Should I Retake the GMAT?
Posted by Eric Allen in MBA
So, you finally took the GMAT… and you hate your score. You worked your butt off studying, taking a class, and putting in late nights only to take the whole darn thing and score lower than you wanted.
We get that feeling, and so do most grad school candidates using Admit.me. In fact, “should I retake the GMAT?” is one of the most common questions we receive. Retaking the GMAT can be expensive, time consuming, and just a pain overall, which is why we’re here to help make the best decision for you. Here’s our advice for anyone considering retaking the GMAT.
Make an Unbiased Decision about Retaking the GMAT
Be honest with yourself. Get real and ask yourself some tough questions.
Do you want to retake the GMAT, or do you need to retake the test?
Are you ready (or will you soon be ready) to retake the GMAT?
Will you really put in the studying and resources you may need for a successful retake?
Is your GMAT score lower than you wanted but still in the median GMAT score range for the schools you’re considering?
Can you live with the anxiety leading up to the test (and waiting for another score)?
“But I don’t wanna” doesn’t really cut it here. We’re talking about your future. Let’s optimize the potential school experience as much as possible because, at the end of the day, you’re going to spend time and money wherever you choose to go. Short-term pain for long-term success, right?
Put your GMAT score in context
If your GMAT score isn’t anywhere near the median GMAT score range for your dream school, you may need to consider a retake. Not every situation is so cut and dry, though.
If you scored within but didn’t quite hit that Holy Grail range, you need to put your score in context before having a panic attack. Consider your score within the context of your entire application. Do you have a lower GMAT score but a higher GPA? Does your work experience tell your best life story?
Unlike undergraduate admissions committees, grad school committees have more to work with in terms of real life experience, which means the sum of your parts will matter more than the parts themselves.
If you’re applying to a grad school program directly out of undergrad, your GMAT score may matter more, but only in the context of which school you attended, your grades, your major, and what clubs or activities you participated in during those four years.
On the flip side, if you’ve been working for a few years or are pursuing an advanced degree later in life, a grad school committee will assign a heavier weight to your career experiences and trajectory. And don’t forget those recommendations!
How Many Times Have You Taken the GMAT?
How many times is too many when it comes to the GMAT? You can sit for the test as many times as you’d like, but we recommend not having any more than three GMAT scores.
Why three? When presented with three scores falling into a similar range, admissions committees will get a better sense of how your GMAT performance will indicate your business school performance. If your scores are good, great for you! If your scores aren’t that great but are the best you can do, schools will look to assign more weight to your GPA, extra-curriculars, and recommendations.
Remember, it’s possible to cancel your less favorable scores. HOWEVER, beware the deviation. If two of your three scores are similar but one is considerably higher or lower, that may be a red flag to the admissions committee.
Consider Your Business School Demographic
If you’re headed for business school (or any grad school, really), you’re probably familiar with the law of supply and demand.
Grad programs operate on that law, too, and they’re always trying to diversify an incoming class as much as possible, which means you need to consider your GMAT score in light of your demographic.
Look up median scores at the schools you’re applying to based on your demographics. Maybe you are from a more diverse background than the typical program applicant. That fact may mean a lower than average (but still average) GMAT score may not bring you down as much as you think. In the end, as long as you’ve got the grades, the experience, and the determination, you’ll be good to go.
Know When to Say “No” to a Retake
Sometimes you’ve just got to face the facts and quit while you’re ahead.
Here are a few less-than-ideal hypothetical outcomes when/if you retake the GMAT:
Outcome #1: Your score doesn’t change significantly. Result: You’ve sunk money, time, and stress into retaking for crumbs.
Outcome #2: Your score drops significantly or seesaws unflatteringly. Result: Admissions committees are trained to spot trends, and dropping lower or having an erratic range of scores may reflect poorly on your candidacy.
Remember, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting outrageously different results is the definition of insanity. Retaking the GMAT to no avail is frustrating. Don’t put yourself through it unless you need to, and, if you do, be sure you’re being honest with yourself and considering all your options.
Consider Sending GMAT Scores after You’ve Submitted Your Application
Did you know some schools allow you to send GMAT scores after you’ve submitted your application?
Here’s how it works: you aren’t happy with your test score, but you decide to submit it anyway with your application, knowing you will retake the GMAT at some point. If your new score schools your old score, you can re-submit. If not, you don’t have to inform the school. No harm, no foul.
We’ve found this strategy to be most fruitful if you score within the median GMAT score range, but don’t get an ideal score based on your dream school and/or your grades, demographic, etc.
Plus, knowing you can re-submit your score after your application is in can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders, leaving you worry-free when you retake the GMAT!
That being said, not all schools permit this strategy, so make sure you ask ahead of time and plan accordingly.
The Bottom Line
If “should I retake the GMAT?” is the million dollar question, the million dollar answer is… it depends. (Please don’t throw things at us...)
You have to make the best decision for you when it comes to retaking the GMAT. It’s your time, your money, and your future. You need to consider all of these points before signing up for the next test date.
Last Updated November 22, 2018 Eric Allen