Do I Need to Take the GMAT Before Applying to an MBA Program?

Do I Need to Take the GMAT Before Applying to an MBA Program?

With your undergrad degree finished or nearing completion, now you’re thinking you may want to pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA). Of course, you need to do a little research first about your options. Start by learning about what is an MBA program and consider the reasons why this graduate degree may be the right path for you.

You’ve Decided. Now What?

Making the big decision is an essential first step, but what’s next on the agenda? You may remember that getting accepted into a bachelor’s program went pretty smoothly and quickly, but you suspect that in a graduate program, there are more steps to take before being accepted, steps that possibly include taking a formal exam such as the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). And you know it can’t be as simple as learning how to take the GMAT and getting a passing score. How much work do you need to put in before actually starting the classes of an MBA program?

What Do You Need to Get an MBA? 

What Do You Need to Get an MBA? First and foremost, successful completion of an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution is a particular requirement before pursuing an MBA at National University. A caveat: If you are still working on your bachelor’s degree and have a strong grade point average (GPA), it’s possible to apply to the MBA program and be accepted.

Whether or not you opt to take the GMAT, you will need to have all transcripts from your undergraduate institution(s) sent to National before being fully accepted into the MBA program. So make sure to get that process underway.

National University can give you a verbal acceptance into the program if you are confident in your GPA; however, your official transcripts must be submitted as quickly as possible, preferably before you start your first class.

Obtaining copies of transcripts may be a challenge if your undergraduate degree was completed several years ago. If the regionally accredited college or university for your bachelor’s degree has changed its name, or, worse, has gone out of business, the Department of Education in the state where the university or college was located is your best resource.

What Is the GMAT and Is It Required for an MBA? 

Now let’s touch on needing to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) before applying for an MBA degree. First up: what is the GMAT?

The GMAT is a formal exam that measures high-order reasoning skills that demonstrate your ability to use critical thinking, problem-solving, and analysis needed to be successful in graduate-level courses and in management. The test is a standardized way to assess students, versus just using a grade point average. Taking the test may or may not be a requirement of MBA programs you are looking into, so it’s important to do your research carefully to find out which admissions options may work for you.

Kelly Kephart, an enrollment counselor at National University says, “If students are below a 2.5 GPA but are between a 2.0 and a 2.49 GPA, a minimum score of 550 on the GMAT can allow them to come in under regular admissions.”

If you take the GMAT, it will cost you about $250. If you register for the exam and then need to cancel or reschedule, you will lose some, or all, of that fee and have to pay the full cost (again) when you reschedule.

The GMAT score is one option for National University admission, but there are several ways you can avoid needing to take the GMAT, which can save money as well as, hours of study, prep, and test-taking time.

To Take or Not to Take the GMAT — That Is the Question 

There are a few ways to avoid needing to study for, take, and submit the GMAT to National University. If any one of the following applies to you, you do not need to consider the GMAT as part of the application process.

  • If your undergrad grade point average (GPA) is 2.75 and if that GPA has been maintained within the last 90 quarter units (about 20 classes)and your degree is from a regionally accredited university or college.
  • If your overall undergrad GPA is 2.5 or higher and your degree is from a regionally accredited university or college.
  • If your undergrad GPA is 2.0-2.49 and from a regionally accredited university or college and you have grades of “B” or better from successfully completing a minimum of 13.5 quarter units of graduate-level coursework at a regionally accredited institution.
  • If your undergrad GPA is 2.0-2.49 and from a regionally accredited university or college and you apply for admission via probationary status and achieve a 3.0 GPA in one of the first three graduate classes you take and complete.

If you’re unsure if your undergrad college or university is regionally accredited, you can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website. Kephart says, “Go to the website, type in the name of the college, and if it’s listed, it’s accredited as a general rule. If the college or university is difficult to find on the site, that’s not a good sign. Using Google or Bing to determine a university’s accreditation is another way to go, too.”

Probationary admission is becoming a common way for students with an undergraduate GPA of 2.0-2.49 to enroll in, and start, the MBA program at National University. If you’re confident in your ability to attain a 3.0 GPA (a grade of “B” or above) in one of three of your first graduate-level courses, probationary status can be a fast track to moving forward in graduate school.

A Few Caveats

There are, however, some things you need to be aware of:

  • You cannot apply for financial aid while under probationary admission, so the cost of the course(s) will be out of your own pocket.
  • You won’t be officially admitted to the graduate program until you have 4.5-13.5 quarter units of graduate study with a 3.0 GPA posted to your student record.
  • You aren’t able to take more than 13.5 quarter units of classes during the probationary period.
  • If you can’t achieve a 3.0 GPA in the three graduate-level classes, you become ineligible for admission to National University.
  • If, by chance, you receive a grade lower than a “B” and feel it is unjust, the university has an appeals process you can follow to try to have the grade changed.

Kephart says, “If you come in under probationary status, you have three classes to get that 3.0. I would say most students do it within that first course, but if you don’t get that 3.0 within those three classes, then you won’t be able to continue in classes here.”

Veterans and the MBA 

National University, a nonprofit founded in 1971, serves active-duty and Veteran students from all branches of the U.S. military. About 25% of students are active duty or retired servicemembers. Programs, including the MBA, are available online, in person at a university campus, or on a military base.

Kephart says, “Veterans can generally use their Joint Services Transcript (JST) toward undergraduate program classes as transfer credits, but there isn’t anything similar at the graduate level, so Veterans will follow the guidelines as outlined for general graduate program admissions.”

As a private university that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, National University accepts the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which offers assistance to servicemembers and their dependents with tuition waivers; and stipends for books, supplies, and housing.

If you’re using VA benefits to attend graduate school and are fully covered, if you do not take the GMAT it is still possible to be covered for the costs of one to three graduate courses taken under probation. As always, it is best to work closely with an advisor who can clearly explain your options.

If financial aid is needed to cover some costs of your graduate degree, you have to accept the possibility of paying for one to three graduate-level courses out of pocket if you apply under probation and you do not achieve the required 3.0 GPA under probationary status.

If you’re a Veteran, you can find additional helpful information in this article, Finding the Best Military-Friendly College.

Learning from peer experience can also be helpful. U.S. Navy Veteran Thomas McGreevy, had a master’s degree in project management before he transitioned into the MBA program at National University, so his journey is different than the norm, but he still had to meet the admissions requirements in order to pursue the MBA. U.S. Navy Veteran Francisco Rivera’s story may inspire you to pursue the MBA if you’re on the fence about the program.

The Veteran Center at National University can answer all your questions about admissions and provide resources to help you succeed in your studies.

Reasons to Take the GMAT for Admission to National University

There are benefits to taking the GMAT. Having an excellent GMAT score can certainly make you stand out positively in the admissions process and enable you to start a graduate program immediately. According to U.S. News & World Report, a good GMAT score is between 640 and 690.

At National, GMAT scores can be submitted for regular admission if your undergrad GPA is 2.0-2.49 and from a regionally accredited university or college. National University’s requirement for the GMAT is that you need to achieve a minimum (satisfactory) score of 550 to show math proficiency. According to, you are able to take the GMAT exam up to five times in a 12-month period, no more than once in a 16-day period, and no more than eight times total.

GMAT scores have a five-year shelf life, so if you take the exam, scores can be submitted to colleges or universities up to five years from the date you took the exam. So if you have the best intentions to use the GMAT scores to pursue an MBA at National University and take the exam, but then have life intervene with your plans — stay aware of the ticking clock.

The first step to taking the GMAT would be to find the schedule and testing locations nearest to you. Dates, times, and locations vary and it will, of course, depend on when you are applying to National and need to have the scores submitted. Allow at least three weeks between the time of exam and submission of the scores, in addition to the time you want to prep and study for the GMAT.

Here is a link to a PDF version of the GMAT Handbook so you know exactly how to take the GMAT, as well as how to prep for the exam, and what to expect after the exam.

Taking the GMAT and using the scores for admission to National University’s MBA program is an easy way to show the university that you have what it takes to succeed in graduate-level programs. And similar to how the GMAT scores are a positive reflection on you, once you graduate from the program, you’re helping the university keeps its reputation for producing quality business candidates that any company or organization would benefit from hiring.

National University’s Master’s of Business Administration Program

In a quick summary of whether you need to take the GMAT for an MBA, Kephart says, “When a person wants to come to National University, the first thing we’ll look at is their last quarter units. If it’s under a 2.5 GPA, then we’ll ask if they’ve taken the GMAT, or if they’ve taken any graduate-level coursework. If yes, and the scores or grades are met, they are fine. Otherwise, they can come in under probation. In my experience, I haven’t had anyone use the GMAT option; they’ve just come in under probation.”

If it seems like there are a lot of choices in order to apply for admission to the MBA program, it’s because National University wants to make sure that you and your fellow students will succeed. It wasn’t so long ago when the GMAT was mandatory for applying to any graduate degree program, so having a variety of ways to apply — with or without the GMAT scores — offers today’s students better chances for success.

Get Started on Your Online MBA with National Today 

If you are considering earning your MBA with National University, start by visiting the Master of Business Administration program page and connect with an advisor. By working with an advisor, you can determine whether or not you need to take the GMAT and you can plan an achievable course of study that will set you on the path to success.

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