It’s always difficult to guesstimate the GMAT score you’ll need to apply to Harvard Business School (HBS), without sight of the rest of your application. Like all business schools, Harvard will consider your application holistically.
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
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.
Harvard’s median GMAT is one of the highest in the world—only Stanford (734 average GMAT) and Wharton (732 average GMAT) record higher figures.
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, it makes sense to look at the GMAT ranges 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 MBA class recorded a broad range of scores from 590 to 800, meaning HBS accepted at least one student with a 590 GMAT test score (considered low) all the way up to 800 (the highest score on the GMAT).
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.
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 11.5%. 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 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.
Read more about the GMAT: