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…
When talking about what score is “good enough” for getting into a top MBA program, we said this: If your score is somewhere in between a 700 and a 770 and if you think you can score higher on the GMAT… then we strongly encourage you to suck it up and make it happen. If…
This is a less critical question for a small subset of the test-taker population this days. The GMAC (GMAT test people) announced a policy last year that actually prevents some wayward testers from shooting themselves in the foot with their own overenthusiasm for testing. (Is that the first time in recorded history that the word…
There is no school in the world with a strict cut-off on GMAT score. They read each and every app, regardless of how high or how low your test results came out. But if the score is too low, then you’re saying one of these things: A) I don’t have the intellectual capacity to easily…
We had someone come to us recently who’d taken the GMAT more than 10 times. We’d never seen a score report like that before. While we learned what was behind this testing history, and it was quasi-understandable (somewhat related to a health issue) it still gave us pause. Lots of adcoms will claim that you…
If you even have that thought, you’re in one of two camps:
- You know that your score is low and you’re (rightly) worried that it’s going to keep you out.
- You have a decent score but you’re a worrier – and perhaps a little uneducated.
We’ll tackle the more important case today.
This is of course a complicated question. It depends on what your best GMAT score already is, how many times you’ve taken the test, what your background is, what your GPA is, what schools we’re talking about, etc.
But we can cut through the chase on all of that and ask you just one simple question:
Did you study?
Before you took the test, did you put in the work?
The GMAT test-maker people say that studying helps. They claim that you can bump a score by 30 points or so by investing significant hours in the books. Their range is 60 to 100 hours to show this type of improvement. How much time you literally need to see an improvement depends on where you’re coming from – what’s your background already, where are you strong or weak.
And how serious are you, really.
We’ve seen people who say they “studied” but we know that it’s b_llsh_t. Opening a book while the TV is on is not studying. Reading through practice questions on a forum without actually trying to solve them is not studying. Reading the EssaySnark blahg is not studying. These all may be (semi)useful events in your life, but let’s get a little real with this.
Studying is sitting at your desk with no distractions and focusing 100% on the subject matter.
If you’re taking a GMAT prep class, then class time doesn’t quite count as studying either – though it can be immensely helpful for many.
Studying is you, alone, working with the material. Studying is exercising your brain to make it stronger. Studying is active and, yes, it’s work.
If you deep down inside know that you’ve been cutting corners with this stuff, you’re only cheating yourself. Take the time. Put in the effort. Sure, you’ve been out of school for awhile, and this stuff is hard – but you can totally pull this off – we know you can!
We have told a bunch of you Brave Supplicants that you really need to take the GMAT again, and some of you are actually doing it. We know that it’s a stressful proposition. That test is no fun, and if you didn’t do too great on it the first time through, then your nerves may get the best of you when you go at it again. This might be especially true if you’re taking it for the third time – which we’ve probably told you “needs to be your last.”
There’s no risk to your chances of getting in if you take the GMAT again and don’t do better (provided it’s only your second test). But clearly, retaking with no improvement would be downright discouraging. A problem we often see with high-potential candidates is that they get seriously stressed out about the test. This creates performance anxiety, which creates doubting thought patterns, and the pressure – inflicted from the inside – can actually be the reason for a low test score.
That vicious cycle can happen the first time out, too, but it is especially likely to occur if you’re retaking the test. Fear of failure often creates the failure itself. Our thoughts get the best of us. The mind is not our friend.
If you know that this happens to you and you’re becoming nervous about your upcoming test, we have a few suggestions for you, many of them courtesy of the awesome Annie Murphy Paul and her Brilliant Blog http://anniemurphypaul.com/blog/ [blog taken down since this was published].
1. Before you go into the test center, take a moment and collect yourself. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your test appointment – partly so that you’re on time and can get through the registration process, and partly so that you can get yourself in a good state of mind. If you will be driving yourself there, then use 10 of those minutes to hang out with yourself in the car, alone, having a moment of peace. Otherwise, stake out a spot in the lobby of the building, or if nothing else, head to the restroom so that you can have at least a little privacy. Do some deep breathing exercises. Get centered. If you’re feeling physically nervous and jittery, which you very well might be, then close your eyes and imagine yourself at your favorite place – maybe by the ocean, or on the top of a mountain, or some other peaceful scene. Get a hold of your emotions and allow yourself to calm down, intentionally, before you embark on this big adventure in the test center.
Tip: If you’re going to a new test center for this exam, then sometime before test day make the trek across town to visit. Knowing where you’re going, how to get there, where to park – before you have to actually go there – will eliminate one source of stress entirely.
2. Write out your emotions. This one is direct from [what used to be] the Brilliant Blog . Take a few minutes and write down all the things you’re feeling – your fears and anxieties, especially. Put them down on paper. Get them out of your head. Doing so will, quite literally, clear your mind. You’ll be better able to focus on the task at hand – the actual GMAT test – if you unclutter your brain of all these burdensome thoughts. EssaySnark recommends writing down all the negative thoughts, and then turning them to positives. “I’m scared I will get another low score – but I know that I’ve studied and I’m ready, and I am prepared to get a 720.” (Or whatever. Substitute in a test score that you’ve actually gotten in a practice exam.) It doesn’t matter if part of your brain is not believing in it; you will get a boost in confidence levels if you think positive thoughts, and writing them can be even more powerful.
3. Do some power poses before you head in to the test, and do them again in the bathroom at your break. This is from Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, and her studies show that it increases performance. The main idea is that you put your body in a position of dominance – stand with your legs wide and your arms extended in a victory sign – think of the gesture that people make when they cross the finish line in a foot race.
That’s a very effective one. Here’s a variation:
— Natalie Wossene (@natiwo) October 18, 2013
You may feel silly if someone sees you doing this, but the payoff in terms of your actual test performance could be significant. (And yes, it’s good for pre-interview preparation, too!)
The GMAT test is hard – but if you’ve done your homework and you studied for it, you’re going to do fine. And if you take some time to get yourself prepared mentally, you’ll be running strong.
Good luck with it Brave Supplicant!
In many cases, taking the GMAT again can help your chances in reapplying to business school. The obvious situation when you want to retake the GMAT is when your current score is below the school’s average. As a rule of thumb, if you scored under 700 on the GMAT test, then YES, it can help…