A Brave Supplicant named Rahul was recently reading the post “Why is the average GMAT score at LBS so much lower?” and he asked us this:
As a genuine question, why does LBS take people with 600 gmat score whilst rejecting those with 700+. Im fully aware of the whole idea of GMAT just being part of the criteria and that application and essays and internships and experience count too. But my point is, what could someone with 600 gmat score possibly have that someone with 700 doesn’t that warrants them a place and not someone with 700. Im going to be frank and say that someone with 600 is just not as smart as someone with 700 and does not belong in LBS, I mean seriously how can one of the best business schools in the world legit accept someone with 600 whilst for courses like MiF they have a minimum of 650. I personally got 690 and I’m terrible at maths (Q: 44 V:40) despite the gmat being biased towards those who are good at maths.
There’s a fair amount of truth sprinkled about in that question but there’s also possibly some unclear thinking or simply a lack of perspective, too, and we wanted to devote a full post on this today.
The GMAT is a very difficult test. We will absolutely give you that. However, it’s hard to go along with the assertion that “someone with 600 is just not as smart as someone with 700” — and we definitely cannot agree with the claim that they “do not belong” at LBS or any other school.
Is the GMAT measuring intelligence? Or is it measuring the ability to perform well on a standardized test?
Men are statistically more likely to score better on the GMAT.
Young people also perform better than older people.
Do these stats mean that men are smarter than women? That young people are smarter than older ones?
(If you are male, or if you are young, and especially if you are both, we suggest that you be very careful how you answer those questions, even if you are doing so only in the privacy of your own skull.)
The GMAT tests for certain types of skills. It’s not a be-all/end-all test of intellectual capacity, and it definitely does not evaluate potential.
A GMAT is just one aspect to a candidacy, and it’s a very small part of the candidate.
Just like with Billy Bush, whose entire life has now become defined by one very short ride on a bus on a studio backlot, with Tic-Tacs , it’s not fair to sum up a person on the basis of a test score.
There are multiple types of intelligence, and there are many, many different types of people. If the top schools like LBS were only looking for students who are awesome at taking standardized tests, they could EASILY fill their classes with only that type of applicant. LBS could get at least a 720 average GMAT if they wanted, without even breaking a sweat.
But bschools are interested in a variety of types, because there are many many different paths that are possible from the MBA, and it isn’t only the strong standardized test-taker that are going to excel in all those capacities.
The other very important point to make, seeing as you shared your GMAT score breakdown: The schools look not just at total scores but at the individual components. EssaySnark is not sure where you are in your application process but we are quite nervous about a 44Q for someone trying for LBS. Hopefully you’re aware that that’s a significant weakness that may cause many admissions reviewers to hesitate. It depends of course on the pool you’re in and what the rest of the profile looks like.
And that’s really the most important thing. You claim to appreciate that the GMAT is only a part, and that application and essays and internships and experience count too — but they really really do. It’s not just “experience” in the context of work experience (though that does matter a lot). It’s “experience” as in “life experience.” What if the applicant is the first in her family to ever attend college, and she had to go to a school close to home because it was all that her family could afford, or maybe she was needed to help care for a sick relative? And because of her lack of resources in high school, she never got the best education in quant subjects, and that held her back in college? Or she loved reading and decided to major in literature instead? It’s not that she lacks intelligence, it’s that she didn’t have the same opportunities. This is real.
From the New York Times recently we learn that “poor students rely on their parents for college advice, and many of them end up going to less rigorous colleges than they can handle” (h/t Akil Bello aka at the moment, Proctor Dre ). We’re betting that a less rigorous college is going to produce test-takers who do worse on the GMAT. Does that mean they are not as smart? Or does it only mean that they came from a disadvantaged financial background?
Or what about someone coming in from the military, who has a strong aptitude but studied those subjects many long years ago, and was very rusty in tackling them again for the GMAT? And on top of that, he’s been constantly deployed to war zones and conflict areas, and had a difficult time getting good mentoring or support on the test prep?
You see, people are coming into it from all different circumstances. You can’t take your own experience and extrapolate to the entire universe of applicants, and you have to be very very careful about interpreting too much — or judging others solely on — a test score.
The business school adcoms are looking at the whole person. Employers who recruit at these MBA programs are equally interested in life experience and skills, beyond just the marks on the GMAT. A test score alone is not representative of who you are.
That’s why the schools ask you to write essays, and why they have extensive interview processes, too. It’s an imperfect system, but it’s what they have to work with.
They could easily fill their classes with top scoring applicants if they chose to. That’s not how it works though. They’re in the business of education, and it’s part of their mission to contribute to society. It’s not formulaic. There are many ways to evaluate potential.
Which is awesome, because it means everyone gets a fair shot at admission.
Yes they have standards. They’re not going to admit someone who they think will have trouble with the curriculum. To be sure, they’re not admitting gobs of candidates at the 600 level. Some schools even will offer a conditional acceptance for certain candidates, where they require that you bring up your score before they’ll let you enroll. The test scores are not insignificant.
But they’re just one piece of the puzzle, and they don’t tell the whole story. There’s plenty of candidates with a 700 who come across as true jerks. Or they just don’t put in the work that’s required to communicate themselves effectively in the app. They’re not showing themselves to be differentiated. A high test score is not an instant pass, just as much as a low one is not an immediate rejection.
The adcoms know a life cannot so easily be distilled down to one small component.
EssaySnark suggests a widening of the perspective. Let’s not be so quick to paint others with such a broad brush.
We think Billy Bush, circa 2017, would agree.
Update: Akil Bello, test prep wiz, tweeted this in response:
— Proctor Dre (@akilbello) May 23, 2017
Direct link to the post he references about underrepresented minorities and standardized tests is here .
Update #2: This article on leadership and controlling emotions includes a list of the “types of intelligence” as identified by Howard Gardner from Harvard in 1983:
- Linguistic—good with words
- Mathematical—good at numbers
- Musical—good with rhythm and sound
- Visual-Spatial—good at thinking in three dimensions
- Bodily-Kinesthetic—good at physical activity
- Intrapersonal—good at understanding oneself
- Interpersonal—good at interacting with other people
The GMAT tests two or maybe three of these.