Is a 690 GMAT Score good enough for Columbia? Another NYC Quant Battle!

Another NYC Quant Battle to a 690 GMAT Score! But is it good enough?

A 640, a dubious quant score, a 690 on the horizon

Lara sent over a sweet, detailed email looking to schedule a consultation. I always appreciate prospective students taking the time to relate their GMAT war stories. This info really helps get the ball rolling. Lara had under-performed on her first GMAT (640). I know, not terrible, but the score was absurdly verbal heavy/quant light to the point of being an issue for admissions. In the end we achieved a 690 GMAT score. Was it enough for the gatekeepers at Columbia? Read on to see what went wrong with her initial GMAT quant preparation and how we got her GMAT score moving in the right direction!

A Positive Consultation

Although she’d hit a dead end with her previous GMAT studying, Lara still seemed highly motivated. I have a lot of respect for a positive attitude (especially when it is coupled with a great work ethic!). We decided on 7 weeks of quant only preparation. Somewhat zippy, but for people who have already been studying for months short but sweet works best.

GMAT Preparation

GMAT quant questions are based on very basic math (mixed with a healthy dose of critical thinking). Many people underperforming on the quant section aren’t as comfortable as they should be with this basic underlying math and because of the “math stress” that this causes are severely under-utilizing their critical thinking skills. Lara fell into this category as do many of my NYC tutoring students. She had taken a certain big box GMAT class which emphasized very tough Quant. I find this “shock and awe” quant approach counter-productive - it dings your confidence and saddles you with techniques specific to these ultra-tough-not-GMAT questions. It took a moment for Lara to buy-in to the idea that the “math” part of the GMAT quant isn’t all that tough and that the tough part is actually the critical thinking. After she got over her Quant fear, Lara was surprised at the simplicity of many GMAT questions. There was a lot of “that’s all that is?” Yep!. Her practice test scores rose to the low 700s with the quant surging. The verbal lagged a bit.

GMAT Day: 630

Oh crap... Her score had gone down! The quant had improved nicely from a 35 to a 39 but surprisingly the verbal score had shrunken to a 35. More tutoring? She didn't need it. The fundamentals were in place. Sometimes it just takes a second for the scores to catch up. I offered another GMAT study schedule to organize her preparation for the second exam. She stayed on point. The quant looked great - the verbal still sluggish.

GMAT Day: 640

Flat... but still we were hopeful. The quant was a whopping 45, a full ten points from the 35 she had started from and in the 60th+ percentile range that seems to be the sensitive zone for admission to the best MBA programs. Woohoo. The verbal score was decent but a far cry from the 42 she’d started with. We traded emails and felt that it was worthwhile to take on more GMAT. She still felt motivated and we were both confident that she could add some meaningful points to her GMAT score.

GMAT Day: 690

Oh so close!!!!! She’d almost sealed the deal but still hadn’t quite managed to crush the verbal. Why? A mystery. My guess: she needed a more structured technique for sentence correction. She was good at SC but relied a bit too much on her ear. This approach can be time consuming and can fail you in the stress of test day. Even for natural verbal masters it is super helpful to have some structure to rely on. After the GMAT trilogy we decided to move forward with the 690 GMAT. Did she get in  to Columbia? Affirmative!

690 GMAT Score FAQ

What is the 690 GMAT Percentile Score?

As of 2019 a 690 GMAT score is in the 85th percentile (a 700 is in the 88%). Keep in mind that GMAT percentile scores change based on the pool of test takers so the percentile for a 690 could be different in the future. Here are some 690 GMAT percentiles scores from recent history:

In the year 2000 a 690 GMAT score was in the 92nd percentile:

690 GMAT Percentile Score

From 2003-2006 that same 690 composite score dropped to the 91st percentile:

690 GMAT Percentile Score


From 2005-2007 the 690 GMAT percentile plummeted to the 88th%:

690 GMAT Percentile Score

Here is an in depth look at GMAT percentiles and some analysis on why your GMAT quant percentile is in the dumps.

Is a 690 GMAT Score Good Enough?

Yes, a 690 GMAT score is good enough. No MBA program will auto-reject a 690 and there are many programs for which a 690 is at or above the median. A 690 is an excellent GMAT score. Still, ff you're applying to Harvard, Stanford, Columbia or any of the other ultra elite schools the 690 will be below the median. Again, your 690 may still be good enough. It's just not going to be an asset. And further, you'll need other highlights to balance out the below-the-median GMAT score.

Retake a 690 GMAT Score?

It depends. If you've got a ton of gas in the tank and feel motivated to do so then yes: retake the 690! Why not? If you're absolutely sick of the GMAT and ready to move on with your life then you might move forward with the 690. A 690 GMAT score is good enough for a great majority of MBA programs and if you've got a great application the 690 is good enough for any MBA program on the planet. Also, if you severely underperformed on test day that would be a push in the direction of retaking the 690. Will it make a difference to get that 690 up ten points to a 700+? Other parts of your application are more important that those ten points to 700. However, maybe you'll hit a 720? 30 points do mean something. And, consider, especially if you're really getting nauseous thinking about more GMAT studying, that you might earn a scholarship with a higher score.


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