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How to overcome a low GMAT score?

How to overcome a low GMAT score?
A 8 min read

You have spent 3 hours in the test center and are finally done and dusted with your GMAT. Your tentative GMAT score flashes on your screen, and it can go either of the following two ways:

You have hit or blown past your target GMAT score


You missed your target GMAT score

As Rocky says: “It’s ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

If your GMAT score is lower than your target, this article is for you. In this article, we give not only useful tips on dealing with a low GMAT score but also helpful advice on making your business school application stronger by highlighting other salient parts of your overall profile.

how to overcome a low gmat score

We will also tackle the following questions:

Prawee had her eyes set on pursuing an MBA from a top business school; she attempted the GMAT 5 times in pursuit of a good GMAT score.

The result?

She received admits from 4 top business schools including UCLA and Kellogg and secured $180,000 in scholarships cumulatively.

What’s a low GMAT score? How to determine it?

GMAT scores are reported in the range of 200 – 800, where 800 is the highest corresponding to a 99 %tile score and 200 is the least which corresponds to a 0 %tile score. Interestingly, most business schools do not have a minimum cut off where a GMAT score is too low to be considered. However, business schools and MBA admissions staff agree that a competitive GMAT score is one which falls in the middle 80% range of scores. This is based on GMAT scores of the students who eventually get admitted into a program.

Thus, if your score falls below this range, it can be said that you have a low GMAT score.

An, e.g., to make the above point clearer: The middle 80% range of score for Wharton is 690 – 760. Similarly, for Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business the middle 80% score range is 680 – 760.

If you are in the initial stages of your GMAT preparation, read this article to determine what is a good GMAT score? For your target business schools.

What do AdComs think about applicants with low GMAT scores?

adcoms low gmat score candidates

The Admission Committees’ sole aim is to create a diverse classroom of impressive and accomplished people.

And the GMAT is but one data point (a significant one at that) considered in the holistic process of evaluation. Each part of your application serves as a puzzle that fits together to create a complete picture of you as a candidate. And while an outstanding GMAT score serves as compelling evidence of your academic prowess and commitment to business school, there are a few other ways in which you can distinguish yourself as a candidate to an MBA program. Some of them are:

  1. Creating an impressive resume
  2. Having a compelling and impeccable essay
  3. Showing evidence of work ethic and professional achievement through recommendation letters.
  4. Networking and developing a lasting impression on admission committee members in online and offline events conducted by business schools.
  5. Performing well in admission interviews.

Learn more about how to impress the admission committee in this article.

Some business schools even offer the opportunity to submit video responses to essay questions asked in business school applications. If you are someone who is articulate and have a great presence but cannot write as impressively, this is something you should consider, if your target business school offers the option.

Here is what admission committee members have to say about business school applicants with low GMAT scores:

The GMAT is just one aspect of the application and [a lower score] can be offset by a strong performance in academic coursework or by substantial work experience and progression.” – Jeff Carbone (MIT Sloan’s Associate Director of Admissions)

The MBA is a challenging academic experience. We assess an applicant’s potential to be academically successful through a careful review of GMAT (or GRE) scores along with their past academic record.  A strong academic record can balance a lower GMAT or GRE score. Showing sustained academic success through one’s undergraduate program can certainly alleviate the admissions committee’s concerns regarding academic potential.
Another strategy is to complete, before application, a few post-undergraduate quant-related courses to both prepare for the MBA experience and to demonstrate current academic abilities. This strategy is also helpful if one’s undergraduate academic record is not as strong, or if their undergraduate curriculum did not include any quantitative courses.” – James Holmen Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business

Low GMAT score – Is retaking the GMAT worth it?

low gmat score - should I retake

Your GMAT score provides proof of your academic readiness to take on the rigor of business school. If you believe that with better preparation and an improved strategy you can significantly improve your GMAT score, a retake will benefit your application. It will also offset any other weaker parts of your profile.

Admission committees also recommend retaking the GMAT since it shows a strong commitment to self-improvement. Also, if you are worried about what they would think about a low GMAT score in the past, schools generally only look at the latest and the greatest GMAT score you have achieved. Take a look at the next quote:

“The good news about standardized tests is that they can be taken more than once. If a candidate is disappointed with their score and believes that a higher score is achievable, then we would encourage them to sit for the exam again.

We find that GMAT scores are indicators of academic readiness, but candidates can also demonstrate readiness for the rigors of an MBA through strong undergraduate or graduate program performance, or through post-college coursework.

That said, we also remind candidates that test scores are just one aspect of the application review process and will be weighed against other factors such as work experience, extracurricular activities, leadership potential, and cultural fit, to name a few.”Morgan Bernstein (Executive Director of Full Time MBA Admissions for UC Berkeley-Haas)

With the new score cancellation feature available, canceled GMAT score are no longer shown while applying to business schools.

If you need help in figuring out whether retaking the GMAT is worth it, read this article.

If you think test anxiety was a reason for your poor GMAT performance, read this article on how to overcome GMAT Test Anxiety.

What should be your GMAT retake strategy?

low gmat score gmat retake

If you have decided to retake the GMAT, it is important to evaluate your performance in your last GMAT attempt. Identifying the causes for your low GMAT score will help you in avoiding and repeating the same errors and mistakes as last time.

You should also evaluate your choice of study material to prepare for the GMAT. Many students have reported that simply changing their source of preparation resulted in a massive improvement in their GMAT score. Following are the stories of a few such students:

If you’re serious about business school and think that you can improve your GMAT score with better preparation, read this article to perfect your GMAT retake strategy and hit your target GMAT score.

Are you stuck at home with no GMAT Prep classes to go to? Why don’t you check out our Online GMAT course? Take a FREE Trial Today. We are the most reviewed Online GMAT Preparation Company with 1970+ reviews on the GMATClub.

5 ways – How to overcome a low GMAT Score?

Besides improving my GMAT score, what else can you do to improve your chances of admission?

how to overcome low gmat score

If a retake is out of the question due to time constraints or other reasons, following are some of the things you can focus on to improve your application and your candidature to an MBA program:

  1. Make the most out of Optional MBA Essay Questions
  2. Take up some supplemental coursework that can demonstrate your Quantitative ability
  3. Prepare and perform well in Interviews and Video Essay Questions
  4. Ask for GMAT waivers (if available)
  5. Revisit your school selection to identify other programs (which have a lower average incoming GMAT score) where your profile may be a good fit.

1. Making the most out of optional MBA essay questions

Many business schools have an optional essay question that gives applicants a chance to provide additional information and perspective about why they are a good fit.

According to Jules Conrad Director of Admissions at Ohio State University’s Fisher School of Business:

“The supplemental essay gives an opportunity to address and elaborate on a perceived weak area of your application and highlight other ways in which you will contribute to the program.”

According to Allison Jamison director of Marketing and Recruitment for Duke Fuqua’s full-time MBA program:

“Essays are also considered when assessing verbal ability. Applicants who feel that the GMAT is not representative of their abilities may utilize the optional essay to share their thoughts on the exam and highlight other areas of the application that demonstrate strength in a certain area.”

Thus, if you feel that the GMAT is not a true reflection of your skills and abilities, a good response to the optional essay question may make the difference between getting an interview or being overlooked.

2. Supplemental coursework to demonstrate Quantitative Ability

If a low score in Quant is your cause of worry, taking and excelling in supplemental coursework in subjects such as statistics, economics, calculus or accounts demonstrates your commitment to the quantitative rigor of business school. MBA Math is one such good option.

3. Preparing and performing well in interviews and video essay questions

Excelling during the interview or in a video essay question by demonstrating a good fit with the school and its MBA program is another way to overcome low GMAT scores.

Read this article and learn more about identifying the right Business School Fit.

4. Asking for GMAT waivers, if available

Some programs offer a GMAT waiver depending on the circumstance. Speak with an admissions representative from your target business school to learn more.

5. Refining your list of Business Schools

While this option may not work for all, not all business schools give GMAT scores the same weight. If you have specific qualities, experiences or other demographic factors that business schools other than your target schools appreciate, refine your list to include such schools. It is essential to identify if these schools will help you meet your learning and post-MBA career goals as well.

Key takeaways – How to overcome a low GMAT Score?

  • Admission committees take a holistic look at applications, and the GMAT is just a part of your MBA application puzzle.
  • You can overcome low GMAT Scores by creating a compelling application which consists of your resume, essays, recommendations.
  • If you have time to attempt a retake, make sure you select the right resources for GMAT preparation. Admission committees look favorably at applicants who retake the GMAT, as it shows commitment.

If you have any other questions, please write to us at and our team of GMAT strategy experts would love to help you out.

Take a free GMAT mock to understand your baseline score and start your GMAT prep with our free trial. We are the most reviewed online GMAT Prep company with 2160+ reviews on GMATClub.

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