The first part of the application that you should consider are your academic achievements: the GMAT and your transcript.


The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is the SAT of B-school; you must take it to get into any business school. The GMAT tests your verbal, math and analytical writing skills. According to the GMAC (you know, those test-writing guys we said were so important before), schools use your scores to predict how well you will do during your first year in graduate school. This may or may not be an accurate predictor of your grades, but the schools pay attention to these scores, so you should, too.

The GMAT does not ask specific questions about finance, economics or accounting, because it is geared to measuring more fundamental skills. The two basic sections - verbal and quantitative (math) - are divided into these types of questions:

  • Test reading comprehension
  • Make sentence corrections
  • Solve logical reasoning problems
  • Solve mathematical problems
  • Decide on data sufficiency

These two parts of the test are graded together into one score on a scale of 200 to 800. The third part, the analytical writing section, asks you to write two essays: one analyzing an issue, and the other assessing the validity of an argument. This portion is graded on a scale of 0 to 6.

Now here's an important note: in assessing your application, the schools will not consider the score on the writing section, so make sure to pump up your main score and not worry too much about the writing portion. Sure, a good writing score might push you over the edge, but it's mostly useless. Students in the top schools all have scores above 680. Schools ranked in the top 20 have average scores of 650 and above. So, if you want to go to a top school, you're going to need a score in this range.

College Workshop (a soon-to-be-launched web site) states that your GMAT score is incredibly important. The top business schools in the country receive applications from candidates with sterling academic records - they do not need to seriously consider an applicant with less than superlative academic credentials. While a low GMAT score will not necessarily shut you out, the rest of your application must be extraordinary to compensate for a low score.


All schools require that you have graduated from an undergraduate institution and they'll want to see how you did. While no schools claim to have a minimum GPA requirement, the average GPA of students in the top schools ranges between 3.4 and 3.5. Remember what we said before, though: the longer it has been since you graduated, the less they will focus on your transcript. But don't fool yourself-they're still incredibly important. If you've done other graduate work, definitely throw that transcript into your application, too. Having gone to graduate school is not a requirement for business school, but showing them that you received other degrees will certainly help your case.