GMAT is a requirement for most top MBAs. But how crucial is it?
Ask business school admissions directors about its weight in the admission process and you will always get the same reply: the decision for admission is complex and is based on the review of all elements of your application package.This is true indeed, but still there is a big discussion around the GMAT.
GMAT helps you in many ways
It is fair to say that US schools are more focused on the GMAT for several reasons – the GMAT is an American invention and US schools are most used to using it in the decision-making process; top US schools attract a large number of applications reaching 10,000 applicants per intake and acceptance rates might be as tiny as 7%. So they clearly need an internationally measurable standard, such as the GMAT, to facilitate the screening of potential admits.
The GMAT, however, is much more than just a dream total score of 700 plus. It develops skills, ensures success, and gives a standard for comparison. Each section sheds light on a different set of your skills, yet the balance is of importance as well. The GMAT actually influences your application in so many ways.
The higher the better
Many schools have a requirement for a minimum GMAT score; others just quote the average score of their last incoming class. The minimum score is not a guarantee for admission. Actually, average scores might be considerably higher than the minimum requirement. To be on the safe side, you always need to aim at a score that is close to the average or above it. Higher is always better. A high GMAT score (above 680) is always a strong differentiator. Schools that have a large pool of applicants (some admit only about 10%) may even use the GMAT as a screening tool to eliminate applicants.
As you have no way of knowing the scores of the other applicants your strategy should always be to focus on reaching the maximum of your potential. Scoring to the best of your ability might take more than one testing, so start early with your preparation to allow enough time to master the GMAT and retake to get your best score. The investment in your GMAT can have a great ROI.
Balance is key
It is also of high importance that your GMAT score is balanced. If one of your sections is weak, the others cannot compensate for it. You have to know as well that admission committees also get your actual essay from the Analytical Writing Assessment, not just the score on it. This essay is the standard for your writing skills, because it has been written by the applicant with no additional aids and under a time limitation. Admissions officers might use this essay to compare with your other written work in the application package. So, no section of the GMAT should be neglected, not even the newest one (since June 2012), Integrated Reasoning. The weight schools give to this is not yet clear.
GMAT brings scholarships
The role of the GMAT is also illustrated by the fact that both the number of institutions using the GMAT for admission decisions, and the number of GMAT test takers worldwide are growing. While the former means you have more options, the latter faces you with tougher competition, especially having in mind that the median score is also constantly on the rise.
The GMAT can help you increase the return on your MBA investment, as it is often a factor in leveraging your investment through a merit-based scholarship. There are business schools that even have an automatic scholarship policy, meaning that a certain GMAT score guarantees you a scholarship upon admission with no additional requirements.
The value of GMAT goes beyond admission
Beyond admission, preparing for the GMAT builds skills that are vital for your success during your actual studies as well as in your post MBA management practice. Ultimately, the aim of the GMAT is to ensure, in a measurable standardised way, that you have the skills to succeed during your studies and to be able to contribute effectively during team projects, discussions, presentations, written work, analysis, argumentation, etc. In addition, employers have also started to look into the GMAT scores of job applicants.
Indeed, the GMAT is one of the elements of the application package and it adds to the full picture of your potential. A high, balanced score is always to your benefit, but is not the sole factor on which the admission decision will be taken. In some cases, a GMAT score which is not so great may be compensated for by other elements of the application package. However, as it is one of the factors that is fully within your control, you should aim to get the most out of it.