This post first went up about a year and a half ago, and has been refreshed for reposting in Fall 2019. We wrote about this way back in 2014 but times have changed. The most important change is one that you probably haven’t given much thought to at all: The GMAT lets you cancel…
We cover topics of GMAT score and GRE too in many posts, so this is just a quick-and-dirty reminder that a) there’s a lot of stuff in the ‘snarchives and b) if you’re asking “Is it good enough?” then most likely, that means you need to retest. 🙂 Because unfortunately many applicants get the disease…
Yesterday we gave a breakdown of how to think about taking the GMAT or the GRE as your test of choice for the MBA applications you’re planning for. But what about the Executive Assessment? Most of you are aiming for a tippety-top full-time MBA program in the United States, and not for an Executive MBA…
Here’s the thing: For most people, the GRE math is easier. It just is. Both the GMAT and the GRE are tough tests. But the GMAT is at least a tiny bit tougher. Plus, the GMAT has the Integrated Reasoning, which isn’t really any harder than any other part of the test (some people even…
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.
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.
Are you (re)taking the GMAT? What’s your score cancel strategy? A key driver of GMAT score inflation among MBA applicants is the relatively new development that allows you to cancel your test score. Years ago, you took the GMAT and that was that. Bad score? Oh well, tough luck, it’s part of your permanent record….
With our recent posts encouraging BSers to take advantage of this moment in time to improve their profiles, including on the very important topic of GMAT score, you may be wondering, “Well heck EssaySnark, it would help for you to let me know if I’m really in trouble on the GMAT or not. I’m hearing so many different things. What’s a good GMAT score, anyway?”
Ah, if only there were one simple answer to this question!
We do discuss this topic quite a bit here on the blahg so doing some digging into the ‘snarchives might be worth the time. All of these posts are categorized under the “GMAT/GRE” topic, or if you’re already knowing that you’re not in the best shape on this dimension, you can jump straight to the “low GMAT” section instead.
The main caveat we can offer on the “low GMAT” posts is this: “Low” is relative.
What will be considered “low” at one school would be seen as a totally healthy and absolutely acceptable score at another.
What might be seen as “low” for one candidate could be a kind of midrange or normal score for another — so again, totally acceptable.
What might be considered “low” in one highly competitive season might be considered standard in another.
What we know is that we’re currently in a more normalized admissions environment at many of the very good schools, including Columbia and Tuck and Duke. It’s still an extreme situation at the most competitive programs like H/S/W and perhaps including places like Kellogg too.
For several years running, we saw app volumes push higher, and average GMAT scores went right along with them. It was becoming downright ridiculous at places like Darden and Ross. We believe that things have settled out again and that the statistics for the Class of 2021 (the admissions season that’s just wrapping up) the app volumes will be about the same at these schools, and the GMAT means will moderate or even start to tick down at some places.
This is all good. It was unsustainable for scores to be pushing higher and higher every year and it was royally unfair, because there were just too many well-deserving candidates who were being edged out by another person with an also-solid background and a touch-higher test score. That hardly seems fair. It’s oversimplistic to claim that schools were making margin decisions based on test scores but sometimes it did seem like that.
So in this era and the 2019-2020 admissions season to apply for the MBA Class of 2022, what would be seen as a “good” score at these schools?
Well, if you’ve got a 730 then we’re not feeling too nervous about your chances from a topline perspective; but as always, it depends on the entirety of your profile, what you offer by way of distinction, and the schools that you’re aiming for. (Shameless plug for our Comprehensive Profile Review goes here. /endshamelessplug)
Many applicants seem unaware of the importance of each individual subscore, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency based only on your GMAT total. If you landed a 730 but it was on the back of a superstar verbal score only, and your quant score is mired in the muck and the mud, well then we still could be concerned about your chances.
Also be careful about listening to assurances surrounding the relative safety of submitting a GRE score instead. Yes, in the past, the GRE has allowed some candidates to gain acceptance to a perhaps higher-tier school than a similar GMAT score would’ve allowed them — and that prompted boatloads of fresh candidates to go for the GRE instead of sweating through the GMAT. We haven’t seen too much shift in the data to indicate a significantly more competitive GRE landscape, but these things tend to be status-quo for quite awhile and then spike suddenly. The data that you see reported for the Class of 2020 is not necessarily what you should expect to see on GRE scores admitted to the Class of 2021, and that data won’t be released at most schools until mid to late summer at the earliest. And that will be much too late to do a pivot on your test strategy if we all discover that the GRE admissions tightened up in this past season. It’s not information that most schools are very open about, and only recently did any of them even publish any data on GRE scores. So tread carefully if you’re doing a GRE strategy. Past patterns may still hold this year, but at some point those tides will turn and the GRE pool will start becoming significantly more competitive compared to what it traditionally has been.
So, the question “Is my GMAT score good enough?” is a very important one to be asking!
Unfortunately it’s not one that anyone can answer for you without digging into your profile in some depth.
Sure, if your GMAT is a 620 then it’s easy to say that Harvard is a long shot. But even that is not something anyone can be definitive about. Because yes, it is possible to get into Harvard with a 620. Likely? No. But possible, yes.
It’s actually sometimes more probable that you can crack HBS with a lower GMAT than some other schools like Wharton. But it all comes down to the actualities of everything in your profile. There are many moving parts, and not one will be the definitive reason that you are in or you’re not. So please be cautious when you see all the consultants on the admissions boards trying to rank your chances or tell you a thumbs up or thumbs down based on scant information. It requires spending time with the entirety of a profile before you can offer any insights at all, and even then, y ou cannot say for sure how things will turn out. The actual application is needed to make a truly informed assessment. Don’t let an admissions consultant decide your chances for you; that’s the admissions director’s job at the school.
One heuristic we can offer by way of self-assessing your GMAT score: If your score is below 750, and you think you can do better, then do it. Take the test again, and nail it.
If it’s already above 730, then you probably don’t need to take it again. But if in your heart of hearts you know you can do better — and you have not tested more than 3 times already — then yeah, it’s worth it to do it one last time and nail it down.
Can you test too many times? Oh yes absolutely. This too needs to be taken into account — and please don’t be fooled by this “But I can cancel them” idea. That is a wobbly strategy — and that myth about canceling scores is so important that we’re going to dig into that topic coming up soon too.
For now, we apologize for the squirreliness of this post, where we pose a question and then never really answer it. Hopefully we’ve offered at least some tools or bumper-rails that let you examine your own current score and figure out a next step approach. If this year is your first application, then there’s a learning curve involved of who to listen to and what really matters, and all of that is totally context-sensitive, dependent upon the details of your own profile and the schools that you’re targeting. GMAT is one element under your full control. If you truly want to aim high, then do all in your power NOW to give the schools every reason to want to accept you. You don’t want to end up a reapplicant at this point next year, looking around at options and wishing you’d taken action when you first got word of it (which would be now).
Questions? We’re open for business! Lay ’em on us in the comments and we’re happy to give input, or go for that Comprehensive Profile Review if you want to roll up your sleeves and get started.
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