The GMAT is the sole piece of data that is truly consistent from one candidate to another. Therefore, many MBA applicants get carried away and place undue emphasis on it, when the test is only one of several important aspects of an application. In extreme cases, some applicants consider quitting their jobs to focus on the GMAT full time—not a great idea!
Why is it not ideal to quit your job to improve your GMAT score? Quite simply, it sends the message that you cannot manage what many other MBA candidates can manage quite well. In your application, you will need to account for any time off; if you honestly note that you quit your job to study for the GMAT, you will place yourself at a relative disadvantage to others who have proved that they can manage work, study, and possibly volunteer work simultaneously. By taking time off, you will send the unintended message that you cannot achieve what many do unless you have an uneven playing field. This is not the message you want to send your target academic institution, which wants to be sure that you can handle the academic course load, a job hunt, community commitments, and more.
Regardless of the admissions committees’ perceptions of taking time off, we believe a calm and methodical approach is your best bet. By furthering your career as you study, you will have a sense of balance in your life. On test day, you will have a far better chance of keeping a level head, ensuring that you will do your best—which, of course, was the point in the first place.