How much does your ACT/SAT matter for PE Recruitment?

As the title says, I am wondering how much your ACT/SAT matters for PE recruitment. What are the cutoffs for some of the top private equity firms? What score would you consider it necessary to retake the ACT? If you perform very well on the GMAT, should you not worry about it?

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Comments (48)

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2020 - 6:19pm

do they ask for verification. if I retook it and did significantly better, would anyone know I took it after high school?

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  • VP in PE - LBOs
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:26pm

Tough answer - unfortunately more than it should.

Perspective is from a middle market buyout fund. When we kick off recruiting, we get a list of 80 names from the headhunter on a spreadsheet with name, bank, college, GPA, college grad year, SAT score and GMAT score (if available). We also get a pack of resumes. We are looking to interview ~30 of the 80.

We participate in both on cycle and off - on cycle is so early now that there is very very little that differentiates people's resumes in terms of work experience. Also, to be honest, by the time you are reading the 40th 1st year analyst resume, they all start looking the same. So then the spreadsheet plays into it a little bit more, and we will look at GPA and SATs. While its silly because SATs are very old, they are a way of differentiating candidates. Not saying its right.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:28pm

What's the standard range for ACT/SAT to be differentiable. Is 1480 on SAT on the upper end? Is 34 high enough on ACT?

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  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:38pm

Would you say GMAT matters more than SAT/ACT? Would a 740 GMAT be looked at more highly than a good ACT since it's more recent?

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:44pm

To clarify, its much more binary. A low score will disqualify, a competitive score, SAT or GMAT, will keep you in the mix. But then we may decide to interview the person from Hawaii vs. New York because hey, Hawaii is cool and that person seems to know how to surf.

Its a pretty big crapshoot, but a competitive GMAT or SAT, a good school and a good bank will help you win the crap shoot more often than not. Again, networking is the only way to push the dice in your favor.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 25, 2021 - 10:57pm

Thanks for your post. Would you advice to take it after freshman summer? I'm a target but got lucky to get in and have a very low SAT - 1300s I'm wondering if you ever checked how old the SAT is or if I should just retake and study more for it 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:49pm

Pigging backing of this. If one were to have a near perfect gpa, be in one of the top groups in the street (ms m&a/Gs TMT), and overall have an impressive resume for a non target. Would a shit sat from 8 years ago be a huge problem? I mean pretty shit 1600/2400

I took my sat back with 0 prep my senior hs year when I didn't care about school and like the dip shit I was back then I took it hungover and did pretty bad.

I'm planning on taking the gmat this fall to fix this issue but was just curious on how much weight would an 8 year old test have on pe recruiting.

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Apr 23, 2020 - 3:54pm

Obviously I don't know much, but from what I've read it will probably hurt you if it's between other kids in your group/other top groups. If I were you, I'd use this downtime to study and take the GMAT just to give them less of a reason to ding you

Edit - Only recommend studying for the GMAT if you're still in undergrad

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 23, 2020 - 5:14pm

hmm I just think it's a bit silly to take it now and there is always the risk of someone asking for proof and seeing that I took the SAT 8 years out of high school.

Apr 24, 2020 - 10:22am

Not taking his side but if you're a current 2nd year analyst and you took the SAT in the middle of junior year of high school, it would be approaching 7.5 years old now. (Ex. graduate college in 2018, high school in 2014, could have taken SAT December 2012) Most of my friends took it junior year and those who took in senior fall were desperate to get a better score right before they applied to colleges.

If you're in a 3 year analyst program or you lateraled after a year at the Big 4 or a smaller boutique, it's possible for your SAT score to be 8 years old.


  • 2
Nov 20, 2020 - 5:32pm

My 2c as someone who assists with associate recruiting - if you have a high GPA (3.5+), test scores won't get much attention. If you're under 3.5 (especially 3.2-3.3 type range), we specifically request test scores to gauge intellectual abilities. Said differently, we use it as an alternative quantitative measure of intelligence if GPA casts doubts. If both are bad, the path to moving forward is much higher (strong bank/group, particularly good references, unique connections, etc.).

The GPA bar can be lower for STEM, but we'd then look to test scores to prove that GPA wasn't a fully appropriate reflection of ability (AKA really smart but studied something hard).

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 25, 2021 - 10:31pm

Would you advice to take it after freshman summer? I'm a target but got lucky to get in and have a very low SAT - 1300s

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Apr 26, 2021 - 12:35am

Based on the test scores of the associates at the UMM fund I am at, I would definitely say that SAT/ACT scores get considered. I think a good GMAT (740+) can help offset a poor SAT/ACT. FWIW, at least 3 of the ~8 incoming associates here got a 2350+ (1570+/1600). I know of at least 3 current associates with either a 1600/1600 SAT or 36 ACT. That being said, I think GPA is usually scrutinized a bit more (I think everyone here has a 3.5 or higher and the vast majority of people have a 3.7+).

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Apr 26, 2021 - 11:31am

Definitely nowhere close to all (don't know about most of the people in my class or older). Our firm circulates resumes for the incoming classes before they start and many of the associates disclose their scores there. Of the three current associates for whom I know their scores, two of them are because they sent their resumes to me (didn't have a reference point for an experienced PE resume template so I asked a couple of older guys). The other one is myself.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 26, 2021 - 12:50pm

fair game to retake sat after freshman year in your experience? or firms might check and might look bad..

  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
Sep 15, 2021 - 11:10pm

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  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
Sep 15, 2021 - 11:12pm

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