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How the GMAT is a stepping stone for success in business schoolBusiness school applicants have come to understand the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as a standardized exam in MBA admissions. While it is common knowledge that a good GMAT score will help aspiring students get into their preferred MBA program, many often question the test’s actual relevance in the field of business and why it is structured in a certain way.

The Financial Times reveals that the real purpose of the GMAT is for business schools to get a glimpse of a person’s analytical and problem solving skills to see whether or not the student can do the work set out for them in graduate school. This explains the different sections of the test, which includes portions on analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. Business schools need to know how well applicants can respond when overloaded with information, because then they can gauge their ability to handle tough courses. Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) marketing director Camille Coppock confirms, “They want to prove ahead of time that a candidate will actually get through their entire program, and so the GMAT helps them make that decision with some level of confidence.”

Determining a Good GMAT Score

Your GMAT score will ultimately reflect your capabilities. However, what constitutes a good GMAT score or a bad one can be a little difficult to ascertain. Initially, the answer to that would be based on what school you hope to enter. Business schools have different criteria when it comes to acceptable GMAT scores. On the surface, it would seem that any score above 700 is a good score, considering it is the standard of some of the top business schools. For instance, last year, the average GMAT score for Harvard Business School students was 729, Yale SOM’s was 725, and Stanford GSB’s was 740.

In reality however, there is no single score that can guarantee admission, even if you manage to obtain a perfect 800. In the same way, there is no one score that can deny entry to a graduate school. In fact, schools with high post-MBA employment have also been known to accept students who garner scores lower than 600. This is because more and more business schools are taking a holistic approach to admissions, with the GMAT scores sharing space for consideration with factors like work experience, interview performance, and essay results. However, it is still a significant part of the application, as it can influence program rankings. It also helps to look up the average GMAT scores of your target school’s admissions intake to have an idea of what you should aim for. (See also: GMAT Percentile Rankings: What is a Good GMAT Score?)

In truth, the only two ways you can determine if your score is good is if 1) you were accepted by your chosen school; and 2) you were hired by your dream employer. Poets and Quants notes that this is because some employers also use GMAT scores as a pre-screening tool in evaluating job applicants. Therefore, your score is not only important for MBA admissions but also for future employment.

A Taste of What’s to Come

In essence, the GMAT is a warm-up for what’s to come in the program. If you were able to overcome the sheer amount of information in the exam, then schools would interpret it as your ability to handle the rigorous courses ahead. The GMAT basically sets your expectations and prepares you for greater challenges in the field of business. So if your score is high, you’re more likely to achieve success in school and beyond.

Another facet of the exam that prepares you for your future in graduate school is the time limit. Just last April, the GMAT was shortened from 4 hours to 3 and a half, which raises the stakes in terms of how much you are able to do under the designated amount of time. This adds another level of preparation for those studying to take the exam, both for the exam itself and the graduate coursework that awaits. Students will, more often than not, have to deal with demanding study schedules on top of other responsibilities, which is why Maryville University stresses the importance of managing time efficiently for those looking to do well in school. Time management is a skill that will not only prove useful in business schools, but also in work life. It is normal to feel overwhelmed in graduate school, but you can practice working under pressure and being flexible from the very beginning — that is, during the preparation for the GMAT as well. If you were able to perform well under that time limit, chances are, you will have an easier time managing your schedule in school and the outside world.

This article was written exclusively for Dominate the GMAT by Kelly Snyder