Retaking the GMAT
Clients often ask whether they should retake the GMAT. Inevitably, our response is, “if you feel you can score higher, go for the retake.” 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 retaking the test—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 who has been with the SBC consulting 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.”
Sometimes, 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 like extracurricular activities. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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, says,
“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 more than four times—with minimal improvement across scores—could seem like the candidate lacks self-awareness. Right or wrong, it can be a red flag depending on the candidate and target schools and 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.
If 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 they should complete the GMAT fields. The client should explain that they are reporting the GRE to be used in their evaluation but did take the GMAT and want to be truthful. That way, they are being upfront and mindful of those apps where score fields are required. They don’t want to provide unnecessary information that could influence the decision.
Should I retake the GMAT or try the GRE?
The GMAT and GRE are two entirely different tests that don’t remotely resemble one another. We have had exceptionally quantitatively proficient clients who bombed the GMAT multiple times. (One took it four times and couldn’t break 650.) But once they switched to the GRE, they killed it. For example, the client who took it four times scored a 720 GMAT equivalent when converted. They reported both scores and were accepted into the programs they had hoped for.
So, are the GRE and GMAT equally accepted?
@stacyblackmanconsulting Are the GRE and GMAT accepted equally? StacyBlackman.com #sbcyourfuture #mba #mbaadmissions #gmat #gre ? original sound – Stacy Blackman Consulting
We have seen that the GRE could be a valuable differentiator and smart strategic decision for an MBA candidacy. MBA programs began accepting this exam to attract a broader, more diverse set of applicants. Because the GRE is accepted at diverse graduate programs, incorporating the test into an application strategy often bolsters positioning, especially for non-traditional applicants. Those who submit GRE scores may highlight strengths outside the more common business skill set. When developing a complete 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 wise 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 practical implications here:
- Students who go in and receive a score that is borderline/”iffy” should probably cancel. You can undo your cancellation for up to almost five years. But to accept and then decide retroactively to cancel, you still only have 72 hours to do so—for a small fee.
- If you have an older test score that was higher (and canceled), ask your consultant how to navigate. This has happened from time to time with clients who have slightly to moderately higher canceled scores. At the time, those scores weren’t their desired score, but then they couldn’t 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 “Have you taken the GMAT?” It’s unclear whether you should answer honestly, even if the applicant submits the GRE.
It is usually acceptable to say “no” for this as AdCom understands that how 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 changes to accommodate online vs. in-person testing.
When do I get my test score: the in-home exam or the in-person GMAT exam?
Unlike the in-person exam, the online exam has a policy where they don’t send scores until about seven days later. Some of our clients have received their scores after four days, so a test score may be released sooner rather than later.
The test company’s delay in issuing test results is a precaution to guard against cheating. Over the years, we have had a couple of clients impacted by inadvertently overlapping with cheating rings in the GMAT, so it does happen!
What do schools truly see if someone cancels their score?
SBC’s lead test prep tutor shares this insight:
“It used to be that the schools would see the date and that the student had canceled next to that date. Or, more accurately, a “C” would be listed by any canceled test dates. So, it was a bit of a concern to take too many times and have “C” keep showing up.
However, another of the GMAT’s recent changes is that schools can no longer see any of those cancelations. No one but the test takers themselves can see them. So, if a student takes the test five times and cancels four, 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 canceled tests appear in the number of times you’ve taken them?
According to 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. Rest assured that if a school is jeeing the official report from GMAC, there is no indication of the canceled tests. GMAT’s stance is that those canceled scores don’t count, so the score of a canceled test will never be passed along to a school.
That being said, an issue can arise when students self-report scores. If students upload the sheet of paper they received right after completing the test, it will show only 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, if a student needs to upload their own document initially and doesn’t have the original printout from the test day, this will display all tests. So, the student should play it safe and report the total number of test administrations, including tests canceled. If there is any ambiguity (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 the test was taken.
The in-home test scores are hosted on a different platform than the in-person ones. 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’s unclear if that will be tied into reporting in the future if the GMAC has to keep offering in-home scores.
Bottom line: We’d 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.
Some schools ask applicants to upload an unofficial score report. They can see the Cancels in this scenario since it’s a user-generated report. Any advice?
The unofficial score report is the printout you receive when leaving the testing center. That should be fine because the unofficial score report should not contain older test results. It should just have what happened that day, except for the AWA.
But, if a student has to upload the official score report (available online, which 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?
Many clients have had technical or proctor difficulties during the online GMAT. Either the test crashes or the proctor accuses them of using a real pen or “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.
But as SBC’s lead test prep tutor shared, “We highly encourage 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 five 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 from 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 continue to accept the online test, given the current circumstances. Schools 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 as of June 2020, you can retake the in-home test and keep whichever score is higher.
What do I need to know about the GMAT online test?
Check the Graduate Management Admission Council site to see if there have been any recent updates.
- Appointments are 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 photo ID and workspace pictures
- Allow about 15-20 minutes for the check-in process.
- The online proctor will ask to see a 360-degree scan of the room via the webcam and will have examinees shut down any other applications running on their computers.
- Examinees must keep video and audio streaming live during the whole exam. Can communicate any issue with the proctor via audio (just physically raise your hand, they said, to get their attention to speak) or live chat
- All support for this test is only in English right now
- In-person test appointments can’t be transferred to online ones. Online appointments are scheduled separately but are still done via mba.com.
- Students can still select five schools to send their scores to, and additional school reports cost $35.
What is the sign-up process for the GRE virtual/at-home exam?
Candidates select their date and time and must perform an equipment and environment check-up upon initial registration. Here’s their step-by-step breakdown.
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