The prospect of a higher score is always alluring, and sometimes it’s absolutely needed in order to have a shot at getting accepted, but other times, retaking the GMAT is a wasted effort.
When your score is already high enough, the benefit of improving your score is negligible, and your time would be better spent perfecting your essays, short answers and resume, and prepping for your interviews.
The decision to retake the GMAT is really a question of return on investment (ROI): Do the benefits of a higher GMAT score out weight the costs of achieving it?
In this equation, the return is the degree to which an improved score helps you get accepted to your desired school. The costs are time and effort, limited resources that come at the price of working on the rest of your application.
The following assessments will help you figure out the potential value and costs of a retake so that you know whether a retake is the best choice in terms of helping you get into business school.
To determine the return – the value of a retake – you need to know what impact a potentially higher score will have on your admission chances.
Sometimes a better score will have little to no impact on whether an applicant is accepted. This is because schools use the GMAT as a gatekeeper, an objective measurement to separate viable candidates from unviable candidates, so the goal is to score high enough in order to be grouped in with the former.
Arguably anything above this “high enough” threshold is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Sure a score of 800 is stunning, but it’s no more a guarantee of being accepted than a score of 720 (it’s a different matter for some scholarship opportunities though). When scores are this high, admission decisions come down to an application’s other components.
Use your current score’s distance from this “high enough” threshold to determine the potential value of a retake.
How do you determine this threshold? Check your desired school’s middle 80 percent GMAT range. This is the range of accepted scores of the school’s current first-year class, excluding the top and bottom 10 percent. It gives the best idea of what a school is looking for in terms of GMAT scores.
Retaking the GMAT is a smart decision if a higher score would put you firmly above this threshold.
Of course if your current score is 750 and you’re asking should I retake the GMAT, the answer is no.
The more time you have to study for a retake, the lower the “cost” of taking the GMAT again.
At minimum, expect to spend at least one month studying for your retake. Also expect that during this period, you’ll have little time to work on other parts of your application since you should be averaging a few hours a day preparing for your retake.
The closer you are to your target deadline, the greater the amount of your remaining time must be dedicated to studying. In terms of ROI, a retake close to application deadlines is only wise if you truly need a higher score to boost your admission chances. Conversely, if a higher GMAT score would only be moderately beneficial but you have a lot of time to retake it, a retake may be the smart choice.
Taken together, retake costs and possible returns help you focus on what matters in retaking the GMAT: What’s going to help you the most in getting into an MBA program.
For more information about what you should try to score on the GMAT, check out this article on what makes for a good GMAT score. Also, much of this article assumed that a retake would lead to score improvement. Most of the time this is the case, but for a more in-depth look we investigate how much improvement is generally made on a retake.