MBA 101: The GMAT, GRE and MBA Tests | Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about the GMAT, GRE and other MBA tests before you apply to business school. Is it better to take the GMAT or GRE? What GMAT score do you need to get in? Is your score good enough? What to do about a bad score? It’s all here!

We’re SO EXCITED because today marks the start of our FREE course MBA 101. We’ve spent countless hours distilling all our MBA application knowledge into five videos with a ton of free resources, PDFs and templates so that you can get everything you need to know without wading through the ocean of (mostly misleading) internet advice and focus on what really matters: presenting your authentic self in your MBA application.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back to MBA Monday! I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. I am so happy that you are watching this video right now because this is not just a regular MBA Monday. This is actually episode 1 of my five-part series called MBA 101. We've spent countless hours distilling all of our MBA knowledge into a free course that you can sign up for right now by scrolling down into the discussion where it says careerprotocol.com/MBA101. We put this program together because there is so much nonsense on the internet about how to get into business school. The process is confusing and you don’t have time to filter through all the information that’s out there or even all the amazing videos on our YouTube channel. We've shrunk it down into just the five most essential pieces and included exclusive downloads, templates, and content that we normally only share with our clients. You can enroll for free if you scroll down below and just click careerprotocol.com/MBA101. We're so excited to share this program with you because we have spent a long time formulating and developing it and putting it together so that you can have just the most essential MBA advice at your fingertips. I can't wait to hear your feedback, I hope you will go and sign up! And now, let me get into session 1. I'm going to be talking about your test scores, your GMAT and your GRE. There's so much stuff out there about these tests. I mean, really, I don't know how the bots keep up with it.

All right, in this video, I'm going to talk about your test scores, your GMAT and your GRE. I'm going to tell you three really important things. The first is what role the test plays in your admissions decision. The second is why it's important to do your very best on whichever test you choose. And number three, I'm going to tell you how to choose the right test for you and ideally get your best possible score

In order to understand the role your test score plays in the admissions process, we have to start with our five-part framework that helps you understand the aspects of your candidacy that the admissions committee is evaluating. We've got:

  1. Your brainpower profile
  2. Your career progress profile
  3. Your passion profile
  4. Your school fit profile
  5. Your character.

These profiles are discussed in depth in your free MBAmo report. We talk about MBAmo a lot on this channel because it's the most incredible, free resource out there for MBA applicants. You just head on over to mbamo.com, enter a little bit of information about yourself, and our odds-calculating robot will spit out not just an answer to how competitive you are for the school of your choice, but also give you a twenty-page readout on everything about you, how you calibrate against that school, and some of the things that you might want to do to improve your candidacy before you apply. It's a hugely valuable resource. It's totally free. Go get your report if you haven't already. But I'm going to work with that framework throughout this entire series so that you can understand how to build yourself up in all the ways that are important to the admissions committee.

1. The Role The Test Plays

  • Creating a barrier for entry to the program to prove commitment & skill

So, let's start with the test scores, which are really all about your brainpower profile. Your brainpower profile tells schools that you're smart enough to handle the work and that you're basically going to survive in their program. You've also got your GPA, you've got any additional coursework, and your undergraduate transcripts that are part of your brainpower profile. But the test score has become, for better and for worse, the most important metric in that profile for these reasons. If you think about the role the test plays in admissions, it's really doing three different things. The first thing that it's doing is it's creating a barrier to entry to an MBA application program. Just think about it. If you've begun grappling with one of these tests, you see it's no small task to study, prepare, pay for, take the test, and do well on it. There's a barrier that you have to clear to even take the test in the first place, and schools appreciate that because it makes you signal your commitment, your readiness, your competence, and your ability to get through the much more challenging MBA program that you're going to enter after that test. What this means for you is that you should be very circumspect of any MBA program that doesn't have a test score requirement. Now, I'm not talking about top programs that will give you a test waiver or will waive your need to submit a score, but that are otherwise requiring test scores as part of their application process. I'm talking about the programs that are programs that don't have any test score requirement at all. This is not to say that those programs won't be valuable MBA programs, but you have to be really thoughtful in doing your research because any school that eliminates that barrier for students to apply is inherently weakening the quality of their applicant pool just de facto. If people don't have to survive the test, they can submit an application much more readily, and so the quality of the applicant pool is going to be very different. This may make it easier for you to get in, but it's also going to shape the quality of your classmates. Most people applying to business school look to the network they're creating during their MBA as a big part of the value they're getting out of that program, and if your classmates are of a lower caliber because they haven't gone through the juggernaut of the test score, then you may be disappointed with the network that you merge with on the other side of your MBA program. So think really carefully before applying to schools that don't require any test scores.

  • To measure & compare your brainpower profile with other applicants

The second role the test score plays in the application process is to calibrate your brainpower profile against all the other applicants in as close to an objective way as possible. Now, schools know the performance on these tests and dramatic success as a business leader is frankly not all that correlated. They have no illusion that the GMAT is predicting who's actually going to be successful post MBA or not. However, the test does contain content that is relevant to the coursework that you'll be doing in your MBA. The test is measuring your ability to think logically, to be flexible with math, and to understand English communication in a logical way, and to that extent, it is a decent gage of your relevant brain power profile. But much more importantly, it's helping schools calibrate you apples to apples against all the other applicants who went to very different undergraduate universities with different majors, with different grading scales, in different languages in different countries. The college transcript is a very challenging way to compare candidates because there's not really a ruler to compare a philosophy major from Europe with a finance major from a big state school in the US. So the test score helps them compare apples to apples.

  • Contributing to school rankings

Which brings me to the final role that the test score plays in the admissions process, which is it affects the MBA program rankings. Now, this is a very complex situation. There are a lot of different ranking agencies which each have their own algorithm and ways of rating schools, but in all of those calculations, the number of students who submitted a GMAT score, the average GMAT score, the number of students who submitted a GRE and the average GRE score play a significant role in deciding where a school falls in the rankings. The rankings, unfortunately, have to matter to MBA programs because when a school goes down in the rankings, predictably, their applications will go down the next year and that is terrible for these MBA programs. So they have to keep an eye on their average test scores for the purposes of maintaining their brand in the eyes of the rankings. This is why schools have a truly love-hate relationship with the test score. They love it because it does give them a way to calibrate candidates apples to apples and really measure them against each other, which is meaningful. It also erects this barrier so that they know the people who are applying to their program with a test score are really ready and driven to get an MBA. But it also forces them to evaluate candidates through the lens of this very tiny, very unimportant statistic when it comes to your future as a business leader. There's nothing more that schools hate than having to reject an amazing candidate because of a weak test score. And think about who the admissions committee is. These are people, people. They are in this business because they want to facilitate the fulfillment of people's career dreams. They hate it when they have to smash your chances of getting into their program because of that test score.

2. Why A Good Test Score Matters

  • Not because a good test score will get you in
  • MBA admission is about much more than just your brainpower profile
  • School rankings are on the line & they need to know if you’re up for the program

Which brings me to point two of this video, which is why you need to get the best score you can possibly get. It's not because a great score is going to get you in. No one ever got into business school just because they had a great GMAT score, unlike the vast majority of other graduate education programs, where a lot of the admissions decisions are being based on your GPA and your test score. Take law school for example. Most of the top law schools have people with really high LSAT scores and really high GPAs who had to write a maybe meaningful, maybe not-so-meaningful essay to get in, and the decision was based largely on those two metrics. The MBA program is totally different. You've got all these four other profiles. You've got recommendations, you've got essays, you've got interviews. It's this robust process because they want to admit complete human beings, but they can't admit human beings with abysmal test scores. So a high score isn't going to get you in, but a low score can possibly keep you out. It can limit you in terms of the schools that will be able to take you seriously as a candidate because they have to keep an eye on their average test scores for the purposes of their rankings. Their hands are just simply tied.

3. How To Choose The Right Test For You

  • Take a practice test
  • Compare scores
  • Did you prefer one? (If yes: take that one! If no: where do your predictive scores land?)
  • > school average: take the GMAT / < school average: take the GRE

So now, I said I was going to tell you how to choose the right test for you and ideally how to get your best score possible. I'm going to do that right now based not only on my experience as a Career and MBA Coach for the last 15 years, but also as a former Instructor at Manhattan Prep. I taught the GMAT for seven years and I helped thousands of students, in groups and individually, advance their score from wherever they started to the best score they could possibly get. So I know what I’m talking about when I give you this advice. So now I'm going to help you choose the right test for you. When choosing your test, the bottom-line principle is that you need to choose the test on which you can do the best. So here's the decision tree, here's the process to decide. The first thing you want to do is go and take a free practice test of each type. I recommend you block off a weekend day, maybe two weekend days or two different weekend days. Take them under timed, actual conditions, like shut out all the noise, turn off your notifications. Take a real practice test, ideally cold, ideally without having done any studying. If you have done some studying, no problem. Still, you want to take a practice test of each one. For the GMAT, you want to go to mba.com or gmac.com. For the GRE, you want to go to ets.org. Both of these companies are money-making organizations. They want your money. They want you to vote for their test. So they're going to give you a free sample so that you can try it out. So take advantage of that. Go and take one of each test, cold, and then see how your scores calibrate. Now, you want to do that by going to careerprotocol.com/gmat-greconverter. I've linked it so that you can go. I believe this is actually now the last resource online that allows you to compare the two scores to each other. We based this on data that used to be on ETS's website. They've since taken it down because there's a turf war going on between these two tests. The GMAT said, “Oh, you can't compare the two tests!!” and then their lawyers probably got involved and so ETS has since taken down their score converter, but ours is still there. So you can go, and what you want to do is you've got your GMAT score in hand, you've got your practice GRE score in hand, you go to the little table and you hover over your GRE test quant and verbal, and it's going to tell you what that translates to in terms of a GMAT score. Now, this conversion is not set in stone. Most MBA programs probably aren't using our converter to decide how to calibrate the GMAT against the GRE. What this is useful for is helping you gauge how you are scoring on the two tests, relatively. Because remember, you want to pick the test that you can really do the best on. So you've taken both tests, here's how to decide which one is for you. Was there one test that you preferred? Did you feel more comfortable with data sufficiency and critical reasoning or did you feel more comfortable with the way the GRE poses the quant questions, and vocabulary versus sentence correction? Did you like one test more than the other? Did you score much better on one test than the other? If so, then pick that test and don't look back. It's really difficult to switch tests in the middle, not because the underlying content is terribly different. The truth is that the math that you're going to want to refresh or relearn for the GRE is pretty similar to the math you're going to want to refresh and relearn for the GMAT, but the approach to the test is so different. You're going to have to invest a lot in understanding the question structure, the timing and pacing, and that's specific human capital that you're going to throw away when you switch tests. You’re going to have to really switch gears. So our advice is to just pick one test and stick with it. So, the first decision is, do I like one test more than the other? If you do, pick that one and don't look back. If you don't, if your scores were calibrated pretty similarly, like a few 10, 20, 30 points off, and you're like, “Well, I hate both of these tests.” or “Actually, I like both of these tests.” then your next line of decision is to figure out where your final score is likely to land. You do this by adding 100 points to your GMAT calibrated scores. So if you got a 600 on your GMAT practice test, you just add 100 points, and that's what you will likely be able to expect on your actual test if you do everything right in the study process. And like I said, I taught this test for seven years, and I saw hundreds and hundreds of students move the needle about 100 points. To swing more than 100 points from your first cold test is unlikely. It's really a challenge. If you're not getting 100-point gain in the study process, it could mean that you haven't done everything that you need to do. For most people, you're going to want to study a bit on your own. You might want to take a class, you want to use some online resources, you might even hire a tutor. You want to do everything that you can do to get your personal best score. Like we said, the test can keep you out of business school. So, add 100 points to each of your test scores and then ask yourself, where does my best-case scenario test score net out, vis-à-vis my target school's average? So let's say your target school has an average GMAT of 730, and your best case scenario GMAT score is going to be a 700. You got a 600, you add 100 points, you think then maybe the best you’re likely to do is around a 700. If your final best case scenario test score looks like, in all likelihood, it's going to net out 30 or more points below your school's average GMAT score, then pick the GRE. On the flip side, if your best-case scenario test score is going to net out to be above the school's average, that means for a 730, you got a 640 or a 650 or even higher on that cold test, then pick the GMAT. So if you're going to be above the school's average you want a GMAT, if you're going to be below the school's average, you want a GRE. Here's why. Schools have to submit both test scores to the rankings agencies. Up until about 10 years ago, the GRE wasn't even on the scene. It was all about the GMAT. So the rankings algorithms still weigh the average GMAT score slightly to significantly higher than they rate the average GRE score in terms of calculating the school's overall ranking. This means that if a school is going to accept someone with a weak test score, they would much rather have a weak GRE score than a weak GMAT. They have to protect their average GMAT at all costs. The GRE is a bit less important. We know this because if you look at the average GMAT and GRE scores for your favorite programs in this handy dandy little chart here, you will see that when we convert the average GRE score to a GMAT, it is anything from 10 to more than 100 points lower than the average GMAT score for the same schools. Some schools are taking this trend even further, like Columbia and NYU, and accepting the executive assessment, which doesn't affect their rankings at all. It allows them to make free choices and take the candidates that they love the best, even if their test scores might not reflect the average that they've had historically. Remember, I said the test score is really love-hate with programs. They know that you can be an amazing student, alum, and business leader without having a great test score, and when they see a candidate that they love based on all the rest of your applicant profile, they want to accept that student in spite of the test score. So make it easy for them to say yes to you by either getting a GMAT score that is above the school's average or a GRE score that is close to the school's average as you can get.

So how do you get the very best score that you can possibly get? Well, I already said you want to tackle it through multiple angles, multiple resources, do everything that you can do to advance your ability to take that test. You can stop taking the test either when you've achieved your goal score or when you've maxed out your own potential. How you know you've maxed out your potential is that in none of your practice tests that were timed and in none of your actual tests have you done any better than you've done in whatever your highest test score is. Not everyone can get a 99th percentile score, and that's all right. To get the best score that you can get, you want to apply all the resources, use all of your tools, take the test multiple times, and if you're still netting out below where you want to be, and in your heart you know that's it, that's the best I can do on this fricking test, then you can stop and shift your attention to all the other aspects of the application that are so much more important than your test score in the grand scheme of things. Your test score is but one part of your brainpower profile. All the rest of these five profiles are going to determine the outcome much more than that test score, which is why you want to scroll down into the comments and register for MBA 101. In the next session, I'm going to talk you through your MBA resume and how to showcase your career progress in the most inspiring, simple, direct, concise way possible. In Session 3, I'm going to talk about your career game plan and how you can build an amazing case for your future as a business leader. I'm going to talk through recommendations in session 4, which, apart from the test score, causes the most anxiety among applicants. And finally, in session 5, I'm going to get into all the juicy details of how to tell an amazing story in your MBA essays so that you can transcend your statistics, transcend whatever GMAT you have, whether it's great or whether it's terrible, and show the admissions committee who you truly are so that they can fall in love with you and choose you for inclusion in their program. We put so much love and effort into this program, into making the MBA application process easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to help you achieve your dreams. We've been making these Monday videos for a really long time, and if you've spent any time on our channel, you've come to understand that there is a mountain of content out there just on our channel, never mind all the nonsense that's out there on all the other channels and all the other forums and all the other websites. It's confusing, it's stressful, and a lot of it is designed to make you feel like crap. If you want to feel good on your MBA journey, clear away the clutter and focus on what really matters. All you have to do is scroll down, go to careerprotocol.com/MBA101 and sign up and I will be in your inbox tomorrow with the next big lesson on how to construct your MBA resume, including a template download that you are really going to love because it's going to dramatically simplify the process of showcasing your career progress profile in a way that overshadows any weakness that you might have in your profile. I'll see you tomorrow in MBA 101, and I will see you right here next week on MBA Monday. Have a good one. Byeee!

Angela Guido

Angela Guido

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

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