The best business schools based on GMAT scores

Since 1954, the GMAT exam has been used to aid admissions decisions for MBA programs. Research by academics as well as GMAC, the organization responsible for the test, has shown the GMAT has high validity for predicting performance in MBA programs. Last year, I conducted a study published in Intelligence (pdf) and found that even within a highly select group of Fortune 500 CEOs, individuals who attended MBA programs with higher average GMAT scores were significantly more likely to have higher compensation.

Of course, GMAT scores are only one factor that predicts performance (pdf) both within and beyond graduate school. Conscientiousness, motivation, hard work, discipline, and luck play important roles, too. But as John Byrne has pointed out in PoetsandQuants, a low score on the GMAT was found to be the largest application killer, according to a 2011 Kaplan study.

Given that the GMAT appears to be one reasonably good predictor of outcomes in graduate school and beyond, it’s surprising MBA program rankings haven’t put more emphasis on which schools have students with the highest average GMAT scores. The Economist and Financial Times do not include the GMAT in their rankings, and Businessweek only includes the GMAT as a minor factor in its part-time MBA rankings. Only U.S. News & World Report includes the GMAT and weights it 0.1625 in its equation.

Different rankings, utilizing various methods, consistently show a handful of schools at the top. However, examining which schools’ students have the highest GMAT scores might give a reasonable approximation of the program’s brainpower level.

The U.S. News ranking provides average GMAT scores for each school. I used this data to compute a new ranking of business schools strictly by average GMAT score. Although Harvard is ranked number one by U.S. News, it is no longer in top spot:

Our Rank School GMAT U.S. News Rank
1 Stanford University 729 1
2 Harvard University 724 1
3 University of Chicago (Booth) 720 6
3 New York University (Stern) 720 10
5 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 718 3
6 Dartmouth College (Tuck) 717 9
6 Yale University 717 13
8 University of California–​Berkeley (Haas) 715 7
8 Columbia University 715 8
10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) 710 4
11 Northwestern University (Kellogg) 708 4
12 University of California–​Los Angeles (Anderson) 704 14
13 University of Virginia (Darden) 703 12
13 University of Michigan–​Ann Arbor (Ross) 703 14
15 Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) 698 21
16 University of Florida (Hough) 695 36
17 Cornell University (Johnson) 694 16
18 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) 693 19
19 University of Texas–​Austin (McCombs) 692 17
19 University of North Carolina–​Chapel Hill (Kenan-​Flagler) 692 20
19 University of Minnesota–​Twin Cities (Carlson) 692 23
22 Duke University (Fuqua) 690 11
22 University of Southern California (Marshall) 690 26
24 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza) 687 27
25 Georgetown University (McDonough) 683 25

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