GMAT, the viable alternative

Given the high competition in tests such as the CAT, XAT and so on, you must have quite a few questions lingering in the back of your mind at this stage – what happens if you don’t score well in these tests? What if there was an alternate option which could save a year for you in case you don’t get a school of your choice?  In this article, we explore the merits and advantages of the GMAT, which you should consider as a viable alternative.

There is certainly an option that’s worthy of being considered an alternate to the best of our national level MBA entrance tests—the GMAT. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

By Aninda Basu


GMAT – Some facts

Let’s get a few myths out of the way first. It is widely believed that the GMAT is a test for those who have many years of work experience. Also, the GMAT is only for international B-schools or Indian executive MBA programmes. Neither is true. The fact is that through the GMAT, you can get into many top notch schools worldwide (such as London Business School, Kellogg School of Management, etc) with limited or no work experience at all. And as of today, the GMAT is readily accepted in the flagship programmes (including ones that require no work experience) of top notch Indian B-schools (such as ISB, SP Jain, Great Lakes Institute of Management, and more). So, let’s focus on the GMAT and why you should definitely consider this test as your alternate test.

Why GMAT is a “perfect” alternate option?

Apart from the fact that there is a plethora of good B-schools you can get into, with or without work experience, the test too offers a lot of advantages over other tests. Let’s have a look:
1.    The GMAT is a safe bet: One of the most scientifically designed tests, the GMAT is extremely standardised and has no “shock elements”. Here is why nothing can beat the GMAT when it comes to standardisation:
a.    The test structure (section sequence, timing and breaks), question types, subject areas and even sub-topics are extremely well defined.

Test Structure Duration Question  Question Types Scoring System
AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) 30 minutes 1 essay topic Analysis of Argument 0-6 (in 0.5-point increments)
IR (Integrated Reasoning) 30 minutes 12 Questions Multi-Source Reasoning,
Graphics Interpretation,
Two-Part Analysis,
Table Analysis
1-8 (in 1-point increments)
Quantitative Section 62 minutes 31 questions Data Sufficiency,
Problem Solving
6-51 (in 1-point increments)
Verbal Section 65 minutes 36 questions Reading Comprehension,
Critical Reasoning,
Sentence Correction
6-51 (in 1-point increments)

b.    Every question on GMAT goes through multiple stages of testing.

c.    The GMAT is question wise computer adaptive. This means that the test adapts itself based on how you perform. Each question is a function of how you’ve fared on the test thus far. Just to give you a vague idea, simply put, if you keep getting questions right, the level of questions keeps on increasing, and if you keep getting questions wrong, level of questions keeps dropping down. Thus the score that you get in the end is predictable and an apt reflection of a student’s calibre.

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d.    Tests such as CAT typically see a wide variation in scores and their corresponding percentiles since the student base (and therefore the percentile pool) changes every year and so does the test. The GMAT, however, does not discard the percentile scores every year. Therefore, historically there has been limited change in the score – or percentile conversions. A 700 on the GMAT has historically been close to 89 percentile.

e.    With the GMAT, you need not go around preparing for anything and everything. Instead, you need to do an extremely targeted preparation. If you have prepared well for the test, your score will certainly reflect that. As compared to other tests, the standard deviation of performance in practice tests and the actual GMAT is extremely low.

2.    Take less time to prepare: While candidates normally spend anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to prepare for Indian entrance tests, the GMAT takes 1 to 4 months to prepare. This is basically because the question types and topics are well defined. The level of questions asked in the Quantitative section is basic high school mathematics.

3.    You can prepare for the GMAT along with Indian tests: If you have prepared for the CAT or other Indian B-school entrance tests, you have basically covered a lot of areas already in the GMAT. We believe that if you have prepared for the CAT, just another 2 to 3 weeks of preparation is sufficient to ace the GMAT.

4.    You can retake the GMAT after 16 days, up to 5 times in a year: Indian tests are typically held once a year. If you took the test and weren’t happy with your scores, you have to wait for another year to reappear for the test– delaying your plans by a year. The GMAT, on the other hand, is held all through the year. Also, if you are not happy with your score, you can simply cancel it and retake after 16 days. And finally, you can take the test up to 5 times in a year — so basically you get 5 attempts a year. Who can beat that?

5.    GMAT scores are valid for 5 years: Imagine you took an Indian entrance test this year and scored a 96 percentile. You were not happy with the schools you were getting and planned to retake the test next year and score a 98 or 99 percentile. What if your score takes a dip instead – say you end up with a 92 percentile? What will you do now? You can no longer use the 96 percentile that you scored the previous year. The GMAT gives a huge advantage in this aspect – your scores are valid for 5 years. You can retake the test and use the score 2 years later, and B-schools will treat you equal to those who are applying with fresh scores.

6.    Power of score cancellation and reinstatement: The moment you complete your test, you see your unofficial score report (no more aching fingers for keeping them crossed for months before you get your CAT scores).
Now there can be two scenarios – you either get a score that makes you happy, or you get a score that doesn’t match your expectation. The GMAT allows you to cancel your score in such a case. However, if you like, you can always get back the scores by reinstating them, for up to 4 years and 11 months from the date of the test!

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7.    Choose your test date and time slot: You can choose your test date and time slot as per your convenience at any time in the year, since the GMAT is held all through the year.

Based on all the information above, whatever your current plans might be, you can always consider the GMAT as a parallel option to reduce the risks that you bear.