Ask Kate: Low GMAT Scores can be Overcome with Great Application

No matter your GMAT score, you need to have a compelling application.



Hi Kate,

Thanks for offering your advice. I just took the GMAT for the third time and got a 42 quant, 41 verbal for a 690 overall. The quant is obviously quite low but is not going to go up at this point. I did get a 7 on the IR section. If I’m still aiming for a top 5-15 school, how would you advise I tackle this low quant score? Some people have suggested writing the optional essay to talk about your quantitative background, your willingness to take more math courses and explain your low GMAT score (in a non excuse making kind of way). My undergrad GPA was 3.5 in political science, economics minor. I realize my quant score will hurt my chances at the top schools but I’d like to think that if I write a compelling application I still have a shot.


Great ApplicationHI Lawrence, interesting case!

So, yes, your quant is low. But for your chosen school grouping, you are probably within the “Average plus or minus 20 points” range – check at your intended business schools. So, the good news is, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything about the low score. 690 is not itself a low score. Writing the extra essay for this one can come across as self flagellation. I would not ask you to write it. You can always explain later if necessary.

You are correct that a compelling application can help you overcome the deficit. Your undergrad mix isn’t doing you any favors – major and *low* GPA (PoliSci doesn’t tend to get the same respect that EE gets so 3.5 is low) – so your overall application needs to knock the socks off the mba admission committee. Make sure the school understands how/what/why you are the right candidate. Show them some love.

Because your profile is not yet outstanding (only based on what you’ve shared so far), you really do need to make a super strong connection for the school. As in, you need to write your app as though they are the only school for you. This is tough when you don’t know that they will say yes, but it really is your best shot. So, apply as early as possible; make sure you know exactly what about the school will help you make your next career move; make sure the school knows that you know that, and finally, make sure the school believes that you will be able to follow through.

This can all seem absurd at the time you start the process. You don’t really know that much about the school (most likely), and if you are like most bschool candidates you don’t really (REALLY) know what you want to be when you grow up. So spend some energy figuring out what you want to do long term in your life and career and back your way into your next 2-3 steps toward making that happen. You’ll share some of this in your essays.

You need to demonstrate that you know a significant amount about the school and are committed to them so go get to know them. Find recent grads, find super old grads, visit campus, do the tour, etc. If you’re applying to the 5-15 bracket, it almost does not matter which one. There’s no substantive difference between Number 6 and Number 12. So pick the best fit.

Best wishes and good luck!


Student GMAT Cases

Ask Kate GMAT Score report, 680 42/41, Top 15?


Leave a Comment