So you think your undergraduate GPA is set in stone? Think again! For students who majored in the humanities and may not have had a strong quantitative exposure, or for students who have lower grades in quant classes on their college transcripts, our advice is simple – TAKE A CLASS! Courses are available at local colleges and on-line. For most of the standard quant based classes, such as accounting, statistics and finance, it does not really matter where you take the class – but it should be one that you take seriously, and one that you should look for a B+ or higher on your final grades. This additional coursework can help admissions officers find out how ready you are to tackle the academic rigor of their classrooms, and it doesn’t hurt to get your brain working in that capacity once again!
Slightly older students should remember that your GPA matters less the more years of work experience you have, but this is also all the more reason to make sure that your quantitative skills are up to date! You will find that appearing for your first day of classes as an MBA student will be much easier if you have “’primed the pump” beforehand.
The GMAT score (and now increasingly the GRE) is usually everyone’s least favorite number. You will want to plan to take the exam more than once – that way if you do really well the first time around, it’s a nice surprise! Most schools will post their middle 80% bands on their websites, and the rule of thumb is this: if you have any reason to be concerned, take it again. The last thing you want to do is constantly question yourself during the application process…the feeling of “could have, should have, and would have”. If you have strong undergraduate quantitative coursework, and work professionally now in a related field, the GMAT can be seen as less of a point of differentiation and more of a necessary hurdle.
If you majored in History or Philosophy, for example, and had little or no quantitative coursework, the GMAT or GRE may matter more in showcasing your ability to thrive in a numbers-driven classroom. It goes without saying that you want to give yourself time to prepare; you can almost treat it like a part time job the month before the exam- so that you are in good form the day of the test. Is the GMAT or GRE make or break? Most schools will tell you that they aren’t, and as the Director of Admissions at Wharton, INSEAD and other top schools, we’ve seen plenty of 790 scores denied because they had nothing else to offer than strong numbers. Certainly this is a score that you do not want anyone to “trip on” while reading your profile, but at the end of the day, you will not be admitted or denied because you broke the magic number for your school. There is much more to the application process than that.