As an admissions consultant, I am asked this question a lot. The answer really depends on your individual profile, but here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to retake the GMAT.
Is your score below the average for your target schools?
Let’s say you want to go to Stanford. The average GMAT for the class of 2019 was a 737. At Tuck it’s a 722. In order to yield a matriculating class with this average, the schools need to admit a cohort with an even higher average. (Some of the people they admit don’t enroll, and the people who say no are often at the higher end of the pool.) If your numbers are significantly below the average for your target schools you should seriously consider retaking the exam.
Is your GPA below the average for your target schools?
If so, you are at a definite disadvantage if your GMAT is also at or below the average. It’s hard to get in with both numbers below the average; although there isn’t a formula, schools can more easily justify absorbing a lower GPA if they are also getting a high GMAT to fold into their numbers.
Have you taken the GMAT more than once?
If not, unless your first score was astronomically high, you should probably take it again. Schools may even wait list you and ask you to retake the exam if your first score was good but not great.
Beware the “outlier” score.
Have you taken the GMAT 3 or more times, and posted basically the same score each time? If so, even if you subsequently have a great test day the schools may be sort of skeptical, and might think that the clustered scores are more indicative of your true academic potential. In this case, weigh your options carefully if you decide to retake the test. You might be better off demonstrating academic aptitude through supplemental courses.
Is your top score consistent with your best practice tests?
If not, this is a good reason to take it again – you want your score to reflect your abilities and doing well on practice tests but not on test day may indicate that your test scores are not yet indicative of your potential.
Have you really studied?
Also, be honest with yourself about preparation. Have you been able to dedicate sufficient time to studying? Have you considered a prep course or private tutor, if self-study hasn’t yielded the results you want? If not, consider investing adequate resources and trying again.
Remember that you are more than your GMAT score.
Standardized tests are just part of the admissions process. The best way to minimize their impact (or the leverage them) is to make sure that your entire candidacy is as strong and multifaceted as it can be. I have helped multiple students with GMAT’s in the mid 500’s gain admission to top MBA programs, so if all else fails and your test scores are not where you want them to be, focus on submitting applications that holistically convey your strengths.
Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 13.9 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.