Trevor Klee, Tutor

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Is my GMAT good enough for business school?

This post originally published on the 21st Night blog. 21st Night is an app I designed to make it easy for anyone to study for a standardized test and master their exam.

Is my GMAT good enough for business school?

What is an average GMAT score?

The current average combined GMAT score is a 561.27; Despite the above, it is necessary to emphasize that this is not a good enough score to get you into a good MBA program.

To get an idea of what sort of score you’d need to get into the best programs in the world, look at the image below. Here are the 10 best programs in the world: you’d need around a 720 to have a shot at them (2):

top 10 gmat business schools

Don’t go to a program just because it has a low GMAT score (or doesn’t require a score at all). An MBA is not like an MD: you can’t get a good job just because you have an MBA. If you have an MBA from a bad school, it’s worthless.

An MBA from a top school, however, can almost guarantee you a prestigious, well-paying job. Given that MBAs from top schools cost about the same as MBAs from bad schools, there’s no reason for anyone to consider going to a poorly ranked school.

Should I retake the GMAT?

You should retake the GMAT if you feel like you can score better. So, unless the score you got is at the absolute peak of your abilities, restudy and retake it.

Don’t just retake the GMAT without any preparation though. You can only take the GMAT up to 5 times in a calendar year and up to 8 times in a lifetime and you must also wait at least 16 days before retaking it.

Admissions committees look favorably upon people who retake the GMAT and score better the second time. Pretty much everyone retakes the GMAT, so don’t worry about looking dumb if you do retake it. However, you should make an effort to actually score better. If you study the same way the second time, you should expect the same results.

Sometimes the admissions committee will actually tell you directly: “retake the GMAT, score better, and we’ll let you in”. If they tell you that, you should really, really retake it. They’re not just messing around.

My general advice is if you score above 720, don’t bother retaking it. If you score above 700, you should think carefully before retaking it. If you score below 700, you should retake it unless you have a good reason not to. If you score below 650, either retake it or don’t apply to business school.

61% of applicants do improve their score by retaking the GMAT, and 55% of them score 60 points higher by retaking it. In other words, you can probably improve too.

In terms of how you’d improve, here’s my advice: if you’re 700+, you need to get all of the medium and hard questions right all of the time, and some of the very hard questions. Do questions and practice tests and review them through 21st Night and you’ll be good.

If you’re 650+, you probably need to learn a couple minor techniques to improve. Maybe your sentence correction strategy isn’t as good as it could be, or you struggle with boldfaced CR. Or, maybe there are minor techniques in quant that you’re still not totally comfortable with.

If you’re below 650 (and especially below 600), you need to learn some major, fundamental GMAT concepts to improve. What I’ve found is that people who are around the 620 range tend to be naturally good at tests, but are still missing fundamentals. Meanwhile, people who are around the 550 range tend to be bad at tests and missing fundamentals.

If you’re in the low 500s or 400s, you probably need to learn some fundamental math and grammar concepts. It’s not worth it to focus just on GMAT stuff for now: just go through Khan Academy and pickup the basics.

Should I Keep Or Cancel My GMAT Score?

You can cancel your score literally right after you take the test. Since the end of 2015, you can actually cancel a score without any record of the cancellation; business schools do not see any indication that you canceled a score .

You’ll see an option on your computer screen right after you take it. It’s free and takes a second.

If you want to cancel it after you’ve taken the test, you can do it through the GMAC website. Again: no record.

If you’re wishy-washy, you can reestablish your score on the GMAC website for another fee. Never let it be said that the GMAC doesn’t know how to charge fees.

Now, should you cancel your score?

Well, I only recommend you cancel it if your score is absolutely not what you want. If you’re positive you will never, ever, use your score, then cancel it.

If there’s even a slim chance that you’ll use that score, don’t cancel it. Just have it on the books. It’ll put less pressure on you to do better on your retake.

Again, though, you need to make sure that you study better the second time around. I promise you that, if you do the same thing for the retake, you will get the same result.

What GMAT score do I need for business school?

It varies a ton from school to school. Some schools don’t even require the GMAT. Some schools require the bare minimum.

But, in order to get into a school that’s actually worth the tuition, you need a 650+. MBAs are expensive. If you can’t get a good job after getting an MBA, don’t go.

If you’re wondering what score you need for the specific school you’re interested in, assume you need at least their average score.

That’s not entirely true, of course. About half of their students get below their average score, according to the bell curve. Those students make up for their application with a great work history or interesting narrative. If you have either of those, you can get by with a worse GMAT score.

Why did I do poorly on my real GMAT?

You should know, first of all, that you didn’t do poorly because you’re dumb or destined to do poorly.

Doing well on the GMAT requires you to know the material and be able to apply it under a lot of pressure. You did poorly because you either didn’t know the material, or because you were unable to apply it under pressure.

Here’s a detailed look at why people do poorly on their GMAT:

  • They never learned the content
  • They never learned how to apply the content (i.e. they didn’t do enough questions)
  • They thought they learned how to apply the content, but had a method that doesn’t work under pressure (i.e. they didn’t do enough timed questions)
  • They had a method that worked under pressure, but they didn’t test it under pressure (i.e. they didn’t take enough practice tests)
  • They didn’t bother to gear their studying towards their mistakes, and just kept on with a study plan that was irrelevant to what they actually needed to focus on
  • They geared their studying towards their mistakes, but forgot the lessons they learned because they failed to review
  • They panicked on the test
  • Bad luck

In order to avoid this, you need to study better. Do more questions, review more questions, gear your studying towards your mistakes, and test yourself on practice test.

How can I study correctly for my GMAT retake?

Good question! That’s exactly the sort of question you need to ask in order to actually do better on the test. Doing the same thing as last time is a recipe for disaster. Here’s a quick list:

  • Use GMATClub as a resource (but not as a bible). They have a lot of good explanations (and some bad ones). They also borrow a lot of material from other sources, so you don’t actually have to buy any of it.
  • Do more questions over more hours. Seriously. You should be aiming for 100 hours of self-study before you take the test. Mastering every question in the Official Guide to the GMAT is not unreasonable.
  • Get a good strategy guide (Manhattan Prep is a popular choice here). Don’t read it through cover-to-cover, unless you are totally lost on a subject. Instead, use it as a reference to give you strategies to solve questions in the Official Guide.
  • Use 21st Night to keep your studying organized and make sure that you remember what you learn.
  • Study every single day. If you try to only work on the weekends, you’ll spend most of your time trying to remember what you studied last time. 21st Night will help you be consistent, but you have to be the one to put your butt in the chair.

This should be your studying loop each day:

1. Check to see if you have any questions to do in 21st Night. If you don’t, go to step 2.

2. Do a new, difficult question. Get it wrong.

3. Look it up in GMATClub and learn how to do it correctly. If you don’t understand the explanation, or you don’t get how you were supposed to know to do that, look up that topic in Manhattan Prep’s guide.

4. Put the question into 21st Night. In the explanation, explain the question to yourself (don’t just copy-paste without understanding).

5. Go back to step 2.

Why should I use 21st Night to help me study for the GMAT?

The best question yet!

If you’ll allow me to quote myself:

There are a couple problems people tend to run into with the GMAT.

1. The GMAT is a deep exam. It tests logic, grammar, reading comprehension, and math to an extent that no other exam does. It is difficult to get the skills needed to address the topics in the depth required.

2. The GMAT is a broad exam. You need to remember parallelism, standard deviations, and contrapositives and have them at the tips of your fingers.

3. The GMAT is a heavily time-pressured exam. You need to be able to do all the problems within a very short time span, with little time for planning or remembering.

4. Because of the above, the GMAT is unpleasant to study for, especially if you’re working full-time.

21st Night addresses each of these problems. If you use it correctly, you will find that your scores increase more in a month than they have in all your time of studying before.

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