GMAT Total Score: What Is It? What Does It Mean?

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When you get your official GMAT score report back, you’ll see a number of different scores. In addition to your verbal, quantitative, analytical writing, and integrated reasoning scores, you will find a box for your total score.

What is the GMAT total score? What does it mean? Why does it matter? In this guide, I’ll explain what the GMAT total score is and how it’s calculated, as well as give information about how schools use the total score and what a good GMAT total score is.

 

What Is the GMAT Total Score?

There are four sections on the GMAT: verbal, quantitative, analytical writing, and integrated reasoning. Your GMAT total score report consists of five parts: total scaled score, verbal scaled score, quantitative scaled score, analytical writing assessment, and integrated reasoning score.

The GMAT total score is a scaled combination of your verbal and quantitative scaled scores. The range for the scaled verbal and quantitative scores is 0 to 60. The range for the total GMAT scaled score is 200 to 800.

It’s also important to note that when people talk about their GMAT scores, they generally mean GMAT total scores rather than individual section scores.

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How Is the GMAT Total Score Calculated?

So, we know that the GMAT total score is made up of your scaled verbal and scaled quantitative scores. But how is it calculated?

As I mentioned before, your total GMAT score is made up of your scaled quantitative and scaled verbal scores. Those are both scored on a range of 0 to 60. There are three factors that determine your score for each of those sections, and, by extension, your total score: the number of questions you answer correctly, the number of questions you answer, and how difficult the questions you answer are.

 

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Let’s talk about what that means. Remember, the GMAT is different from most other standardized tests because it’s adaptiveThat means that questions will get harder or easier based on how well you’re doing. In other words, every test taker will see a slightly different set of questions and be scored based on the questions he or she sees.

The first factor is pretty simple: you get points based on how many questions you answer correctly. The more questions you answer correctly, the more points you get. So, if you answer 25 questions correctly, you’ll get more points than someone who answers 19 questions correctly.

The second factor is also pretty straightforward. You need to answer every question on the test. For the quantitative section, you have to answer 31 questions in 62 minutes. For the verbal, 36 questions in 65 minutes. Answering all the questions will get you more points than skipping some questions.

The third factor is definitely the most complicated. Every question on the GMAT has an assigned difficulty coefficient. What that specifically means is somewhat complicated and not publicly disclosed by the GMAT, but, basically, a bunch of smart psychometricians use a scientific process to assess how difficult every question on the GMAT is. This means that test takers who see more difficult questions get a benefit.

Think about it like taking an Advanced Placement course in high school. Often, AP courses carry extra weight, so getting an A in an AP class will actually count for more than a 4.0. The same is true of questions on the GMAT. More difficult questions carry a higher weight than easier questions.

All of these factors play into your scores for the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT. Your verbal and quantitative scaled scores are then used to determine your total GMAT score, though GMAC doesn’t explain exactly how.

 

How Important Is My GMAT Total Score?

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Of the scores that you will get on your official GMAT score report, the total GMAT score is without a doubt the most important. Schools will also pay attention to your Verbal and Quantitative scores, especially if there’s a major difference between them, and, to a lesser extent, the Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning, but the total GMAT score is still the most important.

The GMAT total score is the only score factored into a school’s ranking. Schools therefore place a higher emphasis on the total score because it helps to boost their standings among their competitors. Neither the integrated reasoning nor the analytical writing assessment factor into school rankings.

Again, the vast majority of business schools place considerably more weight on your total GMAT score, and the Verbal and Quant scores that contribute to it, than your Integrated Reasoning or Analytical Writing scores. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just ignore your IR or AWA scores. Having lower scores (below 4 on the AWA and below 5 on the IR section) can hurt your application.

The IR section, in particular, has been gaining in importance over the last few years as schools become more familiar with it. the integrated reasoning section is still relatively new. It was first launched in June 2012, so it’s only been around for about four years as of when this article was written. Initially, this made it hard for schools to compare candidates who had different scores on their reports.

According to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep, only 41% of admissions officers considered an IR score important in 2014. That number rose to 59% in 2015. The IR section gives schools a good indicator of your ability to evaluate information that’s presented in multiple formats from multiple sources. Expect it to continue to grow in importance alongside the GMAT total score.

The AWA section is also a good way to show competent writing skills to business schools. The AWA can go a long way towards showing how well you have mastered writing analytical essays to admissions councils, particularly if your native language isn’t English.

 

What’s a Good GMAT Total Score?

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What is a good GMAT total score? This can vary from test taker to test taker. For all test takers, however, a good GMAT total score is the score that helps you get in to the program that you want to attend.

That being said, a total GMAT score of 650 or above will put you into the top 25% of all test takers. That’s a great place to be. Putting yourself into the top 25% of test takers makes your application stand out, especially in the current competitive admissions cycles. However, as I said before, what a good GMAT total score really is different for every applicant.

Before we get into understanding how you can determine a good total score for you, let’s look closer at average GMAT total scores. According to GMAC, the average total score for the GMAT is 551.94, with two-thirds of test takers scoring between 400 and 600. Scores below 9 and above 44 for the verbal section and below 7 and above 50 for the quantitative section are rare.

Your percentile ranking can be useful in understanding how your test score corresponds to other test takers. Your GMAT score percentile links your score and the percentile of everyone who takes the GMAT. So, if your score percentile is 76%, that means that you did better than 76% of test takers.


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Here’s a look at how total GMAT scores correspond to percentile rankings.

Score Percentile Ranking
800 99%
700 89%
600 59%
500 30%
400 11%
300 3%
200 0%

 

As I said before, the total GMAT score you aim for will vary depending on what schools you’re applying to. It’s important to do some research on the average GMAT scores of admitted applicants at the programs you’re interested in. You can find this information in a number of different places. Most schools publish their average GMAT scores on their admissions page.

You can also try to call the admissions office if the average scores are not available online. Third-party resources like U.S. News also publish information on average GMAT scores. Remember, only the GMAT total score contributes to a school’s ranking. Check out the chart below to see the average GMAT scores of admitted applicants for a some sample business schools.

Average GMAT Total Score Schools
Over 720 Stanford University (733)
University of Pennsylvania (732)
Harvard University (725)
650 – 720 Northwestern University (713)
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (702)
Cornell University (792)
600 – 650 Temple University (641)
Baylor University (629)
University of Pittsburgh (620)
Under 600 American University (580)
University of Tulsa (566)
University of Illinois – Chicago (591)

 

While there are many factors that go into having a well-rounded business school application, a great GMAT total score can really boost your competitiveness as an applicant. Because GMAT scores contribute to the annual rankings published in U.S. News & World Report, many schools aim to admit candidates with high scores to increase the overall ranking quality of their program.

Remember, however, that there are many components of your business school application. Make sure you spend time trying to put together a strong application across the board, rather than spending it all trying to score 800 on the GMAT. A well-rounded application with college grades, letters of recommendations, and a solid GMAT total score will help you more than having a perfect GMAT score and weak other parts.

 

What’s Next?

Not sure how the GMAT is scored? Check out our complete explanation of how GMAT scoring really works.

Take an in-depth look at average GMAT scores to learn how your score compares.

Finally, find out more about what makes a good GMAT score and how to set the right goal for you with our complete guide to understanding GMAT scores.

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