If you plan to apply to one of the US top business schools in the coming years, you can count on having to submit stronger GMAT scores than MBA aspirants in previous years. The average GMAT score for incoming full-time students at the top schools increased 18 points over a decade, according to data submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey.
The steady increase in salaries and job opportunities for MBA graduates has been fuelling demand for the top US MBA programmes, which are now more competitive than ever.
Score increases over the past decade at some elite MBA programmes were particularly significant. For example, at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the average GMAT score of admitted students jumped 26 points between 2006 and 2016, rising from 702 to 728. Ashok Sarathy, vice president of product management at the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organisation that owns the GMAT exam, told U.S. News:
Rising test scores in highly rated MBA programmes are a reflection of the increased demand for these programmes and the resulting global competition for admission into these institutions.
However, U.S. News data show that GMAT scores at other business schools have not significantly changed over the past decade. The average GMAT score of incoming, full-time freshmen at ranked business schools outside the top 10 was 624.6 in 2016, only 2.5 points higher than it was 10 years earlier.
Over the last decade, the average GPA among admitted MBA students increased at business schools both in and below the top 10, but that GPA increased faster at top 10 schools.
Shaifali Aggarwal, founder and CEO of the Ivy Groupe, an admissions consulting firm, says grade inflation could be a partial explanation for the rise in GPAs among admitted MBA students. She attributes the rise in GMAT scores at top schools to recent changes to GMAT cancellation policies.
Check out: Why Business Schools Require GMAT Scores
Aggarwal says MBA applicants who are unsatisfied with their GMAT score should consider taking the GRE instead, since a high score on either exam can improve their admissions profile.
Because of the rising test scores at top b-schools, Aggarwal says MBA applicants who want to attend these schools should recognise that getting accepted is exceedingly difficult and that they may need to apply to a wider range of schools than they might have in the past.
Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep's director of academics, says applicants should not be fooled into thinking that the GMAT exam has gotten easier simply because the average score at top b-schools has increased.
Some people have speculated, I’ve heard this, that the exam has become easier, and we don’t believe that to be the case.
Yim says the rise in admitted students' scores at top b-schools is a sign of two things: that these schools are becoming more selective and that applicants to these schools are becoming more diligent about test prep.
However, some admissions deans at top b-schools say they worry that – because of the uptick in average GMAT scores – some strong applicants might feel discouraged from submitting applications to these schools simply because their score is a little below the average.
Source: U.S. News
Check out: Average GMAT Scores for Top MBA Programmes