Know When to Retake the GMAT

retake the GMAT

Occasionally, we hear tales of MBA applicants offered admission to a top business school with a “low” GMAT score. But in truth, accepting students with scores of 700+ has been the norm at the most competitive programs. So, should you automatically retake the GMAT if you don’t hit 700? That answer depends, in part, on which version of the test you took. Right now, we’re in a transition period with the adoption of the new GMAT Focus. (In this new era, a 665 is the equivalent of an old-scale 710 or 720.)

Before you start to panic and become hung up on achieving the highest score possible or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, we urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Schools usually list this information within their admitted class profile.

Many experts in the test prep industry advise students to plan on taking the test twice. If they score at or above their goal on the first try, they can always cancel the second sitting.

Remember, top schools want to see scores in the 80th percentile in the quantitative section. So if you score 100 percent in verbal and low in quantitative, you would want to retake the GMAT exam. This holds, especially if you don’t have a strong quantitative background outside of the GMAT.

Partner with Stacy Blackman’s best-in-class GMAT and GRE experts and increase your score significantly. Check out our test prep services here.  Request a free game plan chat with SBC’s lead test prep coach by emailing

What’s a “good enough” score?

There’s no urgent reason to retake the GMAT if you scored over 700 (665 on the GMAT Focus). You’ve already proven you can handle the quantitative component of the curriculum. Now, turn your focus toward ensuring all of the other parts of your application are as strong as possible.

Keep in mind that this high number is primarily for those targeting a top-tier MBA program. If you scored a 680 (or 635 GMAT Focus), the decision to retake should be carefully considered. You may be better off focusing on your essays or coaching recommenders instead. Applicants looking at programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMAT score.

Listen to B-Schooled podcast #106: Admissions Test Deep Dive with SBC’s Director of Test Prep, Anthony Ritz, who’s been a GMAT and GRE tutor for more than two decades.

If illness, nerves, exhaustion, or simply a lack of adequate preparation resulted in a low score, then a second attempt becomes necessary. Repeat test-taking, with additional preparation, typically results in a higher score as students become familiar with the experience and, therefore, less stressed out.

The Graduate Management Admission Council allows you to retake the GMAT as many times as you like. Make sure to check your target schools’ deadlines to allow enough time to send in your final scores.

AdCom has no problem if you retake the GMAT

Applicants self-report their highest score, and it’s worth noting that the admissions committee has no issue with students taking the exam more than once. In fact, committees may look positively at the dedication you’ve shown to improve upon your prior performance. Lisa, a former MBA Admissions Officer on our SBC team, shares,

“It shows perseverance, self-awareness, and judgment; schools generally don’t hold it against you that you take a test multiple times and use the score report you indicate in your application.”

To be clear, we’re talking about a score report with two or three scores, not one that shows you’ve sat for the GMAT seven times.

After your first test, it’s time to reflect on your entire GMAT performance. Determine your weaknesses, and double down in those areas as you resume your studies. Don’t completely ignore the sections you did well on, however. You wouldn’t want to improve in one area but do worse in another the next time.

If you studied alone or took a class for your initial preparation, consider studying with a GMAT tutor for the second go-round. A test prep expert can work around your schedule and tailor the curriculum to your needs.

Advice for applicants with test-taking anxiety

Finally, some people aren’t natural test-takers and perform less than optimal no matter how well they know the material. One primary cause is stress under pressure.  It may help to watch this video of the GMAT Exam experience and a detailed explanation of all procedures to increase your comfort level about what to expect.

If that familiarity still isn’t enough to calm your nerves come test day, consider using relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization to reduce test anxiety. Also, retaking the GMAT in the same center will help you feel more comfortable.

GMAT vs GRE for MBA Applicants: What’s the Right Strategy?

Business school hopefuls can be incredibly hard on themselves when they make mistakes on the GMAT, but each error is a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. So don’t become discouraged if your first score isn’t where you’d hoped. Relax, and think of it as a dress rehearsal for a stellar performance to come.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership and Interview Prep to hourly help with essay editing, resume review, and much more! Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

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Did you know that SBC offers test prep services? We’ve recruited a team of best in class instructors who will help you recognize your individual learning style, discover holes in your foundation knowledge and set manageable yet ambitious goals. We focus on a deep understanding of the content, and later a grasp of smart test strategies. Let SBC’s long tradition of excellence support all aspects of your application process.

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