If you’re in the midst of applying to an MBA program, you know how extensive the application process can be. Not only do you have to update your resume, gather letters of recommendation, and write essays, you also have to take the Gmat.
The GMAT is one of the most important and challenging pieces of the application process for many candidates. Especially if you’ve been out of school for a long time, taking a standardized test can be stressful and arduous.
So, what do you do if you get a score that isn’t quite what it should be?
Should you retest?
Before you make a decision, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to determine if retaking the GMAT is a good idea.
Is It Your First Test?
If you’ve only taken the GMAT one time, then taking it a second time is completely acceptable. In fact, many experts, including a Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management, state that retaking the test once or twice is common.
Schools always accept the highest Gmat Score, so as long as you improve on your second test, you’re fine. Some schools even accept the top scoring sections from each test, so your score becomes a composite of your best results. It’s particularly acceptable to take the GMAT a second time if nerves, illness, exhaustion, or lack of preparation caused your low score the first time around.
What Are the School’s Perceptions?
You don’t have to achieve the highest GMAT score possible. Instead, focus on aligning your score within the 80% range as indicated in the class profile at your chosen MBA program.
A good score depends on where you decide to apply (according to U.S. News, these 11 programs have the highest average GMAT score). This is where research comes into play. Before you put in the effort to study and take a second GMAT, look up the GMAT acceptance rates at your top schools. If you’re within the range, then focus your efforts on other parts of the application. If you have a GMAT score over 700, there’s most likely no reason to take the test again.
Did You Earn a Low Quantitative Score?
If you had a score below the 80th percentile on the quantitative section, then you might want to consider retaking the test. Even if you score in the 100th percentile on the verbal section, a low quantitative score can harm your chances, particularly if you don’t have a strong quantitative background.
You need to prove to the school that you can handle the heavily quantitative part of the curriculum, so, if nothing else, focus on that. If you’re worried about your quantitative skills and improving your score, you can offset your low score with a summer math camp, offered by several top-MBA programs, according to an MBA Podcaster.
How Prepared Were You?
How well did you prepare for the GMAT the first time around? Did you go through a GMAT Preparation course? Did you use a GMAT Test Prep Book? Be honest with yourself. If you didn’t spend the time and effort necessary to get a good score, then trying again for a second test is an excellent idea.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the average test taker gains about 31 net points between their first and second test. About 10% of test takers gain as much as 100 points or more. So, if you’re ready to increase your preparedness, then taking the test again is a great idea.
Have You Taken the Test More than Twice?
If you’ve taken the GMAT twice already and you’re still not happy with your score, it’s time to take a step back and consider carefully. While GMAC allows you to take the test as many times as you want, as long as you wait for 31 calendar days between each exam, taking the GMAT more than twice can reflect poorly on your application.
Sending in scores to a school that indicates you’ve taken the GMAT seven times does not look good. You need to be able to prove to the MBA program that once you make mistakes, you know how to analyze your weaknesses and do what is necessary to improve. If it takes you five tries to improve upon your prior performance, you’re going to have an uphill battle. U.S. News recommends taking the test no more than three times.
Canceling Your GMAT Score
So what should you do if you’ve taken the GMAT twice and your score still isn’t good enough for the MBA program you want? There’s one GMAT feature that many applicants overlook: the ability to cancel a GMAT score.
Let’s say you’re taking the GMAT for the third time and after finishing you don’t feel great about your score. If you know you didn’t do well enough; you can choose to cancel your score, which means your score will not be reported. This provides you with a unique opportunity to take the test without application consequences beyond the hefty testing fee. It’s a good option for applicants who aren’t natural test-takers and perform poorly no matter how well-prepared.
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