Stanford's Class of 2023 averaged 738 points in their GMAT, higher than at any other school. In fact, MBA students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business consistently have the highest test scores around.
However, don’t be intimidated: it is still possible to get into Stanford MBA without a GMAT score that's in the very top percentiles.
In this article, we’ll take a look at your odds of admission (spoiler: whatever your GMAT, it’s not easy to get into Stanford!), and what you can do to compensate for a test score that’s lower than the current class average.
Here’s an outline of what we’ll cover:
- What GMAT score do I need to get into Stanford MBA?
- 7 ways to get into Stanford with a GMAT of 720 or under
- How to ace the GMAT
- Alternatives to Stanford
To get into Stanford, you’ll need a GMAT score of 760+ if the rest of your application is merely “good.” However, GMAT scores for Stanford’s Class of 2023 range between 610-790. So, if you submit a very compelling application, or if you’re from an underrepresented demographic, then you can get in with less.
Unlike many other top business schools, Stanford doesn’t disclose its “middle 80%” range of GMAT scores. However, using other schools' middle ranges as a gauge, our estimations put it at 720-770.
Clearly, the higher your GMAT score, the higher your chances. But you shouldn't lose sight that it’s just one component of your application and, as such, it won’t be decisive on its own.
Let’s dive deeper into the questions around GMAT scores and the Stanford application process.
1.1 What is a good GMAT score for Stanford GSB?
760 is generally a “good” GMAT score for Stanford because (all other things being equal) it puts your chances of admission at around 1 in 10. That would make you almost twice as likely to get in than the average applicant, given the overall acceptance rate in 2021 was around 1 in 17.
Let’s take a look at how your GMAT score affects your chances of admission.
This table of estimates is based on a chart from the MBA Data Guru website, which used reports from GMAT forums. It should be taken with a pinch of salt, because the data only represents a subset of candidates, and in any case, data from online forums is not verifiable.
However, we’ve included it because we think that it’s still a useful approximation and will give you a rough idea of how your GMAT score may affect your chances of admission.
As you can see by these numbers, the odds of getting into Stanford MBA are low, no matter what your GMAT score is. But the higher the GMAT score you get, the better chance you have.
It’s worth considering that a “good” score is not the same for everyone, it depends who you are. Stanford wants a diverse MBA class in terms of “perspectives and life experiences.” So in a sense, your main competition is against people with a similar profile to you.
For instance, if you're from an underrepresented group, you’ll be competing against fewer similar applicants and therefore 740 is probably a “good” score.
We’ll look further into what is meant by “underrepresented group” in section 2.
1.1.2 Can I get in with a 700?
It’s hard, but possible, to get into Stanford with a GMAT of 700. That’s 38 points below the average for the class of 2023. Most estimates would give you a 1% chance of getting in. That said, you did better than 90% of GMAT testees. If Stanford is very impressed by the rest of your application, they’ll take you.
1.2.3 Can I get in with a 650?
Technically, you could get into Stanford with a 650 GMAT. The lower range of Stanford’s Class of 2023 is 610, so there will be applicants who get in with a 650. However, with a GMAT of almost 90 points below the current class average, you’ll need to stand out as exceptional in the rest of your application.
You’ll have to make sure that your essays, work experience and background combine to set you above the many applicants with a significantly higher GMAT than you. That’s no easy feat, but lots of candidates manage to do it every year.
1.2 What is the minimum score for Stanford MBA?
There is no minimum GMAT score requirement for Stanford. 590 is the lowest score to have been accepted in recent years, but technically you could do worse than that and still get in.
You’d have to be an extremely special applicant in other ways, though, with exceptional essays and a compelling personal story.
1.3 How does Stanford use GMAT scores?
Stanford GSB evaluates applications holistically, insisting that “no single component — whether your academic performance, essays, test scores, letters of reference, work experience, or interview — determines your admission decision.”
Test scores should therefore be viewed within this context. They are important and much talked about because they can be used to easily compare and filter candidates. But they’re just one of several factors that the admissions board will be assessing you on.
It’s also worth remembering that Stanford will also look at the individual components of your GMAT score, especially verbal and quantitative. If, for example, your quantitative score dragged you down, other evidence on your application suggesting you’re normally solid in this area could compensate for that.
Kirsten Moss, assistant dean of MBA admissions and financial aid at Stanford GSB, says that they’re aware that for some people, tests just “aren’t their thing” and Stanford is willing to take that into account:
1.4 Does Stanford prefer the GMAT or GRE?
Stanford GSB states it has no preference as to whether candidates submit GMAT or GRE scores. The GMAT is still more common (76% of successful applicants took the GMAT) but the GRE is growing in popularity and we expect it to grow further over the next few years.
Your decision on whether to take the GMAT or GRE should be based purely on which one you think you can do better on.
1.5 What GPA do I need for Stanford GSB?
Of course, one other test score relevant to your application is your GPA (or equivalent exam score if you went to school outside the United States). The average GPA for Stanford’s Class of 2023 is an impressive 3.78.
The Stanford admissions committee will look at your GPA and take it into account as they try and build a picture of you as a potential student, but that doesn’t mean that a low GPA will block your entry. Your GMAT score will hold more weight on your application than your GPA, as it’s more recent and more relevant.
As we’ve discussed, getting into Stanford MBA is very difficult no matter what score you get on your GMAT. A score of 720 or below will see your odds lengthen even more, as you’ll probably be outside the middle 80% of candidates.
However, every year there will be numerous candidates with GMAT scores between 600-700 who are accepted ahead of candidates with scores of 760+. You can be one of them if you really excel in all other areas of your application.
Let’s take a look at how you can do that.
2.1 Leverage your underrepresented background
Stanford GSB is vocal about wanting a diverse MBA class each year. If you’re from a background that is underrepresented in the applications, you’ll have a better chance of getting in. By the same logic, if you have an overrepresented background, you’ll have to work even harder to stand out.
When business schools talk about “background,” they’re talking about several different things. Below, we've laid out the different ways in which it’s possible to be considered an underrepresented or overrepresented candidate.
One of Stanford's motives in wanting to increase the number of underrepresented candidates on the program is to establish a diversity of ideas and experiences in the classroom and on campus.
With that in mind, if you are from an underrepresented pool, you should try and show how this has given you experiences and perspectives that the average applicant may not have.
The best place to do this will be in your essays, which we'll move on to now.
2.2 Write exceptional essays
Stanford GSB poses two essay questions that must be answered in under a total of 1050 words.
A: What matters most to you and why?
B: Why Stanford?
The essays are the best opportunity you have to make yourself stand out. The admissions board will need to fall in love with your personal story.
With a GMAT score of under 720, good, solid answers will not be enough. You’ll need to write essays that are not only compelling but completely unique to you. You’ll need to think hard and find out what it is about you that sets you apart from other candidates.
Check out our article "11 essential tips for your Stanford MBA essays (2022)" for the best insights on how to ace your essays.
2.3 Craft an amazing resume
The Stanford Class of 2023 averages 4.7 years of professional experience, but this is not a requirement for admission: the MBA program is open to recent graduates with no work experience as well as seasoned professionals.
However, you’ll have a much better chance of getting into Stanford if you’ve worked for a few years. This is because you will have (hopefully) done things during that time that demonstrate leadership and “intellectual vitality,” whereas a recent graduate has had less time to accrue a comparable body of evidence.
What kind of work experience will impress the Stanford admissions committee? Again, they’ll be looking for experiences that stand out from the rest, in terms of the impact you’ve had and the journey you’ve been on.
So, in your resume, remember to focus on your own specific achievements at work. If you’re coming from an underrepresented industry, you’ve got the chance to really sell how you will bring new perspectives and experiences to the MBA class.
If you’re coming from a career in finance or consulting, there will be a large number of applicants on a similar journey. You’ll have to think hard about what makes your experience unique to you, and communicate it really well in the rest of your application.
2.4 Submit impressive recommendation letters
Whatever your GMAT score, you’re going to need to get great recommendation letters. Stanford asks for two recommendation letters: a current supervisor and someone else who has supervised you.
To give you the best possible credit from this part of your application, you should choose recommenders who:
- have supervised you in a professional capacity
- know you well enough to give specific examples
- can each give a different perspective on you
- will care enough about your application to convey real enthusiasm and will have enough time to do a good job
- will understand what you expect from them
Here's Stanford's Kirsten Moss again with some really good advice on recommendation letters. She says it's the part of the application where many candidates fail to give her the "data" she's looking for.
2.5 Show serious leadership skills
Stanford is looking for people with lots of initiative and real leadership skills. You can go a long way toward compensating for a low GMAT score by demonstrating that you’ve got these skills in abundance.
Remember, leadership is about actions, not titles. Maybe you started your own business. Maybe you led a trek up an icy mountain. Or perhaps you took control of an important project within an organization. You’ll need to find powerful examples of leadership, in the workplace and outside it, that you can highlight on your resume and work into your essays.
The below video is quite a useful overview of what leadership can look like in your application (skip to around 5 minutes in because it takes a while to get going).
2.6 Ace your interview
Stanford GSB usually admits around 40-45% of interviewed candidates. In other words, make it to the interview stage and the odds are almost as high as a coin flip. That said, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
You’ll need to be ready with compelling answers to questions about your background, motivations and past experiences, drawing from carefully prepared “stories” that convey desirable traits such as leadership. As you do this, you’ll need to build on the compelling personal narrative that you threaded through your application.
2.7 Be persistent
Unless you’re the next Steve Jobs (or even if you are the next Steve Jobs), you’ll have to have some luck to get into the Stanford MBA. There are so many excellent candidates that your application could be very strong overall but still not make the cut first time around.
That’s why, if you think you have what it takes to do your MBA at Stanford and you’re willing to wait, it can be well worth reapplying the following year if you get rejected.
In fact, most top business school applicants re-take the GMAT at least once. As long as you don't retake it several times without improving, Stanford will have no problem with seeing that you've sat the GMAT more than once.
As we’ve discussed, the higher your GMAT score, the better your chances of getting into Stanford. So if you haven’t yet taken the test, you’ll need to make sure that you put in maximum preparation.
If you have already taken the GMAT and your score isn’t as high as you need it to be, you might want to retake it. You may be able to improve your score significantly, especially if you get some tutoring sessions.
Whether you’ll be taking it for the first, second or third time, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do to get an amazing score on your GMAT.
3.1 Ace the Verbal Reasoning section.
According to the official website, this section “measures your ability to read and understand written material, to evaluate arguments, and to correct written material to conform to standard written English.”
If you’re a native English speaker trying to get into Stanford GSB, nailing the verbal reasoning is your best chance to get into one of the top percentiles, as you have an advantage over all the international testees.
You’ll face 36 questions, consisting of critical reasoning, sentence correction, and reading comprehension. You’ll have 65 minutes to complete it, and it’s really important you answer every question.
Tip: practice using the “pre-thinking” technique to improve your speed on the critical reasoning questions.
3.2 Ace the Quantitative section
This section “measures your ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats.”
Many non-native speakers hoping to get into Stanford target a top 1% score in the Quant section to compensate for a potentially lower score on the verbal questions.
Again, you'll face 36 questions on data sufficiency and problem solving. You’ll have 62 minutes to complete them, and, as always, it’s really important you answer every question.
Tip: The level of math required is NOT very high, the challenge is being able to use this knowledge in the required way.
3.3 Don’t botch the other sections.
The other two sections in the GMAT (Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning) don’t count towards your composite score. That’s why a lot of MBA candidates don’t worry too much about them.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Stanford looks at all components of your GMAT score. And if you get a 2.5 or 3 (out of 6) on one of these sections, it sends a negative signal. We recommend doing enough preparation to make sure you can get a solid 5 on these sections.
3.4 Ensure you reach your potential
Most candidates set themselves targets, and as we discussed above, if you’re hoping to get into Stanford, your target score will probably be 760. However, as corny as it might sound, the most important thing is that you do yourself justice.
What do we mean by this? We mean that you get a score that reflects your maximum capabilities. One that shows how smart you can be when your critical faculties are supported by a well-executed preparation process and the necessary test strategies.
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is unique, but as we've discussed, getting in is difficult, even more so if your GMAT score isn't superb. Fortunately, there are plenty of other excellent options that are more accessible to most candidates.
Below, we’ve listed some B-schools that share one or more of Stanford’s traits but have lower average GMAT scores and higher acceptance rates. They could be a great alternative for you to consider, depending on what exactly it is that attracts you to Stanford.
Let's take a look.
1. Ross (University of Michigan)
Average GMAT: 722
Acceptance rate: ~37%
Cost: ~$66,000 per year
Duration: 2 years
Class Size: 398
If you’re passionate about making a positive social impact but your GMAT score is just slightly on the low side for Stanford, Ross Michigan is a strong alternative.
Its ethos of using business as a force for positive change echoes that of Stanford, and the very active Ross Net Impact Club works to put social responsibility as a core element of the student experience.
2. Olin Business School (Washington University in St Louis)
Olin Business School
Average GMAT: 684
Acceptance rate: ~33%
Cost: $130,438 total
Duration: 2 years
Class Size: 86
If you were hoping to use Stanford as a launchpad to starting your own business, Olin Business School would be a great alternative. For the last 3 years, Poets and Quants have named it their number 1 business school for entrepreneurship.
Furthermore, with a class size of just 86, you’ll get to know your fellow students extremely well - a prime environment for collaboration and making long-term connections.
3. LBS (University of London).
London Business School
Average GMAT: 708
Acceptance rate: ~35%
Cost: £97,500 total
Duration: 15-21 months
Class Size: 532
If prestige is most important to you, London Business School is consistently ranked in the top 10 MBA programs in the world. With a significantly lower average GMAT score than its United States counterparts, it’s relatively accessible to candidates who are worried they won’t quite make the cut for Stanford.
True, it’s a little far from the west coast, but London is an incredible city to live in. And LBS is a great option if you’d enjoy a truly multicultural experience - almost 90% of its MBA class are international students.
4. UCLA Anderson (University of California, Los Angeles)
Average GMAT: 714
Acceptance rate: ~28%
Cost: $65,049 per year
Duration: 2 years
Class Size: 326
If you’re set on studying in sunny California, UCLA Anderson could be a great alternative to Stanford. It’s got a strong reputation and ranks in the top 20 US B-schools. And while it’s not in Silicon Valley like Stanford, a significant proportion of its graduates (30%) go to work in the tech industry.
Its GMAT average for the class of 2023 is 714, but don’t be put off if you're holding a sub-700 score: even with 670 you’d still be within its middle 80% range.