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How many times should one take the GMAT?

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How many times should one take the GMAT? [#permalink] New post 22 Jan 2007, 11:23
[Edit] I'm topping this thread because there are quite a few good discussions on this issue here. I recommend everybody get what he/she needs from this thread, and make his/her own judgment.

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Rhyme has a "sticky" posted in the B-School Application board which contains an interesting PDF written by someone who worked in admissions at a top school.

Most of the document is essay-writing advice, but at the end the writer brings up something that I wasn't aware of: When your GMAT scores are reported to schools, the ad-coms can see ALL of your GMAT scores. So even though a school says they "only consider your best score," that doesn't mean that they don't see the other scores, they do. The writer goes on to talk about the impression given by a person who has taken a GMAT many, many times. The gist of what he/she says is that a person who takes the GMAT once and gets a 660 might look more impressive than someone who takes it four times and gets a 620, 630, 660, and 700.

In a lot of the discussions on these boards people seem to approach the GMAT with the attitude, "Well I'll study for a month and give it a whirl, and if I don't hit my target score then I'll really hunker down and study hard and take it again."

So for those of you just starting to get your GMAT strategy together, keep in mind that schools do in fact (according to the document I reference above) see all of your scores, and if you take it too many times it may water down the impressiveness of whatever score you end up with.

If you think about it from an ad-com's perspective, they basically view the GMAT as something of an IQ test, and if somebody's IQ number is getting incrementally better, the assumption is that they're getting better at taking the IQ test, not that their actual IQ is going up. Whereas a one-time IQ test stands alone as the only data-point for a person's IQ, so I think it's a good idea to really work hard and bust your tail to make that first GMAT really great, and hopefully the only one you have to take.
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 [#permalink] New post 22 Jan 2007, 14:30
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I've read the document and it certainly seems to be from a credible source, but I disagree with his/her (and your) analysis. I would contend that to get over 700 you need to be pretty smart regardless of how many times you take the test, maybe not Stephen Hawking smart - but certainly as smart or smarter than most of the people I meet in the ibank I work in. Certainly smart enough to succeed in any MBA programme.

Most (caveat: not all) super IQ 780 GMAT types make good engineers and spreadsheet monkeys, not dynamic determined business leaders. If there is one thing that characterises self made millionaires it is incredible drive and ambition. The kind of drive that forces people to spend a year improving their GMAT score from 450 to 700. If I were to pick a wingman for a future business startup, I would pick someone with this drive every time.

Someone with a 150 IQ and no drive will get nowhere, but someone with an average IQ and incredible drive has the potential to achieve anything they want.

Just my 2c.
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 [#permalink] New post 22 Jan 2007, 14:39
londonluddite wrote:
Most (caveat: not all) super IQ 780 GMAT types make good engineers and spreadsheet monkeys, not dynamic determined business leaders. If there is one thing that characterises self made millionaires it is incredible drive and ambition. The kind of drive that forces people to spend a year improving their GMAT score from 450 to 700. If I were to pick a wingman for a future business startup, I would pick someone with this drive every time.

Someone with a 150 IQ and no drive will get nowhere, but someone with an average IQ and incredible drive has the potential to achieve anything they want.

Just my 2c.


can't agree more on this. and it really all depends... depends on what schools you're applying and who is the person that looks at your application. i think there are really a lot of factors in your application overall and you can justify the number of the attempts, especially when the improvement is quite dramatic.
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 [#permalink] New post 22 Jan 2007, 14:40
I think that is poor advice, to only take the GMAT one time. There are many situations where taking it again will in fact help you.

Now, if someone does take it 4+ times with just one higher score, Adcoms will understandably conclude that the one high score was an outlier. Anyone might get lucky after a bunch of tries so if someone scores 600, 620, 630, 630, 720, then the Adcome might conclude that the last score was just luck, and they might be right.

But I believe the prevailing thought is that it Adcoms will not hold it against you if you take the GMAT 2 or 3 times. Based on my own observations, I think it is worth taking the GMAT a 2nd time if you improve by 30 or more points. It's also worth taking again if you are not within the normal range of accepted students. It's probably OK to take the GMAT a 3rd time if you show a trend of improvement and a good score that final time.

I believe that if you take the exam more than 3 times, you really need to describe why your improvement should bear weight. Otherwise, Adcoms will assume that it's a natural result of test-taking experience and/or luck.

But I believe most Adcoms are genuine when they say that they will look at the highest score if you take it 2 or 3 times.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2007, 03:50
lets not forget what GMAT really is: it is a statistical predictor of success in first year graduate business school. no more. no less. it has nothing to do with IQ, and it is not directly measure any of your abilities.

according to GMAC the standard error of your result is 29 points. which means that in about 1/3 of the cases you can get up to 29 points more than your actual statistical predictor grade, and in 1/3 of the cases you may get up to 29 points less than your "real ability". therefore, in my view any improvement of 50 points or less has little meaning (statistically).

according to GMAC, retaking the test should not affect your score statistically. i.e. you would get grades that are in the area of your real ability with respect to the standard error of this estimator.

given this, if i were an adcom i'd look at the average of the test scores, regardless of their number.

however there is one thing that GMAC has overlooked: people do get better, people can learn new stuff and improve their skillls. they may do it by studying to the gmat (most of us would admit that they did learn som new math principles when studying to gmat) or they may do it by studying something else.
in fact, since GMAT is a good predictor of success in Bschool... the best way to improve your score is to study skills that improve your chances of success.... the GMAT test will probably reflect that somehow. this is probably why, in my opinion, adcoms do, in fact, looking at the maximum score.

and one other thing....
Quote:
Most (caveat: not all) super IQ 780 GMAT types make good engineers and spreadsheet monkeys, not dynamic determined business leaders. If there is one thing that characterises self made millionaires it is incredible drive and ambition. The kind of drive that forces people to spend a year improving their GMAT score from 450 to 700. If I were to pick a wingman for a future business startup, I would pick someone with this drive every time.


while i agree that drive, determination and ambition are very important traits of a business leader, choosing the right targets to "use" those is even more important. in my view spending a year to improve your GMAT directly (i.e. not by improving your general skills) is not choosing the target wisely. it shows, in my view, lack of perspective. i don't mean that you shouldn't try to improve it if you need to.... but i wouldn't spend a year doing so, and saying this is my main target. also.... self awareness is another personal trait which is needed by leaders. when you take the GMAT you probably roughly know what your score would be. you can avoid taking it if you think you are not prepared enough. retaking GMAT again and again might be interpreted as lack of that self-awareness. this is probably true, as pelihu noted, when you retake more than 3-4 times.
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just a thought [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2007, 04:01
just a thought..i am guessing people who repeatedly take gmat..actually artifically affect the percentile score..

how much do adcoms really look at the percentile score ?
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2007, 06:53
I guess my the subject line I selected for my original post was probably a little too dramatic, because I didnt' mean that there is never an instance when a person should take the GMAT more than once. What I meant was two things (1) You shouldn't have the attitude that the first GMAT you take can be a "dry run" or a "test drive" to see how you do, and (2) Hobbit said it very well, you shouldn't devote an inordinate amount of time to taking the GMAT.

I agree with others that you want people with drive and other intangibles, but to me spending a year limping your way to a 700 doesn't show that a person has their priorities straight. Look at these two hypothetical profiles and think about what an ad-com might infer:

Person #1
GMAT #1 January of 2006 620
GMAT #2 April of 2006 650
GMAT #3 September of 2006 640
GMAT #4 December of 2006 690

Person #2
GMAT #1 February of 2006 650

And when I say that the GMAT functions as an IQ test, I don't literally mean an "Intelligent Quotient" test in the sense of the very specific test that goes by that name, I mean that the GMAT is used by ad-coms as measurement of a person's intelligence. Whether you agree or disagree with how valid the correlation is between a person's intelligence and the GMAT doesn't really matter, that's what ad-coms use it for. They don't use it to gauge how a person progresses over time. They would not look at Person #1 above and think "Wow, this guy really knows how to study, he took a year of his life and really improved his score. Must be a hard-worker with a lot of drive." They would look and say, "Hm, this person scores around a 650, probably a bright guy but why the he!! did he waste a year of his life retaking this thing?"
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2007, 12:58
Devil's Advocate:
Shouldn't hard work, ambition and diligence be evinced by preparing and executing well on your first gmat attempt? You only get one chance to make a first impression. It's analogous in business to preparing an IPO and executing the day it sells. It's analogous to life. Some people perform when it counts and some people don't.

I don't think the gmat is as simple as "Okay, applicant is in the range so it's ok." I'm sure they use some numerical system in conjunction with your gpa to come up with a score. But then again, I don't think they stress the gmat as much as applicants do simply because many people have good scores.

On a side note, I have a friend with a 690/top 5% gpa/2 yrs consulting/family of doctors who got accepted at Chicago. Another friend who's a second year at Stern who had 670, 640, 750/mediocre gpa (lib arts)/2 yrs WE

[edit]
Also, I understand that bschools want to boost their gmat avg so they don't care how many times you took the test. But if you have two people with comparable scores, with one who took it once and the other who took it multiple times, I think the school will look more favorably at the one timer.

Last edited by kidderek on 28 Jan 2007, 21:45, edited 1 time in total.
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 [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2007, 20:03
londonluddite wrote:
Most (caveat: not all) super IQ 780 GMAT types make good engineers and spreadsheet monkeys, not dynamic determined business leaders. If there is one thing that characterises self made millionaires it is incredible drive and ambition. The kind of drive that forces people to spend a year improving their GMAT score from 450 to 700. If I were to pick a wingman for a future business startup, I would pick someone with this drive every time.


Wow...where do I begin?

I doubt that the majority of people that score 780 on the GMAT and have IQs of 160+ are engineers and "spreadsheet monkeys". I mean, seriously. What does it take to score a 780 on the GMAT? Intelligence, willingness to prepare, and ability to work well under pressure, among other things. These are not characteristics of your typical spreadsheet monkey.

There isn't just one characteristic (or even two, since you actually mentioned two :wink: ) that self-made millionaires have - there are dozens. Drive and ambition are great, but if I had a nickel for everyone out there with drive and ambition that can't afford to pay rent, I would be a self-made millionaire.

If it took someone a year to improve their score from 450 to 700, I would admire his determination, but wonder why he got a 450 in the first place. And I sure as hell wouldn't want him as my CEO (shareholders want results NOW, they don't admire the fact that their CEO is "really trying hard" and will probably improve once he has enough time to study).

I'm picking on you and I apologize if you take offense, but I think you made some really poor generalizations and arguments there.

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 [#permalink] New post 28 Jan 2007, 09:20
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Wow! I am reading some of these comments.. And I must say I am a little brought down by the comments (albeit there are some encouraging ones). I am giving the exam the 4th time. Not giving up... I have mediocre GPAs but an excellent professional work experience.

Not sure if I should dare to dream that I can make it to a top notch business school or should I just give up... I am sure some of you are high 600s and low 700s GMAT score students. I have seen some students who have scored 720 and 730 in their first attempt in GMAT and have cracked some schools like Chicago and Duke. But looking at their personality in day to day life I would not give them more than a 2 or 3 on a scale of 10. Talking skills, general smartness etc. I am sure they are good exam takers and good bookworms... But if that is what the business schools are looking for in a candidate then I think the cream of the student body is outside the business school and not in the classroom (accepted students)!

Sounds Like I should sit down and do a reality check on myself! Should I spend so much time and energy giving such a stupid exam or should I spend some quality time with my wife! :-) (she has been extremely patient!).


Thanks Guys!!!! :roll:
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 [#permalink] New post 28 Jan 2007, 14:38
Axl_Oz,

I didn't at all mean to discourage anyone from improving their GMAT score. Everyone's unique situation needs to be addressed on an individual basis.

I'm not passing judgement on people who take the test multiple times at all. All I'm saying is that I was NOT aware until recently that schools see ALL of an applicants GMAT tests. I thought that when a school says, "We only consider your highest GMAT score," they meant they only saw one score. But if they in fact see all of a candidate's scores, and the dates when the tests were taken, that kind of tells a story, which can't help but have an effect on the reviewer's opinion. If I was a reviewer and I was comparing one person who took it once and got a 640, and then someone else who took it three times and got a 590, 630, 660 -- I would be inclined to think better of the person who just took it once and got on with their life and the other important parts of their application.
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 [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2007, 08:54
I agree with the OP.

Because B schools say they only take the highest score, more applicants take the test nonchalantly.

For statisticaly purposes, they only take the highest scores and maybe even consider the highest score when judging applicants, but those other scores are also in fine print.

I know Berkeley asks how many times you take the test. They also ask for your 2 highest scores.
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 [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2007, 10:12
I was told that admissions doesn't even look at the official score report until after they have decided to admit you. Then they verify that the score you listed was accurate, but that they use what you listed on your application as a basis for admit.
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 [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2007, 10:15
As for me, I'm happy I retook it.
I had my 1st try on Dec 2004 and got a 620, then Feb 2005 600 (bummer), and now, Dec 2006 700.
Maybe adcoms don't like it that much, but I believe it was a great improvement.
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My opinion - in case anyone cares... [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2007, 13:14
axl_oz wrote:
I have seen some students who have scored 720 and 730 in their first attempt in GMAT and have cracked some schools like Chicago and Duke. But looking at their personality in day to day life I would not give them more than a 2 or 3 on a scale of 10.


I'd say that you are just explaining why interviews exist (and are mandatory for all accepted candidates). GMAT predicts academic performance and interviews predict performance in other areas. Combined ( and together with recos, resumes, and the rest) they make up the complete profile which is evaluated.

Additionally, if you consider that most people attending a particular school are in the same 2 or 3 out of 10 scale, then you should worry about "fit" and probably not apply there. But you'll need at least a representative sample before concluding that.

On the original purpose of the post, I agree that you should only sit for GMAT when you have prepared well enough. Substantial increases will raise flags. There is a very long post in BW with a Kellogg Adcom and she admits that while they publish data based only on higher scores, they do look at all scores. And I heard the same first hand from a Chicago adcom. She said "if you score 450 and then 700, we will be wondering whether you got a brain transplant or something".

I'm not suggesting you should stay with you 450 or 600 or whatever. What I'm saying is:

a) Don't just go for GMAT to find out what it's about without preparation.
b) If you increase substantially your score then, congratulations, first, and be ready to come up with an explanation, second.

Hope it helps. L.
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 [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2007, 17:24
Not to be a broken record but I really didn't mean to discourage anyone or to be negative, I just wanted to highlight something that I recently learned: that some schools will see all of your scores. And the only reason I bring it up is that some people on this forum have a nonchalant attitude like, "I'm going to take it to see how I do," which leads me to think that they may not be aware of the reporting facts.
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 [#permalink] New post 04 Feb 2007, 23:33
I generally agree with this advice.

One should always do his best for the first time, no matter it is Gmat exam or any other thing in life. For the Gmat exam, although you can re-take it many times, you should devote your best for the first time and treat it as no 2nd time. Don't use the real exam to test the water or an exercise. I am speaking from the point of a general attitude towards things in life. Of course, I believe everyone on this forum is intelligent enough to understand this.

But - there is always a butt - if you are either out of brain order that day or sick, something very unexpected, then you should give it another try. This is based on that fact that you do have the potential to improve the score. If you feel you do not have any steam left and just wanna try another luck another day, nevertheless, many attempts are unlikely to benefit your score.
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 [#permalink] New post 07 Feb 2007, 13:43
i'm against discouraging people about taking the gmat for a 2nd time. if you think you can improve by at least 40 points then definitely go for it. if you're only looking to improve by, say, 20 points, then maybe it's not worth it since the b-schools don't see that as a significant difference from what i've heard...
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 [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2007, 08:09
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Great discussions here. I would like to add my two cents too.

One of the most important thing that we are taught as an MBA is that it is the result that matters. In the business world, people do assign a very heavy weight to hard working attitude and persistance. However, you have to be able to deliver in the end.

It is not sufficient to do you best to study and prepare, and then go in there and try your luck when time is up. And if the result is not as good as you expected, you come back and repeat the process and try your luck a second time some time later. This is NOT the correct approach.

You should have a reasonable estimate about what you can achieve BEFORE you take the test. In other words, you need a measurement. If you have been getting 550s in your practise exams, don't be surprised that your real score is kind of far away from 700. If you don't know how much you would score, because you have never taken a full length (AWA included) practise exam, then you shouldn't go there and take the real test.

I can't stress enough the importance of the "measurement". Know where you want to be (your target score) and where you are (your practise score) is the only way to solve many people's puzzle about how many times one should take GMAT. When somebody can consistently score about 50 points higher than his/her target score, then I would say he/she is ready to take the test. In that case, if the real score is a surprise, then it warrents careful examination about what went wrong. Is it the anxiousness? Time management? etc. Then you can work on these specific targets and take a second shot.

For people who have taken many times of GMAT without significant improvement, my advise is don't hurry in and take another shot. You need to sit back and look at the process you have been carrying, and try to find a fix before you test again. When I say fix I mean you have to be sure that it does fix your problem. You have to be able to show significant improvement in your practises, not just study 24 hours a day and 7 days a week without knowing what good it did for you. GMAT is not a test of how hard you can work and how long you can persist. It is a test of how much you can solve problems.

The take away from this long post, is that the real issue is not how many times one should take GMAT. The real issue is whether you know where you stand before you take the test.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Feb 2007, 08:59
hong..excellent advice....as usual ur the best :)

my suggestion is take time between you retakes..typically a year or more..takin em back to back in a weeks time or months time..tells ad comm you got lucky on your gmat and had easy questions...
  [#permalink] 10 Feb 2007, 08:59
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