Today, top business programs are seeing the highest GMAT scores ever.
Because of this, competition is greater for today’s applicants and applicants must make the GMAT a priority if they intend to give themselves a real shot at admission to a selective business school.
Assess Your Preparation Needs
As a first step you should determine your base score by taking a practice exam on MBA.com.
If you score 700 or above, you may find that personal study is enough to prepare you for the exam.
For those who are struggling to meet this threshold, a formal GMAT class or personal one-on-one tutoring may be in order.
Check out the BusinessWeek.com article, GMAT Test Prep: A User’s Guide, which does a great job covering the different GMAT test prep programs available to applicants.
Consider Your Timeline
Regardless of whether you pursue private tutoring, a formal GMAT class, or self-directed studying, my advice to applicants is to invest at least two months into getting the GMAT score they desire.
If you do so before August, it frees you up to focus on the rest of the application. Remember that the test is acceptable for five years so take it early.
Delaying the test often results in having to postpone your application to a later, sometimes more competitive round.
Learn from Juan’s Situation
As I worked on this article, I found myself thinking about Juan, a client of ours who had strong leadership and work experience and a very weak GMAT score.
Juan was told by a top program that they could not admit him, despite his strong application, unless he retook the GMAT and scored above a 600.
Fortunately for Juan, when he retook the GMAT, he earned a 700+ and gained admission to that school.
Unfortunately, many programs will not give you such feedback.
In fact, a good number of programs will also not accept your new score even if your score jumps up 150 points once you submit the information after the deadline (check with the schools ahead of time).
So prepare early and make sure that you have time to take the GMAT a couple of times should that be necessary in order for you to achieve the score that will make you competitive within the programs to which you’ll apply.