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I've been accepted at Wharton, Stanford and HBS. I took the GMAT twice. Got 600 the first time, but knew I could better. Waited a year and then retook and got a 700 the second time. In my opinion, the GMAT is only one of the stats and schools will not ding/accept based on GMAT only. I know plenty of people who got in the high 700s and didn't get into their top choice. Study enough to get a decent grade, but don't overstudy jus to try and get 800. If the rest of your application is weak, schools won't accept you no matter what you got on the GMAT. I would also try to take as early as you can. I took it in May and then focused during the summer on the topics for the different essays to apply round 1. To put a quality application together, you will need A LOT of time. Don't underestimate the time you need to put into your apps. It might seem that the GMAT is a hassle, but once you get over this hurdle, the hardest part will be the essays. So make sure you brainstorm and leave enough time to focus on the rest of the app.