Should I Retake the GMAT? A Comprehensive Guide


So, you’ve taken the GMAT, and you’re not quite sure about your score. The big question on your mind is probably, “Should I retake the GMAT?” Well, buddy, you’re not alone in this boat. This guide will take you through the ins and outs of this crucial decision-making process, helping you weigh the pros and cons, and providing strategies for a potential second shot.

Overview: Pros and Cons of Retaking the GMAT

There are both upsides and downsides to retaking the GMAT. Let’s do a high-level look at what these are before we dive into helping you decide whether retaking it is the best choice for you. 

The Bright Side: Pros of Retaking the GMAT

  1. Potential for a Higher Score: A second (or third) shot could lead to a higher score, improving your chances of admission to a top MBA program. 
  2. Familiarity with the Test: Having gone through it once, you’d know what to expect, which can reduce anxiety and improve performance.
  3. Overcoming a Bad Day: If your first attempt was affected by external factors, a retake gives you a chance to perform at your best. We all have bad days…even the best of us. 

The Flip Side: Cons of Retaking the GMAT

  1. Time and Cost: The GMAT isn’t cheap, and preparing for it takes time. A retake means investing more of both.
  2. Risk of a Lower Score: There’s always a chance your score might not improve, or worse, decrease.
  3. Limited Attempts: You can only take the GMAT five times in a 12-month period, so each retake should be carefully considered.

Should I Retake the GMAT?

This question is like the elephant in the room after the initial GMAT attempt. The answer, however, isn’t as simple as a yes or no. It’s a hearty “it depends.” Several factors come into play here, so let’s break them down. Retaking the GMAT isn’t just about the will to do better. It requires time, money, and energy. Evaluate if you can afford these resources for a second attempt.

Accept That You Don’t Really Want To…

It’s natural to feel anxious about retaking the test. However, it’s important not to let fear dictate your choices. Merely saying, “I don’t want to take it again,” is not a sufficient reason to avoid a retake if it could enhance your long-term success. While retaking the test entails short-term challenges such as increased study hours and discipline, the potential rewards include enjoying drinks at a vibrant campus bar and better job prospects after graduation. You wouldn’t want to invest a significant amount of money in business school without maximizing your chances of acceptance. Therefore, it’s crucial to put aside any reservations and prioritize making the right decision, which may not always be the easiest one.

Understand Your GMAT Score In Context

Before you decide whether to retake the GMAT, it’s vital to understand your GMAT score in context. Your score needs to be considered in relation to your target school and the entirety of your application. Research the average GMAT scores of accepted students at your target schools. If your score falls short, it’s likely worth retaking the test. 

If you have a weaker undergraduate GPA or less extensive work experience, your GMAT or GRE score will carry more weight. Conversely, if you have attended a prestigious institution, showcased remarkable work experience, and made a positive impact in your community, the school may be more willing to overlook a slightly lower score.

For certain demographics, such as Indian males in technology, the competition for business school admissions is intense. This group often achieves high scores, making it more challenging for individuals within this demographic to stand out in the application process. In such cases, it is advisable to aim for a score higher than the median GMAT or GRE score at the target school(s). Doing so positions these candidates more favorably and increase their chances of success. It’s important to recognize that schools seek to create a diverse class, and if your demographic tends to perform well on the test, you should strive to match those scores. While there is no definitive rule, this often overlooked aspect can significantly impact your candidacy.

Analyze Your Performance

After you’ve understood your score, the next step is to analyze your performance. Were you underprepared or just had an off day? Did certain sections trip you up? Sometimes, test day just doesn’t go as planned. If you believe your score doesn’t reflect your abilities because you were unwell or stressed, retaking the GMAT might be a good idea.

Now, you should also know when to decline a retake. If you have taken the test multiple times and obtained significantly inconsistent scores, or if your practice tests consistently place you in the lower score range, it may be best to decline a retake. Admissions committees can observe score trends, and if you achieved a peak score of 680 but subsequently scored 650 and 630, they may question the validity of the initial high score. It is often wiser to stop and celebrate your accomplishments rather than risk diminishing returns.

Consider a Post-Submission Strategy

Another strategy to contemplate is taking the test after you have submitted your application. If you perform better on the retake, you can inform the school, and they will update your file accordingly. On the other hand, if your score remains the same or decreases, there is no harm done. This strategy is particularly beneficial for candidates who lack confidence in their ability to improve. However, it’s essential to note that not all schools accept post-submission updates. Familiarize yourself with your target school’s policies to determine if this strategy is viable for you.

Preparing for a GMAT Retake

Decided to take the plunge and retake the GMAT? Great! Now comes the challenging part – preparing for it. Having been through the process once, you already have an understanding of the test format and your performance areas. It’s time to harness this knowledge and strategize for a better score. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of preparing for a GMAT retake.

Identify Your Weaknesses

The first step towards preparing for a GMAT retake is identifying where you fell short the first time. Was it the quantitative section that stumped you? Or did you struggle with time management? Did you run out of steam? If you think a shorter exam might help you, the GMAC released a shorter version of the GMAT in 2023 that you might want to look into called the GMAT™ Focus Edition. Take a deep dive into your previous performance and pinpoint the areas where you need improvement. This step is critical as it sets the foundation for your preparation plan.

Develop a Study Plan

Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, the next step is to develop a study plan tailored to your needs. This plan should focus on improving your weak areas without neglecting your strengths. Make sure to include regular practice tests in your study plan to track your progress and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Utilize Resources Effectively

There’s a plethora of resources available for GMAT preparation, both free and paid. These include textbooks, online tutorials, practice tests, and forums where you can interact with other test-takers. Use these resources wisely to aid your preparation.

Practice tests are one of the most effective tools for GMAT preparation. They not only help you get accustomed to the test format and time constraints but also enable you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Aim to take a practice test every week or two, and thoroughly review your performance after each one.

If you’re struggling with certain sections or unable to improve your score despite your best efforts, consider seeking professional help. A GMAT tutor can provide personalized guidance, help you understand difficult concepts, and improve your test-taking strategies. Contact us if you think you need a tutor to help you – we’ve got your back!

Take Breaks

Remember, retaking the GMAT is not just about studying harder, but studying smarter. Understand your weaknesses, make a study plan, use the right resources, and maintain a healthy balance between studying and relaxing. Continuous studying can lead to burnout, which can negatively impact your performance. Make sure to allocate time for relaxation and leisure activities to keep your mind fresh and rejuvenated.

Managing Test Day Anxiety

Ah, the notorious test day anxiety – it’s a common occurrence, whether it’s your first or a subsequent attempt at the GMAT. As the big day approaches, you might find your heart racing, palms sweating, and a whirlwind of “what ifs” swirling in your mind. While a certain degree of nervousness is expected (and can even keep you alert), excessive anxiety can hinder your performance. 

Relaxation techniques can be a game-changer when it comes to managing test day anxiety. Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help calm your mind and body.

Believe it or not, your physical health plays a significant role in managing test day anxiety. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can help reduce anxiety and improve cognitive function.

FAQs: Should I Retake the GMAT?

What is a good GMAT score?

A good GMAT score is relative to the requirements of your target schools. However, a score around 730 is generally considered competitive.

How many times can you take the GMAT?

You can retake the GMAT up to five times within a 12-month period, with a 16-day gap between attempts.

Will schools see all my GMAT scores?

Yes, schools will receive a report showing all your scores from the past five years. However, many schools consider only the highest score.

Does retaking the GMAT look bad?

No, retaking the GMAT doesn’t look bad. Many students retake the test, and schools are used to seeing retakes.

How long should I study for a GMAT retake?

The time you should spend studying for a GMAT retake depends on how much you need to improve. A good rule of thumb is to start preparing at least three months before the test.


Deciding whether to retake the GMAT can be a daunting task. It’s a decision that should be made after careful consideration of various factors, including your target schools, resources, and performance in the previous test. Remember, a retake can offer a chance for improvement, but it also requires additional time, effort, and money. So, weigh the pros and cons, consult with mentors or peers if necessary, and most importantly, trust your gut. After all, you know your abilities best.