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Retaking the GMAT?

Should I repeat or retake my GMAT? 

We get this question a lot from students who are disappointed with their poor GMAT scores. There are a number of factors to consider if you are thinking about repeating or retaking the GMAT.  Before we discuss the factors to consider in deciding whether to repeat the GMAT, we will first discuss a few related questions.

Will I increase my GMAT score if I repeat the GMAT?

Our observation is that, on an average, students increase their scores by 10-30 points when they repeat the GMAT.  However, remember that this is an average.  This means that many students also score lower when they repeat their GMAT. There is no concrete data available to draw conclusions as to whether students have performed better or worse in their second or third GMAT attempts compared to their first attempt.

How this average will play out in your specific case will depend on many factors including a) the amount of preparation or practice invested in your first GMAT, b) the reason for your disappointing GMAT score and c) the investment in subsequent GMAT attempts.

How does retaking the GMAT impact my application package?

Schools have access to multiple GMAT scores of a student. The score  used in making the admissions decision varies for each school. 

In our experience most schools take your highest GMAT score.  Many schools take an average as long as the difference in your scores is not large.  If it is large, they may take the higher score.  It is best to write to the admissions teams in the schools you are considering to find out what their specific policy is with regard to multiple GMAT attempts. 

In general, B-schools don’t penalize you for repeating the GMAT. 

What are the factors I should consider in deciding if I should repeat or retake the GMAT?

The first factor that you should consider in deciding whether to repeat or retake the GMAT is what caused you to get your current score.

Some of the reasons we get often are:

  • Lapse of concentration

  • Questions I missed in the early part of the test

  • Just a bad day

  • Insufficient practice

  • Poor standardized test taking techniques

  • No personalized GMAT test strategy

If the reason for your poor GMAT score is among the first three listed above, you have good reason to retake the GMAT.  However, you should be certain that the reason for your disappointing results is one of the first three reasons above.  A good check is to compare your actual GMAT test score with your recent practice test scores.  If there is a large difference, there is a good chance that the reason for your disappointing GMAT score is one of the first three mentioned above. 

If there is only a small difference in your actual GMAT test score when compared with your practice test scores, it is likely to be one of the last three factors.  In this case, you must consider retaking the GMAT only after you have addressed the reason for your disappointing GMAT score.  If you do not address the reasons for your low score, you are setting yourself up for another disappointing score.

If you need more test taking practice, allot time for practice before you retake the GMAT. If you need to improve your GMAT techniques, find someone to help you develop your techniques.  More practice with bad techniques is not helpful.  If you have practiced but don’t have a personalized strategy developed based on your strengths and weaknesses, work with someone to develop such a strategy before you retake the GMAT.

In summary, repeating the GMAT without working on your errors is fruitless because you are not likely to see a significant improvement in your GMAT score.  You may get a small bump up or could even end up with a lower GMAT score. 

The most important factor to consider is the cause of your disappointing GMAT score. Once you have identified the cause, you should be able to decide if that cause can be eliminated given your current circumstances.  If you can eliminate the factors that caused your disappointing GMAT score, go ahead and retake the GMAT. If not, don't waste time and money attempting the GMAT again.

This process of thinking about retaking the GMAT will allow you to arrive at the best answer to this question.


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