Congratulations, you made it through a GMAT! Sure, it may not feel like much of an accomplishment. You set aside an entire day to take a stressful test in a cold room with fluorescent lighting and didn’t quite get the score you wanted. Understandably, you may be quite frustrated. You probably just want to be done with this test.
Well the good news is that you can make a massive amount of improvement by the time you take the next test. In fact, you’ve already had the worst GMAT experience you’ll have. If you made it through the first one alive, you know exactly what you’re going to deal with next time and can specifically prepare for all of the factors that bothered you the last time around.
But before we talk about getting better at the test, we have to talk logistics.
When can I retake the GMAT?
You need to wait at least 16 days before you take your next GMAT. Registering for your next GMAT is as easy as registering for the last one you took. Since you already created your profile on the GMAC’s website, you can jump straight to the calendar of available testing dates at locations near you.
There are limits to how many times you can take a GMAT in a given year, though, so bear this in mind. The GMAC limits you to taking the test 5 times within a 12 month period. For that matter, you are not allowed to take the GMAT more than 8 times total.
What does this all mean for you? Don’t rush to retake a GMAT! Make the next GMAT you take the last GMAT you ever take. Devote the the time and attention necessary to get a score that you feel proud of.
If the deadline for business school apps is coming up fast and you want to get a specific GMAT score by then, consider applying to business schools later. A higher GMAT score will make for a stronger application, so why rush to take another GMAT if you run the risk of presenting yourself in a less than ideal light?
How much does it cost to retake the GMAT?
It costs the same amount to register for your second GMAT as it did to register for your first: $250. It’s an expensive test!
Even though you’re allowed to take the test 5 times in 12 months, do you really want to pay GMAC $250 on five separate occasions this year? Again, take the time you need to make your next GMAT count and maybe save the money that would have gone to retesting over and over and over again to treat yourself once you’ve gotten that stellar score on the GMAT that you’re looking for.
Be aware that the test may have changed a bit since the last time you took it. GMAC recently made the test a bit shorter. The entire GMAT is now 30 minutes shorter, with the Verbal section cut down to 36 questions and the Quantitative trimmed to 31 questions.
What Can I Do Differently This Time?
Conquer your test anxiety
Did you get a lower score on your real GMAT than you did when you took any practice GMATs? Think back to test day. Were you particularly nervous that morning? Did you feel like the exam was significantly harder or significantly easier than you expected? Did you get thrown off by a few hard questions and kind of spiral from there?
These are all pretty sure signs that you were experiencing some good old test-day anxiety. This is incredibly common, and chances are you’ve been dealing with this since you were in middle school.
Well, there’s really nothing you can do to change the fact that this is a stressful test (for a bunch of reasons that you’re already well aware of), but you can change how you feel about the test.
As previously mentioned, it’s best to think of your first GMAT experience as the worst you’ll ever have. You now know exactly what it’s going to be like taking that exam at a computer terminal in a testing center, so you’ll be mentally prepared for next time.
Write out a list of all of the things that bugged you on test day and specifically address those as you’re prepping for your next test. Keep those factors in mind when you’re completing problem sets and taking practice test. Want more tips on reducing test anxiety and stress? Check out our prior blog post on the topic.
Practice, practice, practice (and then practice some more)
You should have taken 4 to 6 practice tests prior to taking the GMAT. That includes the 2 free ones offered by GMAC online as well as the additional exam packs that they offer for sale.
Yes those exam packs cost money, but it’s cheaper taking those than taking the GMAT over and over again. Additionally, practice tests provide a great opportunity to try and fail.
Your practice scores, after all, are for your eyes only. That means there is absolutely zero risk in trying new test-taking or timing strategies. Use those practice tests to figure out what sorts of questions you’re going to devote the most time to, how you’re going to eliminate answers on questions you’re struggling with, and which questions you’re going to skip without even trying.
You should go over every single practice test you take. Spend twice as long reviewing a practice test as you did actually taking it. That time allows for fine-grad analysis that will help you identify problem areas in content, locate weaknesses by section, and track your progress on each question type and skill.
Maintain an error log with every single question you’ve gotten wrong on a practice test. When logging each question, list the type of question it was, the content covered, and how long you took to complete it.
Use the right GMAT practice materials
Lots of people just use books to prep for the GMAT. That’s fine if you want to understand the general content that you’ll see on the test and wrap your head around how the questions and answer choices are structured.
But if you’re only working out of books, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. After all, the GMAT is an adaptive, timed test. This means it’s going to get more difficult the more questions you get correct, and that the clock will always be ticking. Practicing with just books will not help you get used to the adaptive aspect of the GMAT.
Fortunately, we have you covered! Our prep program uses AI to assess your personal skill and to adapt both the questions you’ll be asked and the solution tools we’ll suggest to your personal style. This will help you zoom in on the tactics and approaches that work best for you, which is the key factor in a significant improvement. If you practice for the second exam in the same way that you practiced for the first one, you’ll likely see the same results.
Work on your strengths and weakness
The GMAT really is a game of knowing what you do well and being honest with what you don’t. In other words, what can actually improve your score? You’ll want to maximize your accuracy on any question types and topics that you have a firm grasp of and use this extra breathing space to deal with the material that gives you difficulty.
So how do you improve your weak areas? Use that aforementioned error log to build a plan for what you’re going to work on each week. As the weeks go on, you’ll get a greater and great sense of what your common errors tend to be. In particular, try separating errors into 3 types: ‘fundamental errors’ (didn’t know the material), ‘silly errors’ (calculation mistakes, missing a detail), and ‘strategic errors’ (choosing the wrong approach). Your goal will be to attack those errors and figure out the root of what makes those questions tough for you. If it’s Critical Reasoning, for example, you’ll need to put serious focus into working backwards from the correct answer of those questions to figure out better logic you can employ next time around.
Some Final Tips for Great Studying
Give Yourself Enough Time to Prep
Yes, this was mentioned earlier, and yes, it bears repeating. You do not want to rush your prep. A good rule of thumb is to put about 100 to 120 hours total into your prep process. This includes doing practice tests, reviewing those practice tests, and doing plenty of drill work through a platform such as ours.
If you’re not going to be able to practice for minimum 6 to 8 hours a week, but more like 10 to 15 hours a week, you should really push back your next GMAT until you do have a chunk of time to put into prep. The only way you’re going to improve your GMAT score is through focused practice and a lot of it. This means hours of hard work.
You can do it, just give yourself enough time to.
Create a Detailed GMAT Study Schedule
Have a plan! With this, too, we have you covered. Just input your test date and we’ll give you weekly goals which you can use to easily track your targets.
With that said, independence is really the key to winning here. Take ownership over your prep and develop your own ideas of the exact question types and content areas that you need to work on. You probably remember exactly what felt terrible on test day, so building an initial list of problem areas based on that experience is a great place to start.