Should I (You!) retake the GMAT

If you are asking this question, do not worry, there are quite a few who are in the same boat as you are. Unless you have a stellar score like me 😀 there is a possibility that you want to improve upon what you already have. But let me tell you, most of the times there is not an easy answer to this. It is very specific to the situation you are in. Nonetheless I have helped so many students answer this question, and almost always for the better, so you can count on me on this.

Let’s dissect this argument based on the obvious criterion: SCORE

Below 700

I know there is this weird psychological thing to get past 700. And it’s okay, but not always wise. So what I would recommend is that you assess your score based on what schools you are applying. Because let me tell you, GMAT score is not for massaging your ego, but showing the admissions committee that you are fit for their schools. And not every school is Stanford. Your score may be just good enough to get you in the school you want to. So that brings to the next case.

50 or more below

Your score is 50 or more below the average score at the schools you are applying to. In this case my feeling is that you should retake it.

  1. But, but, but, if you don’t have much time, use your time drafting a stellar application (Essays, resume, recos, etc.) and if they ask you to retake it, then retake it or you may want to retake it anyway after you got dinged or something.
  2. But if you do have time, retake it. I will talk later more about how to retake it.

Read about your target schools or may be even ask them about how they will look at your scores. Sometimes they look at your best score. Others look at your recent scores. Average of your scores? There are B-Schools that do all of those things.

Less than 50 below

Your score is only 30-40 below. In this case the choices are not so obvious. You may be in two of these situations: You do not have time left for application or you have lots of time.

  1. You have time
    Again you can have two situations: 

    1. Stellar Profile: You can easily offset the lower GMAT score. So retaking is not the best use of time.
    2. Average or below average profile: Then you might think about retaking it. But ask yourself or someone who is close to you and honest about your chances of getting a better score. Many a time people end up getting a lower score because this time around they may not get enough day-offs from their work or they were a bit lucky in their first attempt and might not be on their next one. So basically do an honest assessment because you can always use the time to write awesome essays which can offset any negatives of your lower GMAT score and Profile. But if you think you can totally crack it the next time, take it. Many people have given another 1 month or 2 maybe and had drastic improvement.
  2. You do not have time

In this case it’s best to apply with a solid application. And if you can show the other aspects of your personalities, you are better off working on our application rather than retaking an exam.


Let’s summarize. See there are so many aspects to an application: GMAT, Profile (Resume points: work profile, extra-curricular, social work), Essays, Recommendations. Now GMAT is the least important in them; everything else in higher on the list. But it does matter that you are in the zone. Every school has a GMAT range which they take. Harvard’s FT MBA middle 80% range is 680-770. So there is a 680 in the class. This starts getting lower as you go down the rankings. So you just have to make sure that you are in this zone. You can probably add another 20 to the lower 80% range and then assess your situation.

An admit is the sum of so many things which makes your life story. You have to make the right decisions. Smart people do not waste time massaging their egos. They look for the next best alternative.

But yeah if your score is low and you feel you have time, you should definitely retake it. But that’s just what I feel. But make sure that your are equally focused if not equally this time around.

One of my student got into London Business School even with a very low score. One other student screwed up by 20 points the next time she took it. One student got more than 100 than her last time. The results vary. Everyone has a different situation. Make the right decisions.


But the above argument was solely based on score and the time you have. There maybe other criterion, like:

  • Getting scholarship
  • Vast difference between mock test performance and actual GMAT
  • Big imbalance between verbal and quant scores
  • You later on realized that you used absurd material or bad advice.
  • You fell sick on the exam day.
  • You are from a pool in which you will be killed because of the competition. Like Indian IT male 😀
  • Your school asked you specifically to improve your score (let’s after waitlist or feedback, etc.)

In these cases, it makes sense to retake the exam. But do consider the earlier argument, because time plays a very important role in career decisions.

There are some cases when you should NOT retake it.

  • You honestly know that this is the best you could do.
  • You did everything you can, read all books, took all tests, etc.
  • Your score is already good enough for the schools you are applying to.
  • You have already taken GMAT twice or thrice without much improvement.

At the end of it all, I would say one thing, if you are really confused, talk to me. Shoot me an email and I can give you my thoughts on the situation. It’s free!


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1 Comment

  1. Hi,

    I am really confused.I have taken Kaplan practice test before and scored between 570 and 610. But, when I took the actual GMAT I got 420 ;/
    Would you have any suggestions for me ?


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