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.
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.
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!