As of July 2015, the GMAC has changed its policies around GMAT score cancelations. The contents of this post have *not* been updated to reflect the new process (however here is a more recent post from September 2015 on a similar topic).
We’re digging further into the details of how this new GMAT score preview-and-cancel option plays out for people taking the test.
As we said last week: You must have a strategy going in. And you must be able to maintain your wits about you to execute that strategy at the end.
For the first part, about having a strategy, we’ll start with the recommendations from Ashok Sarathy, an executive at GMAC, which appears on the press release announcing this change:
“If there were two things I would recommend to test takers to get the most out of this new feature, they would be:
- Know what score you’re willing to accept so that when asked whether you wish to send your scores or cancel them, you have already considered your answer.
- Understand that you have 60 days to reinstate a score you might have canceled but decide later that you want to send.”
We have asked the GMAC representative on Beat the GMAT how a score will show up on the official test record if it’s initially canceled and then reinstated (we wanted to know if the fact that it was originally canceled will be visible to the schools)
but as of this writing we don’t know the answer to that. You can follow that thread to see what the response is. Update 7/2/14: Rebecca replied and said no, it will not .
Back to strategy: You need to really pay attention to the dynamics of the test and the ramifications of this decision. While we do appreciate the flexibility that it offers, it also has some serious downsides to consider.
The worst part of all? You’re going to be asked to make a VERY IMPORTANT DECISION right at the end of an incredibly taxing hours-long session of mental effort.
And you’ll have to make this decision while staring down a ticking clock.
Talk about high anxiety.
People have limited reservoirs of decision-making capacity. President Obama only owns navy blue and grey suits so he doesn’t have to “spend” that capacity on trivial decisions early in the day. It’s called “decision fatigue” and you can bet that it will play a part in your GMAT testing experience.
After several hours of working through grueling GMAT problems, you’re going to be wiped. Regardless of whether the score ends up being a 770 or a 570 or something in between, nobody comes out of their GMAT test center feeling ready to take on the world. You would not want to go shopping for an important interview suit, or a diamond ring for your sweetie, or a new car for yourself, right after you finish your test. Too many choices! Just deciding what to get for lunch afterwards can be difficult enough.
What that means is, you need to have a good idea of what score is acceptable to you when you finish – and you MUST RESIST THE URGE TO CANCEL EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE LIKELY TO SCORE LESS THAN THAT.
Most people we work with do much better on their practice GMAT tests than they do on the real thing. It’s the most common pattern ever. You do fine on your practice sessions and you feel ready, but then the real thing happens and it’s disappointing.
If you go into the GMAT knowing that you’ve been scoring a 710 on your practice exams, and then when you finish, you get the score preview of 680… WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH IT?
A 680 is a decent score. For some people, it might be just fine to get into a very good business school. Is it enough for you to move ahead with?
If this is your first GMAT test, of course you want it to also be your last. Should you stick with that 680? Or should you cancel it and schedule a retest right away?
The most important consideration for you is, HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DO BETTER ON ANOTHER GMAT EXAM?
If you cancel your scores at the preview, then you will have to wait 31 days before you can test again.
Do you have that luxury of a buffer in your bschool application schedule?
And crucially: Are you certain you’ll be able to do better the next time out?
Do you even want to face taking the test again?
If you cancel on a not-the-first-time test, you are pretty much
dooming yourself to guaranteeing that you need to test again. An adcom is going to EXPECT to see a follow-up score published after any canceled score. You can’t have one score on your record, and then a second attempt that was canceled… and that’s it. That wud just not look rite huney.
All that taken together and we conclude that it’s not a benefit to applicants after all.
We’re not actually convinced that this new feature is going to help anyone. Instead, it’s likely to add HUGE amounts of stress to the test-taking process for many people.
You are going to need to have a very firm strategy defined for yourself ahead of time – and you’re going to need to be able to stick with that advance decision-making when you see the actual test.
We can foresee so many moments of meltdown: Someone decides in advance that they’re going to cancel at Score X. But then they get Score X+10. Is that really high enough?!? If just ten points less is their CANCEL ZONE then should they stick with that previous decision, or not?
Or they just have the standard experience of going into the exam thinking they’re going to get, say, a 720, and then the score of 700 pops up. Should they cancel? Is that a low score? Or, is it only average, and is that going to be high enough?
To look at this cancel-or-not strategy another way: Is it really that bad to have a 680 (or a 700) on your score report?
Or IS IT BETTER TO HAVE A SELF-CANCELED SCORE ENTRY???
We would say that for almost everyone, it’s going to be better to go with the score you don’t like, to leave it as-is and keep it on your score report then just take the test again, as test-takers have always done.
If you cancel, you are putting MORE PRESSURE on yourself to do really well when you take the test again.
And yes, you DEFINITELY will need to test again if you cancel.
We are not done with all of this. More coming tomorrow.
Other posts in this series:
- First post: GMAT score preview and canceling your scores (6/27/14)
- Follow-up post: GMAT strategies: How will the schools perceive a canceled score? (7/1/14)