‘Why is GMAT important?’. It would be, to put it in a nutshell, to show your sincerity and capability in pursuing a business school program.
And, who exactly are the 3 judges of this reality show waiting to analyse your performance?
1. Admission officers of the most reputed business schools around the world, who judge an aspirant’s earnestness in enrolling in their program.
2. Prospective companies, read multinational conglomerates paying huge salaries, who scout for international talent primarily from esteemed business schools that insist on GMAT scores.
3. Your classmates, who have cleared their GMAT exam with flying colours to earn their rightful place in the best MBA college.
No matter how many times you’ve heard the word ‘holistic’ from admission officers, the fact remains. In terms of quick and absolute impact, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) tops the list for business schools, with the rest like recommendation letters, essays / SOP and other requirements coming second in line.
After you understand why the score is important, the next crucial thing to know is – what’s a good GMAT score? Now herein lies the issue. There is no standard score that all business schools around the globe view with equal awe.
Most, highly ranked ones especially, have their own criteria to arrive at a minimum score, which will set the bar for applicants.
According to U.S.News, the highest average GMAT scores for incoming full time students in Fall 2017 in the US ranged from 737 for Stanford University to 722 for MIT Sloan. In Europe, it ranged from 712 for INSEAD to 670 in IE (Spain). Hence you see, it is difficult to predict what works where.
The GMAT assesses the higher-order reasoning skills of a candidate, including verbal, quantitative, analytical writing and integrated reasoning. The final score is derived as a function of each of these. Many test takers score between 400 to 600. Read this post to know what’s the average GMAT score amonst all test takers in the world.
The 80 percentile of GMAT score distribution that many B-schools publish lies in the 650-750 range. That puts 650 at the lower end. A score of 700 and above is quite common among the Indian applicant pool. Many test takers are engineers who are good at the quantitative concepts that are tested in the exam.
GMAT scores also include percentile ranking, indicating the percent of test takers that you performed better than, according to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). These rankings are recalculated every summer based on past three year scores (Read GMAT Percentiles for Quantitative, Verbal, IR and AWA scores and GMAT Scaled Score Table – GMAT Score Calculator).
Also read this post on How to get a perfect 800 GMAT score.
Most applicants wanting to make it big with a foreign B-school degree often wonder, if the GMAT is the defining factor in their admission chances. Well, not always.
While top ranked B-schools do want to see a higher score in your test results, and the score is REALLY important to even make it to the list of shortlisted candidates, it is not always the case.
They also factor in the overall strength of the person, from his academic and work achievements, does s/he stands at par or above other applicants for the school, is the industry and role s/he comes from unusual, among other factors.
Sometimes, being from a minority background (under-represented is a better term) ups your chances of getting through. Having said that, don’t think that coming from a minority background ensures you are taken in.
International B-schools are hunting for prospective business leaders who can change the way the world thinks or functions. They can figure out who is brandishing his or her minority status to get into the big league and who despite his or her minority background wants to continue doing the amazing work they have been doing so far in their respective countries.
There is no thin line in here. With their years of experience, the admission committees can sniff out the difference. To know what is a minority profile and how B-schools treat minority MBA applications, read our previous blog here – Minority MBA Applicants.
On the whole, a score higher than 700 is usually a good thing as the universities feel you can take the stress that comes with the whole package of getting the degree from their respective institutes.
Let’s say, even if it comes to 710 or 730, and not 750, you are still in the safe zone and can now focus more on the MBA essays, SOP and recommendations and the other things you are submitting to them. The idea is that you come across as a person who gets maximum checks on their list.
Got a GMAT score of 600 or less than 700? Does that kill your prospects of getting into your dream university, say top 10? Actually, in most cases, it does have a serious negative effect.
For a high ranking university, there is a certain expectation from the candidate with a certain test score, while a low-ranking university may settle for a little less. Yet, not all are the same, hence the scores may differ wildly.
Before you think it is the end of the world for you, sit up and look at things, er, holistically (to borrow from the Adcom dictionary). Look at the criteria that B-schools take into account before admitting in terms of the weight they put on the same.
If the GMAT total score and quant percentile make up 22% on the weighing scale, it is your essay questions that come next with 15%, admission interviews 12%, undergraduate GPAs 10%, and so on.
Were you (or are you) involved in extra-curricular activities like pro bono work or maybe sports, music? Anything that is an extension of your profile as a student/professional.
Do you have solid work experience of several years?
Are you a consistent professional or your six years of job has been spent job hopping?
Are you conversant in a foreign language other than English? A major foreign language would help you interact better with fellow students who come from that part of the world, at the same time show your eagerness to learn something new.
Read more about what is important in MBA applications.
So, what do you do? Chuck your current score and plunge neck deep into preparing for another round of GMAT?
Depending on which schools you are targeting and how low your score is, and if you are in a position to take it again, it may actually be a good idea. It is an expensive deal for sure so weigh in your chances before taking it up.
If you decide to go ahead with the original score, then just focus on the overall quality of the program you want to get into. Figure out the school and its reputation in the business, look at its placement record. If the latter is good enough, which is actually the purpose of the degree, then try and not assess it with the rankings. Also read Impact of GMAT on getting a job interview.
References: 1, 2, 3