12 things to consider before retaking the GMAT

Broadly, there are a few questions you’ll have to ask yourself when your test scores come in: Am I satisfied with the time and energy I’ve put into preparing for this exam? Given the constraints of my life, did I prepare as well as I could have? Is there room for improvement here? Am I capable (again, do I have the time and energy) of working for that improvement? To make it easy on you, here are 12 things to consider:

Circumstances in which it’s probably not a bad idea to retake

  • You know exactly what you can do to improve next time around. Examples of this might include recognizing you had test-day jitters (and now that you know what actual testing conditions are like, you’ll feel more comfortable in them the second time around), or realizing your biggest issue was time management (and now you know how often to look at the clock next time around). In other words, if you have specific answers to the question “How can I improve?” then you likely can.
  • The average score for your target schools is 50 points higher (or more) than the score you received (as a side: here’s also where it makes a lot of sense to inform yourself about how your target schools will view your scores: Are they going to look at your best score? Your most recent? An average of all your scores? Knowing this might also help you make the decision about whether the retake is worth it).
  • There’s a considerable imbalance between your Quantitative and Verbal scores.
  • You know you can keep your focus between now and the retake. What this means is that you have the time and the energy to continue studying at the same level of rigor at which you were studying for the first exam, and that you have enough time not to be distracted by what in your application package still needs completion.
  • You feel that the other aspects of your application (your essays, for example) are strong and that it makes more sense to focus on a retake than it does on editing and reworking your writing.
  • You used substandard test prep materials.
  • You’re competing for a scholarship (there are several business schools that award scholarships based, in part, on GMAT scores).

Circumstances in which it’s likely not worth retaking

  • You’re not really sure what you could do between now and the retake to make your score any better. In other words, you’ve put all the time and energy you were capable of into this first exam. If you try to take it again without being able to answer that question, (“How can I improve?”), you might be at that point of diminishing returns.
  • You are within a 50-point range of your target schools’ average GMAT score (I like to think of this as “being within striking distance”), OR
  • You already have a score of 700 or higher.
  • You’re pretty sure you won’t be able to maintain your focus between now and the retake. If there’s still too much to attend to in regards to your applications, and if you’ve already pushed aside other projects in your life to make room for this exam (and those deadlines and obligations creep back in pretty quickly, believe me!) you’re likely to be too distracted in the next few weeks to really give studying its due.
  • You’ve exhausted all of the test prep materials you can get your hands on.