The GMAT is such an important test that you absolutely want to put your best foot forward. While it’s far from the only element of your application, a great score will ensure that the admissions department takes the time to read over the rest of your application, and doesn’t dismiss it out of hand.
Think of the GMAT as your opportunity to make a great first impression. That first impression alone doesn’t really matter enough to get you accepted by the programs you are interested in, but it does put the rest of your application in a positive light.
Luckily though, if you mess up your first attempt at the GMAT, you can do it again! In fact, you can take the GMAT a total of 8 times over your lifetime, and up to 5 times within any 12 month period.
In this article, we’ll discuss the logistics of retaking the GMAT and how business schools feel about the multiple test scores that they’ll see on your score report (assuming you don’t cancel them…).
Wait a while before you take another GMAT!
You may be reading this article because you just took the GMAT and got a score you really weren’t happy with (and maybe even cancelled your scores). Maybe you took it cold and realized you were underprepared, maybe you prepared plenty and just had a plain old bad test day. These things happen.
But you should really wait before you take the test again. The rules set by the GMAC (the organization that writes and administers the GMAT) state that you must wait a minimum of 16 days between each retest.
That’s a good thing! In fact, you should wait more than 16 days before you take another test, and maybe even a month or two. Take that time to better prepare for the test, working on the specific sections and types of questions that you remember struggling with on test day.
Will business schools see all of your past GMAT scores?
Indeed, every score report that you have the GMAC send to the schools you’re applying to will feature all of your past GMAT scores except for the ones that you decided to cancel.
Since a massive proportion of your fellow applicants will take the GMAT multiple times, that is pretty standard. Fundamentally, there’s no issue with presenting multiple GMAT scores to a school.
In fact, an admissions officer reviewing your application will probably like seeing that you took the test multiple times, so long as your score improved over time, as this shows perseverance: it shows that you’re willing to meet a challenge head-on and work hard until you’ve bested it. With that said…
Is It Worth Taking the GMAT Again?
If you are just taking it again to see if you can do better, it’s probably not worth it, and it certainly isn’t worth adding to your score report. Your score will likely be the same, give or take a few points.
In fact, official research from the GMAC shows that, on average, you do most of your improvement on the second time you take the GMAT, and that the higher the original score, the harder it is to improve. What this means is that, if you felt that you were unprepared for some reason, for example not having had enough time to study, it is certainly worth your while to try again. But you must be prepared to put a lot of effort into improvement. Plan on putting in 100 to 120 hours of prep totally, preferably within a concentrated period of time. Most people who get really serious about improving at the test will try to get the whole thing over within within two or three months, so give yourself that amount of time before you plan on taking the test again.
In particular, doing the exact same thing you do did before will likely yield the exact same result. To get a better score, you need to ask yourself what you need to do differently.
At examPAL, we’ve built our system around this principle. Our AI-backed system adapts to your performance, giving you the tools that work best for you. Are you having difficulty with equations? We’ll suggest that you use numbers instead. Are you unsure what to do with a long, complicated word problem? Use the answers to help guide your way. Can’t understand which of the Critical Reasoning answer choices strengthens the argument? First break the passage into its logical components.
Learning how to use the different available tools, and learning which of the tools works best for you, is what learning and improving are all about. This is what we call cognitive flexibility, the most important tool that you never heard about before. If you’d like more details, check out our blog on the subject here.
What scores do business schools care about?
Now that’s the question! At the end of the day, business schools really care about how you compare to their other applicants.
Remember that your GMAT score report tells a story. It’s great if that story has a happy ending, but maybe not so great if the story is that you took the GMAT several times and got roughly the same score each and every time. Your score stagnating might just communicate that you never thought critically about solving the problem of an unsatisfactory GMAT score, and instead tried the same thing over and over.
One really helpful thing to keep in mind when retaking the GMAT is that you should only bother if you weren’t happy with your score. If you got a score that is within range of the schools you’re interested in applying to, then you’re right where you need to be. At the end of the day, you just want a score that ensures an admissions officer will read your essays, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to perfect something that works just fine.
Best of luck in your GMAT journey!