Dealing with GMAT Disappointment

Sometimes you don't live up to your score expectations. How do you deal with a lower-than-hoped-for GMAT score?

Investment guru Robert Kiyosaki once said: "The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dreams, and how you handle disappointment along the way." One big disappointment some folks meet on the way to business school is a lower-than-expected GMAT score.

What is the best way to handle this disappointment? 

First, let's set some parameters to this discussion. Perhaps some people hoping for an 800 and are disappointed with, say, a 760. This is in no way to diminish the disappointment that person might feel, but of course, thousands of b-school applicants would give an eye for an 800. 

As a general rule, if you are above 700, the best way to deal with any disappointment is to contemplate how fortunate you are to be in this elite region already. Do whatever emotional reframing you need to do, and close the GMAT chapter of your business school preparation.  

For scores below 700, then let’s partake in serious analysis of whether to retake the GMAT. Everything about this discussion gets us into particulars. Keep in mind, from the point of view of adcom, the primary purpose of the GMAT is to answer the question: can this candidate handle the academic demands of our school?  

A strong GPA also weighs into this decision. Adcom, for example, is looking for a good fit, someone academically strong, someone who works well with others and someone who has a clear vision of what they want to achieve for themselves.

The essay, the work experience and the letters of recommendation should all convey a clear message about why you are a desirable candidate. Part of the question you need to consider when thinking about retaking the GMAT is simply the cost in terms of other aspects of your application.  

Incidentally, when thinking about GMAT Integrated Reasoning, we don't know a whole lot yet about how adcom will look at the IR score. But right now, it is not something that would be likely to cause a make-or-break change on its own. The IR section, on its own, should not be a reason to retake.  

Suppose you weigh the pros and cons, and you decide: yes, I need to retake the GMAT. What do you do from there? Well, whatever you do, don't do exactly the same thing you did the first time. Einstein once said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."  

On the second pass, see if you can increase the quality of the sources you use to study. Make sure to get enough sleep - the brain's ability to store new information depends on getting enough REM sleep. Pay attention not only to the content and strategies, but also to how you learn and remember.

It’s one thing to remember how to solve a problem just after you have read about it, but until you can see a problem cold, with no warm-up, and know exactly what to do, you don't really have the level of understanding the GMAT will demand. Solving a problem with unlimited time is one thing, but solving it efficiently, against a tight time-clock, is precisely what the GMAT will demand.  

Many GMAT students focus on the left-brain question of what is the right thing to do in a problem, to the neglect of the right-brain question: what is the right way to look at this problem? But when one apprehends the best way to look at a problem, often what needs to be done is obvious. 

Maximizing your GMAT score means getting the most out of both sides of your brain.  

Overall, the healthiest way to respond to a setback is to rise to the challenge, which almost always involves stretching yourself in ways you haven't been stretched before. If all the steps you are taking are what you would have imagined in the past, then they probably won’t fulfill your dreams. Your potential always involves steps beyond anything you have ever imagined.  

For more GMAT news and guides, visit our GMAT and admissions experts section.

This post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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