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Test prep or admissions planning — which comes first for MBA applicants?

September 19 2017 By The MBA Exchange
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The process of applying to business school can feel overwhelming — especially before you get started. A stressful question that confronts applicants early on is, “Where do I begin?” MBA candidates know that they can’t apply without a standardized test score, but they also realize there’s a long list of other priorities in order to maximize their chances for admission. So, some applicants get stuck in limbo and don’t take any action, while some others make the wrong decision and jeopardize their candidacy.

Drawing from our experience advising nearly 5,000 MBA applicants over the past three decades, The MBA Exchange offers a simple model to help you decide where to begin:

Test prep comes first if…

• Your GMAT or GRE test scores will determine if you’re going to apply to any school. That is, if you don’t achieve a certain threshold, you will not pursue an MBA anywhere.
• You’ve attempted the test more than once with unsatisfactory results, and now feel the need to spend time working with a skilled, professional test tutor.
• Your list of target schools is locked in, but your GPA is well below average for admits, so you need an especially high test score to become competitive.
• You’re committed to apply in the current round, with no flexibility for later deadlines even if that would allow you to become more competitive.Admissions planning comes first if…

• Your GPA is average or higher, and you have reasonable confidence in achieving a test score that’s average or higher for admits, at your target schools.
• You don’t know how qualified or competitive you will be for your target schools.
• You don’t yet have a clear and compelling hypothesis for your post-MBA career goal.
• You haven’t completed other timely, essential aspects of the application process (e.g., finalizing your target school list, establishing a dialogue with current MBA students, visiting campus to observe a class, getting commitments from the best possible recommenders, initiating meaningful non-work leadership roles, etc.)Still feeling uncertain about where to begin? A smart move for you would be to get a free, expert evaluation of your MBA candidacy. This candid feedback from savvy professionals can validate your strengths, confirm your vulnerabilities, and help prioritize the action steps necessary for you to succeed.