Retaking the GMAT? Here’s What You Need to Know First!

Last updated on May 20th, 2019

Reading Time: 16 minutes

Since you’re reading this article, we know that you must be thinking about retaking the GMAT after a previous attempt in which you did not get a good GMAT score.

But honestly – what exactly is a ‘good GMAT score’, anyway?

In our opinion, it is entirely subjective because it depends entirely on what you need a GMAT score for. For example, a GMAT 700 is a decent score for someone who wants to get into ISB. But the same score won’t cut it for a Harvard aspirant!

Anyway, you may have your own understanding of what a good GMAT score is for you. And right now, you may be stuck with a lower score than what you think is ‘good’. If you’ve taken your GMAT with a certain expectation and ended up with a score lower than that, you’re likely to consider retaking the GMAT in the hope of a better GMAT score.

That’s a good idea!

Retaking the GMAT is honestly a good idea for most people who are thinking about doing so. However, retaking a $250 test without proper planning and expectation management is not the best way forward.

In this article, we will talk about three aspects critical to planning your GMAT retake strategy:

  1. Scenarios that can cause Low Scores
  2. Advice on Retaking GMAT based on Current Scores
  3. Top GMAT Myths – Busted!

There are two critical perspectives to consider when you’re trying to figure out whether you should retake the GMAT or not. One perspective considers the various reasons that may have caused you to score lower than you were hoping to. The other perspective looks into the statistical details of how often retaking improves people’s score and the extent to which that is possible, based on your existing score.

Let us discuss the nitty-gritty of each perspective, one at a time.

1. Scenarios that can cause Low Scores

You probably know that the first step in problem-solving is admitting that you have a problem. Congrats on having done that part already!

Now, let’s move on to step 2 of solving problems: identifying the problem. It’s important to understand what went wrong before you set out to correct it. Failing this, you will just be shooting in the dark.

Accordingly, let’s take a look at six possible scenarios that may have caused you to get a low score.

1. Issue with Basics 

Don't skip the basics

Sometimes, you may decide to skip brushing up on your basics because there’s so much advanced stuff to learn. Many of our students have also fallen victim to this mistaken belief that solving practice questions will be sufficient for GMAT prep.

The thing is that basics are much more important than you may think. Let us demonstrate just how this works using an example.

Suppose you are weak with Inequalities which is within GMAT Arithmetic, but you choose to focus on your strengths instead. On the GMAT, you get a minimum of two questions based on Inequalities. These could be 700-level questions or 500-level ones, depending on your luck.

We say ‘luck’ because in case even one of those questions based on your weak topic is a 500-level question and you get it wrong, the next few questions will all be 500-level. So your expertise on all other subjects will make no difference!

It’s important to make sure you cover all your bases.

If you leave anything untouched, you may end up regretting it quite badly. If you think this scenario may be the explanation as to why you got a low score in spite of getting a majority of questions right, you should retake the GMAT. However, this time around, you should identify your weaknesses and strengthen them before you book your attempt.

2. Application Trouble 

Application trouble

We often come across students who grasp concepts very easily. It could take as little as a single session for them to really understand what a concept means. If we ask them to explain the concept to someone else, they can do it pretty well.

However, when it comes to applying these concepts to GMAT questions, they struggle.

The point we’re trying to make is that it is not enough to understand a concept. You need to be able to apply them to solve the questions you’ll have to face on the GMAT. There’s a full chance that you walked into your exam center feeling fully prepared.

You probably knew all the concepts necessary to do well. But maybe seeing the questions threw you completely off your game, because of which you ended up scoring badly.

If this scenario sounds anything like what happened to you during your attempt, retaking GMAT sounds like a great idea for you.

This time around, we would highly recommend that you invest a lot of time into examining where you went wrong. Opt for the Enhanced Score Report and analyze it thoroughly. It might be a good idea to get a third person’s perspective on this if you know someone who will be able to give you a balanced opinion here.

CrackVerbal provides Personal Tutoring for exactly this kind of a situation.

Our experts can help you better understand your strengths and work on your weaknesses in a manner that suits your individual needs. Even if you choose not to opt for this highly personalized service, you should consider getting a neutral third person involved, anyway.

Additionally, we highly recommend solving practice questions. Stick to using official test questions only, like the ones we provide through our guides to GMAT Quant, Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Correction respectively. Solving official questions will get you accustomed to the style and difficulty of actual GMAT questions.

If you work on identifying and effectively targeting your weaknesses, retaking the GMAT will most likely yield great results for you.

3. You Got Nervous! 

You got nervous

The simplest explanation for a low GMAT score could be nervousness.

There are times, especially when it comes to competitive exams like the GMAT, when you could be so worried about performing well that you become far too nervous at the time of the exam.

Trying to answer multiple choice questions while you’re nervous is a bigger challenge than most people will dare admit. You often end up clicking the wrong option simply because you’re in a tearing hurry to answer it well within time and move on to the next section.

Unfortunately, since the GMAT is an adaptive test, you can’t afford to make many mistakes. You can’t know which questions carry more marks than the others, so there’s no way to know where you can afford to be reckless. In effect, that means you can never really be reckless at all.

In a situation where you need to be alert and on top of your game the entire time, nervousness can really wreak havoc.

If tension and nerves were responsible for your low score, you should retake the GMAT.

4. Insufficient Section Scores 

Insufficient section scores

Did you look at your scorecard and think, “Okay this is not very bad, but I could have done better on Verbal.”?
Or, “Oh, I could have done so much better on Quant!”?

You should know that this is one of the most common reactions we’ve observed among our students. In most cases, people choose to go ahead and apply to suitable B-Schools anyway. A few people end up carrying this feeling on for much longer.

If you’re one of those people who cannot shake the feeling that you could score better in one of the two major sections of the GMAT, retaking the test may have its benefits for you.

You see, when you make up your mind to focus on a certain aspect of an exam, you’re essentially strengthening whatever weaknesses you had the first time around. If you retake the GMAT after ironing out the rough patches in your prep, chances are that you will score significantly more than you did the last time.

Since the GMAT is an adaptive test, it leaves very little space for error. So, take the effort to expand the horizons of your prep to include every aspect of the GMAT syllabus. Cover every detail before you attempt to retake the GMAT, and we believe you will stand a good chance to score quite well.

5. You Weren’t in the Right Frame of Mind 

right frame of mind

Sometimes the reason why you didn’t do well on your GMAT attempt is just intangible. It is nearly impossible to put into words the feeling you get when you just know that something is not right. If you carried this feeling with you into the test center, chances are, you were too distracted to do well.

The point is, you may have just been having a bad day when you had to take your attempt. For whatever reason, if your head was not in the game when you took the test, it’s no wonder you didn’t get your target score.

We would recommend that you retake the test if you feel like this was the case with you.

If you’re willing to invest the time and money into retaking the GMAT, doing so might actually bring you a better score.

However, to achieve this, you will need to make a few changes to your prep strategy. Developing the right frame of mind for the test is also an important part of preparing for the GMAT. This needs to be a part of your GMAT prep strategy.

To get professional guidance on the best way to design your GMAT preparation Online, you can check out our prep options and reach out to us at CrackVerbal.

6. Wrongly Selected Section Order 

wrongly selected section order

In 2017, the GMAC introduced a new feature into the GMAT: the Select Section Order option. Basically, this allows you to choose which part of the test you want to attempt first.

The Select Section Order option has had quite an impact on percentiles and scoring patterns among test-takers, globally.

Unless your latest GMAT attempt was before 2017, you’re probably well-versed with how this option works. What we want to talk about in this section is what happens if you pick the wrong order of sections.

When we say ‘wrong order’, we’re not talking about the possibility of you mistakenly picking one section when you meant to pick another. Let us demonstrate with an example.

Suppose Quant is your strong suit and you find Verbal comparatively easier. As such, you may decide to finish Quant first and then solve Verbal. However, you might end up feeling much more mentally drained by the time you finish the Quant section. This is more likely to happen especially if you haven’t prepared using official questions.

So, when we say ‘wrong order’ we mean you may have chosen a poor section order.

If you aren’t used to solving official questions like those provided in the Official Guide, it’s easily possible that you may end up underestimating how exhausting it can be to finish a given section. Often, this can lead to poor performance in the subsequent sections. This leaves you with a lower GMAT score than you may have hoped for.

Retaking the GMAT is a good idea if this is the reason why you didn’t score well in your first attempt.

As discussed before, this was one perspective that considers the reasons behind your low GMAT score. In the next section, let’s move on to talking about your chances of improving your score and the extent to which it could rise, based on statistics.

Also read: GMAT Sentence Correction Tips

2. Advice on Retaking GMAT based on Current Scores

The reason we’re dividing our advice based on your existing score is simple: your reasons for retaking the GMAT and your expectations from it will vary according to your existing score. Our advice is tailored to fit your reasons.

As such, we’ve divided this section of the blog into five parts:

  1. GMAT score more than 750
  2. GMAT score between 700-750
  3. GMAT score between 650-700
  4. GMAT score between 600-650
  5. GMAT score between 500-600

Before we proceed any further, we’d like you to take a careful look at these charts detailing statistics released by the GMAC.

TY 2017 examinees


score increase from retesting

Next, let’s discuss what you should do based on your current score.

    • GMAT score more than 750

If you’ve scored 750 or above on the GMAT, retaking it will serve no real purpose. Let us demonstrate why, using GMAT score charts.

Composite Score Percentile Chart

As you can see, if you’re at 750 or so, you currently lie in the 98th percentile. Scoring beyond 760 will only put you in the 99th percentile. The effort it takes to raise your score by that much is not proportional to the reward of doing so. Retaking the GMAT only to rise up by a single percentile point will not make much of a difference, no matter which schools you plan to apply to.

If you’re thinking of retaking the test in the hope that scoring higher will improve your chances of getting into one of the top ten B-Schools in the world, rest assured that this is not the case.

A well-written MBA application can have the same effect.

Instead of breaking your head trying to get a higher GMAT score, focus on perfecting your Why MBA essay, and work on your other essay responses as well.

    • GMAT score between 700-750

The only reason that would justify retaking GMAT with a score between 700 and 750 is if you’re intent on getting into the top 10 MBA programs in the world. in general, a GMAT score between 700 and 750 is beyond just ‘acceptable’ for a vast number of highly reputed B-Schools.

However, it is important to understand here that crossing this score bracket is the most challenging of all.

Take a look at the chart detailing the maximum score increase from retesting. You will notice that those who score over 700 in their first attempt are not likely to gain much from retaking the GMAT. More than 40% of those who retake the test after scoring over 700 the first time are not likely to see a score increase.

But if you have made up your mind to try again anyway, you must be aware that there’s probably a rather complex set of reasons as to why you didn’t do better.

Not all the scenarios mentioned earlier in this blog will be applicable to you if you’ve scored more than 700 on your first GMAT attempt.

For example, Scenario #1 (Issue with Basics) is almost impossible if you’ve scored above 700. The GMAT is adaptive, so you would have had to answer most of the questions correctly in order to get that kind of a score. You can’t possibly have answered a majority of the questions correctly if your basics were not up to the mark.

Similarly, Scenario #2 (Application Trouble) is also improbable because those who have trouble applying concepts to GMAT questions will most likely be unable to score more than 700.

The point is, your problems are not likely to be covered in the six simple scenarios mentioned earlier. You’re likelier to be facing a combination of various issues, so you should have a bespoke strategy that addresses these issues to help you retake the GMAT and improve your score.

As such, we suggest that you get an Enhanced Score Report before designing your strategy to retake the GMAT.
Take the time to analyse your mistakes, figure out where you went wrong and identify the reason behind each mistake. If you feel like you need help with this, you can avail of our personal tutoring service.

    • GMAT score between 650-700

This is probably the most competitive score band on the GMAT. The percentiles for this band range from 76 to 89 percentile.

The reason this band has the highest competition, especially among Indian test-takers, is that this score range falls squarely between being just short of good enough for premier B-Schools and being too good for second-tier B-Schools.

It gives people just about enough reason to try harder to make it to the absolute top rather than settling for something less.

However, the competition among Indians in this range is greater because most of these aspirants belong to one over-represented majority or another.

People who come from over-represented groups find it fairly difficult to stand out of the crowd and be noticed. They often perceive securing a high score on the GMAT as a way to differentiate their profile from the rest.

For example, a male Indian IT Engineer with a GMAT 690 might stand a chance to get into a B-School like Columbia. However, a male Indian IT Engineer with a GMAT 730 stands a much better chance of getting into the same school.

The idea that a great GMAT score is the only way for a person from an over-represented group to stand out, is not entirely correct. There are many ways in which you can differentiate your profile; these ways have nothing to do with your GMAT score.

In fact, at CrackVerbal, we have seen many candidates make it into reputed B-Schools in spite of low GMAT scores. Samvit Roy and Shripad Sonavay both scored 690 on the GMAT and got into Schulich School of Business, while Vivek Saurabh got into Purdue and Pittsburgh with just a 630 on his GMAT.

You don’t HAVE to retake the GMAT to get into a reputed B-School if your score is between 650 and 700. Focusing your time and energy on building a strong application can give you great results, too.

But if you’re aiming for B-Schools with average GMAT scores above 710, retaking might be worth it.

    • GMAT score between 600-650

There’s a wide range of schools you can apply to if your score falls within this range. If you build a strong MBA application, you could get into some great B-Schools around the world.

To get into reputed schools with a score in the range of 600-650 is not easy, but you can still make it if you can differentiate your profile from the rest. Having generic achievements, skills, and qualifications will not help your chances of getting into a B-School.

Here are 40 things you can do to differentiate and improve your MBA profile.

However, if you’re looking at getting into any of the top 30 B-Schools in the US and Europe or even the leading B-Schools in India, like ISB, IIM-A, IIM-B, etc., you may want to retake the GMAT. A higher score will drastically improve your chances of getting into the tier-1 business schools around the world.

Analyze the scenarios mentioned earlier in this post, see which ones apply to you, and work on ensuring that the same things do not go wrong the next time around.

If your schedule is too hectic to allow you to study for the GMAT properly, consider signing up for an online course like CrackVerbal’s GMAT Online course.

    • GMAT score between 500-600

You may stand a chance to get into some B-Schools with a GMAT score that falls in the 500-600 range. But this score range is too generic for us to guide you on where you should apply and which programs will suit your needs.

If you are serious about getting an MBA, we would highly recommend that you consider retaking the GMAT.

It may come as bad news to hear that your application stands a high chance of rejection with a GMAT score in this range, but there’s a largely positive flipside to this situation, too.

You may have noticed that only 23% Indian test-takers retake the GMAT after their first attempts. Of those, the ones who score less than 600 in their first attempt are also the ones who routinely see the highest increment in scores upon retaking the test.

Around 30% of the GMAT retakers who score less than 600 in their first attempt can expect to see a score increase between 30 and 100 points. A few students from this score range have also seen an increase of 190+ points! Isn’t that incredible?!

The key takeaway here is that if you retake the exam, you have a better chance to improve your GMAT score than those who’ve scored more than 600 the first time around. Don’t lose hope; instead, get your Enhanced Score Report, analyze your mistakes, and get back to the drawing board.

Study your errors, work on your weaknesses, and retake the GMAT when you’re ready.

You can score significantly higher on your second attempt if you really put your back into your GMAT prep. There’s an opportunity here to turn your low GMAT score into a tool to help you do much better on your next attempt.

To help you do this, you can choose between taking personal tutoring, attending classes, or doing a GMAT course online.

That should cover everything you need to know at this point. Hopefully, these pointers will also help you create an effective GMAT retake strategy that suits your needs and abilities.

In the next part of this article, we’d like to debunk some myths that you may have heard about the GMAT.

3. GMAT Myth Busting

Now for the most fun part of this article!

We’ve heard some incredibly superstitious myths and seemingly logical “facts” about the GMAT that may be affecting the way you approach the test. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to debunk these myths and hopefully keep them from having any bearing on any of your decisions regarding retaking the GMAT.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

  • Myth 1: You can score better if you take the GMAT from a different country

    Country gif

    From where we stand, we believe this “theory” comes from the idea that the questions you will face on the GMAT will differ according to the country you’re in.

    Fact: GMAT questions are the same all over the world.

    Going to a different country will not make any difference to the questions that will appear on the GMAT for you. The same set of questions will appear for every person taking the GMAT around the world at a given point in time. Since it is a standardized test, the GMAT cannot be tweaked to create a discrete difficulty level per country.

    Another reason we can think of why that particular myth might have gained traction is the belief that your percentile rank will change based on the scores of people taking the GMAT from the same country.

    Fact: Percentile ranks have nothing to do with the country you’re in.

    Your GMAT percentile rank is calculated based on the scores of people who have taken the GMAT in the three years preceding your attempt. These are scores that people from all over the world have achieved in three years. That will not change no matter where you take your test from.

  • Myth 2: Your score is affected by the time of the year you choose to take the GMAT

    calendar gif

    A surprising number of people believe that you could score better during some months as compared to others. This idea may be stemming from the belief that the GMAT is tweaked to make it tougher during the B-School application season.

    Fact: The GMAT is adaptive to your performance only.

    The difficulty level of the GMAT is based entirely on your performance on the test. If you correctly answer tougher questions on a consistent basis, the average difficulty and value of successive questions will rise. We say average because you may answer a 500-level question incorrectly and still get a 700-level question next, and vice versa.

    The GMAT adaptive algorithm is designed to randomize the difficulty levels from question to question, so you will not face a steady rise in difficulty levels. However, if you answer most questions correctly, you will get a greater number of tougher questions as you go.

    In short, you decide the difficulty level of your GMAT test. It cannot be tweaked from the other end.

  • Myth 3: Your performance in one section affects your score in other sections
    There’s a chance that this idea comes from the assumption that the GMAT must be rated manually. That’s the only reason we can think of that would make anybody believe that you can score well on one section because of your good performance on another.

    Fact: Sections of the GMAT are discrete and disconnected from each other. The test is assessed by a computer.

    There is no question of leaving a good impression on the ‘examiner’ in the hope of getting good marks on Verbal because you did well on Quant or vice versa. Since this is a computer-adaptive test, your answers are being evaluated by a computer. The four sections of the exam are designed to be entirely disconnected from each other.

If you know of any more myths or have some beliefs about the GMAT that you suspect may be mistaken, let us know in the comments below and we will be happy to cross-check them for you!
We hope this article has helped you make up your mind on whether you want to retake the GMAT or not and to build an effective GMAT retake strategy if you have decided to go for it. In case you have any doubts or questions about this, you can submit your Enhanced Score Report to us and one of our counselors will get in touch with you.

If you only need help to streamline your GMAT prep and make the best of whatever little time you get to study, you can sign up for our free GMAT Online trial course.