How to get a 700 score on the GMAT

BY Kara DriscollNovember 17, 2021, 12:01 AM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

If you want to get into a top-ranked MBA program, earning a good score on the GMAT will be a key element of a competitive application—and a score of 700 or higher will put you in the top 15% of all test takers. 

The Graduate Management Admission Test—or GMAT for short—is an entrance exam used to assess analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills for admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA program. Students can take the GMAT exam at a test center or online, giving them the ability to plan a testing strategy unique to their needs. Some MBA programs also accept two other exams, the GRE and EA.

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While an average GMAT score is about 568, the top business schools in the U.S. will require a score of 700 or higher, including programs at UNC, MIT Sloan, Northwestern, Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard. For example, Stanford has reported average GMAT scores ranging between 732 and 737 over the past 5 years. 

GMAT scores also include a percentile ranking, which indicates the percent of test takers that you performed better than. A ranking of 75% means that 25% of test takers performed as well or better than you and 75% did not do as well. If you score above a 710, you will earn a ranking around 91%, according to a percentile ranking published by the Graduate Management Admission Council. 

Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800, and the test can be taken online or at a testing center. While two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600, scoring above a 700 will allow prospective MBA students to present stand-out applications to top business schools. MBA graduate admission officers say the GMAT is a solid predictor of how a prospective student will perform throughout the program. Here’s how to prepare for the GMAT and score above a 700.

1. Plan ahead for GMAT success

Scoring well on the GMAT is all about preparation, says Tracy Yun, founder and CEO of Manhattan Elite Prep, a firm in the test prep, admissions consulting and career training industry. If you’re aiming to score 700 or higher, you should start preparing for the test about six months in advance. Some of the most popular preparation strategies include taking practice tests, hiring a tutor through a test prep company, or using specialized courses and software to prepare for the test yourself.

Yun says many prospective MBA students will take the GMAT more than once, so ensure that you’ve given yourself enough time to earn the score that you want before applications are due for your desired MBA programs.

“Get your mind and body ready,” says Yun, who reports that she scored in the 99th percentile when she took the GMAT in 1996. “Avoid any surprises, and schedule mock tests based on your targeted test time. Visit the testing center and familiarize yourself with your surroundings.”

2. Prepare for test anxiety

There’s preparing for the test, and then there’s preparing to take the test. As Yun advises, test anxiety is an important factor to consider. When you begin the test, start by tackling sections that you feel confident about. If verbal reasoning comes easily to you, begin with that section before diving into other sections to build your self-assurance.

“Focus on your strengths,” Yun says.

There are plenty of tools for students to address test anxiety before they take the GMAT, adds Stacey Koprince, a content and curriculum lead for test prep provider Manhattan Prep. She has helped students prepare for the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years.

“A lot of people experience test anxiety, which is really just a form of performance anxiety,” Koprince says. “One of the things I recommend is practicing mindfulness. It can help you to take that stressor that you’re thinking about and say, ‘I don’t need to think about that right now.’ Acknowledge the stress, and just focus.”

Koprince advises her students to focus on sleep hygiene, maintaining relationships and activities that promote physical and mental health, and carving out time in their schedule dedicated to studying.

3. Adopt a business mindset

Students who want to score higher than a 700 should approach the GMAT with a business mindset, Koprince says. She encourages students to take the test with the same perspective they use to succeed in their jobs—using time management, critical thinking, and sound judgement to prepare. On the surface, tests like the GMAT judge a person’s quantitative, reasoning, mathematics, and writing skills, but this exam also determines executive reasoning for applicants—including how they process information and make decisions.

There is a penalty for not completing each section of the exam. If you do not finish in the allotted time, your scores will be calculated based upon the number of questions answered and your score will decrease significantly with each unanswered question.

“What they’re really testing you on is your ability to make appropriate decisions as you go,” Koprince says.

Because many MBA applicants have been out of a traditional academic setting for at least a few years, preparing for the GMAT can actually help them prepare for what business school will be like.

“It’s probably going to take you longer to prepare than the average person if you want a higher score, so plan that into your timeline” she says. “You have to recognize the long game that preparing for the GMAT is actually going to help me get ready for business school.”

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.