When Can I Stop Taking The GMAT?

What GMAT or GRE score is good enough to get into business school? If you don’t have a high GMAT score, it’s not the end of the world! Angela Guido is here to put test scores in context, explain how working out what counts as a high or low score is a bit more complicated than you might think, and set you on the right path to use whatever score you end up with in your MBA applications.

Find out What GMAT score is good enough for you.

It’s a bit of a longer video this week, but that’s because there’s so much to say! There’s a lot of stress about the GMAT, GMAT score percentiles, what’s a good GMAT score, what’s a low GMAT score or what’s just good enough, and we’re here to help you through it.

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back to MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol and former GMAT instructor at Manhattan Prep. A little-known fact is I'm on the cover of the word problems book for a Manhattan prep. True story. It took an hour to take this picture and it's still weird. So I have a little bit of experience with the GMAT and today I'm talking about what GMAT score is good enough for you.

About the GMAT and Your Score

So, it's a question that comes up for everyone at some point. “What GMAT score is good enough for me and when can I stop taking the darn test?”. It's important to understand really, where does your score need to be for your target schools? And it's not a simple, straightforward question. The simplest answer to the question is your score needs to be a little bit above the average for your target schools. So if you go look at the rankings, you'll see what everybody's average GMAT score is – and for that matter, GRE – and then you want your score, whichever test you're taking, to be just a little bit above the average for that school (check out this GMAT vs GRE article for more info on which test you should take). Logically, this puts you in a competitively advantaged position, vis a vis other applicants, if your score is just a little bit better than their average. So that's the simple answer and if you get that score on your first or second or third attempt, keep it. That will definitely help you. But a lot of people just aren't able to get there and so then they ask themselves, “Well, am I totally screwed? Like, am I just not going to be able to get into this school because my GMAT is at or maybe way below the average of that program?”, and the answer is not necessarily. It really depends on you. The best way to understand how your GMAT fits within the broader context of your competitiveness is to go get your MBAmo school report. You can go to mbamo.com and enter to the school you want to calibrate and a few data points about you and MBAmo will tell you whether the school you're applying to is a match, a reach a safety based on all of your information, including your test score, and you'll get some targeted information about your test score vis a vis that school. But it's not that perfect because the MBAmo calculation is really based on what I just said, which is, is your GMAT around or above the average of your target school? But it gets a lot more nuanced when you start to look candidate by candidate, because I've worked with people who've gotten into Harvard with a 630 GMAT and Harvard's average GMAT is 730. So, you can see that that's way below the average of that school. So to say that it's impossible to get into any MBA program without an average or above average score just frankly isn't true. In fact, if you think about the very meaning of an average, what it means is that roughly half of all applicants of all admits have scores below that line. So the question is, is that score going to be good enough for you? At the level of the individual, it's never just as simple as one answer fits all.

How Do You Compare To Others Like You?

But if I had to explain how to think about your test score in the context of your own application, apart from calibrating yourself to the average of that school, the next thing you have to look at is how does your score compare relatively to other people like you? You're competing primarily with people of your demographic and demographic includes everything from where you're from, your gender, your industry background etc. You're competing with people that are more or less like you. So you want to get an understanding of how well people like you tend to perform on the test. For some demographics, on average, people are doing way better than the average GMAT at a given school. And then for other demographics, on average, that pool of people tends to do a little bit less good on the standardized tests. It's worthwhile to understand where you stack up vis a vis your specific background and other people like you who are applying. But perhaps much more insightful way to look at it is “What does this test score represent in the grand scheme of your specific candidacy?”. Here's what I mean. If you were an English major and you had a mediocre GPA and you went to a middle of the road undergraduate program and your post-MBA career has included almost no verifiable quantitative work, you're going to want to have a very strong GMAT score. And in particular, a strong GMAT quant score, because that part of your application is going to be balancing out all the rest of it, which is showing no quantitative analytical skills at all. It's showing your soft skills. In the essays of course you're going to focus on your character and your values, but the school really does need at least one data point that shows them that you're really ready to do the work of the MBA program, which by and large is a quantitative degree. At least many of the courses you will take are mathematical or quantitative in orientation. By that same token, if you are coming from a very quantitative background and you majored in engineering and finance and you've got a really strong GPA, the GMAT is going to be relatively less significant in the grand scheme of your profile because you have a lot of other evidence that you're really ready to handle the work of the MBA program.

When In Doubt, Aim for Above and Beyond

So, how do I bottom line all of that? When you think about what GMAT score is good enough for you, the short answer is keep it above the average, if you can. Take the test as many times as you need to up to the limit to get the best possible score that you can get. And then once you've maxed out your personal best score – and you'll more or less know when you've done it: you've taken the test three or four times and it's just not improving and all of your practice tests were at about this level and your actual test is at about that level, you just know you're not going to do any better – so when you reach that point, then you can stop taking the test and move on to choosing the right set of schools for you – again, use mbamo.com to choose the right set of schools for you – and then it's all about the application. And the good news is that the rest of your application actually matters significantly more than that test score when you put everything in context.

The last thing I want to say is don't let the test hold you back, do your best on the test, and then do your best on the applications. Make sure you have some safety schools and your MBA dreams can be a reality no matter how difficult that test seems when you first sit down to take it.

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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Additional Resources:

What GMAT score is good enough for you?

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