So you scored a 650 (or close to it), which may be your highest score to date. But you're probably wondering, "is 650 a good GMAT score?". Given the competitive nature of the MBA admissions process, you'll want all aspects of your candidacy to be polished and maximized—your GMAT score included. Given my 20+ years of experience teaching GMAT prep, let me walk you through what to make of a 650 score, and what you can do to improve it.

650 is good, but not great

Getting a 650 isn't easy, and you should pat yourself on the back. Only 75% of test-takers score 650 or higher, so you're statistically 25% above average among your peers. However, the competition is very tough. 650 is below average when compared to the 680-730 median score range for the top business schools. Technically, you can still make it into the top schools with a 650, but the exception is not the rule. To maximize your chances of admission, you'll need to score within the 680-730 range.

Median GMAT scores for students at top MBA programs

  • Stanford Graduate School - 730
  • Harvard Business School - 730
  • University of Michigan: Ross - 703
  • UCLA: Anderson - 704
  • Duke University: Fuqua - 697
  • Boston University School of Management - 682

Getting above a 650 is very different from getting a 650

There are 2 essential ingredients in doing well on the GMAT: (1)master the content and (2)approach the exam strategically. A 650 most likely means you've either mastered the content or 80% of it, and continuing to study the content won't improve your score. Simply put. Your content studying is maxed out. Instead, you should focus on ingredient (2): approach the exam strategically. The strategy aspect of the taking the test is what separates the good from the great GMAT scores.

You're probably wondering, "what does strategy in GMAT test-taking look like?" The end-goal of GMAT strategy is maximizing your test-taking efficiency and time management. It's not enough to know how to get the answers! Although I'm unable to elaborate on all the strategies that can be listed here, below are some essential strategies that you should start looking into.

  • Backsolving: Starting with a numerical answer, and working through with that number to see if it fits the requirements of the scenario.
  • Estimating: No matter how much of a “math person” you are, one skill you MUST be comfortable with is estimation. A good GMAT score requires you to estimate confidently.

In addition to these strategies, I highly encourage you (and former students I've had) to further look up strategies to master. Don't underestimate google search! And if you're interested in a structured course, I do offer online courses for GMAT prep. I focus on walk-throughs and practice exams that specifically focus on GMAT exam strategy.

Conclusion: What now?

650 is good, but not good enough if you want to get into the top business schools. Hopefully this blog post has brought perspective to your score and shown you a path to scoring higher. Although difficult, many test-takers have scored above 650, and they aren't 'geniuses'. It's all about preparation and using the right approach. By scoring a 650 you've already won most of the battle, and with some additional preparation, a 700 score is easily within your reach.