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Interview with Wharton 'former admissions officer' [#permalink]
19 Sep 2006, 09:27
GMAT Wisdom from an Admissions Consultant
This week, we want to share with you a conversation we had recently with Graham Richmond, a former admissions officer at Wharton who now works at Clear Admit, an admissions consulting firm.
ManhattanGMAT: Do schools care if you take the GMAT more than once?
Graham Richmond: In a nutshell, no. To elaborate, though, it depends on the context. If your first score is significantly below a school's reported average, it doesn't make sense to take the exam only once. It sends a message to the school that you're not realistic and you don't have the drive to succeed. If you have to take the exam two or three times to get the score you need to be competitive, that's OK. If you take it more than that, schools may begin to look askance. Also, be careful of cancellations. One cancellation is understandable. Perhaps you were sick or had other problems in your life. Multiple cancellations, however, look bad in the eyes of an admissions committee.
ManhattanGMAT: Let's say one applicant scores a 700 on her first official GMAT exam. Another applicant fails to hit 700 on her first official exam but achieves this score on her second attempt. Does the admissions committee look at these two applicants differently?
Graham Richmond: From an admissions perspective, no.
ManhattanGMAT: What if your score is actually lower on the second attempt?
Graham Richmond: It's a little difficult to assess a situation like that out of context. But an admissions committee would probably view the higher score as the more accurate gauge, even though the lower score is more recent. There are many reasons that someone could do less well on a subsequent attempt: personal or physical problems, for example. And even if the second attempt produces a lower score, the mere fact that the applicant took the exam again can show the committee that the applicant is driven and determined.
ManhattanGMAT: If an applicant takes the exam more than once, will schools take the better quant subscore and better verbal subscore if they're from different exams? For example, if on the first try someone gets 45Q and 35V and the second time 42Q and 40V, will a school take the 45Q and the 40V?
Graham Richmond: The only school I'm aware of that will split up scores like that is the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. All other schools I know will take the higher overall score, even if there's a similar pattern to what you described.
ManhattanGMAT: What is the point of the Analytical Writing Assessment (the essay section) of the GMAT?
Graham Richmond:The Analytical Writing Assessment was added to the GMAT to give business schools a way to test applicants' "natural" writing abilities. The essays they receive with your applications have probably been reviewed by friends, colleagues, perhaps even an admissions consultant. But the essays you write during the GMAT are ostensibly a better indication of how well you write on your own, since you can't receive any help with them. Keep in mind, however, that they are not the biggest factor in a committee's evaluation of your application. Schools will want to see scores of 4 and higher on the essays, but this is a minor variable in your overall package. Most schools don't even read the essays; they simply look at the score.
ManhattanGMAT: How do admission committees verify one's GMAT score?
Graham Richmond: During the main evaluation of an application, we at Wharton relied on the self-reported scores listed in the application itself. After we made a favorable decision on an applicant, an intern would check the self-reported score against the official score report to make sure they matched. Also, if you take the GMAT again after your submit your application, it's your responsibility to inform the schools that they should take the new scores into account, since they will have only the older score report to work with at that point. You can also use your application to explain to a committee that you're willing to take the exam again if your score is deemed too low.
ManhattanGMAT: What are some recent trends in business school applications?
Graham Richmond: After record numbers of applications from 1999 to 2001, we saw a drop-off in 2003 and 2004. But GMAC reported this year that the number of test-takers has increased in 2005, so that will probably translate into more applications, which means there will probably be tougher competition for seats in business schools. We've also seen a pretty steady increase in the average GMAT scores of top schools. From 1997 to 2005, we've seen a jump from an average score of about 680 to an average score of 716 at Wharton and 712 at Harvard. It's hard to say why scores have gone up since the CAT format was introduced in the late 1990's. It may be that people are now spending more time preparing and studying for the exam.
ManhattanGMAT: Does the round in which one applies make a difference to one's chances of admission?
Graham Richmond: Yes. It gets harder to pass muster as the rounds go on. Especially in the third round. Basically, each round is considered a separate applicant pool, but by the third round, many of the places have been filled and you really have to stand out in order to get yourself noticed. It's much better to submit your application in an earlier round. Stanford, for example, admitted only 4 applicants in its third round recently. Sometimes schools wait list applicants in earlier rounds to see how the class is shaping up before making a final decision on them, so in the third round you're competing not only against new applicants, but also against wait listed ones.