"To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian : The B-School Application
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"To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian

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"To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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02 Jun 2013, 23:05
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Hello there my Indian friends,

I wanted to write a post addressing the issue of the GMAT and the almost existential question of whether to retake the GMAT or not. Hanging out on these forums, I see time and again future applicants ask the same questions regarding the GMAT (and especially Indian applicants), and I thought it would be wise to address everyone at once, and open up a new post for discussion, questions, disagreements, whatever, as well has have a look at some data from GMAC.

The first thing one notices looking at the GMAC statistics, is that India is the country from which the GMAT takers send out the most scores.Whereas the global average is 2.9 score reports sent per test, for Indians it is 4.4 score reports. What does this tell us? Firstly, it gives us an idea of just how tough things are for Indian applicants. Not only is it already a very large and crowded pool but (in part I imagine to compensate for this) Indians tend to apply to a lot more schools than other applicants, which in a certain way 'bloats' the number of Indian applicants in comparison to their part of the applicant pool.

So what does this mean for YOU? Well, first and foremost (and I would say that this confirms my experience) is the importance of a great application - uniqueness, clarity of vision, voice, humor, originality, daring - all of these elements are VERY important especially for Indian applicants, because more than just "seeming good", given the number of Indian applications the AdComs are getting, you need to be DIFFERENT.

Secondly, as any candidate can get an advantage by applying to more schools (and I always say "the more the merrier") although say for American applicants six would be a large number, to gain that advantage as an Indian you would need to apply to even more schools (which means starting your applications earlier, planning better, being more flexible in your school choice).

A few other items emerge from the reports. Looking over the last five years, total mean scores go from 568 to 582, so that means that people are testing better (making it, unfortunately yet tougher!!!), but the number of candidates stayed pretty much the same.

An interesting point for female candidates is that the share of regional exams taken by women is only 26 percent, the lowest of any world region (and Pakistan is very similar). Which may mean that although it is tougher for Indian males, it may not be for Indian females (And US schools do work hard to keep a good balance in their class profile, with most schools having between 30-50% female students).

Another thing I was curious about was Indians and retakes. I had the impression (just from my own specific, non-statistical experience) that Indians tend to retake the test more than candidates of other nationalities (although I see have a similar trend with Chinese applicants). I wasn't able to find any information online, and I emailed GMAC to see if they collect data, and although they do, they do not unfortunately release this data (they must have some good business reason for this). But they were kind enough to send me the regional overview of retakes. And in East and Southeast Asia 32.4%!!! of all tests are retakes (As compared to 14,4% of US tests!!).

And this does confirm my suspicions (even though China must also be accounted for in these statistics). And as I have written before on this and other forums, it makes sense, because Indian applicants are up against stiff competition, but I also think that something cultural must be involved too, the idea that "If I can only get xxx points higher, I will get in". I mean I see time and again on this forum Indian applicants writing "I have a 720, do I need to retake??", whereas I think no American would even THINK of retaking with a 720. It seems that (perhaps due to the Indian testing system that you have in place for your enrollment in Indian universities as well as other cultural and "bureaucratic" factors) there there is a belief "If I only get xxx points higher, I can get into Stanford."

But it doesn't exactly work like that, because the schools look at everything! And beyond a certain point, there are other things which become more important. Like working on your essays and finding your original voice. Like maybe ensuring you get out two or three more applications than you would have. Like maybe working on that start up idea to have something happen before you apply. Like making up for your weak volunteer experience, by taking on another non-profit post.

So should YOU retake your GMAT???

Obviously every case is different, and there is no global answer, but here are some things to ask yourself.

1. Am I testing close to my maximum? Meaning how does your actual GMAT score match up with your mocks? If you are 10-20 points below your mocks then you probably won't do much better on a retake (and in fact the general statistics on retakes confirm this - folks who retake the test get on average about 30 points higher, so people aren't testing 100 points higher each time). If the difference is huge though, then yes, consider a retake - maybe something did happen on test day.

2. What else could I do with my time?? If you are applying to round one in October of a specific year and it is March, a retake cannot hurt you, because you have all the time in the world, so in most cases I would say give it a shot. But if it's June/July, some questions have already been released likely, and your GMAT is going to take time away from your applications, or your work, or perhaps some other area in which you can improve yourself. So balance out your decision of retaking your GMAT with thought about what else needs to be improved.

3. How important is the GMAT given my specific profile. In some cases, a GMAT is more important for some candidates than for others. For example, for applicants to the HBS 2+2 program, for people who come from a non-business background (and for whom the GMAT is the only proof of business capabilities), or for candidates who have low GPAs the GMAT becomes more important than for "regular" applicants, so think about that, in conjunction with numbers one and two.

Finally, before signing off, I would mention one thing - the GMAT, although very very important is not a panacea - getting a 770 will not necessarily get you into HBS if you are missing the background (the good school, the unique job, the passionate essays, the strong community servic). This is especially true once you pass a certain threshold (I would say about 710), there are probably others things you should be working on (yes, your essays are probably the most important of those things).

So hope you find these thoughts interesting, and now, I'd love to open up the forum for thoughts, suggestions, kudos , disagreements, questions.

Looking forward to hearing from you!!!
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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04 Jun 2013, 01:18
Hi Jon
+1 for you...loved reading it. How does the ad com treat indians from diverse background. I mean, I am an indian applicant with 630, but I am a second officer, working on supertankers. So what weightage does the work ex have in comparison to the stiff competition from other conventional Indian applicant.

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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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04 Jun 2013, 01:41
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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04 Jun 2013, 05:23
wow...great article.
Hats off to you Jon.
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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04 Jun 2013, 10:59
Hi there,

Absolutely right, most of the part is bang on the target. However I think a root cause analysis is required.

I scored 700 ( 90th percentile) and intend to apply in some high ranked schools. Just for information, Iam working as Master( Captain) on merchant ships. (supertankers and gas tankers)
However when I got general evaluation done on my profile, most of the the professional consultants said although a 700 is respectable, but since I am from highly competitive demographic , even 700 might be little short and schools generally like to see a higher GMAT from Indian candidates. So now its going other way round also. Schools expect a Indian candidate to score higher.
Now I am 34, with around 11 years of WE and much of it has leadership roles ( leading teams of 20 to 30 people, and mostly of different nationalities) . I have traveled all over globe and worked with more than 40 different nationalities. I have handled situations and people in some of most challenging conditions.
And even for me a 700 is considered low.

So it made me think, are the schools actually pushing up the GMAT floor for Indian candidates.

Now my take on GMAT : After little deliberation I realized, why should not I go for second attempt. I feel a first attempt 700 with 150 hours of study( 2 months) is equal to a 750 with 450 hours of study ( 6 months) . And I don't feel like proving any more, I would rather concentrate on my application process.
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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06 Jun 2013, 23:13
There is certainly a logic to what you said. And I have no doubt whatsoever that Indian GMAT scores are higher than for example US GMAT scores for accepted candidates at any given school. If I had to roughly (very roughly) evaluate it, I'd say that whatever your "average student" should have as a GMAT score, an Indian applicant should have 20 points higher (it's your own fault! stop scoring so high all the time!! ).

But still.... but still...
From what I have seen, the story is still more important. So a candidate with weak essays and a 740 will still do less well than a candidate with amazing stories and a 740. And I think a lot has to do with just "getting noticed". The AdComs read through soooooo many applications, if they remember yours you are already off to an excellent start. So gotta make yourself memorable!
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2013, 23:11
Hi Iam Prudha,

Iam a IT female from India having a workexperience of 2years, what as per your opinion would i concentrate on, a high range score of 650+ or
My essays based on my individual experience.
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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02 Aug 2013, 21:46
Hi Jon,

I guess the problem for us Indian candidates starts with the cultural and social upbringing that we get as kids. Everything in terms of education is considered good only on a relative index. For example:- If person X scores 96 out of 100 marks on a Maths test, but there exists a person Y who has scored a 100 on 100 on the same test, the 96 loses some of it sheen. It's the way our education system has 'evolved'- the more you get with respect to your peers the better it is. Our university admission system is also governed by this criteria for admissions - you have to score a certain minimum percentage to get through. There is no 'application' process, but hard and fast 'cut-offs' on nation level public examinations. Part of the reason is, that public examinations in some way bring everyone from diverse economic and social backgrounds on level playing field. I would add that this is not a perfect system with its own merits and demerits but it works and in some way is responsible for the way we Indian applicants deal with a test like the GMAT or the GRE.

With this in the background, no wonder we see Indians indexing higher with respect to the rest of the world on the retake metric. Further, this has now become 'chicken and egg' problem from a b-school application point of view- Person A who got in a top notch b-school, scored X; since I haven't scored X on my GMAT, I can't get in. So I guess you now understand where most of us are coming from. I hope I made sense here.

Thank you for coming up with this thread btw. I think it will immensely help those who are in a dilemma regarding a retake on the GMAT
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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06 Aug 2013, 01:44
Prudha wrote:
Hi Iam Prudha,

Iam a IT female from India having a workexperience of 2years, what as per your opinion would i concentrate on, a high range score of 650+ or
My essays based on my individual experience.

Prudha,
Happy to write it then!

As for your question everything depends on your SPECIFIC situation - both personally and professionally - how old you are, how much experience you have, how important it is for you to go now, how much better you COULD do on the GMAT.

If you want, feel free to write a SPECIFIC post in our forum, and I'll answer you as soon as I can: ask-admissionado-167/
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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06 Aug 2013, 01:49
Hi Jon,

I guess the problem for us Indian candidates starts with the cultural and social upbringing that we get as kids. Everything in terms of education is considered good only on a relative index. For example:- If person X scores 96 out of 100 marks on a Maths test, but there exists a person Y who has scored a 100 on 100 on the same test, the 96 loses some of it sheen. It's the way our education system has 'evolved'- the more you get with respect to your peers the better it is. Our university admission system is also governed by this criteria for admissions - you have to score a certain minimum percentage to get through. There is no 'application' process, but hard and fast 'cut-offs' on nation level public examinations. Part of the reason is, that public examinations in some way bring everyone from diverse economic and social backgrounds on level playing field. I would add that this is not a perfect system with its own merits and demerits but it works and in some way is responsible for the way we Indian applicants deal with a test like the GMAT or the GRE.

With this in the background, no wonder we see Indians indexing higher with respect to the rest of the world on the retake metric. Further, this has now become 'chicken and egg' problem from a b-school application point of view- Person A who got in a top notch b-school, scored X; since I haven't scored X on my GMAT, I can't get in. So I guess you now understand where most of us are coming from. I hope I made sense here.

Thank you for coming up with this thread btw. I think it will immensely help those who are in a dilemma regarding a retake on the GMAT

You bring up some excellent points, and many other Indian candidates have brought this up as well, and that is why I thought it so important to make such a post. Really, getting into to the top of the top schools (in reality) has a lot more to do with either pedigree (so IIT, McKinsey, front office in Big Bank, Google, wealthy/political family) and/or unique story (so essays and recommendations) once you pass a certain point on the GMAT. And I knew when I saw people with 730s asking whether they should retake (!!!) that it was time to make a post! I'm glad it's been helpful, and I thank you for your deeper insights and input into how the Indian education system can lead to a certain approach.

Best,
JF
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Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian [#permalink]

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16 Aug 2014, 09:30
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Hello from the GMAT Club MBAbot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

Want to see all other topics I dig out? Follow me (click follow button on profile). You will receive a summary of all topics I bump in your profile area as well as via email.
Re: "To retake or not to retake? That is the question" - Indian   [#permalink] 16 Aug 2014, 09:30
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