MBA Admissions Tip: Handling a Low GMAT Quant Score

A low quant score on the GMAT (at the lower end of the school’s 80% range) is never good news, but it doesn’t equal immediate rejection. As I mentioned last week, no single score is scrutinized independently, but rather your entire profile is examined as a unified package.

Interpret your scores as an adcom member would: Is the rest of your profile stellar? Do you have solid grades in quant-related courses? Is it possible that you’re just not great at standardized tests? Is your score perhaps not so low for people in your demographic group? Are you applying to schools where the average GMAT score is not far off from your lower-than-you-would’ve-wished score?

The following three tips are good strategic practices that you should utilize if you find yourself with a low quant score:

  1. First, you MUST improve your quantitative abilities or demonstrate that you have them in some other way. In b-school and in the business world at large, knowing how to crunch numbers is essential. You’ll need to act quickly to show you are equipped for a spot in their next b-school class. Enroll in a calculus, statistics and/or accounting class at your local community college ASAP. (Make sure you have the prerequisite skills; you will need to earn an A! If you have time, also take additional quant-oriented courses, like finance or economics.
  2. Next, in your resume and essays, highlight quantitative aspects of your work to further demonstrate your quant proficiency. Use vivid details, examples, and anecdotes that will prove to the adcoms that your low quant score was a fluke, and that it’s clear to you and those who work with you that there are no quant problems here.
  3. Finally, ask your recommenders to highlight your quantitative achievements as well. Having a respected third party vouch for your skill will help you immensely.

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  • SG

    Hi Linda, how can we obtain information on "middle 80% of quant scores"? From what I can see, schools only publish the "middle 80%" of the total GMAT scores.

    I got a 700 on the GMAT (Math: 48(82%), Verbal: 37(80%)). I have a 3.7 undergrad GPA from a great engineering school. I have MS degree as well and 6 years of work experience.

    I'm interested in applying to the top schools: HBS, Wharton, MIT, Columbia and Kellogg. I can't figure out if I should retake the GMAT or just focus on my apps. Btw, I'm from an over-represented group – my ethnicity is Indian.

    I will be grateful if you could share your insights.

  • Linda Abraham

    SG,

    I don't know of any data source that publishes the middle 80% of the different parts of the GMAT. Sorry.

    Your GMAT score is at or above 80% in each section. The schools will know you can do the work. Still you are coming from a super-competitive cohort. You are on the cusp.

    Do you believe you can raise your GMAT or were you getting right around 700 on practice exams?

    Linda

  • SG

    Hi Linda, thanks for your response.

    When you wrote:
    "A low quant score on the GMAT (at the lower end of the school’s 80% range) is never good news".
    Are you talking about being on the lower-end of a school's "middle 80%" GMAT scores? Or, are you talking about being closer to 80th percentile on each section of the GMAT?

    I think if I study for another 2 months, I can get a 730. Would a 30 point jump make a difference in my case? I have a 3.7 undergrad GPA and 3.8 grad GPA but I don't think adcom cares about that.

    It's hard to say that I will get more than 730 definitively and if 730 won't help, I would rather work on my extra-curricular activities. Really torn here. Thanks again!

  • HL

    Why does everybody always talk about addressing low quant score? And not low verbal score? Is it because more people have problem with quant? Or is it because schools don't care about verbal, unless it's like 30%?

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    SG,

    The reference was to the lower end of the "middle 80%," not to the 80% on each section of the GMAT. 80th percentile on each section of the GMAT is a good score.

    The adcom will definitely look at your undergrad and grad GPA. They do care about it. A lot.

    I can't see with certainty that a 730 will make the difference for you between acceptance and rejection. I do think it will make you more competitive at the programs you are aiming for. At the same time, I understand why you may want to focus on other aspects of your application. Without knowing much more about you, I really can't advise you whether more extra-curriculars are more important or a higher GMAT is more important.

    If you would like to consult with us on this question, we'd be happy to help you. (http://bit.ly/goWLhT )

    Best,
    Linda

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    HL,

    We actually just posted an article on Handling a Low GMAT Verbal score (http://bit.ly/hHOl2Q )

    However, it is true that the quant is given slightly greater scrutiny than the verbal because b-school curricula are highly quantitative. You simply must be able to do the math or you will struggle horribly.

    Schools will allow a little leniency fro non-native English speakers on the verbal, but it's not as great as you seem to believe. Under 70% is weak and under 60% is a serious handicap at the top programs.

    Best,
    Linda

  • Ss

    If I got a 700 (44 verbal and 42 quant), have great extracurriculars and a good job but a less than stellar gpa (3.4), do I have any chance of getting into top schools such as HBS? or should I absolutely retake it and spend a good amount of time prepping for the quant section?

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  • Linda Abraham

    Ss,

    I think the very top schools would be concerned about your academic competitiveness with the stats you provide above. Obviously they will look at everything, but when both the GPA and the GMAT, especially the quant score are low, everything else has to be superlative — good enough isn't enough — to get into an elite program.

    Best,
    Linda

  • AB

    Hello Linda,

    I got a 600 Gmat with 43 Math and 29 Verbal. I have a 3.8 GPA in LAW, very strong curriculum (entrepreneur at the age of 23, start up my own company) + 4 years of law experience. I am from a Central American country. Do I really need to retake the Gmat? Aiming for top 20 schools.

    Thanks,

    AB

  • Linda Abraham

    AB,

    You should retake the GMAT if you want to have a competitive chance for the top twenty. It may be possible to get in with a 600, especially coming from Latin America, but it sure is less likely.

    Best,
    Linda