Few people are accepted into a B-school’s Master’s or MBA programmes without first taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Knowing when to take the GMAT test, both to optimise your performance and to meet a university’s particular requirements and deadlines, requires an analysis of your own personal situation and priorities.
The Gmat exam is the standardised test most commonly used by universities to evaluate your application for admission. As such, testing centres are globally accessible, with locations in over 110 countries throughout the world. The test itself, including break times, takes nearly four hours to complete and has four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Total scores range from 200-800.
The all-English GMAT exam is designed to measure a student’s logic, critical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. Since it evaluates such a wide range of ability, a minimum score is often required by universities before admission to their Master’s or MBA programmes as a way to screen potential candidates. The minimum decent score is 550 and a good score is over 620. The average score at some of the most competitive US B-schools is 730.
What is a good GMAT score?
Not all B-schools require a minimum GMAT score in order to be admitted, but a high score will certainly improve your chances. For example, the Copenhagen Business School’s list of requirements mentions that you need only a “good” score, and then follows that up by saying the average GMAT score of those admitted is 620 so you have some idea of the range they look for. The Oxford Said Business School (UK) recommends that potential MBA students score at least 650, but then states they “accept all scores” to emphasise that the GMAT score is only one part of your overall application they will consider.
When to take the GMAT test
How early to register?
The GMAT exam is entirely computer-based, so your options to take the test are limited to testing centre hours and availability. Depending on the time of year, some facilities can accommodate walk-in test-takers, but don’t count on that. It’s best to make your appointment in advance. If you call a month ahead of your desired test date, it’s a safe bet that the centre will have a spot for you. Also, if you decide to retake the exam, remember that the GMAT parent company, Graduate Management Admissions Council, requires a minimum of 16 days between tests, and you are limited to five attempts in a 12-month period.
When will the GMAT scores be available?
Once you take the exam, it takes about 2-4 weeks for the official scoring process, though you immediately receive an unofficial score. You can use the unofficial score to get a good idea of which schools would accept your application and thus narrow down (or open up) your school selection process.
During your undergraduate programme
Some people, however, decide when to take the GMAT before they are even positive they will pursue post-graduate studies. If you think there is any possibility you will pursue an MBA, you may decide to take the exam directly after receiving your bachelor’s degree while your study habits are still in good form and the knowledge you have accumulated is quite fresh. This strategy improves your odds of achieving a high score and allows ample time for you to select a B-school and get the other parts of your admission package in place. The GMAT score is valid for five years.
Work experience helps GMAT preparation
Even if you wait several years to decide you want an MBA, this is not necessarily a detriment to your score. Sure, some of your mathematics or grammar skills might be a bit rusty, but real-world work experience helps develop your aptitude for logic, reasoning, and critical thinking, all of which are measured to some degree on the GMAT. The rest of it you can refresh with study, tutorials, or test-prep services.
Check out: How to Prepare for GMAT – Essential Guide
At that point, you have settled on a clear goal – an MBA – and you can be more focused on achieving it. You may or may not have selected schools by now, and that’s ok. With the GMAT under your belt, and the knowledge of roughly what your official score is, you can begin your search for a B-school with diligence.
Meeting B-school GMAT requirements
Many of us, however, fall into the category of those who get ready to submit a few applications for entry into an MBA programme, but then realise not only that a GMAT exam is required, but that the score must meet a minimum established by the university. In this case, you may not have time to prepare well enough for the exam or to retake the test enough times to achieve that minimum required score. Plus, the admission deadline may not allow enough time for you to make a testing appointment and then for your official score to be assessed and sent to your desired B-school.
Check out: How to Achieve a High Score
Regardless of your personal circumstances, the MBA process begins with a clear goal and ends with your determination to succeed, although a thorough understanding of what schools expect and a realistic view of how long the testing and application process takes enhance your odds for success.
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