Try to take the GMAT about a year prior to your expected entrance into Business School—preferably any time during the summer or early fall. The deadline for taking the GMAT will vary dramatically depending on the admission procedures of each school to which you apply, and the term in which you are planning to enroll.
Keep in mind that you can take the GMAT once every 16 calendar days and no more than 5 times in a 12 month period. You’ll want to schedule enough time in your planning process to register and re-take the test, and then have the new score submitted to the school before the application deadline. Do this only if you know that your score will increase considerably—especially if you were ill or had family/personal problems.
If you take the GMAT early, you will have your score in hand and can use it to plan your application strategy and to choose and apply to a variety of schools in which you will be competitive. Don’t forget to choose a “safe” school where you know you will be accepted, as well as schools that are more of a long-shot. If you take the GMAT early enough, it will allow you to submit your official score along with your application.
At a minimum, you want to take the GMAT a month before the application deadline. It will take anywhere from two to four weeks to get your official score, although you will get an unofficial score immediately after you take the test. You can arrange for your test score to be sent directly to you and up to 5 schools in which you are applying. If you take the test close to an application deadline, you may want to include the unofficial score report with your application.
If a school uses a rolling admissions process, you will want to make sure your application is in early (usually between December and February, depending on the school). Rolling admissions means that applications are reviewed on a first come, first served basis only, and some schools may have already filled their classes before their final deadline.
Because the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test (CAT), you can take the exam at one of the testing centers at almost any time. Each test center has its own schedule of operation, but their available time slots can fill quickly (especially weekends). In some cases, it may be possible to schedule an appointment a day or two before you actually take the test, or even walk-in, but don’t count on it. We recommend booking a time and date at least a month in advance (2 months isn’t a bad idea if you are limited in your availability). You may visit www.mba.com for a list of test center locations and specifics on registration.
Take the GMAT when you have prepared and are confident in your ability to do well.