So, how important is the GMAT? Well, the simple answer is – it depends. In general, a GMAT score that is 20 to 30 points below any particular school’s average won’t keep you out. Similarly, a GMAT score that is 20 to 30 points above any particular school’s average doesn’t signal automatic admission either. Admissions committees think of your GMAT score as one component of a much bigger story – your complete application. Other aspects of your application include your undergrad GPA, work experience, and professional goals. Together, these help to complete the whole picture you’re painting for the admission committee in your application. Each component of the application is considered on a sliding scale from “very weak” to “very strong”. Having one of these components assessed as “very weak”, like a GMAT score significantly below that school’s mean, puts pressure on the other components to be assessed as “very strong”. Odds of admission, when you have two or more “very weak” components to your application, like a low GMAT score and a low undergrad GPA, make your likelihood of admission very low. Most admission committees may have tolerance for one “weak” or even “very weak” component, but no more.
So, getting back to the original question of how important the GMAT is, the answer is – it depends. If you have a super-strong application otherwise – great undergrad GPA from a competitive and reputable school, terrific work experience showing growth in leadership, and clear and compelling short and long-term career goals – then you can probably get away with a lower score than 700. Alternatively, if the admissions committee consider one of these components to be “weak”, or “very weak”, like a below average undergrad GPA, little or no work experience showing lack of progression, or unclear and generic short-term and long-term goals, then it’s probably imperative for you to score a 700+.