Can I Still Get Into Business School With a Low GMAT Score?

In the 7+ years I've been working with MBA applicants, the number one concern I hear from candidates has to do with their chances of success getting into a great school with a lower-than-average GMAT (or GRE) score.

So let's get straight to it: Does a lower than preferred GMAT score mean you won't get into a top business school?

In short: No, not necessarily.

First, remember than a school’s average GMAT score is just that: An average. This means, of course, that a significant number of accepted candidates score BELOW the school’s average. So if you’re just a few points below a school’s average GMAT test score, don’t fret.

Remember that your test scores (and your undergrad GPA) are basically a way for schools to determine whether you can succeed in a challenging MBA program environment. If you’re within a few points of a school’s average score, they won’t have many concerns.

But regardless of whether you’re 20 points below the average or 80 points below the average, there are things you can do to offset potential concerns by the ADCOM (Admissions Committee) who might worry that you can’t hack it in their classrooms.

Namely, you want to really crush the Optional Essay. Most schools allow candidates the opportunity to answer an optional essay, wherein candidates can address weaknesses (like a low GMAT, GPA, work gap, or not having a recommendation from an immediate supervisor). I created a video tutorial on how to best use the optional essay. You can find it here.

But the most important thing to remember: Your acceptance to business school will not be determined solely based on your GMAT test score. Whether you get a 790 or a 490, you won’t be a “automatic acceptance” or an “automatic rejection” based on your score. Does a great score give you an advantage? Of course. Does a poor score make MBA admissions more difficult? Of course. But at the end of the day, what gets a candidate into school is the overall picture they paint of themselves in their application – what I call their “brand”. Your GMAT score is part of your brand, but how you address it – and the other content you present in your essays to distinguish yourself from other applicants – is what will determine whether or not you get accepted.

That being said, I always recommend that candidates take a balanced approach when choosing which schools to apply to. The average MBA candidate will apply to five or six schools, which I recommend. If you apply to five schools, you can apply to two “reach schools” (schools where you’re significantly below their average test scores or GPA), two “solid chance schools” (schools that you have a strong chance of acceptance with solid application materials) and one “safety school” (schools where you’re well over the school’s average stats). If you apply to six, you can apply to one more of any of these three types of schools.

With a balanced approach to school selection, you can shoot high for your dream schools while still ensuring you earn acceptance to a high-quality program. And hey, I see candidates get into reach schools all the time by really putting together compelling essays. It’s more common than you think!

We offer free consultations to candidates applying to business school. Book a time to discuss your candidacy and steps you can take to maximize your chances of success in the MBA application process.

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