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Can a high GMAT score compensate for less work experience?

Another one of those GMAT FAQ regulars. Each year we get profiles where we see great work experience with not so good GMAT scores. For many guys who’ve completed their graduation several years back, the concept of preparing for a test can be a tough challenge. They’ve spent 3-5 years doing well in their chosen careers, but their GMAT scores end up being the weakest link in the profile.

Then there is the other category of candidates that excels at cracking competitive tests and exams. Fresh out of college, their cranium hosts the perfect GMAT exam cracking machine. ‘I have been working for 1 year and I got a GMAT score of 780’, ‘I don’t have a very impressive profile and I don’t have a GMAT score yet. But I think I can definitely get above 750.’
(Top MBA in USA and UK with 2 years of work experience)

Check out the average profiles for the top schools where the average work-experience is 4-5 years and then check out other schools where the work-experience is higher (Read Will too much or too little work experience hurt your MBA admission chances?). Do you see a trend for average GMAT scores? It’ll give the perception that the younger candidates are getting in mainly due to their high GMAT scores. So it is natural to generalise this across the table and assume a brilliant strong GMAT score will elevate the rest of the profile as well. We would beg to differ.

Here are some reasons why a GMAT score cannot replace work-experience:

– Skills disconnect
The skills tested by standardised tests like the GMAT are more to do with verbal and quantitative analysis. It’s the only option that allows Adcoms to compare apples-to-apples on a global basis when it comes to these skills, nothing beyond that.

– Managerial potential disconnect
The score provides absolutely no indication to MBA Admission Officers about your professional capabilities. Just because you scored high on the GMAT doesn’t make you a good manager or a business leader.

– Effort and progress disconnect
GMAT scores can be dramatically improved in a few months with the right material and practice. Gaining some impressive work-experience is a slow and time-consuming process. It’s a better way to demonstrate how you’ve grown as a professional.

So if you are one of those candidates hoping to get into a top MBA university but aren’t sure if your work experience is strong enough, focus on what you can do at work to make it stronger rather than putting all your energy into some other easier-to-fix component (within your MBA application) that’s pretty much disconnected with the others. Long sentence, hope it made sense.

Read MBA after 5 year Work Experience

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

12 thoughts on “Can a high GMAT score compensate for less work experience?”

  1. Hi Sameer,

    I am looking for us for my mba i scored in gmat 710 and in toefl is-103, i have work exp of 1 year, i have scored in my bach-52%, my question is am i eligible to do mba in us in sep 2015

  2. Hi,

    My GRE score is 292 and yet to write my TOEFL exam. I even have 4 years of full time work experience in an MNC. Would it be apt to pursue MBA in USA with my GRE score?


    • Do i need to work in a firm or company related to the MBA stream i have to do in near future or any kind of work experience is countable?

  3. Hi! Prima Facie my question is I have done my internship(3 years) from a top world class organisation and I intend to join top B schools in USA for MBA in Finance… As of now I am preparing for my GMAT…

    So will this be sufficient? and secondly, which university will be recommended for MBA in Finance..


  4. @Aditi: You’ll need 3-4 years work experience too. For most American MBA colleges the average experience in the class profile is 5 years.

    @Abhishek: It definitely does. Ensure that you highlight the specific role and the quantifiable accomplishments. This can be a challenge in a family business where roles for kids of the business owners (second generation entrepreneurs) are very loosely defined.

  5. Hi Sameer, I wish you had shared your email id as I feel this portal is too public. I am really confused with GMAT prep. As I don’t want to get rejected by US premier colleges ,for not having enough credentials, even after working hard and somehow managing to score 750 plus in GMAT, Hence, I have shared my profile below. Please suggest whether I should give it a shot? and if not US which are the other good universities.:-
    10th:87 %
    12: 68%
    Btech: 76%
    I have total of 28 months of work experience in a tier one company as a part of operations. I was involved in few projects, which included strategies for process improvement, got some good reviews from the clients. I initiated and took active role in a project for improvement of a tool, which was integral to the teams around the globe.
    During my college I co-founded a intra-college social network website, which was the first in my city.The website wasn’t much of a success, but, we managed to win a enterprenural competition(included participants from IIMs). I was president of the coding club, organised technical symposium, also first in my college. Was the School Captain at my school. Participated in many Extra-Curricular activities.

    Could you please share your email id? I really need your guidance.

  6. Hi Sameer,

    I completed by with an aggregate of 85% during my four years and currently working in IBM since 5 months.
    I have been planning to work for the next couple years that is 2016-18 and start my MBA program in August 2018.
    At the time of application or form filling i would be having an experience of roughly 25 months .
    Will this time would be appropriate enough to get thorough a “GOOD” MBA college in USA or somewhere outside India say New-Zealand or Australia?
    Also which countries should be preferred while opting for a MBA program?

  7. Hi sameer,
    I have finished my post graduation in 2011 and have been working since in a life science based company as a research officer, I feel that my career growth is struck and want to pursue MBA in USA . I have gone through many queries on your website, Gmat is the proper base for the admission. I have an above average academic scores I want to know what score in gmat will be good enough for the admission.

  8. Sir I’m working as a US IT Recruiter from past 3 years and I’ve a bachelors ( percentage of 70 percent. I’m very interested to pursue my MBA from UK. So if get a good marks in GMAT and TOEFL then can I’ve my MBA from UK and is there any chances for me to get a scholarship


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