To Retake the GMAT: What You Don’t Know -

Philippe Barr, PhD
8 min readJun 26, 2023

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a significant part of the MBA application process. Your GMAT score indicates to the admission committees your potential for success in graduate business studies. It is the reason why the GMAT score carries so much weight and importance for admission committees. So, if your GMAT score isn’t as high as you wanted, retaking the test might be very tempting. But before you decide to retake the GMAT, consider the things you need to know before retaking it.

Before retaking the GMAT, it’s important to understand the scoring system. The GMAT is scored on a scale of 200–800, with an average score around 550. Business schools typically have a minimum acceptable score, but top MBA programs often have a median score of 700 or higher. It’s important to research the average GMAT scores for your target schools and aim to score above that range. Additionally, it’s important to note that the GMAT is not like other standardized tests, where a perfect score is achievable with hard work and diligence. It’s actually very rare to score above the 99th percentile, and most test takers end up scoring within a range of 200–760.

GMAT Retakes: The Data

According to data collected by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), candidates who retake the GMAT see an average increase of around 30 points. This indicates that there are opportunities for significant improvement when it comes to taking the GMAT — and with enough hard work and dedication, major improvements can be made!

If you have the resources and availability, consider retaking the GMAT based on the statistic from GMAC. The range of your scoring ability varies, so on some days you may score at the higher end and on others at the lower end. Perhaps you didn’t have your best performance on your initial test, but your second attempt could result in a score increase of 10, 20, or even 30 points.

If you plan to retake the GMAT, don’t worry. Your chances of having a better experience have increased because you now know what to expect.

Business schools are competitive, and a stronger GMAT score can potentially put you ahead of other candidates vying for limited spots. That being said, it’s important to set yourself a realistic goal for improvement. If you scored in the 600s on your first attempt, jumping up to a 750 may not be feasible. However, a score increase of 50–100 points can make a significant difference in your application.

How many times can you retake the GMAT?

If you take the GMAT exam in the same format (either in-person or online), there must be a waiting period of 16 days between exams. However, if you switch formats, such as taking it in-person then online, there is no waiting period required. You are allowed to take the GMAT up to five times within 12 months, regardless of which format you choose. Additionally, you can take the exam up to eight times total throughout your life, regardless of whether you choose to take it online or in person.

Past GMAT Scores Can Be Cancelled

It is important to note that you can cancel certain parts of your GMAT scores if you don’t want schools to see them. You can cancel one of the four sections, cancel the entire score, or even ask for a rescore of the AWA section. If you cancel a section, it will not be included on the Official Score Report that schools receive, unless you choose to reinstate it.

GMAT retake: How Much Time Will You Need?

To determine how long it will take to retake the GMAT, consider your current score and desired score. The GMAT has a clear curriculum, so test takers can prepare in 120 to 200 hours depending on their starting score. As a general guideline, plan to study for 10 hours for every 10-point increase you are aiming for. According to data from GMAC, test takers studying for a score of 700 or more spend an average of 120 hours preparing.

Before selecting a date to retake the GMAT, calculate how many study hours you need and how many days it will take you to complete them. Once you have determined how many days you require, choose a date for the GMAT retake.

Things to Consider

Your current results

Before you decide to retake the GMAT, evaluate your performance on the first attempt. Check your overall score and the breakdowns of your score. Take a closer look at the sections where you scored lower than expected. Find your weaknesses and analyze why you failed, Was it a timing issue? Did you lack knowledge of specific question types? Once you determine your shortfalls, you can make informed decisions on how to prepare better for the next time.

Your Profile

Along with analyzing your GMAT performance, consider your entire application profile, including GPA, work experience, and resume. If you have a well-rounded application and good work experience, a lower GMAT score might be less of an issue for the admission team. However, suppose the rest of your application isn’t strong, or you are applying to a highly competitive program. In that case, as noted above, a higher GMAT score can give your application a boost.

Timing

Think about when you plan to submit your application. If your application deadline is in a month, retaking the GMAT might not be the best option. It takes time to see a noticeable improvement in your score. If you have more time before your deadline, then retaking the GMAT might be possible.

Prep Needed

If you decide to retake the GMAT, prepare for it effectively. Take a different approach to your preparation, and focus more on the areas where you need improvement. Use different study materials to avoid repetition, take practice tests regularly, and time yourself as you practice. You can seek support from GMAT tutors or hire an online GMAT prep company if necessary to help you prepare better.

Your mental state

Retaking the GMAT can be stressful and lead to anxiety. You might feel overwhelmed and find studying too much. Make sure you’re in a good mental state to tackle the preparation process and retake the GMAT. Consider taking a break for a while and focus on getting your mind back to a better state so that you can tackle studying once again.

Pros of Retaking GMAT

Better Financial Package

Business schools provide financial aid such as grants, stipends, scholarships, and fellowships to the applicants they consider highly desirable for their programs. One of the factors that can influence the extent of this financial assistance is the applicant’s GMAT score.

Mastery of test content

Retaking the GMAT gives you a chance to master the content of the exam better. With more familiarity with the test format and types of questions, you may feel more confident and better prepared to tackle the exam the second time around.

Increased self-confidence

Retaking the GMAT enables you to increase your self-confidence and believe in yourself, knowing that you have worked hard to achieve better scores. This attitude can help you better cope with the stress and pressure of graduate school and professional life.

Cons of Retaking GMAT

Additional Cost

Retaking the GMAT means additional costs if you want to improve your scores. The fees vary depending on your location and whether you are a first-time or repeat taker.

Time commitment

Retaking the GMAT also requires a significant time commitment. You’ll need to spend time studying and preparing for the test again, which can cut into your work, social, and personal time.

Anxiety and pressure

Retaking the GMAT can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and pressure to achieve higher scores. This process can be stressful and emotionally draining, and it’s essential to be mentally prepared for the challenge.

Perception

It’s also important to note that some business schools may view multiple GMAT attempts as a negative factor in an application. They may question your ability to handle pressure or your level of commitment if you need to take the exam multiple times. Therefore, before deciding to retake the GMAT, it’s essential to do your research and understand how your target schools view multiple attempts.

Conclusion

Retaking the GMAT can be a significant decision to make, and you should carefully consider the pros and cons before making a decision. Ask yourself: Do improvement of scores and increased admission chances outweigh the additional cost, time commitment, anxiety, and pressure? Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the options and decide if retaking the GMAT is worth the investment. Remember, you can always seek advice from school officials, GMAT advisors, and alumni to make the best decision for you.

Retaking the GMAT is not an easy choice. Still, with careful consideration and preparation, it can be an opportunity to showcase your abilities and increase your chance of getting admitted to your dream MBA program. If you need any help assessing your profile before making the decision, feel free to sign up for a free consultation. We also offer a wide variety of MBA application services you might find helpful as you move forward with your applications.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barhas stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on June 26, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/