GMAT test dates are frequent and you can take the test all-year round. But GMAT test dates are important to know for other reasons, such as helping you build an application timeline. Your most important date is your program’s application deadline; that is the date you want to focus on, and GMAT test dates should be incorporated into your timeline so you have enough time for GMAT test prep, taking the test, and possibly doing a re-take if your initial scores are less-than-satisfactory. This blog will take you through possible timelines you could use based on the typical application deadlines of MBA programs in the US and MBA programs in Canada. We’ll also give you a list of programs that require the GMAT, although you could also choose from either online MBA no GMAT programs or MBA programs that don’t require GMAT rather than having to take the test. 

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GMAT Test Dates Retaking the GMAT What do You Need the GMAT For? List of Programs that Require the GMAT or GRE What is a Good GMAT Score? How to Schedule Your GMAT Test How to Prepare for the GMAT Conclusion FAQs

GMAT Test Dates

MBA Application Windows

When you should take the GMAT depends on the MBA application deadline for your particular program. Most MBA programs, as most universities in general, have several rounds or windows for when you can apply, depending on when you want to start. You usually apply to start in either the fall, winter or summer terms, and each term has a separate deadline, which is dependent on the school you’re applying to.

The dates above are only suggestions and you can modify the schedule any way you want, but, in general you want to give yourself at least:

  • Six months to prepare for the GMAT

Six months includes study time, the GMAT test date, retaking the test, and submitting your scores. You can reduce or augment this amount of time depending on how comfortable you feel with the test and whether you need more, or less, prep time. The GMAT test dates above also account for a retake, which can take at least a month to study for, as well as observing the mandatory 16-day waiting period before you can retake the test.

Retaking the GMAT

Before you start thinking you need to be in the top 90 GMAT percentile to get into business school, remember that all the schools we listed above are among some of the best MBA programs in the US. They are elite schools that normally have higher standards than the easiest MBA programs to get into. If those elite schools are what you’re aiming for then, you should try to get as high a GMAT score as possible, even if it takes a few tries.

Around 28% of GMAT first-time test-takers retake the test, but not always because they initially got poor scores. Some simply want to see whether they will score higher, having already taken the test, knowing the conditions of the test and GMAT questions, and having a strategy to answer them. But the other, almost 80% of test-takers who do not retake the test should signal to you that there many more people usually get scores they are satisfied with in their first try and go on to focus on other aspects of their application.

What do You Need the GMAT For?

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) has been used in MBA and management school admissions for almost 70 years. Similar to the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the GMAT is supposed to be an objective way to measure your readiness for business school. Whether that is actually true we’ll discuss later, but the test is still widely used. Almost 130,000 people took the test last year, but that figure is down from the previous year, and many more MBA programs have started to drop the GMAT requirement.

Regardless, taking the GMAT and having high scores can help your MBA application in various ways:

  • It will make your admission more assured
  • It can possibly make you eligible for scholarships or financial assistance
  • It will also be a determining factor for employers after graduation

Of course, if you choose a program that requires it, then there is no debate; you must take the test. But depending on the type of candidate you are – recent university graduate; professional; mature; international – you may be able to opt out of the test.

For example, many schools will waive their GMAT requirement for professionals who’ve worked a certain number of years in a managerial or leadership role. There are other cases where you won’t need to submit GMAT scores, but we’ll cover them after giving you a list of some of the programs that still require the GMAT, and the right score range for you based on the GMAT scores of admitted students.

List of Programs that Require the GMAT or GRE

1. Harvard Business School 

GMAT Score Range: 540-790

GMAT Median Score: 730

GRE Score Range: Verbal 147-170; Quantitative 150-170

GRE Median Score: Verbal 163; Quantitative 163

2. University of Chicago – Booth School of Business

GMAT Score Range: 600-790

GMAT Median Score: 730

GMAT Average Score: 729

GRE Score Range: Verbal 150-170; Quantitative 153-170

GRE Average Score: Verbal 163; Quantitative 163

3. Northwestern University – Kellog School of Business

GMAT Score Range: 620-780

Average GMAT Score: 729

GRE Score Range: Verbal 150-169; Quantitative 148-170

Median GRE Scores: Verbal 162; Quantitative 163

4. Stanford University – Stanford Graduate School of Business

GMAT Score Range: 630-790

Average GMAT Score: 737

GRE Score Range: Verbal 149-170; Quantitative 150-170

Average GRE Score: Verbal 164; Quantitative 163

5. University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School of Business

Average GMAT Score: 728

Average GRE Score: Verbal 162; Quantitative 162

6. Columbia University – Columbia Business School

GMAT Score Range: 550–780

Average GMAT Score: 729

GMAT Score Range (80 percentile): 700–760

7. Yale University – Yale School of Management

GMAT Score Range (80 percentile): 690-760

Median GMAT Score: 725

GRE Score Range: Verbal 159-169; Quantitative 160-170

Median GRE Scores: Verbal 164; Quantitative 166

8. University of California Berkely – Haas School of Business

GMAT Score Range (80 percentile): 700-760

Average GMAT Score: 729

GRE Score Range (80 percentile): Verbal 153-167; Quantitative 155-169

Average GRE Score: Verbal 161; Quantitative 163

9. Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

GMAT Score Range (80 percentile): 640-750

Average GMAT Score: 702

Median GMAT Score: 710

10. NYU Stern School of Business

GMAT Score Range (80 percentile): 700-760

Average GMAT Score: 733

GRE Score Range (80 percentile): Verbal 157-167; Quantitative 158-169

Average GRE Score: Verbal 162; Quantitative 163

What is a Good GMAT Score?

A good GMAT score depends on the program you are trying to enter, but getting the highest mark possible is what your ultimate goal should be. Generally, the more elite the program, the stricter and more difficult the MBA requirements will be. Even though many of the best MBA programs in the world require either the GMAT or GRE, they do not have minimum GMAT or GRE scores, but as you can see from the GMAT score ranges of the best schools, they expect you to have very high scores.

If you’re trying to get into one of these programs you should try for anywhere between:

  • Total GMAT Score of 700-750

A score in this range will put you in the top 90 GMAT percentile, which, unless you have ridiculously bad essays or do poorly in the interview, will usually get you into these elite programs. Of course, if your scores are well below your school’s stated average, then we recommend you retake the test.

And since most people usually score within the range of 560-565 on their first try, retaking the GMAT may be necessary. But getting into the mid-range or top GMAT percentiles is difficult, and some people take several months to increase their scores from their initial practice scores. If you’re not so concerned with the reputation and pedigree of your MBA program, a score within the average range or anywhere between:

  • Total GMAT Score of 675-730

Should be enough, along with outstanding MBA recommendation letters, MBA resume and extraordinary MBA extracurriculars. But, again, the amount of time you need to prepare for the GMAT and your eventual test scores depends on how well you do on the initial practice tests and whether you need to dedicate more time to studying. However, you should also remember that high GMAT scores are not only good for getting in. As with other standardized tests and professional programs, having a high GMAT score may qualify you for scholarships, or other financial rewards.

How to Schedule Your GMAT Test

How and when you schedule your GMAT depends on things such as:

  • MBA application deadline
  • How much time you need to prepare
  • Whether you want/need to retake the test
  • Whether you are applying to a full-time, part-time, online or executive MBA

As the GMAT is available to take throughout the year, and in several formats (online at home; testing center) you should slot in a GMAT test date after you’ve made an application timeline, taking into consideration all of the above, and adding a few months for unexpected events. But, as for how to schedule your GMAT test, you first need to:

  • Register with the Graduate Management Admission Council by creating an account, which will give you access to GMAT test dates
  • Decide whether you want to take the test in-person or online (schools accept both versions of the test)
  • Pick a date that’s best for you (online tests are available every day; in-person tests you can choose based on your preference, and which dates are available for the testing centers closest to you)

Another recommendation for when to take the GMAT is when you are still an undergraduate. The reasoning being that you’ll have more time to prepare, as you won’t be bogged down with all your application materials. You’ll also be more attuned to studying and preparing for an exam, as that is all you’re doing during this time. As with GRE scores, a GMAT score is good for five years, so if you take the GMAT in your final two years of your bachelor’s program you can ensure that the scores are still valid when, if, you apply to an MBA program.

How to Prepare for the GMAT

9 Months Before Application Deadline

Take a Practice Test

If you haven’t already taken the GMAT during your undergrad, and the program you want to get into requires the test, this is the time to take a practice test and get a diagnostic score. You can decide on your own whether to take the test cold (meaning little to no preparation) or to read over GMAT questions beforehand so you are not completely unprepared. But taking the test cold is a better way to understand where you need to focus your efforts. If you do well on one of the sections without any preparation, then you might not have to spend too much time reviewing questions and answer strategies of that section.

8 Months Before Application Deadline

Analyze Your Weak Spots

After taking your practice test and getting a practice score, you can then begin to formulate a study plan and schedule. The GMAT is divided into four different sections similar to the GRE sections, which are:

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

Each of these sections is given a particular score, and your total GMAT score (on a range between 200-800) is based on your individual scores for each section. If you notice your scores for one particular section are worse than the rest that is a good indicator of where you need to focus during your GMAT test prep.

Create a Study Schedule

Once you’ve identified where you need to improve, it’s time to decide how much and how long you want to study, each day and each week. The Graduate Management Admissions Council, which organizes and administers the test, found that the more you study, the higher you chance of getting a high score. Typically, you should spend up to 20 hours a week studying for the GMAT. You can get away with more or less than 20 depending on your own study style and what you need to focus on, but you shouldn’t reduce or increase your time until you take another practice test to see whether your schedule needs to be updated.

6-7 Months Before Application Deadline

Take Another Practice Test

After one or two months of study time, you should be ready to take another practice test to see how much you’ve improved (or not). This second practice test is important as it will help you determine whether you need to change your study habits or even hire professional help. However, the opposite can happen and your scores can dramatically improve, but don’t rest on your laurels too much. Many people find that even with months of preparation, excellent practice scores, and a confident mindset, they still get lower than expected scores on the real test. You shouldn’t take this to mean that there’s no point in preparing; simply that you should still study and take another practice test even if your scores have dramatically improved. After all, getting the highest possible score should be your goal, so don’t settle if you think you can do better.

Get Professional Help (optional) 

If you are really struggling and studying on your own is not helping, then you should think about investing in a GMAT tutor or paid GMAT prep course. There are dozens of programs (books, podcasts, online forums) that purport to help you increase your score, but you should go with trusted sources that have experience (either in admissions or taking the test) to help you. A professional tutor can help you create new study strategies that are more suited to your personality and provide personalized advice. They can also be a source of support when you feel like you want to give up. 

5 Months Before Application Deadline

Take a Real GMAT Test

After your second practice test, you may feel ready to take the real test, which coincides with when, ideally, you should take the real test – five months before your deadline. GMAC takes up to 21 days to release your scores to the programs you applied to. You have to account for that time when you create a study schedule so you can take or retake the test with enough of a cushion to have them tabulated and then released before your deadline. Of course, everything depends on your real test score. If your completely satisfied with your score and it's enough to get you into your dream program (whether elite or not), then you can move your attention to preparing other aspects of your application.

3 Months Before Application Deadline

Study for and Retake the GMAT (optional)

If you’re not happy with your results or you’re just curious about whether you can get an even higher score, you can take the three months before your application deadline to retake it. You can take a month (or less; 16-days is the mandatory waiting period) to prepare; take the test; wait another 21 days for your test score to be released, which leaves enough time to send your scores with your application. Of course, if you retake the test, it’s entirely possible that you’ll get a worse score, but, unless its significantly worse and puts you outside of even the mid-range percentiles, that’s OK. You won’t be punished if your score is only a few points below your first score. Some schools will even look favorably on it, as they will see it as you trying to get an even higher score despite your initial success.


GMAT test dates are a guide for how to plan for your MBA schedule and how much you need to study. When exactly you take the test depends on many factors, but you want to give yourself as much time before your deadline to allow for things such as low test scores, increased study time, and the time it takes to send your scores. Giving yourself as much time as possible can help your application, in general, as, if you are satisfied with your scores, you can then devote that time to bettering your Columbia MBA essay or Stanford MBA personal statement


1. When can I take the GMAT test?

When you can take the GMAT depends on what type of test you want to take. The online GMAT is available all the time, but in-person GMAT tests are set by GMAC and you must first register with the organization to find a specific GMAT test date. 

2. Should I take the GMAT or the GRE?

Many schools say they will accept either the GMAT or GRE, but according to their own statistics, a majority of MBA students submit GMAT rather than GRE scores. 

3. Is the GMAT hard?

All standardized tests are supposed to be hard, but some can seem more challenging than others. The GMAT features similar question types and sections as the GRE, so it has a familiar format and questions, which, with enough preparation, should not be difficult for someone with a formal education or a working professional. 

4. How should I prepare for the GMAT?

You should start by taking a cold practice test without much preparation to see how far, or how little you have to prepare. Based on your initial score, you can formulate a study schedule to dedicate as much time as you need to each section of the test. After taking a second practice test, you can then decide to continue with your study schedule based on your score, or you can decide that you are well-prepared and focus instead of other parts of your application. 

5. How important is the GMAT?

Many of the best MBA programs and even some of the mid-tier programs require either the GMAT or GRE, but that does not mean it is the most important aspect of your application. It is important, no doubt, but you should remember that each program views aspects of your application differently. Some may be more interested in your extracurriculars or your career goals or your previous work experience rather than your GMAT score. But as the GMAT is a required application requirement, it is very important. 

6. How much does it cost to take the GMAT?

Taking the online GMAT test costs $300. The in-person test is a little cheaper, but not by much; it costs $270. 

7. Do I have to take the GMAT?

If you are applying to a program that does not require the test, no, you don’t have to take it. But the rules around requiring and not requiring the GMAT are different for each school. Some programs may allow you to waive the requirement if you have, for example, an exceptionally high GPA or several years of experience in a senior position. 

8. Is the GMAT a good predictor of success in my MBA program?

There is no definitive answer. As with the GRE and LSAT, the organization that runs the test always say they are good predictors of success, and some studies have proven that to be true. Others say the test only tests specific skills and has no bearing on other important factors like whether you’re a good manager, have resiliency, or are able to handle stress well. In any case, your success in your MBA program depends primarily on you. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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