How to overcome a low GMAT score and get into a top MBA program?

Low GMAT Score: How to overcome

In an ideal world, or rather in your ideal version of the world as an MBA applicant, you would have a Pulitzer worthy essay, a frame-worthy work and educational background, an enviable extra-curricular record, and an impressive GMAT score well above the 99th percentile over 760.

All that just to impress the socks off the admissions committee of your target business school so they not only offer you a spot but also garnish it with as much scholarship to make your MBA journey a smooth ride.

But, what if your idyllic bubble is shattered by not the years of hard work in building a stellar resume and polishing your essay to perfection?

What if it is that pesky GMAT score, so revered as a standardized holy grail of evaluating apples with oranges, that falls short of your and any adcom expectation?

What do you do if your GMAT score is low?

GMAT is probably one of the very first things every MBA applicant starts out tackling in their long and arduous journey towards acceptance in a program.

In many ways, it not only sets the tone of your application, making it easier for you to filter out the schools based on your score but also helps to compensate for other factors that may be lacking in your application.

Although MBA applications are viewed holistically, keeping in mind the candidate as whole beyond the score. A good score is certainly a helpful marker, if not the only marker, of your candidature.

But if you are faced with a fate of a low score it is not necessarily a certain derailment of your MBA plans. In this article, we will explore what are the typical ways to combat a low GMAT score.

Let’s list them out. We have also interspersed this article with direct testimonies from MBA applicants who managed success despite low GMAT scores to guide you through their process.

What to do if your GMAT score is low?

Note to self: It is not the end of the world.

Is it worth retaking the GMAT?

GMAT scores are squarely dependent on timing and skill. Many feel, preparing for the GMAT by polishing their verbal or quantitative skills through endless practice questions is the best way.

Unfortunately, this puts them at risk of losing score by not being able to attempt the questions in the dedicated short amount of time.

GMAT test takers of the past have sworn how the right kind of GMAT preparation did the trick of upping their scores several percentile higher than their first attempt.

GMAC gives test takers the opportunity to right their wrong multiple times and fortunately the scores of previous failed attempts are almost never reviewed by admission committees. Only the latest score is what they see, by most of the top-ranking schools.

Many b-schools actually recommend applicants to consider a retake in case they feel better preparation can help. So, yes. Rescheduling is definitely worth it.

The caveat is that you don’t just repeat the same formula over and over again expecting better results.

A failed attempt is an excellent opportunity to understand what is lacking in your preparation. Not falling for tricks to solve questions but rather adopt the best way with fuller understanding of what is expected. Shoot for the best recommended prep materials and practice timed tests.

In fact, here are some of the typical GMAT preparation mistakes to avoid.

Another fact to keep in mind is that GMAT is a computer adaptive test. That is, your score will totally depend on how accurately you are able to start the test out.

If you answer correctly, you will be given more difficult questions worth a lot more points and thus giving you the opportunity to climb up your score.

If you start out with mistakes, you will get easier following questions that may sum up to a lower score even if you end up making fewer overall mistakes than someone who started out with a bang.

Moral. Retake if you think you can better your prep and thus your score.

Here is a testimony from an MBA grad who chose to retake the GMAT and achieve success.

– You would think one retake is taxing enough. Puneet took the GMAT 5 times to improve his score from 540 to 740 and make it to his dream program at the Indian School of Business.

Is there a Plan B in B-school selection?

Even though GMAT scores are just a part of the application materials that are viewed holistically – a good essay, good academic background and work experience, and the works – a lot of the top business school MBA programs have notoriously high class average (well above 700+).

Read Average GMAT score in top MBA programs and top business schools.

However, there are a lot of well reputed MBA programs with lower average scores. Long story short, one b-school’s low score may just be another b-school’s average.

Keeping that in mind, with a low GMAT score revelation, it may be wise to reconsider your b-school selection altogether just to improve your chances of getting an admission nod.

Read Average GMAT scores: What are your chances?

Can GMAT score be waived?

A lot of MBA programs, especially in the pandemic situation, have chosen to waive the GMAT score altogether or upon request from the candidate.

Instead, they stipulate that the academic prowess shown through the score be represented in some other fashion, such as academic or professional records.

If GMAT is your sore point, it would probably behove you to explore those options so as to do away with the requirement altogether.

Of course, you should have the solid backup of explaining such a waiver through a convincing and moving essay. This is why I think I am a desirable candidate despite my choice of waiving my GMAT score submission.

If they are impressed with what they read, they will probably not hesitate to call you in for an interview and give you a chance. Always remember – Applications are viewed holistically.

Here are a few b-schools that are known to offer GMAT waivers for MBA application and sample letters to help you chalk out your request.

Keep in mind that your essays, recommendations and interviews will come under greater scrutiny when you’ve waived off your GMAT score in the application.

Show off your skill in alternate ways

GMAT tests two main things – your quantitative and your verbal skills (GMAT Syllabus). There are other ways to capture that in your resume.

Consider doing a math or analytical course or certification. Get cracking on a professional project that displays your quant and communicative acumen. Essentially, do what you can to fill the void left by that low or absent GMAT score.

Here are a few testimonials for candidates who managed to get admits in their dream schools despite low GMAT scores. Some even with scholarships.

– HEC Paris admit with scholarship with a GMAT score of 640 is a rarity, given the b-school brand. This MBA applicant from India made it with a scholarship.

– Shouvik made it into India’s prestigious SPJIMR with a 600. He shares his story in this article.

– Pulkit retook his GMAT to only his score from 570 to 670 and faced multiple rejections until he managed to get the right guidance for his MBA essay and got admits from Spain’s ESADE and Switzerland’s St Gallen. Read his story here.

– Warwick Business School admit shares how he made it into the top European Business School with a GMAT of 640.

Have you considered taking the GRE?

Yes, it is yet another standardized test. But there are many test takers who have been able to achieve success in admissions by switching from GMAT to GRE.

With an increasing number of reputed business schools accepting both for MBA applications, this is yet another channel that you can check out.

– Civil Engineer and UC Berkeley MBA admit shares how she could only score a 650 on GMAT after 4 attempts. But by switching to GRE she scored high on her quants and managed success with 50% scholarship. Read her story here.

– Switching from GMAT (with a 570 score) to GRE landed this MBA applicant three b-school admits with scholarships – MBA at Washington University St. Louis, Master of Management at Duke University, and MSC in International Management at ESADE. Here’s his story.

– Also read why this former ISB student body president chose GRE over GMAT for his ISB MBA application, his student and placement experience that translated into success in his career.

Here’s a short comparison of the two tests – GRE vs GMAT. Which is better?

Ultimately, as we started out saying. A low GMAT is not the end of your MBA application journey. It can be turned into just a short pause and re-planning step in the whole process.

Check out other happy success stories here on our MBA Crystal Ball Forum for GMAT.

For more testimonials from MBA applicants who achieved successful admits, you can visit our page on MBA Application Consulting Reviews.

But don’t get carried away by the success stories. The fact is a low GMAT score does increase the risks and reduce the overall impact of the application – putting more load on the other application components.

After you’ve considered the alternatives and have decided to take the risks in your stride, the consulting team at MBA Crystal Ball may be able to help.

If you need any professional help with your MBA applications, drop us a line at: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

We’d love to host your success story on our blog where you share your secret recipe for overcoming your low GMAT score to get into the top MBA programs.

More GMAT related articles:
GMAT Preparation
GMAT Score

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