People tend to obsess over their GMAT score, but more often than you might expect, re-taking the GMAT isn’t necessary. This is the case for three major reasons:
1) The GMAT is a bit less important to MBA program admissions than many realize; the GMAT is just one of many factors. For example, the personal essays are probably as important.
As a reminder, those factors include:
- Undergraduate school, major, and GPA
- GMAT score
- Personal essays
- Business, leadership, and community service experience
2) Most applicants don’t have unlimited time to study for the GMAT. There are always trade-offs in deciding to take the test again, including being unable to spend that time working on your aforementioned essays.
3) If you’ve already done a good amount of studying, especially if you’ve already worked with a private tutor or taken a good class, you have to be realistic about how much runway you have to improve your GMAT score.
Ultimately, this article will provide 5 potential reasons why you should consider re-taking the GMAT. However, to hammer home the above three points about why you may not need to, I’d like to provide a personal example.
I worked with an individual, let’s call him Frank, who had attended Northwestern University and majored in Mathematics. He was promoted rapidly at our consulting firm and scored a 760 on the GMAT. He was also a genuinely great guy and a natural leader who was also involved in a variety of community service related activities. He was not accepted into Kellogg’s MBA program at Northwestern University. I worked at the same firm and was promoted less rapidly, attended Indiana University, and scored a 710 on the GMAT. Frank, in fact, was sort of my boss. However, I was accepted at Kellogg, and Frank was not. The difference, I suggest, was clearly the essays. I somehow must have better explained why I wanted an MBA from Kellogg and what I was going to do with it in my essays, even though Frank went to a better undergraduate school, had a similar job, and scored significantly higher on the GMAT.
That said, I recognize the GMAT remains an area of intense focus and a source of significant stress for many applicants. Certainly, it is important, and it’s one area where the playing field is level. No matter where you went to school or what your job is, everyone takes the same GMAT, and thus MBA schools can easily compare readiness for their MBA curriculum across applicants by using this test.
Here are five reasons to re-take the GMAT:
1) If your score is not in the middle 80% of accepted applicants at your target school(s). For example, at Kellogg, 80% of individuals score between 660 and 760. So, if you scored a 640, you will be at a disadvantage and should consider re-taking the GMAT.
2) If your scores on timed practice tests were significantly better than your actual score. If you know you scored 700+ on all of your practice tests but scored a 660 on the actual test, you’re still in the middle 80th percentile range, per point 1. However, there is clear evidence you can do significantly better. So, you should consider retaking the GMAT.
3) If you didn’t really study. Some people can perform really well on the GMAT without much studying. However, most can’t. When I sat down to study for the test, I couldn’t remember the rules of triangles well enough to answer most of the trigonometry questions on the test. If you haven’t taken a class, worked with a tutor, or at least dedicated 2-4 hours a week for at least 6 weeks and taken several practice tests, you can probably do much better on the GMAT after studying appropriately for it. It’s not an IQ test; you can and should prepare for it.
4) If you are trying to compensate for other areas of weakness in your application. If you are an English major and have not taken a class that’s quantitative in nature since high school, you need to score well on the quantitative section of the GMAT. In that case, if you’re trying to go to a top 20 US MBA program, you should be scoring in the 80th percentile or better on the quant section.
5) If you have a really imbalanced score on the GMAT. Business schools are looking for well-rounded applicants who can think critically, engage with data, and communicate well. If you scored reasonably well on the GMAT by completely acing one section and struggling through the other, you might consider re-taking it. Schools may not accept your overall score at face value if your scores on each section are really imbalanced.
What are your thoughts on the GMAT? Do you have any questions about whether/when to re-take the test? Let us know.
About the author: Mark Skoskiewicz is a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL near Chicago, one of the top 10 MBA programs in the U.S. He’s also the Founder of MyGuru, a provider of in-person and online 1-1 tutoring and test prep. MyGuru maintains a GMAT blog and provides customized, GMAT tutoring. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.