The GRE or GMAT is an important part of the admissions process to MBA, specialized masters, and other graduate programs. If you did poorly on one of these tests and are considering retesting – you probably should do it. Read about what message you send by retesting or not.
Not long ago test prep was a difficult and laborious process likely involving a trip to the local library. Today, help is only a few clicks away and available as your internet connection speed. Admissions committees are somewhat justified if they are disappointed with applicants that say they could have done better on the GRE or GMAT but never bothered to retake it because so many resources are available to candidates.
Did you do well on the GRE or GMAT?
I often ask candidates with weak test scores if they are true representatives of the candidate’s ability and they invariably say no. When the test was more than three or four months earlier than the conversation, I expect a candidate will have retaken it, scheduled a retest, or have a great reason why that is not feasible. Candidly, most of the time people do not answer this question well. It is unsatisfying when a candidate had several months to continue preparing for the GMAT or GRE and failed to put the effort into it, especially when they say the first test scores do not accurately represent their ability.
How did you prepare for the admissions test?
You can easily go online find many test prep study guides (online and paper) to suit your own learning style. There are many different consultancies and training centers that provide test prep for these challenging and important exams. If you don’t prepare for the GRE or the GMAT, you could blow it and score poorly. What you choose to do after a less than stellar GRE or GMAT exam makes a difference to the committee.
For native English speaking candidates from countries where the daily language is English, the typical score pattern is strong verbal and weaker quantitative section scores. For international candidates from non-native english speaking countries, the typical score pattern is very strong quantitative, but weak verbal. To illustrate, our incoming Master of Bioscience class at KGI has many students with perfect 800 scores on the GRE quant, but nearly all are international.
Can you improve a low GMAT or GRE?
If you are retaking these standardized tests, be realistic about what you can improve. If you are a non-native english speaker, you probably can bring up the verbal by retesting after additional preparation. If you are a native English speaker, you probably focus on the quant more to bring up the score as your level of English will not likely fluctuate as much. The area you are focused on should drive your time for additional preparation and retesting.
No matter what side you are focused on, please take sample tests. Take several sample tests so you can monitor your progress toward a specific target score you set for yourself. This will also help build your confidence as your scores start normalizing around a tighter range.
GRE and GMAT scores matter to admissions committees
Be sure you are ready to explain why you havent retested if you aren’t happy with your first test scores. For me this is a sign of unpreparedness that catches candidates every year and shows who’s serious about getting in and who isn’t. Don’t be denied because you didn’t care enough to try hard or commit to high performance.