MBA admissions teams have become more customer-friendly in recent years – so much so, that we had thought this one issue had been put to bed. But then we were reminded that no, it has not. There’s this thorn in the side of most international BSers that apparently won’t go away.
What thorn is that?
The need to convert your grades to the U.S. 4.0 system.
This came up yesterday when we saw a very reasonable question posted over on Beat the GMAT, in the Ask the Test Maker forum where the official GMAT people hang out.
Used to be, many top U.S. bschools required applicants to report their final undergraduate grades using the American system. Which meant that many if not most international candidates had to go through a stressful exercise of figuring out exactly how to do that.
For anyone whose undergrad marks are reported as a percentage, or on a scale of 1 to 10, or even a 5.0 scale, this idea of “converting grades” is challenging to say the least.
ESPECIALLY since there’s no one agreed-upon method for doing the conversion.
We wrote about converting your college grades for your MBA apps way back in 2011. We were happy when we were able to update that post as “old” and tell you that you don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Well guess what? This question from the Brave Supplicant on Beat The GMAT has prompted us to revisit the issue.
The obvious question is, why in heck does the GMAT ask you for grades in the 4.0 scale anyway? That’s pretty outdated stuff there, as our quick history of this problem belies. And, it’s sooooooo American-biased. The GMAC people (the makers of the GMAT) like to insist how their test is culturally neutral. The apparently test the test, by putting the questions to people of all sorts of different nationalities, to see if there is any bias or slant that would give American test-takers an advantage. They say they’ve removed any of that from the GMAT exam itself – so why this leftover artifact of pure pro Americanism?
Why not just let applicants enter their grades as their school has reported it, in the native scale?
We can guess as to the answer for why not: Because GMAC likes to mine their data (YOUR data) and then come up with fancy reports to issue to the schools, to help support their marketing position of how important their test is. (Sorry. We’re doing a bit o’ GMAT bashing here.) If everyone reported their grades in whatever native scale their college used, then the value of asking test-takers for their college grades in the first place is vastly diminished.
GMAC forces YOU, the test-taker, to self-convert your grades. They clearly don’t care if you do it right nor not. They just want the data.
Well, you may be asking yourself, “So what?”
If GMAC is using this data for their report, what does it matter?
It’s not like it’s going to affect your GMAT score.
True, Brave Supplicant. True.
But guess what?
The GPA you report in that little field DOES get included on your score report that goes to the schools when you apply.
Now, please don’t get too hung up about this, but we do have to issue the gentle reminder that the schools see the GPA that you report in your GMAT profile.
“Uh oh,” we hear some of you saying.
Very often, for international candidates, we take a glance at their GMAT score report and we see the GPA they entered, and we’re like, “WHAT?”
Either someone naively enters “4.0” or they enter something crazy low like “2.3.”
There are very very few people in the world who earned a 4.0 cumulative GPA in college. As in, hardly anyone. A good chunk of those who did attended a lower-regarded school. One that was a little less challenging curriculum-wise. Yes you see kids graduating from Princeton and Harvard and Yale with a 4.0 but it ain’t common. Nope, not at all.
If you’re coming from even a very good Indian university and you enter “4.0” in your GMAT profile GPA field, well, that’s just a little bit questionable.
Even worse perhaps is when someone uses one of these online grade conversion tools and it spits out a very low GPA – like the 2.3 we just cited. This happens all the time.
If you have a 2.3 GPA from college, you are going to have a VERY difficult time getting into a top MBA program.
But the thing is, you probably don’t have a 2.3. If you did even halfway decent in undergrad, your GPA is equivalent to at least a 3.0.
That’s the challenge with the Indian universities and their disparate grading systems. It’s very often an apples-to-oranges comparison. What one BSer ended up with as a 70.2% could mean something very, very different compared to the 70.2% that another BSer eked out.
And obviously, a 70.2% when strictly translated to the American 4.0 scale is quite a low GPA indeed.
So all of this is a bit of a minefield.
If you’ve already taken the GMAT and you realize your converted GPA is out of whack, then maybe it’s possible to correct that before you send your scores to the schools. We have no idea how that works (if anyone does, please leave a note in the comments of this post so we can be educated on it).
If not, then please do not sweat this. It’s never going to keep you out of bschool. If you have a low GPA and you were already realizing the need for an optional essay to go with your apps, then this might be something to mention there, along with your discussion of your college experience and whatever else you have to say about the performance at the time.
One main objective with your MBA apps is, you don’t want the adcom reviewer to have any questions. About anything. You want to be proactive and pre-emptively address anything for them that might come up in their minds as they’re going through your materials.
This oddball GPA thing on the GMAT score report could certainly raise an eyebrow in some cases – we know that it has with us in the past. We don’t think it merits writing an optional essay if it would be the only issue you’re covering – but it also would not be out of bounds to do that. It really depends on the entirety of your pitch and how “off” the GMAT-reported GPA actually is.
Questions on any of this? Lay them on us in the comments and we’re happy to help.
And to you GMAC peeps if you’re reading this? We know you’ve got these test-taker-friendly GMAT-experience-improvement initiatives going on. Maybe this is an item to look at in that context?