Getting into a Marketing PhD Program: GMAT

One of the traditionally heavier components of admission criteria, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the kind of thing you’ll love if you’re a good test taker, and loathe if you’re not.

A Brief Description of the GMAT

The test takes 3.5 hours, includes a quantitative section, a verbal section, an integrated reasoning section (added in 2012), and an analytical writing assessment (AWA) essay. What makes the GMAT different from previous standardized tests you’ve probably taken is that it is computer-adaptive. This means that the test is computerized and questions will change depending on how well you’re doing. The test will try to find the ceiling to your knowledge, which means that it will feel hard at some point, no matter who you are.

The Importance of GMAT Score

The maximum score on each section is as follows:

Quantitative: 51
Verbal: 51
Integrated Reasoning: 8
AWA: 6
Maximum Total Score: 800

All schools look at GMAT a little differently, so I won’t try to give you all of the nuances. Generally speaking, the following is true:

  • Average GMAT scores for admitted students range anywhere from mid-600s to the low 700s, depending on the competitiveness of the school. (Be grateful you’re not trying to get into a finance or accounting program where the averages are even higher)
  • A high GMAT score won’t automatically get you into a marketing PhD program, but a low score may remove your application from serious consideration. A 700+ score should at least get you into the initial consideration set. Aim for that.
  • Schools look at Q/V/Total/AWA scores as indicators of potential (not sure about Integrated Reasoning). A higher quantitative score is generally viewed more favorably than a higher verbal score, especially if you’re aiming for a heavy quantitative marketing program. But I do know that programs will look at the essays you write for the AWA section, since good writing is critical in a PhD program and GMAT essays reveal what stage your writing is at when you’re in the moment.

I won’t go into a long description about how to do “PhD-level well” on the GMAT. There are plenty of other resources online for that. A few things I learned:

  • Give yourself ample time to study. You’ll perform much better if you aren’t cramming for a test like the GMAT. I recommend several hours a day for a few weeks. It really is that important. (And hopefully the high cost of the test itself provides added motivation)
  • Focus more time on the quantitative questions, but do enough of all sets of questions as to be extremely comfortable with them on test day. The Official GMAT Guide was a great book for me and has hundreds of questions and a lot of helpful refresher tutorials.
  • No amount of book prep can compare to taking the full timed, computer-adaptive practice tests you get access to when you sign up to take the GMAT. Approach these with the same seriousness (and in the same closed-off, uninterrupted conditions) that you would approach the accurate test. Don’t take these too soon either. You want to be able to gauge your actual ability and determine where you need to focus your study efforts.

Be confident. Don’t second guess yourself. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Go light it up!

*Don’t make the mistake I did. I went through 150-ish quantitative questions in the Official GMAT book and felt good about it, but ended up running into a wall on test day and didn’t finish the quant section in time (a huge mistake). I got home and realized all of the questions were in increasing order of difficulty and I had only done the easy-medium ones. I can laugh about it now, but imagine my *facepalm* at the time.

1. Marketing PhD Guide 6. Grades & Coursework 11. Teaching Experience
2. Your Motivation 7. GMAT Score 12. Statement of Purpose
3. PhD Admission Timelines 8. Letters of Recommendation 13. Interviews + Flyouts
4. Where To Apply 9. Research Experience 14. Decision Making
5. The “Profile Approach” 10. Work Experience 15. Summary + Helpful Resources