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# The Myth of the 800 GMAT

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The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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25 Nov 2008, 19:08
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The Myth of the 800 GMAT

The maximum GMAT score is 800, but the best score is far lower, as MBA Admissions advisor Avi Gordon, explains.

- - -

I had a MBA admissions client recently who I’ll call Tim, and when Tim and I got talking about his admissions profile he told me he’d scored 720 on the GMAT, and then retaken the test (and scored the same again). I nearly dropped the phone. “Why would anyone ever want to retake a 720 GMAT?” I gasped.

The truth is, I know why. Candidates think the higher they score, the better their chances of admission. It seems obvious but is it right? Yes, of course the GMAT is crucial. It tells Adcom about an applicant’s intellectual and cognitive skills, and is particularly useful in allowing easy comparison across institutions and undergraduate majors, to some extent across cultures. Furthermore, every 10-point gain adds to candidates’ admissions prospects, and a move of 30 or so fundamentally changes which b-schools they can legitimately hope to get into.

But this is true only up to a certain level, about the 700-740 range. A higher score has diminishing returns and can even – believe it or not – harm one’s chances.

Why? As I told Tim, there are two reasons. First, although the MBA is a post-graduate university degree, it is primarily professional education. Its fundamental task is to prepare and place people in business management positions, not academic positions. Managers need to be smart but, as everyone knows, the cleverest people don’t necessarily make the best managers, nor best entrepreneurs, or bankers, or consultants. Jack Welch, Herb Kelleher, George Soros, Ted Turner, etc., are smart enough. But they are not Einsteins. MBA Adcoms are not looking for brainiacs.

The second, related, reason is it takes a mix of talents to get admitted to a competitive school. The operative term here is “mix”. Academic ability is just one of many items considered, along with career potential, leadership potential, team player profile, work experience, volunteer experience, profile diversity, and so on. Academic ability is definitely a requirement, but so are many other attributes. This reflects the multifaceted demands of a real business career.

This explains why an ultra-high GMAT can be harmful. Scoring in the super bracket (750 or above) means that you are, by definition, in the 99th percentile. People who score like that are often better pure scientists or philosophers, than managers. It’s a stereotype, but the absent-minded professor is commonly associated with being a poor people-person and a poor manager. If you get a very high score, Adcom will be absolutely sure to thoroughly check and almost disbelieve that you are also a leader and team player and can manage adversity and do all the practical things you need to get done in a business day.

So, at around the 700 level, a threshold is reached (depending on GPA results and other possible variables) where Adcom can safely put a check mark next to your academic ability, and move on to see what else you offer. If you are too far below the school’s average GMAT, nothing else you are, do, or say will count. But once you hit the threshold, it’s pointless to keep knocking in that nail. A higher GMAT won’t check any other box than “intellectually capable” and chances are it’s already checked at 700. A super-score is not going to help you if your references are so-so and your essays are undeveloped. Adcom prefers “balanced good” to “unbalanced excellent.”

This also explains why there is more malleability in the system than most candidates realize. If the rest of your application is good and your undergraduate record is in the right range, you can be up to 40 or 50 points below the school’s published GMAT average (providing you are not too lopsidedly in Math or Verbal.) Obviously, the published average means that half of accepted applicant’s scores are below that mark.

It makes sense to be very concerned with the GMAT until it is within the guidelines of your target program. Then forget about it and spend time on other aspects of your application.

- - -

Avi Gordon is the author of “MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing, McGraw Hill, 2005. He is the director of The MBA Admissions Studio http://www.mbastudio.net
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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26 Nov 2008, 08:15
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i scored 750+ and i can tell you i am no scientist or academic. i hate standardized tests and my goal was only to score above 700. i sure hope adcoms don't have stereotype in the way this article described. standardized tests are only a measure of how well you can study for that test, and that's why there's always debates about the SATs. apparently, i studied well. now, an IQ test on the other hand...well, if i took that, i might fail
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 01:03
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Seriously, this guy is a joke. I haven't taken GMAT yet but I got 99%ile on my SAT, and I aint a rocket scientist. It's laughable to say that someobody who can ace a test that is basically algebra mixed with some reading is a rocket scientist (not that the test is easy, but the knowledge base it covers is relatively basic compared to college-level material. If you know the concepts and take the test methodically and avoid careless errors, you will score 700+).

Also...FYI to this guy but just because the average score is 650 doesn't mean half the scores are below 650. Just a little basic statistics for you. I guess I'll be getting a call from NASA just for knowing that!
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 03:31
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This doesn't quite explain why average scores have been slowly creeping upwards. This very article, if written a few years ago, would have said a 680 is the "best" score to have - anything higher and you're a rocket scientist. Now it's probably 720, or the upper end of the 700-740 range the author directly refers to.

Standardized tests are of course no measure of genius. Yet, a higher score is practically always better than a lower one. Even if you get a 750, if you're SURE you can get a 780 in your next try, by all means go for it. Ceteris paribus, it will only strengthen your application and put you in the running for scholarships etc. No one gets rejected because they did TOO well on the GMAT.
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 08:16
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Having read the first post and its follow ups... I am wishing I had not been made privy to this insight of adcom. No, I don't have a score of 750+ ...its 690 but I am proud of it cuz I studied <1 month for it & form the research I did, I thought this was good enough to show 'intellectual ability', so i haven't bothered again. Actually if u follow up the thought process of this adcom keeping in perspective the very real fact that the average scores are creeping up.. you will realize that soon enough GMAT scores will become sth similar to proficiency tests. U will just have to clear a certain mark (varying by universities) and then look at the rest ur application. agree?...
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 08:29
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musaabjaved,

Some people think that the admissions process is already at that point. It seems that once a person gets a certain GMAT score, the GMAT doesn't matter to the adcom anymore. It makes sense. I don't think it's an absolute gatekeeper, but I think if the adcoms see a score similar to their average or above, I think the adcoms move on to the rest of the application. In fact, I imagine that every application is reviewed, and only some of those that are very, very low scores may not be reviewed. The adcoms would like to find someone with a low score but that they believe can be successful. I think that person with a 520 applying to Columbia or Kellog or whatever will have to have a very convincing argument as to why they are capable even with a low GMAT score, but I don't think it keeps them out completely. The adcoms probably want to see something stand out in the application and if they don't, then the app gets dinged.

Do you know of a company that takes standardized tests for profit? I don't. Employees and managers are not going to take standardized tests to determine their success, so it makes sense that the adcoms don't make or break an applicants admission decision on the score of the GMAT. A person could be a very qualified applicant and absolutely suck at standardized tests.

The bad part is most of us that respond are just responding out of our theories or experience in the admissions process. I would love to see a 2nd year post on here and give their insight as to the admissions process.

SOLARIS - I didn't mean to saying it's established that a 790 or 800 gets extra scruitiny. It's just my theory and it seems logical to me. And as I said, I think this theory could be (or is) based upon a stereotype of brilliant people not interracting well with others. Schools don't want brilliant people that treat others poorly. if one of their graduates gets into the work force and treats people like crap, that reflects badly on that school.

I don't think anyone has it figured out, and I think there are so many approaches that it can vary drastically from school to school. Columbia might not care that an applicant with an 800 would treat people like crap, or be egotistical, while Tuck might be very concerned with that applicant's fit into the school culture.

Just a thought.

It's also kind of annoying that this person came in, posted this 1 post and has not posted anything since.

musaabjaved wrote:
Having read the first post and its follow ups... I am wishing I had not been made privy to this insight of adcom. No, I don't have a score of 750+ ...its 690 but I am proud of it cuz I studied <1 month for it & form the research I did, I thought this was good enough to show 'intellectual ability', so i haven't bothered again. Actually if u follow up the thought process of this adcom keeping in perspective the very real fact that the average scores are creeping up.. you will realize that soon enough GMAT scores will become sth similar to proficiency tests. U will just have to clear a certain mark (varying by universities) and then look at the rest ur application. agree?...

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J Allen Morris
**I'm pretty sure I'm right, but then again, I'm just a guy with his head up his a$$. GMAT Club Premium Membership - big benefits and savings Director Joined: 18 Feb 2008 Posts: 798 Followers: 21 Kudos [?]: 119 [1] , given: 25 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 04 Dec 2008, 10:10 1 This post received KUDOS I don't know about this theory, it might be true. But for me, I would rather have an 790 or 800 than a 710. When Harvard admit a guy with amazing profile who is totally a leader in making, but only has 650 gmat, they will have to accept someone with like 780+ score to pull up the average right? :D Manager Joined: 14 May 2008 Posts: 80 Followers: 1 Kudos [?]: 10 [1] , given: 0 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 09 Dec 2008, 06:52 1 This post received KUDOS jallenmorris wrote: Like I've said before, it's based on a stereotype, and I'm not sure any of us really know if this is a stereotype held by most adcoms. Even if there are a few adcoms that believe this, a few adcoms do not make it a rule. I think we've all met people that are brilliant with few social skills, but we've also met people that are brilliant and very socially adept. McDargoiowkel wrote: I've heard this logic before, and it rings hollow. It assumes that a high GMAT score and actual leadership ability are mutually exclusive. Should we start assuming that people with great leadership experience are stupid? No. The only way it could possibly hurt you is if, in addition to your high score, you continued to drone on in your essays and interviews about how smart you were. For me, I think the GMAT and undergrad record proved my ability to succeed academically. That freed up the more subjective areas of my app to focus on leadership, teamwork, etc. I doubt Tim is a real person. Word. The truth is I know have no idea what AdComs are thinking. If there are enough of the former category that it becomes a valid stereotype, maybe this guy is right. But I don't think so. You forgot social deviants with low intelligence...I'm sure they're out there as well. SVP Joined: 30 Apr 2008 Posts: 1887 Location: Oklahoma City Schools: Hard Knocks Followers: 40 Kudos [?]: 571 [0], given: 32 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 25 Nov 2008, 19:25 Excellent post. I presume this is Avi? Either way, this is very good information. It's been written here often, but this words it very succinctly. mbastudio wrote: The Myth of the 800 GMAT The maximum GMAT score is 800, but the best score is far lower, as MBA Admissions advisor Avi Gordon, explains. - - - I had a MBA admissions client recently who I’ll call Tim, and when Tim and I got talking about his admissions profile he told me he’d scored 720 on the GMAT, and then retaken the test (and scored the same again). I nearly dropped the phone. “Why would anyone ever want to retake a 720 GMAT?” I gasped. The truth is, I know why. Candidates think the higher they score, the better their chances of admission. It seems obvious but is it right? Yes, of course the GMAT is crucial. It tells Adcom about an applicant’s intellectual and cognitive skills, and is particularly useful in allowing easy comparison across institutions and undergraduate majors, to some extent across cultures. Furthermore, every 10-point gain adds to candidates’ admissions prospects, and a move of 30 or so fundamentally changes which b-schools they can legitimately hope to get into. But this is true only up to a certain level, about the 700-740 range. A higher score has diminishing returns and can even – believe it or not – harm one’s chances. Why? As I told Tim, there are two reasons. First, although the MBA is a post-graduate university degree, it is primarily professional education. Its fundamental task is to prepare and place people in business management positions, not academic positions. Managers need to be smart but, as everyone knows, the cleverest people don’t necessarily make the best managers, nor best entrepreneurs, or bankers, or consultants. Jack Welch, Herb Kelleher, George Soros, Ted Turner, etc., are smart enough. But they are not Einsteins. MBA Adcoms are not looking for brainiacs. The second, related, reason is it takes a mix of talents to get admitted to a competitive school. The operative term here is “mix”. Academic ability is just one of many items considered, along with career potential, leadership potential, team player profile, work experience, volunteer experience, profile diversity, and so on. Academic ability is definitely a requirement, but so are many other attributes. This reflects the multifaceted demands of a real business career. This explains why an ultra-high GMAT can be harmful. Scoring in the super bracket (750 or above) means that you are, by definition, in the 99th percentile. People who score like that are often better pure scientists or philosophers, than managers. It’s a stereotype, but the absent-minded professor is commonly associated with being a poor people-person and a poor manager. If you get a very high score, Adcom will be absolutely sure to thoroughly check and almost disbelieve that you are also a leader and team player and can manage adversity and do all the practical things you need to get done in a business day. So, at around the 700 level, a threshold is reached (depending on GPA results and other possible variables) where Adcom can safely put a check mark next to your academic ability, and move on to see what else you offer. If you are too far below the school’s average GMAT, nothing else you are, do, or say will count. But once you hit the threshold, it’s pointless to keep knocking in that nail. A higher GMAT won’t check any other box than “intellectually capable” and chances are it’s already checked at 700. A super-score is not going to help you if your references are so-so and your essays are undeveloped. Adcom prefers “balanced good” to “unbalanced excellent.” This also explains why there is more malleability in the system than most candidates realize. If the rest of your application is good and your undergraduate record is in the right range, you can be up to 40 or 50 points below the school’s published GMAT average (providing you are not too lopsidedly in Math or Verbal.) Obviously, the published average means that half of accepted applicant’s scores are below that mark. It makes sense to be very concerned with the GMAT until it is within the guidelines of your target program. Then forget about it and spend time on other aspects of your application. - - - Avi Gordon is the author of “MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing, McGraw Hill, 2005. He is the director of The MBA Admissions Studio http://www.mbastudio.net _________________ ------------------------------------ J Allen Morris **I'm pretty sure I'm right, but then again, I'm just a guy with his head up his a$$.

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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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25 Nov 2008, 19:34
Great post and great points are made. GMAT is nothing but a pure gatekeeper...

I am wondering do all adcoms share this view because many schools are trying to attract candidates with higher GMAT scores in order to lift up their averages...so they can attract more prospective students in the future and many rating institutions also look at the average GMAT. They dont say the average GMaT is eg above 650+, they write exactly what it is.

If einstein was born only 100 yrs before he was, he would probaby ended up being a solely violin player...
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 01:38
JorgeStevenson wrote:
Seriously, this guy is a joke. I haven't taken GMAT yet but I got 99%ile on my SAT, and I aint a rocket scientist. It's laughable to say that someobody who can ace a test that is basically algebra mixed with some reading is a rocket scientist (not that the test is easy, but the knowledge base it covers is relatively basic compared to college-level material. If you know the concepts and take the test methodically and avoid careless errors, you will score 700+).

Also...FYI to this guy but just because the average score is 650 doesn't mean half the scores are below 650. Just a little basic statistics for you. I guess I'll be getting a call from NASA just for knowing that!

I never thought about that , man, you ARE rocket scientist
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Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2008, 07:58
I don't think someone will get rejected because they did TOO well on the GMAT. I think the point of the article is that getting a very high score will cause extra scruitiny. It may be an unjust stereotype, but many people that have the level of knowledge and understanding to score that high often don't convey that information well, or they are impatient with others that don't get it as quickly. I believe the adcoms want to avoid someone like the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory that is brilliant, but has a hard time relating to those around him.

I see what this author is saying, but I also see value in the CEO being brilliant (like an 800 brilliant if you have to put a number on it) so the CEO can figure out what needs to be done, maybe can't explain the WHY very well, but in the end the CEO can say "Dammit, do what I say and how I say to do it." That won't go very far in every situation, but I'm sure there are times that is necessary.

What the author is saying is not perfect, but it makes sense and I'm sure it's true in some situations. Adcoms want team players, not dictators.

solaris1 wrote:
This doesn't quite explain why average scores have been slowly creeping upwards. This very article, if written a few years ago, would have said a 680 is the "best" score to have - anything higher and you're a rocket scientist. Now it's probably 720, or the upper end of the 700-740 range the author directly refers to.

Standardized tests are of course no measure of genius. Yet, a higher score is practically always better than a lower one. Even if you get a 750, if you're SURE you can get a 780 in your next try, by all means go for it. Ceteris paribus, it will only strengthen your application and put you in the running for scholarships etc. No one gets rejected because they did TOO well on the GMAT.

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**I'm pretty sure I'm right, but then again, I'm just a guy with his head up his a$$. GMAT Club Premium Membership - big benefits and savings Last edited by jallenmorris on 04 Dec 2008, 08:29, edited 1 time in total. SVP Joined: 05 Aug 2007 Posts: 1502 Schools: NYU Stern '11 Followers: 15 Kudos [?]: 211 [0], given: 22 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 04 Dec 2008, 08:21 jallenmorris wrote: I don't think someone will get rejected because they did TOO well on the GMAT. I think the point of the article is that getting a very high school will cause extra scruitiny. I don't think it's established that it is indeed the 790 or the 800 GMAT score that generates extra scrutiny. Director Status: Badgerine! Joined: 04 Oct 2008 Posts: 894 Location: United States (CA) Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Strategy Schools: Michigan (Ross) - Class of 2013 GMAT 1: 770 Q50 V44 GPA: 3.3 WE: Project Management (Aerospace and Defense) Followers: 63 Kudos [?]: 281 [0], given: 86 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 04 Dec 2008, 10:47 billyjeans wrote: I don't know about this theory, it might be true. But for me, I would rather have an 790 or 800 than a 710. When Harvard admit a guy with amazing profile who is totally a leader in making, but only has 650 gmat, they will have to accept someone with like 780+ score to pull up the average right? :D Good point and I agree. Every admission officer brags about the highest GMAT they've ever dinged, right? Wouldn't that imply that even the adcoms see a 770 or a 780 as a huge indictor of interest for most schools. The dings I've heard about at info sessions weren't because the person was too intelligent, but because they failed to offer anything else. I'll trade my 700 for 750+ if anyone is interested _________________ Manager Joined: 14 May 2008 Posts: 80 Followers: 1 Kudos [?]: 10 [0], given: 0 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 09 Dec 2008, 06:12 I've heard this logic before, and it rings hollow. It assumes that a high GMAT score and actual leadership ability are mutually exclusive. Should we start assuming that people with great leadership experience are stupid? No. The only way it could possibly hurt you is if, in addition to your high score, you continued to drone on in your essays and interviews about how smart you were. For me, I think the GMAT and undergrad record proved my ability to succeed academically. That freed up the more subjective areas of my app to focus on leadership, teamwork, etc. I doubt Tim is a real person. SVP Joined: 30 Apr 2008 Posts: 1887 Location: Oklahoma City Schools: Hard Knocks Followers: 40 Kudos [?]: 571 [0], given: 32 Re: The Myth of the 800 GMAT [#permalink] ### Show Tags 09 Dec 2008, 06:26 Like I've said before, it's based on a stereotype, and I'm not sure any of us really know if this is a stereotype held by most adcoms. Even if there are a few adcoms that believe this, a few adcoms do not make it a rule. I think we've all met people that are brilliant with few social skills, but we've also met people that are brilliant and very socially adept. McDargoiowkel wrote: I've heard this logic before, and it rings hollow. It assumes that a high GMAT score and actual leadership ability are mutually exclusive. Should we start assuming that people with great leadership experience are stupid? No. The only way it could possibly hurt you is if, in addition to your high score, you continued to drone on in your essays and interviews about how smart you were. For me, I think the GMAT and undergrad record proved my ability to succeed academically. That freed up the more subjective areas of my app to focus on leadership, teamwork, etc. I doubt Tim is a real person. _________________ ------------------------------------ J Allen Morris **I'm pretty sure I'm right, but then again, I'm just a guy with his head up his a$$.

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