Embarrassing Test Scores and the Buyside

I will be a first year at a BB beginning this summer and have an interest in private equity down the road. I have heard from many friends who just went through recruiting (mostly megafunds) that SAT scores come up in headhunter meetings or in interviews.

While this topic has been discussed on this site previously, my SAT scores are uniquely atrocious. My math and verbal combined are comfortably below 1200. I'm convinced I have the lowest scores of any incoming BB analyst and am concerned this will destroy any chance I have of attaining a buyside job.

I am interested in MM and lower MM shops with fund sizes in the 300mm to 700mm range and open to pretty much any location. I realize I have no chance at mega funds or top MM funds. I want to be totally realistic about what is possible for me.

Other relevant info:
School: major state university that is a semi target
GPA: 3.70/4.00
Bank: BB (Not GS or MS, but not UBS)

Given my situation, are there smaller PE funds that would let me interview or hire me? Will headhunters dismiss me immediately because of my sub 1200 embarrassing score? Or do my other items (bank, GPA) mitigate my SAT score enough to help me land a job at a smaller private equity firm? Do smaller funds always ask for test scores?

Many thanks in advance.

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Comments (30)

Mar 29, 2015 - 1:39pm

This definitely could be a troll, but I'll bite...

I think you may be overreacting here. Obviously I know very little beyond your stats but why focus on things you can't control (your score on a standardized test 4-5+ years ago) versus doing the best possible job in your new position and putting your best efforts into recruiting for the buyside? Just kill it in your job and practice, practice, practice for interviews then see where the chips fall. I highly doubt that this low score will actually close that many doors as your career progresses, especially compared to your relatively strong undergraduate performance and experience as a BB IB analyst. Just my two cents.

Alternatively, if you're still concerned about this, you could study for and take the GMAT. That way, if the issue of a low SAT score does come up you could counter it with a relatively high (700+) gmat score. The SAT is simply an aptitude test taken by high schoolers who may or may not have studied extensively. I would argue that a current gmat score would be a better representation of your aptitude for buyside recruiters.

TL;DR: I wouldn't worry about this and I definitely wouldn't let this hold me back from pursuing the full range of buyside opportunities. But if you're freaking out take the GMAT.

Mar 29, 2015 - 1:51pm

LSO Monkey thanks for the advice.

Not trolling, although I can understand why it may appear that way. Will focus on what I can control and aim to be a top performer when I begin work. Just hate having this hanging over my head.

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Mar 29, 2015 - 3:38pm

Can you just lie? I know there are ethical issues involved in this, but I don't see how they could verify this information. Will PE shops contact the College Board and ask them to send your scores over? Seems unlikely, but I haven't been through recruitment so I don't know.
Also, how did you get into a semi-target with ~1200 SATs? Genuinely curious.

Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business. Any other policy is either self-limiting, no-win, or a bet that the competition will go bankrupt before they displace you. - Bruce Henderson
Apr 21, 2015 - 7:50pm

ghettobanker:

Can you just lie? I know there are ethical issues involved in this, but I don't see how they could verify this information. Will PE shops contact the College Board and ask them to send your scores over? Seems unlikely, but I haven't been through recruitment so I don't know.

Also, how did you get into a semi-target with ~1200 SATs? Genuinely curious.

get the fuck out. i hope you never EVER get a job in finance.

Apr 22, 2015 - 10:29pm

Why are you so upset? I was just asking a question. Didn't realize it would make you so angry. BTW, I also have sub-par SAT scores (~2000), so don't think I'm being mean or anything.

Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business. Any other policy is either self-limiting, no-win, or a bet that the competition will go bankrupt before they displace you. - Bruce Henderson
Mar 29, 2015 - 3:51pm

Ghettobanker I believe SAT scores are on my college transcript, so they could verify that way.

Also, the school I attend is a large public university that has an extremely diverse student population in terms of academic ability. Several banks recruit at my school and it is generally referred to on this site as a semi target.

From what I understand, semi target breaks down into small elite liberal arts schools like Tufts and Williams that are not technically core schools but have many alumni in finance and are obviously great schools and and large state schools that have some presence in banking. I attend an example of the latter.

Apr 23, 2015 - 12:13pm

Is that typical for test scores to be on a transcript? I thought the definition of a semi-target is a school that is targeted for OCR by some, but not all, firms. The alumni network, by itself, does not make a school more of a target. Rather, having OCR leads to more alumni ending up in finance, who in turn steer a firms recruiting efforts to their alma mater, further increasing the presence of alumni in that firm. In this way, I think being a target or semi target is a positive feedback loop and the reason it is so hard for non targets to break in.

Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business. Any other policy is either self-limiting, no-win, or a bet that the competition will go bankrupt before they displace you. - Bruce Henderson
  • 1
Mar 29, 2015 - 4:59pm

so based on my username you know where i went, and my sat score was on par for my school's average, but anyway - i actually only had one experience where SAT scores blocked off an opportunity. a headhunter was given specific guidance to only target candidates with 750+ in math (which in my mind is very high) and it was for macandrews & forbes.

also, personal anecdote, one of my really close friends from high school went to a good but "non-target" (what a trite term) college and now works at a bank similar to where it seems like you will be working. he's being considered for some really awesome buyside positions because he's killing it at his job but didn't get top SAT scores and did not go to a top college.

point is that low scores might close some specific options perhaps but overall just do really well at your job and you should be okay

Mar 30, 2015 - 8:51pm

Hedge funds care more, some PE shops will like 1500+ but it shouldn't be a dealbreaker for most places

Array
Apr 21, 2015 - 2:15am

I would say that you definitely should be able to get into smaller PE and probably even some pretty good MM firms. I think that it is mainly the MFs and elite MMs that have the statistical focus because they have the ability to be that choosy

Apr 22, 2015 - 12:40pm

mrb87--I'm pretty sure they were on an unofficial transcript I printed out a while ago when I had to submit one for an internship...and if they are not, still not comfortable lying about it.

very.chipper--thanks...your comment reflects a lot of what I've been hearing on this cite and in speaking with ppl in the industry...megafunds and top MMs will not consider me, but most other firms will be far less concerned about test scores given BB experience and respectable GPA

Apr 22, 2015 - 12:52pm

dmiles21:

mrb87--I'm pretty sure they were on an unofficial transcript I printed out a while ago when I had to submit one for an internship...and if they are not, still not comfortable lying about it.

very.chipper--thanks...your comment reflects a lot of what I've been hearing on this cite and in speaking with ppl in the industry...megafunds and top MMs will not consider me, but most other firms will be far less concerned about test scores given BB experience and respectable GPA

I'm not suggesting you lie. I just thought it was stupid to think (and then assert) SAT scores would be on a college transcript any more than your high school GPA or license plate number would be.

Apr 22, 2015 - 11:19pm

ghettobanker--what did I say that would imply i was upset? not angry with any comments and appreciate the input

I do agree with the others who are against lying here, though...best to not lie in this case or any for that matter

I'm not listing my bad score on my resume, but will reveal the true one if asked regardless of whether or not it can be verified, and then try to bring the focus back to GPA, deal experience, modeling test/case, performance evaluation, bank/group, fit, and the other relevant data points. if I get dinged for low test scores I will just need to move on to the other 2,000 funds that hopefully focus more on recent things. Beyond my control

Apr 23, 2015 - 11:34am

No problem @dmiles21
I was responding to @Whiskey5. I think that is a good approach, and best of luck on the buy side.

Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business. Any other policy is either self-limiting, no-win, or a bet that the competition will go bankrupt before they displace you. - Bruce Henderson
Apr 23, 2015 - 9:47pm

ghettobanker...thanks for the second most recent comment

concerning your most recent comment, not sure about how common it is to have test scores on the transcript, but I think it comes up any way so not a huge issue either way...and for semi-target / target not sure what to tell you...I largely agree with your semi-target definition...once you get into banking though OCR is irrelevant and bank / group are usually more important for buy side

Best Response
Apr 26, 2015 - 1:06pm

Do your scores matter? It varies. I went through 2 PE recruiting cycles and I'm starting at a NYC MM with $1bn AUM this summer. Some firms asked and some firms didn't. Usually, it only matters when being selected for an interview. Once you actually have an interview, I've never saw a case where someone gets eliminated because of a test score. My SAT was horrible (similar to yours). I also went to a super non-target school (think a much worser school than you're currently thinking). I was a completely different person 5+ years ago and it sucks that someone would make an assessment of me today based on my performance when I was 16/17 years old. However, that's life. The biggest thing I had going for me was that I'm in a top group at a BB (GS/MS/JPM).

I suggest you 1) take the GMAT and 2) network your ass off. Taking the GMAT will give you grounds to never mention your SAT score. Networking will eliminate the weight given to your score altogether. I interviewed at a mega fund purely because I know a guy that knows a guy. Therefore, the networking trumped my SAT score. I didn't do the GMAT, because I didn't have the discipline (party party). Ultimately, the majority of my decent interviews came from me networking my ass off. I got very little looks from the HHs. I would say 1 maybe 2 HH truly took me under their wing and went to bat for me. The rest very quickly exiled me because of my school and scores. At the end of the day, I interviewed at some very respectable shops through networking and I'm starting a career track at a $1bn fund this summer. Happy to give you networking tips. Just reach out. Peace

Apr 26, 2015 - 5:24pm

Simple solution - take the GMAT and score over a 750. I have a friend that did that and his SAT scores never came up. You want to do this asap and get it over with though, ideally before you start banking. Once you start it'll be very very hard to have any continuity in studying.

Apr 26, 2015 - 5:58pm

traveler818--do you think I will have a decent chunk of time during training to study? I hear the hours are pretty light 9-5 and could also use that 6-7 week period also and take the test right before I hit the desk? would be able to start once up I finish up finals in a few days

Apr 26, 2015 - 6:13pm

You asked if PE shops would look over your SAT scores. Some will, some will not. I know plenty of MFs that ask via headhunter, resume, interview, etc. because as stated above, they can be very choosy and use it as a quantitative measure to eliminate a lot of the people. Is it a great metric and practice to do so? Probably not, but do they have the hours and hours to pour over finding a diamond in the rough or would the headhunters stick their necks out for you without a damn good reason? Absolutely not.

Therefore, I see three ways you can deal with this:
1) Don't include it in resume or mention it - Various buy side firms won't care but for the ones that do, it'd hurt you. That's just life.
2) Lie - Plain stupid.
3) Take the GMAT - If you think that the SAT score is not a good representation of your intelligence and work ethic (and I'm sure it isn't because you seem to be doing pretty well for yourself) and plan to apply to B-schools down the road, this option would help mitigate any doubts people may have about your SAT scores or intelligence. (Again, is SAT score a good measure of intelligence? Debatable, but again, people love quantitative measurements and scores to compare to others) If you can muster up the motivation to study in the free time you have and are confident you can do well, I think this is advisable. When you start working, you'll definitely not have as much time to study as you do in training.

Best of luck.

Apr 27, 2015 - 1:12am

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