputation on you too. Be your fullest self. It’s okay to get personal – just keep it polished. Be more concerned with content. Once that is solidified, then and only then, do you worry about grammar/sentence structure/etc.

        A note to all of you reading:
        Do not worry about having a copy writer comb through your essays. A simple word processing program will suffice. I’m hearing more reports of students sending their essays off for a final round of copy writing. As you do that, you risk losing your voice. Several years ago I observed the painful results of that. An entire batch of students applying to school X sounded like the same “voice.” Turns out they had all used the same copy editor – stories different, but syntax and vocabulary too similar. Busted. And Denied.

        Good luck and Best Wishes! Let me know what happens with the Booth app.

  71. Hi Kate,

    I just took the GMAT for the first time and received a 700 but not with a particularly balanced score (Q 40, V 44). I was a Business and Psychology major in college with a 3.55 GPA overall and good grades in several math-based classes for both majors but should I consider re-taking to improve my Quant score for application to a top 10 program?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Hi Whitney, As lovely as the 700 is, I would retake – unless you’ve taken 2-3 times already. To keep your verbal up, read, read, read. Your score indicates a solid grasp of the verbal concepts. Great! The best way to bolster is (even) more critical reading. As you hit articles ask yourself about the author’s argument, how would you strengthen, weaken, what are the assumptions, etc. I’m partial to the New Yorker, NYT/WSJ/FT op-ed pages. This is helpful at your level and less directly helpful to those below 42 on verbal (for the rest of you reading!!).

      For QUANT . . . well, lucky you, I’m about to finish bundling Math I,II,III. If you’re super sweet and convincing, I might be willing to send you an advanced draft. I’m not making them publicly available – just for my students. But, compelling stories win the day. 🙂

      The best thing for you to do is have a GMAT expert watch you respond to quant questions. Your timing may be off, but an expert can show you why it’s off (you mess up XYZ when doing PQR, etc.). Or perhaps it’s a foundational gap. An impartial, well trained observer can help you understand the challenges and next steps. I am not the low cost leader, but I do single triage sessions online and face to face. In a single session you can get a clear sign of what isn’t working for you and a path for how to fix. If you can’t swing me, the next tier down is ManhattanGMAT and they’re all over the place now. You can probably find a local instructor who is reasonably competent in most major metro areas in the US and a few overseas. The tier below that won’t be worth your time. You’ve already outscored the Kaplan teacher requirement…. (680)

      • P.S. Part of the recommendation to retake is based on a low GPA in what some will term “soft” majors. You want to show more math chops if possible.

  72. Hello Kate,

    My GMAT score was 670, with Q49 and V33. English is not my native language, so it was a little challenging. That was my 2nd attempt – I screwed with timing in the fist one.

    How would think that can rate for business schools?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Irina, the score won’t prevent you from attending business school, but it does give you essentially a check minus in the GMAT category. Won’t kill you, but isn’t helping. If your essays are very, very strong and the school wants you, the 670 isn’t likely to keep you out. But if you have an average profile and an average set of essays, you may find it difficult to gain admission at a top 20 program. Best wishes!

  73. Hi Kate:

    I have been scoring 99th percentile for verbal (45+), and my math score has been hanging around 45,46,47…if my aggregate score is in the 730/740/750 range, will that still be cause for concern at the top tier programs (Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Northwestern, etc)

    • Hi Lost,
      As long as the aggregate is over 730, most programs will give you a check mark for the GMAT if you’re that close. The only time I’ve seen serious push back (from inside) was when the team really didn’t want the candidate but needed a strong enough reason to not accept given a strong donor affiliation. The kid had a 42 on quant and a 730 overall. Admissions dinged him and the donor accepted the decision without a fuss.

      But if those are only practice test scores, do consider refining your prep on quant a bit before heading in. Execution is everything. If quant wastes you, you may find your natural verbal ability drops post quant section. Remember to shake of the quant before you engage on verbal.

  74. Hi Kate,
    I just took the GMAT for the first time and got a score of 730(Q47, V44). While I am happy with my overall score, I am somewhat concerned my quant score might not be good enough since it’s below the 80 percentile mark(the exact percentile is 70). Should I consider taking the test again? Or in other words – Will bschools reject my application purely on the basis of a low quant score?

    • Hi Nimit, Congrats on the 730! Nice work. The 47 is fine. I wouldn’t sweat a retake unless you have time to kill – and if you have time to kill, your app has bigger problems than the 47….

      Time to work on the app or build your profile (if you are applying after this year).

      IF, and I do mean IF, you decide to retake, do not forget to run through verbal at least once a week. Stay sharp. On quant you’ll want to concentrate on the simple subjects. Yes, I mean number theory. A 47 usually indicates enough mechanical skill to be sufficient for GMAT purposes so honing your cranking skills won’t net you much score-wise. You’ll want to tackle the number line (a personal fav!), divisibility and primes, constraints and boundaries – those kinds of subjects. You really don’t need to spend the time on minor subjects (probability, combinations, geometry, etc.) as those aren’t likely to move the needle for you. So perhaps you’re working through a mixture problem . . . you can set it up as a weighted average, you can put it on a continuum, you can chart it, etc. There are a bunch of ways to do most of the problems. You want to knit this stuff together to the point that you see the 3 main problem types: mechanical, boundaries, and number theory. Get clear about executing simple parts of complex problems more efficiently. The GMAT is all about logical processing. Keep that in mind if you decide to retake.

      But if you’re trying to make round 2 . . . crank on the apps. The GMAT is done. Nice check mark.

      Let us know what happens!
      P.S. Until last year quant 47 was 78th percentile. A flood of quant heavy scores have rolled in within the past 2 years (cheating and more people prepping). On the plus side, those who only have top quant scores fail to gain admission because top tier bschools look at the whole package.

  75. Hi Kate,

    I just took the GMAT after a long prep and got a 700. My subscores were Q 44 V 41. I am concerned about the low 60th percentile quant. I have a major in accounting, minor in finance, with straight As, but from a small, not very prestigious school. Additionally, my quant score has been stagnant (43,44) on multiple practice test going back 3 months. The only quant improvement has been speed, as I was able to get 44 with 10 mins remaining, whereas before, it was down to the wire.

    For schools in the 10-30 rank range, will this score and GPA in a quant based undergrad program be enough?

    • Hi David, The 700 is a nice tick mark so kudos there. If it was your first GMAT, consider a retake to boost quant. It won’t matter if your overall score slips a little. You use your best when you apply. If it wasn’t your first take, see below.

      So 10-30 on the schools – you are probably just at the school average for many of them so it would depend on which school. If you are at or within 20 points (high or low!) of the target School’s GMAT average, you’d do well to retake. If you are 40 points above your school’s average, you have much more flexibility (i.e. you can put the GMAT behind you without a retake).

      Good luck!

  76. I just took my second GMAT and am disappointed with the results, 39 quant, 44 verbal, for a 680. This score represents only a 30 point increase from first attempt (39q, 41v), with no increase in quant. I purchased study software and completed approximately 200 hours of quant studying in between attempts. I am targeting top 20s. Is this hopeless? I have an A in college calculus and work in finance. Should I try gre?

    • Hi Jessica, bummer on the static quant. Top 20s is not hopeless. I would not spend any more time on the GMAT unless you seek professional input. A 39 points to foundation deficiencies. You need someone to observe you in action to pinpoint the major issues. GRE isn’t as “easy” as it may seem as the schools seem to prefer higher percentiles for the quant**. The quality of the GRE quant is lower, but you must execute faster. If you are able to memorize problem types, you may be able to pull a win on the GRE. GRE problems are more 1-2 punch whereas GMAT problems benefit from greater logic application.

      Remember, the nice thing about bschool is, if the school really wants you, there are ways around a mediocre to lousy GMAT/GRE. My lowest scoring student, literally . . . ahem, is at HBS. My second lowest scoring student (actually a decent score) is ALSO at HBS.

      **A student recently reported that his 68th percentile GMAT quant was considered average, but his 80th percentile GRE quant was considered below average at one of his programs. The expectation is for a higher percentile on the GRE. Certain schools (Columbia for example) will not consider a GRE if a GMAT has been taken.

  77. Hi Kate,

    I understand that the 80% threshold is the gold standard for Q scores, but I’m wondering at what point a Q score is considered low enough that an applicant should address it. I scored 1 45Q (68%)/ 44V (97%) which equated to a 720. Is a 45Q something to worry about?



    • Hi Bryan, depends on the School and your other metrics. The 720 won’t hurt the School’s average so that works in your favor. If your GPA is better than the program’s average, you’re probably fine. If your GPA is low and this was only your first take, it would be wise to retake – more for the sake of showing effort. That said, I would not feel compelled to address this as a “weakness” in the optional essay. That often looks like showboating. You did fine. But it would be nice to see that quant up.

  78. Hi I have GMAT and scored a Qunat 44 and verbal on 30, rresulting which my scores are shattered.
    This is my first take.i plan for a second intake, However, Iam llokng forward to improve on my TIME managemnt.
    Please help

    • Hi Penta, given your written comment, I would offer that you have more room for improvement than time management. The most efficient way to clean up your English is to read prolifically. For students who start with your demonstrated language ability, I recommend at least one book a week. Choose fiction or non-fiction, but read, read, read! By immersing yourself in English books, the language will wash over you. It will be the more efficient way for you to pick up phrasing.

    • Hi Sid, great work on the quant! The verbal however points to potential language issues. One comment from business schools in the past 5+ years has been, more students are scoring well on the overall GMAT, but not following in class. That is one of the reasons the GMAC developed the IR section. They hope it may prove to be a strong indicator of how someone will follow in class. Since you topped out on IR, you are covered.

      Overall, you are in decent shape. If you hope to attend top 10 programs, your school will put you in the bottom half of the class. Do you feel good about running those odds?

      1. If this was first take, retake. Get your verbal up.
      2. If this was not first take and at least one other take is comparable to this one, you have probably squeezed all you are likely to squeeze out of the GMAT in the near term.
      3. If you are not applying for bschool now-ish, it would be wise to beef up your verbal.

      Best wishes!

  79. Hi Kate. I recently took the GMAT and bombed out on my verbal (despite verbal being my first language). I mismanaged my time and think I was penalized heavily for running out of time,resulting in a 31. Quants went well, however, with a 47. Do you think the verbal score will significantly impact my chances of being accepted into a top 20 business school (and chances of bursaries etc) or would you recommend I rewrite?

    • Hi Lindsey, assuming this was your first take, yes, please retake.

      Your overall score is likely too low for top 20 programs to consider carefully without at least a second shot. Considering your mismanagement of time on this first take, it would be unwise to submit applications without a retake. You should be able to put several points on the board just by finishing. Treat the GMAT like a strategy game. You win by perfecting your mix of time and accuracy. You may need to sacrifice a question or two along the way. Small sacrifices along the way cost less than timing out.

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