Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is my GMAT score good enough?

Of all the emails that I've received in the past few months, the most common questions that I'm being asked by applicants are - How good is my GMAT score? Will I get into XYZ business school with a xx0 score? and What GMAT score do i need if I want to be accepted by ABC business school?

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 hari4mba@gmail.com with your query/comment and I'll update this post with additional data.

Update:
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.


47 comments:

  1. A couple of additions:

    1. A good GMAT score *can* be a differentiating factor for scholarships (or so I'v heard).

    2. Consulting firms can ask for your GMAT scores at the time of applying.

    ReplyDelete
  2. From my personal experience....i feel being an intl (read asian) and a score below 680 is a BIG BIG dampening factor even if you assume that you have something to offer to the school. I got dinged for atleast 3 II tier schools specifically stating that my score was less than the intl avg of gmat. And yes.. i did fall within the 80% gmat range.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My profile in sept 2010 will be as follows:
    Age -27
    Education - BCS (Higher Second Class Pune University), CDAC (B+ Bangalore)
    Work Exp - 6 Yrs (Out of which 2 yrs in US)
    IELTS - 6.5 (W-6,L-6.5,S-6.5,R-6.5)
    GMAT - 410
    What are my chances of getting in 2-tire US school ?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ajay, i suggest you send me an email with your profile and a short description on what are your career objectives and your present job profile. I'll be more than happy to give you my views. I think email is a better way to communicate this.

    -Hari

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with point number 5, I think it's important to get a GMAT score that allows you to be within the range of acceptance and then focus your time and energy in showing your potential in the essays.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have got a GMAT score of 690. I would like to know if this is good enough for applying to the top 5-6 b-schools of the world. Also, I am worried that if a take a retest, there is a chance that I might score even lower, because my range in practice tests has been 680-720; and both the scores will reach the B schools. Shd I take a retest or shd i go ahead with this score?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. I'm doing practice GRE here: masteryourgre.com . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Help! I am an international student, having lots of difficulties taking the GMAT, my score ranges from 45to 470. However, I have really good GPA and I know my capability is higher than the GMAT is trying to show. Do you think good GPA will offset the GMAT score, I am trying to get into masters in information systems program in public universities that ranks from 85 to 100?

    ReplyDelete
  9. sorry meant to write 450 to 470, not 45 to 470!

    ReplyDelete
  10. The GMAT has a lot to do with scholarship opportunities for sure. Also, when studying, students need to understand that the essay portion of their test is NOT included in their raw score and that most schools just give the essay scores a glance. They are much more interested in the number score you get.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi my name is Arjun. I have a gmat score of 580. Can you please let me know what schools will i be accepted .

    My profile:

    GMAT:580
    GPA:2.9
    Work ex:4 Years (Finance and Manufacturing)
    CFA: Cleared 2 levels

    ReplyDelete
  12. Bottom line is, to hit the mark, you have to study hard. If everyone reviewed well and felt good while taking the exam, then no one would be worrying about the results. Since there are companies that are very much interested in your GMAT score, it's all the more important that you focus on hitting a high score. Just keep in mind that it kinda holds your future.

    ReplyDelete
  13. GMAT would really seem to be very difficult especially for starters but as long as you know the basics of it and try to devote time in knowing the rest then it will be as easy as ABC.

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  16. Ig my gpa is 2.4 then what are my chances of getting into good b-school....

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