Ask Kate: Is the GMAT Necessary?

Think Your GMAT Scores Won’t Affect MBA Success? Think Again.



Hi Kate,

I’m applying for an MBA in Nonprofit Management at a New England school with a big focus on social justice — so definitely not a Harvard- or Stanford-tier program. I just took the GMAT without any serious studying and scored 39/39 for an unofficial score of 640.

I studied English and Peace & Conflict Studies in college and graduated with a 3.9/4.0 I also started my own nonprofit and I’ve been having very good success in my current job.

I have a hard time believing I’ll really struggle through this MBA program. Is the GMAT really that strong an indicator of MBA success — or do many people nail business school with less than stellar GMAT scores? I’ve never been big on these standardized test monopolies, so I’m very reluctant to cough up another $250 to demonstrate how capable I already know I am.

Would be curious to hear your thoughts — especially as it relates to the humanities/nonprofit perspective.

(If you ask me, good writing and strong verbal skills will take you much further than stellar math skills…but, hey, I could just be an English major in denial!)


NecessaryHi Jason,
You are an English major in denial.

I understand your perspective, but the chances are you don’t fully understand the math and logic processes to be a stellar candidate. Does that mean you can’t get in? No! But, you would be wise to beef up your quantitative skills before matriculating. The 39 on verbal is mighty disconcerting for an English major. That is fundamentally weak. You appear to be in denial of both your quantitative and verbal abilities. The GMAT is a critical thinking skills test – the math skills are 6-8th grade. So . . . one need not have stellar math skills. 8th grade proficiency is all that is needed.

For your chosen tier of schools, you may not have much trouble getting in with the 640. Expect to have trouble with your first year Accounting and Finance courses. I would be much less blase toward those. But buckle down year 1 and you may right the ship after all.

Best wishes!


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