Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yes, Your GMAT Score Matters

The Kelley Direct Online MBA program (unlike many other Distance MBA Programs) requires applicants to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test). It is a critical portion of your application for a couple of reasons.

The first is that it is one of the few portions of your application that you can control. You cannot change your undergraduate transcripts (unless you have deep pockets, know the registrar and have no morals - if this is you, please apply elsewhere; the Kelley School doesn't need you). You can't change your work history or your accomplishments. Your GMAT score is something you can control.

The second is that it your score is important. I lost count of how many times the faculty mentioned our cohort's GMAT average (it climbed 10 points from the previous year). Your score is not everything, but it is something. The GMAT is an objective measure about how you perform against your peers. Don't get me wrong, I have yet to be asked in any of my MBA classes a standard GMAT work rate question. But, it shows that you have the motivation to learn (re-learn?) skills and apply them in a time-constrained environment. Further, it demonstrates to the admissions staff that you have the ability to operate autonomously (which is what an Online Masters in Business requires).

So what do you do? Buy a book. Get on and buy ONE study guide (I used the official GMAT book, but I think any would do). Start going through the practice problems. Identify ones you are struggling with (work problems, for example). If your book doesn't do a good job of explaining how to solve them, search for additional resources online. There are (literally) hundreds of free sites with additional practice problems, tricks on how to solve different types of problems, and strategies for the exam itself. Once you are confident, take one of the two practice tests that the GMAC (the folks that run the GMAT) provides when you sign up for the test. This will give you a good judge of how you are progressing.

Then, keep practicing. I say that because I was reviewing practice questions the morning of the exam and one that I reviewed was almost identical to a problem on the actual test.

So, study up. Remember that no one cares that you will can figure out the amount of water in a cylinder that is 4 feet high, has a diameter of 2 feet and is 60 percent full. What they do care about is that you are motivated enough to a) prove that you are smart enough to learn it b) demonstrate that you can learn it on your own and c) prove that you have learned it in the form of a standardized test. It is these characteristics that separate Kelley Direct students from those enrolled at other online distance MBA programs.

As soon as you are accepted, your score no longer matters to anyone. But until that point, it matters a whole lot.

Doug Huber is a first-year MBA student enrolled in the Kelley Direct program at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. You can read more about Doug here.