Your GMAT Score Report includes four different sets of numbers, some of which are scores and some of which are GMAT percentiles:

man in business suit holds percentage signs in his hand
  • Section scores (also called scaled scores) for the Quantitative, Verbal, and Data Insights sections. These scores range from 60 to 90 for each section, in 1-point intervals.
  • Percentiles for each of the three sections scores.
  • An overall score based on the three section scores. The overall score ranges from 205 to 805, in 10-point intervals.
  • A percentile for the overall score.

Schools consider all of this data, so you should know what it means and how to use it to get ahead!

What is a percentile?

Percentiles show the percentage of test-takers who got lower scores, thereby providing a way to compare your score to those of other test-takers.

For example, if you got a 695 overall score on the GMAT, your score is a 98th percentile score. That means that 98 percent of GMAT test-takers got a score that was lower than 695.

How can I use GMAT percentiles?

Percentiles can help you to assess relative improvement if you take the GMAT more than once.

For example, if you took the GMAT twice and achieved scores of 615 and then 665, your score has increased by 50 points. How significant is that improvement? Refer to the percentile!

In this example, the first score, 615, is 80th percentile, while the second score, 665, is 94th percentile. If you think of percentiles as all test-takers standing in a line, you’ve just jumped over 14 percent of the people standing in line. (And not just any 14 percent—the ones you moved past were already doing pretty well on the GMAT!)

How else can I use percentiles?

The percentiles for the section scores can help you evaluate your relative strengths and weaknesses, which can help you .

If your section score on the Quantitative section is 78 and your section score on the Verbal section is 84, you might be tempted to think that the 6-point difference means that you did a little worse on Quantitative but that the scores are similar. After all, it’s only 6 points, right?

Well, there are many math savvy test-takers who take the GMAT. So, that score of 78 on the Quantitative section may be something like the 52nd percentile, while the 84 on the Verbal section could be in the 91st percentile.

The percentile difference shows that the two scores are more dissimilar than the 6-point difference in the scaled scores would indicate.

In this case, spending more time studying and potentially boosting your Quant score before taking another test would be a good plan!

Do schools look at percentiles?

Absolutely! Percentiles help schools to evaluate overall scores and section scores. That’s especially important because GMAT scores are good for 5 years.

Schools need a way to compare scores submitted by applicants who took the GMAT at different times. In other words, is the 645 earned today and banked for 3 years before applying the same as the 645 earned 3 years from now?

Can percentiles change?

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) bases percentiles on scores from the past 5 years. As a result, the percentile associated with a given score can change. However, percentiles tend to change only very slowly over time.

This means it’s okay to bank that 645 score for 3 years. Today, an overall score of 645 is roughly the 90 th percentile. Three years from now, the percentile associated with that score could be a little higher or a little lower. So, it could be the 87 th percentile or the 92 nd percentile, depending on a variety of factors.

In general, percentiles tend to drift downward over time.

However, the reason that scores are only good for 5 years is that it generally takes more than 5 years for the percentiles associated with each score to change significantly.

GMAC provides you and schools with multiple scores for a reason. The higher your GMAT percentiles, the more clearly your score will stand out year over year, so identify your areas of potential improvement, pick up some test-prep materials, and distinguish yourself from other applicants.