Why You Shouldn't Retake the GMAT

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Business school applications aren’t just GMAT scores. There is a lot that a student needs to provide to potential schools before they accept you. And the GMAT is just one of them. So consider all aspects of your application and where you are headed to know what to do next. There are good reasons out there to not retake the test.

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Don’t Retake if You Scored 700+

If you scored a 700 or higher, you did it! You’ve broken the golden threshold and now have a competitive score for any business school program. Don’t think about the GMAT anymore. Send your scores off and work on your applications. Your attention and energy will be better spent on your resume or essay than on trying to make micro improvements to push your score a tad bit higher. You are in the top 10% of people taking the test, and any gains that you make at this point will be negligible and hard fought.

Don’t Retake if You Scored Above Average for Your Programs

Just because you didn’t break into the coveted 700s doesn’t mean you have to return to your studies and prepare for the GMAT. At this point, you should know how you performed compared to students admitted to programs you want to attend. If you don’t know, go find out.

For most schools, information exists on recently accepted students and their performance on the GMAT. You should be able to find the average score for accepted students last year or the year prior. I would not consider a retake if your score is firmly above the average at the school you are applying to. Since there is only a limited amount of time before you submit your application, and since there is more to getting into business school than a GMAT score, your time is better spent improving your applications than studying to retake the GMAT.

Below 600—Retake the Test

The average GMAT score is 560—50% score above this level and 50% score below this level. Below 600 puts you in the lower portion of test takers. At this level, your score will not stand out, and depending on how low your score is, it might actually disqualify you from some programs, especially a top 50 program. For most students, they will need to retake the GMAT.

A couple of tips about studying for a retake: don’t just do the same thing you did last time. Whatever you did wasn’t enough to help raise your score so you’ll need to make some changes. Work off a study schedule so that your time is organized. Use quality materials for your practice and take full-length GMAT practice tests as part of your preparation. Find a study group to help with the process. Tweak and refine your test prep so that you can make the most out of your retake.

Between 600 and 650

This is hardest to define. It becomes very difficult to give general advice in this area because it depends so much on the applicant and the rest of their application. If you are above 650 then the scales start to tilt more and more towards not retaking the test. But below 650, it’s nebulous.

If you have a strong application already, meaning that you had a very strong performance in your undergraduate program, if you have a strong resume with strong professional experience, and if you have a stellar essay and strong recommendations, you probably won’t need to retake the test. But again, it really comes down to each individual and the other aspects of their application to know what to do.

Takeaway

Don’t immediately pivot to retaking the GMAT after you understand your GMAT score report. A lot more goes into the decision than just looking at your overall score. You need to consider where you want to go to school, your percentile ranking, and other aspects of your application to know what to do.

This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep.

References

  1. Examinees Retaking the Graduate Management Admission Test (2005). Graduate Management Admission Council. http://www.gmac.com/market-intelligence-and-research/research-library/gmat-test-taker-data/research-reports-gmat-related/examinees-retaking-the-graduate-management-admission-test.aspx.
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