GMAT percentile rankings, part III: the 80th percentile myth

One of my favorite GMAT students recently called me with some great news: he got a 710 on his first attempt at the test (47 quant, 40 verbal). But despite the great composite score, the poor man was disappointed that he only scored in the 73rd percentile on the quant section, since he had heard that MBA admissions committees prefer to see scores above the 80th percentile on both sections of the GMAT.

Don’t worry, Mr. 710. You’ll be fine.

I say that for two reasons. The first reason is that MBA admissions committees simply aren’t all that rigid about the so-called “80th percentile rule.” Sure, successful applicants usually have somewhat balanced GMAT scores, but no elite MBA admissions committee blindly applies GMAT score “cutoffs” during its evaluation process. When I look through the my list of former students who were admitted to top ten MBA programs over the past five years, barely one-third of them actually scored above the 80th percentile on both the quant and the verbal sections. The 80th percentile clearly isn’t a magic number anymore—if it ever was.

But there’s a second reason why you shouldn’t worry about hitting the 80th percentile on both sections: GMAT quant scores have changed substantially in recent years. If you had taken the GMAT back in 2007—when the percentile ranking charts in the 11th edition of the GMAT Official Guide were published—a quant score of 47 would have put you in the 81st percentile. Just six years later, a 47 lands you “only” in the 73rd percentile. Similarly, quant scores of 48 and 49 would have put you in the 85th and 89th percentiles in 2007; today, you’d only be in the 78th and 83rd percentiles with those scores.

So if you’re trying to earn a score above the 80th percentile on the GMAT quant section, a 47 would have done the trick back in 2007. You would need a 49 now—and that’s a terrifyingly high quant score for many test-takers.

As I discussed in a pair of old GMAT blog posts (available here and here if you’re curious), the pool of GMAT test-takers includes an ever-growing supply of quant studs, largely from Asian countries. I admiringly call this the “Asian effect”: percentile scores on the quant section are changing quickly, simply as a result of the stronger test-taking pool. Interestingly, percentile rankings on the GMAT verbal section have stayed pretty much constant during the past decade, and that’s probably also a byproduct of the “internationalization” of the MBA applicant pool.

The bottom line? Percentile rankings are disturbingly fluid, and you shouldn’t stress too much about them, especially on the quant section. A 710/47Q/40V is still an outstanding score that eliminates all rational doubt about your academic abilities. For the vast majority of MBA applicants, a GMAT quant score in the 73rd percentile is enough to placate MBA admissions officers, and your odds of admission will depend almost entirely on other elements of your profile.

So if you’re worried about the strength of a 47 on the quant section, don’t be. If you’re north of a 700 with a quant score of 47 or 48, put your GMAT books away. Be proud, be confident, and focus your energy on writing a spectacular MBA application instead. The extra handful of percentile points mean far less to MBA admissions committees than a strong work history and a clear, compelling vision for your post-MBA career.


196 responses to “GMAT percentile rankings, part III: the 80th percentile myth

  1. Hi, I am from Iran, many students in Iran get 51 on the quant section. Most of us do not study quant, because we feel it is too easy. So I think you are right about the “Asian effect”.

  2. Great article. To clarify, the verbal section average mean/median score has been dropping the past two years due to the “Asian Effect”

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you, Angus! Nope, the verbal scores haven’t really been dropping, but they haven’t risen, either. The mean verbal score is 27.6 according to the most recent GMAC data, and the mean was 27.5 for people who took the test between July 2004 and June 2007. So the “internationalization” of the test-taking pool inflates the average scores on the quant section, but doesn’t substantially impact the GMAT verbal score distribution.

      • Charles,

        In the 12th edition of the GMAT book on page 829, the percentile table consists of scores for examinees between January 2005 and December 2007. The mean score was 27.8. Now the mean score is 27.6. Whether this is a statistically significant drop is another question.


      • Charles Bibilos

        I don’t think that the 0.2-point drop is practically significant at all. In the 11th edition of the OG, the mean verbal score was 27.5; it then went up to 27.8, and then back down to 27.6. Let’s just call it “pretty much flat.” 🙂

  3. Is it true that 46 is now a 68%? The mba website still has 46 listed as 71%.

    This is appalling. Chinese students need to realize that business school is a lot more than about doing math well. And I am saying this as a Chinese person of American nationality.

  4. Whats the mean quant score now?

    • Charles Bibilos

      Delve, the current mean GMAT quant score is 37.5 and the median is 40; back in 2004-2007, the mean was 35.2 and the median was 37. The mean GMAT verbal score, on the other hand, has barely budged: it was 27.5 in 2004-2007, and 27.3 now. The median verbal score has been stuck at 28 for a long time.

      • Charles, in your opinion, would a Q47+ erase doubts about quant ability? This is only 71st percentile now. Your article supports the assertion that Q47 is a decent score.

      • Sorry, Q47 is 70th percentile.

      • Charles Bibilos

        Yeah, I don’t think that any MBA program in its right mind would have any real worries about a 47+ score in quant. Plenty of MBA programs worry about the rankings and overall GMAT averages, so if your composite score is subpar, that can obviously be an issue. But as a pure indication of your quantitative abilities, anything north of a 47 is probably fine.

  5. I have the same concern. I got a 750 today (Q 48 – 76th percentile and V 45 – 99th percentile) and am seriously stressing about whether to give it again. Will probably be applying to Harvard, Stanford and INSEAD.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the comment, Arka! You’re thinking about retaking with a 750/48Q/45V?! Don’t even think about it. If you get rejected from any of those schools, it will have nothing to do with the GMAT score. Spend your time making your application the best it can possibly be, and don’t worry about the GMAT score.

      Seriously, congratulations on the great score! You should be celebrating, not reading my blog. 😉

    • You scored a 750 out of 800 and are talking about applying to Harvard. Come back down to earth. Why would you be stressing?

  6. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for this helpful article. I’m nearing completion on a few R1 applications, and recently found my Q score adjusted downward from 68% to 66%. Overall, I score a 720 with a 45Q and a 44V. I notice that your article mentions that a 47Q is probably ok. How do you feel about a 45Q (apparently not so long ago it was good enough to place in the 78%)?

    I ask because I’m considering retaking the GMAT before applying to a few more programs in R2 (schools in the 5-15 range). Any thoughts about the wisdom of doing so? Thanks in advance for your insights.

    • Thank you for the comment and congratulations on the great score, Bryan! In general, I feel that a 47Q eliminates all reasonable doubt about your quant skills, and your odds of admission will be dependent on everything else once you hit a 47. At a 45Q, things become a little bit murkier. If the adcom already has reasons to worry about your skills (because of, say, a lack of quant coursework or a crappy GPA), then a 45Q could be seen as reinforcing the story that you have a legitimate academic weakness.

      But to be honest, I wouldn’t mess with a 720/45Q/44V unless your academic record is truly appalling. That’s an awfully strong score overall, and at this point in the calendar, you’re probably better off focusing on your applications. At most, I would consider signing up for some extra quant courses (calculus, maybe statistics or microeconomics or an MBA math course) over the next few months, just so that the adcom knows that you’ll come in prepared. But if your academic record already shows that you’re a quant stud, then I wouldn’t even worry about taking extra courses–just write some amazing essays, and be done with it.

      I hope this helps!

  7. Hi, I got a score of 700 – Q46 V41 today. Coming from a pool of Indian students, does this look good for me? I am applying to Duke and Virginia.

    • Congratulations on the 700! If you’re in a hyper-competitive demographic group, the challenge is always to find ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of the herd. When it comes down to it, MBA programs are much more interested in a spectacular, unique, interesting, wildly successful applicant with a 700 than a run-of-the-mill applicant with a higher GMAT score.

      Sure, an extra 50 points on the GMAT wouldn’t hurt if you have a fairly typical profile from a very crowded demographic pool. But if you have enough unique strengths that truly make you stand out as an applicant, a 700 is probably fine.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your applications!

  8. Hi,

    I gave my GMAT today and got a score of 690 (Q47 V38). I am an Indian male who is a self employed Attorney. My work experience is pretty diverse, ranging from representing big oil corporation before the Supreme Court of India to advising the Government on policy framing. I also have a fair bit of involvement in non-profit sector.

    On the list of my colleges are Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Booth. Would you recommend me to retake the GMAT?


    • Most of my response to Debarshi probably applies to you as well, Apoorv. Would an extra 50 points help if you’re from India? Sure. But if your profile is stellar enough, you’ll have a chance at getting into some pretty great schools.

      The tricky part is that you’re applying to some ridiculously competitive schools. I probably don’t need to tell you about the obscenely low acceptance rates for Indian applicants at HBS or Columbia, and I probably don’t need to remind you of Yale’s average GMAT score.

      The other tricky part is that there are a surprisingly large number of disenchanted attorneys trying to break into MBA programs (most of whom, incidentally, score well above 38 on the GMAT verbal section), so your work experience might not work in your favor, unless there’s a very clear reason why you’re trying to make the switch from law to business. In your case, I think that there are quite a few factors potentially dragging your application down, and it might worth pumping your numbers up a little bit… but if you’re applying for round 2 deadlines this year, it might not be worth the time unless you’re pretty sure that you can snag an extra 40-60 points.

      Good luck with everything!

  9. Charles,
    I recently scored 740 (47Q, 45V) and am starting to get concerned after the latest percentile drop left me at 70 in quant. One of the schools I am applying to is INSEAD and they state that they expect a score in the 70th- 75th percentile in each category. So my quant score is the absolute minimum for them. I was born in Russia, lived there until I was 10 and then moved to the U.S., so I don’t think I am in a terribly overcrowded demographic. Do you think my quant score seriously weakens my chances?


    • Congratulations, Dan! That GMAT score is awesome, and I can assure you that you don’t have anything to worry about. If you get rejected, it’s for reasons other than the GMAT. Good luck with your applications!

  10. would someone with a gmat score below 600 be considered “dumb”?

    In the real world, I see very few Asians, especially Chinese in high levels of management so what does it really mean if they have such high scores? I think there are soo many factors involved in business success that this test is really a small component to the overall profile of a business person.

    I do see many chinese and indian people in analysis positions and I guess this correlates with thier strong quantitative abilities.

  11. Well i took the GMAT and scored Q-43, V-40, Integrated reasoning-7, Overall 680, Percentiles – 58, 90, 82 respectively.
    Could i have scored higher if i prepared more? Undoubtedly but why don’t i care?
    Because success is more than a GMAT score. I have a first class (UK) with tons of awards and if that combined with my average GMAT score isn’t good enough for LBS, Harvard etc then that’s fine… I wont lose too much sleep.
    Comments on here by people that have scored above 700 and are talking of retaking leave me confounded…unless of course your Undergrad degree result is not great.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the comment, Stephen! Generally speaking, I absolutely agree with you. There certainly are candidates who will struggle in admissions with a 43 on the GMAT quant section, but it all depends on your profile. It sounds like you have plenty going for you, and it makes me happy to see your balanced perspective on the GMAT–it’s easy to lose sleep over this test, and it’s usually not worth it. Good luck with your applications!

  12. Charles,

    I would love to hear your expert opinion on my GMAT score of 680/84% (AWA – 4.5, IR – 6, Q – 47/68%, V – 37/83%), and this is my first attempt.
    I’m an Indian 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? I know this would require a lot of effort from my side, preparing essays and cranking up for GMAT!

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


    • Ack, that’s a tough one. If you’re an Indian IT applicant, it’s going to take one heck of a great sales job to get you into top U.S. MBA programs, particularly if you don’t have a green card. The ugly truth is that schools tend to use guys in your demographic to drive up their GMAT averages. If you can somehow convince schools that you’re more than just a pretty GMAT score, that will go a long way. A 740 on the GMAT would help, too.

      As far as the timing goes, I’m not sure that it makes a huge difference. I would vote against option #3 — it’s just too distracting to do both at the same time, and I rarely see candidates successfully improve their GMAT scores while writing MBA essays. I guess I would probably recommend getting your applications out of the way first, tell the schools that you’ll be retaking the GMAT, and then concentrate on the GMAT once your essays are in. But it’s probably not a bad call to fully concentrate on the GMAT first, and go from there.

      One last thought: your verbal score is at least as much of a problem as your quant score. You can’t gain more than another couple of points on the quant section, and the quant alone won’t get you into the composite score range that you ideally want. So focus on both sections of the test. You’re in a rough demographic, and a 49/37 or even a 50/37 on the GMAT isn’t going to get you all that much further than a 47/37 — in either case, you’d be relying on the rest of your profile to carry you in. And it’s entirely possible that your profile and essays can carry you in even with a 680, but if you’re going to bother to retake the GMAT, put energy into the verbal section, too.

      Good luck with everything!

  13. Charles, With the devaluation of a 47 quant (right now it is already 68% according to, would you recommend to use the optional essay section to explain your quant progress in the above example of a 710/47/40 taken some 2-3 years ago?

    • Thank you for the question, Peter! Pretty mind-blowing that a 47 quant is now only the 68th percentile. It hurts my head to think about the fact that a 47 was in the 81st percentile just seven freaking years ago.

      I’m sticking to my story on this one, at least for now: it’s just hard to imagine that any MBA admissions committee could possibly think that you have a “quant problem” if you scored a 47 on the GMAT quant section, particularly if your GMAT composite score is over 700. Supposedly, a few schools have fairly rigid processes that require them to take a closer look if your GMAT section scores are below a certain threshold, but I still think that the 47 by itself is unlikely to keep anybody out of business school. I just don’t think that any adcom will discard a good candidate based solely on the basis of one or two quant points.

      So no, I don’t see a need to use the optional essay for a 710/47/40… but it never hurts to take some extra quant courses if you’re feeling worried.

      Good luck, and thank you for reading!

      • Hi Charles, I am facing the same dilemma as Peter, 710/47/40 (92%,68%,91%), and I am an Asian!! I plan to apply to INSEAD and IMD, and am thinking of using my IR score (8) and my undergrad grades (B+ and above for math courses, A for Finance) as supports in the optional essay…. you think they are worth the valuable word counts?

        Thanks, Gilbert

      • Charles Bibilos

        Congrats on the great score! The 710 is fine, and I see no reason to use the optional essay to talk about the IR score or your transcript — the adcom will already be well aware of those qualifications. It’s not a bad idea to use the optional essay if your GMAT score is legitimately weak and legitimately a lousy indicator of your actual abilities; in that case, it can be reasonable to reassure the admissions committee that your academic skills are good enough, assuming that you have something interesting to say (e.g. unusually quantitative work experience or extenuating circumstances in your academic history) that they wouldn’t otherwise know from the rest of your application. In your case, though, it sounds like your academic skills couldn’t reasonably be a source of concern, and I wouldn’t waste the space by telling them not to be worried about something that they’re already not worried about.

  14. Hi Charles,

    I just took my GMAT this Monday and my score is 680/84% (IR – 7, Q – 49/79%, V – 34/71%). I had never scored this less in Verbal in any of my mock CATs.

    I am an Indian female and a Chartered Accountant by qualification. I have over 3 years of post qualification work experience as a consultant. Also, I also have a learning story of my not so successful start up to narrate in my essay.

    I plan to apply to Insead, LBS, Chicago and Kellog. I am also contemplating to attempt GMAT again.

    Given my demographic background, would you suggest taking GMAT again? Also, should I consider applying to a couple of colleges in R1 with this score and apply to others in R2 with a better GMAT score? If yes, how should I go about splitting my list?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Thank you for the comment, Pratiksha! The bad news is that the admissions game is brutally competitive for Indian applicants. Sure, things might be even tougher if you were male, Indian, and working in IT, but it’s still not easy to be an Indian female accountant in the MBA applicant pool. Unless you’ve done something truly astounding, a GMAT score of 680 just isn’t going to cut it for the top U.S. programs. Sometimes the European schools appear to be less GMAT-obsessed than their U.S. counterparts, so your odds might be a little bit better with INSEAD and LBS, but if you’re serious about Booth and Kellogg, you’ll have to retake. Sorry for the bad news, and good luck with your studies!

  15. Hi Charles,
    I took the GMAT last year and scored 680 (Q 45/ V 38). My mocks always ranged from 700 to 760.
    This year, I graduated with a major in finance from a highly ranked Indian college. I have my own startup which has done well and a few internships at world renowned financial services companies.
    I attended LSE summer school and was awarded a scholarship to represent my country at an international conference.
    I plan to apply to LBS and reapply to LSE for Masters in Management.
    Given my background, should I retake the GMAT?

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the comment! For LBS, the real question is work experience, not the GMAT. Sure, a handful of recent graduates get into LBS, but the average age is somewhere around 29, with an average GMAT score of around 700. It sounds like you’ve done some cool things, but it’s hard to imagine that LBS would admit an applicant with very little conventional, full-time work experience AND a below average GMAT score, particularly when the applicant pool is bursting at the seams with experienced Indian applicants who have 740+ GMAT scores.

      The LSE program, on the other hand, is geared more toward younger applicants, and there’s a better chance that the 680 would be enough. My hunch is that even at LSE, your competition will include otherwise comparable Indian applicants with higher GMAT scores, but you’d presumably have at least some shot even without a retake.

      Good luck with everything!

  16. Hi Charles,

    I’m Indian, female, am currently working with a top IB, and will have hopefully finished a year there by the time most programs begin next year. I’m applying to MFin programs across the US and Europe. My profile reads as follows:

    GMAT 680 (Q47, V35) [Yeah, I completely understand the low verbal score will hurt. Was feeling quite pleased with the quant score until I entered some of these forums. :/]
    GPA of 3.71 in a BCom(Honors) from an accredited Indian Uni
    A bunch of extra curriculars as well.

    How good is Rutgers’ MFinA program? It appears to be relatively new, so I can’t find any information from anywhere other than their website. Also, I used to hold a US green card, so keeping this all in mind, I’m just trying to understand what my chances are in schools like Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and maybe even MIT (I figure, it’s worth a shot?)
    Would really appreciate some insight on this.


    • Charles Bibilos

      Wait… used to hold a U.S. green card? But not anymore? That could plausibly hurt your chances a little bit, unfortunately. You’re definitely more employable with a green card, and therefore more appealing to U.S. graduate schools.

      It’s really not my place to judge which programs are “good” or “bad”, so I’m going to respectfully pass on that question and recommend that you ask the school to connect you to students and alumni. I will say that MFin programs usually demand really high GMAT quant scores, since the curriculum is explicitly quantitative; GMAT verbal scores and work experience are usually less important than they would be in MBA admissions. I don’t work with tons of MFin applicants, so take this with a grain of salt, but my hunch is that an extra couple of points on your GMAT score certainly wouldn’t hurt.

      Good luck with your applications!

  17. Charles Bibilos

    I never expected that this particular blog post would turn into a forum-like Q&A session, but this is fun! Feel free to keep the questions coming! I can’t promise to answer everything–especially if your situation is too specific to be of interest to a wider GMAT audience–but I’ll do my best.

  18. Hi,

    I am a Spaniard male with management, finance and engineering background. After studying engineering, I started working in a top investment bank for a bit more than a year and then jumped to a renewable energy company where I have had 6 years of international experience originating wind projects in Europe, Africa and the Americas. I currently live in Peru, where I manage the company´s operations in the country.

    I got 700 on the GMAT (49Q/35V) and I have applied to a top 3 MBA programm in the US. What do you think are my chances to be admitted with that relatively low gmat score?

    • Thank you for posting, Armando! If you get rejected, it definitely won’t be because of your GMAT score. Pretty much anybody can get rejected from top-three MBA programs for no particular reason, simply because those applicant pools are so obscenely competitive. So it’s possible that you’ll slip through the cracks, but you don’t sound like you have any real weaknesses, and the GMAT definitely isn’t a problem. Let me know how it goes!

  19. Hi Charles,

    Love what you have going on here. Very wise and realistic perspectives on GMAT scores and applying to US schools. Thought maybe you could offer some advice here.
    I just gave the GMAT on 27th October, and got a 710 (92 percentile), with a split of IR – 7 (81 per), Q – 48 (74 per) and V – 40 (91 per). Will get my essay scores soon, but I am fairly confident they should be 5.5 or 6.0
    So a lot of admission consultants have been calling me up and some people I know have told me that if I improve from a 710 to say a 730 or more, my chances will brighten at colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Booth, Wharton, Kellogg, etc.
    I am currently a strategy consultant with Ernst & Young in India, and I work with financial services clients such as large banks and have done World Bank funded engagements in areas such as microfinance. Most of the work I have done, is pretty rare for guys my age ( am 24 y 9 months). I feel that my work profile and the subsequent plans I have for community service initiatives will stand out to some extent. Also, I am the youngest guy in the company and have been promoted twice within 2 years.
    Now all the blah, blah aside – Would it help me in any way to try and increase my GMAT score? I thought my IR went pretty well, and I have heard that some consulting companies actually look towards that score (during job interviews at B schools) – so I wouldn’t want to retake and change that. My academics have been interesting – My GPA was low during my first two years at college, but in the next 3, I managed to win the annual student scholarship two times, and finish at second position in a class of 120+ students. My quant score is bothering me to a certain extent (74 percentile sort of bugs me). Your advice appreciated!!

  20. Thank you for the kind words, Orton! You’re another tough case, unfortunately. Generally, I would say that 710/48/40 is a great GMAT score, and you should smile, do a happy dance, and focus on your MBA applications. The only trouble is that life can get rough if you’re from a particularly competitive demographic. It sounds like you’ve had your share of success already, but there is no shortage of impressive Indian consultants — and you’ll even have stiff competition from within your own company.

    So I’m torn. On one hand, it seems odd to spend your time trying to improve on an already excellent (and balanced) GMAT score, and on the other hand, there are plenty of similar applicants in the 740-760 range. To be honest, it really makes me mad that the difference between a 740 and a 710 could be the difference between an admit and a rejection. (If it means anything to you, the standard error of measurement on the GMAT is 30 points — so there really isn’t a statistically meaningful difference between somebody with a 710 and somebody with a 740, even if you’re 100% convinced that the GMAT measures something valuable in the first place.) But unfortunately, U.S. schools use the GMAT score as a way to whittle the stack of applicants from unusually crowded demographics.

    So I suppose that if your dream is to attend an elite U.S. program, then you might take another shot at the GMAT if you’re pretty sure that you could improve by 30-40 points (most of that improvement would come from the verbal side in your case, since you’re already close to the top of the quant scale). If you think you’ve topped out at 710, then just focus on making the rest of your application sing.

    I hope this helps!

  21. Well, to be honest with you – at first glance it seems like an unfortunate tragedy. But tell you what, I am reasonably confident that improving my GMAT score by a few points still won’t improve my chances of admission to a top college. The reason I say this is that most of us tend to perceive the score as a measure of mental comfort. Nobody really ever comes to know why one got rejected/accepted by the adcom eventually.
    Moreover, I think most of the Indian applicants tend not to be from strategy consulting but from the IT sector. There is a world of difference between the two job profiles. Plus, I don’t want to make the classic Indian applicant mistake of focusing all resources on the GMAT and eventually ignoring the application. To be honest with you, I will have no time for the GMAT until March next year ( we are transforming a regional bank and are out of home), and to resume GMAT studies after a gap of 6 months would be a torture.

    I graduated near top of my class during my previous MBA with As in Financial and Management Accountiing and Statistics. So I am presuming that as far as a quant score is concerned, a school can refer to my grades to dispel any fears.

    Let’s see where does all this lead to :). Any more views?

    • Charles Bibilos

      Fair enough! I absolutely agree that the rest of your profile is more important than a few points on the GMAT, and it really isn’t clear to me that the extra 30 points (or whatever the number is) on the GMAT would be a deciding factor in your case. Please be in touch in a year or two to let me know how it all goes, Orton!

  22. Hi Charles,

    I am from India but I did my undergrad at a top 20 engineering school(graduated with Cum Laude) in the US after which I began working as a consultant for one of the top 2 big 4 firms in the NYC area and I am also pursuing a part-time masters in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins. I got a 710 on my GMAT(Q49 and V38) in my first attempt, and I was wondering if I need to give my GMAT again given the general scores of Indian applicants? My target schools are HBS/SBS/CBS/Wharton. Really appreciate any help or insight.

    • Charles Bibilos

      You’re pretty much in the exact same spot as our friend Orton above. If you have a green card, that would give you an employability advantage that plenty of Indian applicants don’t have, but other than that, you sound like another really strong applicant in a demographic that is overstuffed with really strong applicants.

      See my previous responses to Orton — I really want to believe that a few extra points on the GMAT shouldn’t matter, but I’m not convinced. Finding other ways to distinguish yourself certainly matter more than a few more points on the GMAT, if you’re pretty sure that you could get another 30-40 points, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

      Please let me know how it goes, one way or the other!

      And that goes for everybody here — even if I never actually work with you on the GMAT or your MBA applications, I’d love to hear some good news once you’ve all gotten into your top-choice MBA programs. 🙂

      • Thanks for the insight Charles! Although I do believe that having work ex in the US after my undergrad may be advantageous because it already demonstrates that I had the capability to join the workforce and get a job without getting a MBA and without having a green-card. Definitely will look into doing the GMAT again, although like Orton I feel like maybe working on the rest of the application and strengthening that is also a good way to go. Will surely keep you posted with how it goes! Thanks a lot Charles 🙂

  23. Hey there,

    I’m a 25 year old non-traditional female candidate with a background in sustainable entrepreneurship. I have taken both the GMAT and GRE. My GMAT was 720 47Q (68%) and 42V(96%) and my GRE was 161 Quant (86%) and 165 V (96%). Given that I’m a non-traditional candidate, I have heard that adcoms will be particularly focused on my quant score. Should I report my GRE score, with a much higher percentile (even though it corresponds to a lower composite GMAT of 680) or just leave it be?

  24. You’re a female candidate in sustainable entrepreneurship (which, incidentally, is one of those fields that everybody really wants to get into after their MBAs — your future classmates all really want your current job), and you’re worried about your 720?!? Your career and gender both work enormously in your favor, and MBA programs will generally fall all over themselves to find women with interesting careers who have 720s on the GMAT.

    Pretty much everybody who has posted comments here is jealous.

    Congratulations, Katie! You don’t have much to worry about. Please leave a comment or send me an email once you get in somewhere, I’d love to find out where you end up!

    • Thank you for the vote of confidence Charles! I think maybe I made my background sound a bit better than it actually is, I have a fellowship in sustainable entrepreneurship at a small liberal arts college, but its more of a post-bac position. I’m excited about applying and glad to hear a 68% quant isn’t necessarily a deal breaker — I will keep you posted!

  25. Hi Charles,

    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!


    • Thank you for the comment, Matt! Yup, I do think that you’ll want to retake the GMAT at some point — it’s hard to imagine a 41 on the quant section of the GMAT doing the trick. If your GPA is super-high and your profile is irresistible in other ways, then maybe you’re fine with that 710. But unless there’s something really spectacular in your background, you’re asking MBA programs to swallow hard if your quant score is barely above the median.

      The calendar isn’t your friend here, though. If you’re applying this year, then you might want to take care of your MBA applications first, then retake the GMAT, and give the schools an update in, say, late January or early February. As long as you let them know that you’re retaking the GMAT, most schools will happily wait for the update, though you’ll want to check with them first. And again, I only know part of your story, so maybe there are other aspects of your profile that might make the GMAT quant score less (or more) crucial.

      I hope this helps!

  26. Hi Charles,

    African male applicant here with a 650 gmat (Q47, V31). Schooled in DC GW/AU/Catholic and worked in one of big 4 in audit for 2 years, IB and PE back in home country for a year each. 2 questions.

    1. Should I retake the gmat vs spending the next month focusing on essays? (if the former, my app and essays may be weaker)

    2. What schools do you think I stand a chance at? I am aiming for top 15 schools


    • Thank you for the message, Tim! You’re another tricky case, partly because I don’t know the entire story. My first thought is that 650 on the GMAT is pushing your luck at top-15 schools, so if you’re confident that you can pull your GMAT score up without too much effort, then it’s certainly worth a shot. But if that 31V was in line with your practice tests, then you’ll probably have to do some heavy lifting to improve that part of your GMAT score, and it might not be worth the time at this point in the calendar. It’s almost December, and it’s hard to imagine that you could do a good job of studying for the GMAT and writing your MBA essays at this stage.

      The bigger part of the story is that whole bunch of other factors will ultimately determine your fate, with or without an improved GMAT score. First of all, Africa is a rather large place, and your country of origin probably matters: MBA programs see plenty of Nigerian applicants, but many other African countries are desperately underrepresented. It also helps if you have a green card or U.S. citizenship (see previous comments).

      I also don’t know what MBA programs will think of your undergraduate and professional experience — three universities in four years followed by three firms in four years sounds dodgy to me, but if your grades were strong and your professional trajectory makes sense (i.e. taking on more responsibility with each job), then you might be OK. Remember that GMAT scores are almost always examined in tandem with your academic background, so the 650 will be much more forgivable if you had a 3.9 GPA in a quantitative field than if you had, say, a 2.3 GPA in a less-rigorous major.

      I apologize for the wishy-washy answer, but in your case, your odds of admission mostly depend on the quality of everything else in your application. The 650 may or may not be a dealbreaker for you, depending on the exact circumstances.

      Good luck with everything!

  27. Hi Charles,
    Firstly, I absolutely appreciate your responses on all the threads. This is super helpful.
    Unfortunately, I’m going to present to you another classical Indian Male case:
    I did my undergrad in Computer Engineering in the US from a top 5 engineering school and I’m working as a Product Manager in a top 3 US software firm(the same one that makes Windows :)) with about 3.5 yrs experience to date.
    I’ve given my GMAT twice
    1. 690 with 48 in Quant and 36 in Verbal.
    2. 700 with 46(67%!) in Quant and 40(91%) in Verbal.
    I really want to get into the top 10 schools and can wait another year if I need to improve on my profile.

    As of now I have cancelled both my scores and have an opportunity to re-instate these. My question was which one(or both) of these should I re-instate. 700 is better than 690 but my quant on the 690 is better than the quant on the 700.?
    The other question is whether you think I should give the GMAT once again if I want to get into the top 10 schools. Kellogg being my top choice…

    Thanks in advance!

    • Sorry for the slow responses, the spam filter on my website went into Beast Mode and hid some perfectly legit comments. Karan, I’m sure that this is too late to be useful, but just in case somebody else is in a similar situation, I’ll respond anyway.

      For the most part, you’re in the same boat as several of the commenters above — Indian males in technology generally need something higher than a 700/48/36 or 690/46/40 for top-10 schools, especially if you don’t have a U.S. green card. That’s not fair, but it’s the reality of a hyper-competitive applicant pool, unless you have something very unusual in your profile.

      For whatever it’s worth, I don’t really see the benefits of canceling either of those scores — you might as well let MBA programs see the higher quant score and the higher verbal score, even if they technically refuse to combine them into “superscores.” And if you manage to get a higher GMAT score next time, the upward trajectory will look good. It’s not something that’s likely to make or break your MBA candidacy, but there’s really not much harm in letting schools see both of your scores in this case.

      I hope that admissions season is treating you well, Karan!

  28. Hi Charles,
    First off, thanks for your posts, very helpful information! Wondering if I should retake; seems like I need to right? 690 (47Q 37V). I’m Asian-American and have a background in startups and product management; economics major from a top 25 school.

    • Apologies again for the slow replies — see the above comment for a sorry excuse. 🙁

      Henry, I’m probably too late to help you, but it’s impossible to say whether a 690 on the GMAT is good enough — it just depends on where you’re applying, what your GPA was, and how strong your work experience is, among other factors. If you sold your startup to Google for $2B, the 690 is probably fine, no matter where you’re applying. On the other extreme, a crappy GPA and mediocre work experience will keep you out of most top schools, even with a super-high GMAT score.

      But if you’re not shooting for top schools or if there’s really some spectacular stuff in your profile, the 690 is probably fine, especially with the solid quant score.

      Good luck with your applications!

  29. Hey Charles!

    I’m sure you’re exhausted doing this but you’re responses are awesome and I wanted to get some perspective from you. I’m a Pakistani American US citizen, I went to a top undergraduate business program in the US and send a 3.4 GPA. My Gmat scores were 680 (47q/36v/6.0 writing/7.0 ir) and 710 (47q/40v/6.0 writing/6.0 ir). I’m aiming for Kellogg, Columbia, Sloan or Stern and stretching for H/S/W. I’m an ex investment banking and strategy professional now involved in investment banking training for analysts and associates. Please let me know your thoughts on my target schools. Much appreciated!

    • Thank you for the comment, HC, and sorry for the ridiculously slow response. As with some of the others, I’m probably too late to be useful, but hopefully this will help another reader at some point.

      The quick answer is that even with U.S. citizenship, you’ll be competing with far too many investment banker types, and it’s going to take a little bit of something special to get you into the seven schools you mentioned. “Special” could mean particularly extraordinary work experience (which is tough to accomplish in your demographic, since there is no shortage of badass investment bankers) or unusual extracurriculars or a mind-blowing GMAT score — or maybe just spectacular execution on some of your applications, though that’s a tough thing to achieve. For whatever it’s worth, the 3.4 GPA might keep you out of H/S/W by itself, unless there’s something magical in your profile that I don’t know about. (Perhaps you’re female? That would help a little bit.)

      I hope that I’m missing something, and you’re already sitting on some nice admits from a few of those schools! If you do end up striking out, you might consider Cornell or Darden or Duke or Ross next time around — you’ll have great experiences at all of those schools, but they tend to be just a hair less competitive than the seven you mentioned, since they aren’t in sexy major cities. I’ve seen plenty of people from all of those programs have spectacular careers, and it’s hard to argue that any of those four programs are undeniably weaker than, say, Columbia or Stern.

      I hope this helps, and please let me know how things go!

  30. Hi Charles,

    I was just waitlisted at a top 15 program. My GMAT is at the lower end of the 80% range. (690: 47Q , 37V). I got a 3.5 at a top 25 undergrad, in a quant major. Was wondering if you would suggest retaking? I’m a bit concerned, because if I do, I will be very short-pressed for time. What if I don’t end up improving my GMAT?


    • Hi again, Henry!

      I still don’t know enough about your work experience to know exactly why you’re on the waitlist, but an appearance on a waitlist might be a sign that the adcom wouldn’t mind seeing an extra few dozen points on your GMAT score. If you’re still on the waitlist, it might not hurt to take another stab at it if you think you have a shot at improving your GMAT score. (I’m assuming, of course, that you’re finished with applications and have some spare time on your hands now.) Just make sure that you tell the adcom that you’re planning to retake so that they’re more likely to wait for your updated score.

      Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

  31. hi! i am very confused about my score…firsr i was happy now i’m worried.
    my score: 700 44q/41v ir 7 awa 4
    my background: im a female from peru (southamerica) and a mommy 🙂 im also an engineer working in finance as an analytics specialist. my gpa is just average ( i had to work full time while studying) but my quant grades at school where always above average and i have won some math contests i am also one of the few selected at my job on a talent and leaderdhip program ( 3% of 17k workers)
    i was scoring 48/49q in my practice tests but i got stuck in a question and got really nervous but managed to calm down during the break.
    should i retake the test?

    • Wait… a Peruvian mommy with a 700 and a strong quant background? That’s an unusual combination for a full-time MBA applicant, and your odds are excellent as long as you communicated well in your application. If you have some spare time on your hands and you’re still waiting to hear back from schools, you could take another shot at the GMAT, but a well-written application will probably make up for the (mild) underperformance on your GMAT quant section.

      Sure, a 44Q isn’t spectacular, but it’s not the end of the world considering that the overall score was great, you have other quant “signals” in your profile, and you’re going to earn huge diversity points because of your background.

      Rosangela, please let me know how things go for you! It sounds like you’ve worked particularly hard to get to this point in your life, and we’re rooting for you.

      • Hi Charles, thank you so much for your feedback, it gave me new hope! I have applied to Georgetown and Vanderbilt in Round 2 i have already had both interviews and im nervously awaiting for results. I didn´t apply for “top 10” school bacause I’m looking more for a small class, where i can be a part of a close community, and a good leadership developement program, and i think in this schools it can be more personalized, not to mention their awesome academic staff. For me it was also very important the locations since i have children ( Nashville and Montgomery County have good schools). I’m really hoping to get in and my back up plan is Cornell in 3rd round.
        I’ll let you know my results! 🙂

  32. Hi there, I just took the GMAT this week for R2 deadlines. I got a 720 q45 v44. Should I retake to try and get q48 and update them in the interview?. The reason I ask is I have a 3.4 gpa in chemical engineering from Stanfords rival in the bay. As in Calc I and II, B in multvariable, C+ linear algebra diff eqns. I currently work as an engineer and I’m signed up to take a stats class at work.

    I applied hbs r3 last year with 700 q44 and was WL. Dee said I did not have the best undergraduate education but shouldn’t do anything differently with my app, and that the gpa wouldn’t have prevented me from getting in . I feel like the q score on the 720 doesn’t move the needle much other than to show I take. Also got promoted after the wait list decision

    Ps nigerian/us female

    • My hunch is that the GMAT isn’t really the issue. For that matter, I doubt that you really have much of an issue — about 85% of HBS applicants would be thrilled to have the honor of landing on the waitlist, so you’re doing something right. Stanford and HBS are insanely difficult to get into, even if you don’t have any major flaws; there are plenty of other amazing schools out there that would probably be very excited to interview you if your application was strong enough to put you on the HBS waitlist.

      But unless you’re really sure that you can pull the GMAT quant score up next time, I wouldn’t bother retaking — a 720/45/44 isn’t going to hold you back much, if at all.

      Let me know where you land, and congratulations on the 720!

      • in @ HBS!
        before I throw away my GMAT books, here is another question for you. I’m aiming to go into MBB consulting, should I retake for that? (not that I will lol but I wanted to get your thoughts)

      • Charles Bibilos

        Awesome, congratulations!! I love a good, positive HBS waitlist story. 🙂

        And no, I definitely wouldn’t even think about retaking for the sake of consulting firms. You still have a 720, and they’re not too likely to look too closely at the quant score of a future HBS graduate with an engineering degree and a 720 on the GMAT. Just nail your case interviews, and you’ll be fine.

        Congratulations again!

  33. Hi Charles,
    I’m from India. I took GMAT and scored 700(q:49, v:37, IR:7). I’ve a MBA degree and looking for PhD in marketing from US/Europe. My grades are just above average but I’ve a relevant work experience in marketing. My target schools are Purdue, Simon, Texas A&M. What’re my chances?

    • Hm, a PhD in marketing? That’s a whole other beast. In PhD programs, you’re signing up for very close relationships with professors, and it’s often more about “fit” (personality, research interests, etc.) with your advisor(s) than anything else. Some PhD programs put a very strong emphasis on GMAT scores; others don’t really care at all, since a great GMAT score doesn’t necessarily tell professors whether you’ll be an enjoyable, productive research partner for the next 4-8 years. Marketing programs also vary enormously — some are highly quantitative, others aren’t.

      In my view, the key to admission to PhD programs is usually your rapport with the professors that you want to work with. Cultivate those relationships well, and you’ll probably be OK. If they want a higher GMAT or GRE score, they’ll probably ask for it if they’re interested in working with you.

      (Full disclosure: I’m working on a PhD in education, so I’ve been through a somewhat similar process. It can be a ton of fun if you end up with the right professors.)

      Good luck with the process, and I hope that you find the perfect program for your interests!

  34. Hi Charles,

    I am an Indian male, engineer from IIT, working in one of the largest oil and gas company in the world for 7+ years. I had good grades (2nd rank in class of 55) and extracurriculars in college.

    I have worked in design, consultancy and operations for my company in USA, Singapore and India. I am currently working in USA. I have a very good profile in my company (delivered more than 100 mln in last eight months alone) and am confident of getting very good and effective recommendations.

    I have dinged my GMAT unfortunately. Got 710 score with 30 days preparation (Q50, V34 and IR 8). Should I retake the GMAT as I am very selective in nature and will apply only for top colleges in the US).

    • I hate to say it, but yeah, you probably should retake the GMAT if you haven’t already. You’re in a rough demographic, and even though it sounds like you might have stronger work experience than many of your counterparts, a 740 or 760 on the GMAT might help keep some doors open for you.

      It pains me to write that last sentence, because I think it’s a horrible misuse of the GMAT if anybody really thinks that you’ll be a better MBA student with a 740 than with a 710… but I would fight for the extra few dozen points if I were in your shoes.

      Good luck with everything!

  35. Hi Charles!
    My name is Ahsan Qamar. I’m from Pakistan and I’m currently employed at Procter & Gamble. My total work experience is nearly 8 years, 7 out of which is with P&G. I took GMAT twice this year and score 660 (Q41, V41) and 700 (Q46, V39) in the 1st and 2nd attempt respectively. While I improved significantly within the 1 month that I had between the two attempts, I don’t feel confident about my Q score; it’s still just 66th percentile.

    I have applied to Harvard, Stanford and Sloan in the 2nd round and am feeling very pessimistic about my chances just because of my low Q score in GMAT. The other important relevant factors are my 3.73 GPA, graduation in engineering which is a heavily quant oriented discipline and a fast-track career profile with P&G in manufacturing management with 2 promotions so far. I have been hearing different comments from different people about my application. Some have stressed that my education, geographic background and work experience still make me a strong enough contender for the top b-schools, while others have told me strictly that I re-take GMAT until I break the 80th percentile in Q.

    I’m also applying to INSEAD in the upcoming round. I’m confused whether I should consider some schools below the top-10 such as Kellogg or Darthmouth (University of Tuck). Also, before I apply to INSEAD, would you recommend that I retake the GMAT and try to get at least 47 or above in quant? I ask about INSEAD specifically because they have mentioned at their website that a competitive GMAT, in their opinion, constitutes 70th percentile or above in both Q and V sections.

    Many thanks for your reply and guidance!


    • Thank you for the comment, Ahsan! It sounds like there’s a lot of strength in your profile, but there are plenty of similarly strong applicants out there. Your MBA odds are somewhat better as a Pakistani in a CPG firm than as, say, an Indian in IT, but elite programs are flooded with applicants from your part of the world. It’s hard to stand out in that crowd.

      Would a better GMAT score help? Sure, but I don’t think that a 710 would suddenly tip you into HBS. I wouldn’t spend the time on retaking the GMAT unless you think you have a good shot at climbing to something like a 740. Or unless you have some extra time on your hands.

      The bigger issue is that you might have chosen an overly narrow set of MBA programs. HBS and Stanford are brutally hard to get into, and your odds are pretty poor unless there’s some magic in your profile that I don’t know about. Your chances are definitely better at INSEAD and Sloan, but I would shoot for more schools in the long run. Here, read this for some perspective on the term “top 10 MBA program”:

      I like your odds of getting into a great program eventually, but keep in mind that HBS and Stanford are low-probability shots for almost everybody. Think about what you want from an MBA program, be open to a broader range of names, and you’ll be fine… especially if you do manage to score a 740 at some point.

      Good luck with everything!

  36. Hi Charles,

    I got a 700 GMAT (49Q, 35V, 7 IR), and not sure whether to retake. I’m planning to apply to top 5 business schools. I have a 3.8 GPA, Finance Major, and 3 years of work experience in the financial/IT industry. Got the CFA Level I, and planning to take Level II this June. Considering that any hour studying for the GMAT is an hour that I’m not studying for the CFA, I’m really doubtful on what to do next. I’m from Latin America.

    Could you provide some insight?


    • I think you’re in pretty good shape with the GMAT, Tony. With a 49Q, there’s no doubt about your quant abilities, and the 35V can be forgiven, especially if you’re a non-native English speaker. Your biggest risk is simply that there are an awful lot of finance/IT applicants out there, but I don’t really think that a few more points on the GMAT would make much of a difference in your case. They’ll either buy the combo of strong quant/GPA + Latin American + extracurriculars + professional achievements, or they won’t. Just keep in mind that the very top schools have a ton of amazing applicants and they can reject you for no particular reason, so you might consider a relatively broad definition of “top 5.” But I’d be shocked if the GMAT is the factor that keeps you out of a great business school.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with the CFA and your applications! Please drop me a note once you hear back from schools, I’d love to hear how things go for you.

  37. Maria J. Ramirez

    Hi Charles,

    I got a 710 GMAT, but really mess up with my IR score! (49Q, 37V, 4 IR – I have not received the AWA score yet), and not sure whether to retake. I’m planning to apply to top 5 business schools (H/S/W…). I have a 4.0 GPA both in College and the Finance Magister, and 2 years of work experience in the consulting Industry (I work at McKinsey). I’m from Latin America.ou

    What do you think I should do? Improve my overall GMAT score and the IR score would significaly increase my chances to enter into one of the top 5 business schools?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Hm, 4.0 GPA, 710/49/37 on the GMAT, Latin American, McKinsey, female… stop worrying! I’ll repeat my usual warning that Harvard and Stanford are spectacularly difficult to get into and you could plausibly be rejected from those schools for no good reason, but I would bet my life that if anybody rejects you, it won’t be because of the 4 on Integrated Stinking Reasoning. Put the books away, Maria! You’re in great shape.

      Please let me know where you end up! I like good news, and you’ll have some soon enough.

  38. Hi Charles,
    I just took my GMAT, scored 710 V36/Q50 and with 8 IR, haven’t got my AWA score back yet. My score is under the average GMAT scores of my target schools. ( I am planing on applying for M7, top 10)
    My case is a little special, I am semiconductor engineer with 3+year working experience, and here is my profile: Asian female, non-US citizen, non-native speaker, Electrical engineering master degree from US top 20 university ( but I finished my undergrad in Asia), working at fortune 500 technology company Asia branch as project manger (was engineer before promotion). But my school grades are not impressive, GPA 3.0 for my master(Electrical Engineering), 3.3 for my undergrad (Applied Physics). Should I retake my GMAT to compensate my relatively low GPA? Thanks!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the message, Sophie! That’s a tough one. Part of the story is that Asia is a pretty big place, and your odds of admission will be very different if you’re from an underrepresented country (Laos, Sri Lanka, etc.) than if you’re from a country that generates tons of applicants. If you can help the MBA program score some diversity points, your odds would be probably pretty good with a 710. But if your country generates hundreds (or thousands) of similar applicants from technical professions, you might be in trouble, even if you raise your GMAT score — the GPA might be a killer, unless you have some magic elsewhere in your profile to offset that weakness.

      Would a few extra points on the GMAT help? Possibly. You can’t gain much more on the quant side, but it’s probably still worth retaking the GMAT if you think you can improve on the 36 on verbal. If you face stiff competition from within your own country (or even within your company), then you’ll probably want to catch up to the strongest applicants, and get something closer to the mid-700s on the GMAT. But even that won’t necessarily guarantee anything — if there are tons of otherwise similar applicants with 740s and high GPAs, then you’ll either need to have something else in your profile that makes you stand out, or you might have to consider the next tier of schools.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with everything!

  39. Hi Charles,
    I am currently going through an internal debate on whether or not I should retake the GMAT a 4th time. Below are my summary results from the past three times:

    1st attempt: 590 – Q36 / V35
    2nd attempt: 610 – Q38 / V37
    3rd attempt: 660 – Q43 / V38

    I have a few key takeaways from this set of scores. First, I have been improving on all fronts each time I take it (overall/quant/verbal), which is re-assuring since each time I took it I dedicated more time an effort into studying, so it is definitely “comforting” that working harder paid off. Second, I am obviously stronger on verbal than on quant (by the way I am a non-native english speaker) and feel much more comfortable and confident during the actual test when I’m on the verbal section than when I’m on the quant section. Third, I made the greatest gains on quant section (my ‘weak’ section) and made more modest but still positive gains in verbal. That being said it would seem that if I were to maintain my current verbal level or slightly increase while at the same time focus my time on improving quant even more, I might be able to hit a 680-690 range or maybe even a 700.

    This is where the doubts start kicking in. Although my trend/data clearly shows improvement on all fronts and it would seem somewhat logical to give it one more try and get closer to the 700 mark focusing on improving quant, my main concern is the following: How much would a 4th attempt to achieve a 20-40pt gain reflect commitment/persistence in a positive way v.s. simply reflecting what is true for most (not all) of the gmat test-takers, which is that with enough attempts and enough hours of study/effort you will eventually get to your target score (or very close to it) and therefore a 4th attempt does not really add that much value to an application even if the gain is the desired one.

    I would appreciate any feedback/advice on my situation as well as your thoughts how my profile could balance out the situation described above (especially on the quant side) when applying. My profile is the following: from latin america, began undergrad studies in mexico and was able to transfer to a U.S. top 30 university from which I graduated majoring in economics/minor business. Got a job offer to go into investment banking from a top tier investment bank (jp morgan) and have been working there for the past four and a half years in two different roles (both quant intense) since I sought out an internal mobility opportunity. If I were to start an mba program in 2016, I would be able to put my current H1-B work permit “on-hold” and at graduation would have at least 2 years of employment eligibility in the U.S. (I consulted this last point with a legal advisor).


    • Charles Bibilos

      Sorry for the slow response, Mauricio! I’m sure that you’ve already made some decisions about this, but I would recommend pushing for another four or five points on the quant section if you can. I’ve seen strong Latin American candidates do really well at top-tier MBA programs with GMAT scores in the mid-600s, but I think that admissions committees would probably feel a little bit more comfortable with something in the 45-48 range on quant. If your GPA (particularly in quant courses) is high enough, you’ll probably be OK with the 660, but one more hack at the GMAT might be worth it.

      Good luck with everything, and let me know where you end up!

  40. Hi Charles,
    I am from Paksitaan. I just took the gmat and Scored 670 (47Q and 35 Verbal).
    I already have a MBA degree from Pakistan with 3.5 CGPA. I have been working in the UAE for 2 years and I also have 3 years exp as an Engineer in Pakistan. I also spent 6 months on exchange in France during MBA.
    I also played first class cricket (which is the highest level of cricket possible besides international Cricket). I intend to apply to INSEAD, LBS and Kellog.
    Should I re-take the GMAT or will this score give me a realistic chance of competing for admission?
    Hope you can help me

    • Charles Bibilos

      Sorry for the slow response, Bilal! The bad news is that Pakistani applicants often get lumped in with other Asians, and I’m not sure that a 670 on the GMAT would do the trick for top U.S. programs, especially since there’s a massive oversupply of engineers in the applicant pool. The European programs are often less GMAT-obsessed and a little bit less competitive for Asian applicants, so your odds might be somewhat better on that side of the ocean. But I doubt that a 670 would give you much of a chance at Kellogg, and I would strongly recommend retaking.

      Sorry for the bad news, and good luck with your studies!

  41. Hi Charles, I am an Indian male and my profile is as follows
    GMAT – 710 Q49 V 35 IR 4 AWA 4.5
    Masters in engineering from a TOP 10 US school GPA- 3.45
    Bachelors in engineering from India GPA 77/100, I was told that it is equivalent to 3.98/4.00 because I was rank 1 out of 60 in my graduating class and rank 7 on state level (more that 600 students).
    Age 29, 6+ years of work experience, currently work in Chicago for a fortune 250 firm. I manage a team of 8 engineers.
    Aiming for evening/ part time MBA from either Booth or Kellogg.

    Do you think I have a fair chance?

    • Charles Bibilos

      For an evening or part-time program? No problem. If they reject you, it would have absolutely nothing to do with the GMAT. I’m not sure why you would get rejected, but a 710 is great, as long as you’re not applying to ludicrously competitive full-time programs. Have fun in b-school, Mahesh!

  42. Hi Charles

    All great comments here. Very helpful thanks!

    I took the GMAT last week and was very pleased with the overall score of 760 (Q45, V51, IR8) but was immediately concerned about my 63 percentile on the quantitative. It was unfortunately the lowest I have scored on any practice tests.

    I am a white American male. I have a Master of Economics and am currently working at an economics consultancy. Do you think that my math-heavy background will outweigh the otherwise weak quantitative score? I was hoping to apply to top programs. Thanks for your thoughts!


    • Charles Bibilos

      Whoa, congratulations on the killer score! Don’t even think about retaking, Douglas. A 760 on the GMAT plus an economics background? MBA programs can’t ask for much more than that. Please step away from the GMAT books.

      Good luck with your applications, and please let me know where you end up!

  43. Hey Charles,

    I just graduated from college and took a GMAT (690/47Q/38V/4IR/6.0AWA) I am a bit worried about my quant and IR scores as I was an humanities major in college. I will be doing a pharmaceutical rotational sales program at a respectable company for 3 years and then plan on going to business school. Also got decent grades from a top 10 school. Do you think I should retake?

    • Also an AA male with varsity athletic experience

    • Charles Bibilos

      I wouldn’t worry about the IR at all, but a 690 might be on the low side if you’re trying to be competitive at elite MBA programs. If you’re OK with a program toward the back half of the top 25, then a 690 might be fine, but it’s hard to imagine that it would do the trick for the top 10 or 15 programs, given your background.

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you could probably bring the verbal score up — a 38V seems low for a guy who was a humanities major at a top-10 university. The 47Q isn’t so bad — bring it up by a point if you can, but anything more than that might be asking a lot, since you’re bumping up against the top of the scale, and each point is tougher and tougher to get. The percentiles are really deceptive in your case — the verbal looks better than the quant in percentile terms, but your path to a 720 or 740 is probably through a small quant improvement (1-2 points) and a much larger verbal improvement (4-5 points). Probably doable in your case, no?

      • took a while to respond but I agree with your points. Was disappointed with the Verbal score due to my background. Will aim for a 48/42 split in a couple years! Will be back with updates! Thanks

  44. Hi Charles,

    I recently scored a 700 on the GMAT (Q47, V39). Initially, I thought my score was a decent one, but after reading some of the posts here and on other online forums, I am having second thoughts. I wanted to see whether you think I should retake the test if I want to get into a top 10 school. Here’s a little more about my background.

    I am an Indian engineer, but to make things slightly different from some of the previous posts, I have a PhD (3.83 GPA) in Mechanical Engineering from a leading US university. I have a US green card. I also don’t work in IT – I work for one of the biggest players in semiconductor manufacturing. I have been in my current job for 3 years and I’ve received multiple organizational excellence awards. I want to get an MBA to transition into Investment research and management. I have passed the CFA Level 1 exam and I also manage my personal investment portfolio. In terms of volunteer activities, I have done a lot of professional volunteer work, such as helping organize international conferences, writing and reviewing papers for scientific journals, etc.

    The schools I’ve been considering are Wharton, Booth, Stern, Tuck, Yale and UNC Kennan Flagler. I am curious to see what you think of my profile.

    Thank you for your advice!

    • Charles Bibilos

      That’s an interesting profile — there aren’t a ton of PhDs who decide to pursue full-time MBAs. My hunch is that your odds of admission will be based mostly on whether you convince adcoms that your career trajectory actually makes sense. No MBA program could possibly worry about your academic ability — if you can survive a PhD in mechanical engineering, MBA coursework will be pretty darned easy for you. You aren’t going to increase the GMAT averages at any of the schools you mentioned, but you won’t damage them much, either. So the GMAT probably isn’t an issue, and I wouldn’t bother to retake.

      The key is going to be your sales pitch to MBA programs. You’ll have to draw a tight link between your engineering background, the MBA program, and your interest in investment research — maybe you can argue that an MBA would catalyze a career as an investment analyst who specializes in the tech sector, or something like that? Honestly, I would put the GMAT books away, and really put some energy into nailing your application message.

      Let me know how it goes!

  45. Hi Charles,

    I scored a 710 on the GMAT (Q49, V38). I am an Indian Citizen, and I have completed my undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering(3.8 GPA) from Penn State. I am currently pursuing a part-time Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins and also working full-time at a Big 4 firm in the advisory practice as a Consultant focusing within the Life Sciences Industry(med devices, pharma). The schools that I want to consider are Wharton, HBS, SBS, Booth, Sloan and Kellogs. I’m not sure whether I should re-take my GMAT. Any advice is much appreciated.


    • Charles Bibilos

      Well, you have the magic words “Indian” and “engineer” in your profile, and you’re shooting for pretty much the most competitive half-dozen schools in the country. Would an extra 30 or 40 points on the GMAT power you into those schools? Not necessarily, but it couldn’t hurt. If you think you’ve maxed out your potential on the GMAT, then spend your energy elsewhere. But if you think there’s a chance that you can pull that verbal score up by, say, four or five points, then I would go for it.

      Good luck with everything!

  46. Hello Charles,

    Thanks for the wonderful post and for all the comments!

    Can you please help me assess my GMAT scores: 680 (45Q/ 37V/ 7IR)

    About me: East Indian American, female, cancer researcher (7-8 yrs experience), hold a Masters from CSU, GPA 4.0. Promoted 4 times.
    Extracurricular activities (other than being a full time mom!): organizing cultural events at work (which were a huge success), helped organize a conference for my undergrad University, part of the athletic relay team in college.

    Hope: get into Haas or ISB

    Thanks so much (in advance) for your thoughts,

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the kind words, Deepti! I assume that you’re a US citizen? If so, I think you’re in decent shape — there aren’t a ton of mothers or cancer researchers in the MBA applicant pool, though you’ll definitely need to work hard to convince programs that you have a good reason for wanting to do a full-time MBA at this stage in your life. Then again, if I were your admissions consultant, I’d feel better if you had a broader list of schools and/or a higher GMAT score — a 680 might do the trick for you, but if there’s any chance that you could increase the score by 20-60 points, I would go for it. It’s risky to apply with a 680 on the GMAT as an Indian or Indian-American, even with an otherwise interesting profile.

      I hope this helps. Please let me know how things go!

  47. Hi Charles

    Thanks for the great post and comments, it has been excellent reading through all your advice!

    Any advice on my position would be appreciated: I am a female Australian lawyer (3 years), with undergraduate degrees in Finance and Law (with an equivalent 3.8 GPA, according to an online conversion site). I am planning to apply to UK MBA programs (LBS, Oxford/Cambridge).

    I sat the GMAT for the first time today and scored 740 (46Q, 47V, 8IR). I’m pretty happy with my score, so not considering retaking the test – but after reading the forums I am wondering whether I need to try to “explain away” the relatively low quant mark in my applications? I am concerned that given I don’t work in a quantitative industry, a 46Q may weigh against me?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Congratulations on the 740! You really don’t have anything to worry about. UK programs tend to be less GMAT-obsessed than MBA programs in the U.S., and I can’t imagine that anybody will be worried about your quant skills, especially since you studied finance as an undergrad and got a perfect IR score. If you’ve done some quant-related work in your professional life and you can think of an easy way to slide it into your essays (or recommendations), that’s never a bad idea. But there’s virtually no chance that you’ll be rejected just for the 46 in quant.

      Congratulations, and good luck with your applications! Please drop me a note and let me know where you end up!

      • Hi Charles

        Thanks for your reassurance – it made me feel a lot better when I was doing my applications!

        I ended up getting offers from Oxford and Cambridge (dinged by LBS without an interview), and I’ll be going with Cambridge.

        Thanks for your help!!

      • Charles Bibilos

        Awesome, congratulations! Have fun at Cambridge, Kate!

  48. What are your thoughts on my similar situation of 700 Q43 V42 IR 7 AWA 5.5? Given my concern over all of the points made in your article and in the comments, I retook and dropped to 650. I’m now getting close to R1 deadlines and wondering if I need to panic and retake again to try to raise my Quant score or if I should close the books and focus on essays, etc. If it’s going to be an absolute red line to any and all top 10 schools, I’m worried i should just keep retaking..:/ thoughts?

    • Charles Bibilos

      There are definitely applicants to top-10 MBA programs who can get away with a 43 on the quant section — in a vacuum, that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker. Trouble is, it’s really hard to pull that trick off if you’re, say, a white or Asian guy without either 1) other strong quant experience in your background (preferably a quantitative undergrad major), or 2) something extraordinary in your profile that can make the adcom forget about the GMAT score.

      Another way to think about it: are there armies of MBA applicants out there who look like you on paper, other than having a substantially higher GMAT quant (or composite) score? If the answer is yes, then you might still be able to talk your way into some good programs if you absolutely nail the application process, but in that case, you’d probably want to use a relatively inclusive definition of “top 10 MBA programs.” Cornell or Michigan or UCLA or certain overseas programs, for example, might be more realistic targets than Wharton and MIT, and you might want to keep a lower-ranked school like Georgetown or Emory in the mix.

      For what it’s worth, I still don’t think that round 1 provides much of an advantage over round 2, so if you think that an extra month or two of studying would do the trick for your GMAT quant score, then it’s probably worth considering a retake. If you think you’ve maxed out your GMAT potential, then it’s fine to focus on your MBA applications. I would just make sure that you’re 100% committed to perfection in the application process, and I would also recommend considering a broader range of school targets, just so that you’re not left empty-handed at the end of all of this.

      • Charles Bibilos

        One more thing: just to be clear, it’s probably worth applying to higher-ranked schools like Wharton or MIT or HBS if those are your top choices. I think you’d have a shot, even with the 43 — it’s just not a great shot, and I’m always a fan of having plenty of backup plans.

        I hope this helps!

  49. What a great post and thread! I felt great about my GMAT when I took it a few years back (740 – 47Q, 46V), but after reading some more today, I’m feeling unsure.

    My background – Female, Southeast Asian origin, Texas, US Citizen, 3 years at BCG including a social impact/education externship, leaving after promotion to Consultant role (after Associate) to help launch a social innovation startup as their Mgr of Strategy. 3.9 GPA from University of Texas with two honors degrees – one in business, the other in liberal arts. Applying to a wide variety of B-schools now, one year after joining the startup: HBS, GSB, Wharton, Kellogg, Sloan, Yale, Haas, UT…top choices are GSB, Haas, Sloan, Yale

  50. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for all of these posts and comments!

    Interested in getting your thoughts on my situation below:

    700 GMAT (44 Q, 41 V, 8 IR).
    Have worked for the past 3 years at a Big 4 firm in Strategy & Operations Consulting in Chicago.
    Majored in Finance and Minored in Computer Science at a South Eastern ACC school (similar to Vanderbilt).

    Applying to: UCLA, Duke, Michigan, UT, and Kellogg


    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you, Nate! I think you’re in a similar spot as Michael (a couple of posts above this one). It sounds like your experience is really solid, but I’m a little bit worried that there are too many similar applicants in the MBA pool, and the 44Q could be an excuse to thin the pack of applications. If you think you can raise the quant score (without getting pummeled on verbal), give it a shot — a 47Q would make me feel better. If your GPA is mind-blowing, you’re probably OK, and you’re applying to some very reasonable schools, so I’m not sure that you absolutely need to improve the GMAT score to get in somewhere. But if you can stomach another swing at the GMAT, I’d recommend doing it.

      Let me know what happens! Always curious to see where guys like you land — it definitely helps me to improve answers to questions on this thread. 🙂

  51. Hello Charles,

    Thank you so much for all of the useful feedback. I scored a 710 (48 Q and a 40V) and am considering a retake. I am really happy with this score, but I’m applying to top 15 programs with only a 3.03 GPA. I noticed that my GMAT score is just slightly below the average at most of the top schools and my undergrad GPA is well-below the average. I’m currently working as a self-employed attorney. I have experience in bankruptcy and business law. If I could get another 30 to 40 points would it make a difference? I’m going for UT, NYU, UCLA, and Booth.


    • Charles Bibilos

      That’s a tricky one. When you say that your GPA was 3.03, are you talking about law school, or undergrad?

      My hunch is that schools won’t be too worried about you academically — GMAT quant score is great, overall composite is solid, and you’re an attorney, so you can obviously read just fine. I think your odds of admission will be determined largely by how well you can convince MBA programs that you have a good rationale for doing a (presumably full-time?) MBA, and that your previous experience is coherent with your career goals and the MBA experience. MBA programs attract a lot of lawyers who are running away from the profession, and I think the ones who manage to get in are usually the ones who have particularly strong reasons for doing an MBA.

      So should you retake? Meh. Sure, an extra 30-40 points never hurts, and I suspect that you could pull that off — a 40 on the GMAT verbal section strikes me as being really low for an attorney, so a 750 should be doable if you can hold steady on the quant section and buckle down on the verbal side. Will a 750 radically change your odds of admission? I’m not sure. But again, it can’t hurt, and I suspect that the price (in terms of time and pain) of a 750 would be lower for you than for some of the other GMAT test-takers who have commented here.

      Let me know what ends up happening!

  52. Wow, just discovered this blog and read through all the Q&A. So helpful! Makes me feel confident that I should leave my 720 (Q46, V42, IR7) alone and finish apps for R1. Thanks Charles and everyone for sharing!

  53. Hello Charles,

    I just took the gmat and got 670 (44 Q / 38 V)
    I am 28 years brazilian and have been working since I was 18.
    I used to work in the family business (bank) and now I work in another financial instituion. In college, I have a gpa of 3,3 (first in class) and have also done a specialization in finance. I also do a lot of vollunter work, have my own investment fund and participate in the major group of leaders with the focus of free market in latin america, in which we make an event, once a year, for 5k people.
    Do you think I have chance in tuck, duke or cornell? Or maybe in any other top 15 programs?

    • Sounds like a really interesting profile, Rodrigo! Honestly, I would cast your net widely — Duke and Cornell are excellent targets, but if you’re also fantasizing about even more elite schools, go ahead and give it a shot. I’d feel more confident in your chances if the GMAT quant score were a little higher (47 or 48), but I’ve seen similar profiles (Latin American, great leadership experience, strong academics, so-so GMAT score) get into all sorts of places.

      Could you please keep in touch and let me know how it goes for you? I’m curious to see where you land. Let me know if you need a hand with applications, and I’ll connect you to a consultant that I trust. (I’m not selling anything here! Completely booked as I write this.)

      Good luck, Rodrigo!

      • Charles,

        And what about Yale, Tuck and Haas…do you think I have a chance?

        Sorry to bother again.

      • Charles Bibilos

        Oh, I think you should apply absolutely anywhere that interests you, Rodrigo. And I’m not just saying that to be nice. It just sounds like there’s some really interesting stuff in your background, and I think you’ll get a good look from any school that you apply to.

        Will you get in? I don’t know. But nothing would surprise me. So yeah, you definitely have a chance at Yale, Tuck, and Haas. Raise the quant score a few more points, and you’ll have a slightly better chance. 🙂

  54. Hi Charles!

    Thank you! Your feedback is of a great help for all of us!
    Could you please advise me what to do with my 690:)? I would really appreciate that!

    So, my goal is Phd in Accounting from NYU Stern, Harvard, Wharton or Columbia.

    My background: I am from Kazakhstan; a finalist of the highly-competitive Future Leaders Exchange program (a scholarship student exchange program administered by the U.S. Department of State) which enabled me to graduate from the high school in the US. I hold a BA in Business Administration from American University in Bulgaria (the institution accredited in the US), Summa Cum Laude, CGPA of 3.92 and GPA in major of 3.98. I have also successfully completed exchange at the University of Vermont. During my junior and senior years at the university I held a tutor position (Financial Accounting) and conducted weekly tutoring sessions for the groups of up to 50 students. By the next fall I will have 2.5 yrs of experience in Big4 Audit.

    And finally.. my not-so-impressive GMAT score: 690/Q48/V36/IR6 and 85th percentile overall. The most I got on practice tests was a 700, however, with the max verbal score of 40. On the actual test I did well with timing; the only thing it was noisy at the testing centre so maybe I could have answered a couple more of verbal questions right. Overall, if I were to retake I would need to significantly improve verbal and I am not yet sure how (and when) I would be able to do that.

    Even though the websites of the schools I chose suggest that the GMAT scores are not so crucial, the average scores of admits are above 700. So, my question is, do you think I may go ahead and try applying with this score? Or will my current score significantly lower my chances and therefore I need to do everything to improve it?

    Looking forward to your response! Thank you!

    • Thank you for the message, Annie! I just stared writing a long response, and then I realized that I’d missed the fine print: you’re a PhD applicant, not an MBA applicant. That muddies the waters considerably — you’re looking at programs that are much smaller than MBA programs, and much of your success in admissions will hinge largely on things like available funding and whether your research interests are aligned with the professors who read your application. Some PhD programs really care about the GMAT scores, and others don’t — and I think there’s quite a bit of variability in how admissions decisions are handled even within any single PhD program.

      The most important thing is to spend time meeting the professors and graduate students in your target programs, since “fit” is unbelievably important for PhD students. You’ll probably see your classmates and professors more often than you’ll see your family over the next 5-7 years. If your interests and personalities align, great. If they don’t, then the GMAT is irrelevant, anyway.

      I still haven’t answered your question, though. The best answer is that you’ll want to discuss the GMAT with the programs, just to get a sense of how much they care about it. To my eyes, the score seems low for elite PhD programs in your field, but maybe some candidates manage to get away with a 690 in the context of PhD programs. Be honest about the GMAT when you’re talking to PhD programs, and see what happens.

      Good luck with everything!

      • Thank you, Charles! I will go ahead with the admission process and will communicate the results here as this info may be helpful for some people:) Thank you once again for your response! All the best to you!

  55. Hi Charles,

    I am a 31 year old French and Canadian male looking to take a Phd in Behavioral Marketing or Management. My GMAT from 2013 was 700 (89%) Q43 / V42 / AWA 5.0 / IR 8 and my TOEFL IBT was 120/120. I did my bachelor in a public uni in Montreal with a 3.7 GPA (A- average), including an exchange semester in Sweden) and I am currently completing a double master in International Business and International Management (Msc + CEMS MIM) at the Stockholm School of Economics (including an exchange at the university of Economics in Prague) with a B average. The CEMS MIM is ranked 4th in the best Masters in Management ranking of the Financial Times.

    I have a lot of work experience, mostly in sales, had my business for a few years in interior design and then went on to work for a bank for a year and in employer branding for an internship last summer.

    What schools (In the North East of the US) do you think I can reasonably target considering I am not going for a quant heavy subject?

    I will most likely not have the time to retake the GMAT (nor do I really want to).

    Thanks in advance!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thanks for writing, Nicolas! I think the response immediately above this applies to you, too. My hunch is that a 43Q on the GMAT isn’t going to look good in the eyes of PhD programs, and you also will have to be careful about how you present that B average from your master’s program — in the U.S. context, a B average in graduate school is usually a bad sign, since grade inflation is so common here. I can’t imagine that you’ll be able to get into an Ivy league with that combination of issues, and really can’t even begin to guess which PhD programs would be comfortable with your combination of scores and grades.

      Again, I think the key is to communicate carefully with programs (see the response to Annie, above). Invest a LOT of time in reaching out to professors and students. Maybe that B average is actually really good in terms of class rank, but if not, your best chance is to make some really good connections with professors whose research interests you, and hope for the best.

      Good luck with everything, and let me know where you end up!

  56. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for sharing your detailed feedback on so many candidates – very helpful! I’m hoping I might run my background by you for your feedback.

    I am an American female with dual-citizenship (UK). Coming up on 5 years Marketing experience and am currently a Brand Manager for an international restaurant conceptt. Strong extra curriculars post-undergrad including 3 years serving on the board of a philanthropic organization for professional women, this year in particular serving as President. Undergraduate degree in Communications from a top 10-15 public university. 3.27 GPA that improved each year. Taking a couple UCLA Extension courses to show improved grades in Accounting and Econ though did well in Calculus and Statistics undergrad (3.5 / 4 grade). Applying to a wide variety of B-schools in Round 2 including LBS, INSEAD, Kelogg, Booth and UCLA.

    GMAT 710 (Q45, V41, IR 8, AWA 6). Mostly concerned about my Quant score. Would you recommend re-taking the GMAT to improve the Quant score prior to applying? Appreciate your help!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for writing in, Kathleen! My hunch is that the combination of a 3.27 and a GMAT 45Q gives the adcom an excuse to reject you. That’s not to say that they necessarily will reject you because of those two things, but if there’s an otherwise similar candidate with better numbers, it’s awfully easy to succumb to the numbers and pick the other candidate.

      I think you’ve made the right choice to take the UCLA extension courses, and I don’t think that a GMAT 45Q really means that you’ll struggle in MBA courses. But if you have the energy and time to get the GMAT quant score up to a 47 or a 48, that might help your chances a little bit. If the GPA was higher, I might feel differently. But I also don’t want to oversell it — I would chase those few points if you think there’s a good chance that you can actually pull your score up. But if you think you’re close to maxing out your potential with the 45Q, then maybe it’s best to just let the GMAT go, especially at this point in the admissions cycle.

      Let me know how it goes!

  57. Hi!

    I just recieved my GMAT score today and got a 700 (Q46,V40). What worries me is my IR/AR scores, 2/3. I am thinking about retaking it because of my IR/AR scores, i did not study more than maybe 4-5 days in total for the GMAT and think i could do better, especially in my IR/AR/Q. I more or less did not know what to expect when it came to the IR/AR.
    I want to apply LSE, LBS, Oxford and maybe some other european top schools.

    I have a Bsc in economics with pretty avarage grades from a Swedish university, i have good grades in courses like statistics and applied micro economics which perhaps could compensate for my weak quant/IR.

    What do you think of my chances of getting in to one of those schools with my current score? Should i give it a try, or should i focus on retaking the GMAT and study properly this time?

    • Charles Bibilos

      Well, the quick answer is that if you think you can do better and you barely studied for the GMAT last time, then there’s probably no harm in giving it another shot. Improving those scores certainly can’t hurt your chances, and if your grades truly are average, then you probably don’t want any part of your GMAT score to look weak. Sure, IR and AWA aren’t even close to being as important as the quant and the verbal, but since you almost certainly could improve with some effort, you might as well take another shot at the test. With legit studying this time.

      Could you get in with the scores you have? I don’t know, since that always depends on the rest of your profile. There may only be a small chance that the bad AWA and IR scores would get you rejected, but why take that risk?

      I hope this helps!

  58. Charles,
    Thanks for the great article and info! I took the GMAT this past summer and got a 740 overall, but with a 45Q/47V split. I was definitely pleased at the time because I hadn’t done any algebra/geometry in about 20 years, but the 62% that goes with the 45Q stings a bit. I’m currently a practicing attorney on active duty in the military, so I’m not sure which way the quant score cuts – do I get a pass for not being a math guy, or is it more of a concern because I don’t have an academic/work history where I’m regularly flexing any quant skills? I’m a bit older than the typical candidate (will be 37 when I apply) and have solid GPA numbers (3.7 in undergrad, 4.0 in masters, 3.4 in law school) with a noticeable absence in quant courses (one stats course with an A grade). I’m looking at top 10 to 15 level schools. Any insight would be great!

    • Charles Bibilos

      You’re actually a pretty clear case when it comes to the GMAT: don’t bother retaking. You have plenty of academic pedigree, and I can’t imagine that anybody could possibly think that a 37-year-old attorney in the military with a Master’s degree and a 740 GMAT is going to struggle in business school. You’ll want to take a few quant courses to prepare yourself for the MBA experience – and you’ll want to mention that in your MBA applications – but don’t retake the test.

      To be honest, your candidacy is going to hinge mostly on whether schools are comfortable with your rationale for getting an MBA. Being older isn’t the end of the world for full-time MBA programs, but it sounds like you’ve lived a few different lives, and it’s going to come down to whether MBA programs think that your trajectory fits with the MBA experience. The academic part isn’t going to be a major concern – you’ve got plenty of academic credibility on your resume.

      Could you please send me an email once you get through the application cycle? I’m really curious to see where you land. Good luck with everything!

  59. Charles,

    Thanks for the quick response and feedback! I wasn’t leaning towards a retake, but it’s good to hear that it wouldn’t be recommended. I’m looking at a full time program for a career switch after roughly ten years on active duty. I went straight from undergrad to law school on the Army’s educational delay program, and did the masters as part of a dual degree program during law school. I’m looking to get into management consulting, though I know it can be an uphill battle getting into that field as an older candidate. I’ll definitely let you know where I wind up when its all said an done, though I can’t apply until 2017 due to an ongoing service obligation. Gotta love the military 🙂

  60. Hi, I’ve taken the GMAT twice (38Q, 41V 650 and 34Q, 47V 670). I’m obviously disappointed in the second score, since I felt I had learned a lot since the first test (and my MGMAT CAT Quant scores were hitting 42 in the final weeks leading up to the test). In short, I had a bad experience at the test center, and it threw me off for the whole Q section.

    I’m applying to mainly top 20 and top 30 schools, but do dream of going to Haas. I didn’t do a lot of Quant in undergrad, but I have B grades in the Chem, Calc, and Stats courses I did take at UCLA. I’m a female with international non-profit work experience, progressive management experience, and a strong MBA “story.”

    Are my extremely low quant scores going to completely take me out of the running for top 20 schools? Should I consider taking the GRE instead and waiting until next year to apply?

    • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s hard to imagine that an MBA program will look the other way when your best GMAT quant score is a 38. Sure, if everything else in your profile is truly spectacular, you might sneak in somewhere, but I can promise that admissions committees will be deeply worried about your quant skills. Those B’s in chem, calc, and stats don’t look great, either.

      You’re a little bit more likely to get away with a mediocre GRE quant score than a mediocre GMAT quant score, and my bet is that you’ll prefer the GRE, anyway. (See the series of posts on GRE vs. GMAT that I wrote a few years ago.) Get a 160 or above on the GRE quant, and you’ll be OK. If you’re still applying this fall, make sure that you tell the admissions committee that you’re going to take some quant courses in the next few months, and be specific about them. Those courses won’t completely make up for a 38 on the GMAT quant, but it’ll make MBA admissions committees feel better about a good-but-not-great GRE quant score and a bunch of B’s in undergrad quant courses.

      Good luck with everything, and please let me know what happens!

      • Thanks for the quick reply. What course (knowing that it would not be complete prior to the application deadlines) would show that I’m most serious about raising my quant score?

        Given that I’m unlikely to get a strong GRE score in the next month (if I can even find an appointment), is it a complete waste of effort to apply to top 20 programs this year? I’m thinking of UNC Kenan-Flagler, in particular. Thank you!

      • Charles Bibilos

        There’s not much harm in taking a shot, other than the time and expense of doing the application — so I guess it just depends on what your time is worth to you. Worst-case scenario is that they reject you, and they’ll be happy to see your reapplication next year, since it shows that you really love them or something. There’s also a chance that they’ll waitlist you, with a wink-wink about retaking the GMAT or GRE.

        And keep in mind that the GRE quant section is much narrower than the GMAT in terms of content, so if you can get an appointment, you might as well take a swing at it. You probably won’t have time to study much, but do an official GRE practice test or two to get used to the format, and just go take the darned thing if you think you can get anywhere close to 160 on the quant. Most schools are OK with an unofficial GRE or GMAT score at the deadline, so even if you take it the day before the application deadline, you’re probably OK — but check with the school to be safe.

        A calculus course arguably buys the most badass points, but I wouldn’t necessarily argue that it’s all that useful in the long run. Stats or microeconomics are also good (since those courses will legitimately help you in your MBA program), or you could check out some of the “MBA math” courses that are out there. Sometimes admissions committees are willing to endorse certain coursework if you ask. I would go for the full suite of calc, stats, and microecon if you’re just trying to look super-serious about quant, but I’m not sure whether it’s worth the time and pain to do all of them. So pick your poison.

        Good luck!

      • Update: Accepted to Georgetown and Kenan-Flagler with no additional test scores.

      • Charles Bibilos

        That’s awesome! So glad that I was wrong about needing to retake. Congratulations, and have an amazing time in DC or NC!

  61. Sorry, by quant score I mean overall quant aptitude. Thanks!

  62. hey charles,
    i read so much of ur stuff that I almost feel like I know you.
    i might be one of the dumbest to post a comment but i had no other options.

    i am Ritdhm from Nepal.
    My GMAT 590 around 60 percentile in quantitative and 40 percentile in verbal section. However my AWA score was 6 out of 6.
    Well I have another exam coming up soon but i am not very optimistic about it.
    I score around 650s. ,one 680 too, in mock exams which i believe is my true level.
    I have good scores in my quantitative course works i.e. more than 3.8 in all research and statistics classes.
    I have an MBA from a state university in texas, descent school. i have an additional research degree too.
    i have published 3 research articles and participated in conferences.
    i have 5 yrs teaching experience at undergrad and grad level.
    I want a Phd in business. I love research and teaching. Yes I have a research organizational too. You can say, I am passionate about both teaching and research.

    If I cannot increase my score, is there any Phd for me. AACSB highly prefered.

    I actually have very little people whom I can ask for help, hope u do help.

    Frankly speaking I hate GMAT, if only I could not spend my time preparing for GMAT, I could have carried out a quantitative research. I can use tools like SPSS pretty good.

    Do you know any university that would be happy accepting me type of applicant.

    • Thank you for reading, Ritdhm! I wish I had some useful advice for you, but I’m not sure that I know enough about PhD programs to be helpful here. I can definitely say with a straight face that PhD programs tend to care a great deal about fit — if a professor can imagine working with you closely for the next 5-8 years, that matters more than the GMAT score. (See some of the above comments — I’ve had a few PhD applicants ask questions on this thread lately.) The GMAT score is still a big issue, but I suspect that most programs care more about the quant score than the verbal score, for whatever that’s worth.

      I honestly don’t know enough about business PhD programs to recommend specific schools. The best advice is just to find specific professors that you want to work with, and spend as much time as you can getting to know them, their research, and their students. You definitely need to pull up the GMAT score, but you’ll have more leeway on that part if you can convince professors that you’ll be a spectacular research partner over the long haul.

      I hope this helps! And please let me know where you land. I’m rooting for you!

  63. Thank you very much Charles.
    I highly appreciate your advice.

  64. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for all your help on this website. Here is my profile and hopeful schools:
    GPA – 3.7 in Electrical Engineering from a top 3 Georgia Tech
    GMAT – 680(81% – 48/34)
    Indian male born and raised in the middle east
    Work experience of 2.5 years in Deloitte Consulting working in the state government, public sector, financial insurance start ups leading large programs
    Extracurricular’s – Non -profit consulting for AIDS related organization in Atlanta, Board member of a non profit for empowering HIV infected youths leading to developing the financial plans, health clinics and career programs. Chair of LGBT organization trying to improve diversity within LGBT groups in the US through corporate support, Trevor project representative in Atlanta
    Goals – Lead social entrepreneurship firms, go beyond CSR for large organizations and bridge the gap between companies and non profits through inventive ways to improve company prodts through non profit work, internships with the UN to lead efforts around international development work and hopefully lead the efforts to improve the LGBT rights in the Middle East

    Hopeful Schools – CSB, Kellogg, Booth, NYU, UCLA

    • Unfortunately, you said the not-so-magic words: Indian male engineer. There’s a lot to like in your profile, but you’re going to be competing with a mountain of other Indian male engineers with much higher GMAT scores who work at places like Deloitte. The extracurriculars are nice, but they’re unlikely to compensate for everything else at top-15 schools. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your chances aren’t good with a 680 on the GMAT, though I would be really, really happy if you could prove me wrong. 🙂

      Good luck with everything, and please let me know what happens!

      • Michael zazzaro

        Hey Charles, I’ve written you before. I had the 700 43/42 q/v.

        I went ahead and applied early decision to CBS. I put together a really strong application and got an interview, but was still dinged. It’s easy to point fingers to my quant score but given that i had e interview I didn’t think it was that.

        I want to get more feedback but was wondering if u had any tips on how to go about that. I’m on the young side which is definitely there biggest drawback to them, at 25. I have tons of other things going for me though. We can discuss if you’d like, thanks for the thoughts.


      • Charles Bibilos

        Could have been plenty of things. I doubt that your age was much of a factor — you’re not that far below the median for most U.S. MBA programs, though it’s possible that they thought that you could use more seasoning. Also very possible that the interview just didn’t go all that well.

        And it’s likely that the quant still played a role. Sure, they might have been interested enough in you to offer an interview, but they’re still going to have a nice, long conversation about ALL of your credentials after the interview. Getting to the interview phase doesn’t wipe the slate clean, and it doesn’t make any other weaknesses in your application disappear.

        Would they have been willing to accept you despite your quant weaknesses? Apparently, yes. But if you’re asking them to overlook the quant issues, everything else probably has to go nearly perfectly for you, and it didn’t. Why take the chance next time around?

      • Michael Zazzaro

        Thanks Charles I appreciate your viewpoint and your time.

        Few things:

        The interview went really well in my opinion. I don’t think I would’ve changed much at all, honestly.

        I wrote my optional essay about the quant issue and demonstrated my quant competency through college classes and through my job in finance (FX trading, investment analysis, etc.).

        The other main hindrance was an academic violation freshman year of college. I addressed this in one of the responses as well. All of the slight issues (this, quant score, age), seem to reasonably add up to a denial. I’m not too upset because I just got a great buy side job offer and was considering withdrawing my application anyways. But, I still am surprised by the outcome after visiting campus several times, meeting professors, being actively involved in a major impact investing organization at Columbia and getting supplemental recommendations from current students…

        The problem with your “why take the chance next time around” approach is that i’ve taken the GMAT twice already and my score dropped from a 700 to a 650 on the second try. I’m not a great test taker. The 700 came out of months of stressful studying and tutoring. With that said, I’ve taken practice tests and scored 760 and 740. I’ve also scored 640. The test brings out my weaknesses, especially my issue with test anxiety.

        If reapplying with an AVP promotion at Citi and some buy side experience could get me in without retaking, then by all means im going that route. If still not, I’m even considering the GRE because the GMAT has taken too much from me and I’m willing to keep considering alternatives before going down that path again. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, they’re sincerely appreciated…

  65. Virat Maheshwari

    Dear Charles,

    I Have read your comments and they are great. I would appreciate if you can guide me as well.

    I am an Indian chartered accountant with 3.5 years of work experience in entrepreneurship. In my work i have travelled to various African and south east asian countries and developed business successfully. The field i am working in is pharmaceuticals and also have helped business grow multifolds in a span of 3 years.

    My gmat score is pretty low though of 590. I am looking for colleges like Babson, Smeal and Fox college of business.

    My prima facie aim is to gain experience and learn from the people and would love an MBA programme that would involve international exposure as well.

    If you can suggest anything it would be really helpful.

    Warm Regards

    • Thank you for the message, Virat! I’m not sure that I have anything terribly useful to say about your situation, to be honest. Sure, it’s true that plenty of applicants get into Babson, Smeal, and Fox with a 590 on the GMAT. The question is whether being an Indian male accountant substantially hurts your chances at those schools.

      I don’t know for sure, but my hunch is that the answer is a qualified yes. MBA programs that are ranked below the top 20 are still trying to climb the ladder, and they do “play the GMAT game” — meaning that they’re trying to improve their GMAT averages in order to improve their rankings. There are probably plenty of willing Indian male applicants with even higher scores, and I’m worried that a 590 will look weak in comparison.

      If you don’t think you can improve on the GMAT score, then you’re really going to have to put a lot of effort into making it clear that you’re interested in the specific features of these programs, and not just applying to whatever programs might accept you. If MBA programs are convinced that you’re targeting those programs for legitimate reasons, they’ll be more convinced that you’ll be a passionate student and alum, and that can help your odds substantially in your situation. An extra 60 points on your GMAT would also be nice, but maybe it’s too late for that — I don’t know.

      If you’re interested in an international program, you might also consider taking a look at the Moore School of Business, which has some interesting international rotation programs. Hult might also be worth a look, though most people have never heard of the place, and that can hurt you when you start looking for jobs.

      Good luck with everything, and please let me know where you land!

  66. Hello Charles,

    I’m a 30 yr old male from Mexico. Took the GMAT twice and got a 680 and 690, with a 45q and 44q, respectively. I have an outstanding GPA (3.9) from my US college, dual major: Music Business, Film Scoring. I currently work in operations fro the 3rd largest live events company in the world and I just completed the refurbishing of the Formula 1 track in Mexico as a jr. project manager and was in charge of most of the administration for it. I was also heavily involved in the operation of the event and was project leader in some sub-projects of the event. I entered the company in a trainee program a little less than 4 years ago.

    All of my mock scores have come back with above 700 and 45/48 quant. Should I retake and wait for r1 next year or go ahead and apply for R2 with my current score and quant scaled?


    • This is an easy one: take a swing at applications immediately. Don’t overdo it — MBA applications always take more time than we think, so it’s probably going to be hard to do more than, say, two of them for R2 without seriously compromising the quality of your applications. But there’s no downside to applying now. Worst-case scenario is that you get rejected, and that’s not awful, since schools often really like reapplicants. It’s certainly possible that you’ll get waitlisted if they have a problem with your GMAT scores… and of course, you could actually get admitted somewhere.

      So go for it. I feel terrible for the Indian male applicants who are in the opposite situation, but the bottom line is that there really aren’t that many Mexican MBA applicants who work in the live event industry — so you’ll at least get some attention from admissions committees, despite the sub-700 GMAT.

      Let me know what happens!

  67. Hi Charles! Thank you for your help.

    My GMAT score was 690 (Q48 73%, V36 80%, 7.0 IR 5.0 AWA).
    I am kind of concerned about whether I should retake the test in order to have a strong chance at the schools I will apply.

    Some background:

    Uruguayan (South America) male, 24 y/o.
    BSc in Accounting (certified public accountant) at private university. Top 8% class. Awarded with merit-based scholarship.

    3.5 years (at matriculation) at global name consulting firm, focused on Management Consulting and Deal Advisory/Corporate Finance. Early promoted to Senior Consultant. Several initiatives and high responsibilities at workplace.
    Great recommendations.
    Lots of extracurriculars and community involvement.

    The schools are: HBS, Tuck, Booth, Kellogg, Yale and Cornell.

    Thank you in advance!

    • I like your chances, Diego — even with a sub-700 GMAT score. Your quant score is strong, and that certainly helps. It also helps that there aren’t all that many Uruguayans applying for U.S. MBA programs. Basically, you’re telling me that your only weakness is the GMAT verbal score, and that doesn’t seem like a great reason to reject you — especially since the verbal score isn’t that bad.

      I do have to offer the obligatory warning: you’re applying to some super-competitive schools, so even without any major weaknesses, you could still get rejected. The applicant pool is simply that strong. But it’s hard for me to imagine that the GMAT would be the factor that keeps you out of a great program. I’ll be curious to see where you land, but as long as you put some effort into writing great applications, you should be OK.

      Keep me posted!

      • Thank you very much Charles. (Btw, as I entered today to this wall and didn’t see my post, I re-posted it again with some differences. Sorry about that!)

        What encourages me, that is something I in fact mentioned on my second post, is that it is a 690 with a good quant and not a typical 690 with an amazing verbal but with a so-so quant. But I wanted to hear it from you.

        Bottom line, I will try to rock it with my essays and with the rest of the application. I will take the TOEFL next week, so I look forward to get a score that would undermine my not that great GMAT verbal score.

        Once again, thank you for your encouraging reply!

  68. Hi Charles!

    You’re blog has given me some peace of mind after taking my GMAT but your opinion on my profile would be appreciated.

    I just took the GMAT and scored a 720 (Q46 64%, V44 98%, IR 7, AWA TBD). I’m most concerned about the limited Quant in my background and the Q46. In practice tests I was routinely Q48-Q50. I have the chance to take the GMAT one more time before R2 deadlines. Not sure if its worth it.

    My Background:
    White American Male, 26 y/o.
    This year completed HBX (HBS Online) Credential of Readiness (CORe).
    Duke Undergrad with 3.4 in Classical Studies, Minor in Arabic Language; Deans List.
    -Limited Duke Quant background (C’s in Physics)
    -Took summer course at local college with A in Calculus.

    Four years as Army Logistics Officer. Three years serving in Japan (professional level proficiency in Japanese; self-taught); One year on combat deployment to Afghanistan.
    Key player in my unit, used for the hardest assignments. Routinely in charge of 30-50 Soldiers. A lot of experience leading bilateral planning teams with Japanese Defense, Philippine Army, Afghan Civilians. My recommendations should be very good.

    Japanese (Business Level), Arabic (Intermediate); French (Intermediate)
    Teaches Japanese Class in my unit. Duke Alumni Admissions Committee for Japan.

    Schools: H/S/W, Kellogg, Haas, Columbia, INSEAD
    Goal: Come back to Tokyo or Seoul in a MBB.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Thank you for writing, Randy! There isn’t much quant in your background, so in a vacuum, I’d love to see an extra point or two on that quant score… but don’t waste your time with a retake. Your profile sounds fantastic, so just take a couple of quant courses before you apply, and you should be in great shape. I’m curious to see where you end up, so please drop me a note when the time comes. Good luck with everything!

  69. Hi, Charles!
    Thanks for your blog!
    I’m from Russia, 24 y.o., have a degree in Public Relations (5 year program) from top-10 russian university with GPA equivalent to 3,4. Have work experience of more than 4 years. Started to work at the age of 15. At the age of 17 I’ve already worked as a manager and was responsible for 3 people department. During university years, I had my own consulting company for 3 years, worked with retail and HoReCa chains (most of them well-known in my city). My work led to sales increase and customer service improvement; most of my clients worked with me on monthly basis for 2-3 years.

    Also, I was heavily involved into extracurricular activities: founded and hosted Public Speaking Club; worked in university library; hosted show on student radio about entrepreneurship, made interviews with remarkable business people; organized lectures on my faculty.

    I need MBA to make a career change. I want to get into finance, and later to start my own financial company. I’ve already made some steps: completed basic courses in finance, accounting, banking and economics on Coursera; manage my investment portfolio using value-based approach; and now work in equity research project.

    On first GMATprep test my score was 430 (Q22,V27). I made a lot of work and after 6 months started to score 700 on GMAT prep (Q47,V40). To my disappointment, I scored 660 (q47, v34, IR7) on the real GMAT.
    I want to get into top-20 US school, and they have higher ranges, so I’m worried about my GMAT. I’m still going to apply in R2, but also thinking about GMAT retake after application submission.
    What do you think?

    Thank you and Happy Holidays!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Belated happy holidays, Elijah! You have a really, really interesting profile, and I would have enjoyed working with you on your MBA applications. I can picture a potentially very interesting essay about how your PR skills will set you apart in a finance career. If you play(ed) your cards right in the application, I think there’s a good chance that you’ll get into a top-20 school somewhere, though top-10 programs might be a stretch with the 660.

      An extra 40-80 points on the GMAT would certainly help your case. The 3.4 GPA might sound low to a US MBA admissions committee, as unfair as that may be. You’re also on the younger side, and MBA programs tend to put a little bit more stock in the GMAT if you’re under 25, even though it sounds like you have some great experience under your belt already.

      So give it another go, and see if you can pull yourself over the 700 line. Your worst-case scenario still isn’t that bad: you’ll have a decent shot with the 660, and hopefully you can dazzle schools by telling them about your 720 sometime in, say, February.

      Please let me know how it goes, Elijah!

  70. Hy Charles
    I am from Nepal. I have good Academic score till now.i scored 3.79 CGPA in BBA. I scored 610/63% (44Q, 29V,2Ir, 5AWA) in my first attempt. I did not appear for any mock tests.Got ielts score of 8. I have been handling family business for three n half years now. Before that I used to work as trainee assistant in reputed commercial bank for 1 year. I just wanna know the list of universities that fits into my portfolio. Can I get full scholarships with this profile or should I attempt 2nd GMAT exam.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for writing, Uttam! Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much I can help with this at this stage. Why are you trying to get an MBA in the first place? What are your career goals? Business school scholarships are extremely hard to come by, so I would worry first about figuring out what you’re going to do with an MBA, then decide which schools would help you achieve your goals, then worry about figuring out how to pay for it. If the MBA is a good investment for you, then it might be 100% worthwhile to borrow money for tuition, and most b-schools can help you with the loan process if scholarship funds are unavailable.

      But again, concentrate on being clear about your goals first, then research schools that would help you achieve them. Nearly all MBA programs publish lists of companies that recruit their graduates, so that’s probably a good place to start.

      Good luck with everything!

  71. Hi Charles,

    I would like to have your opinion on my GMAT score that I had today: 700 (89%): Q47 (67%), V39 (89%), IR8 (92%). This is my second attempt, I got 670 at my first attempt (Q44, V39, IR5). However I cancelled my first score of 670. Is this score of 700 enough for INSEAD, all the most Q47, as it is now only 67 percentile? They specifically mention on their website 70th percentile min for both quant and verbal sections. Will IR8 make up for Q47? Should I retake? I do have 6 months ahead of me before application deadline, but still need to complete all the rest of the application (essays, toefl, reco, etc)
    My profile is French, female, 29 years, 5.5 years of work experience between London and Paris in big companies in finance and consulting, various internships between Paris, London, US in finance. Master in Management from French b-school with normal grades (i.e. nothing exceptional) and various extra-curricular activities (music player, fund-raising activities, president of international student Council, while at b-school, and many travels)

    Many thanks for your advice !

    • Charles Bibilos

      Stephanie, I’ll say the same thing that I said to Bill (below) — sorry for the slowness. I’m guessing that I’m too late to be useful, but I’d love to hear an update if you’re willing. Any changes to your MBA or application? Any news from INSEAD?

      I’m absolutely rooting for you… perhaps embarrassingly retroactively. :/

  72. Hi,
    I need some advice regarding my application strength to attend INSEAD or London Business School MBA program.

    Here is my profile:
    – 29 years old with 6 years of work experience in two countries with 3 years in native Pakistan with SIEMENS in a managerial position and 3 years in UAE in a managerial position with LONDON DAIRY (current position).
    – GMAT 700 89th percentile (Quant 47 67th percentile and Verbal 40 91st percentile) in third attempt.
    – Bachelor of Electrical Engineering with 3.0/4.0 GPA and a MBA from LUMS Pakistan with 3.4/4.0 GPA
    – Plenty of sports activities at national and inter-varsity level and now at corporate level as well.
    – Well traveled around Europe during Student exchange program
    – Target schools: INSEAD, London Business School
    What do you think are my chances of acceptance for any of these two programs?
    Thanks in advance for your feedback.
    Warm Regards

    • Charles Bibilos

      Sorry, Bill — you’re one of the first victims of my overzealous comment spam filter, so this is certainly too little, too late. Have you already applied, or has your application status changed at all? Did you end up retaking the GMAT? Feel free to weigh in again here, and I’ll keep an eye out in case it’s not too late to offer some advice.

      I hope that you’ve had some good fortune with your applications since May!

  73. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for your blog to start with. It gives the readers a fairly good idea of what would be a good profile for the top b schools
    I come from one of the most conventional backgrounds. I am an Indian female, 28 years old. I have a GMAT score of 700. I work with one of the global oil and gas majors and have been employed in three different countries so far (India, Netherlands and the Philippines) including a recent assignment at a manufacturing unit. I’ve done some hard core technical work like design of units and operations support and am also leaning more on the commercial side now, working as technical advisor for sales and marketing of oil products in India and South East Asia. Although the title sounds technical my job primarily involves commercial and negotiating skills to increase unit margin and volumes sold. I had been involved in some adhoc volunteering activities in the Philippines where I was part of the team that reached out to cyclone hit people and was a member of a foundation aiming to improve and balance biodiversity. My undergraduate grade was 3.9/4 and I was one of the school toppers.
    I’d like to apply to London business school, INSEAD, Tuck and Haas. Could you please let me know if I have shot at getting admitted to any of these?

    • Charles Bibilos

      Pavithra, I owe you an apology as well — yours was one of the many comments that got stuck in the spam filter since last April, and I’m sure that I’m too late to be useful, unfortunately.

      For whatever it’s worth, pretty much everything I said to Sid66 (see below) would also apply in your case. As far as I can tell, your MBA profiles are similarly strong, but you’re both in a super-crowded demographic. Maybe you’re a tiny bit better off as an oil & gas executive than as an accounting/consulting type, but I don’t think that it’s going to make a huge difference. You still have tons of company in the MBA applicant pool, and you’ll probably have to play the GMAT game.

      The only ray of hope I see with that 700 on the GMAT is that European schools tend to be a little bit less GMAT score-obsessed than their United States counterparts — and I also think that fewer Indians tend to apply to European MBA programs. INSEAD and LBS are certainly difficult to get into, but you’d probably have a marginally better shot there than at comparable American MBA programs.

      Good luck with everything! I’m hoping that you’ve already gotten good MBA news in the time that it’s taken me to tame my stupid spam filter. 🙂

  74. Hi Charles,

    Really appreciate your comments! They are very useful and I really like your style: honest without being too optimistic.

    I was hoping if you could share your thoughts on my profile.

    Gender: Female
    Age: 28 years
    Nationality: Indian (though I was born in Saudi Arabia and did a portion of my early schooling – 5th to 7th grade there)
    Qualification: Chartered Accountant, Bachelors in Accounting and Finance (71%), Masters in Accounting and Finance from Mumbai University (First Class)
    Work experience: Overall 8 years at Ernst & Young in tax consulting (including 3 years mandatory articleship as part of Chartered Accountancy Course). Been at managerial position since last 2 years and lead several projects with a team size of 3-5 people.Worked with several PE clients and lot of experience in dealing with international clients and teaming with colleagues in US and Europe. 3 promotions and due for another promotion next year
    GMAT: 710 [Q:49 (77%), V:38 (85%)], IR – 6, AWA- 5

    I’m looking to apply for Class of 2019 and keen to apply only to US programns. I’m looking at Duke (Fuqua), Kellogg, Ross, Columbia. MIT Sloan and Tuck.

    What do you think about my chances at above target schools? What schools should I be realistically targeting?
    Do you think it will help to retake the GMAT? I am not sure if I can improve my Quant score, maybe push the verbal score to 40.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Sadly, I’m probably too late to be useful for you here, Sid66. I’m truly sorry for the wait — it turns out that an overactive spam filter has been eating nearly all of the comments on this thread again, including the legit ones. I’m working my way through some of the comments, just in case my answers help another reader somewhere down the road.

      The bottom line for you is that the MBA world can be a terrible place if you’re from Asia. The MBA applicant pool is flooded with Indians in particular, and unless there’s something strikingly unique about your profile, you’ll have to play the GMAT game. And unfortunately, that means scoring comfortably above the MBA programs’ overall GMAT averages. In your case, my bet is that you’ll need to be north of a 740 to have a decent chance at the schools you mentioned — and even then, you’ll have tons of competition.

      Don’t get me wrong: there’s lots to like about your profile. It sounds like you’ve had a strong career trajectory, and it still helps that you’re female. But you’re in an incredibly crowded demographic if you’re Indian and you work in anything related to consulting, finance, or technology.

      If I were in your shoes, I’d fight like crazy for that 740+ GMAT score — and even then, you’ll have plenty of work to do in your MBA applications to find ways to make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd. Execution on your MBA application essays will still be absolutely critical when you’re looking at MBA programs in that weight class.

      Sorry for the bad news — and sorry again for the late news. I’m rooting for you, Sid66!

  75. Hello Charles,

    First, thank you for being very attentive to prospective candidates’ inquiries. GMAT and MBA are definitely stressful time for many of us. I just took my GMAT today and got 690 (47Q, 38V, 7IR). I graduated in engineering from UCBerk (3.2gpa) and MS in engineering from Duke (3.56 gpa). I think for an Engineer, my 47Q is slightly lower than I would have liked but I believe that my quantitative skill is demonstrated in my quant focused major and schools. I am a US citizen but of east asian decent (imo a competitive demography but a lot of my engineer peers aren’t exploring MBAs as most have stable high paying jobs already; thus, making me feel that my profile will not be a very common one). I have 5 years work experience in the biotech industry and was promoted from a entry level engineer to principal engineer in less than 3 years with a fortune 500 company (seeking MBA to help me transition from technical roles to product manager roles). Currently, I’m an associate manager in supply chain for a smaller company in the same industry. I do participate in ECs such as volunteers in nonprofits and serve as Duke’s alumni interviewer for their adcom. I wonder what do you think is my competitiveness for some top 5-10 ranked MBA programs like booth, kellogg, CBS (ED), MIT and even PT programs like berkeley and ucla, and whether I should retake the GMAT again to cross the 700 barrier or just apply and indicate that I am willing to retake if wait-listed?

    Thank you!

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for weighing in, Jas! Well, I used to be attentive to prospective MBA candidates’ inquiries… but then I fell asleep at the switch and didn’t realize that something was severely amiss when no comments appeared on my blog for six months. “The spam filter ate my homework” is the lamest excuse ever given by a GMAT tutor, right? Sorry that you’ve had to wait almost two months for the feedback.

      Since you mentioned the early decision option at Columbia, I’m 99% sure that this is too late to be useful, but just in case: yeah, I’d give some serious thought to retaking the GMAT if you’re still focused on full-time programs. Nobody in their right minds could possibly be worried about your academic abilities, but that’s not the only reason why MBA programs care about the GMAT. GMAT score averages are a big deal because of the MBA rankings, sadly — and GMAT score averages have continued to inflate. So if you’re in a crowded demographic, a 740+ would definitely help.

      And you’re in somewhat of a crowded demographic, unfortunately. There are tons of engineers seeking MBAs, and a disproportionate number of them are Asian or Asian-American. I see some potential distinguishing factors in your profile — it looks like you’ve already made some leaps from engineering into more business/management-type work, and I haven’t run across tons of biotech applicants — but you’ll have to nail the messaging to rise above the crowd.

      So do you absolutely need a 740+? Maybe not if you can write lively applications that really make you stand out. And you definitely don’t need anything above a 700 for the part-time MBA programs. But if you’re still eyeballing those full-time MBA programs — and if you have time to study — then maybe take another swing at the GMAT in the next few months.

      Let me know how it goes, I always like to hear good news!

  76. Hi Charles,

    Thanks a lot for such invaluable insight in each of your feedbacks. There hasn’t been any activity since April so I hope this thread is still going, haha. I have been preparing for my MBA applications since December last year. I have mostly spent my time researching about programs, establishing inside connections with students and doing some serious soul-searching. I am very certain that pursuing an MBA is the right decision for me, so that is out of the question; however, just as everybody else, a strong GMAT score provides a sense of false security that we all can agree doesn’t guarantee anything at the end but it does add some inner comfort. These are my scores:

    GRE (Dec-2015): Q163, V155, AW4.5
    GMAT (Jul-2016): 680, Q48, V35, IR7 – cancelled scores
    GMAT (Sep-2016): 700, Q47, V38, IR7, AWA6.0

    As you can see, I started my journey with the GRE and absolutely dreaded the ostentatious vocabulary in it. After studying and studying, I desisted the idea of retaking the GRE and started preparing for the GMAT, which again resulted in a rather low verbal score in my first seating. I focused on the verbal section of the test and study pretty darn hard for it! I was very pleased to see the increase, but was not impressed at all with the drop in my quantitative score.

    Given that my programs of choice are Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, and McCombs, I’m seriously questioning where I should retake in hopes of increasing my quant score and take it closer to the 80th percentile. Right now, Q47 is a devastating 65th percentile and it really hurts!

    As far as my background is concerned, I’m an LGBT Venezuelan with current residence in Canada. My education is in chemical engineering – bachelors degree from a top engineering university in Venezuela (GPA3.5, cum laude honors) and a master of science degree from a very prestigious university in Canada (GPA3.6). My work experience is of 6 years in the oil & gas industry, having worked for very big corporations in Russia, Canada, and USA. Most of my volunteering experience has been related to LGBT organizations.

    Please, let me know what your thoughts are on my score. Should I retake? Or should I just let it rest?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the message, Jesus! I was also wondering if this thread was still going — I hadn’t received a comment since April, and was starting to think that y’all don’t love me anymore. Turns out that EVERYTHING was landing in the spam filter. AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH!

      Sorry for the wait! In your case, Jesus, I wouldn’t worry too much about the 80th percentile thing. Here, check this out if you haven’t already:

      For your MBA applications, I think the quant is passable, it’s just question of whether the 700 is going to be enough these days. My hunch is that there’s enough uniqueness in your profile to carry you forward — we just don’t see a whole lot of LGBT Venezuelans in the applicant pool. For that matter, we might not see enough Venezuelans in the applicant pool, period. So you’ll be able to stand out if you really nail the messaging in your application.

      Put another way: GPA-GMAT combo is good but not great, unless your class ranks were spectacular at one or both universities. But I also don’t think that you’ll get rejected from the schools you mentioned based solely on those GPAs and GMAT scores — the scores are probably good enough to check the box. So if MBA programs love your profile enough — especially any leadership stuff that you’ve done, perhaps in the LGBT groups? — you’ll have a good shot.

      Then again, your odds would, of course, be better with something like a 740 on the GMAT. At this point in the MBA admissions calendar though, I’d focus on your applications. But if your MBA essays are mostly done, then it might not be a bad idea to take another swing at the GMAT. You hopefully won’t need it, but if you can spare the time, go for it.

      Let me know how it goes, Jesus! Really curious to see how MBA programs view your application.

  77. I have done chemical engineering bachleor degree and working in an reputed indian firl since last 12 years and drawing a handsome salary ( considering India rupees). Indian/male/ 12 years/GMAT 650. I aspire to join top 30 MBA colleges ( preferably 1 yr) with total cost less than 35 lakhs ( including any scholarships if any).
    Could you pl suggest collegs, Is Indian school of business , IIM ahmedabad both in INDIA are an option. Which are other top colleges across world where I can join with GMAT 650 ( I m not in mood to retake)

    • Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Shan! Unfortunately, as an Indian male with an engineering background, your options will be severely limited with that 650, especially if you’re also being picky about the cost of the program. For United States MBA programs, a 650 would keep you out of the top 30, unless there’s something truly spectacular somewhere in your profile (i.e. you’re an Olympic athlete, or you started a wildly successful non-profit in your spare time — something like that). There’s just too much competition here from other Indians with GMAT scores in the mid-700s.

      I’ve seen a few Indians with mid-600 GMAT scores get into some top MBA programs in Europe, but all of them were unique, dynamic candidates with great personalities (and great essays!) — and they still had a hard time getting in. Sure, you’ll have a better shot in Europe than in Asia or the United States with that mid-600s GMAT score, but your best bet is to retake, unless you want to settle for a less-competitive MBA program somewhere.

      Sorry again for the bad news, and good luck with everything!

  78. Octavio Colmenares

    Hi Charles,

    I was hoping I could get some feedback on from you since you seem to have helped all this people.

    My name is Octavio, Mexican male 27 years old but have lived in Chile for the greatest part of the last 12 years.

    I took the GMAT for the first time in September and got a 640 (AWA-6, IR-6, Quant-47 and Verbal-31) went for a retake last week and got a 680 (AWA -6, IR-8, Quant-42 and Verbal-41)….I am confused since I hear all sorts of things about a 680…I know my quant score was low last time but I got a 47 on the first try…guess I had a bad quant day.

    My personal experience is that I was a professional soccer player from the age of 18…I played in important teams in Chile and Mexico while and did my undergrad degree in business administration and a specialization in marketing. My undergrad GPA is a 3.1. I retired from my last team at the age of 24 after a bad injury but the General manager of the last team I played in promoted me to Marketing manager for that club and I worked for 2,5 years in that position. At the same time I worked the last 4 years in an international school in Chile developing Athletic programs for young students from ages 4-18 and even coaching some of the teams in those programs. I also have strong recommendation letters

    I know that I am kind of an odd applicant and wanted to see if based on this information you could give me some feedback based on your experience. Thanks you in advance and I will be waiting to hear from you!

    • Hello Octavio! Yes, you’re an odd applicant, but mostly in a wonderful way. Out of curiosity, which teams did you play for? There were a whole lot of Universidad de Chile fans in my life at one point, along with a handful of Colocolinos. They didn’t always like each other. 🙂

      Anyway, here’s the deal: you’re a one-of-a-kind MBA applicant, and that’s a great thing. Former pro athletes tend to do well in MBA admissions, and so do Latin Americans, generally speaking. So depending on where you’re applying, you’re definitely NOT a lost cause, even with the 680 GMAT and 3.1 GPA.

      Other than the academic stuff, I have two concerns, and you’ll have to execute really well in your essays to address them. First, your most recent job at the international school doesn’t sound like a typical MBA feeder job, and you’re going to have to convince MBA programs that there was a strong leadership element to that position. Second, your career vision should ideally make sense with the rest of your profile — and that might be tricky. If you were coming straight from the marketing manager position to MBA applications, you’d be fine: a career vision about marketing or sports management would make sense. But if you’re coming from a school environment? You’ll have to really work on how you contextualize your goals and experience so that the school gig doesn’t sound like an unfortunate accident in your career trajectory. (And please don’t take that the wrong way: I have an MA in Education and I’ve worked as a high school teacher — so I’m all for working in schools! It’s just that it might not match the rest of your story very well as an MBA applicant.)

      On to the GMAT! Look, if you combine the 47 quant with the 41 verbal, you’re in great shape with the GMAT — that’s in the neighborhood of a 710 composite. At that point, nobody will really care about your 3.1 GPA anymore. Unfortunately, you can’t just Frankenstein your GMAT scores together. A 680 on the GMAT might not kill your chances completely, but a 710 would be a very different animal. So I would strongly recommend retaking until you manage to execute on both sections on the same day. Obviously, you’re capable of it — and with that GPA, it’ll make a huge difference. Just keep retaking until you make it happen, and feel free to reach out if you need more specific GMAT advice.

      Could you get in somewhere good with the 680? Sure. But I’ll be far less worried about you if you tack on a few more points. And I know that you have the talent and work ethic to get those last 20-50 points on the GMAT.

      Keep in touch, Octavio! Please let me know what happens, with both the GMAT and your applications.

      • Charles Bibilos

        One last thing: I just realized that I missed the fine print on your career. The school job and the marketing manager position were simultaneous, right? Sorry, my bad.

        So that probably eliminates most of my worries in the second paragraph. Yes, you’ll still want to make sure that the career vision makes sense — but that’s easier than I initially thought.

  79. Hi Charles, was hoping if you could provide some feedback on my situation . I am an Indian engineering male from IIT, GMAT 750. I applied to Darden last year but wasn’t invited for an interview. In the feedback session, they pointed out a couple of blunders I had made in my application but also gave an optional suggestion to give GMAT another shot. I was surprised by this suggestion. Do you think it’s worth it to retake? Also, my concern is what would the top 15 schools I’ll be applying to for the first time think about my retake having already gotten a respectable score. Looking forward to your response.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Ugh, that stuff drives me nuts. The whole deal is that MBA programs use certain types of applicants to drive up their GMAT averages. Unfortunately, you’re exactly that type of applicant. And I find that infuriating and ridiculous: improving from a 750 to a 770 wouldn’t say anything about your ability to thrive in business school. It just inflates the schools’ average GMAT scores.

      None of the schools will think it’s weird if you retake — they’ll just be happy to see a higher score, even though that extra 20-30 points is meaningless in the real world. So there’s no reason to worry that schools will judge you for retaking. You could always cancel and hide the score, anyway.

      If you think that you can squeeze those extra points out of your GMAT without killing yourself, go for it. If you don’t think you can pull off that sort of improvement, then don’t worry about it too much. As you know, you’re in a brutal demographic, so there are no guarantees with anything, but a 750 should give you a shot if you can write a killer application this time around.

      Good luck with your applications, I’m rooting for you!!

  80. Hi Charles!
    First GMAT attempt today and scored 720, q47 v41 ir8 (super proud of that 8, hopefully admission comittees will appreciate).

    I wanted to ask you if you think it could be enough for msc in finance programs at MIT or Princeton. I’m an undergraduate at an Italian uni, gpa 28.5/30, studying economics. I know you are more about MBAs, but if you had any insight or just wanted to share your opinion with me I would appreciate it 🙂

    In CATs I scored q49 usually, so I could probably increase my score to 740… would prefer to avoid retaking though, if possible

    • Charles Bibilos

      Wow, congrats on the great GMAT score on your first attempt! Plenty of people would happily donate their left thumb for that score.

      I’m not an expert on MFin programs at all, but I worked with a couple of applicants for those programs back in the day. And if I remember correctly, the top programs were looking for crazy-high quant scores — ideally, something more like a 50 or 51. You might have a shot with a 49, but a 47 would probably hurt you in admissions at top programs. Sorry for the bad news. I think Princeton prefers the GRE, so that’s another option, but they’d want to see a ridiculously high score on that one, too.

      And I could be wrong, but I don’t think that most of these programs get very many qualified European applicants, so that works in your favor. Just make sure that they understand the significance of your GPA in terms of class rank — if you’re in the top 5% or 10% or 20% of your class, be really clear about that in your application. GPAs function differently here in the U.S., both numerically and culturally. 🙂

      Please keep in touch, and let me know how it goes!

  81. Hi Charles,

    I’m a graduate from IIT Madras, B-tech in Biotechnology with a minor in economics (7.83/10 overall, 8.53/10 major and 9/10 minor, top 3 in the class for the last 2 years of B-tech). Post graduation, I worked as a Biotech Equity Research Associate for 2yrs. To gain deep subject knowledge, I chose to do a research based M.Sc. in Biochemistry at the University of Calgary (GPA – 4). I now work as a research associate for a start-up in cardiovascular research in Canada (>1year), bringing a novel cholesterol lowering drug close to clinical trials. I’ve had 2 high-impact publications in 3 years of research work.

    I also have decent extracurriculars- captain of the IITM cricket and hockey teams, led student bodies at IIT and UofC, Founded clubs in IIT and UofC. I played cricket at the national level. I’ve also scaled mountains of over 7000 mts and led climbing groups (continue to do so in Calgary).

    I also have had a continuous community involvement through volunteering both in India and Canada.

    My GMAT score is 700 (Q46 V40) and am worried if I will be able to stand out with my background. Post MBA, I want to get be in the healthcare sector, leadership position within the pharmaceutical industry.

    Target Schools: Duke (because of their HSM certification), Cornell, Darden and Tuck.

    I would love to have your opinion. I’m trying to stick to schools with a decent healthcare focus.


    • Thank you for posting, Rishu! You won’t like this, but a 700 isn’t going to cut it for an Indian applicant with a technology background. Sure, you’ve done some good things, but so have legions of Indian applicants with 740s or 760s or 780s. So the horrible truth is that you’ll have to be in that range somewhere to have a shot.

      Sorry for the bad news, but you’re actually below your target schools’ overall averages – and WAY below the average for admitted Indian applicants these days. It’s not fair, but I’d strongly recommend a retake.

      So keep studying, and let us know how it goes!

  82. Curious Applicant

    Hello Charles,

    How are US Asian male applicants pooled (IE US Citizens). Are they grouped with white male applicants? I have a 690 (48Q) and was wondering if this will hurt me as I am asian american.


    • Charles Bibilos

      This is a little bit of an oversimplification, but as a starting point, think of Asian-Americans as one of the five major ethnic/racial categories in admissions — and it’s a ridiculously competitive one.

      Of course, the American habit of reducing heritage to a handful of check-boxes is completely ridiculous, and adcoms really do understand that Asia is a gigantic and ludicrously diverse place. So if you have close cultural ties to, say, Sri Lanka or Laos, you’ll probably be treated somewhat differently in admissions than an Indian-American. But as an overly broad generalization, the only demographic group that’s more competitive than Asian-Americans is… well, Asians.

      So if you’re shooting for elite MBA programs, that 690 isn’t going to look great, unfortunately. Sorry for the bad news. If you have a phenomenally interesting profile in other ways, it might be possible to overcome that 690, and you might be completely fine if you’re looking at less-elite schools. But if you can bring that 690 up, I would definitely recommend doing so.

      I hope this helps!

  83. Hi Charles, I’d love some insight.

    I’m a 36 year old female lawyer, GMAT 700 (Q46;V40) from the Philippines (currently based in Myanmar), with great work experience (cross-border transactions, project finance, etc). Undergrad major is Computer Science (I think my GPA converts to 3.1-3.3 but only 1 of 3 graduated from the program) under a national science and technology scholarship on merit (awarded to those who rank highly in a national aptitude test). My law school grades weren’t great either, but those can be explained (death in family and illness) — my question really is the sufficiency of my gmat. Should I retake? I don’t have much time till round 2 deadlines and I feel like I need to focus on my story more but I’ve recently been told my grades might make adcomm think I can’t handle the rigor. Should I push to retake?

    Applying to INSEAD, LBS, Booth, Kellogg


    • The good news is that you have a really interesting profile, Stephanie! The bad news is that… well, I realize that I’m only looking at one paragraph about you, but I don’t really understand why you would want to get an MBA, particularly a full-time MBA. We could easily argue that the #1 most important consideration for MBA programs is whether you’ll be a good fit for the types of employers that recruit soon-to-be graduates. Do you see recent graduates at these schools landing jobs that you want? And are you going to be a good fit for those jobs post-MBA? If the answer is “no”, then it’s going to be hard to convince any school to let you in, regardless of the GMAT score.

      It sounds like you’ve done some really interesting things, but your first priority has to be making sure that the story makes sense. You’re on the older side for full-time programs, and that isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker (more on that here), but based on what you’ve written so far, I can’t imagine how computer science + law + cross-border transactions add up to anything that I’ve seen fresh full-time MBA graduates do for a living. Investment banking? Product management? Some rotational leadership program at a Fortune 500 firm? Corporate finance? I guess I could see consulting, but if you’re 38 when you graduate, do you really want to slave away as an Associate at Bain?

      Don’t get me wrong: I can see you doing all sorts of cool things with your experience, but most of the jobs you could get immediately after an MBA aren’t on that list of cool things. So unless your career vision makes a ton of sense — both in terms of whether it’s realistic in the short-term and whether it’s consistent with your previous experience — the GMAT and GPA issues are probably moot at the schools you’re mentioning, unfortunately.

      For whatever it’s worth, LBS and INSEAD are somewhat less GMAT-obsessed than U.S. schools, but a 700 is considered fairly low these days (Kellogg’s average is in the 730s now, if I’m not mistaken), particularly in the U.S. It helps that you’re female, but the current combination of low GPAs + so-so GMAT score will definitely hurt your case a little bit. I doubt that they’ll actually be worried about your academic abilities, but GPAs and GMAT scores factor into rankings systems, and you’ll very likely need something stronger than a 700 if you want the U.S. full-time programs to overlook the GPA issue. They might understand WHY your GPAs were low, but low GPAs still hurt the schools’ statistics. So get that GMAT score up if at all possible, so that you’re not asking them to swallow less-than-ideal GPA and GMAT numbers.

      But nobody is going to swallow a murky career trajectory, unfortunately: the dirty secret of the MBA world is that there isn’t a ton of diversity in the types of positions that recent MBA graduates accept. MBA programs need to be certain that those positions will be a fit for you, especially if they’re putting up with any other weaknesses (GPA, maybe GMAT, maybe age) in your candidacy. And maybe you’ve already figured all of that out! But if not, think of the career vision thing as more important than the GMAT for now; GMAT is priority #2.

      I hope this helps, and let me know what ends up happening!

  84. Hey Charles,

    I would like your insight.

    I took the gmat 3 times.

    First (700, Q49, V36)
    Second (710, Q47, V40)
    Third (cancelled, 690, Q48, V37)

    I am an american engineer who graduated from a top 50 school in Chemical Engineering with a GPA of 3.89 and at the same school i graduated with a Masters in BioEngineering GPA 3.96. I spend three years training navy officers on the propulsion systems of nuclear submarines where I ranked number one in my training class and number one since the company began (out of 600 past employees). I currently work for a public utility as a Senior Reactor Operator for a dual nuclear reactor power plant. I am the youngest qualified in the past 10 years and the youngest in site history to be promoted to shift manager where I will oversee a crew of about 20. I am worried about my age (30 years old, 31 at matriculation) and my GMAT score being 710 which is low for a male engineer. I am interested in Wharton, HBS, Sloan, Yale. I want to transition to strategy consulting and am using the MBA to gain skills needed to utilize my background to consult in the energy field.

    Should i be worried about applying now and wait for next year with a better GMAT score.

    My ECs include Fraternity President, Alumni Board member, admission volunteer for college, snowboard, and hike

    Thanks for your help,

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for writing in, Collin! My first thought is that your profile is really strong overall — those GPAs are spectacular, and your career has been both successful and discussion-provoking (whoever interviews you will probably be really curious about both the nuclear submarine and the nuclear power plant work). Unless I’m missing something, you’ll do really well in business school, wherever you end up.

      I have a whole bunch of mixed feelings about the GMAT question, though, and my answer is going to be a little bit complicated in your case, and probably deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

      My first thought is that you probably have no business getting stuck at 710. It’s a dangerous game to start combining quant and verbal scores, but it just seems like you should be able to hit a 740 or something close to it. You obviously have the quant skill to land at 49 or 50, and if you can get to that 40 on verbal once, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do it again. In a vacuum, you’re an obvious candidate for a retake, if the calendar wasn’t such a problem right now.

      Nobody in their right minds could possibly be worried about your academic skills, but your score is lower than the averages for the schools that you mentioned, and it’s definitely low for a male engineer — you guys usually are gratuitously used by MBA programs to inflate the GMAT averages. I think you can get away with the 710 if you have a diversity card to play, or if you were actually IN the military (it sounds like you just worked WITH Navy officers, correct?). But if you’re a white, male civilian, then another 30-40 points would make a big, big difference. Unfortunately.

      But then again: at this point in the calendar, your applications are either basically done, or they’re not close enough. (And if you’re not sure, then your applications aren’t close enough.) If your applications are in great shape already, then there’s no reason to postpone: go ahead and apply, and maybe you could consider retaking the GMAT by February, in the hope that the schools would accept an updated score from you. And at the very least, schools generally have no problem with reapplicants, so no harm done if you don’t get in.

      If your applications aren’t in awesome shape right now, then you’re looking ahead to next year, anyway. Unless you have a diversity card to play, I wouldn’t waste your energy with round 3 applications in your case — there are just too many male engineers out there.

      And let me make this answer even more confusing: I’m not sure that full-time programs are necessarily the best fit for you, anyway. I don’t think that your age is automatically an issue (more on that here:, but if you want to get into strategy consulting — specifically within the energy field — then I don’t know that a full-time MBA is really necessary. You’re already an expert in the energy field, and you’ll eventually be valuable in the consulting world as a subject area expert. A part-time or executive MBA would almost certainly do the trick for you anyway, and it would be less expensive in the long run — and there might even be ways for you to get into consulting from your current role, without bothering with an MBA at all.

      Just food for thought. Your GMAT scores are fine for any part-time or executive program, and those programs might do the trick for you, anyway.

      Did I totally drive you nuts with a completely non-straightforward response? 😀

      Happy New Year! And seriously — please let me know what ends up happening. Especially if you pass through Colorado for some snowboarding…

      • Collin Breitman

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        I thought of a part time or EMBA but to be completely honest, I dislike my job and can’t picture myself staying here while working on it.

        It is a little disheartening to know I can do better on GMAT just I am a bad standardized test taker and always have been.

        I have submitted my applications so we will see. I’m trying to stay optimistic but the GMAT score is nagging me and I think you validated that concern.

        We will see. Thanks again and happy new year.

  85. Hello Charles,

    I’d like to get your thoughts on how the ad-com views scores at higher level.
    I’ve heard from sources that scores above 700 are divided in 2 buckets –
    700 to 730 and 740 to 770. Of course , a high score never hurts. But does a candidate with a score of 730 meet the bare-minimum expectations (the potential of a candidate to succeed in & after the MBA program ) of a top MBA program ? How differently does that ad-com view a 730-740 from a 760-770 ?

    I have score of 730 ( Q49, V41) I came from an over-represented pool( India, Male , Non-IT engg) . After checking with current students in my target schools , I noticed that most of them had scores 740+ , with a few 730s..
    I’m in 2 minds now – on the one hand , 730 is a decent score , and in fact above the class mean of my target schools..on the other hand , 730 might not be enough.

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