Is My GMAT Good Enough
Let’s start by setting the story straight here: Many people think that the GMAT doesn't carry too
much weight and that if the rest of your application is stellar, then a less-than-perfect GMAT score won’t break your stakes. While this should
be true, it’s not necessarily the case. The GMAT score is often the first element of your application that adcoms look at, and if it’s not in the ballpark, they likely will look at your application, but with somewhat of a more critical eye, perhaps a jaundiced eye.
So do you need a perfect score on your GMAT to gain acceptance to a top-tier business school
? No. But do you need your score to be high enough so that your application is seriously considered, so that the rest of your application isn’t fighting an uphill battle to overcome a sub-par GMAT score? Yes, definitely.
Now let’s return to our question at hand: Is your GMAT score good enough? And to that I offer more questions (sorry – that’s my style!): Good enough for what
? Who are you? What does the rest of your application look like? Which b-schools are you applying to? And what is your score?
Who are you?
Who you are matters because admissions decisions don’t follow a strict formula or algorithm based entirely on numbers. You need to evaluate your score in the context of your demographic profile.
For example, if you’re a guy from India in the IT field who just spent the last five years sitting at a desk coding and crunching numbers, then you’re going to need a more competitive GMAT score than if you’re a gal from Chile who spent the last five years working for a energy-related non-profit that shuttled back and forth between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica.
(Again, even our Chilean social enterprising world explorer will need a score high enough to get her application looked at, but once she makes it past that point, she’ll have no trouble keeping their attention.)
What does the rest of your application look like?
possible to recover from a not-so-ideal GMAT score, but that is if and only if
the rest of your application is flawless (or nearly so).
If you have an almost perfect GPA, stunning application essays, amazing letters of recommendation, and a resume that shows that you’ve worked hard and succeeded, then you’ll be in a position to prove to the adcom that you’re a fantastic candidate and that the GMAT is just not your thing (again, it still needs to be good enough to get your app looked at).
I can’t emphasize enough how important the application essays are. They are perhaps the best way you can show the adcoms who you are and how you plan on contributing to your future MBA program and to the world of business at large. You can use your essays to provide context for low numbers, especially the GPA. It’s harder to do with the GMAT, because you can always retake if context was the issue. However, if you have a good “reason” for your low GMAT score, you may want to touch on it in an optional essay, but make sure you explain calmly and confidently – no sob stories please!
Which b-schools are you applying to?
It goes without saying that some GMAT scores will be highly competitive at some programs and not even close to competitive at others. To see if your score is “good enough,” you need to visit your target schools’ websites and see what their GMAT range is. Don’t just look at the average; the range will give you a better idea of how low they’ll go before weeding out an application based on GMAT score alone. (Of course you shouldn’t aim for a GMAT score that’s close to the bottom of the range – you should aim for above average – but knowing the range will help you determine if you should retake the GMAT or make adjustments to your school selection options.)
What is your score?
If you scored above the 80th percentile on both the verbal and quant sections of the GMAT then you should consider yourself in the clear and good to go to apply to highly ranked MBA programs (assuming that the rest of your application is top-notch as well). If you received lower than that, that doesn’t mean that you need to retake the GMAT (necessarily), but does mean that you need to look at your GMAT in the larger scheme of things and consider retaking the GMAT if you feel your profile needs it and you are aiming for those top programs.
Should I Retake the GMAT?
There’s no yes or no answer here, but I will give you some points to consider that will help you make your decision.You probably should retake the GMAT if…
You probably shouldn't retake the GMAT if…
- You have other weaknesses in your profile and you feel a high GMAT score will help you compensate for it.
- You have the time to prepare, study hard, and change the outcome.
- You are a reapplicant who has received feedback that suggests you need to boost your GMAT score.
- You blame you’re not-so-brilliant score on a bad day and know that if you retook the GMAT you’d have a meaningfully higher score.
- You proudly overshot the 80-80 hurdle. (Note: If you scored above the 80th percentile in both the verbal and quant sections of the GMAT, then you generally don’t need to retake the GMAT, even if you apply to a school at the tippy top of the tier. However, if you’re applying to a top school and you come from an overflowing representative demographic, then you may want to consider retaking the GMAT, but only if you meet the other conditions on this list.)
- You’ve already taken the GMAT 3+ times. (Think about the law of diminishing returns.)
- You are aiming too high and know deep down that you should probably just apply to b-schools with lower average GMAT scores at matriculation. If your GMAT is high enough for schools that you would be happy to attend, then you don’t need to retake it.
Co-Author of: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools
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