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What if you don't reach 700?

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Kevin Community Manager Default Avatar
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What if you don't reach 700?

Post Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:13 am
What happens if you take the exam and you do not break 700? A common myth among GMAT hopefuls is that you only get one bite at the apple. In other words, if you do not hit your target score on your first attempt, all your subsequent efforts, even if successful, are somehow diminished in the eyes of b-school admissions committees. This is totally false!

The vast majority of business schools take only your highest GMAT score into account when evaluating your application. Why? First, it is in their best interest to inflate their mean and median GMAT scores to keep their rankings high. Second, business schools do not see the GMAT as a test of innate intelligence but rather as a measure of your preparation for business school. They want to know that at the time of your eventual matriculation, you will have the basic skills (quantitative, reasoning, writing, etc.) necessary for success in their programs. Whether you prove yourself on your first, second, or third attempt is irrelevant as long as you demonstrate your readiness somewhere along the way.

Also, keep in mind that business schools evaluate not only your academic qualifications (e.g., GMAT and GPA), but also your professional promise. They gauge this by your career choices and successes and by your demonstrated determination to succeed. If you present a GMAT score that is clearly below a school's standards, the admissions office will question your drive and consider you unrealistic. Taking the exam again shows determination and an appreciation for what it takes to achieve your goals, all desirable traits in a business school applicant.

How likely is it that your score will improve on a subsequent test? It is more likely than not. Many test-takers succumb to nerves on their first try, letting time slip away as they fumble through the exam. On a second attempt, the exam is no longer a mystery. Having learned from experience, many test-takers are better able to manage the time and to recognize the warning signs when they find themselves dealing with questions beyond their reach. Recent test-takers have gone from 620 to 720, 650 to 710, 580 to 670, 630 to 680, 520 to 690, and these are just a tiny sample of people whose scores improved significantly on a subsequent try. Of course, they continued to study and hone their skills, but an essential component of their eventual success was their prior experience with the exam.

If your first attempt at the exam falls short of your target score (i.e., a score that will make you competitive at the schools to which you plan to apply), you will need to take the exam again. But do not see this as a failure. Rather, it is a second opportunity to show the business schools that you are ready. In fact, we recommend that everyone plan to take the test twice, right from the start. The first try is a "practice run" to shake out your nerves and familiarize yourself with the timing and pressure of the real exam so that on your second attempt you can concentrate on the content and time management.

The 700 barrier has taken on a life of its own among business-school applicants. It seems more and more that applicants are shooting for 700 in order to "seal the deal" at a top-20 business school. But is 700 really necessary for admissions success?

While the vast majority of business schools still report average GMAT scores below 700, the uppermost echelon increasingly reports averages at or above that mark. You have to be careful, though, when evaluating reported GMAT scores. Is it an average or a median? If a school reports an average GMAT score of 700, for example, you have no way of knowing what proportion of students scored above that mark, or below for that matter. A few very high or very low scores can skew the average up or down. If a school reports a median GMAT score of 700, by contrast, you know that approximately 50% of its students scored above that mark and approximately 50% scored below. Accordingly, median GMAT scores are more indicative of your admissions chances than are averages, though for most schools the two will be quite close.

For example, the average GMAT score in a recent year at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (GSB) was 687, but the median score was 700. The slight discrepancy indicates that even though 50% scored above 700 and 50% below, there were more very low scores (relatively speaking, that is - it is still Chicago, after all) than very high scores. What does this mean? It means that some applicants with comparatively low GMAT scores were admitted to Chicago GSB. Another top school with a similar discrepancy is the Fuqua School of Business of Duke University. In a recent year, it reported an average GMAT score of 701 but a median of 710. MIT and Hass (UC, Berkeley) also reported similar discrepancies between their mean and median GMAT scores in recent years. This shows that while your GMAT score weighs heavily in your application, a score above 700 is not necessary for admission to some of the country's most prestigious business schools, even when they report average scores at or above 700.

In fact, you should not think of average or median GMAT scores as "cutoffs". One very prestigious b-school reports an average score above 700, but its admissions officers have been known to tell applicants that the real minimum in their eyes is 660. Will you have a better chance with a score of 760 than 660? Sure, but your application would not be summarily dismissed if you submitted a score of 660. And remember that more goes into the admissions decisions than just the GMAT score: work experience, GPA, recommendations, essays, etc.

Of course, breaking the 700 barrier can only help your chances. So aim high and study hard!

_________________
Kevin Fitzgerald
Director of Marketing and Student Relations
Manhattan GMAT
800-576-4626

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800guy Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Thu Jun 29, 2006 5:33 pm
thanks for the advice, Kevin. i really love your articles! i wish you would post more often...

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