This question is a classic around these parts.
“How important is my GMAT score when applying to MBA programs?”
There’s no really “clean” answer, but we like a challenge, so let’s see if we can give you a pretty good idea.
Comparing One Applicant To Another
When B-schools are looking to admit new students, they only have so many ways that they can try to compare candidates to one another to determine who’s the best fit for their program. Now, just because two candidates are coming in with undergrad business degrees and three years of business experience doesn’t mean that you can compare them directly to get a good sense of how they match up. Undergraduate degrees are not created equal (a BA from Harvard and a BA from Hicksville College are NOT the same thing), and even comparing two different people’s “business” experiences can be tricky, depending on what kind of business they were in and what amount and type of leadership experience they gained.
The Great Equalizer
So, what else can an adcom look at to try and compare candidates “side-by-side?” The simple answer is the GMAT. The GMAT is the equalizer, a single test that EVERY MBA applicant can prepare for and take, making it the “fairest” way to take Candidate A and compare him to Candidate B. Now, is the GMAT a perfect way of showing how much you know about management? Of course not. Some (like the guys over there trying to get you to take the GRE) might even say it doesn’t prove anything about someone’s ability to manage. But it doesn’t matter – at the end of the day, if you want to get into business school, you have to take the GMAT.
So, How Important Is Your GMAT Score?
The short answer is: pretty damn important. The GMAT is kind of like the “first impression” the admissions committee gets of you before reading your essays, resume, etc. And you know what they say about first impressions… there can only be one…
Sure, a low GMAT score can be explained with an essay… because almost ANYTHING can be fixed with a great essay (here are some tips for writing one). But, the GMAT is way more important than your undergrad GPA. It really shows the adcom that you’ve got what it takes to handle the workload coming your way in B-school. That you’ve got the chops to take on all that quant work, etc.
So What Does That Mean For You?
Well, if you’ve already taken it and are finding that your score doesn’t measure up to the schools you’d like to apply to, do some test prep (study guides, practice tests, formal prep classes) and retake it. Don’t let one bad day of test taking limit your chances of getting into the best B-school you can. We know TONS of people who have taken the test 2, 3 even 6 times! So give yourself another shot to do better. Besides all that extra time lost to studying (again), you have nothing to lose.
And if you don’t have time to re-take it? Should you forge ahead anyway and apply to a school if your GMAT is lower than their minimum or average? Of course. The GMAT isn’t the end-all, be-all, friends. If there are OTHER parts of your app that are fantastic (great work experience, compelling essays, amazing recommendations, etc.) that will make the adcom forget about that GMAT score for a minute, well, that can be a very good thing.
Looking for more GMAT insight? Check out these blog posts!