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GMAT Percentiles: How to Understand Them

29 January, 2024 By Priyal Kakaye, IMS India

Are you set for the GMAT and thinking about your GMAT percentiles? Having a good understanding of the GMAT percentile score is key to evaluating your performance on the test. GMAC, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which owns and operates the GMAT, calculates percentiles for the GMAT. Their goal is to compare your scaled quant and verbal scores, which range from 6 to 51, to those of other test takers during GMAT preparations. It is separate from your total GMAT score, which ranges from 200 to 800 points.

In this blog, you will find comprehensive guidance on GMAT percentiles, as well as charts and insights to help you score well on the test. Whether you are pursuing a top business school, curious about your test scores, or willing to move abroad, we have the solution for you.

GMAT Score Percentiles Chart

Let’s begin with the core of GMAT scoring—the percentiles. Your total GMAT score, ranging from 200 to 800, is a peak of your sectional scores in Quant and Verbal. Your Verbal score is slightly higher in the calculation.

To give you a clear vision, we’ve provided a GMAT Score and GMAT Percentiles Chart below:

 

Total GMAT percentiles and Score

GMAT Score GMAT percentile
800 99%
790 99%
780 99%
770 99%
760 99%
750 98%
740 97%
730 96%
720 94%
710 90%
700 87%
690 84%
680 80%
670 78%

If you’ve been introduced to the GMAT™️ Focus Edition before, you’ll see a shift in the scoring system. The updated scale ranges from 205 to 805, adding a new proportion to GMAT percentiles rankings.

Here’s the breakdown for the GMAT™️ Focus Edition: Total Score Percentiles

Percentile Score Percentile (contd.) Score (contd.)
100% 805 28% 495
99% 715 27% 495
98% 695 25% 495
97% 695 23% 485
95% 675 21% 475
93% 665 19% 475
90% 655 18% 465
87% 645 15% 455
83% 635 14% 445
80% 615 13% 445
78% 615 12% 435
75% 615 10% 425
71% 595 9% 415
65% 585 8% 415
63% 585 7% 405
59% 575 6% 395
55% 565 5% 385
51% 555 4% 375
48% 555 3% 355
44% 545 2% 335
41% 535 1% 305
38% 525 0% 205
35% 515

GMAT Quantitative  Percentiles

Your GMAT percentiles is determined by your sectional scores in Quantitative and Verbal. The GMAT Quantitative section, with scores ranging from 0 to 60, will provide an overview of your performance. 

GMAT Verbal Percentiles

GMAT Verbal scores and GMAT percentiles operate within the same scoring range as GMAT Quantitative. While the scoring range is consistent, the distribution varies.

GMAT AWA Percentiles

Even though Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) scores don’t get included in your total 200 to 800 score, business schools consider them. AWA scores range from 0 to 6.

GMAT IR Percentiles

Integrated Reasoning (IR) comes with a grading scale, scored from 1 to 8. Unlike AWA, IR uses complete points, leading to distinctive percentiles. The total GMAT score is calculated based on Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment scores. 

 

GMAT Section Scaled Score
Quantitative score 6-51
Verbal score 6-51
Integrated Reasoning score 1-8
Analytical Writing Assessment score 0-6

How does GMAT calculate percentiles?

It is important to understand how to calculate GMAT percentiles. GMAC, the organization that developed the GMAT test, analyzes the latest cohort of candidates, which covers data from 2020 to 2022. In this example, 282,098 students took the GMAT exams during that period.

GMAC avoids comparing scores to those who took the same test due to the adaptive nature of the GMAT percentile. Based on your performance in the exam, the test adjusts problems making each GMAT percentile unique. GMAC ensures that percentiles are relevant to admissions committees based on recent test-taker groups.

Quantitative  vs. Verbal Percentiles and How to Interpret Them

A strategic insight emerges when comparing quantitative and verbal percentiles. While your Quantitative scaled score may be higher, your GMAT percentiles ranking could be lower. In many cases, this variance occurs between examiners, emphasizing the importance of percentiles rather than new scores.

Keep in mind that Verbal scores contribute slightly more to the final score’s weighting. Balancing your skills in both sections is the key to maximizing your overall percentile.

 

When are score percentiles useful (and not so useful)?

The GMAT percentile is an invaluable tool for determining your relative ability in comparison with another examiner. In practice sessions, they illuminate the varying levels of difficulty of questions.

However, fixating on GMAT percentiles during the test itself can be inefficient. Experimental questions, not factored into your total score, can create unnecessary distractions. 

How much should I score to get in the 99th percentile on the GMAT?

Scores between 760 and 800 are required to achieve the 99th percentile on the GMAT. This puts you in an elite group, with only about 0.02% of examiners, roughly 30 individuals annually, reaching a perfect 800.

To contextualize the competition, consider the breakdown of top scores each year:

  • 2,500 score between 760-800 (99th percentile)
  • 2,500 score between 750-760 (98th percentile)
  • 25,000 score between 700-750 (87th-97th percentile)
  • This distribution follows a bell curve, with most examiners falling within the middle range of 400 to 600.

GMAT Percentiles for Business Schools

While GMAT scores are just one facet of the holistic admissions process, higher percentiles enhance your competitiveness. At the 99th percentile, only 1% of students outperformed you, placing you at the peak.

Conversely, scores below the 50th percentile may require reconsideration. Some schools specify minimum sectional scores only for the quantitative section, pointing to the importance of a balanced performance in exams.

Top-tier business schools normally expect scores above 700, placing you in the top 10% of examiners. The correlation between rankings and percentiles indicates that aiming for the top 10% is advantageous.

Advanced Insights into GMAT Percentiles: A Comprehensive Guide

Following our discussion of the GMAT percentiles, let’s explore the complexity of the test and gain a deeper understanding. With this guide, you will gain valuable perspectives on test preparation and application strategies that go beyond the surface.

1. Adaptive Nature of GMAT

Unlike traditional exams with a fixed set of questions, GMAT adapts to your performance in real time. This means that the difficulty of the questions adjusts based on whether you answer previous questions correctly or incorrectly.

Understanding the adaptive nature of the GMAT is very important for interpreting your percentiles. Since each examiner faces a unique set of questions, the percentiles offer a comparative measure against a broader section. The GMAC ensures that percentiles accurately reflect your position in comparison to other examiners, taking into account the adaptability of the test.

2. The Role of Experimental Questions

While taking the GMAT, you might encounter questions that seem unusual or different from your preparation materials. These are experimental questions, that are added by GMAC to test just for future exams. It’s important to note that these questions do not contribute or get calculated to your total score marks in the exam.

While experimental questions can be challenging to answer, stay composed and approach each question with the same level of steadiness and focus. Your performance on experimental questions doesn’t impact your percentiles, so allocate your time wisely while appearing.

3. Decoding Score Variability

GMAT percentiles give a relative measure of your performance, but they don’t account for the inherent variability in your scores. During your practice sessions, it is important to parallel test conditions to reduce score variability. Taking official mock exams under timed conditions helps you prepare for the test environment, reducing the impact of external factors on your scores. Consistent and focused practice is the key to achieving reliable and representative GMAT percentiles.

4. Sectional Percentiles

The total GMAT percentile provides an overview of your performance, but understanding the sectional percentiles will provide a more detailed picture. Quantitative and verbal sections are equally important to your overall score, but their percentiles may differ. For example, a Quant score in the 70th percentile might be higher than a Verbal score in the 80th percentile.

If one section lags, you can tailor your preparation to address specific skill gaps. Balancing out your skills across both sections is very important for achieving a well-rounded percentile and maximizing your overall GMAT score.

5. The Impact of Percentiles on B-School Admissions

While GMAT Percentiles are an important component of your business school application. Your GMAT percentiles give a context for your scores and showcase how you compare to other applicants. 

Top-tier business schools often set a high bar, preferring applicants with scores above the 90th percentile. However, other points of your application, such as your CV, essays, letters of recommendation, and interview performance, play equally significant roles.

Conclusion

GMAT is about competitive advantage, and percentiles showcase your standing among examiners.  When receiving percentiles for Quant, Verbal, IR, and AWA sections. Your overall GMAT percentile and score (200 to 800) stem from a combination of Quant and Verbal sectional scores, not their percentiles.

Top schools prefer top scores, ideally in the top 10% (700 and above). Offer a dynamic view, ensuring relevance across different test versions. While a high GMAT percentile is an asset, it is only one aspect of your business school application.  This is where the IMS GMAT classroom program comes in. Apart from the 15+ full-length tests, thousands of practice questions, and the Official GMAT Guide, you also get access to one-on-one mentorship sessions, the B-School guide, and admissions consulting.