Is the Doctoral programme right for me?

The Doctoral programme at Imperial College Business School is a rigorous and intensive programme for students with excellent academic backgrounds.

Admission to the Doctoral Programme is extremely competitive and the selection committee will pay close attention to all aspects of your application including your academic results, GMAT/GRE score, personal statement and references.

Competition for places on the doctoral programme is high. As a guide, applicants who are offered a place on the programme typically have high grades in their undergraduate degree, a Master’s degree at distinction level and scores in the 90th percentile in GMAT or GRE.

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Please read the following guidance before submitting your application:

Please read the following guidance before submitting your application:

Academic achievement

A PhD at Imperial College London is a demanding academic qualification. We therefore look for evidence of strong and consistent academic performance and expect applicants to have high grades at undergraduate and Master’s level, including a strong dissertation. From graduates of UK institutions, this would normally equate to a combination of at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree at undergraduate level and a Master’s degree awarded with Distinction. Please see the College Country index for the international equivalent of these qualifications, though please bear in mind that the Business School may ask for higher grades than the College minimum.

In exceptional circumstances, we will consider candidates holding a strong First Class Honours undergraduate degree, without a Master’s, if accompanied by very strong academic references and outstanding CV and personal statement.

For general enquiries, please contact us at

What to expect – pre-requisite knowledge and training

As a PhD graduate of Imperial College Business School, you will be expected to have a solid foundation in quantitative research methods, understand the breadth of your research area and have in depth knowledge of your specific field demonstrated through your own original research. Graduates who are working in primarily qualitative fields are still expected to undertake core quantitative methods training.

To be able to succeed in the formal courses, as a minimum, you should have knowledge of:


Topics include functions, limits and continuity, differentiation, applications of the derivative, curve sketching, and integration theory, methods of integration, applications of the integral, Taylor’s theorem, infinite sequences and series

Matrix Theory/Linear Algebra

Topics include matrix algebra, systems of linear equations, determinants, vector algebra and geometry, eigenvalues, eigenvectors, vector spaces, subspaces, bases, and dimension, linear transformations, representation by matrices, nullity, rank, diagonalization, inner products, adjoints, unitary, and orthogonal transformations


Topics include fundamentals of probability theory, confidence intervals, and tests of hypothesis for normal distributions, one- and two-sample tests and associated confidence intervals for means and proportions, analysis of variance, F-tests, correlation, regression, contingency tables, and statistical analysis using the computer

Data analysis and programming

During your courses and research, you will use a variety of analysis tools and programming languages, including R, STATA, MATLAB, Python – applicants who are not confident with programming should learn before enrolling. There are many open online courses available that make it feasible to learn. This Data School web page gives a good round up of some available resources as a starting point.

You can download a copy of the first chapter of our Data Analysis Tools course notes and work through the exercises to test your own knowledge.

Statement of purpose

One of the most important parts of our application form is the Statement of Purpose section. Although you are not expected to have your whole thesis planned at this stage, it is important to articulate your knowledge and ideas. It should include the following:

  • Your motivation for undertaking the MRes and PhD

  • A discussion of possible research areas that you might pursue

  • Business School faculty you have identified that align with your research interests

  • What interests you most about your chosen field of study

  • Relevant past study or research projects – in particular those completed with faculty

GMAT or GRE requirement

A GMAT or GRE score is a compulsory requirement to be considered for entry into the Doctoral programme at Imperial College Business School. This GMAT/GRE score must be submitted before we will consider an application. Please note that we do not make offers on the condition that a candidate achieves a satisfactory GMAT/GRE score.

There are only a few test dates per year in some countries or testing centres. It is highly recommended that applicants arrange a GMAT or GRE test at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that they can submit a timely application.

To locate your nearest GMAT test centre, visit or for your nearest GRE test centre visit Our GRE code is 0121.

Preferred scores

No preference between GRE and GMAT:

  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Marketing

  • Strategy & Organisational Behaviour

GRE preferred:

  • Finance

  • Economics & Public Policy

  • Operations

All applicants are free to take either test and we understand that there are some countries where only one of these tests is available.

We expect applicants to have obtained strong scores across all elements of the exam. We consider strong scores to be in the 90th percentile or higher in either test.


Our preferred GMAT total score is 700 or above. From the different test elements, scores in the 90th percentile roughly equate to: 50/60 in quantitative reasoning, 39/60 in verbal reasoning, 6/6 in analytical writing and 8/8 in integrated reasoning.


From the different test elements, scores in the 90th percentile roughly equate to: 165/170 in quantitative reasoning, 163/170 in verbal reasoning and 5/6 in analytical writing.

English language requirement

All Doctoral students must meet our English language entry requirements. If you have a degree taught in English within the following countries, you meet the English requirement automatically: Australia, Canada, Guyana, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, West Indies. This applies only to degrees that were studied entirely and awarded in the relevant country.

For all other applicants, a full list of acceptable English language qualifications and our required scores can be found on our detailed English language requirement page.

Most applicants meet the requirement in one of the following ways:

  • IELTS (academic): A minimum score of 7.0 with minimum scores of 6.5 in all elements. The IELTS indicator test will be accepted for admissions to the 2020/21 academic year.

  • TOEFL iBT: A minimum score of 100 overall with minimum scores of 22 in all elements. The ETS at Home test will be accepted for admission to the 2020/21 academic year.

  • Duolingo English Test: 125 Overall with no less than 115 in any band score.


  • IELTS, TOEFL and Duolingo scores are only valid if they are less than two years old on the programme start date
  • TOEFL: You must meet the entry requirement in one test from your scaled scores (‘My Best Scores’ reported by TOEFL will not be considered). For more information regarding TOEFL please visit the ETS website. Please note if you would like ETS to send your TOEFL scores directly to the College, our TOEFL Institution Code is 0891.
  • You may submit your online application prior to meeting the English language requirement.

I decided to study at Imperial for three reasons: my research interests aligned well with those of the faculty, the location in London is ideal for someone who wants to study finance and I found the idea of completing a Master’s in Research (MRes) before commencing the PhD really appealing, as it allowed me to develop my knowledge further and provided time to figure out what would be a promising topic to work on rather than starting research immediately.
Doctoral student, Department of Finance