The Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT is an indication of your short-term efforts and test-taking abilities. A good score backed by an outstanding GPA can get you into your dream business schools.
You can no longer do anything to your GPA, so the task is getting good GMAT scores, but how frequently can you take this exam? Read ahead for more information on how often to take the GMAT.
Taking The GMAT - Are There Limitations?
The GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) has set a lifetime limit of 8 times when you take the GMAT. It is a retroactive policy effective December 2016 that includes your previous attempts to your total attempts.
For example, if you have taken the GMAT 5 times in the past, you can take the GMAT test only three more times in this lifetime. Keep in mind the following considerations so you can accurately count the number of times you can still try for the test to improve your score:
- If you attempted to take the test, got your results, and then decided to cancel that score, this counts as one attempt.
- If you registered for the test, but then decided not to take the exam and cancelled your registration, it does not count as a limit.
- If you do not show up on the test day, it does not count toward your lifetime limit even without prior cancellation.
On September 23, 2020, the GMAC released a new guideline for the online GMAT exam. You can take the GMAT online twice in your lifetime, and this is implemented retroactively. Also, online GMAT attempts count towards your lifetime limit. For any clarifications you might need, you may contact the GMAC directly through their customer service hotlines.
How Often Can You Take the GMAT?
You are now probably wondering how often you can take the GMAT. Are there any rules you should follow for your second (and third, and fourth, and onwards) try of retaking the test? After canceling your "low" GMAT score report, what should you do next?
You may retake every 16 days after you take the previous test according to the GMAC. We find this a good thing, as you may use these days to revise your tests.
We even recommend that you take more than 16 days of break before trying to make sure that you cover all the necessary points you missed on your previous test. Over a 12-month period, you can only sit for the exam 5 times, which is all the more reason to wait before attempting again.
Consequences of Taking the GMAT Multiple Times
In the unfortunate circumstance that you need a "ninth" attempt for your score to improve, there is a slim chance for approval to retake the test. The GMAC has complete discretion over who may have the opportunity of retaking the GMAT test one more time after the lifetime limit.
Our advice is not to take the test many times but instead invest in your first to third attempts to reach a good score. You should consider a couple of setbacks if you took the GMAT many times, and we will discuss them below. 
There is no reason behind thinking that it is a bad thing to retake the GMAT many times. The average business school applicant does this to better their chances of entering the top league MBA universities.
If you are worried about how business schools may react when they see your numerous attempts in taking the test, then know that they will not have access to your previous GMAT score if you cancel your tests correctly. These business schools know that, on average, applicants retake the tests many times to achieve a high score. Besides, the score is not the only determinant to admission.
"Failing doesn't make us a failure. But not trying to do better, to be better, does make us fools."
- Wes Moore, American author, social entrepreneur, television producer, and decorated US Army combat veteran
Minimizing Your Number of Attempts
We recommend that you minimize your number of attempts to improve your score to twice or thrice. The GMAT is a costly examination. It costs an average of $275, and this amount does not include the various fees you will have to pay to cancel your previous score.
And even if you are financially capable of taking multiple GMAT exams, the test prep has emotional and mental burdens that are taxing over time. You have to revise every single lesson and technique that can hopefully increase your score next time, which means more studying and less of living a "normal" life.
Tips On How to Score Better
And now we want to walk you towards getting your target GMAT score with minimum attempts. We compiled these strategies from our team's past experiences and interviews with successful GMAT test-takers. They are not a one-size-fits-all formula, but you can start your plans from here.
Strategize and aim high.
Strategize your target score by making the qualifications of your target business schools your standards. Most of these colleges look for the highest GMAT score for each test section, so you have to do well equally to be safe. Remember that higher is always better.
If you wish to have a better understanding of how the GMAT is scored be sure to check out our post about GMAT score chart.
Restructure your prep.
Do not retake the exam without improving your test prep strategies. It is okay to try again and again for the GMAT to reach your target score. But aren't you just going around in circles if you simply repeat what you did in your previous try? Be smart about how you will utilize the eight attempts you have, and always aim to minimize your trials. Think, plan, and then go.
Practice, practice, practice.
Like other significant exams, the key to getting a good GMAT score is in how much you practice. Utilize all the materials and practice tests you see and answer them. As we have mentioned, the GMAT is a test of how dedicated you are to learning the techniques needed for business schools in a short period. You can find top GMAT prep books we highly recommend in this blog post.
And, you do not improve and cement these skills when you retake without rigorous revisions. So, go and practice to achieve your target scores for your MBA application.
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Take a break.
The saying "work hard, play hard" still applies even when preparing for the GMAT. On the one hand, it is an exam with extensive coverage that you will never truly master, not to mention the lifetime retaking limit you need to see.
But it also won't be healthy if you do not take a break. Pausing your review is a vital strategy to give yourself some time to recover from all the stress of learning GMAT strategies. It is a mental and emotional check that can help you stay motivated in pursuing your target GMAT score.
Live a balanced schedule.
Our advice’s bottom line, and perhaps what should be your one takeaway, is living a balanced life, even when you need good scores to get into your dream school. We know that GMAT preparations can be time-consuming, but you should not forego your other responsibilities as an adult.
It is not healthy to focus on just the GMAT on the months you are revising; you should still live a life outside your study table. Bond with your family, see your friends, play with your pets, work if you have a job; do not stop doing all these things. That way, you will have enough motivation to push onwards and see the positive even when you do not achieve good scores.
Our Final Thoughts:
When taking the GMAT for your first attempt, our team believes it's okay not to meet your target score. Make sure not to be too hard on yourself on the first attempt; most do not get their highest score on that first try. Pick yourself up and work towards being better the next time around.
However, taking the test can get costly and draining if you attempt too many times for the GMAT. Hence it is vital to have a plan. Take it as a learning opportunity, retake the exam, and start your MBA program with sky-high scores for your application.