Should You Retake the GMAT/GRE? Answer These Five Questions to Find Out

“Is my test score strong enough?” That question is plaguing hundreds, if not thousands, of MBA applicants this time of year. By now, many MBA hopefuls have taken the GMAT or GRE at least once, but aren’t sure if their score is “enough” to get them into their dream programs.

While a test score is only one data point in a holistic application process, it packs a big punch, especially if you’re part of an overrepresented applicant pool (finance, consulting, Indian IT/engineering, etc.). There is really no downside to retaking the test, except for the time and associated fee it requires, so it’s an option worth considering. If you’re applying to the top MBA programs, you want to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward at every opportunity.

If you’re waffling about whether to give the GMAT or GRE another go, here are a few questions to consider:

1. Is your score below average for your target schools? If so, by how much?

If your GMAT score is 30+ points below your target schools’ average (or 6+ points below average for the GRE), you’re part of an over-represented applicant pool and your undergrad GPA is also below average, it’s probably worth seeing what you can do to bring your score up.

However, if everything else about your application wows, including unique work experience, a stellar undergrad GPA, and impressive extracurriculars, you may feel more comfortable applying with a so-so test score.

2. How many times have you taken the test and how far have you come since your first attempt?

If you took the GMAT or GRE once and were disappointed by your score, it likely makes sense to retake it. Most applicants take their chosen standardized test more than once; our clients have typically taken it at least 2-3 times. The admissions committee actually looks favorably upon multiple attempts, as it shows dedication to the application process.

However, if you’ve taken it four or more times and still haven’t achieved your target score, you may want to focus on other areas of the application and adjust your school list so that you’re hedging your bets. That said, if you’ve made moderate gains with each retake, you may still have runway and should probably try again.

3. How hard did you study? Did you really give it your all?

Ask yourself if, in your heart of hearts, you have upside left in your score. If you took a reputable course, did all the homework, drilled incessantly on your weak areas, and took real practice tests then you may not. You could retake the test and possibly squeeze out another 10 points (in the case of the GMAT), but it’s arguably not worth it for that little movement.

On the other hand, if you took the test with no structure or strategy to your studying, you might be able to improve quite significantly. Take the time to prep properly and then schedule a retake. Whether your best score so far has been a 620 or 720 (again, in the case of the GMAT), if you have this kind of upside left, why not capture it?

4. How does your score compare to your practice test performance?

This is another way to determine if you might have upside in your score. If you took full simulated practice tests and consistently scored better than you did on the actual test, you may have just had an off day.

If your actual score reflects your practice test performance and you were simply hoping to get lucky and do better, it’s probably not worth planning a retake.

5. How much time do you have left before the deadlines?

If it’s less than, say, two months and you still have a lot of work left to do on your applications, your time will be better spent on higher-return efforts, such writing killer essays. However, if you’re reading this at the time it was published (June), you still have a good three months before the earliest round 1 deadlines, so we say go for it!

You could consider postponing your applications to round 2 if you’re committed to improving your test score and you don’t have time to do it all, but that’s not an option for everyone (those who want to take advantage of an early decision option, for example).

Ultimately, whether a test retake makes sense is a very individual decision that depends on the nuances of your situation and application profile. If you have any further questions about what the right decision is for you, our team is happy to help! Click here to schedule a free consultation with an experienced admissions expert who can weigh in on your decision and provide a helpful evaluation of your profile.

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