President Theodore Roosevelt, a scholar and adventurer, said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” At least some of the folks pursuing an MBA have something of this vision: a quest to do deeply satisfying hard work in the world. In one way or another, the MBA is a “prize” for most of the people pursuing it.
For some people at the initial stages, the GMAT stands as a kind of obstacle in the path to this prize. Perhaps some students even think: “If I could only dispense with this hindrance, then I could move on to the good stuff!” The GMAT, though, is not an arbitrary barrier. Instead, the challenges posed by the GMAT are reflections of some of the challenges you will face in the business world.
How hard the GMAT is depends in part on your perspective. On the GMAT, you have to do math in a relatively tight time frame, if you make a mistake under pressure, you will get the question wrong. In the business world, there may be moments when you may have to do calculations about budgetary issues, perhaps even under pressure, if you make a mistake there, it could cost the company big money.
On the GMAT, you have to sift through tricky arguments, looking for the words and phrases that make a big difference in the logic. As an executive, on multiple occasions, you will be presented with potential sales, partnerships, deals, or other opportunities: some will truly be beneficial in a win-win way, but others will be by ruthless people trying to rob you blind, and you will have to discern what is best for your company and its long-term health.
In each of these examples, the ultimate downside for the first is the possibility of bombing this test that, after all, you can take again, whereas the direst negative outcomes in the latter cases can involve tremendous personal, legal, and financial liabilities. The challenges of the GMAT are small potatoes compared to the potential challenges of the world to which the GMAT gains you access.
Students invest a great deal of importance in GMAT score percentiles, perhaps in part because all grades and assessments carry such existential import for folks. Think about this chain of connection: elite GMAT scores often lead to one of the best B-schools, which often leads to landing a coveted management position – that is, a position that entails a tremendous amount of both responsibility and risk.
By all means, reach for the most you can achieve, but understand that whatever is challenging about the GMAT typically leads to more significant challenges down the road.
Some folks coming from more academic pursuits have already taken a GRE and understandably might be interested in GRE to GMAT score conversion. I would caution, though, those students who seek out the GRE because they want something less challenging than the GMAT.
Both tests are hard. If someone has a particularly large vocabulary, it may be that the GRE would be a slightly more advantageous test for that person, but for most folks, the GMAT is the better test to take for business school, simply because it mirrors more closely what is challenging, what is hard, about business world.
In the movie A League of Their Own, player Dottie Hinson tells her manager that she doesn’t like baseball anymore because it became too hard. Her manager, Jimmy Dugan, tells her, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” If that’s your attitude, toward both the GMAT and the business world, then, like Teddy, you can embrace the challenges with relish.