The GMAT score is the sole piece of data that is truly consistent from one candidate to another. Therefore, many MBA applicants place undue emphasis on it, when the test is only one of several important aspects of a person’s application. In extreme cases, some candidates even consider quitting their jobs to focus on the GMAT full time—not a great idea!
Why is leaving your job to focus on improving your GMAT score not ideal? Quite simply, it sends the message that you are incapable of managing what thousands of other MBA candidates can manage quite well. In your application, you will need to account for any time off; if you honestly admit that you quit your job to study for the GMAT, you will place yourself at a disadvantage relative to others who have demonstrated that they can successfully manage their work, study, and possibly volunteer commitments simultaneously. By taking time off, you will send the (unintended) message that you cannot achieve what many other applicants do unless you have an uneven playing field. This is not a message you want to send your target academic institution, which wants to know that you can handle the academic course load an MBA requires, not to mention a job hunt, community commitments, and other such responsibilities.
Regardless of the admissions committees’ perception of taking time off, we believe a calm and methodical approach is your best bet. By furthering your career as you study, you will maintain a sense of balance in your life. On test day, you will have a far better chance of keeping a level head, which will ensure that you will do your best—and of course, this was the whole point all along.