Should she or shouldn't she?
October 10, 2010 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: My friend recently got a 710 on the GMAT, with a 92nd percentile verbal and a 75th percentile quantitative. She has the impression that, while her total score is a good one, that business schools are more interested in the quant score than the verbal score, and she is concerned that a 75th percentile quant score will not be sufficient to get her into a top business school (and by a top business school, she means Harvard or Stanford (her first choices)). On practice tests she has done significantly better on the quantitative section and is now trying to decide whether or not to retake the test. Should she? If you have any personal knowledge of what HBS and SBS are looking for in a GMAT score, or can suggest a better forum for this question, she'd appreciate it too.
posted by slide to Education (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Law school applications (which I am told work by the same rules as business school applications) come down to LSAT (~=GMAT), demographics, and (to a lesser extent) GPA. All else equal, with a 75th percentile LSAT score, you can expect to get into an 80th percentile law school (the 5% discrepancy because the bottom scorers drop out of the process altogether) -- unfortunately, you decidedly cannot expect to get into a 99th percentile law school.

That said, all else is rarely equal; an applicant from a desired demographic may very likely be accepted by a top-tier school despite second-tier standardized test scores.

I retook my standardized test and gained 5 percentile points; if she is set on a top school, I recommend that your friend consider this route.
posted by foursentences at 10:17 PM on October 10, 2010

I would say that past a certain threshold, GMAT/GRE scores count for very little. More important is to beef up other qualifications, such as conference presentations, publications, research experience, etc...

But having said that, every school differs in how it interprets GMAT/GRE scores, so do some research - some schools publish on their website the test scores of students admitted (e.g. so dig around a little.
posted by butwheresthesushi at 10:31 PM on October 10, 2010

Beyond 700, the GMAT is not a terribly significant indicator for most schools. Having higher Verbal over Quant is pretty typical assuming that this person is from the US. If she takes a look at the way the raw scores are distributed over the percentile range, it becomes pretty clear how "wide open" the verbal side is and how "dense" the quant side is. The "rule of thumb" for the best schools is that they want you to be in the 80th percentile or better in both categories.

On the balance, time that she might spend studying for the GMAT would probably be better spent doing other things that will make her pop out of the crowd (something that is VERY VERY difficult to do anymore). 710 is enough to gain consideration for any school in the country, it will put her slightly below average in those two schools in particular. If she is counting on the GMAT to be a part of her application that is strong or supplementary to a weak point, then a 710 won't do that. If she is looking to prove that she is academically competent and capable of the rigor in either of those programs (technically the goal of the test), then she is fine.

Admission to HBS or Stanford is essentially a lottery (Stanford's admission rate last year was like 5.5%...). GMAT is the very, very beginning of the list of things you need to do, be, or say to clear their hurdles. Fitting in to their mold (age, industry, demographic, undergrad education) is just as, if not more, critical than a score on a single test.

For perspective, I am a half native american engineer, from an excruciating undergrad institution, who has worked in, and run, early stage startups for years... I got a 770 (better percentiles on both sections than your friend) on the GMAT and didn't even get an interview from either of the schools on her list. So I say again, a better score is an itsy bitsy piece of what she needs to do in order to gain admission. A low score can keep her out, but a high score will not get her in...
posted by milqman at 12:19 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

In general unless you are going to a school that specializes in finance (Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, or LBS), a difference between quantitative and verbal scores on the GMAT will not make much of a difference in the final decision. For HBS and SBS, breaking the 700 threshold on the GMAT should be sufficient. Higher (to a point) is better, of course, but at that point I think it would be better for your friend to focus on other aspects of her application.
posted by C^3 at 12:26 AM on October 11, 2010

If your friend would like to sit about on a forum and discuss this endlessly with people who are obsessed and always crunching the stats, she should have a look at the BusinessWeek B-Schools forums.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:53 AM on October 11, 2010

Seconding what C^3 said. I was going to say pretty much the exact same thing. She should focus on other things that make her stand out from everyone else who got 700+ and is applying to HBS and Stanford.
posted by echo0720 at 5:48 AM on October 11, 2010

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