Congratulations on taking the GMAT! Now it’s time to decide what to do with that score report. Either you will need to retake the exam or you will need to move on to other aspects of your application. Let’s find out which camp you fall into.

What’s on this report?

When you first receive your score report, you’ll notice that you have a multitude of scores. A percentile score, an overall score, a Verbal and Quantitative score, an Analytically Writing score, and an Integrated Reasoning score—understanding GMAT score reports is not always straightforward.

Knowing what matters depends a lot on your past school performance, professional experience, and goals. But to simplify the process, you can focus on two scores: the percentile score will tell you how you compare to the population of students who have taken the GMAT. This will give you a snapshot of how you compare to others taking the GMAT. But knowing where you fall compared to others is only the beginning.

The other score to look at is your overall score. This score is talked about the most, and the one that you will use to make decisions on what to do next.

Compare Your Score to the Average

You’ll need to compare yourself to the student population at the business schools you want to attend. If you don’t know the average overall GMAT score for students at the schools, then I recommend contacting the programs to get these numbers or do some research to find the average GMAT score.

Once you have the scores at your programs, let’s compare the numbers. Again a lot of this depends on your application, but I can try to simplify. If you have scored above average for the school, and you have a strong application with a healthy resume, good academic performance in undergrad, and strong references, then you probably don’t need to retake the test.

However, if you don’t have the strongest application and you scored around the average, not significantly above it, then you probably will want to retake the GMAT to improve your score. To give yourself the best chance, especially if you didn’t have the best academic record in school, a strong GMAT score can help your chances.

If any score on your test stands out as being in the lower percentile ranking, even Analytical Writing, you will probably want to retake the test. Anything below average on your application will be a red flag for admission committees, not that it would eliminate you from acceptance, but it would at least raise question marks about your readiness for business school.

Retake the Test

If you did not reach your goal, the first thing to do is to take a break from the GMAT. Don’t jump back into intensive studying and long hours of solving questions. You just exhausted yourself preparing for the test the first time. Things need to change so take a week or two away—a month if you have the time—and you’ll be in a good place to re-evaluate your approach to preparing for the test.

As you look for ways to improve your studies, make sure that you are using the best GMAT resources of 2014 for your studies. Poor resources are a quick trip to poor scores. Also, if you didn’t use a study schedule, then you should use one this time. Set up your schedule in advance so that each week, and even each day, has something scheduled. The key to retaking the GMAT is changing your approach. Something about your studies will need to change if you want to increase your score. Following the same routine won’t do it.

Work on Your Application

On the other hand, if you were able to reach a suitable score, you have no need to think about the GMAT anymore. Time to turn your attention to your  MBA application and making it outstanding. Let other competent people read through your essays and responses. Have someone you trust review your resume. The more eyes on your application, the stronger it will be.

Summed Up

To make a decision about what to do next, use your Overall score your metric. If you scored above average on the GMAT compared to students at your target business schools, and you have a strong application, you should be working on your application. Otherwise, you should consider retaking the GMAT, and as you prepare, make sure that you do things differently this time.

This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.


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