How GPA, GMAT and SAT Influence Your Management Consulting Application

Written by . Posted in Consulting Application, Tests

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During the consulting interview process, a recruiter looks into a number of crucial variables to determine if a candidate is a right fit for the firm. These are work experience (or internship), academic accomplishments and connections within the industry.

From a professional point of view, some individuals say that academic scores and placement tests do not hold as much weight as it used to in the selection process. Is this the right advice for today’s prospective consultants? In this article, we will highlight the essential aspects of test scores and how to go about preparing one’s academic achievements for a prosperous consulting career.

Staying Competitive

In general, most successful consulting applications contain the same highlights and variables. Before an individual can begin to standout from the crowd of applications, he or she must first meet the benchmark of today’s top consulting firms.

The consulting industry is known for its unwavering attention to figures and data. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that some consulting recruiters have set a specific test score (such as 1500+ in SATs) as a basis for shortlisting potential candidates.

It is advisable to meet such standards with hopes to increase the chances of being chosen to move onto the next round of the selection process. Recruiters don’t have time to carefully read every detail found in an applicant’s cover letter and resume (though ideally we wish they did).

Should a recruiter come across a low GMAT or ACT score, he or she may not be willing to read the rest of the resume, which can hurt an applicant who is qualified based on other basic components such as relevant experience and distinct organizations.

Applicants with low GPA scores will need to work extra hard to redeem themselves from the “average” pile of resumes. This may include internship from a reputable consulting firm with a notable recommendation from a senior. One may also choose to gain relevant experience based on the target firm’s client base. For example, if an individual’s target firm specializes in construction, an applicant may want to aim for an “analyst” position in a related company.

An MBA from a top university can further boost an applicant’s chances of getting noticed by a consulting recruiter. This can be very helpful in taking attention away from the lower GPAs. However, one must do extremely well in the other aspects to reassure the recruiter that he or she can excel beyond the average scores.

Covering the Technical Variables

What do high test scores say about a consulting applicant? Tests such as SAT and GMAT measure one’s technical capabilities. These tests measure the general knowledge of an individual and how well he or she can analyze and extract information (critical thinking). In the consulting industry, these skills are the foundation of every consultant.

Being able to quickly and consistently sift through information in real-time is considered to be an asset. It is required to lessen the time spent on research for junior analysts. The technical skill set is also required during meetings for general computations and breakdowns. When a recruiter comes across an individual with above average test scores, one of the first notions that come to mind is technical reliability and performance.

But is this all that recruiters look at during the shortlisting process?

Missing Links

A high GPA does not determine the success of an individual. With that being said, there are several components that SAT and GMAT don’t test for. Because these are technical tests, other vital components are not being considered when it comes to one’s specific field or industry.

One of these is the application of knowledge during problems encountered in a consulting setting. Practicing for the SATs requires an individual to spend countless hours going over books, preparation exams and flashcards. This does not adequately prepare a person for issues that require an “out of the box” perspective- a point of view that many consulting recruiters are looking for.

Such tests do not shine light on the character and social markings of a consulting candidate. How a consultant handles a client inside the conference room and outside the office matters. A professional who is unable to handle difficult clients does not represent the firm well. In order for a management consulting firm to stay sustainable, a long-lasting network is required, which can easily be forged through consultants with a charismatic and sociable character.

Moreover, consulting firms look into the personality types of candidates because they are looking for individuals who can work well with the other employees in the company. Consultants work in teams to complete demanding deadlines. An individual who is incredibly smart with superior GMAT scores must also be able to work well with others by sharing information and providing support where it is needed. An applicant who is hard to communicate with and lacks the ability to relate with his or her team can bring down the effectiveness of other individuals.

In fact, this criterion is considered to be so important that management consulting firms devote an entire portion of the interview process to understand and determine the characteristics of an applicant (personality, EQ tests).

The Well Rounded Applicant

Those who say that test scores and GPAs don’t play an essential role in the consulting interview process are looking at other components that from their perspective, is of higher importance than a numerical figure. As mentioned earlier, extracurricular organizations and activities, internships and relevant experience are factors that should not be overlooked.

Applicants with high GPAs who weren’t able to make it to the next round of interviews often focus too much on their test scores. In a pile of resumes, majority of the applicants have at least a 3.7-3.9 GPA. Once a recruiter sees this, he or she will look into the other notable highlights and details in the application.

From another perspective, high test scores can hurt you if that’s all you are offering to your target consulting firm. If you didn’t spend time honing other equally important skills to ensure your suitability for a consulting position, this can come off as lack of exposure to many recruiters. A one-sided application is the exact opposite of what top consulting firms are looking for.

Some individuals with an average GPA (in management consulting, the standards of an average GPA are much higher than other professions) may be surprised to receive a callback from a recruiter due to their well rounded application. In cases such as these, the margin of error is very thin, and he or she must have exactly what the recruiter was looking for to be considered for the consulting position.

Individuals who are able to land an interview in this manner should not take the opportunity lightly. Being shortlisted by a recruiter means one has a chance of landing the position. It is essential to highlight that consulting firms do not arrange interviews with applicants who they think do not have what it takes to fill the vacant post.

In other words, it’s not the traditional “road” that applicants take, which means it will be much more difficult to get the position, as interviewers will scrutinize an applicant thoroughly to expose the weak test scores. Individuals who choose this method should be prepared to answer questions related to this matter, or actively divert from such inquisitions.

Stepping Stones and Advantages

While low test scores can quickly close opportunities for applicants, the exact opposite can be said about having a high GPA. Recruiters aren’t the only ones who look at test scores. Some academic organizations in top universities also take GPAs into consideration. Being part of organizations that are affiliated with one’s target firm can easily boost the possibility of a successful application.

Furthermore, getting into the right organizations can enhance an applicant’s consulting network, help in getting into a rigorous consulting internship program and more. These are creative ways in using high test scores to one’s advantage over other applicants who may be unable to attain such credentials.

In conclusion, due to the competitive nature of the management consulting industry, it is wise not to completely disregard scores from leading tests, as well as GPAs. On the contrary, one must also take into consideration the type of applicants that consulting firms are looking for. If you are unsure about the type of consultant your target firm is considering, it is best to seek advice directly from an employee within the company.

There are plenty of other ways to ensure that your consulting application will stand out. This means taking the time to work on other assets that can boost your value as a suitable applicant.


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