CONSIDER THE OFFICIAL GMAT RULES FOR RETAKES
One consideration is the amount of retakes you’re allowed to have on the GMAT, per the rules of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). According to the official GMAT website, the GMAT exam can be taken a maximum of five times in a 12-month period. Additionally, if you’re not satisfied with your score on the GMAT, you need to wait at least 16 days before you can take the exam again.
If you’re considering more than one retake, these constraints have to be considered carefully. If you retake every 16 days or so in the hopes of getting the score you need as quickly as possible, you run the risk of running out of retakes for the year before you actually reach the required score. It’s probably better to take more time between retakes and use that extra time to study.
And if you get to the point where you’ve taken the GMAT three times in a year, be as prepared as possible before taking the fourth retake. If your fourth retake still doesn’t get you to where you need to be, you only have one more retake. In turn, a fifth retake in just one year, if it becomes necessary, needs to be approached very carefully. Once you’ve reached the maximum five test sessions for the year, you’ll need to wait until it’s been more than 12 months since your first take of the GMAT before you can do even one more sitting for the test. This can easily delay your admissions process and potential acceptance into an MBA program.
In the latest testing year for which data is available, ending June 30, 2015, some 247,000 GMAT exams were taken, up from 243,000 a year earlier. Typically, 20% of those tests are taken by those who had already sat for the test and are trying to improve their scores. That percentage increased because since December of 2014, test takers can actually cancel their scores at the test centers if they were unsatisfied with them.
Admissions deadlines can also determine whether retakes are possible, or how many retakes are possible. If the deadline to submit your GMAT scores to a school is less than two weeks away, then a retake will be impossible because of the 16-day minimum wait period. If the deadline is one month away, just one retake is possible. With a deadline for application in two months, a maximum of three retakes of the GMAT would be possible, and so on.
CONSIDER THE FINANCIAL COSTS
In most countries, the fee for taking the GMAT is $250. You can take the exam up to five times in 12 months. That means a maximum of four retakes in a 12-month period. In other words, if you want to “max out” on retakes, it’ll cost you $1,000 in a year. Consider the textbooks and GMAT prep courses you could purchase with $1,000. That extra prep could help you pass the GMAT in fewer testing sessions. So it’s very likely there are more effective ways to spend your money than on retake fees.
Many test-takers fall short of the score they need on their first try. This obviously necessitates at least one retake, maybe more than one. But scheduling a retake is just part of the larger approach you should take to improving your score. Additional study and a careful assessment of what went wrong the first time will help you minimize the number of retakes you’ll need. Of course, if you’ve already taken the GMAT several times you might want to consider giving the GRE a shot. Because of the substantial differences between the tests, this GMAT versus GRE decision is always worth reviewing to determine which test will best reflect your strengths to MBA admissions.
David Recine is a GMAT and TOEFL expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA TESOL from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been tutoring and teaching ESL since 2007.