First of all, if your GMAT is low, then we don’t recommend writing an optional essay about it at all. The optional essay is meant to explain, and thereby neutralize, issues and weaknesses in your app. If your GMAT is low, there is no amount of explaining that will neutralize it. The only thing that…
So we just spent 1,000 words yesterday telling you that the schools look at everything. And they do. In every chat, webinar, and info session, you’ll hear admissions directors of top MBA programs tell you that they do a “holistic review” of their candidates, that they don’t weight any particular component of the profile, that…
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.
We got a question from yet another waitlister and thought we’d share some thoughts with all of you: Hey guys, Been a tough season – 4 rejections & 2 wait lists. I read your waitlist guide, and would like to send an email to the adcoms with documentation showing I’ll be promoted June 1, and…
So many times over the past year and a half, we’ve been tempted to blahg about the person who’s become the Republican candidate for President of the United States. So many teachable moments – and some positives, too, actually! There has been debate in Snarkville about it (not nearly as heated as the debate last night!) but in Fall 2015 we decided we’d just leave it alone. We don’t want this to be a political place. You come here for snark about bschool admissions; there’s more than enough snark out there on the interwebs about all of this other nonsense. We wanted this to be a safe space (ha!) where you could enjoy living in a parallel dimension where none of that RL stuff ever invaded.
But then last week we posted a snippet of a field report from a last-year BSer that referenced a political candidate and on Friday, we were served with an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Anyway, it’s not like we’ve never used politics or current events as fodder for the blahg before. We referenced the 2008 Democratic Primary debate between Obama and Clinton in a 2014 “Are you likeable?” post about interviewing. And we actually covered what we’re going to talk about today last year in this post about hacked emails where Sony executives made jokes in poor taste about the President.
What we got on Friday was a scandalous recording from ten years ago where this Presidential candidate said some things about women, which prompted the candidate to release a video Friday night ostensibly apologizing for what he said. (If you have not seen either or both of these videos yet, what rock have you been hiding under??? We’re not about to link to them directly, they’re easy enough to find on your own if you need to catch up.)
In the apology video, the candidate made the classic assertion:
“Anyone who knows me knows these words do not reflect who I am.”
Why on earth is EssaySnark going to such pains to lay all of this out for you?
It’s because it’s the most common assertion in the world and it pretty much always is bogus.
When you say to the adcom, “My grades in college do not reflect my abilities.”
Or when you say, “My GMAT score does not…”
Well guess what?
These things DO reflect. In fact, by the very nature of them – words, behavior, test scores, GPA – that’s EXACTLY what they do.
The only thing we have to evaluate our fellow human being and to see what they’re made of is the things that they do and the things that they say.
That is ESPECIALLY true in your MBA applications.
Your academic record is a sum total of all of your abilities – or if not your abilities, your willingness to put forth the effort.
The words a person speaks come from their thoughts. Nobody will ever say something that does not originate in their mind. If you’re claiming that your mind is not a reflection of who you are, well, sorry but that does not fly.
Same with this classic (and useless) excuse about academic performance or results of a standardized test.
When you trot out this “does not reflect” line, you’re basically insulting your audience. You’re saying, “Look, this happened, OK? Much as I’d like to pretend that it didn’t, and have tried to hide it, now that it’s out in the open and part of the record, I guess I need to deal with it. But you shouldn’t judge me on it. Why not? Because I say so.”
If you find yourself in a situation that you need to explain something negative from your profile to the adcom in your MBA applications, then…
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THAT is how you handle a difficult situation from your past. THAT is how you neutralize a negative in your profile – or even, best case scenario, turn it into a positive. THAT is how you avoid insulting your adcom reader’s intelligence with the fallback and totally transparent and empty claim that everyone says when they’re busted with something that they shouldn’t have done, but they did.
To bring this around to a positive and mention the original reason for the Snarkville debate on whether or not to reference this man on the blahg: Everyone by now has heard him speak. What struck us even a year ago and continues to this day is his speaking style. He speaks in short, declarative sentences using simple language and structure. Most of his sentences are of the basic form: subject -> verb -> object. (Usually with some big adjectives and adverbs thrown in.) This style has been evaluated as speaking at a third-grader’s level , or by others in a more rigid analysis, a sixth-grader , which to some sounds like a criticism, but it’s actually a technique that invites clarity.
We are not about to suggest that anyone model their MBA essays on this person’s style – but we will say that writing more simply is usually an advantage in your applications. (We will leave the question of the content of this person’s speech for you to evaluate.)
When talking recently 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….
We posted about this before – “What is a ‘good’ GMAT score?” – but it’s been a long time now and the world has changed. If you’re coming from an oversubscribed candidate pool (the typical ones being Indian engineer, or white dude from finance) then a “good” score is going to be very different than…