NYU Stern | Mr. Indian Data Guy
GRE 325, GPA 7.06
Stanford GSB | Mr. Future MBA
GMAT 740, GPA 3.78
Harvard | Mr. Tech Start-Up
GMAT 720, GPA 3.52
Stanford GSB | Mr. Latin American
GMAT 770, GPA 8 of 10
Wharton | Mr. Biotech Social Impact
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
NYU Stern | Mr. Beer Guy
GRE 306, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Ms. HR To Finance
GMAT 760, GPA 7.65/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Columbia | Mr. MD/MBA
GMAT 670, GPA 3.77
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Social To Tech
GMAT 700, GPA 2.7
Harvard | Mr. CPG Product Manager
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
NYU Stern | Mr. Brolic Bro
GRE 305, GPA 3.63
Tuck | Mr. Running To The Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
London Business School | Ms. Audit Meme
GMAT 710, GPA 3.5
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Wharton | Mr. Mobility Entrepreneur
GMAT 760, GPA 1st Division
Harvard | Mr. Cricket From Kashmir
GMAT 730, GPA 8.5/10
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. Aspiring Consultant
GMAT 690, GPA 3.68
HEC Paris | Mr. Analytics Consultant
GRE 326, GPA 9.05/10
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Manager
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Tuck | Mr. Land Management
GMAT 760, GPA 3.85
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seller
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Researcher
GMAT 700, GPA 3.2
Harvard | The Insurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Data Dude
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Tepper | Mr. Automotive Strategy
GMAT 670 - 700 on practice tests, GPA 3.3
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Backyard Homesteader
GRE 327, GPA 3.90

Why More Applicants Are Retaking The GMAT

Source: GMAC analysis, July 2016

Source: GMAC analysis, July 2016


Dan Bauer of The MBA Exchange

Dan Bauer of The MBA Exchange

Dan Bauer, founder and CEO of The MBA Exchange, another leading admissions consulting firm, agrees. “Over the past five years, average GMAT scores have increased at 17 of the top 25 ranked business schools,” he says. “For example, Wharton’s average GMAT for the class entering in fall 2015 was 732, up from 718 in 2011. This mass escalation surely motivates serious MBA candidates to use multiple testings to achieve higher scores, especially since they can simply cancel any disappointing results along the way. So, why stop trying if ‘one more GMAT’ could boost your score and make your application more competitive?”

In some cases, increases in the average GMAT scores at leading schools have been steep. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, for example, has boosted the average GMAT for its incoming two-year MBAs by 16 points in the past six years to 728 this year, putting the Class of 2018 at the 96th percentile of all test takers,  from 712 in 2011, when the class was at the 91st percentile (see GMAT percentile chart below).

Abraham also notes that GMAT scores frequently figure into scholarship awards and in some highly competitive industries internship and job offers. “Taking the test multiple times, can pay off big time,” she says. “Among the most popular employers of MBAs are consulting and financial services firms. The more elite among them want to see a 700+ GMAT. If you see yourself going into those fields, that requirement creates pressure to take the test until you get the score you want.”

Source: GMAT Total Score percentile rankings are based on three years of GMAT exams taken from 2011 to 2013

Source: GMAT Total Score percentile rankings are based on three years of GMAT exams taken from 2011 to 2013

Moreover, there is no downside to taking the test multiple times, other than the time or the $250 cost. “Responding to competition from the rival GRE test, owners of the GMAT made dramatic changes that enable MBA applicants to, essentially, ‘game’ the test-taking process,” believes Bauer. “Individuals can see and cancel a disappointing score within 72 hours, with no record of that cancellation reported to the schools. And cancelled scores (since January 2014) can be reinstated at will. In addition, the waiting period between repeat GMAT attempts is only 16 days vs. the previous 30 days, so test takers can and do take more attempts as application deadlines approach. In fact, there is no longer a reason against taking multiple tests. One’s ‘batting average’ is almost certain to improve if no one is calling strikes.”


Bauer also points out that today there is a massive array of prep resources and solutions. “Google the term ‘GMAT preparation’ and you’ll find over 641,000 results. Enough said. The variety of tutors, tools and tips is simply overwhelming,” adds Bauer. “The choice of delivery vehicles – from traditional books to in-person instruction to customized e-learning platforms – offers something for everyone at every price point. Today, improved test-taking skills and customized strategies are within reach of everyone on the planet. So, applicants understandably believe that their GMAT scores can almost always be improved though more prep — and more testings.”

The GRE also offers a post-GMAT safety net, according to Bauer. “Many applicants try and try again, but still can’t achieve a competitive GMAT score,” he says. “However, as long as they don’t report those results to business schools, such individuals can simply walk away from even a series of sub-par GMAT results and make a fresh start with the GRE. So there’s no need to throw in the GMAT towel prematurely. Furthermore, most schools don’t report their “average GRE” whereas ‘average GMAT’ is not only published but can impact a school’s prestige and competitive rankings. So, the GRE is readily available, last-minute option for applicants who can’t beat their dream school’s average GMAT score after multiple tries. ”

Ultimately, there may be another factor at work behind all the repeat GMAT testing: The popularity of admission consultants. “I think that the other factor that is driving this are us, the admissions consultants,” concedes Alex Leventhal of Prep MBA Admissions Consulting. “We have a crew of clients and we want to have the best batting average possible so clients are happy and refer. So I think consultants are putting some pressure on too to push clients to do better–and most of the time it works!”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.