THE GMAT AND ITS IMPACT ON YOUR MBA CANDIDACY
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FREQUENTLY ASKED GMAT QUESTIONS:
1. How important is the GMAT to my overall application?
Let’s be brutally honest – your GMAT score is extremely important to your overall candidacy. However, if applicants are realistic about their GMAT score and associated target schools, the GMAT does not have to cause so much angst. Here are a few things to consider:
- Look at the average / mean GMAT scores for your desired schools. You should target to be within one standard deviation. A score of 700 is usually a good target for a top 20 MBA program.
- Schools like to see a balanced score between the verbal and quantitative sections. Schools will put a heavier emphasis on the quantitative score. The 80th percentile is what most schools are looking for across both sections. International students will be given some leeway on the verbal section. However, schools like Wharton and Columbia are fairly firm with the 80th percentile on the quantitative portion.
- Other factors come into play when assessing the GMAT score. For example, if a MBA program is targeting specific populations (to round out the class profile), you may gain some leniency in the overall evaluation process. Examples include: women, minority status, military, LGBT, and unique citizenship.
- When assessing your GMAT and candidacy, be aware of schools who are trying to move up the business school rankings as these schools tend to put a greater emphasis on your GMAT score.
3. How should I prepare for the GMAT?
I have a very strong opinion on this issue. First of all, we’ve just established how important the GMAT is to your overall candidacy. Do not take this aspect of the application lightly. I coach my clients to be absolutely honest regarding their weaknesses when approaching the GMAT. Know your needs, be honest about those needs, and seek a program that will meet your requirements. Ask you self the following questions:
- Are you the type of person who can buy a book and truly commit to studying sufficiently on your own? If so, then great – this is a perfect approach for you. However, if you know you will buy the book and never pick it up, then force yourself to take a class (on-line or on-site). This will hold you accountable and ensure that you are dedicating time to study for the test.
- Do you understand the content on the GMAT? If so, then don’t seek a prep agency that focuses on teaching you the content. However, if you are “rusty” on the content, then seek a prep agency like “Manhattan GMAT” who provides a refresher on the concepts tested.
- Do you need help learning ‘how to take the test?’ Often times, applicants know the material but they struggle with pacing themselves, how to conduct process of elimination, making guesses, etc. Test prep agencies like Kaplan Review focus pretty heavily on breaking down the test, how to take it, how to pace yourself, and tips/tricks to increase your score.
- Do you get test anxiety? If you get nervous taking standardized tests, the only way to circumvent this issue it to desensitize you to taking the test. Seek a prep course where you take practice exams regularly! A lot! The more tests you take, the less anxious you will be on test day.
A few things worth mentioning. Business schools report out only GMAT scores. If the rest of your application is rock-solid, then you may want to take the GRE. A school may take you based on your overall application strengths since they do not factor your score into their overall class profile. Additionally, applicants who need special accommodations are more apt to get requests approved if taking the GRE. If you need such accommodations, then the GRE might be the right test for you.
5. How to overcome a low GMAT score?
You’ve assessed your study habits, taken a GMAT prep course, taken the test 3 times and you still don’t have your desired score! Yes, this GMAT is important, but there are many ways to overcome a low GMAT score. If you make strategic moves, your chances are not over yet!
Low Verbal Score
- If you verbal score is low, you must show the admissions committee that you do possess great verbal capabilities in the rest of your application through the “power of writing.” We can help ensure that all your written materials are of the upmost quality. Your resume, essays, on-line application, and written communications to the school must be flawless!
- We can work with you to enhance and/or tweak your resume to boost your verbal skills. Tweaking your work bullets to draw attention to written and/or oral capabilities, drawing out specific courses you may have taken in college, or adding in additional information (e.g. extracurriculars, interests, languages, certifications) will all give help to overcome a low verbal score.
- Lastly, coach your recommenders. Be honest with them about your low verbal score and ask them to highlight any strengths you have in the professional realm. Don’t go overboard here – simply have them highlight 1-2 areas in which you possess strong capabilities (e.g. writing reports, giving presentations, interpersonal skills, upward management, working cross-functionally).
Low Quantitative Score
A low quantitative score is more worrisome than a low verbal score. Business school is quantitatively heavy. Admissions committees will want to ensure that you can handle the academic rigor of their program. However, if you scored low on the quantitative section, do not throw in the towel. The admissions committee will also look at 1) the rest of your application – it must be rock solid, 2) your grades in quantitative courses in college, 3) whether your professional work experience has been analytical or quantitative in nature, and 4) did you score low for your demographic group. Given all of these factors, here are a few ways to navigate a low quantitative score:
- Show the admissions committee that you can, indeed, handle the quantitative aspects of their program. Give them more data points by enrolling in a calculus, statistics, accounting, or finance course through your local community college. Make sure to get an A!
- Highlight your quantitative capabilities through tweaking your resume and careful selection of your essay topics. We work with clients every year to help them develop an MBA focused resume. In this scenario, we would highlight all the quantitative projects that you may have worked on, capture as many results from your initiatives, and highlight any other aspects of your resume that demonstrate analytical thinking. Additionally, with careful essay topic selection you can showcase your quant abilities. Just be careful to make sure you are still answering the question and not forcing a topic simply due to your low quant score.
- c) Once again, coach your recommenders. Be honest with them about your low quant score and ask them to highlight any strengths you have in the professional realm. Have them highlight 1-2 areas in which you possess strong quant capabilities (e.g. creating models, analyzing data, looking at pro-formas, investment decision-making).
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