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Coming to Grips with the New GMAT Scores

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In late 2023, the GMAT got an overhaul. It got an overhaul that changed it completely – scrapping a section, ramping up flexibility and cutting completion times by nearly an hour. Along with the altered format and edited content came a new scoring system, meaning that both the number of marks available and the number of marks scored on the exam shifted. 

What does this mean for you as an applicant? Well, anyone taking the GMAT is likely to be comparing their own performance with the average GMAT scores that students in their dream MBA achieved. And if those successful applicants all took the older version of the GMAT and you sat the newer, it’s likely that some translation needs to be done between the two. 

Here is a guide to getting to grips with the new GMAT scoring system – understanding it, interpreting it and comparing it to the old. 

A Note On Naming

When launched, the new GMAT was referred to as the GMAT ‘Focus Edition,’ to differentiate it from the old test (which was still available to take). From July 1st 2024, the name of the new test will be simply the GMAT Exam, and the old (no longer available) test will be the GMAT Exam (10th Edition). In this article, we’ve stuck to calling them the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ GMAT, just to keep things simple. 

A Look at the Past

Before getting stuck into the mechanisms and meanings of the new GMAT scoring system, it’s worth taking a quick look at the average scores that successful applicants to top schools were achieving on the old exam. Our Real Numbers of MBA Admissions table displays recent average GMAT scores for top U.S. schools: you’ll notice that these hover around the 710-730 mark (with Stanford climbing into the high 730s). 

As for applicants registered with Clear Admit – reported median GMAT scores have sat firmly at the 720 mark for the past five years, with the exception of a spike in 2023 up to 730. 

Interpreting Scores on the New GMAT Exam

The most obvious change in scoring between the old and new GMAT exams is the range of marks available. The previous 200-800 scoring bracket has been shifted slightly to 205-805, and all scores gained in the new GMAT exam will consequently end with a ‘5.’ 

This part is fairly straightforward. The decision to bolt a ‘5’ onto the end of each score is a tool for distinguishing marks scored in the old exams from those scored in the new – both for you, and for the schools to which you are applying. Test results achieved by applicants on the old GMAT exam are valid for five years from the date of completion, and so may be hitting admission offices and discussion forums at the same time as scores from the new. The addition of a 5 at the end of the new scores neatly distinguishes them from the old, making sure that no one gets muddled as to which exam they are dealing with. 

The differences, however, do not end there. Changes are also cropping up in the results which test-takers are achieving: the median score across all examinees has dropped from 582.34 to 546.01 – while a glance at the GMAC’s concordance chart shows that comparison between scores achieved in the old and new exam is not as easy as simply tacking on a ‘5’. For example, Clear Admit users’ previous average of 720 is shown in the concordance chart as equivalent not to 725, but, instead, somewhere in the region of 665 to 675. A very similar score drop was reported by Clear Admit users who took the new GMAT exam, with user average scores for this sitting at 675. 

Straightforward comparison between similar test scores on the new and old exams is, it appears, a difficult task – and GMAC has warned that doing so will not yield accurate results. 

So why is this? Have test-takers on the new exam gotten… worse? Absolutely not – GMAC have announced that scores in the new GMAT exam have shifted to rectify the ‘uneven distribution’ that was occurring in the old exam, to reflect changes amongst the test-takers themselves, and to restore the distribution of test results into a bell-shaped curve. Put simply, the new scoring system makes for more room at the top.

What Does This Mean For Applicants?

This is where it gets a little tricky. Understanding the average GMAT scores of successful applicants in your target schools and comparing them to your own is a crucial stage in the preparation and admissions process. How, you might ask, are applicants supposed to do this, if the admitted students took a different test, with different scores, and there is no scalable comparison tool?

To answer this question, we must turn to percentiles. Percentiles demonstrate how many test-takers you scored higher or lower than – so a score in the 80th percentile means that 20% of test takers scored higher than you and 80% scored lower. Clear Admit users’ average on the old exam of 720 may seem a very different score to the 675 averaged on the new, but both sit in the 94th percentile, meaning that those who achieved either score did better than 94% of test-takers. As GMAC put it on their site – ‘645 is the new 700’; both are in the 89th percentile. 

It may help to think of percentiles as the translation tool between scores on the old and new GMAT exams. This means that when reviewing the average score of admitted students into your preferred MBA, you should check out which percentile their score falls into for the old GMAT results. You should then see which scores on the new GMAT exam fall into the same percentile – and there you have it, your goal GMAT score. 

Old GMAT Exam Score New GMAT Exam Score Percentile Ranking
630 585 62.8%
680 615, 625, 635 80.1%, 80.1%, 82.7%
710 655, 665 89.6%, 92.6%
730 675, 685 95.1%, 96.1%
760 715, 725, 735 98.7%, 99.2%, 99.4%
790 785, 795, 805 100%

Focusing on percentiles unlocks the GMAT score comprehension and facilitates comparison. Keeping these at the center of your mind while researching MBA admissions and setting goals will allow you to easily compare between the old and the new GMAT exams, despite the new scoring system. 

Peggy Hughes
Peggy Hughes is a writer based in Berlin, Germany. She has worked in the education sector for her whole career, and loves nothing more than to help make sense of it to students, teachers and applicants.