Hello there my Indian friends,
I wanted to write a post addressing the issue of the GMAT and the almost existential question of whether to retake the GMAT or not. Hanging out on these forums, I see time and again future applicants ask the same questions regarding the GMAT (and especially Indian applicants), and I thought it would be wise to address everyone at once, and open up a new post for discussion, questions, disagreements, whatever, as well has have a look at some data from GMAC.
The first thing one notices looking at the GMAC statistics, is that India is the country from which the GMAT takers send out the most scores.Whereas the global average is 2.9 score reports sent per test, for Indians it is 4.4 score reports. What does this tell us? Firstly, it gives us an idea of just how tough things are for Indian applicants. Not only is it already a very large and crowded pool but (in part I imagine to compensate for this) Indians tend to apply to a lot more schools than other applicants, which in a certain way 'bloats' the number of Indian applicants in comparison to their part of the applicant pool.
So what does this mean for YOU? Well, first and foremost (and I would say that this confirms my experience) is the importance of a great application - uniqueness, clarity of vision, voice, humor, originality, daring - all of these elements are VERY important especially for Indian applicants, because more than just "seeming good", given the number of Indian applications the AdComs are getting, you need to be DIFFERENT.
Secondly, as any candidate can get an advantage by applying to more schools (and I always say "the more the merrier") although say for American applicants six would be a large number, to gain that advantage as an Indian you would need to apply to even more schools (which means starting your applications earlier, planning better, being more flexible in your school choice).
A few other items emerge from the reports. Looking over the last five years, total mean scores go from 568 to 582, so that means that people are testing better (making it, unfortunately yet tougher!!!), but the number of candidates stayed pretty much the same.
An interesting point for female candidates is that the share of regional exams taken by women is only 26 percent, the lowest of any world region (and Pakistan is very similar). Which may mean that although it is tougher for Indian males, it may not be for Indian females (And US schools do work hard to keep a good balance in their class profile, with most schools having between 30-50% female students).
Another thing I was curious about was Indians and retakes. I had the impression (just from my own specific, non-statistical experience) that Indians tend to retake the test more than candidates of other nationalities (although I see have a similar trend with Chinese applicants). I wasn't able to find any information online, and I emailed GMAC to see if they collect data, and although they do, they do not unfortunately release this data (they must have some good business reason for this). But they were kind enough to send me the regional overview of retakes. And in East and Southeast Asia 32.4%!!! of all tests are retakes (As compared to 14,4% of US tests!!).
And this does confirm my suspicions (even though China must also be accounted for in these statistics). And as I have written before on this and other forums, it makes sense, because Indian applicants are up against stiff competition, but I also think that something cultural must be involved too, the idea that "If I can only get xxx points higher, I will get in". I mean I see time and again on this forum Indian applicants writing "I have a 720, do I need to retake??", whereas I think no American would even THINK of retaking with a 720. It seems that (perhaps due to the Indian testing system that you have in place for your enrollment in Indian universities as well as other cultural and "bureaucratic" factors) there there is a belief "If I only get xxx points higher, I can get into Stanford."
But it doesn't exactly work like that, because the schools look at everything! And beyond a certain point, there are other things which become more important. Like working on your essays and finding your original voice. Like maybe ensuring you get out two or three more applications than you would have. Like maybe working on that start up idea to have something happen before you apply. Like making up for your weak volunteer experience, by taking on another non-profit post.
So should YOU retake your GMAT???
Obviously every case is different, and there is no global answer, but here are some things to ask yourself.
1. Am I testing close to my maximum? Meaning how does your actual GMAT score match up with your mocks? If you are 10-20 points below your mocks then you probably won't do much better on a retake (and in fact the general statistics on retakes confirm this - folks who retake the test get on average about 30 points higher, so people aren't testing 100 points higher each time). If the difference is huge though, then yes, consider a retake - maybe something did happen on test day.
2. What else could I do with my time?? If you are applying to round one in October of a specific year and it is March, a retake cannot hurt you, because you have all the time in the world, so in most cases I would say give it a shot. But if it's June/July, some questions have already been released likely, and your GMAT is going to take time away from your applications, or your work, or perhaps some other area in which you can improve yourself. So balance out your decision of retaking your GMAT with thought about what else needs to be improved.
3. How important is the GMAT given my specific profile. In some cases, a GMAT is more important for some candidates than for others. For example, for applicants to the HBS 2+2 program, for people who come from a non-business background (and for whom the GMAT is the only proof of business capabilities), or for candidates who have low GPAs the GMAT becomes more important than for "regular" applicants, so think about that, in conjunction with numbers one and two.
Finally, before signing off, I would mention one thing - the GMAT, although very very important is not a panacea - getting a 770 will not necessarily get you into HBS if you are missing the background (the good school, the unique job, the passionate essays, the strong community servic). This is especially true once you pass a certain threshold (I would say about 710), there are probably others things you should be working on (yes, your essays are probably the most important of those things).
So hope you find these thoughts interesting, and now, I'd love to open up the forum for thoughts, suggestions, kudos
, disagreements, questions.
Looking forward to hearing from you!!!
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