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How many times should one take the GMAT? Puneet took it 5 times to get into his dream school

How many times should one take the GMAT
The maximum number of attempts for the GMAT is 8. In a year, the maximum times you can take the test is 5. Between 2 GMAT attempts, you need to have a gap of at least 16 days.

How many times on average do people take the GMAT?
We don’t know if GMAC publishes this data. But from experience, we’ve seen that the average number of GMAT attempts is between 1 to 2. A few go for more attempts.

Is it bad to retake the GMAT?
Well, that depends on what you’re sacrificing for each additional attempt. Every retake comes with its share of baggage – preparation, scheduling, test anxiety, no guarantee that the new score would be better. You’re also taking away precious time that you could be using to work on the rest of the application. [Read how important is the GMAT score?]

How many times should you take the GMAT?
This is tougher to answer. The best case scenario is of course to take it once and hit the target score.

We suggest giving it 2 attempts. Learn from the mistakes from the first one, fix them and be done with it.

However, for some applicants, the GMAT prep time-frame extends across years and the number of re-takes exceed the industry average number of GMAT attempts by a large margin.

We’ve earlier worked with an applicant who took it 8 times and exhausted the life-time limit.

During that time, life happens! There are shocks and surprises at every turn.

For someone like Puneet, relationships and emotions matter as much as his career goals. His article must arguably be among the most heart-felt ones on our site. As Puneet mentions, he got goosebumps while writing it, as he re-lived all those moments.

How I improved my GMAT score from 540 to 740 in 5 attempts

An Indian male engineer’s MBA application journey

by Puneet Singh Anand

Being born and brought up in a Punjabi family, I am a person who is always energised. Also as I have been born and raised in Mumbai, I have always had a diverse set of friends.

Not drinking alcohol and playing Garba die-hard has always questioned my friends about me being born as a fake Punjabi 😛

But everything aside, I have been blessed with the best set of friends be it school, college or for the fact my work life as well.

Having completed my schooling from Sharon English High School, I still remember the time when my Mother had asked me post my SSC result “Son, what do you want to do next in life?

Back in 2009, internet was not that common and not everyone had a smart phone. I was in the phase “Bas 10th board kar lo acche se, aage life set hai.” [“Do well in the 10th grade and you’re set for life.“]

I was enjoying my much awaited vacations with my dearest group of friends and my response to my mom’s question was “Put me in any field! I will do something good with it!

And that was it – my fate to become an engineer was sealed!

I moved to pursue my diploma from VES Polytechnic (Mumbai) and later my engineering from Vidyalankar Institute of Technology (Mumbai).

I entered the college life with the attitude that my 10th grade is done and now I can enjoy. So I participated in every single event.

I got associated with the student council and helped organise various events. By the final year I was made Placement Coordinator.

As I completed my engineering and got placed in TCS, I realised that though I was good in engineering, I don’t see myself as a technical person for the rest of my life.

I entered TCS, with the plan to explore more options. During my 1st year in the company, I realised that I am not the person to sit in front of PC and test software code all day.

As a part of extra curricular I started looking out for corporate clubs and activities and I came across Safety First.

The manifesto of the club evolved around spreading awareness on Health Safety, Women safety, Road safety by organising various events for the employees.

I got associated with the club and within a year became a SPOC for my location. That’s when I started interacting with higher level of management and my interest towards MBA boosted up.

Along side my role as a Systems Engineer on one side and a Safety SPOC on the other, I started my GMAT preparation journey.

The only college I had in mind was Indian School of Business, and I knew that I would need a very high score to crack such a tough nut as I belonged to the over represented pool of male engineers working in IT.

Initially I prepped up for 2 months and gave my first attempt in 2017. I had honestly underestimated the exam and I scored a 580.

I came back, prepped up with all my heart and gave my next attempt immediately after a month in December 2017 and scored a 640.

My score had improved, but to crack ISB with a 640 GMAT score was impossible. So I took a month’s break.

As soon as I started studying again, I suddenly lost my Nani. I was taken aback by the shock and it was the toughest time of my life. I was so close to her that I couldn’t take that loss.

For the next 6 months I was just trying to take care of my family and trying to sail through.

When I started my studies again, the pattern of GMAT had changed and I was facing difficulty with the time management. I still studied for couple of months and gave another attempt only to get a 540.

I screwed up time management. During the exam many emotions were still in the mind.

I remember entering the exam hall with tears in my eye as this was the 1st time that I did not receive a call from my Nani stating “Best of luck. Mai paath karungi tere liye.” (“I will recite Granth Sahib“).

Yes, she used to pray for the entire 3 hours when I gave the exam and she was the first person whom I have always called post my exam. I miss her 🙁

I decided to take a break and start in 2019. But little did I know that 2019 was going to be an equally tough year.

With a close family member recovering from a cardiac arrest, while another one had just passed away too young, the year 2019 wasn’t a good year for me as well.

Being a family-oriented guy, these things mattered to me the most and it was getting difficult to overcome the hurdles with all the emotions.

As the year came to an end, I paused and reflected back.

I realised that the emotional ups and downs in the past 2 years had not only made me stronger but had given me a whole new perspective towards achieving my life goals.

I lost my closed ones and learned it the hard way that life is too short to postpone things or focus on things that doesn’t excite you.

I decided to give my all for one last time and get the score by end of the 1st quarter of 2020. I unlearned, relearned and gave my 200 percent.

All my efforts paid off. I scored a 710. I was happy and sad as I knew being from a over represented pool, 710 was still on a lower side.

I still have no idea how I had the courage to give another attempt and improve my score.

I am glad that I took that decision and within a month prepped up and scored a 740. By this time I believe I learned the knack to crack the GMAT.

The feeling to see that 740 on the screen after all the years of hard work and never giving up on my dreams, can’t be explained in words.

Tears of joy rolled out and I was satisfied with all my efforts.

To everyone out there giving all they have, my advice is to never give up on your dream.

Time to hire a good admission consultant

Now that I had the score, I thought most of the work is done. I just need to fill the application and I am done.

I was so far from the truth!

When I started my research on MBA applications and the process, I realised that the GMAT score is just a number to make you eligible. What matters most is the profile.

Not having an IIT degree and working in an IT industry for 5 years, I had the most common profile out there with cut-throat competition.

Considering all the factors I decided to put my best foot forward and take the assistance from a good MBA application consultant.

I researched about a week, shortlisted a few but from the very start, I was always inclined towards MBA Crystal Ball. I had never read or heard a negative review about MBA Crystal Ball. All I read was they bring the best version of you out there and that was what I was exactly looking for.

Moreover I had been talking to Sameer Kamat (Founder of MBA Crystal Ball) since the time I had a 640. I gave him a call and the vibe just matched.

I sent few emails to Manish Gupta (CCO – MBA Crystal Ball) and got the most impromptu replies addressing all my queries.

This strengthened my confidence in choosing them and I signed up for MBA MAP + 3 college package.

Honestly at the time of signup, it seemed extremely costly as I had to use my all the savings but I believe that was the best decision I could have taken.

Once I signed up, I was assigned one of their top MBA consultants, Vibhav Agarwal.

I received a very detailed email about the structure and the process to be followed. I got the MBA MAP questionnaire to be filled and send to Vibhav.

The email was so formal that I got happy and worried at the same time. I was happy about the structured process, but a little worried about the formal approach.

All my worries just disappeared during my first interaction with Vibhav.

Application experience

Post my initial discussion, a mock MBA interview was scheduled with Vibhav. Before the interview, I had already answered a questionnaire and thus Vibhav had an idea about my entire profile.

My first mock interview before even starting to fill any form of any college was an eye opener.

Within 2 days I received my detailed MAP report highlighting my strengths and weakness. It also had a detailed report about the top 100 colleges which were broadly divided into 5 categories – Ambitious, Stretch, Practical, Safe, Backup.

I had spent years preparing for GMAT. I thought I knew all there was to know about business school applications.

In contrast, it was not even a week that I had enrolled with MCB, and I realised that I had very less knowledge about the entire MBA application process.

I gave it a lot of thought, analysed my MBA MAP report thoroughly and I finally decided my top 3 schools that I will be applying through MCB’s guidance.

The best part was, not even once I was told by Vibhav to forget about applying to tough schools. There was no negative vibe or any form of subtle influence to settle for an easier bschool.

I was always motivated to apply to the best and toughest programs that I dreamed of, and Vibhav truly helped me explore the best version of myself.

I still remember my discussion with Vibhav where I was thinking of applying to 20+ universities in a span of 2 months. Vibhav convinced me to narrow down my list to the top 5 to 8.

Had I not taken admissions consulting from MCB, I would have actually applied to so many universities and wasted a lot of time.

[Read How many MBA business schools should you apply to]

As I decided my universities, I was also told to focus on my story as per the essays. Now if I look back and read my 1st draft which I had written, I laugh out loud and asking myself what I was thinking.

After countless edits and patience, Vibhav brought out the best story I could have ever written.
The unique thing that was also the most satisfying, was that at every step, I was encouraged to push my limits.

Not once did Vibhav write any content or add any false points to glorify my profile. In the end, I had my essays ready and I was so confident to answer any content as that was the true me.

I honestly couldn’t have done it without him.

Another aspect that I found very interesting was that for every college that I was applying to, irrespective of whether I had taken the consulting from MCB for that college or not, Vibhav explained to me in detail about what the MBA college adcom is looking for and which part of my profile best fits in. These were the key insights that helped me a lot.

MBA Interview Prep

Once my MBA applications were submitted, it was just a waiting game, to hear back from the admissions team.

I received an email from ISB that my application has been shortlisted for an interview. I was on cloud 9 that day. Nervous, anxious, happy – all at the same time!

I immediately connected with Vibhav and signed up for the MBA interview prep service.

My interview prep happened over 2 calls. Post the 1st one, I was given a detailed feedback to work on and then my 2nd mock interview was scheduled.

Had I not done this, I wouldn’t have managed to stay so calm on my actual interview.

Application Results

Once my interview was done, the waiting game began yet again. As I was also receiving rejects from the other ambitious institutes, time just got slower and slower.

Long back, whe I started my MBA application journey, I had hung an ISB photo frame on my wall. Now that I had already given my interview, I was curious to know if I would move from that ‘One Day‘ to ‘Day One‘!

Finally, one day when I got up at 8.03 AM, I saw an email with the subject – “Your PGP application result

My heart started pumping rapidly as I clicked anxiously to find out what it said.

“Dear Puneet Singh,
Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admission to the Post Graduate Programme in Management at the Indian School of Business for the Class of 2022.”

That feeling, I just can’t express in words. Even when I write about it, I have goosebumps!

Tears of joy and excitement just spread across everyone in my house. Years of hard-work and dedication had finally paid off.

There’s another thing that I would want to specifically mention. I had not signed up with MBA Crystal Ball for ISB.

Yes, this might sound ironic but as I had already gained 5+ years of work experience, I wanted to get enrolled in the top business school and with a great score on my side, I decided to keep a few backups as well. So the ones with the maximum number of essays made to top 3 list for consulting.

But when the time came, Vibhav helped me with my ISB essays as well. He guided me, gave me invaluable insights.

In my heart, I knew I wanted his help, but I was feeling reluctant to ask him for the same, as it wasn’t included in the package.

Vibhav told me upfront to share my essays, he reviewed/edited them, had an indepth discussion how to go about it.

I never understood when and how a purely professional relationship got transformed into a professional + family relationship.

Even if I wouldn’t have received any admit (as it was the toughest year to crack into any B schools given the deferrals and the spike in number of applications), MBA Crystal Ball would have had my heart!

I learned so much about myself and about the entire admission process.

MCB’s consulting process, their structure, the people there, the familial environment they have and the amount of effort the consultant puts into you – I don’t think I would have get all those anywhere.

People can lie, but a vibe never lies. And at MBA Crystal Ball, the vibe I felt was always and always positive.

Vibhav has changed my life in ways he may never know nor I could ever show. The amount of trust he had put on me, helped me grow through the entire process. He has been available round the clock for my smallest doubts and helped me sail through.

All that I am or I ever hope to be, I owe it to my family. They believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.

Special shout out to my mentor who has been my guiding force, my friends who backed me when I was on the verge of giving up, my colleagues who supported me and boosted my confidence and every single person who saw something in me and motivated me to go all in.

With GMAT scores ranging from 540 to 740, culminating in an ISB admit, it has been a challenging roller coaster ride that tested me to the core.

And I am so glad that MBA Crystal Ball was my safety belt during the ride 🙂

Also read:
How to improve your GMAT score by 100 points in 30 days
How I got into ISB with full scholarship
Best ISB blogs
Best admission consultant for ISB
– With CAT being another option, have you explored the key differences – GMAT vs CAT?

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

1 thought on “How many times should one take the GMAT? Puneet took it 5 times to get into his dream school”

  1. This motivation story boosted my confidence .. I learned a lot of things today through this blog. I’m also planning for GMAT I hope I can get a good score.


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