Nobody likes taking tests, right? Well, perhaps a few of you out there get psyched at the chance of showing how well you have boned up for your exams. But most people facing a timed test can’t wait to get it out of the way. Even those who are fairly confident of their abilities will feel that uncomfortable pressure to perform.
Some of you, though, will always struggle on tests. You may have a learning disability. You may become highly anxious beforehand. Perhaps a medical condition makes taking tests more difficult. You can’t afford to freeze up when the clock starts ticking. Some MBA programs allow you to apply for a waiver, though not all. And your request may be denied.
What can you do? Here are some suggestions from Accepted consultants:
- Practice mindfulness
We live in an anxious age, which is why the mindfulness movement continues to flourish. There are hundreds of books, apps, and other resources to help calm a mind on overdrive. “Whether you suffer from test anxiety, a learning disability, or simply live a typically hectic life, mindfulness practices such as guided imagery, meditation, and mindful, deep breathing can ease your mind and soul,” observes Accepted consultant Natalie Grinblatt Epstein. “I have suggested these kinds of exercises to many clients, and I believe it helped to position them better at work, school, or on tests. Many people use these apps and tools simply to relax enough to get a good night’s rest.”
- Plan to spend time on GRE/GMAT prep
You have lots of options in test prep. There are online courses, and off-line courses will soon return. There are also lots of self-study materials. Finally, if you want your test-prep customized to your needs and availability, consider hiring a tutor. “If you have a learning disability, look for a tutor who specializes in that specific issue,” adds Grinblatt Epstein.
- Take supplemental courses
If you anticipate not doing well on the GRE or GMAT even with test prep, and a waiver seems unlikely, enroll in quant-oriented classes, either through community colleges, extension programs, or online learning programs, such as HBS CORe or MBAmath.com. Scoring A’s in these classes will put the icing on the cake, showing the adcoms that you can and will do well in a business related academic environment. Also, investing in these courses demonstrates motivation and a commitment to succeed.
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- Make friends with the optional essay
This wide-open space allows you to write about anything you want the adcom to know about you that you didn’t have the opportunity to share elsewhere. Accepted consultant Esmeralda Cardenal suggests, “The optional essay can be key to showing the school why you have not tested well, but hopefully you can also contrast those lower scores with a consistently higher GPA. You can also tell a story about a relevant successful achievement at work or school that demonstrates your verbal and/or quantitative abilities.” Overall, a solid track record of good grades will counterbalance lower test scores and show what you are capable of.
- Get tested for a learning disability
“Sometimes, learning disabilities remain undiagnosed even into adulthood,” observes Grinblatt Epstein. “I have suspected learning disabilities in several clients, and while I cannot make a diagnosis, I have strongly suggested they go for testing. If a learning disability is documented, you can ask for GRE or GMAT accommodations, providing you extra time, on those exams.”
- Ask for disability accommodations
Esmeralda Cardenal reports that most of her clients who successfully sought accommodations were also those with previously diagnosed learning disabilities. “One client with dyslexia received accommodation and was successfully admitted to London Business School as well as Columbia,” she says. If you have a diagnosis of one kind or another that would qualify for accommodation, consultant Jamie Wright advises, “Contact the GMAC or ETS to discuss your options. Remember that each organization has slightly different processes, so make sure to carefully review the application requirements and processes for requesting the extra time.”
- Ask recommenders to talk up your skills
The folks writing your letters of recommendation already intend to build you up, but Jamie Wright recommends asking them to particularly highlight relevant experiences and achievements. “Recommenders can give evidence of when you have employed the analytical and quant capabilities the exams assess to succeed at work and that show you can also succeed in an MBA classroom,” she says.
- Reconsider your school options if necessary
Many of our clients with learning issues have gained acceptance to their target schools given GRE or GMAT accommodations. However, if despite all your efforts your test results are still disappointing, Esmeralda Cardenal suggests, “It’s time to adjust your school choices so that your GMAT-GRE scores are not too far off the mark, and apply to a few safety schools as well.”
Even with a learning disability, an MBA can still be within reach. Let our consultants help assess your profile, guide your choices for the best programs for you, hone your application, and coach you in confidence-boosting, targeted interview prep. Check out our MBA Services Packages to get the personalized, one-on-one attention you need to GET ACCEPTED!By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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• So, You’re Applying to Business School with a Low GPA or GMAT Score?
• Test-Optional MBA Programs: Everything You Need to Know in 2021