MBA Adcom Spills the Tea on Your GMAT Score

What does the MBA adcom think about your GMAT or GRE score? What's the point of MBA test scores in the first place? How do the tests fit in to your MBA application? What can I do if I have a low GMAT or GRE?

We have the perfect person to answer these questions! Charli Taylor spent 20(!) years behind the desk in university admissions before joining us as a senior coach. She was generous enough to give us the low-down on exactly how the adcom uses your MBA test score!

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Hi, my name is Charli Taylor. I’m a Senior Coach at Career Protocol. I love all things international, working with international students, working with internationally-minded students. Before I joined Career Protocol, I spent nearly — oh god — 20 years. Oh, I hate saying that! I spent nearly 20 years on the administrative side in the universities. I was an adcommer at Cornell. I did admissions and recruitment for Brunel and for the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Today, I'm here to tell you how the admissions committee really views your test scores.

So what is the adcom process like? What is the application process like? Well, here’s the deal. If you’ve ever seen that video from I Love Lucy about the conveyor belt, where Lucy and her pal are pulling chocolates together and then eating them so fast because they can't get them in the box fast enough, that really is what admissions feels like when all of the applications come in literally at the eleventh hour if you have an 11:59 PM deadline. Let me tell you something, the adcom are there. I've done this myself many, many times, pushing refresh on the dashboard to see how are the applications doing? How many are coming in? From what regions are they coming in? It's very, very exciting to see because you get to see that all of the people that you touched, all of the people that you worked really hard to support in their application process, you see their applications coming in and finalized. It is just such an exciting and exhilarating moment. But what happens when those applications actually arrive? Oh, my gosh. Well, first of all, sleep goes out the window for all adommers and all mayhem ensues. Unless, of course, the school has a really, really good system, which all schools try to put into place. That is organizing the files in such a way that there is a whole structure around the readability of the files. This can happen in so many different ways. It can be based on what the school is looking for in that particular year. Remember that one of the responsibilities of the adcom is to craft a class of people who are going to come together and make an amazing group who will teach one another, who will have a lot of energy, who have different perspectives, who can just bring so much to the table. So just a side note to those of you who are really coming from completely bizarre backgrounds, feel confident about your application because you are probably a really needed element in that program and your diverse candidacy is going to be something interesting and unique and fun for the adcom to look at.

How Does My Application Look?

One of the things that I always really loved to do was go through and read all of the stories in the applications. But what do the applications look like? Well, if you go to your application form and if you click “View Form” and that PDF form that comes up that allows you to have that whole look at your application, that is probably either the exact form that the adcommer will review the first time you get read or it is very similar to that. And so oftentimes what will happen is you'll have two computer screens in front of you. One computer screen to be able to type notes and another computer screen to be able to read all the cool stuff happening in that application. I know that this is going to sound a little bit discouraging, but a full application can be read, in a first read, in under 20 minutes. I know you're thinking, “Oh, my God! It took you like 20 hours to write the thing!”, but that's where really amazing writing comes in. The applications that really stick out in an adcommers mind and the ones that are so easy to read in a massive stack of applications, are the ones that are well-written and have compelling stories. It's so much fun to be able to go through those really quickly.

What’s The Point Of A Test Score?

  • Schools care about rankings
  • Proof you’re ready for the course

Then we come to the part where we have to look at the scores. Ugh, the scores. Now, the scores are a bane and a boon from the adcom perspective. I always had, if I'm going to tell the truth right here, right now, I always had a love-hate relationship with the scores. Because on the one hand, the scores really are important in some ways in terms of the rankings. There's a massive pressure on the adcom to keep the admission scores at a certain level because it has such a massive impact on the rankings. Here's why the scores are important. Number one: we know that if a student comes from a social science background, or maybe they haven't been in school for a while, or maybe they do have some patchy stuff going on academically, we know if they get good scores, they can buckle down and study, and they can probably manage the academic rigors of the course. We do have this ethical obligation to make sure that anyone that we bring in can manage the academic rigor of the course. Speaking from an adcom perspective, I always wanted my students, the candidates to succeed. I wanted them to be able to thrive in the academic settings of my courses. That is a really wonderful indication, potentially. But the bigger indication, of course, is really how somebody has performed in their undergraduate work. The test really can give us a little bit of information but it's not nearly as interesting as the information that we might get from assessing their undergraduate transcripts. Of course, if students take online assessed classes that are graduate level, in any quant subject that you love, choose any subject, don't be strategic about your subjects… If you've got to take a class, just take the one that you love because you'll perform the best in that class. That is an amazing indicator of a student's ability to meet the academic rigors of the course.

To Do

  • Choose the right test
  • Shore up any weaknesses
  • Win over the adcom in your essays

Firstly, choose the right test. This is where you have so much power. Honestly, it doesn't make any difference which test you choose. Choose the one that you are going to perform at the highest peak. Angela has so many words of wisdom on this matter, and you can definitely find out more watching this video. The second thing is, make it easy on the adcom. Look, it's like a punch in the gut. In the adcom gut, I'm telling you to have to reject a candidate based on test scores. So do your very best, do your very best on the test. If you have some dodgy elements in your academic history, take an online assess course. It's really not that hard. I know in all of the things that you have to do it’s just that one more thing, but the really cool thing is it is going to prepare you a little bit more so you can go into business school feeling strong and powerful, and that's what we want. The other bit of that is if you do stuff like that, it shows the adcom that you understand where some of your weaknesses are and you are willing to work really hard to shore up any of those weaknesses. They have so much respect for that. I always loved candidates who I knew were trying so hard and they were in it to win it in every single way. That was really exciting and when you see somebody who's like that, what do you want to do? You want to back them! So did I. Then finally, just put your best application forward in any way that you can. Put in your best stories, the things that you love and you're the most proud of, and give those adcommers reasons to champion for you in the committee. When they see some of the really wonderful things that you've done in the world, the impact that you've had, how you've moved the needle for others, how can they help but love you? And when they're crafting that class, they definitely want somebody who's going to be in making a difference for the community and for the class. There to teach other people, there to care for their classmates, and there just to bring their total A-game. Show them you can do that. You can do that! We know you've got this.

So if you want more help, if you want more help with telling your amazing MBA story, we can do that for you. We've got this awesome new storytelling toolkit. Just click here to sign up and you will get tons of really great insights. Incredible stuff that Angela has been putting together for years and years and years. Amazing insights from the team. We're all here to back you, support you, and help you tell your incredible story. Look, here's the thing I want you to know. This is really important. This is from my adcom heart to your applicant heart. A test score doesn't define you. Your soul has inestimable value and what you bring to the table in your candidacy is truly the most important thing. Remember, you are awesome. You're not a score. You're just a rocking human being and we love you. Thanks for watching!

Picture of Charli Taylor

Charli Taylor

International Students Specialist | Senior Coach

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