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Low GMAT score? Make up for it with your essays.

Very often, B-school aspirants get de-motivated or discouraged by a GMAT score that is below their expectations. They let their application efforts get sidetracked, do a half-hearted job or decide not to apply at all. Well, this may come as a surprise to some, but the GMAT score is not the most important criterion in the evaluation of B-school applications!

The GMAT Official Score Report states that you will “most likely earn a Total score within about 30 points of a score reflecting your true ability”. So one could argue that a person who got 570, 30 points less than his “true” score, is just as good as another person who got 630, 30 points more than his “true” score, “true” scores for both being 600. Similarly, someone who gets 690 may be just as good as someone who gets 750. Extreme cases, no doubt, but they demonstrate an underlying inaccuracy in the standardized test scores. B-schools recognize this inaccuracy. That is why they use the GMAT score as one of several approximate indicators of an individual’s academic ability and not as an exact measurement of his or her potential for success in life.

What schools say they care about (and this is what they actually do care about!) is the overall strength of the candidate. Schools evaluate candidates, through essays and interviews, on 4 key factors (or a variation of these):

  1. Purpose and value proposition – Articulation of short term and long term goals, need for business education, role of the school in the achievement of the goals, strengths the applicant brings to the table, diversity, a mutually beneficial relationship, etc.
  2. Work experience – quality, quantity, leadership skills, teamwork, international and cross-cultural exposure, in-depth domain knowledge, contacts and networks in the industry, etc.
  3. Personality – Well-rounded and multi-dimensional personality, good communication skills, extra-curricular activities outside of work and school, travel and variety of experiences, fit with the school, diversity w.r.t. the rest of the applicant pool, contributions to society, ethical values, etc.
  4. Academic ability – Performance in undergraduate classes, results of standardized tests (this includes GMAT), certifications, courses, workshops, etc.

As can be seen, the decision to make an offer of admission depends on one’s ability to showcase various strengths and facets of your personality – mainly through essays and interviews. The GMAT score, in that sense, plays a rather diminished role in the decision-making process.

So if you are an MBA aspirant with a not-so-great GMAT score, don’t worry. Instead, put in the effort to craft an application that can’t be ignored! Clearly state your goals and value proposition, showcase your personality, and write powerful, compelling essays to make a strong case for why you should be admitted. Then wait for your interview call.

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