Several test prep programs actually encourage their students to book two exam times in order to relieve the pressure. But what if you take it once and do well, but aren't content with your score? Under what conditions should you schedule another attempt?
While that decision must be made on an individual, case-by-case basis, there are some key things to consider before calling a “do over”.
1. If something unexpected occurred on the day of the GMAT that adversely affected your performance, it may be wise to reschedule the exam. One example would be an illness on test day that impaired your ability to think clearly. Or perhaps there was a happening at the test center that was entirely distracting, like construction outside or a fire alarm in the building.
These events rarely happen, but can surely be blamed for an inability to concentrate during parts of this 3.5-hour test. If you have such a reason, then you should sit for the exam again – and hope that this time you're feeling healthy, and the construction project is over!
2. If you didn't understand the majority of the GMAT, then you may wish to take the test again – but only after extensively preparing. The GMAT is not like any other assessment you've faced.
The Data Sufficiency section, for example, is not an intuitive assignment. You must know what each answer-choice means and know how to evaluate each statement while ignoring information learned in the others.
Occasionally, students don't devote time to working with these questions, or any unusual types of problems in the exam, thinking instead that they can walk in and score well.
If you are one of these individuals – and you will now definitely take the time to at least understand the basic directions of the test (if not its nuances) – your score should benefit from a second attempt.
3. If there was a single subject or sort of question that you consistently answered incorrectly, but could master with more preparation, a second test may be right for you.
You must be very honest with yourself, however. Did it become clear that you needed more work on geometry formulas? Were ratios frequently represented on the test, but not much in your studying? Did you find yourself losing focus on every single reading comprehension passage?
These are all specific, correctable issues, but you need to make sure these are the problems that truly require fixing. Were these areas truly the problem, or were they indicators of an overall lack of preparation? You may benefit from completing the GMAT again, but only if you focus your study appropriately.
4. Did you need a certain score to get into your first-choice school, but failed to achieve it? If so, verify that that mark is set in stone. The GMAT is just one aspect of your business school application, and depending on how far from your target you actually were, your time might be better spent on other parts of the package, such as the personal statement.
If you were very far from the necessary score, much more work is going to be required. If you believe a higher score would genuinely improve your application, and you can take the steps to get a large boost in your results, then schedule that second test.
As you can guess, a retest isn't always advisable or necessary for everyone. In all cases, however, a decision to retake the GMAT needs to also be a decision to fully devote yourself to adequate preparation. You must evaluate your performance honestly and commit to studying differently.
Your old ways clearly didn't get you the results you wanted, so it would not be wise to revisit them. If you know that you won't be able to find the time and effort needed, then you should work with the score you received and focus instead on making sure the rest of your application package is strong.
A minimum of 31 days is required before you can take the GMAT a second time. That's a minimum of 31 days spent with this exam lingering over your head, and at least 31 days of your life spent studying. Are you ready to go through it all over again for another month?
If you are, if you can, and if you will, then you can definitely reap the benefits of a retake.
Toby Blackwell is a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He graduated with honors and received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. He scored a 770 on the GMAT.