Should I Retake The GMAT?

by on August 17th, 2009

So you’re considering retaking the GMAT. Maybe you weren’t satisfied with how you did the first time around, or perhaps your prospective schools have given you some indication that your score isn’t quite what it should be. Before you commit to a redo, consider these questions:

Question 1: How prepared were you for the GMAT the first time around?

If you prepared thoroughly and did the best you could, you may not see a significant increase in your score. If you didn’t spend much time studying, or were surprised or overwhelmed on the day of the test despite your preparation, you can probably improve your score by putting in additional study time.

Question 2:  What is the range of scores for admitted students at the schools you are considering?

It may not make sense to spend the time and money to retake the test if you are within the range, even if you’re a little below average. You may be better off focusing your efforts on the rest of your application. If the other parts of your application are un-fixable (a poor GPA, for example), then retaking the test will probably be in your best interest.

Question 3: Are you serious about preparing for the test?

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to prepare, taking the test again probably won’t result in a higher score. The exception to this is if you did feel prepared and just had a bad day. Then, by all means, review your material and head back to the testing center.

If you do decide to retake, be sure you’ve worked out the kinks in your test-taking strategy. And keep in mind that you can only take the GMAT once per calendar month. In addition, you can take the test no more than five times per year—though why anybody would want to take the test five times is completely beyond us. Your three most recent valid (within five years) scores will be reported on your score report.

Question 4: How do the schools you are considering view a retake?

Many business schools do not mind students who retake the GMAT as they will consider their highest score.  On the other hand, some schools may average the scores (depending on how many retakes) so it may not be in your best interest.  Contact your school directly to find out their stance.

Question 5: Do you really need a perfect score (if you broke 700 already)?

The reality is that very few people get a perfect score (less than .025%). Thus while you may be exceptionally capable, the odds are against your achieving a perfect score. Also if you are within the range, it makes more sense to work on other parts of your application that you can make you a stronger candidate.  The extra 20-30 points on the GMAT (in this range) are not as important as well crafted essays.

I hope this helps with your decision process.


  • Nice article, I think I am falling in the Question 1 type. I gave the GMAT yesterday and scored a dismal 590 (Q44,V26) , surprising part is one day earlier I took the Prep test and scored 700. have been studying well for almost 2 months, I am planning to retake.

    • Thanks. Sorry to hear that. I know that feeling - kind of deflates you. But dust yourslef off and get back up and start again. How many other practice tests did you take? If 5-6 then you were well prepared and it could have been a bad day (and if you were scoring newar 700). But if you only took this one practice test maybe the test was not a clear indicator so you may need another month or two to practice test, review your weak areas and practice test again (and repeat this cycle until you are scoring consistently in that range). Good Luck. Did you take a formal course or prepped on your own?

  • Anthony, thanks for your encouragement. Yes I did take a formal couse from Princeton Review, but that was 5 months ago. May be I waited too long. Yes I did take additional tests but they were all from Kaplan in which I scored around 580. I am planning to take one more Prep test tomorrow to ensure that 700 was not a fluke :)

    By the way any suggestions on the approach, I have access to OG-10, 11, Kaplan Premier, and Princeton Review Manual. I can spend 1-2 hrs daily and 4-5 hrs Sunday. Looking at 6 week duration.

    • Hi Anthony, I took the GMAT today after about a month and a half of intense prep with Kaplan's materials and practice tests. From the beginning the issue has been with my Quant score (which on practice tests ranged anywhere from 43rd to 81st percentile).
      Although I scored a 710 overall, I got 62 percentile in quant, and I wanted to make sure that this is a good reason to study more and take it again. My intention is to apply to Stanford and some of the other top schools, and I have heard that they look at the verbal and quant scores individually, rather than the average.

    • OK I think that is definitely part of the issue - you took the course so long ago. I have seen that quite often with students who wait to long.

      You basically have to retrain yourself and I think you know that as you have a good plan...spend 1-2 hrs daily and 4-5 hrs Sunday - 6 weeks. That is what it is going to take.

      I only have a few suggestions.
      1. Get your Online access from The Princeton Review back (call the office you took the course at and ask for extension). Just in case you want to review a lesson or retake an exam.
      2. Review your manual or OSC to go over your methods and strategies. You have to know these like the back of your hand.
      3. Each day you prep, do a mini-timed section out of the OG-10 (anywhere from 5-20 min). You want to build up your speed and accuracy again. On Sundays, do either a full-length or longer timed section (full math or verbal).
      4. Give yourself a break because it is normal when this happens but you can do it again. Mentally you have to stay strong and endure.

      Hope that helps.

    • hi sa,
      i also fall into the same category of gmat scores. though i am disappointed in my score, i'm priming up mentally to tackle the test again. but i'm not sure if 1-2 hrs daily wld really cause significant increase in scores......i need to score 700+ 2nd time around....wish me luck!

  • Thanks Anthony for your advice, I will keep updating my progress on this forum. It is really a useful forum.

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