People who are after a higher GMAT score generally fall into one of two camps. The first is pursuing a personal goal to hit a specific benchmark. The second simply wants a higher score because they feel it will improve their chances to either get into their target school or to secure scholarships.
One thing that you have to keep in mind is that the GMAT is only one aspect of your application. Yes, scoring well on your GMAT is important, but business schools look at more than just your test scores. If you have not already, go through the median and average GMAT scores and GPAs of last year’s incoming class at your target school. How far below their average GMAT score are your results? If you are only a few points below the average, your time may be better spent elsewhere. Remember that half of last year’s students got into the program with scores below the reported median score. Also consider your GPA. If it is in the high range, you may be afforded some leeway by admissions.
Lastly, take a look at the less objective aspects of your application. Do you have anything that makes your stand out as a candidate? If you have an inspiring background or an impressive professional resume you may get a small break on your GMAT scores.
In the end, there is really only one concrete reason why you should not retake the GMAT. Studying to retake the GMAT will require a huge time commitment. Time is a limited and valuable resource and every hour you spend studying is an hour you could have spent doing something else. How does the rest of your application look? Your GMAT score may not be the biggest problem you have to address. If you are close to a promotion, lacking community service hours, or your application needs a lot of work, studying may not be the best use of your time.
If you need to pick up more than a few points on the GMAT, you should seriously consider retaking the test. Being 30 to 80 points below the average GMAT score of your target school will drastically reduce your chances of being admitted into the program. If you are in this boat, you need to make a study plan. Here are four steps to get you started.
Make a list of everything that you remember about the test. You will have an advantage this time around because you now have personal experience to draw from. What was hard? What was easy? Did you run into any timing issues? Get all of this information on paper. You may also want to consider purchasing an enhanced GMAT score report. This report contains information including your average response time, performance ranking by question type, and your overall section performance. It may cost a few extra dollars, but if you need more information, it may be worth it. A link to purchase the GMAT enhanced score report can be found here.
Go over the main question types. Identify any that stood out as particularly easy or difficult. Spend some time thinking about what specific aspects of certain questions tripped you up. This information will give you the big picture of where you should focus your studies next time around.
Proper timing is a huge aspect of the GMAT. Were there any sections that you finished very early on or had to rush to finish? Finishing too early and running out of time are both symptoms of timing issues. Also try to remember if there were any question types that you felt took you too long to answer. Pay extra attention to your pacing during these sections and question types during your practice tests.
One major mistake that first time test takers make is failing to take into account how mentally and physically draining the GMAT is. Staying focused throughout the entire test takes a toll on your mind and body. Still, were there times when you felt that you could not comprehend the material in front of you? To be clear, I am not asking if you found some content difficult to understand, but rather if there were times when you read a question and simply could not remember the information you had just covered. If you had major lapses in your focus, you were suffering from the effects of testing fatigue. Beyond a lack of focus, if there were times when you were scared or overly nervous you were also under the effects of testing fatigue. Your mental state is important to your performance and while there is no shame in feeling nervous about the GMAT, you need to take steps to get your head in the right place before you step back into the testing room.
Receiving a score lower than you had hoped on the GMAT hurts. The best thing you can do is to move past your results and focus on improving. Whether this involves retaking the GMAT or not is up to you and your individual situation.