5 Ways to Overcome Low GMAT Scores

low gmat scores

Earning high marks on the GMAT is not a feat that will happen overnight. In fact, according to the official blog of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, students who scored highest on the exam spent an average of 121 hours preparing for it.

It makes sense that students who put in more study time should earn better scores on the GMAT, but this data nonetheless reveals a lack of necessary correspondence between study time and test scores. There will be those lucky students who excel at exams with little preparation and just as many students (if not more) who will continue to receive low scores even after hours of studying.

This wide disparity in scores reveals just how many different factors can contribute to GMAT success. Test-day anxiety, test prep resources and time management skills can all affect a student’s total performance on the exam.

So, what happens when you’ve put in the hours but the score just doesn’t measure up?

A low GMAT score, while it can certainly feel devastating, does not have to spell the end of your MBA dreams. Below are five ways to overcome a low GMAT score.

Don’t Stress for Success

Getting low GMAT scores after so much hard work can feel crushing.

Before signing back up for the test or rushing to write a perfect essay, remember first and foremost what defines success. There are plenty of reasons for someone to struggle on an exam, and such reasons may not represent your overall abilities or indicate how you will fare in an MBA program.

Before letting low scores get to you, ask yourself: Do you have a demanding job in which you excel? Can you grasp new concepts quickly and work well under pressure?

Ultimately, it will be these attributes and not GMAT scores which will help you succeed in the job market.

Second Time’s the Charm

If you’ve just received disappointing test results, the last thing you probably want to do is hit the books. Nevertheless, taking the exam more than once is encouraged by admissions professionals.

Not only will test-taking anxiety likely be reduced by knowing what to expect, but multiple test scores can demonstrate to business schools that you are a candidate committed to self-improvement.

Rather than just more of the same when it comes to studying, consider what you can do differently the second time around to achieve better results. If you have the means, test prep courses and other materials may help you reach your goal.

Reassess When Necessary

Retaking the test can be a simple way to see a score increase. But what happens when your third or fourth attempt at the exam reveals the same results?

First, remember that potential business schools are taking more than just your GMAT numbers into consideration. Even low GMAT results can be accepted by top tier programs if the rest of your application effectively sells your abilities.

If disappointing results have become consistent, it’s important to remember different business schools have different requirments. If after several retries your scores are still out of the acceptable range for a top tier program, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your MBA dreams. It may just mean that it’s time to consider other programs with requirements that you are able to fulfill.

There’s an App for That

A quick look at the GMAT scores accepted by Harvard Business School is all you need to see that GMAT scores are not an end-all factor in MBA acceptance. In 2014, the mean GMAT score for students applying to HBS was 730 out of 800, but the lowest accepted that year was 550.

Although the GMAT is important in helping a business school evaluate how you will deal with the rigor of an MBA program, schools also understand that outside pressures can affect how you take the test in a way that wouldn’t necessarily affect your performance in a grad program or in the workplace.

Your job is to prove it. GMAT scores are just one component of your overall application. A strong resume and personal narrative will help admissions officials to see the real you behind the scores.

Get Plenty of Rec Time

While a rounded application can help with lower-than-desired GMAT scores, don’t just let your application speak for itself: let others speak for you, too.

Letters of recommendation can be tremendously important in convincing business schools that you have the skills required for their program, regardless of test scores.

If you don’t think your GMAT score accurately represents your analytical thinking skills, see if your recommender can speak to this by addressing how you use your analytical abilities in other ways.

In your personal essay, an appeal to why your test score does not represent your real ability may come off as making excuses, but it is much more understandable coming from someone else.

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