If you’re like most people who stumble across my little corner of the GMAT blogosphere, the GMAT has already punched you in the gut, and you’re probably preparing to retake the test. But if you’re starting at a 600 or above, the researchers at GMAC have a message for you: you’ll probably fail in your quest to improve your score. In a brief article published in 2011 and an accompanying GMAT blog post (that has since vanished from the internet!), the GMAT’s chief psychometrician, Lawrence Rudner, tallied up some numbers on repeat test-takers, and came up with some interesting data:
nearly 25% of repeat testers actually score lower on their second GMAT test
the overall average gain on the second test is 33 points, but the vast majority of these gains are enjoyed by test-takers who scored below 600 on their initial exam
test-takers who score between 700 and 790 gain an average of only 8 points on their second exam, and their scores actually decline slightly on the third and fourth attempts
test-takers who score between 600 and 690 on their first GMAT exam gain an average of only 20 points on their second exam, and their scores barely improve at all on the third and fourth attempts
So basically, the guys who write the GMAT are saying that you probably won’t achieve a meaningful score improvement, especially if you’re already starting in the 600s or 700s.
In a way, GMAC has a point: the GMAT isn’t a content-based test, and the reasoning skills required for success are extremely difficult to develop. To make things worse, the test-writers specifically design the GMAT for “reliability,” meaning that test-takers should be expected to perform similarly on repeated testings.
So it’s definitely tough to achieve GMAT score improvements, but I can introduce you to hundreds of successful test-takers who have enjoyed huge gains on the GMAT. Nearly all of them worked their asses off for the privilege, but it can definitely be done. With enough effort, it’s always possible to beat the odds.
Still, the statistics suggest that a large percentage of repeat test-takers are wasting their time, and GMAC is telling you that you’re likely to fail. Now please go out and prove them wrong.