After earning a lower score than expected, MBA applicants often wonder whether they should take the GMAT more than once. Planning in advance to have at least one buffer exam date, scheduled for one or two months after the first exam date, can provide much-needed mental comfort in an already stressful process. Like a good scout, an MBA should always be prepared. But do you actually need to sit for this standardized test twice, or even three times? Is retaking the GMAT the right thing for you? Let’s find out which of these categories you fit in.
Did you have a bad test day due to outside circumstances, like unexpected highway construction, family issues, or company reorganization?
Have you taken the test only once, and you have a few months before you need to submit your final score?
Do you have a score below the middle 80% range of GMAT scores at your choice schools?
Are you applying to business school over a year from now?
Are you pursuing a career at an elite finance, banking, or consulting firm that requires a high GMAT score?
Have you spoken to an admissions counselor at your choice school that specifically told you your GMAT score needs to be higher in order for them to consider your application?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then, yes, consider retaking the GMAT. A study from the GMAC shows second-time test takers are likely to increase their scores, particularly those test takers who earned a below average score their first time. Additionally, taking the GMAT again can result in an average increase of 31 points on the total score. Therefore, spending the time necessary to improve your score may be worth it to get you closer to your MBA goals.
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Have you taken the GMAT three or more times already?
Do you still have large portions of your applications to complete before the deadlines?
Do you have a high score securely in the middle-80% range of GMAT scores at your choice schools?
If you fit into to any of these categories, then, no. GMAC statistics show that, on average, test takers show little to no improvement after a third attempt. Remember, you shouldn’t exert additional effort on improving your score at the expense of the rest of your application. The GMAT is only one part of your MBA package. Alternatively, you could explore the GRE as a test option, but ideally, you should spend your time solidifying the other sections of your business school applications to present your best self to the admissions committees.
Do you have a small window of time to study and take the GMAT, but you think you can subsequently improve your score?
Then assess your strengths and weaknesses. Determine whether you can maintain or increase the skills you are best at if you take the exam again. Can you also enhance the areas you are struggling in? And, most importantly, will these changes significantly affect your score? For instance, if on your second GMAT, you get the same Verbal score as the first time but a slightly higher Quantitative score, then your Total score will go up slightly. Conversely, if on your second GMAT, you get the same Quantitative score as the first but a slightly higher Verbal score, then your Total score increase even more than in the former situation. Again, consulting with an expert GMAT tutor would help inform your decision about future plans for the exam.
Do you want demonstrate your aptitude for analysis through your GMAT test score, because your application is light on quantitative experience?
If you didn’t take any math classes in college and your career is in an area like public relations or communications rather than operations management or engineering, then yes, a solid Quantitative GMAT score can show that you can handle MBA coursework. However, retaking the GMAT is not your only option. You could also lead an analytical project at work or as a freelance opportunity. Or, you could take a pre-MBA class in Accounting, Finance, or Statistics. This would illustrate your commitment to business learning and help you get ready for your program’s graduate-level curriculum.
Some final thoughts…
Your GMAT score is one of the few pieces of your application that you still have some control over. Take a hard look at your circumstances and decide whether you are ready, willing, and able to take the exam again. For some candidates, sitting for the GMAT again will not result in a significant change in their MBA application. But, for others, preparing for the exam once more, or even strategizing ahead of time to take it at least twice, could make the difference between a ding and an acceptance to your school of choice.