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.
Don’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 you 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 640 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?
If you have not yet taken the GMAT you are in for a surprise. This test doesn’t play like other standardized tests. It’s a bit more strategy game than perfunctory test – more like chess, less like checkers. I’ve created a bunch of resources for my students over the years and really want you to have these. Yes, there’s an email sign up. I promise to send you updated and pertinent materials to help you maximize your GMAT score and get into your #1 MBA program. This site is not a faceless corporation. It’s just me, your teacher.
GMAT study plans and checklists
Dirt on MBA Applications
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.