Can a high GMAT score make up for low GPA?

High GMAT low GPA

Is the GMAT score more important than the GPA? Can a high GMAT score make up for low GPA, no international experience, no extracurricular activities?

Well, in some cases and to some extent it can. A high GMAT score can be attractive for programs looking to raise their average GMAT score.

Karthik, a mechanical engineer from NIT Calicut, was in a pretty strong footing when it came to his GMAT score (a cool 770!). Instead of getting carried away, from his research on what else bschools expected beyond a good GMAT score, he knew it wasn’t time to rejoice yet.

The elite MBA programs in Europe he was targeting weren’t obsessed with high GMAT scores. They were equally concerned about the other application components – academic performance (GPA / grades), extracurriculars, leadership, international experience.

[Read how much weight each MBA application component carries]

Karthik didn’t have much to offer in those departments. He shares his application journey that got him interview calls from all but one program, and an admit from one.


Can a high GMAT score make up for low GPA?

by Karthik

From my childhood, I have always been fascinated with solving problems and gaining more knowledge each day. My friends would describe me as an extremely fast learner, and never as one to fear a new challenge.

But the flip side of this is that slower paced and theoretical tasks bring out my worst performances.

This tendency led to my low GPA in my undergraduate course. My love for physics and math in school prompted me to choose Mechanical engineering at NIT Calicut for my bachelor’s. But I didn’t find myself enjoying the course and was unable to perform well.

However, the field of data science where one uses applied mathematics to solve real world problems appealed to me a lot.

I found my way into the field though Mu Sigma Inc, and I have truly relished being a data scientist, with a cumulative experience of over 5 years in 3 companies with BCG being the latest one.

But true to my nature, once I got introduced to the world of strategy consulting, with its much bigger scale and impact of problems, I have set my mind on being part of it.

I decided that an MBA is the best way to get there. And that too a global MBA since I felt the experience an Indian MBA can give me will not be that different to that of working at BCG in India.

The first step involved giving the GMAT. I had a feeling this would be the easiest part of the application process for me, since I am good at math and in addition read over 50 books a year ranging from high fiction to eclectic non-fiction.

And when I scored 720 in the official mock without any preparation, I decided to give the GMAT rather soon.

My preparation mainly involved testing myself on the many free mock tests available from different GMAT prep websites like Manhattan and Veritas Prep.

With a GMAT score of 770, I moved on to the next step of the applications.

I had my mind set on European Schools, since the relatively more experienced and diverse cohort compared to US schools appealed to me more.

But this also meant I was going to face extra tough competition, as Trump’s polices were driving international students away from US and the added pressure of looming recession was driving business school applications up steeply.

Additionally, COVID-19 meant that the number of deferrals from the previous application cycle would be at a record high.

With a low GPA, minimal leadership experience and extra-curricular activities, and zero international experience, I knew I would be a tough sell to the European schools, with their low weightage to GMAT scores.

I knew I needed the help of the best to have any chance of getting in to the top schools.

After my research, I decided to start off my consultant search with MBA Crystal Ball, as the MBA consulting reviews were all overwhelmingly positive.

Sure enough, the scoping call with Manish Gupta (MG) was enough to convince me that MBA Crystal Ball is the way to go for me.

What attracted me the most was the brutal honesty in pointing out the pros and cons in my profile, and conveying upfront that their role is not to write my essays for me (which ensures my voice shines through) but rather to bring out my strengths and make my profile appear more holistic.

I was assigned a consultant who is an LBS alumna. My experience with Richa was not at all how I imagined hiring a consultant would be.

When the introductory call went for hours, I realized she really meant it when she said she loves to get to know the candidate personally and in detail.

My first task was to convince her of my motivations and story.

This was my first taste of how detailed and well researched one’s motivation should be. From just talking to the alumni to the admission essays, this detailed research later proved essential.

Her informal and personal approach also meant that I could work with her continuously on even small details as opposed to sticking to a certain predetermined number of allowed revisions.

But the biggest advantage that came with working with her was her ability to cover for my apparent weaknesses in the essays. I tend to undersell my less than stellar abilities and achievements.

Richa’s deep study of my profile allowed her to draw out experiences and stories that I would not have ever thought relevant to the essays and turn them into the highlights of my essays.

The schools that I shortlisted, namely LBS, HEC Paris, Oxford Said and Cambridge Judge, were all ones that I would happily join if given a chance to.

Their experienced cohorts with over 90% international students and of course the global brands and top rankings they commanded are what helped me make the decision.

For each school, I spoke to numerous alumni and attended multiple events organized by the schools, albeit virtually.

This assisted me in tailoring each essay for the schools. And even with the extremely competitive admission cycle, I was invited to interview with all but LBS.

Interviews for Oxbridge were similar in that they involved a 30-minute call with a senior faculty member. And it touched on usual MBA interview questions like why MBA and why the school.

However, the HEC Paris process involved two separate interviews with two alumni, in which I was also asked to start with a 10-minute presentation on a topic of my choice, followed by over an hour of discussions.

Now having just reserved my place at a global top 10 MBA at HEC Paris, the past few months feel like an adventure.

And as an Indian Male Engineer with minimal extra-curriculars, no international experience and a low GPA, the value of the MBA essays is hard to oversell.

Whether you choose to work with a consultant or not, my advice to anyone in a similar situation is to prioritize the essays and start working on them as soon as possible.

Applying for a top MBA program in the world is a truly transformative experience, which will teach you a lot more about yourself and your passions.

Send us an email (info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com) if you’re looking for professional admissions consulting help with your MBA essays to the top business schools in France (like HEC Paris, INSEAD) or any other elite program in the world.

Also read:
Some more low GPA success stories to inspire you
– Watch our fun MBA Rap video!

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

2 thoughts on “Can a high GMAT score make up for low GPA?”

  1. I have 49 percent in graduation honours from calcutta universitywill i be able to make in harvard and stanford mba


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