Jan 30, 2011

Make the most of your GMAT score

GMAT is, no doubt, one of the most important aspects of your MBA application package. For many, preparing for the test can also be one of the most stressing part of the entire application. So keep these pointers in mind when you think about GMAT test and your score:

1. How is my GMAT score used by the business schools?
GMAT is used as one of the screening tool by the business schools and hence, should be taken seriously by the MBA applicants. Unlike your work experience and educational background, it is one of the few parts of your application that is completely under your control. Considering that MBA coursework can be a challenging and vigorous workload for many, GMAT score, along with educational background, is used as an indicator for an applicant's analytical skills.

2. Is my GMAT score useless once I get admission to an MBA program?
No. Many of the recruiting companies during internship and full time recruitment look at your GMAT score along with your performance at the school. It is especially true for consulting companies and Investment Banking companies. These job functions require very high analytical skills as a skill set in their recruits and will be closely watching your GMAT score along with your performance /GPA in the MBA coursework. Hence, if you are targeting any of these industries, it will be helpful if you can have a stellar GMAT score to put on your school's resume.

3. How old can my GMAT score be?
GMAT score is valid for five years and hence, you can use a GMAT score that is taken within the past five years at the time of your application submission. You might have heard of the rumour at many places that it is required to have GMAT taken only during the last three years, but we found no substance to it. Check out your target school's admissions page and you will that they consider GMAT scores from the previous five years.

4. What GMAT score should I target?
Ideally, 800. Practically, to the best of your abilities. If you have your target business schools in your mind, try to be on the higher side of their 80% range. Business school reports statistics to outside world and many publications do consider average GMAT score of a school as a ranking parameter. Hence, it gets difficult for the school to give admissions to majority of people who have poor GMAT score but are excellent otherwise. While a low GMAT score does not mean that you can not get admission to a top school with high average GMAT score, it does mean that you are ranked low in one of the important decision factors of the school. Also, check out your demographics. If you are an Indian IT applicant where most of the applicants have 730+ score and you have a GMAT of 620 and applying to the same school, you are at a disadvantage.

5. Should I take classes to prepare for GMAT?
If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to have the discipline to study regularly for GMAT or is busy with work or for any other reason, a good class preparation can help you by making you stick you to a schedule. However, if you have the required motivation and don't need outside help, there is no need to take classes to prepare for the GMAT.

6. How much time it takes to prepare for the GMAT?
Depends on how much time you can give it. We know of people who scored a 760 with just two weeks of people and those who scored 500 even after four months of preparation. On an average, around two months should be sufficient, however, it depends on how good YOU feel that will decide what is the right time to prepare for the GMAT.

7. When should I  give the GMAT test?
You should take your GMAT score atleast 3-4 months before you application deadline. Most of the applicants who have yet to take GMAT think that GMAT prep is the hardest part of the application. You can not be more wrong. GMAT is just the starting point and your resume/essays/reco and rest of the application that require many many more hours than the GMAT prep. Giving GMAT ~4 months before the applications deadline also give you the time to retake it if you are not happy with your first attempt.

8. Should I retake the GMAT test if I am not happy with my score?
It is definitely recommended that you retake the GMAT, atleast once , if you are not happy with your first score. For many applicants, the first time is particularly tricky because of nerves and anxiety and you are definitely more relaxed the second time after having seen and experienced the atmosphere of the testing center. Moreover, don't forget that all the schools take your highest test score so there is nothing to lose in retaking the test, other than maybe the test fee.

9. Should I cancel my score if I am not too happy with how the test is going?
No, you are not going to get anything by cancelling the score. As business schools take only the highest test scores, there is nothing to lose to check out your final score. There might just be some surprise. Even if not, the test scores will help you realize where you are strong and where you may need to work more for your retake, if necessary

10. How to start preparing for GMAT?
Before starting your own preparation for GMAT, it is always good to know what approach other test takers took to crack the GMAT. Read out about those who just finished their GMAT test to know what worked and what did not and create your own personalized approach. There are many forums on the web that offer excellent platform to not just read about the approach taken by test takers but also help you prepare for GMAT test through various sections where you can post questions or answer questions posted by others. Few of these forums are PagalGuy , Urch  and beat the GMAT.

11. Should I take GRE instead?
Not a bad idea! Many of the top business schools such as Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and Columbia has started considering GRE scores for the admissions towards their MBA program. If they are your schools of choice, you can surely think about GRE. Also, since business schools do not publish statistics such as average GRE scores, schools may be more inclined to take a risk with a lower GRE score than a lower GMAT score. However, there are still not a lot of business schools that consider GRE score and hence, your decision to take GRE or GMAT should depend a lot on what schools you want to apply.

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