If you’re just getting started with GMAT prep it’s good to keep in mind that most people need more than one rodeo to snag their target GMAT score. Often, success takes multiple attempts and, if not careful, people gunning for 700+ scores aiming for acceptance to top MBA programs can even bump up against their yearly 5 GMAT limit or 8 lifetime tests.
How many times you can take the GMAT depends on:
- The timeline of your tests. The yearly limit is per 365 days not a calendar year.
- Whether you decide to take the online GMAT. The online test doesn’t count towards your limits.
- And if you do hit your lifetime limit, whether you are able to successfully appeal for an additional exam.
There are some things to consider in planning your GMAT attempts to get the most out of your opportunities that we’ll go into below.
Yearly GMAT Limit: 5 Tests per 365 Days
While our average GMAT tutoring student takes two to three GMATs during the program it’s not uncommon for them to approach the yearly 5 GMAT limit because of previous preparation/test taking. We often start with clients who’ve taken the GMAT 2-3 times already. Yes, three GMATs down still leaves two opportunities but there’s only going to be one “no-pressure” GMAT. The 5th, make-or-break test, will likely be stressful. Plenty of people thrive even under difficult conditions but better to set yourself up for success. We’re good at managing tricky GMAT prep but, again, the more resources we have the better.
If you are far from your goal really consider whether it’s worth taking an official test. Sometimes GMAT preparation takes much longer than you might have planned for and it’s nice to have a cushion of exams to blast through once you’re actually ready to get your score.
Great – now I’m scared to book an Official GMAT…
Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to put you off from booking a test. In fact it’s important to have a test on the calendar in order to organize studying. It helps focus the preparation. Also, it can be worth popping a test even if you’re not quite at your goal.
If you started at a 550 and want a 720 it’s not unreasonable to take a test once you’re around a 650 to lock in some gains. Totally worth it if you have spare tests available. Not a great strategy if you have 2 or fewer GMATs in the bank.
That said, if you started at a 550 and are gunning for a 750 and have achieved 570, 590, 580, and 610 on practice tests you might just hold off on an official GMAT as you may have a long road ahead.
GMAT Lifetime Limits: 8 per lifetime unless…
This is the less important limit because, naturally, fewer people hit 8 GMATs. This is more a limitation for GMAT tutors than the GMAT taking populace at large.
Still, what happens if you hit your GMAT lifetime limit and don’t have your score? There is a tiny little peep of light at the end of the tunnel: you can appeal the lifetime number.
If you can demonstrate that the program to which you’re applying is demanding a higher GMAT score then there is a chance of sneaking by the limit. That’s not guaranteed though even if you show cause. I haven’t seen anyone get approved for this yet but that’s mostly because we’ve only had one student hit the 8 lifetime GMAT limit.
Are the Yearly/Lifetime limits actually limiting?
If you take official GMATs as practice tests/diagnostics or take them when you’re just not prepared enough then it’s easy to be limited by the five attempts per year.
That said, if you have a reasonable plan for using your GMATs then I don’t think 5 tests in a year puts a limit on what you can achieve. It’s even tough in the best of conditions with a GMAT tutor keeping things organized to keep people focused through three tests let alone 5.
So of course people blast through 5 GMATs in a year with not much to show for it. But I would say it’s highly unlikely that someone legitimately prepared for 5 GMAT and didn’t get at least close to their goal or see significant improvement.
8 lifetime GMATs is also enough. I wish there were no cap because I like taking GMATs. But I’m an example of someone who gets shut out by the lifetime limit. A GMAT tutor. Not a GMAT studier. Again, in a decade and a half of doing this I’ve had 1 student hit the 8 lifetime GMATs. And he actually had a decent score within 30 points of his goal on his 5th attempt.
Did you say there is a GMAT Online Exception to How Many Times you Can Take the GMAT?
It’s not all bad news with GMAT online! A great reason to take the at home GMAT: it doesn’t count against your yearly or lifetime limits. So it’s a freebie and technically boosts your limits to 6 per year and 9 per lifetime. That said, if you’ve already taken 8 GMATs or 5 in a year you’re not eligible for the online GMAT. Unfortunate I know. I’m guessing that GMAC doesn’t want GMAT tutors or other people not taking the GMAT for application purposes having more test exposure. Annoying but not unreasonable.
Guidelines for staying within GMAT Yearly and Lifetime Limits
- Do not use Official GMATs as practice tests or diagnostics or as a: let me just get through one to familiarize myself and see how I do with the distant hope of just maybe hitting close to my target even though I’m totally unprepared. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. 6 months later when you have two attempts left instead of just one you’ll thank me:)
- If you’re 100+ points away from your goal an Official GMAT probably isn’t worth doing. Want to see where you are? Go ahead and take a practice test in super strict test conditions. That’s good enough for now. Official practice tests are pretty much identical to the real deal and do give you a very accurate picture of where you are in your GMAT prep.
- In most cases give yourself an extra week or two on GMAT retakes. It’s very tempting if you had a crappy test day to try to ping it again at the min 17 days. Sometimes that really is the thing to do. But often it helps to take 3-4 weeks between attempts to add even more strength and consistency to your approach. And sometimes you just need a week off to decompress and gather your energy again.
A limited conclusion
GMAT test taking limits can be stressful but, especially if you have a reasonable plan for Official GMAT attempts, in a great majority of cases have no bearing on results.
GMAT Yearly/Lifetime Limits FAQ
How many times can you take the GMAT?
You can take the GMAT 5 times in a year (365 days) and 8 times in total (lifetime limit). The yearly limit is a rolling 365 days not a calendar year. So for the yearly limit, tests older than 365 days drop off.
How often can you take the GMAT?
You can take the GMAT once every 16 days. Often though, for a GMAT retake I’d suggest taken longer than 16 days even if you’re pretty close to your goal. A little more studying usually doesn’t hurt and sometimes it helps to take a week off to refocus.
Is there a GMAT retake policy?
Is it worth taking the GMAT without studying?
Just for fun? Sure. I do. But if the goal is achieving a certain score I would be careful about wasting official GMAT attempts as the yearly limit can creep up on you.
Is it worth taking the GMAT multiple times?
It’s not uncommon to have a crappy test day so, in order increase your chances of success, I’d plan for multiple attempts especially if you’re after a superb GMAT score or a big increase.
Can you take the GMAT more than once?
Yes, you can take the GMAT once every 16 days up to 5 times a year and 8 times total.
What about the GMAT lifetime limit appeal?
Yes, if you have hit your 8 GMAT lifetime limit you can appeal to take another one. You do need evidence from schools to which you’re applying that in fact a better GMAT score is what’s needed. I’ve never gone through process with a student and haven’t seen any lifetime limit appeal success stories on the forums. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any but I wouldn’t count on taking more than 8 GMATs and in our experience you really don’t need to.
Can schools see how many times you took the GMAT?
Schools can see all of the scores on your official score report which includes all of the GMAT scores that you haven’t cancelled. If you cancel a GMAT score it will not appear on your official score report and will not be visible to schools.
Do business schools see all GMAT scores? See above.
How can I cancel a GMAT score?