Your GMAT exam score forms part of your MBA application which includes your resume, references, academic transcripts, and essays. Although a good GMAT score is not a guaranteed ticket to Harvard, it certainly helps your application.
So, what GMAT score should you aim for?
Harvard MBA Average GMAT
71% of the Harvard MBA class of 2023 took the GMAT, down from 78% for the previous class. A look at the MBA class average GMAT score for Harvard is a good place to start to get a ballpark figure of what GMAT score you should aim for when applying for the school
Harvard reports its class median, rather than average, GMAT score. Harvard’s median GMAT is 730. This gives you an idea of where you are, at least in terms of your competitiveness around the GMAT.
Broken down by GMAT Quant and Verbal sections, Harvard's median quant score is 49 and Harvard's median verbal score is 41.
Harvard’s median GMAT is one of the highest in the world—only the Stanford MBA class average GMAT, at 738, is higher.
However, a GMAT score below 730 is not a deal breaker for Harvard, provided the rest of your application is exceptional.
Harvard GMAT range
As well as looking at average GMAT scores for Harvard, it makes sense to look at the GMAT range for the business schools you apply to. The GMAT range tells you what both the lowest and highest-scoring students in an MBA class earned on their GMAT exam
Harvard’s GMAT score range for the MBA class of 2023 goes from 590 to 790, meaning HBS accepted at least one student with a 590 GMAT test score (considered low) all the way up to 790 (the highest GMAT score you can get is 800).
In fact, while GMAT scores in the 500s are considered low, many of the world’s best business schools admit students with these scores.
Shaifali Aggarwal, HBS alumna and founder of Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consultancy , says she’s seen candidates overcoming weak GMAT scores by demonstrating strength in the other areas that HBS values—namely, a ‘habit of leadership’ and ‘engaged community citizenship’.
“The GMAT score by itself will not get a candidate admitted to HBS. Who an applicant is holistically is much more important,” she says.
It is important to take an honest look at your MBA application as a whole to gauge how competitive you might be in terms of the areas that HBS values in applicants. It’s also worth noting that there is no minimum GMAT score requirement to apply.
However, as a rule, you should be aiming to score on the higher end of the GMAT range if you want to stand a better chance of being accepted into your target school.
Note also the Harvard MBA quant and verbal GMAT range. The lowest verbal GMAT score recorded by a Harvard MBA student in the class of 2023 was 28 compared with 32 for quant, meaning Harvard accepted MBA students with lower verbal scores than quant.
Should you apply to Harvard?
There are two important pieces of advice that admissions consultants, HBS MBA admissions, and alumni have shared over the years when it comes to applying to Harvard.
The first, from MBA admissions consultants, is quite practical: Apply to a vertical list of schools. That means choosing to apply across schools with different levels of competitiveness (in relation to your specific application).
Bear in mind that Harvard Business School has one of the most competitive programs with an acceptance rate of about 9%. These numbers show that remarkable people are rejected from HBS all the time. Go for it, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
The second piece of advice is from HBS MBA admissions and alumni: don’t self-select out. There are a lot of misconceptions about the type of person and profile that Harvard is looking for. Some of the most capable and interesting applicants tend to underestimate themselves and are plagued by imposter syndrome.
Don’t drop out of the race before it starts. Be authentic in your application. Put your best foot forward, but make sure you tell your story, as opposed to the story you presume the admissions committee wants to hear.
The GMAT, or GRE, is an important part of that story, but it’s not everything.