Should I retake the GMAT? It’s a question of ROI

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Should I retake the GMAT? It’s a question of ROI

Should I retake the GMAT? It's a matter of ROI.

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.

What’s the value of a higher score? Compare your score to your desired schools’

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.

  • High return: Your current score is below your desired school’s middle 80 percent GMAT range. A higher score within the school’s midrange range would significantly improve your chances of getting in.
  • Moderate return: Your current score is right at the threshold of your desired school’s middle 80 percent range. An improved score would help cement your case as a solid applicant.
  • Low return: Your current score is firmly within your desired school’s middle range of GMAT scores.
  • No return: Your current score is at the high-end or above your desired school’s mid range.

Of course if your current score is 750 and you’re asking should I retake the GMAT, the answer is no.

What are the costs of retaking the exam? It depends on the timing

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.

  • High cost: You have one month or less to study for and retake the GMAT. Given this short-time frame, most of your time and effort would be spent studying for the exam.
  • Moderate cost: You have two months or a little over two months to study for and take the GMAT again. You have enough time to focus on other aspects of your application outside of the exam.
  • Low cost: You have three months or more to study for a retake. This is sufficient time to thoroughly prepare for the GMAT and complete the rest of your application.

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.


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