Applying to business school can be quite stressful. Most programs require an entrance exam like the GMAT to be considered for admission. Many students are forced to study for the GMAT while working full time and/or finishing up their undergraduate studies. It’s not uncommon for a student’s first attempt at the GMAT to not go well.
While not an ideal situation, a low GMAT score does not mean you should abandon your dream of earning your MBA. Many programs view candidates holistically and a lower GMAT score can be overcome if the rest of your application is strong. Below are a few strategies you may wish to consider if you believe your GMAT score is hurting your application.
Prepare and Retake the Exam
Now that you have taken the test at least once, you have several advantages versus going in cold. You know the types of questions asked, the pace of the exam and how many questions you were able to answer in the allotted times. You also know how you did in each section. With this information, you can put together a strategy for improving your score the next time around.
If you struggled on the quantitative section, you may want to review some math concepts. Khan Academy is a wonderful, free resource that can show you step by step how to apply many of the concepts tested on the exam.
If you struggled in the verbal section, practicing reading comprehension can help you improve your score. Try reading articles in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and other business publications on a regular basis. If you can identify the main points of each article, and identify arguments that would strengthen or weaken the author’s main points, you should be in better shape during your next GMAT exam.
You can also download practice exams from www.mba.com. Generally speaking, you should be able to improve your score up to 100 points through additional practice and by becoming more familiar with the exam. If your score is more than 100 points off from where you want it to be, you may want to consider taking an MBA prep course. Kaplan, Princeton Review and others offer both online and in-person courses designed to help you maximize your potential on the GMAT.
Highlight Quantitative Qualifications in Application
While the GMAT doesn’t measure students’ leadership skills, employability, ethical standards or ability to work in a team setting, it is a pretty good measure of their quantitative capabilities. If your GMAT score is low but you have earned good grades from a well-respected university in a tough subject, you may be able to make the case that you have a strong quantitative skill set but are just not a good test taker. Be sure to use the optional essay to highlight your performance in quantitative coursework if it will strengthen your application. Also, be sure your resume outlines any technical certifications or job requirements. Finally, you may wish to ask your recommenders to highlight your quantitative capabilities in their letters of recommendation. The more details they provide, the more it helps your chances for admission.
Take a College Math Review Course
If high school algebra is a distant memory, you may find it helpful to take a math refresher course before retaking the GMAT exam. Building (or rebuilding) the right foundation can make your studies much easier. Several Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) including Coursera and EdX offer free courses in these areas. If you prefer a more traditional class, check your local community college course catalog.
Try the GRE
While similar to the GMAT, the GRE is a broader exam, typically taken by students applying to a non-business master’s program. More and more business schools (including Oregon State) are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT. These schools typically convert your GRE score to an equivalent GMAT score (Here’s a link to the conversion tool if you are interested). Of course, you will want to make sure the schools you are considering do accept the GRE, and that taking the GRE in lieu of the GMAT won’t affect your scholarship eligibility.
Apply for a GMAT Waiver
Some schools offer a GMAT waiver process for exceptionally well qualified applicants. GMAT waivers are typically available for part-time and executive MBA programs only. If the school(s) you are considering offers a GMAT waiver process, talk with the admissions team to ensure applying for a waiver will not disqualify you from scholarship consideration.
Hopefully these tips can help you overcome a low GMAT score and get your MBA application back on track.