Let us look at various scenarios, and you decide what works best for you. Before we move ahead, I want you to look at the GMAT Averages for various schools(I have included only US Schools, but you can pick the GMAT Averages of other international schools as well from other articles on our website).
AVERAGE GMAT SCORES US TOP 25 B-Schools
Rank & School
2018 GMAT Average
Harvard Business School
Georgia Tech (Scheller)
Notre Dame (Mendoza)
Arizona State (Carey)
Penn State (Smeal)
Michigan State (Broad)
Ohio State (Fisher)
Texas A&M (Mays)
Boston College (Carroll)
AVERAGE GMAT EUROPEAN MBA PROGRAMS
Rank & School
2018 GMAT Average
London Business School
IESE Business School
IE Business School
Warwick Business School
Manchester Business School
Let us look at various scenarios:
Indianapplicant with 4+ years of work experience with a current GMAT of 600 to 650: With your current background, if you are earning a salary of 6 to 8 lakhs per year, you definitely need to take GMAT again as you will not get a school worthy of your current profile. In our experiences of working with applicants with 12 years, we have seen applicants with as low score as a 620 crack top Schools in Canada(Read the story: How an applicant cracked Richard Ivey with a GMAT 620, and 1 year of academic gap. He had spent an extra year in Engineering, and had completed it in 5 years as opposed to 4). While we have seen many cases such as this applicant, we do not normally encourage applicants to apply to top schools with 600 to 650 Range. If you are currently in this range, you are strongly advised to take GMAT again.
Indian Applicant with 650 to 690: If you are in this range, and certainly know that you can get a 40-point jump, you should definitely go for it. If you are an Indian applicant with 4 to 7 years of work experience, there is a significant difference between a 670 and a 710. While a 670 will not open doors to schools such as Duke/Darden/Tepper, a 710 can open more opportunities for you in the top 25. For an Indian female applicant, a 710 can help is an average, and acceptable score in places such as Duke/Darden/Haas/Yale(It is not out of the world but average and you are not ruled out). For an Indian male applicant, a 710 may not open the doors to the category shared above. If you know that you can expect a significant jump from your current 650 to 690, go for it. It will make a difference. However, if you know that even a 680 was a fluke for you, and you will not get something within the same range, focus only on the applications. Focus on schools that will come in your current range. If you are from one of the feeder companies(We can have an article on the list of companies that are feeder companies), a 690 will not rule you out, and you should still apply.
Indian MBA Applicant with 710(But a potential to score 750): I have no doubts. Go and take your test again. There is a significant difference between a 710 and a 750, and if you think you have the caliber for a 750, you should not waste this opportunity, unless you are very close to the school deadlines and there is no time for a retake.
Indian applicants with 720/730 Aspiring for Harvard/Stanford/Wharton: If you are very keen on the Upper A category schools, it is important to have a GMAT Score 20 points above the global averages of these programs(See the table above). If you know that getting that score is not tough for you, go for it.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) allows a student to take the GMAT eight times in their lifetime and up to 5 times in a rolling twelve-month duration. You are also required to keep a 16-day gap between two consequent attempts of your GMAT.
This gives test-takers ample opportunities to retake the GMAT if they aren’t satisfied with their performance. If you have a low score, there is nothing wrong in retaking the test. You will not be judged if you take the test twice. Think about it this way: If you do not have a score within their ballpark, you are anyway ruled out. So, do not think too much about the impact a retake will have on how the admissions committees will see you. You need to first be in the radar where they can at least begin to assess you. With a score significantly lower than their global GMAT Average, your reputation is not at stake as they are barely interested to even taking it forward.
A lot of GMAT tutors and coaches are known to take the GMAT in some intervals to keep their grip on the test strong, and keep a log of how, if, the test is changing. For them it’s a part of their jobs.
A lot of test-takers also retake the GMAT for more pressing reasons like a low score. For this second category of people who retake the GMAT, it is much more necessary to know if their retake is worth it.
If your GMAT retake results in moderate improvements in scores on an average, then the retake will not be worth it. I mean, if you get a jump of 10 points from 700 to 710, then it will not have a very strong incremental impact.
So, should you retake the GMAT?
Every one taking the GMAT for business schools has that one dream school that they want to get into. Not surprisingly, most of these schools would be top ranked too. From Harvard to Kellogg to Indian School of Business, all of the top ranked schools have various average GMAT scores for their incoming class(See the table above). While you cannot fixate on one school and build your strategy around your chances only and only that school, you should look at the average GMAT Scores of the cluster in which your school falls in). Chances are that you will be looking at 2 to 3 clusters(Top 10, top 20, and top 25). The cluster in Top 25 category will have different GMAT Averages from the Top 10 category. If you are falling short of your current cluster by 30 points, you should either change your cluster or retake GMAT Simultaneously.
These aren’t pre-set scores, but are a very good indicator of what score could help you stay in the competition for an admit. These averages are also generally over or around the 700mark on the GMAT scoreboard.
If you also have a dream school, and haven’t been able to reach the average GMAT score of that school in your first attempt, retaking the GMAT is a viable option. If you do end up reaching a high score after a few attempts, you can also use this as an example of your motivation and determination for the admission committees.
Sometimes, admission committees ask students to improve their scores. This is generally when the admission committees believe you’re a good candidate with the only problem being your GMAT score. this is an instance where retaking your GMAT, well prepared, shouldn’t be a debate rather should be a conclusion.
WHEN TO ABSOLUTELY RETAKE THE GMAT?
There are some instances, when a student must not think twice before applying for a retake for their GMAT exam. These are all cases when a student has a low GMAT score.
You have a Low GPA
If you have a low GPA, the admission committees will already be skeptical about whether you will be able to survive and optimize the structured environment of an MBA program. At this point, having a high GMAT score will act as an assurance that you have a learning curve and that your low GPA might have been the result of other factors.
In the case of a low GPA, use the GMAT as a way to offset the former.
You know for sure you can do better
It’s not unheard-of students to become a bundle of nerves when faced with the actual GMAT exam at the test center on test day. This often leads to a sub-par performance on the test.
No matter of mock tests can guarantee that you might not face this problem. But they work wonders for most students. The pressure of the GMAT exam can still get to you and nobody should blame you for that. Not even you.
In situations like these, you know you could have scored better. A proof will be your performances in the mock tests you must have taken during the last week of your GMAT prep.
If the score of that test was much higher than your GMAT score, i.e. more than 20 points, you need to get back up and start working on your GMAT exam retaking strategy to stop the situation from repeating itself.
You didn’t finish a section
If you weren’t able to finish a section on the GMAT, whichever it might be, you have to take the GMAT again. This points out your lack of time management strategies, and that can be easily solved by a little more prep including these strategies.
Leaving un-attempted questions on the GMAT receives a high penalty. Which means, if you did finish every section on the test, you will be able to receive a much better score even if you simply took a guess on the remaining question.
You were not/underprepared
Maybe you had other priorities, that you hadn’t accounted for or knew about at the time of booking your appointment, that took up most of your prep time and eft you underprepared to take the GMAT.
This is also a very good reason to come back and take the test again. I would suggest keeping a three-month gap before your next appointment though, to make sure you have the time to prepare from scratch.
WHEN TO NOT RETAKE THE GMAT?
Although we know when taking the GMAT again is a must, we should also understand which situations mean that a retake will do more harm than good for you.
You’re scoring above 720
Many students chase a score that they think is good enough. It generally lies north to the 750-score point on the GMAT. If you’re scoring below 700, trying to chase this goal score is perfect. When you prepare for a 100 percent, you will land at least a 90.
But, if you’re already at 95, how much more-good will getting to a 100 will do for you?
Maybe a lot in a few scenarios, but not in MBA admissions. If your GMAT score is a good 720, retaking a GMAT shouldn’t be on your to-do list. Most top schools have average GMAT scores around 720, which means you have a competitive edge for most top ranked schools.
In this case, drop the idea of retaking the GMAT and start working on your profile and essays.
However, for an Indian male applicant to business schools, a competitive GMAT is almost 20 points over the average GMAT of the latest class at the time of application. This is just an example of how your competitive GMAT could differ from your friend’s. Researching about what applicant pool your profile would be put in, and what the competitive scores for that applicant pool is also a variable that you need to pay attention to.
Application deadline is in less than 1.5 months
If you do not take some time to prepare for your GMAT retake, what’s even the point of retaking the test?
If you end up booking a date 16 days from your today, assuming today was your GMAT test, you will receive the official score report in another 20 day. There goes 36 days. And this is if you get a slot on the 16th day from today. If you decide to take even a month to prep, you would need three more weeks to obtain your official GMAT score report.
If you have an application deadline in 1-month form today, you’ve already missed it since your score report will be available at least 6 days after the deadline.
You received GMAT waiver the first time
If you asked for, and received a GMAT waiver the first time you took the GMAT, we can assume money is a little tight.
The problem is, schools generally do not offer GMAT waivers to students retaking the GMAT. Thus, this next exam fee will come out of your pocket. To be honest, making the GMAT a financial burden is not a smart idea.
In fact, run with your original scores and work twice as hard on your profile, essays, and letters of recommendations to score an admit.
You have taken the test 3 or more times
If you have already taken the GMAT more than 3 times, I would advice against taking it again.
You might feel like the next test would be the one you score your dream score in and it might be, but it might not be as well. In that case, I would assume you’d take the test again.
Thisnumber of retakes of the GMAT with consistently low scores send a wrong message to the admission committees even if your final score is very high. You could spin it off as your determination to score well, but most admission committees tend to see such scores as fluke. Meaning they would use the rest of your scores as a true measure of your potential as the choice lies in their hands.
Your goal score isn’t realistic
We all are somewhat aware of our potential. If you are not, I will make it easy for you.
Is your score on the GMAT consistent with all your mock tests?
Did you do your best while prep?
Did you follow all the possible GMAT strategies to improve your score?
Did you attempt all questions on all the sections of the GMAT?
Were you composed throughout the GMAT?
If the answer to each and every one of the questions above is a yes, then your goal score is unrealistic for you. In this case, trying to reach you goal score through another GMAT attempt is futile.
Also, your GMAT score, although a big part of your MBA application, might not be the most significant part of it. In fact, I have seen people with similar profiles, also end in very differently ranked business schools with very different amounts of financial aids.
I remember how a student of mine, with a GMAT 770 score and 4 years of work experience in a leading firm went to Ross with significant financial aid after getting rejected by Wharton. While, another student was able to crack Wharton with a GMAT score of 760 and a work experience of 4 years in an unknown firm.
This proves how important your application essays and Letters of Recommendations might be to admission committees instead of 10 more score points on your GMAT exam.
In the end the GMAT retake is your decision and just a click away. If you feel the urge to take the GMAT again even though this whole blog has pointed you in the other direction, do it. Take the GMAT again.
You would have gotten motivated to nail the prep and score a high score despite what a blog told you or you would have given it your best shot and found out if you could have changed your result. Either case, you will learn something be it, that you can be the exception to the rule if you try hard enough or that there is no harm in trying.
But keep in mind, you are not defined by your GMAT score, neither in life nor in MBA admissions. Work on your MBA profile, that could still help you get into your dream school, or one of a closer rank.