The Folly of Chasing a 780 GMAT Score

December 13, 2012

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Studying for the GMAT can become an all-consuming quest, and for some people, that kind of single-minded approach is a great way to maintain the focus they need to improve their test-taking skills.

When you focus too much on the GMAT, however, you run the risk of forgetting that your GMAT score isn't an end in itself. If you get accepted into your first-choice MBA program, it doesn't matter whether you do so with a 580, a 680, or a 780. All that matters is that you got in.

Of course, some programs aren't going to admit you with a 580. For most applicants, there is some minimum score they must achieve that puts them in consideration, that gets the admissions committee to weigh the rest of their application. Depending on the applicant and the school, that score might be a 420, and it might be a 720.

That score will never be a 780. It will never be a 770. It will never be a 760.

In extreme cases, the necessary score might be a 730 or 740, but unless you fit some very narrow criteria, it isn't even that high.

The GMAT score is only one part of your application, and most of the time, it serves a very specific purpose: To filter the applicant pool and give the admissions committee a rough idea of your academic preparedness and critical thinking skills.

The key word in the previous sentence is rough. Everyone evaluating MBA applications knows full well that a 720 one day could easily be a 690 the next day or a 740 the next. Your score is an approximation, not a pinpoint evaluation of your readiness to take on a particular business school's coursework.

Anything above a 720 or 730 says "superstar"--at least in the narrow realm of the material covered on the GMAT.

If you achieve a score at that level, you're done. It isn't worth your time to improve that part of your application. You can accomplish much more by improving your essays or even doing something that will make your application look better.

In the world of standardized tests, bigger numbers are always better. But the MBA admissions game is about more than standardized tests, and the time it takes to earn a bigger number isn't always the best way to improve your chances of admission.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
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