We want to talk about something here today that we’re guilty of contributing to — inadvertently, yes, but we’ve done it.
It’s the shame that many BSers feel about their performance on the MBA admissions test.
We see this in the opposite manifestation: When someone has done well on the GMAT, they’re quick to volunteer that information to us. When someone has done poorly? They often get squirrely with us about not wanting to disclose it.
Or they don’t want to admit to how many times they’ve attempted it.
A (perceived to be) low score on the GMAT can do a number on your self-confidence. It can really wreck with your insides.
You know you’re intelligent, and capable. You tried to study. You took practice tests where you did just fine, subscores decent, above average total.
And yet… the score on the actual test doesn’t budge.
So we want to set the record straight today:
YOUR GMAT SCORE IS NOT A SIGN OF YOUR WORTH.
The GMAT score predicts very little. It certainly does not predict what job you’ll land after the MBA. It does not predict how much money you’ll earn. It has nothing to do with whether you’ll find love in this life.
The GMAT score is a crude measure at best — but it’s all the adcoms have at the moment as a tool that’s “standardized” across populations.
Of course, “standardized” is in quotes because if the GMAT really were unbiased and totally fair, then why do women score lower? Why do younger people do better? And if English is not your first language, there’s no way that’s it’s testing equivalent skills for you as it would an American (though there’s argument to be made that, depending on where you grew up and were educated, you may have an advantage based on the standards, pedagogy and practices of education in your native country).
It’s so difficult when you’re logging onto MBA applicant discussion boards or talking to current students about what it took to get in, and you’re seemingly surrounded by all these 750+ scorers.
Please remember: Those who don’t do as well are not out there broadcasting their score.
It’s the ones who have mastered the art of standardized test-taking, or maybe had a lucky day in how their guesses lined up, that end up with the scores that make you feel sh!tty about yourself.
Mastering the GMAT is not mastering anything noteworthy in life. Period. End of discussion. It is not.
There are two times in the next 50+ years of your existence here on this Earth where the GMAT will matter:
1. When a nameless faceless admissions committee member reviews your application at the school you’re aching to get into — which will happen in a moment in time when you’re not even aware that it’s happening. You will be placing an order at Starbucks or drumming your fingers on the desk waiting for your boss to show up for the meeting he scheduled with you or asleep on a red-eye flying back to New York, and some admissions person will glance at your score and then move on to the important parts of your app. Your score will be seen, and taken note of, and you won’t even know that it happened. It’s not like the clouds will part and the voice of God will boom down on you and you will hear, “Your score has been assessed, and now your Fate for the rest of Eternity is sealed.” No. It’ll happen in some moment, when your admissions person is doing her job, looking at the rest of your application and chewing on the end of her pencil as she considers everything about you that you’ve submitted.
2. When you go for your MBA interview nine months later and you’re sitting across from a recruiter from a top consulting firm, asking you why you are interested in her firm — because by now, you’ve been admitted to that school you so eagerly want to go to. In your interview, depending on the career path you’re targeting and which firm this is, and what the competitive environment is in hiring at these firms when the economy goes up or goes down, your interviewer may ask about the GMAT score. And she’ll make note of it, and she’ll continue on, asking the things that really matter, about your experience and what you’ve done in the past and why you think you’re a good fit to their firm.
That’s it. Two times, one of which you won’t even be aware of (obviously #1 happens multiple times, once for each of your apps, but just work with us, for once, would you please?).
The GMAT is unfortunately near-identical to your weight or your curves or your lack of them. It’s like the biceps you don’t have or the shortness you do. It’s one of those things that the World has taught you to fixate on, as if it Means Something. As if it Matters.
We’re here to tell you, it doesn’t.
Ask someone who’s been out of bschool 10 years if they even remember what they scored on the GMAT. We’d be shocked if anyone does.
If they did, it’s because they did well, and they fixated on that as a Sign that they have something to offer.
That’s just as much a fallacy as thinking a low GMAT means you’re crap.
EssaySnark is guilty of GMAT-shaming in some of our older posts on the blahg, where we’ve said things like “If your score is too low, suck it up and take the test again.”
While, hey, there is some value to that advice, if someone scored poorly on the GMAT out of an absence of trying.
If you don’t put in the mental effort and learn the things that they’re testing you on, if you’ve been a slacker and a skater where you do the just-enough-to-get-by thing because you’re sharp and a quick study and that’s worked for you all of your life… well then, yes, the GMAT does say something about you, but not what you think. If you repeatedly get a lame-O GMAT because you’re going through the motions and not actually trying, then we don’t have much sympathy for that.
But for the many, many BSers who really do put in the effort, who sign up for courses and pay tutors and take all of the practice tests they can find, and they STILL do poorly on the actual exam… Then please know, we’re talking directly to you when we say: It’s not your fault. It’s just the GMAT is a crappy exam.
If they let you take it in your bedroom in your pajamas with your fuzzy slippers on, it’s likely you’d do just great. But no, they have it in this inconvenient test center where the AC is on too high or not at all, with a weird dude next to you making sniffly noises, when you’re all tussed up about it because you’ve already tried three times and it’s now built up to a “thing” in your mind…. Yeah. You don’t do well on it again, well, that’s NOT YOUR FAULT.
It’s the silly fight-or-flight mechanism in your adrenocortex going haywire because you’ve made this into a massive obstacle (that isn’t even real) and you prevent your own self from success because of the fear mechanism hardwired into your brain. Because we are all animals and because we’re social creatures and because there’s an instinct you’re reacting to that goes way back in time, that you need to be successful and respected in the eyes of your peers so that you won’t be kicked out of the herd.
All that is wrapped up in this one little three-digit number. The GMAT. (Or the GRE, obv. Any of these high-stakes tests.)
It’s like your entire life depends on it.
But it does not.
Remember, most people who take the GMAT flail fabulously!! The average GMAT score is only a 556! We can practically guarantee that if you’re sitting here reading this blahg, you scored at least 100 points better than that, and probably significantly more.
You have accomplished much in this life.
You would not be in a postition to even consider a high-end MBA if you hadn’t.
You have much to be proud of, dear whippersnapper.
So next time you feel ashamed or embarrassed when someone asks about your GMAT or (same issue) what schools you made it into, hold your head high, and tell them, “I did the best that I could.”
It’s none of their business what score a computer screen spit out at you.
It does not matter.
It is irrelevant.
What counts is acting from love.
When you do that, then you are affirming your true nature.
When you don’t, then you feel horrible, and you vow that next time you will.
It’s terribly difficult, especially when you’re young, and the world is uncertain, to keep focused on what’s real.
But truly, Grasshopper, you are a wondrous being, and we know you are bound for great things.
Tell us what you think.