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GMAT Score vs Percentile - Demystifying the GMAT

Updated: Jul 1

As GMAT scores are increasingly becoming a major part of your business school applications, it’s important for all the test takers to truly understand what the GMAT exam scores mean, and how they indicate the relative measure of each test taker’s ability to the b-schools. Not to forget, GMAT score is an important factor in getting a scholarship for your dream MBA Program.

Let’s begin by understanding what appears on the Official GMAT Score Report

The total GMAT exam score ranges from 200 to 800. About 70% of the test takers score between 400 and 600.

Analytical Writing Assessment Score Range: 0 - 6 (reported in intervals of 0.5) Remark: Each essay is scored at least twice, once by a human reader and once by a computer. Integrated Reasoning Score Range: 1-8 (reported in intervals of 1) Remark: The score is based on the number of questions answered correctly. The AWA and the Integrated Reasoning sections are scored independently; scores for these sections do not affect the total GMAT score (ranging from 200 to 800)

Quantitative and Verbal Scale Score Range: 6-51 (reported in intervals of 1) Remark: These sections are computer-adaptive, and the score is based on three factors:

  • Number of questions answered within the allotted time

  • Whether questions were answered correctly

  • Difficulty and other parameters of the questions answered

Also, there is a penalty for not completing each section of the exam. The GMAT test score decreases significantly with each unanswered question. So, what exactly is the interpretation of the GMAT scale scores? “The GMAT scale scores represent the same ability level over time. Thus, a Quant score of 43 in 2002 represents the exact same level of ability as a Quant score of 43 does in 2011. This scale consistency is a critical attribute for any test that has multiple forms, or versions because, without it, scores across forms cannot be compared.” - writes Lawrence M. Rudner, a former VP of Research & Development at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Total GMAT Score Score Range: 200-800 (reported in intervals of 10) Remark: The GMAT scoring pattern then takes into account the raw scores calculated from the Quantitative & Verbal sections together and converts that to a number in the Total Score range.


GMAT Score Percentiles Here’s what the GMAC says about GMAT percentiles, “GMAT Scores also include a Percentile Ranking. This number indicates the percentage of test-takers that you performed better than.” GMAT Percentiles report ability relative to test takers from the past three years, calculated from a rolling average, and thus always evolving.

Click here to read from the MBA.com website about the in-depth meaning of GMAT Percentile Ranking.


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Change in GMAT Score & Percentile over time: A Historical perspective! In the 1970s, the mean Quantitative and Verbal scores were 30, and the mean GMAT Total was 500. Since then, the means and standard deviations of the Quant and Total scores have gone up, but those of the Verbal scores have gone down. A big reason for that has been the change in demographics of the GMAT test-takers. In 1992, 66 percent of tests were taken by US citizens, whereas by 2017 this number has fallen to just 32 percent. With the constantly improving quality of GMAT test-takers, the percentiles that correspond to a given score are going down. A lot of test-takers on GMAT discussion forums are not happy with the change in percentile scores, or the average GMAT scores. But the reality is that a few percentile points and a few scale score points do not make much of a difference. For this reason, GMAC provides both the scaled scores and the percentiles. Together, they demonstrate both absolute and relative assessment of each test taker’s ability. As a result, you find the average GMAT scores of MBA applicants changing frequently for top MBA programs.

So, what is a good GMAT score for MBA Admissions into a top business school? Or the question we frequently hear from our GMAT Dubai students, Do we have to get at least a 700 to get into a top business school, and will it guarantee admissions? Well, the answer is both Yes & No. A good score WILL make your application stronger but having said that there is NO magical GMAT score out there that will guarantee your admissions into a top b school. Then, how do Business Schools evaluate (or judge) your GMAT score? Broadly speaking, the GMAT score, like the other standardized test-prep scores, is used by the universities to gauge your likely first-year performance in comparison to your fellow business school applicants. But each university evaluates applicants way more holistically, and that is why none of the top schools have GMAT cut-offs - clearly asserting that GMAT is just a part of your application, amongst other (more) important requirements. Let’s see this GMAT score requirement from another perspective for a student named Mark. Now, Mark with a 750 has a definite better chance for admissions into top business schools as compared to the same Mark with a 650. But having said that, the same Mark with a 650 could have a very good realistic chance at the top MBA programs, provided the other parts of the application are strong enough to ‘pull’ the GMAT score and make it an overall strong package. Bottom line, work hard for a great GMAT score, but once you have decided to go ahead with the application, then go ‘all-in’ on the admission essays and other requirements of the MBA admissions. If you are dreaming of top business schools and would like to know more about the application process, look no further, and contact our team of MBA experts & with their experience, can guide you in drafting a compelling personal story that grabs the eyeballs of the Admission Committees worldwide.


To find out about the GMAT Test Centers in the UAE & Qatar, visit this link for complete details: List of all GMAT Test Centers in the UAE & Qatar!

Looking for the Best GMAT Prep in the UAE, contact our test experts to know how!

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