Improve Your GMAT Score on the Retake in 5 Key Steps


How to Improve Your GMAT Score on the Retake in 5 Key Steps

by: David Recine

Sometimes you don’t get your GMAT score to where it needs to be…not on the first try at least. When this happens, you’ll obviously want to make sure you hit your target score on the retake, so you can put the GMAT behind you and apply early on in the MBA application timeline. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you improve your GMAT score:

Step 1: Figure out what went wrong

There are many different reasons you could fall short of the GMAT score you need. You certainly don’t want to make the same mistake twice in trying to improve your GMAT score, so think carefully about what went wrong.

Did you study enough? Sometimes, in spite of your best-laid plans, you simply didn’t get enough study time in before taking the test. If insufficient study seems like the culprit for your sub-par GMAT score, correct that mistake when you make your new study plan. Write down what you will do each day and check items off your list. Put your study schedule somewhere you’ll see it often, set reminders on your phone, ask a friend or family member to hound you to study. Whatever you need to do.

Did you mess up your pacing? Did you miss any questions because you ran out of time? Did you answer any questions carelessly because you were in a rush? Did you really stop long enough to understand the Verbal reading passages, Quantitative math problems, Integrated Reasoning texts, and AWA prompts? Make sure you keep your pacing steady and well balanced as you go through practice questions for the retake. Time yourself every time you practice and take note if you improve your GMAT score on these practices.

Did you brush up on all your skills? Did you learn everything you needed to know in terms of math operations, vocabulary, writing techniques, and test structure? Make a list of all of the concepts tested on the GMAT (you can use the Official Guide to help you) and rank your comfort level with each section. You may be surprised how many gaps there are in your knowledge.

Step 2: Make a good retake study plan

Once you’ve assessed what went wrong, you need to organize a good study plan to improve your GMAT score, which addresses all of your shortcomings from the first time around.

Focus on the areas of the exam you did the worst in. For many students, generally speaking, that’s either Quants or Verbal. If you’re the weakest in GMAT Verbal, make a study plan with a special focus on Verbal. If math was a struggle for you, really focus your studies on IR and Quantitative skills.

Build on your strengths during your study plan too. If you’re really good in a certain section of the exam, putting in just a little extra effort during your retake studying may take your section score to new heights. It’s not uncommon to improve your GMAT score overall by doing really well in a section or two. Building on your strengths in certain GMAT skills can help you compensate if you continue to struggle with your weaknesses on the retake.

Step 3: Get your hands on some real practice tests from GMAC

As you study to improve your GMAT score on your retake, it’s quite important to do practice exams that are very similar to the real GMAT that you’ll see on test day. This means going through practice questions and tests that are made by GMAC, the company that makes the GMAT and maintains the official GMAT website.

Authentic, full practice tests created by the GMAC are plentiful. The GMAC puts out a new Official Guide for GMAT Review every year. The OG has 900 practice questions: more than enough to assemble multiple full practice tests. In addition to the annual Official Guide, GMAC also puts out a yearly book of Verbal practice questions and Quantitative practice questions. And it offers a host of software packages that contain practice GMAT sections and exams. All of this can be found in the official GMAT store catalog. And note that one of the most popular official GMAT software suites can be downloaded for free.

These materials contain the only GMAT practice that’s guaranteed to be just like the questions you’ll see when you go in for your retake. So your scores on these practice sets are an excellent predictor of whether or not you will improve your GMAT score the next time you take it. Use these authentic materials to gauge improvement as you work towards a new GMAT score.

Step 4: Aim for a good target score on your GMAT retake

If you haven’t already, take a look at GMAT score percentiles; where did you fall on your first test, and where do you want to land for your retake? You may be surprised how small or how large that gap is. It also helps to look at the average GMAT scores for different top business schools. And most importantly, it pays to aim above your minimum required score when you're looking to improve your GMAT score. This buys you a little extra security. For more information on aiming for the right score, check out this resource on GMAT scores.

Step 5: Be rested and ready by test day

In Step 1, you examined what went wrong when you last took the GMAT. In this final step to improve your GMAT score on the retake, you should think about what could go wrong. One of the things that can most easily go wrong on test day is that you can be poorly rested. Poor sleep the night before the exam can undo weeks of good test prep. As can stress, exhaustion, and illness, which all come with fatigue. So in the last few days before you retake the GMAT, take care of yourself. And the night before, make sure you get a full eight hours sleep and wake up to a good breakfast. Healthy practice for your GMAT retake goes hand-in-hand with healthy living right before the test.


David Recine is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007.

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