You Don’t Need to Score an 800 on the GMAT:
So, you’d like to get an 800 on the GMAT, the perfect score. Well, if not an 800 at least somewhere close, maybe a 760 which is still in the 99th percentile. Many students start out with this type of thinking. However, they’re usually missing the point. To get into top schools throughout the world you generally don’t need to score in the 99th percentile, let alone get 800 out of 800. In fact, many top schools reject applicants who have top scores. Why, you ask? Because the GMAT is mostly used to keep you out of a school whereas your essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews are what will get you into the school. Really what you should aim for is to just get near the school’s average score which is usually around a 720 for top 10 MBA or Masters programs in the world. However, getting a 720 isn’t even necessary in a lot of cases because …
You’re compared to other students like you
When you apply to an MBA or a Masters program your main competition are those students that are similar to you. That means, that if you’re applying to INSEAD, and you’re a French male who works in investment banking, your main competition are other French guys who are bankers. Since almost every French person tries to apply to INSEAD, and since INSEAD only accepts 10% of any one nationality, this means that you’ll have some tough competition. In this case, you’ll need to have between a 700 and 740 because all of your top competitors will likely have around a 720 on the GMAT and excellent profiles. On the other hand, if you’re a Frenchwoman, a consultant for McKinsey, and you want to apply to Columbia’s MBA program you don’t need a to get their average score of 720 because there aren’t very many applicants like you (proportionally, there aren’t very many French applicants to American schools and there are fewer women that apply to MBA programs than men). In fact, I’ve had many students get into top MBA and Masters programs who scored between a 650 and 690 because they applied to schools where they would have a competitive advantage.
You need to get within their range
Thus, you don’t need to get an 800 on the GMAT. However, you do need to get into a school’s 80% range. That is, you need to get a score that is similar to 80% of the students that apply to that school. For most top schools, this means that you need to get at least a 650 on the GMAT. Indeed, statistically, there is a huge cut off at the 650 level. If you get a 630 on the GMAT, you want to get into a top 10 school, but you’re not the son of an Arabian king, you should probably retake the test and try to get at least a 650. Once you get a score that is within the school’s range, then you need to ask yourself how many students that are similar to you are likely to apply to that school. If you’re score is below average, but you’re a less common candidate, stop worrying about the GMAT and start working on what really matters now, your application essays. If you’re just now starting to work on the GMAT, check out how to get started, or sign up for a GMAT course in Paris. Good Luck!