Part 1 GMAT – Elements of an MBA application series

I will hold my hands up, I don’t think I am at all qualified to give advice about MBA applications since I hardly aced the application season. However, I am keen to pass on what I did learn along the way and debunk a few myths that seem to perpetuate regarding the application process. I will also talk about what I think worked (or didn’t work) for me on each element of my application and how it came together in an admit for Tuck! Feel free to throw in your comments, refute some of my points because I certaintly don’t claim to be an expert.

The elements I will look at are:

  1. GMAT
  2. Profile
  3. Networking / Research
  4. Recommendations
  5. Essay / Online applications
  6. Interview

Without further ado, here is Part 1.

The GMAT. There is a whole raft of information out there on this pesky test. Some love it, some loathe it but you definitely need to take it to apply to MBA programs. From my previous post, you will know I took it twice. I had gotten a perfectly satisfactory score of 710. Initially, filled with relief, I decided that was it I got a 700+ score enough was enough. However, I just nagging feeling that I underperformed on the day. Throw in the fact a 710 was in fact below the median of my target schools, I decided to take it again. The funny thing was I actually enjoyed the prep for the retake far more. Maybe it was because the pressure was off. Thankfully I got a 740, a better score than my 1st attempt and above the media for my schools.

What I’m not going to talk about is what materials I used to prepare or how I got there but rather how the score fitted into my MBA application profile. So my 2nd attempt meant that I was above the median score for all of my target schools. I think this meant the following for my application:

  • Admissions will say yes, domotron has the requisite intellectual horsepower to deal with the course. Tick that box
  • This is a complete guess but bearing in mind the number of applications that top b-schools receive, I think it put me into a “worth a further look” pile.
  • Raised my chances at an interview – no brainer there

What it didn’t do was:

  • Get me an admit at all of my target schools. Look a lot of people want to think if I get a 760 then I will be admitted. Nope doesn’t work that way. I’m an example, 3 R1 schools 0 admits later. It wasn’t until Tuck that I got the admit I wanted and I think that was down to other elements of my application.
  • Significantly overcome weak parts of my profile. You can have a 800 score but if your work experience is uninspiring or you have a terrible GPA without a darn good reason, it’s going to be tough and a high GMAT alone won’t solve that.

FAQ and debunking some myths

  • Do I need a 80/80 split?
    No, it’s a nice to have but the overall score is more important. For example if you got a 720 but your breakdown was skewed towards one section, you should stick wtih the score and spend your time working on essays or other parts of your application.
  • Can I apply with a 500 GMAT because the rest of my profile is ace?
    You can but I wouldn’t recommend it. For most people, you only get one shot at applying to b-school so why handicap yourself with a poor GMAT score especially when you can improve it significantly with just a bit of hard work. The GMAT range for the top schools are generally really wide BUT the median score will tell a different story. It is right at the upper end of the range. Essentially the top schools will admit a handful of low GMAT applications (sub-650) but it really is a handful and you better have an exceptional profile to go with that score.
  • Should I retake even though I got a 700+?
    I am probably the worst person to ask because usually the answer is HELL NO but as you can see that’s exactly what I did! However I still maintain that for most people the answer is no BUT if :
    a) you have a ton of time before you have to apply (I had 6 months before R1 deadlines)
    b) your score is below the median score for your target schools (true in my case)
    c) you had that gnawing feeling that you could have done better (as I did)
    then sure go for it. At the end of the day you only get one shot so why not put forth your best effort.
  • What is the minimum score I need?
    There is no answer to this. No school (I know of) publishes a minimum or maximum. Rather they will give you their full range, maybe the 80% range, mean and/or median. So what would make you competitive? I think being above the mean and median is a good place to be because it means you are above the average for the last class. This doesn’t mean you will automatically be accepted. It’s just that the admissions team can look at the score and say yes, this person is able. Now let me review the rest of their application.

That’s all for Part 1. My next post will talk about the “Profile” of an applicant. Would be interested in hearing what you all think about my viewpoint on how much a factor the GMAT plays.

This entry was posted in Admit, Elements of an MBA application, GMAT and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Part 1 GMAT – Elements of an MBA application series

  1. sarahrs81 says:

    Excellent points. Specially the need to look at your GMAT score in context of the schools you want to apply for.

  2. Lady says:

    Great post! This series will be very helpful to me and others who are currently starting out on our road to B-school. Thanks.

  3. poeticquant says:

    Great post! I’m considering retaking GMAT to position myself stronger for on campus recruiting since my desired field (consulting) is competitive to break into

    • domotron says:

      I’ve heard mixed messages whether that is necessary. Some people say yes some people say no you got in don’t worry but I guess if you have time it won’t hurt!

  4. Pingback: Part 2 Profile – Elements of an MBA application series | Domotron

  5. Pingback: Part 3 Networking / Research – Elements of an MBA application series | Domotron

  6. Pingback: Part 4 Recommendations – Elements of an MBA application series | Domotron

  7. Amba says:


    Curious to understand why you think an 80/80 split isn’t as important as some of the forums make out? What would you regard as a “too low” subscore if your overall score is 700+


    • domotron says:

      Well the scores keep moving so 80% on quant is getting tougher but in actual fact adcoms don’t care. They look more at the raw quant score. If your score is really unbalanced towards quant or verbal but is 700 say that may be a red flag

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