How Have GMAT Scores Changed Over Time?

By , M.Ed. English Education

How have GMAT scores changed over time? The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, assesses the knowledge and aptitude of potential graduate students who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees in business, such as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). Interestingly, GMAT scores have changed very little throughout the years even after changes to the test. The trend line goes up, meaning that there has been a very slight improvement in scores over time, but it is not a statistically significant increase.

GMAT Scores Over Time

The GMAT has changed many times since its inception and had another change in 2012. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the administrator of the GMAT test, despite these changes, candidates scores have remained relatively stable with a slight upward trend in the line.


GMAT Mean Scores and Percentiles

While the mean scores seem to remain consistent over time, the score itself is not as important as what percentile that score represents.

Over time, percentile scores have shifted. A GMAT score that would have put a candidate in the 90th percentile ten years ago may only be 85th percentile now.

This occurs because scores always resemble a bell curve. A few people score very high and very low, and the majority have scores in the middle. If more people score higher, then the mean score becomes the higher score and the bell curve then shifts to the right. (Similarly, if more people score lower, the curve would shift to the left.) This then shifts the percentile rank score.

Why Would Scores Shift?

There seem to be a few theories as to why the GMAT scores seem to be getting higher over time:

  • The applicant pool is getting smarter. The candidates may be higher caliber students than in previous years.
  • Testing preparation has improved dramatically. Candidates have access to many different types of test preparation: classes, books, sample questions and online tutorials. They are coming to the tests more prepared than ever before.
  • Some students may cheat. While the test makers attempt to limit this possibility, information may leak out. Test takers may post information about the tests online for others to use.

GMAT Test Sections

The current GMAT format:

  • Analytical writing assessment section - 30 minutes; candidates will analyze an argument.
  • Integrated reasoning section - 30 minutes; includes 12 questions to assess how candidates' ability to do mult-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, complete two-part analysis and assess table data.
  • Quantitative section - 75 minutes; consists of 37 multiple choice questions in problem-solving and data sufficiency.
  • Verbal section - 75 minutes; consists of 41 multiple choice questions on reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and correcting sentences.

The new integratedd reasoning section was added to the GMAT in June 2012 to provide the types of questions that students may be asked in their graduate level business courses.


When to Take the Test

Some candidates may be concerned that their test scores will become invalid once the new test goes live. GMAT scores are typically accepted by a school for up to five years. After that time, scores typically become invalid and the test must be retaken. If someone took the test prior to the 2012 changes, it is unlikely that any graduate school would ask or expect students to retake the test if their GMAT scores are currently valid.