Business Administration

What Do GMAT Percentiles Actually Mean?

What Do GMAT Percentiles Actually Mean?
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Matthew Creegan July 30, 2014

Schools list preferred entrance exam rankings for applicants, also known as percentiles. What is a percentile and how does it affect your chances for admission?

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Every school has its own qualifications for admittance, and deciding which schools are the right fit for you depends on a number of things, from course offerings to location to career placement opportunities.

Schools also list preferred entrance exam rankings for applicants, also known as percentiles.

What Do Percentiles Mean?

A GMAT score percentile tells you how well you did on the test in comparison to other test takers within the past three years. Though the scores don’t change, percentiles do, as the GMAT scores are good for five years. This means that the percentiles can shift over the years, depending on how more recent test takers perform compared to your aging scores.

This could work toward an applicant’s benefit, but it could be a disadvantage if percentiles shift downward.

Graduate schools do not accept applicants on their GMAT score alone, other elements factor into the process. Grade point average, work experience, recommendations and skill sets all come into play when applying to school. It all depends on whether the admissions office determines the applicant to be a good fit for the institution or not.

Retaking tests to improve GMAT scores won’t necessarily increase your chances of acceptance, but it may decrease your chances for rejection.



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What Is a Good Percentile?

Urban legend has it that b-schools hold upwards of the 80th percentile as the golden standard for admittance, but that is not necessarily true. Percentile rankings are fluid, they change year to year depending on the relative scores of students that have taken the test. If everyone scores lower than the year before, percentiles will change. Business schools are well aware of this, so there is not a rigid custom to abide by.

If the selection of schools you apply to have different preferred test ranking scores for applicants, some may be lower than you and some may be higher. These reach schools shouldn’t be ruled out for the sole reason that your test scores aren’t quite as high as the school’s webpage indicates.

Charles Bibilos, a GMAT tutor and blogger for, says that MBA hopefuls should not feel that all is lost if their GMAT scores don’t surpass all the rest. “The extra handful of percentile posts mean far less to MBA admissions committees than a strong work history and a clear, compelling vision for your post-MBA career,” Biblios said.


What Your Percentile Ranking Means (What Your GMAT Percentile Ranking Means)

GMAT Score Percentiles (Magoosh Online Test Prep)

GMAT percentile rankings, part III: the 80th percentile myth (GMAT Ninja Denver and online)

710 GMAT But Quant Percentile Fell – Need to Retake? (GMAT Club Forum)

Average GMAT Scores (Magoosh Online Test Prep)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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