I’m concerned about my GMAT/GRE score or my GPA. What should I do?

The following blog post was written by Stefanie Attridge, Director of Admissions and Enrollment at Simon.

As application deadlines quickly approach, standardized test scores and GPAs are often a source of stress for those considering B-school. We’ve answered some frequently asked questions with the hopes of informing your decision making and setting your mind at ease.

What if my test scores aren’t “good enough” for the school(s) I want to apply to?
Most students use the GMAT or GRE averages to ascertain how they measure up. A much better gauge is to look at the middle 80% range of GMAT and GRE scores posted on the class profile. This will show you the scores at the 10th percentile and 90th percentile for enrolling students, and will provide a more accurate range of admitted students’ scores for you to use in your consideration.

I want to retake the GMAT or GRE. Is that a bad idea? 
You are welcome to take the test more than once to improve your scores. You know yourself best and if you are confident you can improve, retaking is a good decision because schools will typically accept your highest score. Here are a couple things to bear in mind before you retake:

Scantron multiple choice answer sheet

Your test scores are just one factor in your application portfolio.

  • Admissions committees will consider your GMAT/GRE score along with your undergraduate GPA. If your GPA falls into the higher end of the school’s specified range, that may compensate for lower test scores. More on GPA in a minute.
  • What was your verbal/quant split compared to the school’s suggested range? Most schools understand that you may be stronger on one of the two dimensions, but at the same time they hope for reasonably good performance on both sections. A retake may allow you to focus attention on the area where you performed lower, while maintaining your initial performance in the section where you are naturally strong.
  • Only consider a retake if you have enough time to sufficiently prepare. There’s nothing worse than retaking the exam and posting a lower score because…
  • …the schools you are applying to will be able to see all your test dates and scores. It’s okay to take the exam a few times, but understand that it might be concerning to the committee if you take it too many times.

How much does my GPA affect my candidacy?
At Simon, our Admissions Committee considers many factors while reviewing the academic portion of your application. We look at cumulative undergraduate GPA, the strength of the college or university you attended, the rigor of courses you took, your choice of major/minor, your class selection and the trend of grades throughout your program. We are also interested in other demands on your time during college, such as employment or involvement in campus/community activities.

What if my GPA wasn’t strong?
Remember, the application review is multi-faceted. That said, here are a few things to consider:

  • Take a look at the other components of your candidacy, such as the amount and type of prior work experience and your leadership and team experience.
  • Assess the rigor of your course load. If you challenged yourself academically, chances are that the Admissions Committee will take that into consideration.
  • Obviously you cannot change your GPA after you’ve graduated, so if you’re concerned, use the optional essay to provide an explanation of weak performance on your transcript or of any gaps in your undergraduate coursework. We like to avoid assumptions during the review process, so we would much rather hear any clarification about your academic performance directly from you.
  • Keep in mind that students with high test scores or GPAs have been denied and students with lower test scores or GPAs have been admitted as there are many other factors we consider in our review.
  • Remember, you can balance out a lower GPA with a stronger GMAT/GRE score.

Are there other things I can do to improve my candidacy?
Definitely! If your performance in college didn’t demonstrate your potential or if you did not have much quantitative coursework, consider taking a statistics, calculus, economics, or financial accounting class. Submitting this information to the Admissions Committee will indicate that you are serious about business school and are committed to improving your skill set. Keep in mind that the Admissions Committee may request your grades from any additional coursework you’ve taken (Simon does), so it’s not just the act of enrolling in the class, your performance matters, too.

If you’re interested in more application tips, check out this video or watch one of our webinars.

Good luck as you continue to work through your application – we look forward to receiving it for 2016!

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