GMAT, GMAT, GMAT, oh, no, the terrible GMAT.
EssaySnark has sympathy, Brave Supplicant, oh yes, EssaySnark does. The GMAT is no fun. A nasty little thing. Pure torture, even. Yes, yes, EssaySnark knows.
EssaySnark hears it all the time — even if not spoken aloud, EssaySnark hears the words flowing through Brave Supplicant’s head: I’ll do great at Wharton [Harvard / Stanford / wherever], if they just let me in, I’ll prove it to them!
And you ask:
Why do they put me through this stupid-a§§ test?!?
Here’s the thing: Because it works. The adcom needs a way to objectively compare candidates, and the GMAT is the one apples-to-apples measure they have across the entire set of application assets. And, the best schools do a lot of data capture on the admissions process, and on the graduates coming out of their program. They track these things, and analyze them, and feed the results back into the following year’s admissions process.
And the data shows:
A high GMAT score is correlated with strong performance in bschool and better placement in a shiny new job at the end of it.
OK, perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or a self-perpetuating system or whatever, since the recruiters in the most competitive industries like i-banking and consulting will also use the GMAT in their hiring processes, so that’s going to skew things — but that’s a relatively recent phenomenon, that recruiters ask about GMAT scores, and the correlation between good grades in bschool and a high score was established before then.
Now, EssaySnark knows what you’re thinking (didn’t you realize by now that EssaySnark is psychic?): What about the GRE? If you’re saying that the GMAT offers apples-to-apples, then how does the GRE fit in? How does it? Hunh, EssaySnark? How? How? How?
Ah, yes, the GRE. Very good question, Brave Supplicant. EssaySnark’s general opinion is, IT DOESN’T.
Yes, many schools — MIT, HBS, Wharton, NYU, and more and more all the time it seems — will accept the GRE instead of the GMAT. This is by no means a universal policy, and there are some wrinkles. Note, for example, the policy implemented at Columbia Business School: they will accept the GRE only if the applicant has not taken the GMAT in the past five years. (Previous to this year, they only accepted the GMAT). Most adcoms won’t say it out loud, but the general consensus is that the GMAT is a better test for evaluating bschool candidates. (Actually, the Columbia adcom has stated it out loud — they prefer the GMAT and have said so in interviews.) At a minimum, it’s better for bschool adcoms, because it’s what they’ve been working with for years and years, they know how it works, they know how to interpret the results.
So, you ask:
Should you take the GRE instead?
Provided that an MBA, and only an MBA, is in your plans, then EssaySnark advises against this. Yes, the GRE is an “easier” test (it’s still no cakewalk), which is obviously appealing for some. “Hey, why not take the simpler path?” Sounds good, but do you want the adcom to wonder, “Hey, why did this dude take the simpler path?” No, you don’t. And, the GRE is not yet accepted by all MBA adcoms.
If, however, you might be interested in a different program — say, a PhD program at the very same business school, or a Master’s program elsewhere, like in organizational behavior, or economics, or why not go for an MFA in like Creative Writing at the University of Iowa??? — then the GRE is most definitely a wiser strategy, since it’s the standard test required by pretty much every other grad program in the country.
If not, if you want to go be a banker or a consultant, or a venture capitalist, or you want to launch your own venture, and you see an MBA as the means to that end, then suck it up and take the GMAT. And get a good score. (EssaySnark promises to discuss what is a “good score” in a subsequent post.) Not only will it help you get into a good school, it can also help you when you’re interviewing for that shiny banking/consulting/VC job. (You don’t need the GMAT to start your own company. You’ll just start your own company. Right?)
The bottom line?
Bschool is hard.
The adcom only wants to accept those who will do well there. Even if you go to a not-finance-focused school, the core curriculum practically anywhere is built around finance. (And accounting. And statistics. Not “easy” stuff at all.) You’re going to need to be able to handle the material. If you majored in a quant/analytical subject like finance and accounting, then fine, you’ve proven yourself already. (And you should have no problem with the GMAT, right?) But if not, if you either came in on the softer side of business like marketing, or if you *gasp* majored in the liberal arts like English or history — oh wait. Does anyone major in English or history anymore? OK, moot point. If you were not a finance major, you need to demonstrate that you can hack it.
And, very important point: An MBA is a graduate degree. The coursework is hard. Harder, even, than what you took in college. Because this is not college. This is bschool. A Master’s program. An advanced degree. There’s a difference. You’re going to have to work for it. Studying for and taking the GMAT will be a way to get your feet wet. Get back in the groove. Dust off those good-student habits. It’s healthy to bury your nose in a book. Just don’t hurt yourself when you pound your head against the wall in frustration.
Because EssaySnark knows. Oh yes, EssaySnark knows what a nasty little bugger of a test it is. On your behalf, “A pox on it!” says EssaySnark!
And good luck with it, Brave Supplicant!
* apologies to Shakespeare and Henry IV