GMAT 660, retake? Killed verbal, got killed by quant

Goal: best school possible obviously, realistic is top public like UCLA, UNC, UT-Austin, etc., some private schools like NYU or USC

GPA: 3.0, UNC undergrad economics
Background: 4 years wealth management, 2 years mid-office energy, now Army Officer (long story), already have my CFA Charter from before I joined the military

On to the GMAT...

Took it in July: 650, Verbal 37/82%, Quant 43/47%
Took it again today: 660, Verbal 41/93%, Quant 39/35%

Surprised I did so poorly on quant since I thought I did better. Originally used the Manhattan GMAT guides. This time I mostly worked practice questions on the Official Guide, which seemed easier but helped me learn some of the tricks like with data sufficiency. Verbal, I literally just do a couple days going over the Manhattan GMAT sentence correction guide and that's it. Verbal has always been a natural strong skill of mine.

I'm very confident in my verbal abilities, but quant is getting frustrating. I know 660 isn't like I completely shit the bed or anything, but especially with a low GPA, it's not exactly hitting it out of the park either. I'm hoping my background, including CFA Charter and military experience, is a plus.

I'm taking a break for now since I was getting burnt out with the practice questions, but wondering your advice on really going for that 700+, maybe after a couple months of a break before hitting the books again, or sending it at 660. Any recommendation on good quant study material would be appreciated as well. Obviously something isn't working so open to feedback.

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Comments (19)

Dec 21, 2018

If you keep tanking the maths, do GRE. Easier maths and almost all schools accept it.

Dec 28, 2018

But does "accept" mean "treat equally"? I don't know the answer to that. But I'd ask a few student adcoms at target schools for the inside scoop there. I don't know anyone who took GRE to get into b-school.

Dec 28, 2018

Virtually ALL admissions committees at top MBA programs are test agnostic; meaning they don't have a preference between GMAT and GRE.

The one outlier is INSEAD who expects applicants to take the GMAT.

Pick the test on which you will perform best.

    • 1
Dec 28, 2018

Julian - Schools are looking to the standardized test as one indicator of your ability to handle the quantitative rigor of the program. The CFA Charter will give them some confidence but a 700+ score will make them a lot more comfortable given the soft UG GPA.

Your military background could give you a bit of wiggle room in terms of test scores.

Two years ago we worked with a veteran who had <650 GMAT and ended up getting a full ride to WashU Olin (which is on par with USC). Look for schools that are trying to increase the military presence in their programs.

Your UG GPA and GMAT are just two pieces of the holistic evaluation.

GRE could be an option but if you are looking to apply in R2, it is likely too late to switch gears.

Glad to discuss your specifics on a free profile evaluation .

    • 1
Dec 21, 2018


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Dec 21, 2018

Nothing to add except GMAT quant sucks. Backwards thinking and a high bar. Hang in there

Dec 21, 2018
Dec 21, 2018

take the course on and try again. The course helped to boost my quant score significantly and isn't too expensive.

Most Helpful
Dec 24, 2018

Hi Julian,

I'm unfamiliar with the course that Frank recommended, but I suggest you consider a tutor. (no I don't own a tutoring company.) We've seen clients make significant improvements after working with a tutor.

Another option, as the Pharma Guy mentioned, is to try the GRE. Most programs accept both, prefer none, and advise that you take the test that you will do better on.

As to overall "chances," you are somewhat hard to predict since you have some elements that are really strong (military, CFA, work experience ) and some that really aren't (GMAT, GPA). Ideally it makes sense to move the GMAT from the second category to the first. :-) . If you can, you'll be that much more competitive at your target programs. If you can't, you're not out of the running, but a weaker candidate.

I understand that you're planning to apply next year. If that's correct, you still have the time to try to turn a negative into a positive and it makes sense to do so.

As it happens I'm giving the webinar Round 3 vs Next Year on Wednesday January 16, if that's something of interest to you.


Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

    • 3
Dec 21, 2018

I have no affiliation with GMAT Quantum, just always looking to spread the word as the founder Dabral isn't active on here but the course single-handedly got my quant practice scores from a 40 to a 49 in a few weeks. Even if you decide not to take the course, the free white board answers to the OG problems he provides are awesome.

OP I also wouldn't neglect continuing to study for verbal as the real key to high GMAT scores for native english speakers is a 99% verbal. Figure out your weakest area and hone in there. For many it is SC which I think is the most "studyable".

Also if I remember correctly, there are some schools that will take your best verbal and best quant score to calculate your GMAT score, @Linda Abraham would know better which schools do this, but in your case a Q43/V41 is ~690.

Dec 29, 2018

Same. I have only heard good things about Dabral and GMAT Quantum. He also help/tutor GRE at 'Quantum Grad Prep'

Dec 24, 2018

That's an impressive improvement @Frank Slaughtery . congrats!

I believe that INSEAD and Tuck use your highest verbal and quant scores when they evaluate your application.

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

Dec 27, 2018

Take the GMAT again. You can definitely improve quant with practice. 700+ will open a lot of doors.


Dec 27, 2018

I would definitely take the GMAT again. Try the Economist GMAT program - when I used it they offered a 50pt increase or your money back. With your scores now you'd probably be limited to the 10-20 ranked schools, but with an increase to 700+ you open up your options. You also have a unique background which could help.

Keep in mind as a vet you're competing against other vets, not really against other applicants. adcoms can't really distill or differentiate military accomplishments, so they'll give the edge to the princeton ROTC grad with a 700+/3.5 GPA every time. I also think that the current climate/lack of deployments in the military is leading to a lot more officers getting out and applying to schools, making it more competitive.

PM me with specific questions if you want, I'm military officer who just went through the application process.

Dec 28, 2018

If GRE is an option I would go for it. I got a 710 on the GMAT with 59% on the quant (so 99%+ on verbal) and the only school I got into did not ask for a split.

Meanwhile on the GRE I got an 800 on the quant part so go figure.

Dec 28, 2018

Since your GPA is quite low, I strongly recommend you to retake the GMAT!

Dec 28, 2018

Echoing what others have said: you're much closer to a 700 than you feel like you are. I spent 8 years as an army officer before applying and matriculate in 2017. My undergrad GPA was stronger (3.6) but I had no relevant business experience or qualifications like the CFA. I took it twice and got a 660 both times, then used magoosh's online videos and question bank with like 6k questions with video explanations and got a 710. That was 5 weeks of buckling down after studying for 4 months and my score popped 50 pts. I'm a second year a non H/S/W M7 school right now. I've never taken the GRE but would advise against changing course right now.

I'd like to respectfully disagree with badmonkey's comment above that adcom's don't differentiate military accomplishments. Look at the vet groups at any top 10 programs and you'll see they're significantly overweight on special ops, rangers, aviators, and generally all combat arms backgrounds vs less sexy military roles. I know at my school our vets group is very involved in working with admissions to distill what a veteran's resume is saying, and I know many other competitive schools have vets groups that do the same. Might not be true everywhere, but in my experience it does hold weight.

Don't get discouraged, you're almost there even if it doesn't feel like it.

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Dec 30, 2018

With your background, a 700+ GMAT will give you the keys to the kingdom. If you really can't crack it, take a shot at the GRE and see if you fare better there. Keep grinding man, you're closer than you think you are. You passed all 3 levels of the CFA for Chrissakes, I have to believe you have the drive, discipline, and intellectual horsepower to get the score you need.

    • 1
Jan 6, 2019

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