Retaking the GMAT
We are often asked whether our clients should retake the GMAT. Almost always our response back is, “if you feel you can score higher, go for the retake.” The reason is that top MBA program admissions is a competitive process, and we always want our clients to put their best foot forward on all aspects of the application. If the score doesn’t reflect the applicant’s best effort and potential, we encourage taking the test again– even multiple times. Most of our SBC clients take the test twice, on average.
We recently received an email from an applicant that illustrates this well:
“Thanks for these ‘real’ words last year. You’ll be surprised to know how many people told me to not to attempt GRE again. I just wanted to update you that I gave the GRE again and hit my goal. I would really like you to know that you made a positive difference in a my life. Thanks for the encouragement and the honesty.”
Caryn is a former Kellogg MBA Admissions Officer on our team. She has been with the SBC team for over a decade. She shared:
“For a low GMAT or GRE score, I advise retaking it at least once which not only can show score improvement but also shows self-awareness that you are trying to improve. If you are having trouble with one test in particular, say difficulty with the quant section on the GMAT, it is worth it to try the GRE (or at least take a practice test) which still has quant, but it tends to be easier especially for those from non-quantitative backgrounds.”
There are times when our clients ask about tradeoffs such as, “Should I put my effort into extracurricular activity or a test retake?” Our guidance is still the same: “If you feel you can score higher, go for the retake,” but that’s not a free pass for the other candidacy aspects such as extracurricular activity. Push hard on all you can do. Use practice test scores as your guide on what your potential should be.
Partner with 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 email@example.com
Can I retake the GMAT multiple times?
It is ok to take a GMAT (or GRE or EA or whatever test) multiple times, to a point. 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.”
At the same time, some MBA programs don’t look favorably upon retaking the GMAT too many times. From our experience across the AdCom on the SBC team, we see that retaking over 4 times –with minimal improvement across scores– could be seen as the candidate having a lack of self-awareness. Right or wrong, it can be seen as a red flag depending on the candidate and target schools, as well as test taking history. A former Booth Admissions Officer on our SBC team shared,
“A candidate applying to Booth was flagged in the application system if they took the GMAT more than 3 times. This signals to the Booth AdCom to take a deeper dive into understanding why they took it so often. We looked for an optional essay to explain the high number of attempts with minimal improvement. If there is improvement with each score, it is less of an issue but it is flagged nonetheless.”
Consider shifting to another test, such as the GRE from the GMAT, instead of retaking the GMAT a 4th or 5th time.
What should I know about taking a test more than once, and how to report the number of test sittings?
Make sure you’re counting test sittings correctly. If you have not sent any of the GMAT scores to any of the schools, then the schools will never see the score reports.
Pay attention to how the application form is coded and what test you’d like to report. For example, if the applicant wants to submit the GRE and the application is coded for the GMAT score fields to be optional, it may be wise to be forthcoming and indicate the total test sittings. GMAT scores should not have to be disclosed, only the GRE, since the GRE is what is being used for the evaluation.
In the same scenario, the application is coded such that the GMAT score fields are required when it is indicated the test has been taken, then we recommend that the client contact the school and ask if he or she should complete the GMAT fields; the client should explain that he is reporting the GRE to be used in his or her evaluation, but did take the GMAT and wants to be truthful. That way, he is being upfront but also being mindful for those apps where those score fields become required. He and she doesn’t want to provide unnecessary information that could influence the decision.
Should I take the GMAT again or try the GRE?
The GMAT and GRE are two entirely different tests that don’t remotely resemble one another. We have had extremely quantitatively proficient clients who bombed the GMAT multiple times (one of them took it 4 times and couldn’t break 650), but then switched to the GRE and absolutely killed it. For example, the client who took it 4 times actually scored a 720 GMAT equivalent when converted. They reported both sets of scores and were accepted into the programs they had hoped for.
We have seen that the GRE could be a valuable differentiator and smart strategic decision for a MBA candidacy. MBA programs began accepting this exam to attract a wider, more diverse set of applicants. Because the GRE is accepted at a diverse set of graduate programs, incorporating the test into an application strategy often bolsters positioning, especially for non-traditional applicants. Those that submit GRE scores may be highlighting strengths outside of the more common business skill-set. When developing a full strategy, choosing the GRE can be another way to highlight a unique path. Try a free practice test online to assess which test is best for you.
Hear more about how taking the GRE® General Test can be a smart strategic decision to display your quant skills from Stacy Blackman Consulting principal Esther Magna:
What are my options for GMAT test reinstatement or cancellation?
The GMAT has been making a lot of policy and process changes over the past five years. We will highlight one that is worth noting from an admissions standpoint.
“You are allowed to reinstate a previously cancelled score for up to 4 years and 11 months after the test date. Note, you still only have the opposite option of ‘accepting and then later choosing to cancel’ for 72 hours after your test date.”
SBC’s lead test prep tutor advises the following with respect to practical implications here:
- Students who go in and receive a score that is borderline/”iffy” should probably cancel. You can undo your cancel at any time for up to almost 5 years; but to accept and then decide retroactively to cancel, you still only have 72 hours to do so–all for a small fee of course.
- If you have an older test score that was higher (and cancelled), ask your consultant how to navigate. This has happened from time to time with clients who have slightly to moderately higher cancelled scores; at the time, those scores weren’t their desired score but then they weren’t able to achieve higher or even replicate it.
Do I need to report my GMAT score if I’m submitting my GRE score?
On some applications, such as Wharton, the related application question is phrased as “Have you taken the GMAT?” It’s unclear if you should answer honestly, even if the applicant is submitting the GRE.
It is usually fine to say “no” for this as AdCom understands that the way they phrase the question could stress applicants out. Just answer “yes” for the test the applicant plans on using for the evaluation, even if they’ve taken both tests.
We have asked AdCom at several programs to rephrase the question in the application; it sounds like they made some of these changes to accommodate online vs in-person testing.
When do I get my test score: in-home exam or the in-person GMAT exam?
Unlike the in-person exam, the in-home/online exam has a policy where they don’t send scores until about 7 days after the exam. Some of our clients receive their scores after ~4 days in some cases, so it’s possible a test score will be released sooner rather than later.
The delay in test results is a precautionary measure by the test company for guarding against cheating. We have actually had a couple clients over the years impacted by inadvertently overlapping with cheating rings in the GMAT over the years, so it does happen!
What do schools truly see if someone cancels his/her score?
We have had clients who have taken the GMAT multiple times (4+), inclusive of cancelling most of their scores. We are always hesitant to suggest a retest in this situation. We know AdCom truly wants the highest score. At some point, if AdCom sees a huge number of attempts, this is sure to sway them away from admitting.
SBC’s lead test prep tutor shares her insight here:
“It used to be that the schools would see the date and that the student had cancelled next to that date; or, more accurately, a “C” would be listed by any cancelled test dates. So, it really was a bit of a concern to take too many times and have “C” keep showing up. However, another one of the GMAT’s recent changes is that schools can no longer see any of those cancels. No one but the test taker his/herself can see them. So, if a student takes the test 5 times and cancels 4 of those times, then AdCom will only see the one test score the student accepted, with no other indication that the test was taken more than once.”
If you have your official score forwarded to the schools, do cancelled tests appear in the number of times you’ve taken it?
According to the GMAC, official test scores sent to the schools will show no indication that a canceled test ever occurred. Official reports sent to schools will only display dates and scores of accepted tests. Essentially, it is like the canceled tests do not exist. This change was put into place in mid-2015.
Rest assured that if a school is just seeing the official report sent to it by GMAC, there is no indication of the canceled tests. GMAT’s stance is that those canceled scores don’t count, and so the score of a cancelled test will never be passed along to a school.
That being said, an issue can arise when students are self-reporting scores. If students upload the sheet of paper they were given right after completing the test, this will also only show that test score. But, if students go to their GMAT accounts and upload a full score report there, canceled tests do show on the student’s accounts (so that students have an accurate record of their test-taking). Accordingly, doing so will display to the schools that multiple non-reported tests were taken, if that is the case.
In self-reporting, a student needs to upload their own document initially and they don’t have the original printout from test day, this will display all tests. So, the student should play it safe and report the total number of test administrations including tests cancelled. If there is any ambiguity to it (i.e. unsure if they’ll be asked to provide their own proof later, before the GMAC score verification), probably go with the total number of test administrations to report the number of times that the test was taken.
The in-home test scores are hosted on a different platform than the in-person test scores. Schools can only see those in-home scores if invited to do so on that specific platform. So. there would be an argument there to say that schools might not see that particular test then, but it is unclear if that will be tied into reporting in the future if the GMAC has to keep offering in-home scores.
Net net: we’d probably recommend playing it safe. Assume the schools may be able to see that score in the future, even if not currently invited to do so.
On self reporting scores, some schools ask for an unofficial score report to be uploaded. So, they can see the Cancels since it’s a user generated report. Any advice ?
The unofficial score report is the the print out that you get when you leave the test center day-of. That should be fine because the unofficial score report should not contain older test results and it should have just what happened that day except for the AWA.
But, if a student has to upload the official score report (available online, includes not just Q/V/IR scores but also AWA, overall percentiles, student info and undergrad stuff) which becomes available a few weeks later, then this might be more of an issue.
Help. The software crashed during my in-home GMAT test. What do I do?
We have had many clients have either technical or proctor difficulties during the online GMAT; either the test crashes or the proctor accuses them of using a real pen or of ‘looking down at their whiteboard too much.’ It has been a significant problem.
Some have struggled to get a hold of Pearson/GMAC customer service. It took a lot of follow up and persistence to get the retake scheduled. In all cases, our clients have eventually broken through and were able to reschedule. Just continue to call and try to get someone eventually who can help. SBC’s lead test prep tutor shared,
“We are highly encouraging any client who can and feels safe to do so to go in person given all these issues.”
How long are online GMAT scores valid?
The online exam score is valid for 5 years, just like the in person score.
As for how the schools feel about accepting it, ask your consultant as it may vary by applicant and target MBA program. The online MBA score results are housed on a separate platform than the in person scores, so it would be easy enough for schools to differentiate.
Do MBA programs view the online test results differently than the in-person GMAT test results?
MBA programs are accepting this new online test given the unusual circumstances. Schools will access these scores via a separate platform than they do for existing scores. Currently, there are no immediate plans to merge the two platforms. Scoring and the algorithm will be the same. Scores will not be normalized or treated differently given the online platform, unless they see the need to do so as test administrations ensue.
Can you retake the online GMAT?
Yes, effective June 2020, you can re-take the in-home test and keep whichever score is higher.
What do I need to know about the GMAT online test?
The following were shared in April 2020 about the online GMAT test. Check the site to see if there have been any recent updates.
- No AWA section included
- Fixed order: Q/V/IR (instead of getting to select your order)
- Only one optional break included, 5 minutes (instead of the two 8 min breaks)
- Score not immediately available afterwards – will be emailed to candidates within 7 days (and any schools they’ve submitted that score to will then have access to it in the same time frame)
- Doesn’t count toward your yearly or lifetime limits for the GMAT
- Accommodations (50% and 100% extra time, plus an extended break) available likely early to mid May
- Update June 2020: they will allow a physical whiteboard for their in-home exams, starting June 11 2020. There were many tech issues with the online white board; our clients have seen lag and even having their boards spontaneously delete. Here are the requirements for the physical whiteboards that clients can use.
- IR section will still have online calculator
- Appointments available 24/7 in 15 minute intervals
- No current offerings in Mainland China, Iran, N. Korea, Sudan, Cuba, Slovenia
- Works on Mac or Windows, need a webcam, audio capabilities, and reliable internet
- Before test day, recommended to run a system test (available on mba.com), install OnVUE software, and find a workspace that will work. They’ve advised removing pictures, notes, etc from that workspace
- Day of: Re-run checks again, examinees will be asked to upload a picture (selfie), ID photo, work space pictures (they’ve described this happening via a text link sent to your phone, ala online banking check deposit functionality)
- Leave about 15-20 minutes for the check in process.
- Online proctor will ask to then do a 360 degree scan of room via the webcam, will have examinees shut down any other applications running on their computers.
- Examinees must keep video and audio streaming live during whole exam. Can communicate any issue with proctor via audio (just physically raise your hand, they said, to get their attention to speak) or live chat (I’m guessing this will be the more reliable option based on the anecdotes I’ve heard from the GRE?)
- All support for this test is only in English right now
- In person test appointments can’t be transferred to online ones. Online appointments scheduled separately but still done via mba.com.
- Currently cancellations and reschedule fees are being waived
- Students can still select five schools to send their scores to and add’l school reports (usually $35) will be free for this version of the test starting April 28.
Wondering if you could tell us anything else about the sign-up process for the GRE virtual/at home exam.
ETS is stating that candidates will still be selecting their date and time. Candidates will also have to perform an equipment and environment check up initial registration. Here’s their step by step breakdown.
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