What is the GMAT?

In its simplest form, the GMAT is a test that assesses business school applicants. It is split into four sections: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. The GMAT is a vital part of the MBA application process, but it’s much more than a simple academic exercise. In actual fact, it could take you on a transformative journey that rewires your whole way of thinking.

Mike Diamond is the co-founder of Apex GMAT, a company that offers private tuition and coaching for GMAT candidates. He says that the GMAT differs from a traditional academic exam for a few reasons.

“The GMAT is a psychometric exam which is there to measure one’s cognitive ability,” he explains. “At a deeper level, the GMAT is a test of decisions and operating efficiently under pressure – pressure of being in the exam and time pressure.” (01:17)

“While ostensibly the subject matter is quantitative information and the ability to read and understand English, these are really baseline subjects that they expect everyone to have [already] been exposed to,” he continues. “What the test is actually going after is your fluency and flexibility, critical thinking skills, and creative problem-solving skills, which are necessary to perform well under the time constraint.” (01:39)

How important is your GMAT score?

The vast majority of business schools ask for either a GMAT or GRE score as part of your MBA application. However, it’s not the only factor that schools take into account when considering your application. Instead of focusing on your GMAT score, focus instead on the process leading up to your exam.

“It’s something that’s going to get looked at, but it’s not the only thing that’s going to get looked at,” he says. “If you look deeply into the statistics of incoming classes at top MBA programs, there is an extraordinarily wide variety of scores that do get accepted.” (24:57)

“The importance is not in the score. It’s in the process, the preparation, and your application. Generally, your application preparation is in itself a transformative experience. It’s not just the MBA that’s transformational. It’s the self-discovery, the addition of skills, the addressing of gaps, that is transformational,” he states. (25:32)

While the process of studying for the GMAT is beneficial, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your GMAT score for your MBA application. While a top score is generally not a prerequisite for top schools, it can’t hurt your chances of being admitted.

“The top-tier schools – the Harvards, Stanfords, Whartons, LBSs, and INSEADs of this world – a good rule of thumb is you’re looking for a score of 700 or better,” Mike confirms. (02:39)

Why getting a 700+ score could be easier than you think

What does a 700+ score mean, exactly? According to the GMAT percentiles, a 700+ score puts you in the top 10% of test-takers worldwide. If that seems intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Mike says that getting a 700+ score is more achievable than you might think.

“Most people do not prepare effectively for the exam and so many people who might otherwise get a 700 do not get that score because they haven’t prepared in the right way,” he tells us. (06:18)

Ultimately, your GMAT score depends on your performance on the day. You need the skills and knowledge to be able to pass the test, of course, but being able to execute on the day is every bit as important. Those who can, get the best scores.

“It’s not really the top 10% of people that get a 700-plus score, but the top 10% of performances. If you’ve ever done anything – whether it’s athletics, dating, your GMAT – [you’ll know that] we all have our good days and bad days. Those 700s are everyone’s good days,” says Mike. (06:46)

“Many, if not just about everyone who wants a 700 can get it.” (08:17)

How to prepare for your GMAT

Knowing that it’s possible to get a 700 on your GMAT is one thing, but understanding how to do it is another thing entirely. Mike says to hit those top scores, you need to change your entire approach to exams. It’s a philosophy that lies at the heart of what Apex GMAT does.

“We endeavor to deliver not just tricks, but a change in how people look at quantitative and linguistic information. We aim to deliver a toolkit that is going to be beneficial not just in exams, but in an MBA program, the world of work, and really in any situation where one is learning,” he explains. (22:27)

The approach is dependent on another thing Mike believes sets Apex GMAT apart from their peer: the quality of their tutors. Rather than using a prescriptive “top-down” approach to teaching, he says their tuition is highly personalized to suit each student.

“Our tutors have strong interpersonal skills and what we call ‘cognitive empathy,’ which is the ability to look inside our clients’ heads and understand how they think they learn best, how they approach problems and process information,” he tells us. “We custom tailor our instruction to those features – not just intellectual but behavioral and psychological – that lead to great performance.” (21:59)

Mike ultimately believes that the secret to achieving a top GMAT score is learning to perform under pressure. That’s a skill that will not only serve you well in your GMAT, but in life itself.

“[Having] the discipline to change those behaviors and one’s emotional responses to the situation of being tested is absolutely vital to success. Both the creative & critical thinking and the behavioral emotional aspects are essential once you push past the mid-600s.” (14:31)