If you did not as well as you expected on the GMAT – don’t stress. It happens to a lot of people. In fact, the majority of my students who are high scorers did not achieve their high score on their first attempt. Business schools know that students often take the test multiple times and have a standard policy to look at only the highest score.

But does this mean that you should assume that the first score was a fluke and that you’ll automatically do better the second time around – absolutely not. While a poor GMAT score is not the end of the world, it is typically an indication of something fundamentally flawed in your original study strategy. View this outcome as a minor set back – as a learning opportunity to refine your technique for more significant score improvement. If you plan on retaking the exam:

Take a Break

After several weeks of intensive GMAT preparation, I’m sure you are mentally burnt out from studying. Take 1-2 weeks of rest from the GMAT and do something relaxing. Take a fun trip somewhere or just stay home and decompress. Whatever you do, do not pick up your GMAT books or do anything related to studying at all. Studying while burnt out is not quality studying; this is usually a waste of time and leads to subpar results.

Analyze Areas of Weakness

After you’ve had a chance to allow the pangs of disappointment to diminish, take a look at your score report. The score report provides a breakdown of your math and verbal score. Analyze your results to find your areas of weakness. There is always a reason why an actual test score is significantly lower than a practice exam score. Did you do much worse in math / verbal than on your typical practice exams? Think back to the day of the test. Was time management an issue? Were there any problem types that were new and caught you off guard? Be brutally honest with yourself because this diagnosis is crucial to achieving significant improvement.

Develop a New Study Plan

Once you have a general idea of your area of weakness, develop a study plan to address this. This may involve making some radical changes to your original study plan because obviously something wasn’t working. If time management was an issue, perform practice problems under timed conditions for a 1-2 weeks. Implement new rules on yourself when you are taking practice tests, such as forcing yourself to move on if you are unable to derive a solution within 4 minutes. If certain problem types were causing you trouble, sit down and review those concepts in great detail. Consult a GMAT study guide or devise new problem solving strategies to make sure you never miss this type of problem ever again. If too many careless errors are your weakness, identify the types of problem that you make repeated careless errors. Implement a systematic approach to solve for these problems to reduce the chance of careless error.

Schedule and Conquer

As you refine your study plan and practice, schedule a new test date. The GMAT requires a minimum of 31 days between exam dates, so schedule a reasonable date for your next test. Avoid setting a test day too far out because this can result in complacency or study burnout. I recommend setting a test date 4-5 weeks after your last test. With the experience of one actual test under your belt and significantly improved study methods, your confidence level before the test should be much higher. Apply your new knowledge and conquer the test.

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