Secrets of the GMAT: What New Test Takers Should Know

Here’s the deal.  I haven’t completely abandoned the b-school application process.  In “not” doing so, I still encounter many articles, many of which are repeats from last year and the year before and the year before. I wondered why these topics were being repeated and then realized that, each year, an entirely new set of applicants have the same questions. So let me start with what I learned about the GMAT.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This exam sucks!  It’s the worst thing ever… I hated every moment of it – except taking the actual test. That was kinda fun. Now of course those of you who are taking the exam now and/or studying for it are completely obsessed about it, right?  I mean I was…we all were. Just think of it as a barrier to entry into business school and you’ll be fine.

Do not obsess over a certain score. I suggest that you obsess over a RANGE instead.  Here’s why. Let’s say you tell yourself “Ok I need to score a 720.”  What if you score a 710?  Do you then obsess over taking it again to improve 10 points?  NO, do not do the opportunity cost of studying for the exam vs. putting the time and energy into your application.

What do I think the GMAT is for?  well… other than just to annoy people?  Well it’s not a sign of true intellect. It does give the adcoms a standardized way to compare you to others. Okay fine.. we can all accept that right?  I mean we’ve been through it before all throughout school. I think people obsess over scores because they think it’s the MAIN thing that adcoms look at.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not. I know of a couple admissions consultants who will tell you otherwise, but I don’t care what they say. It’s NOT the main thing. In reality the MAIN thing is the whole application, but that’s a vague statement.  The MAIN thing that they will evaluate is your essays.  Just bang the GMAT out… get a score 600+ and move on from there.  If you’re in the 500 range, then it will be difficult – not impossible – but difficult.  I know that’s easier said than done, but whatever.. you have to get through it.

It’s completely frustrating… I know. Here is a post from my GMAT tutor back in November that I had him write.  I think this sums up my journey quite well.  Post from my GMAT Tutor.

What’s funny about the GMAT (yes there is some comedic value in it) once you get over that hurdle, is that it will stay with you for a loooong time whether you like it or not.  I don’t mean it’ll stay with you in that you’ll always be doing DS or RC questions, but the way you think about things will stay with you.  Now let me caveat that by saying that if you were already at the point where you thought the way that one must think on the GMAT then my previous statement does not hold true.  FOR ME it does.

I cringe whenever I hear people say “them” instead of him/her in a sentence. In my head I instantly correct him/her. I also now think of the assumptions when I either read something or someone is telling me a story.  And yes, I’ll mention it to them. I frequently find myself saying “well the assumption in that theory is…” or “but you’re assuming that…”  and if I’m talking to certain people I’ll end by saying “…I’m not saying that it may not be true, but I just wanted to throw that out there to give you something else to think about.”  or “…just so that we think about that when evaluating the next steps.”

This report is adapted from Richard Battle-Baxter’s blog posts at “Ellipsing My Way…To Business School.”

Previous posts by Richard at Poets&Quants:

Should You Hire an MBA Consultant?

Study for the GMAT or Polish Off an Essay?

Am I Really Cut Out For This?

My First Round Applications Are Looking Elusive

A Frustrating Day and Night on GMAT Prep

Having Trouble Hitting the Submit Button

It’s Nearly Midnight. Where Are All My Friends?

“Why An Admissions Consultant Objected To My Essay on Coming Out”

“Brain Racing at 4 a.m. Thinking About Business School”

“After Scoring a 620 on My GMAT, I Want To Die”

“Walk Me Through Your Resume” – My Interview at Dartmouth’s Tuck”

“My GMAT Students Are ‘Totally Obsessed Weirdoes With Unbelievable Work Ethics”

“With Apologies to Paul Simon, 50 Ways To Tell You’re Getting an MBA”

“My 30-Day Countdown to an MBA Acceptance”

“Tis’ The Season For Racing Hearts & Sweaty Palms”

“East Coast Blizzard Means More Time To Work on MBA Applications”

“Fear, Loathing & Panic In the Wee Small Hours of the Night”

“The Waiting Game Kicks In & It’s Brutal”

“If I Get Into a Top B-School, It Will Be the Happiest Day of My Life. If not….”

“25 Reasons I’m Over Obsessing About B-School.”

“An Invite to Interview from Cornell”

“Eight Things for New B-School Applicants”

“The Sheer Joy of an Acceptance”

“After Getting An Acceptance, I’m Thinking About…”

“A 20-Day Emotional Roller Coaster: One Acceptance, Five Rejections”

“How Will I Pay for My Cornell MBA? Good Question.”

“Preparing for Business School”

“Countdown to Cornell’s Johnson School of Business”

“An Open, Very Candid Letter to All New MBA Applicants”



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