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Should I Retake the GMAT?

Suppose you have taken your GMAT, at least once, and you are not sure whether what you got on the GMAT is a good score. Maybe you got an average GMAT score, or worse. You are contemplating retaking the GMAT, and you would like some advice on this topic.

Over 720

This case is easy. If your score is over 720, then the answer to the question is an absolute and unequivocal NO!  If you scored over 720, you have absolutely no business retaking a GMAT. It would be like entirely rebuilding the engine of a new car that’s only six weeks old — a tremendous amount of effort for minimal, if any, possible improvement.

You see, business schools are trying to answer several questions about you, about all candidates.  One question is — could this person academically handle our program? If you score anywhere over a 720, then the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”, even at the most elite and competitive business schools. If you get over 720 on the GMAT, you have clearly demonstrated that you can handle the academic coursework at any business school in the country. That box is checked. Now, you need to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded candidate in all other respect. Bumping up your GMAT another 10 or 20 points when your “academic ability” box is already checked does absolutely nothing for you. There is no reason to retake the GMAT when you score over 720.  Period.

Between 650 and 720

If the last case is jet black, this is dark gray. Your GMAT score is already quite respectable — it’s in the top quartile. Folks with scores like this are accepted at top business schools every year. If your score is in this region, your primary concern still should be everything else in your application — making sure you are well-rounded overall. In most cases, this score will demonstrate enough about your academic ability. If you feel that your academic ability might be questioned (say, because of a low GPA), and if you are applying to top tier business schools, and if you have not ungrounded hopes, baseless expectations, but rather good valid reasons to think that, with good prep work, you could break the 720 threshold, then, if all those conditions obtain, retake the GMAT. If that’s what you decide, see below. Otherwise, don’t retake it — stick with the GMAT you already have.

Between 600 and 650

If your first GMAT is in this region, then it is above average, but not great. From here, it would take a great deal of focused and consistent effort to move your GMAT above the 720-threshold on a retake. Should you retake the GMAT? This requires a more detailed cost-benefit analysis.

First of all, do you have your heart set on a top tier business school? Are you not only well-rounded, but really exceptional in some other respect? Are there other aspect of your background & experience & idea that will make you stand out from the hundreds of others who apply?

If you feel confident about the other aspects of your application, such that you think business schools are likely to see you as a qualified well rounded candidate; if you are applying to top tier business schools and feel this is a realistic choice for you; and if you have the time & energy & determination to throw yourself into intensive GMAT review, then it would be worthwhile to retake your GMAT.

Remember that, if you don’t put in a truly monstrous amount of prep time & energy, you are not likely to change your score much. Remember that, for schools not in the top 50, a score in this range could be fine. Remember that it isn’t worth putting intense time & energy into nudging up your GMAT score if other aspects of your application suffer. Ponder these caveats in your decision to retake the GMAT, and see below for more on a possible retake.

Under 600

If you are applying to a business school at which a score like this is fine, don’t worry. If you want a slightly higher score, say up to 50 points higher, this is achievable with good solid prep work — see below. If you want to move your score from there up to the 720-threshold, well, that is possible, but you would have to make GMAT prep essentially a full-time seven-day-a-week job for a few months, and even then, it’s not guaranteed.

Remember to consider the overall balance of your application — the GMAT is just one piece of a full picture of any business school candidate. Yes, retake it if you believe this will move your score closer the range of the schools you are targeting, but be careful not to put so much energy into a retake that you neglect other equally important parts of the application process.

If you really feel you should retake your GMAT …

If you plan to retake your GMAT, for whatever reason, then here are my recommendations.

1. Follow a strict study plan.

2. Use the best books and resources.

3. Get plenty of sleep — REM sleep is essential for memory encoding, and we only get enough REM when we get a full eight hours at night.

4. Cultivate the mindset that enhances memory & intuition and decreases stress.

5. If the GMAT Verbal section is a challenge for you, read every day.

6. If the GMAT Quantitative section is your bête noire, read this post on how to study for GMAT math.


Are you contemplating a retake of the GMAT and have further questions? Or, did you retake the GMAT, and have thoughts on the subject? Please let us know in the comments below!


By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

37 Responses to Should I Retake the GMAT?

  1. Steve May 16, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I recently took the GMAT and got a 650 (Q:42, V:38) with 7 on IR. I am shooting to improve into (at least) the high 600’s since the schools I’m targeting have an average of 680/690. What are your thoughts on my need to improve the score vs. taking my chances with a 650?

    Thank you,


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 24, 2016 at 12:28 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Good question! 🙂

      Many people have the same question, and ultimately there isn’t a perfect answer. If your application outside of the GMAT score is very strong, a retake may not be necessary. I, personally, am the kind of person who likes to do everything possible to improve chances, though, so if you think you can improve and retake for a better score, even if it’s only 10 or 20 points, it could be worth it! (I would do it myself, but everyone had different cost-benefit opinions.)

      Ultimately, you need to think like an admissions officer and decide if your current GMAT score, GPA, work experience, and applicant profile are compelling enough or if a little more “oomph” is needed.

      We wish you luck! 🙂

  2. Ashna April 3, 2016 at 8:04 am #

    Hi Mike, I recently took the GMAT and score 640 (Q47, V32). I must admit I’ve never been a nervous person before exams, but this definitely got my nerves going.

    I must admit I’ve had some pretty volatile scores going into the exam, consistently scoring 650 on Veritas Prep a few weeks before the exam, and then dropping off a cliff to the 550 level (I think I burned out). I took a break from revision, and then tried again, I got 650 and then 690 on my GMAT prep. I realised I was spending too much time on my quant, and not enough on my verbal.

    I definitely think I can do better, particularly on the verbal, by brushing up on some concepts and calming my nerves. Are there any tips you’d suggest to improve from here? Are such fluctuations normal? I managed to get the ESR report, so have been working on areas of improvement.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 5, 2016 at 1:04 am #

      Hi Ashna,

      Just for reference, wild fluctuations and rapid changes (usually downward trending) during prep is normal! Don’t let the stress of that snapshot stop you from continuing on a good and positive-moving course, though. 🙂

      It is good that you have identified where you think you need to focus your efforts. Keep your efforts focused on those things you need–like the verbal core concepts–and don’t put too much stock into the test scores. Focus on what the errors you make on those tests tell you, and let the score issue wait for now. Ultimately, no program can quite simulate the actual GMAT scoring, so use those experiences as rough guides but, more importantly, as chances to capture the type of mistakes you make in a test situation!

      I hope that helps calm your nerves a bit, Ashna! 🙂

  3. Mahesh January 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    I have a 720 GMAT with very little effort. I feel I can easily get a 750+ score with a couple of months’ effort. Is the difference between a 720 & 760 also not worth another shot?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 29, 2016 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Mahesh,

      Good question! The answer depends on the programs you wish to enter. Often, the admissions pages for different universities will tell you the average or median score for accepted students. If you are above that average, you may be okay and you can move on. If you are at the average or below, it would behoove you to strive for some improvement. Also pay attention to how your score broke down in quant and verbal–perhaps your skills in one area are strong enough but lacking in another. You want to make sure you fully meet the admissions criteria for whatever programs you like best. Depending on where you want to go, a 760 can be an instant acceptance while a 720 is a waitlist at best.

      I hope that helps! Thanks for your patience awaiting this reply, too. 🙂

  4. Enrico Marino January 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

    Hello guys!
    I just took my GMAT and got a 480, which is not what I need to get into the program I want. I want to take it again since I would like to get admitted into this program. My grades are at GPA 3.80 and my extracurricular activities are outstanding. I want to know since this is my last semester and it is going to be a busy one.

    btw I am a non native speaker and I am awful to when it to standardized testing.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2016 at 9:00 am #

      Hi Enrico,

      Sorry for the late reply! I’m happy to help. 🙂

      It sounds like a retake would definitely be good for you. Your previous score isn’t enough to get you where you want to go. Even though you are busy, you can now revisit your studies with some clear information about what you can and can’t do easily. Work through your old material and carefully revise your incorrect answers. This will help you to figure out your weak areas and improve for your retake! Since the rest of your academic profile is strong, this test score is the last piece, it seems.

      Standardized tests can be challenging, but if you learn the form, structure, and expectations of a test like the GMAT, you can definitely conquer it! Many, many people take the GMAT that aren’t native speakers, so don’t let your confidence waver. 🙂

  5. ck December 28, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    Mike, I got a 760 recently which is fantastic, but I could only manage a 5 in IR…although in my previous GMAT attempt (700) I had a more respectable 6 in it. Do I need to retake the GMAT because of this? Or will schools look at my previous attempt and take the higher of the two scores in IR? How would this affect my application?

    Really do not feel like attempting the GMAT again!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 2, 2016 at 1:40 am #

      Hi CK,

      I apologize for how late this response is. I hope that it can help others in your position, and if you have some insight into what you ended up doing, please let us know!

      In general, the IR is still a very ambiguous section–many schools are looking seriously at the IR results, but there are also many that are not taking the IR section into account (yet). With the passage of time, I expect that the IR will become as normal as the quant and verbal sections, but in the meantime, the best way to find out what at potential school does with the IR score (and whether it could hold you back) is to contact the admissions staff and find out directly from each program. If a 5 in the IR will hold you back, you absolutely want to retake! Likewise, if the school doesn’t really pay attention to candidates’ IR scores, there is no reason to retake the GMAT if the rest of your score gets you where you want to go.

      I hope that makes sense! 🙂

  6. swati October 13, 2015 at 2:45 am #

    Hi Mike,

    Yesterday I took gmat and scored terribily bad after 3/4 months of preparation I got 430(q38,verbal 12),My brain was not working whiile taking the verbal section.Is there any hope to improve my score to 700??Please suggest..

    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter October 13, 2015 at 9:41 am #

      Hi Swati,
      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t score as well as you had hoped. I would definitely recommend checking out this blog post from Mike on how to improve your GMAT verbal score. I think it will help! 🙂
      Best of luck!

  7. Tina September 25, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I did a modified version of the 3-month (math-focused) study plan and studied hard for the past two months. I took my GMAT yesterday and received a 650 (94th percentile V and 40th percentile Q). I’m thrilled with my verbal score (did little to no prep on verbal aside from practice tests), and pretty disappointed in my quant. I took notes on each Magoosh quant video and did a fair amount of practice.

    What do you recommend in terms of review and self-study if I plan to take the test again in 3-4 weeks? I’d like to finish it in time to have a month or so to refine the other parts of my application prior to round two. Also, while I know a low math score is the red flag I need to get rid of, would I stand to benefit from also working on verbal this time around?

    Thank you!

    • Tina September 25, 2015 at 9:55 am #

      I should also note that I’m planning to apply to mainly top 15 programs (none in the top 5). Thanks!

  8. Briana September 16, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    Thanks for the tips, Mike! I’m in a similar predicament to a few others here.

    My overall score cleared the hurdle: a 730, but my quantitative score was way weaker than I feel capable of doing. Q: 44 and V: 46.

    I took the test not feeling fully prepared (and jet-lagged), so I’m considering retaking after I’ve reviewed the quant section more thoroughly. From what I’ve read, such a low quant score is simply not acceptable for admission to top-tier schools. Is that right?

    For context, I’ve a high GPA (3.92) from a top undergrad and got As in my quantitative courses in college. But even that doesn’t seem like enough to redeem my GMAT score. Would love your perspective!

  9. Laura August 15, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    I recently took the GMAT and scored a 680 (Quant 48; Verbal 35; IR 6), and I want to apply to top 10 schools. I think I need to retake the GMAT (do you have any advice of my chances), and was wondering what should I focus on studying between now and my next exam? Any books to recommend?


    • Anil September 7, 2015 at 5:03 am #

      Hi Mike,

      I just finished with my GMAT, Q46 V 27 610 IR 6

      My MGMAT mocks score were

      GMAT Prep

      I just succumbed to the exam pressure and stress and mainly in figuring out 700+ questions and now after reading at several forums I somehow feel this is more or less my ability to score in an exam like pressure, currently I have 2 years work ex and wanted to try for Fall 2016, my question is should I retake it in a couple of weeks time or work from scratch and look for a later date as I feel 3+ years of work ex( by Dec 2016)with good extra co curricular and associations with NGOs and reasonably good Achievements, will help me put a stronger application for the top 20 universities in Fall 2017.

      Material Used : MGMAT 10 strategy Guides
      OG 13

      Please let me know in case of retake what my strategy should be.

      A reply would be really appreciated.

  10. Joseph Edwards August 5, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    Hi Mike,
    I recently took the GMAT and scored a 680. My verbal score was a 44 but my quant was a 39 (IR 8, AWA 6). The first time around, I did not use any form of program or rigorous structure to study for the quant. I simply worked all of the problems in the OG 15. I’d like to get a MSF from a top-tier university, ideally a top 30 program. Will my shortcomings in quant deter finance programs from selecting me? (Assume my overall body of work is solid as well. High GPA, internship experience, athlete, etc). Should I retake? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

    Joe Edwards

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike McGarry August 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Dear Joe,
      I’m happy to respond. 🙂 Unfortunately, individual admission consulting is well outside my area of expertise. The question of whether you should retake, for your particular situation and your particular strengths—I would not be qualified to give an answer to that question. I would recommend consulting with a qualified admission consultant, or talking to the finance programs themselves. Now, if those folks tell you to retake, I can recommend a bunch of things you can do in preparation for your retake: that is my area of expertise.
      Does this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  11. Prashanth June 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Hi Mike, My score is 720(Q-49; V-38); IR-8; AWA-3.5; I am just worried about my AWA score. In my last take I had AWA 4.0 & Overall 680. Will this effect my selection in to top 15 MBA school.


  12. Laura June 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    I took my first GMAT test this past weekend and I scored a 740 (49Q / 42V / 8 IR). Your guidelines state to not retake the exam – however I am wonder if my situation is slightly different.

    I accidentally went over my break before the math section by 5 minutes. This completely messed with my mindset. I was very stressed during the math section and basically went into the verbal thinking I was going to have to throw out this score.

    I normally get at least a 50 on the math section and a 44 on verbal (I’ve taken 15 practice tests so I believe this is pretty accurate).

    I really want to retake simply because I feel like what happened was completely preventable (the hands of the clocks were slightly different in the test center lobby from those in the test room). What do you suggest?

  13. Annie June 19, 2014 at 10:20 am #


    I have a situation similar to Abhishek’s. Took the GMAT and did way better than I was expecting on Q/V – I got a 780. However, I messed up during the IR and got a 5.

    I’m aiming for top 10 business schools and will most likely be applying in the 2015-16 cycle – I’m worried that by then, schools will be taking the IR score more seriously.

    What do you think? Does it make sense to re-take the test, or to just hope that the 780 and the rest of my application will offset the 5?

    Thank you!!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Dear Annie,
      I’m happy to respond. Don’t retake the GMAT. Don’t retake the GMAT. Don’t retake the GMAT. The 5 on IR is a little low, but well in the normal range, not anything that would raise a red flag. Meanwhile, the 780 is eye-popping and will get you noticed. That’s the job of the GMAT. You are absolutely done with the GMAT. Do not, in a million years, take the GMAT again. Is this clear?
      Best of luck to you!
      Mike 🙂

  14. Marce Pena February 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Hi, I took the GMAT and on the Quantitative portion i didn’t do too well. If i retake the exam to boost only my Q score will the last scores for V and AW remain? In other words can I keep those scores from my previous test and only worry on the Quantitative portion for a retake?


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike February 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Dear Marce,
      Absolutely not. If you are going to retake, you need to shine on every part of your retake. If your first is high in V, low in Q, and then your retake is low in V, high in Q, that will sent the unfortunate message to adcom that you can’t juggle multiple things at once — when you focus on one thing, another slips. That would make you look bad. If you keep everything about V strong, and also pull up Q, that sends the message that you can make improvements in one area without having to sacrifice anything anywhere else. That’s the message you want to send. Adcom is not going to pick and choose highest scores, the way a college might do for a high school student. This isn’t high school anymore! If you want to get a MBA and handle million dollar accounts, you need to show that you can be trusted to get done everything that needs to get done. Does all this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  15. Alex December 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a foreign spanish speaking student and I got an exact 700 (Q: 50, V: 34 and IR: 7) on one attempt. Also, I have an average GPA of 3.6/4.0. I want to apply to the top 5 MBA programs in 2015. Would you recommend retaking the GMAT?


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike December 18, 2013 at 5:48 am #

      Congratulations on a great GMAT performance. No, you do not need to retake. Make sure every other part of your application is as strong as your GMAT — you may want to consult an admission consultant for that.
      Mike 🙂

  16. Anthony Piccioni November 4, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Hello Mike,

    I am an undergraduate student and I have goals to attend a top 30 MBA program. I know it is early but when is the best time to take the GMAT? Before senior year? After graduation? Also what are some of the best ways I can prepare so as to receive the highest score as possible? Lastly, how many times is to many to retake the GMAT??

    Thank you!!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike November 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

      First of all, forget that last question — the question should be: how should you prepare so that you only take the test once and blow it away? Typically, you need 3-4 years of WE to apply to B-school, and adcom likes to see a relatively recent GMAT, so definitely don’t take it before you finish your undergrad. Having said that, it wouldn’t be too early to start gathering casual information about the test. For example, you might want to peruse this blog and figure out the basic structure of the questions. If you don’t read much, start reading. Here are suggestions:
      If you’re not good with graphs, force yourself to wrestle with graphs frequently — every day, the WSJ should have at least a few graphs that are worth studying.
      If you always lean on a calculator for everything, wean yourself and do math in your head.
      When you are ready for some more formal prep, here’s a blog about the best resources:
      I hope all this helps.
      Mike 🙂

  17. Abhishek October 24, 2013 at 9:23 am #


    I took the GMAT last week and scored 720 ( Q – 49, V – 37, AWA – 5 and IR- 3). I didn’t expect such a low IR score. I plan to apply to the top 10 schools in 2015. I’d like your inputs on whether I should retake the test?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike October 24, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      Dear Abhishek,
      You’re case is unusual, and I would recommend contacting a bonafide admission consultant. FWIW, my gut sense is: don’t retake. Your main score is very impressive already. It’s not clear that the business schools are putting much stock in the IR score yet. If there’s anywhere else in your application where you can give evidence of proficiency with data & the display of data (a statistics course, information you have handled at work, etc.), then I would think this would communicate that can handle the types of thinking that IR purports to test. I would suggest doing whatever you can to bolster that aspect of your application, rather than retaking the whole test. That’s my 2 cents, but also check with an admission consultant. Best of luck to you, my friend.
      Mike 🙂

  18. Ishita August 11, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I have an exact 700(Q:48,V:38, AWA 6) on one attempt with an undergrad gpa of 3.28 on a 4 scale. Would you recommend taking GMAT again?


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike August 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      I would say: don’t retake. Whatever time you would have used to study and prepare for another retake of the GMAT, use that time to make yourself as well-rounded and desirable a candidate as you can make yourself: work experience, familiarity with your fields of interest, references, a vision of what you want to achieve, etc. etc.
      Does all this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  19. Y Situ May 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you so much for the response. Can you recommend some books that would help with establishing a stronger foundation for math strategy? I thought the 10 pages in the OG were very brief and was not helpful for the math questions that I encountered on the actual exam. The Magoosh videos were very helpful, but is there a text resource that would help me as well?

  20. Yeenkie Situ May 23, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I took the GMAT yesterday and didn’t do as well as I believed I would.

    Leading up the GMAT, in February, I took an intensive 4 week prep class at my university that covered all aspects of the GMAT and had timed practice for each section [met twice a week for 3 hour classes]. I had planned on taking the exam in March, but had to push the test date back to May in order to accomodate for job interviews.

    Leading up the GMAT test date of May 21st, I did problems from the Official Guide, and utilized the Magoosh GMAT resource as well as the Manhattan GMAT books. I watched strategy videos from the Magoosh GMAT site and was improving slowly on the quantitative section.

    I also took a series of practice exams:

    V: 26 Q: 33 Total score: 490
    V: 27 Q: 34 Total score: 510
    V:34 Q: 36 Total score: 680

    However, on the actual GMAT yesterday, here is how I scored:
    V: 32 Q:22 Total score: 470

    Actual GMAT day: I felt as if there were many more math problems with diagrams than I had ever dealt with on practice exams and practice problem sets. There were many problems on the math section that I simply didn’t know how to approach or had no idea what to do in order to solve the problem. I was pretty confident in the verbal section and felt that it was easier than the practice problem sets that I had done.

    I am frustrated that my quantitative score was much lower than all of the practice tests I had taken, by a significant amount. I would like to score a 600. How can I achieve that? How much studying [realistically] would be needed to attain that score? I am moving in August, so I would like to know if it would be a good move to retake the exam in 2 months. Any advice or books or study plans or insight would be much appreciated!

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