Retaking the GMAT (Again): Is 3 Times Too Many?

Retaking the GMAT

At Admissionado, our team hears this question time and time again regarding the GMAT:

“I have taken my GMAT twice and I’m still not happy with my score. Should I accept this last score and move on, or should I try to re-take it again? Does it look bad to the schools if I’ve taken the test three times?”

The GMAT. There’s no getting around it, folks. That test is pretty awful. For those of you in the same (or similar) boat as the applicant who asked the question above, we applaud you for simply finding motivation to take it even a second time, let alone considering going for it again.

It’s a grueling test that totally plays with your mind. Ask most of the people on our team and they shudder at the mere thought of their GMAT prep days.

shuttering at the thought of the gmat

But enough about that. If you’re considering retaking the GMAT again you’re wondering, “damn… is a third time TOO many times?” To answer that, we have ask another question:

What does it mean that you’re “not happy” with your score?

If it means you were scoring similarly on your practice tests, but were hoping beyond all hope that you’d somehow get a 780 this time around, retaking it might not be the best idea. Of course, you CAN – it’s up to you – but you’ve got so many other things you should be doing for your applications right now. Don’t waste your time trying to achieve an unattainable (and unrealistic) goal.

Focus on all the other stuff (you know, your essays, campus visits, your resume, video interviews, etc.) that will make you a stronger applicant. THAT will be a good use of your time and energy.

However, if it means you haven’t reached your potential score for whatever reason, yes, retake the GMAT. If you think you can get that score up to something you’d be proud of, then why the hell not?

Here’s an example: I knew a student at HBS who took the GMAT four times. Yes, four. And personally, I think four should be the max. Take it any more than that, and you’re beating a dead horse. But until that point, every time you take it, you’re doing two things:

  1. Improving your score (woohoo!)
  2. Showing the admissions committee (we call them adcoms) that you GET it. That you’re a hard worker. That you’ll do whatever it takes to be successful. Because let’s be real: no one wants to re-take that test even once. And if you’re retaking it three or four times, it means you’re serious and you’re motivated… and those are two very appealing qualities to an adcom member.

And here’s another bonus to consider. It used to be the case that the adcom would know how many times you took the test and what your score was each time. But nowadays, according to the GMAC Website, if you cancel your scores “The score cancellation will not be reported or otherwise indicated on all future score reports.”

So, long story short, go ahead and retake the GMAT one more time. See if you can get that score up to something you ARE happy with. Just remember: if you’re going to do this, do it right. Focus on the prep, do practice problems every day, etc. If you’re going to spend the time doing this, use that time wisely.

Looking for more info about the GMAT? Check out these blog posts!

  • Ishan Khokar

    Hi John

    Now, GMAC has introduced a rule whereby, if I reject my score, then the same is not registered in my history of scorecards.
    After reading a line in your article which is as follows: “Yes, the adcom is definitely going to know how many times you took the test and what your score was each time, “, Do you mean that the Adcom will be able to see our rejected score also?
    Regards. Ishan

    • Admissionado

      Hey Ishan!

      Great question! Okay, so this article was orginally written a bit before GMAC introduced the possibility to cancel your scores (which we find awesome!)

      According to the GMAC Website:

      If you cancel your scores “The score cancellation will not be reported or otherwise indicated on all future score reports.”

      So you are good to go! (And we’ve updated our article to reflect this as well.)

      Hope this helps!

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