Don’t Let a “Low GMAT” Shatter Your MBA Dreams

A recurrent nightmare shared by many business school applicants is performing poorly on the exam required for admission. Such apprehension is understandable given that a standardized test is the only “common denominator” that spans all applicants to accredited MBA programs. Furthermore, each school makes it crystal clear what their average admit scored on the test. Admissions committees realize that the average GMAT score for accepted candidates is a major factor in the school’s competitive ranking. So, it’s not surprising that many applicants find it nearly impossible to look beyond the GMAT when contemplating their chances for admission.

When is a GMAT score “too low”?
This first step in confronting this issue rationally is to determine what defines a low score. A reliable benchmark is the score reported for the “middle 80%” of admits at the targeted school. If your score is within that range, your candidacy is alive and well, meriting further consideration. And even if you’re just below the bottom of that range, it doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically rejected. Even the most selective schools have accepted otherwise worthy applicants whose GMAT scores were well below the bottom of the “middle 80%” – such as 510 at Harvard, 550 at Stanford, 560 at Wharton. At The MBA Exchange, we’ve helped clients with scores below 500 gain admission to top-10 business schools. So, before you assume something is truly impossible, consider what some others have achieved.

What can mitigate a low GMAT?

The biggest mistake that applicants make is to view their GMAT score in isolation rather than as one element of the overall admissions decision. The fact is that adcoms consider the complete “academic profile” of a candidate when deciding who will be admitted. The school also weighs factors such as the undergraduate GPA, rigor of the academic major, and stature of the undergrad institution.
Before concluding that a GMAT score is “too low,” adcoms will also consider the professional profile. Does the candidate have credentials such as CPA, CFA, FINRA exams? Is his or her job one that demands exceptional quantitative, technical or analytical skills?
So, without even realizing it, your MBA candidacy may already have non-GMAT aspects that encourage business schools to look beyond your test score.

If I have a low GMAT score, what can I do now?
If you still feel that your score is going to keep you from getting full and fair consideration for MBA admission, there are at least three tactics for you to consider:

1. Manage your scores – past, present and future
The only score that can harm your candidacy is one you that you reluctantly report to the school. Considering the liberalized “cancellation” policies introduced for the GMAT, applicants have total control as to whether a score is reported. You can even cancel scores retroactively going back to July 19, 2015! And you can reinstate previously canceled score going back nearly 5 years. So, are you feeling a bit less pressure now?

2. Work with a trusted tutor
If the test prep books, videos, software, classes, advisors, etc., you’ve used so far have not produced the desired success, change the game! Find an expert tutor who can help you understand and get past your obstacles. Then roll up your sleeves and immerse yourself in a customized regimen with that tutor, seeking candid feedback and correction along the way. Remember you can retest within just 16 days of the prior test. So, what’s keeping you from getting started?

3. Consider taking the GRE
Many MBA applicants who feel constrained in the quant realm discover that the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a better option for them. However, those who lack confidence in the verbal arena may be better off with the GMAT. Test prep experts can help you decide which option might be better for you.

There’s no denying that the GMAT can be a major hurdle, or at least a significant distraction, for those seeking admission at top MBA programs. However, there’s no reason why you should allow that score to be the sole reason you don’t try to achieve that goal. Like most good things in life, getting accepted to your dream business school is not easy. But getting past the GMAT will add confidence, clarity and determination that help maximize your chances for a win.