Some Hard Data for GMAT Retakers

May 10, 2012

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When considering retaking the GMAT, it is easy to be overly optimistic. If you've just taken the exam, you can probably identify several ways in which you could've done better--improved time management, a few math concepts here and there, sharper focus, and so on. Unless you scored a perfect 800, there is something you could have done better.

Unfortunately, there are only so many things you can fix. And for every way in which you improve, you might backslide a bit in another area. As so many GMAT test-takers have discovered, it's simple to pay $250 for another test; it's much harder to make a meaningful score improvement.

Several months ago, the GMAC released some new data on retakers. Students who take the test a second (or third, or fourth) time do, on average, see a score improvement, but the higher their original score, the less the improvement.

Case in point: Students who score between 600 and 690 in their first attempt improve, on average, 20 points. After the second time, their scores hardly budge.

The picture is even more bleak than it sounds. Some students take the exam the first time as a "baseline," without having put in much study time. Those test-takers are bound to improve. Think of how much you improved between your first practice exam and your most recent! This subgroup is biasing the numbers to make retaking look much more beneficial than it really is.

There may be valid reasons for you, personally, to retake the exam. I don't write this to dissuade you; I want you to have the best information possible to make the most appropriate decision for you. Years ago, I wrote an article called "Should You Retake the GMAT?" and if you are confronted with that decision, it remains valid advice. While the GMAT is important, it isn't everything, and for many students, the time it takes to significantly improve GMAT scores would be better spent improving their applications in other ways.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Math

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
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