So instead of repeating the same response, I thought I'd put out a post for the benefit of all the applicants. What all these questions really point to is the burning doubt in the minds of thousands of applicants about the weightage of their GMAT scores. Here are some of the points that I feel would be important in judging your score:
1. Is my GMAT score important? Yes it is. Business schools were having a hard time evaluating the applicants' ability to handle the rigor of an MBA curriculum. Hence the GMAT was born. GMAT provides a universal scale to evaluate the quantitative and verbal ability of a candidate and this would help the schools understand whether the candidate would be suitable for their course. Now as competition went up the scores of applicants applying to top schools went up to. But still the GMAT serves the very same purpose even today and that is to evaluate the candidates academic potential. So yes GMAT is important.
2. But really, how important is the score? I would say if your academic history does not illustrate a good level of your quantitative or verbal (English) ability then it becomes more important. For example, lets consider an applicant with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Obviously its hard to illustrate his/her ability to perform complex calculations through his/her academic coursework. Hence GMAT becomes a great medium to just do that - show the schools that the applicant is in fact capable of sailing through the MBA curriculum.
3. Is my GMAT score low? It depends on what you consider a poor score. I've come across candidates who consider 650 a poor score. A score such as this is actually pretty good. If you have taken several quant courses in the past and have a good level of English ability then a 650 shouldn't stop you from applying to the schools on your wishlist. But be aware that if you are applying to a top school there will be applicants with much higher score. So the million dollar question in fact would be, "what have I got to offer to the school that others haven't?" All things considered a score of 600+ should be a decent score that will prove to the school that you will be able to handle the curriculum.
4. How do i evaluate my score with respect to the applicant pool at a school? There are several ways to do that. One way is to check the schools' website and analyse the "student profile". Most b-school post a page on their website that shows the students' profile for the current intake. This will give you two very useful data - the mean GMAT score of the current intake and the top 80% GMAT range. The mean tells you the average GMAT score of all the applicants who got accepted, and the 80% range tells you the range of GMAT scores that are mostly accepted. So for example, if a school shows its 80% range as 580 to 680, it means that 80% of the accepted students' GMAT scores falls within this range. So if your score falls within the range, your GMAT score will not keep you from admittance. The only other possibility is if your score falls above the range in which case you are a great candidate for the school based on GMAT and if you score falls short; but you have a brilliant profile then you could still stand a chance.
Also another aspect to note is that if your GMAT score is equal to or over the mean then you need not worry about your score at all. But if your score is much below the mean say 590 as per the above example then you might need to provide further evidence of your academic potential - just to be safe!
BTW did you know that Harvard's 80% GMAT score range is between 580 and 780, which means people with 580 and even lower have got into HBS and there is a rumor that once Stanford rejected all applications with a perfect 800 score!
5. Can I overcome a low GMAT score? Of course you can! I stand as proof of this. If your score is below the school's typical intake score, you might still stand a chance. If you have a technical background, or have taken many quant courses in the past, or have extensive industry expertise or significant work experience, or have recently taken professional or quantitative courses, or are simply a brilliant candidate with an unusual profile that the school can't let go off - then don't loose hope you still can make it. In my case, my GMAT score was below the school's typical intake but I used the essays to emphasize my 6 years of technical education (engineering) and 4 years of technical work experience. Use the optional essays to your advantage to show the schools that GMAT might not be a proper indicator of your intellectual potential. A strong undergraduate GPA is another potential weapon to over power a low GMAT. Do you think a school will doubt a candidate's ability to handle their curriculum, if he/she has a 4.0 GPA? I don't think so.
So there you go, my 2 cents on GMAT scores. If you think I left out on any important aspect of evaluating the GMAT please do comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your query/comment and I'll update this post with additional data.
Rocky was kind enough to share 2 very important pointers regarding GMAT score - thanks!. Here they are for the benefit of all:
1. A good GMAT score can be a differentiating factor for scholarships: This is very true as most scholarships are awarded on a merit basis and GMAT forms one of the important criteria for this. So if you are looking for a scholarship its best to get a high score or apply to a school where your score lingers around the top of the typical GMAT intake range.
2. Consulting firms might ask for GMAT scores when applying for a job: This falls into the gray area between fact and myth. Although i know of many consulting companies (some of the big ones) that explicitly ask for a GMAT score, many schools restrict companies from asking this to its students when they come for on-campus interviews. Be aware that what happens outside the school is not a area where b-schools have a say in. So, this goes to prove that your GMAT score might be important not only for b-school application but for future job applications as well.