How to Strategize Around Your GMAT or GRE Score

It's Bob week! That means a new video EVERY WEEK DAY where Angela Guido coaches one of our lovely subscribers (who are all called Bob, weird!) on how they can get into business school.

We've given a lot of advice over the years, but how do you apply it to your MBA application? That's what our #mbabob series is all about!

Today we're focusing on GMAT and GRE stress, whether you're the right person for business school, full time versus part-time MBA programs and the McCombs MBA. Give it up for Bob!

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Okay. Welcome back to MBA Monday. We are continuing with the Bob Project, our mini free MBA coaching sessions to our subscribers. If you would like to be featured in one of these videos, please subscribe to our channel. You can do that right down below. And then if you scroll a bit further down into the comments, you can actually apply to be a Bob. The link is Today we are talking with Bob. Say hello, Bob!

Bob: Hi, everyone.

Angela: Nice to meet you, Bob. Let's get into a little bit of information about Bob today. So she majored in International Relations at the University of Texas, Austin. Hook ‘em! I come from a long line of both Longhorns and Aggies, but I got both sides going. All right. With a 3.1 GPA, and tech business development, does that accurately describe the work that you're doing now, Bob? I looked through your resume and to me, this is how I would sum it up. Is this accurate?

Bob: So I would say I'm more of a sales rep, a field sales rep. Software sales rep.

Angela: I think business development is just a sexier way to say the same thing. But all right, tech sales rep. Then test score pending. It's like she must bleed burnt orange because she's planning to double dip in the University of Texas, Austin world and get her MBA at McCombs, the Texas MBA. One of my favorite, lesser-known programs to recommend to people so, awesome! Very excited to speak with you today. Now that we know just the facts, why don't you give us a little bit of an introduction to yourself and tell me, what do you want to talk about today?

Bob: Yeah. I am almost 29 years old. I am a mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old child, and I am originally from Mexico. My family came here in 1996, and I was pretty much raised in Dallas, Texas. I've been married for five and a half years, I own a home here in Arlington, and I am looking to accelerate my career and pivot and change to a leadership type role where I want to be able to manage people. I haven't yet been given that opportunity. I think part of it is because I'm a little bit on the younger side. Ironically enough, the tech company that I work for is unlike most. It's very senior. I don't know, it's just very traditional, I guess. So I want to go back to school and really just learn as much as I can and be able to implement what I'm learning while still working. What really concerns me about this process is not just the test, but it's having that structure, because I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m a first-generation high school graduate and now college graduate and first-time MBA. So this is an unpaved path for me and I'm really just trying to understand what things I should be focusing on, assuming I've done nothing, because, again, I haven't even taken my test. I did think that the EA was a much better test for me because of where I am in life and I don't really have the time to study for the GMAT or the GRE. But if that's not something that I should be doing and changing, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Angela: Okay, great. A lot of information there. Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I could now talk without taking a breath for 20 minutes and cover everything that you discussed, but I will try to refrain from doing that. So let me start by saying that in terms of your motivations, in terms of where you're coming from, your experience, why you want an MBA, you're in a great spot for business school. Business school these days, it's not what it was originally meant for, but these days, what the MBA is mostly for is for people like you who've got some experience, you've got a lot of skills, you have a lot to offer. You know you want a serious career in business, but you've reached a ceiling and to really move above that, you need something to break it up and to just give you the ability to jump both up and out. So you're going to want to move higher into management, but also potentially different industry, at least different company, if not also different industry, and it sounds like not a different geography. So you're going to probably stay put in Texas. I mean, Dallas, you could do anything in Dallas. Everything that you could possibly want to do is there. So the motivation for getting an MBA and your inherent career game plan is super solid, and that's already a strong foundation because the adcomm is going to look at you and they're going to say “Oh, yeah, she needs us. This is a good investment for her.”, and they love that. They love to see when people are making a good choice and when they can play a role in what is going to be a greater success beyond. So that's great. Second thing that's great, and this is just like the birth lottery for business school. You won the birth lottery for business school because the single most underrepresented demographic in business school is Hispanic Americans and Hispanic women, especially. So maybe less of an issue at the Texas MBA, but at every other MBA program, they cannot get enough people with your background. So what that means is that you still have to submit a really competitive candidacy, and we're going to talk about that but it means that you're not competing with a huge part of the bell curve. You're not competing with all the engineers and with all the who work as management consultants and all the people in Asia. You're really just competing with other Americans, other underrepresented minority Americans and women like that. The fact that you're also a first gen college student is also great, not because it changes your demographic, but because you've already proven that you are a bootstrapper. You've proven that you take whatever you're given and you build on it and you do more. You went further, you pushed yourself further. You didn't have somebody behind you being like “Come on, dear, get your MBA, like me!”. It was like “MBA, what?”. Even “College, what?”. You charted your own course and so that means that even without you saying a word about it, because you'll probably put that in your resume somewhere, first gen college student. It's maybe in the online application as well. They may be asking about that. They'll have that data point, and without you doing anything else at all, without you even referencing it in your essays, they will know that you're someone who pushes yourself, challenges yourself, wants to grow, wants to make a difference, wants to have a meaningful life and you're willing to do that without support because you've gotten this far. So all of that is really good news for your candidacy because you don't even have to do anything. You just check a couple of boxes and they already get a lot of really important, meaningful information about you and your values and what you're made of. So that's the starting point and that's really quite strong. So I think your biggest questions here were, how do I not drown in this crazy process, how do I do I organize myself? And then which test do I take? It's pretty much those two. Is there another big one we need to tackle?

Bob: No, I think that's the big one. Although I don't see myself, I don't know how I could possibly pull off a GRE. I don't know. I'm just assuming.

Angela: Well, here's the criteria. Here's my question for you. Does McCombs' full-time MBA take the EA?

Bob: Yeah. I want to do the weekend program, and yes, it does. I could even probably qualify for a waiver, but I don't know if that's something I should even consider because I don't know what the competition is going to be.

Angela: Okay, so that's an interesting question actually. First of all, if you're applying to the part-time program, I think you're going to get in. I don't think it's going to be that hard for you to get in, if you think about how the dynamics work of part time versus full time. For the full-time MBA, you're competing with everyone all over the world who's willing to move to Austin for two years. That's a huge group of people. For the part-time program, you're only competing with the people who are able to be in Austin every weekend for the next two and a half years.

Bob: Oh, I didn't mention that. So the part-time is even in Dallas.

Angela: It's an even smaller group! It's like the people who are in Dallas or who can be in Dallas every weekend. So no one who lives in India is going to do that program because they're not going to fly to Dallas twice, three, four times a month.

Bob: Yeah, it's a hybrid. So we have to be there in person.

Angela: Yeah, right. So it's just like a different application base. You're competing with an entirely different group of people. So a lot of the information on the Internet, including a lot of the information on this channel, is mostly about the full-time programs. And so a lot of different criteria apply when you're applying part time because just the rules are different. It's just a different audience. Got to be in Dallas two, three times a month. Not everybody can do that. So it's just a smaller competitive pool and this is why if you look at part-time average GMATs versus full-time average GMATs, there's a gap because they're not selecting from everyone all over the world. They're selecting from this much smaller group of people who's in their area, some of whom don't do as well in the test but are still amazing professionals. And so the consideration for you regarding whether you should consider taking the EA or not, I think is mostly about how well you think you can do on the test because you do have that low GPA, you've got the 3.1 GPA. I'm going to share our five dimensions, the Career Protocol Framework for understanding how schools evaluate you. 

You may have seen this before. If not, you'll see it again. So we're talking still about brain power. And so this is your GPA and your test score. That's pretty much what goes in here. There's a little bit of stuff that comes from your resume, maybe extra certifications, any verifiable experience you have with quantitative work and any other academic credentials, that all goes in here. So it's in some ways the smallest part of your application because all the rest of this is way more important, and like I said, you've already demonstrated character just by virtue of where you've arrived in your career so far. School fit is going to be very easy for you to show having already been a member of that community and also being pretty bound to that program. You'll want to do research, you'll want to do networking, but this part is going to be super easy to show. I know you have a passion. You have a couple of different passions, one of which is empowering women, which is great. So you'll talk about this in your essays, and this will also be really important in your career as well. Your desire to manage, to up level yourself, to be a leader and a mentor. That's part of this so that's going to be part of your essays. Then you've got your career progress, we're going to talk about that in a minute. That's your resume and just showing them that you've climbed the scales. So all of this, the most important thing really on this page is the awareness that the only part of your application that speaks for itself is the numbers. It's your GPA and your test score. Everything else, it's all about how you communicate it. So to your second question of “How do I even tackle this?”, we'll chat about that in a minute. Just to close the loop on the brain power profile, you want it to be as strong as it can be. Full stop. So your GPA is on the lower side, but you have a story. There's a reason why you didn't do as well in college as you could have. You'll write that in the optional essay. You'll explain first year in college student, no support, had to work full time, had to balance a lot of priorities, did really well in these classes, and you show them those. Then you say “But otherwise, this is what it is.”, Then if you can also say “Please look at my executive assessment score as further evidence for my academic awesomeness.”. You won't use those words, but that's the idea. If you can do that, then great. If you can't do that, if your executive assessment score is going to be below average, then I might actually just skip it if I were you because to my eye, a weak executive assessment and a waiver are going to have the same effect on your candidacy. Well, a waiver will have a neutral effect. A weak executive assessment score will have a modestly negative effect that may all be overcome by the strength of the rest of your application. I think the other really important thing to observe on this page is that this is 20% of the calculus. This is 80% of the calculus. This brain power is 20% of the calculus, and everything else about you is 80% of the calculus. Now, this is our framework. I think if you went and showed this to the McCombs adcomm, they'd be like “Yeah, that looks about right.”. I have a feeling they would agree with this, but it's our framework. In our experience, this is really how it works. This is 80%, so this can outweigh this. It really can. You can have weak stats and still get into great schools. Here's what you want to do. You want to go take a practice executive assessment. Try to take it from the actual test writers, so from the actual company that produces the test. I'm sure they have a practice test free online, go take that test and see how you do. Then compare that to McCombs's average and just see, are you in the range? Are you within a few points of their average or are you way off? If you're way off, ask for the waiver. If you're close, then see if you can put some hours into studying, getting a solid score. Then if you can get a solid score, submit it. If you can't get a solid score, ask for the waiver. I think they're going to give you a waiver because I think they're going to look at your career and who you are and they're going to say “Yeah, we think she can hack it. We don't need that test to believe in her and we want to accept her because she's going to fit in and add value into our community.”.

Bob: I should have mentioned this when we started — because I'm part of Forte, obviously you got some of that information — but I started doing the MBA math course, and I'm slowly getting through it. I just got through the Excel part, and so far, I really like it because it really simplifies it for beginners because it's been a while. And I think, I don't know, maybe we could figure out or I could figure out a healthy time frame of how much time do I need to allocate to this test?

Angela: Let's move on to question two, which is “How do I tackle all this?”. So which deadline are you planning to reach for?

Bob: Ideally, round one. I feel like everybody says that. I think I could do it because that's in September, October, correct? I think that would give me enough time?

Angela: I think so too. So what most people like to do is get the test score out of the way first and then shift to the application. It's not essential that you do it that way, but that is an easy way to do it. So that means you probably want to be done with the test by early July, and that leaves you two, two and a half, three months to really just focus on the applications themselves. So just give yourself three months. That's it. That's easy. And if it takes less than three months, great! Then you start on the application early.

Bob: Makes sense. And Angela, does your team, and I probably should know this, but does your team offer help on is just the selection process? I don't really know whether after taking that test in July, do you work with people as far as identifying where they could get in and then helping package up the application?

Angela: Absolutely. That's a ton of what we do. After we're done with this discussion for YouTube, I'll give you all kinds of details on how you can work with us if you want to. But let's just talk general timeline. Now, what you just said gives me new information, which is that you're considering other schools if the test goes well, let's say. So what are the other schools that are on your maybe list?

Bob: So I know Wharton is such a long shot. I just heard that they have an executive program. So I have limited options. I don't really have top schools. NYU was my dream school back in the day, I couldn't afford it. I got in and that's all I know. But that's a long shot. I don't know. I'd have to look into the schools.

Angela: Honestly, the biggest constraint is that you're a mom in Dallas. And so unless you're able to relocate to New York or Philly or Chicago for the Booth or Kellogg part-time MBAs, which are also great. Or California for Berkeley. Unless you're able to relocate, you're really looking at a very taxing two and a half years. It's one thing to hold down a job and go through what is, they call it part time, but it's a lot. So it's one thing to do both of those things. It's yet another thing to add a commute to that. Some people do that. I would bet that just practically speaking, you will find it maybe a little too much with everything else in your life. This is for you to decide, but that's really the hard look in the mirror you're going to have to take. Because if you're able to get a solid executive assessment score, I don't think there's any school that's off limits to you. I think you can consider Wharton, you can consider Booth, you can consider Yale. Any executive or part-time MBA at that point, really, you could consider with a strong EA. Then the question is just, are you willing to do what it would take to make that work, to make it happen? That's a personal calculus. That has nothing to do with where you are capable of getting in. It's all to do with what are you willing to do over the next couple of years?

Bob: At that point, it would become more of a financial thing. When I know, if I go ahead and do well on the EA and apply, I will know before I accept an offer how much they would be willing to contribute to my education, right?

Angela: Yeah, you should have scholarship information, ideally, before you're forced to commit. Something to be aware of is that part-time programs have some scholarship money. Executive MBA programs have the least scholarship money available because most executive MBAs are sponsored by their company. It's just a different P&L for the school, a different way of calculating it. That means that you're the kind person that I would expect them to really seriously consider giving a scholarship to, but they have just significantly less money at the executive level to distribute for scholarships. So you have to expect the worst, hope for the best, but expect the worst. My guess is that the McCombs will be by far the most cost-effective. They might give you scholarships, but also zero commute. I don’t know if they have in-state tuition for the part time program, I bet they do. So for a lot of reasons, and this is actually another important thing for you to consider as you're choosing schools, are you committed to Texas? Is that your home? That's where you're going to be forever, more or less?

Bob: Yes, more or less.

Angela: Yes. So I guarantee you that the McCombs MBA has a way better Texas network than Wharton does.

Bob: Yes and so that's why the UT Austin is my number one choice. It's the best one in Texas, and as far as the network goes, I'm already establishing it widely. 90% of my relatives are here. My family is here. Our economy is great. I think for the most part, I got it made here.

Angela: Yeah so look, this may be a case of dreaming big for no good reason, right? It's like if you have everything you want and McCombs is a great program and you can get it and it's in your backyard, why are you going to go to Wharton? Why?

Bob: You know what's killing me? It's because I don't know if they're going to want me.

Angela: Sure. Okay, I'll tell you right now, they're going to want you for sure. They're going to want to want you and the only stumbling block might be a bad executive assessment score. But even that, I think they can overcome and will. So I think they're going to want you. I don't have any concern about that. But I think your process is give them a chance. Give McCombs a chance to say yes and if they say no, then you regroup. But for someone like you, it's like, you don't need to cast a broad net. You know exactly what you want.

Bob: I do know exactly what I want.

Angela: You go for what you want and if you don't get it, then you figure out your plan B after that. So at Career Protocol, we're always recommending people apply to portfolio of schools. You want to have reaches, matches, and safety. You want to apply to six schools. We're talking to people who are applying to full-time programs and who aren't geographically constrained and who are really looking to up level the career maximally and they're going to throw off all the rest of the ballast in their life and just go all in. So they need to get into the best school they can get into and they also need safety schools. So that advice that you're going to have already heard me say a million times and will hear me say again, that's for people in that category. You're in a different category. You have already built your life. You're happy with it. You're where you want to be. You need a local network. You have a program right in your backyard that you love and it should be a match for you. It should not be a reach for you, it should be a match. So you just go there. You just apply to that school, and I will be shocked if you don't get in, if you do a good job on the application. Then if they say no, then you got the rest of your life to figure out a plan B. You don't have to apply to a bunch of schools all at once because you really just want that one school. So that's your strategy. So given that that's what you're doing and you're trying to hit the September deadline, you take the EA, get it out of the way by July, and then you just spend the rest of the time on the applications. If you want really good guidance on what really matters in the application, you can sign up for our MBA 101 course. This is for all of you watching. MBA 101, there's a link here. It's a five-lesson, five-installment video program, just cutting to the chase. These are the things that really matter in the MBA application. This is where you have to focus your attention. This is where you have to focus your energy. Then if you want more support than that — that's a free program — then you can sign up for our design your own MBA application program. That's our full 12-step curriculum of all the way from discovery to negotiating scholarships. How do you apply to business school, get in, get into your best situation opportunity? As a Bob, you get actually a big discount on that program, I'll tell you about that when we're done here. But the bottom line is you just turn your attention to the application in July, and then you got to tackle the resume, the recommendations, the essays, and the online application. Those are the four components. Underlying those four, you need a career game plan. I think yours probably needs a bit more development. You know the up level you want, but you want to speculate a bit more on the types of companies, the types of roles, do a bit of networking. You may have already done that. But being able to show them like “Hey, I know where I'm headed, I've already worked on this process. That's where I'm going.”, that's it. So you do all that stuff in the last two months, submit your application, and then you get ready for interviews. You hold your breath, and then you do your interview, and then you see what happens. Then if you get in, you negotiate scholarships and if you don't get in, then you figure out a plan B. That's your path. Not everybody has a simple path like that, but that's what you want to do.

Bob: I love it. Thank you so much. This has been really helpful and encouraging, really, because I've been very doubtful and stuck in my abilities.

Angela: Well, I just want to put in this one pitch, and this is for everybody watching. It's like, if you come across information that makes you doubt yourself, first of all, you want to be very suspicious about that information. Second of all, you want to really do your best to not ever doubt yourself. I mean, you want to be self-honest, but that's different from being self-doubting. So in all honesty, your GPA is crappy, but you're not defined by that one number. You've got this amazing career where you've worked your way up through multiple organizations. You're clearly very successful in everything that you've done. You've built a life. You're ambitious. You want to make a difference. You have all of these amazing qualities that are significantly more important than any number that's going to be in your candidacy. All schools are going to give all of that part of you — let's look back to the Career Protocol Framework to remind ourselves that 80% of your application is career progress, school fit, passion, character. It's your career to date. It's the degree to which you are going to visit school for the right reasons. You have the right expectations, you're going to leave the program better than you found it. It's the degree to which you're passionate, which means you're somebody who makes stuff happen for yourself and others. You climb steep learning curves, you have an impact, you care about stuff, whatever it is, doesn't matter what it is, but you just care. You're someone who cares. Then you're built of values that are net positive. It just means that you're a net giver. Even if it's just 1%, you can take 49, but if you give 51, you're there. My guess is you're probably much more than that. This is what schools really care about because this is what makes for great business leaders. This is a formality. It's a box to check. It's not the most important thing. You're taking MBA math, do well, get as high score as you can, let them know about your MBA math score. Take an executive assessment. If you think you can do well in that test, then give it a go. Then if you do at least just a few points within their average, go ahead and submit it. If you don't, just pretend it never happened and ask for the waiver. To my eye, they're going to see beyond those statistics in your case. They do it in most cases, but I think especially in the case of someone like you who's such an obvious fit for that school, I think they're going to give you every benefit of the doubt. I have very high expectations.

Bob: Thank you so much. I'm going to go ahead and continue to work on that and hopefully get a good score by July and then put together the application.

Angela: Awesome! Okay so if you all out there are rooting for Bob, please leave her a comment. Let her know you're rooting for her to get into her one and only dream school. It's not often that I speak to someone who's like Texas MBA or bust. They have this one program and it's also like a tailored program. It's not like Harvard or bust, that's a common attitude. But you've got so many reasons why this one school is your perfect fit. So, yeah, I'm definitely rooting for you and I hope all of you are too. So leave us a comment and let Bob know that you support her and again, if you want to be a Bob, go to and apply to have one of these sessions. Whether you do any of that or not, I think really the most important thing you can do is sign up for MBA 101. You can do that at It's our free, everything you need to know about applying to business school. All the most important stuff, no nonsense, all the important stuff, free course with bonus resources and everything. It'll really demystify and destress the process so check it out and I'll see you all next week on MBA Monday! Bye, Bob.

Bob: Bye!

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

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

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