One of the many options you have at the end of your official GMAT is to cancel your score. As with everything else associated with the GMAT, it is a very good idea to think this through strategically and thoroughly, so that you are already in a good position to decide when you are presented with the choice.
Previewing your GMAT score
In the past, folks would get to the end of their GMAT, and then, totally sapped of energy at the end of that test, the computer would ask them: do you want to cancel your score? People had to make that decision in the dark, with no objective idea of what their score was. In my mind, that bordered on cruel and unusual punishment!
Fortunately, GMAC seems to have relented. In a recent announcement, GMAC announced that students will be able to see their GMAT score before they are asked whether they want to cancel the GMAT score. This is a big change, and I believe it is very much a change for the better. You will still be completely exhausted and tapped out when the computer asks you about this, but at least you will know your score.
Other cancellation facts
If you do cancel your GMAT score at the test center, and then change your mind, you can ask GMAC to reinstate your score within 60 days. It will cost you another $100.
Have you ever heard the lottery called “a tax on people bad at math”? I think this is very similar. That GMAC $100 fee is a tax on people who are particularly unstrategic, on folks who are not prepared to make sound decisions. Don’t let that be you.
Whether you are taking the GMAT for the first time or are retaking it, part of your practice should involve extensive practice testing. Save the high quality practice tests for later in your practice. Many folks make the mistake of using GMAT Prep right at the beginning, and thus having nothing high quality remaining at the end. You should take a relative low quality practice test right at the beginning of your studying, to get a rough idea of your cold starting point. You should take several practice tests during your studying, as our study schedules suggest. The MGMAT CATs and the Magoosh practice tests are high quality: save those until later in your studying, and save the official material, the GMAT Prep, until right before the test.
Understand that it’s quite ordinary to see a drop from your practice test to the real GMAT. Very few people can duplicate practice test scores on the real GMAT. You see, no matter how “real” you make your practice, your brain simply knows: this isn’t for real. Any mistakes you make on the practice test are private failures: they may disappoint you, but no one else has to know about them. On the real GMAT, every part of your central nervous system knows: this is for real. Unless you have done months of significant stress management work, the stress of the real test situation will inevitably lower your score a bit. It is important to expect this and plan for it, not to be surprised and disappointed by it.
This means, you have to be judicious when you are planning a retake. Suppose you get 640 on your first GMAT. If in your studying you take practice tests and score 670, 680, even 690, don’t automatically assume this will mean you will significantly exceed your first GMAT score when you sit for the retake. Once again, very few people can do as well on the real thing as they do in their private practice sessions. You shouldn’t consider sitting for a retake unless you are scoring consistently 50+ above your previous score in your practice. You really need to be rocking the GMAT compared to your previous score. That’s the proper conditions for a retake.
Should you cancel your GMAT score?
In the vast majority of cases, I would say, the answer is a clear no. This is very important: disappointment in the moment is NOT a valid reason for canceling your score. It is crucial that you go into the GMAT with a strategic plan. In general, I think that you should seriously consider canceling your score only if something wildly unexpected takes place: for example, if you were healthy on your way to the test center, but during the test, you were hit with, say, a bout of food poisoning or something of that sort. In other words, if something out-of-the-blue interrupts your test performance, such that your performance that day is a clear aberration from anyone’s normal test-taking experience, that’s a sound reason to cancel. That should be rare.
Should you cancel your GMAT for a low score?
In general, I would answer: no. If you are taking the GMAT for the first time, then a low score that time will mean you will retake anyway, and remember that a BIG jump between a low score on the first test and high score on the retake could be very impressive to adcom: look where I started and look how much I improved. There is very little reason to cancel the score of a first-time GMAT.
What if you are retaking? Well, of course, if you have done your work with practice tests, you should have a good rough idea of what kind of score to expect on the retake. You definitely need to have a target score for canceling worked out well before you walk into the test. Talk to a professor. Talk to an admission consultant. Know what the average GMAT score is for the program you want to attend (this infographic might help). Make a highly informed decision well before your ever set foot into the test room. If I score below X, I will cancel my score. That should be decided and non-negotiable before you walk into the room.
Of course, you have absolutely no business sitting for the GMAT if it is at all likely that you will perform anywhere near the level that would involve a score cancellation. Suppose your first score is 640, and you decide you will cancel for anything 650 or below on the retake: well, you have no business even scheduling a retake until you can consistently break 700 in all your practice tests. That is part of being strategic: you need to hold yourself to a very high standard.
Canceling your GMAT Score: Summary
Winston Churchill said: “The price of greatness is responsibility.” If you want to be successful on the GMAT, in your business career, and in your life as a whole, you need to take deep responsibility for yourself and for the consequences of your actions. Part of this means being as prepared as possible, and consciously thinking through an intelligent response to a wide variety of circumstances beforehand. In my view, it would be the height of irresponsibility to get to that screen at the end of the GMAT, asking whether you want to cancel your score, and to think about the issue there and then for the first time. By the time you get to that screen, everything about the decision should be made already.
If you would like to share any of your own experiences with score cancellation on the GMAT, please let us know in the comments section.