With great power comes greater confusion. Indian MBA entrance exams hardly give you any choice on whether you want to retain your score or erase it as if the disastrous performance on that test day never happened. In fact, after the experiences some applicants have had when the CAT exam went online, most would be happy to just get through the entrance exam without any technical glitch.
That’s why the option that you get after taking the test to retain or cancel your GMAT score report seems at first to be a fantastic empowerment tool in the hands of the lowly test taker. Only till you realise that it’s often not an easy choice.
From mid 2014, GMAC added the score preview feature to its GMAT exam software. After you complete the test, as was the general practice you’ll get to see your overall score and the breakup across integrated reason, verbal and quantitative sections. You don’t get to see the GMAT AWA essay score. This will appear only in the final report, if you choose to accept.
[Bonus: Here’s a free GMAT AWA Essay rater to evaluate and grade your practice GMAT essays ].
What changes now is that this is a ‘preview score’ that you can choose to cancel or accept. And you have all of 120 excruciating seconds to make up your mind.
The option to cancel scores has been around for a while. However, earlier the test software did not flash the score. Test takers were expected to decide based on their gut feeling. The process is more transparent now. But not necessarily easier.
During those gut-wrenching 2 minutes, when the future of your professional life flashes before your eyes, if you suffer from analysis paralysis, the computer does the decision making for you and automatically cancels the score. Yup, score acceptance is a manual option and cancellation is the default setting.
What if you regret your decision? Worry not, my friend. If you have some more cash to spare, there is hope. For an extra $100, you can reinstate your cancelled score within 60 days of taking the test.
From a business angle, just like the GMAT Enhanced Score Report, this one is an excellent proposition too, right? Some MBA grad working at GMAC probably got a good appraisal for suggesting this idea.
We’re digressing. Let’s come back to what you should do in this situation.
Several GMAT test prep companies have suggested various strategies. Some suggest having a target score in mind and a deviation from it that you could use to decide whether to accept or reject the exam day score.
For instance, if your target score is 740 and your deviation is 100 points. On the exam day, as long as your preview score is above 640, go ahead and accept the score. If it falls below 640, cancel it.
Simple enough? Sure, but not very useful. Primarily because it would be difficult to define the 2 thresholds.
How do you decide that your target score should be 740? Based on your GMAT practice test scores, your aspiration, average score for your target B-schools or what your fellow applicants on GMAT forums have been aiming for? And why should your deviation be 100 points, as opposed to say 50 or 150?
There’s no scientific reason for any of these.
Other strategies skip the numeric approach and suggest taking a call based on how you felt you performed on the test. Watch out for signals, they say. For instance – you weren’t able to complete a few sections, or you weren’t in the pink of health before / during the exam, or any other sign that tells you that your performance could’ve been much better on a different day.
Again, pretty unscientific. And not very useful.
In the earlier days when the feature was introduced, cancelling the score did not erase it from memory. B-schools would still see on your GMAT report that you cancelled it. In such a situation, a cancelled no-score might’ve looked no better than a low GMAT score.
Now things are different. A cancelled score will not appear on your report. Bschools will not now that you even took the test. Which is where the dilemma (to retain or cancel) becomes worse.
Here’s our suggestion. Forget over-analysing and just accept the score. That also takes away the hassle and worry of whether you should reinstate your GMAT score, just because it’s possible.
– You’ve paid $250 for the test and whether you accept or reject your preview score, you aren’t going to get a refund. If anything, in your paranoia you’d probably end up paying more than you planned for after a few weeks if you change your mind (and decide to reinstate the score).
– With due credit to the power of optimism, there are no guarantees that your next attempt would be any better than this one. There’s also no guarantee that you’d even get a second chance, specially if you are too close to your application submission date. With a low score (that’s hopefully in the range of GMAT scores published by your target schools), you can at least submit a completed application.
– Even if you have multiple scores on the report, B-schools will consider your highest score anyway. If they see a very low score, they might bring it up in the interview. But you’d have a good explanation for it, so don’t worry.
– Multiple test attempts may even work in your favour, by highlighting your persistence and dedication to improve your weak areas. It easier to penalize someone who gives up easily, but a fighter might get some brownie points.
The bottomline is that your enthusiasm to over-sanitize your GMAT report is uncalled for.
Keep it simple. Prepare a good study plan, put in the effort/time needed to get close to your target score, identify weak areas to improve your GMAT score, try out several practice tests to build up accuracy, pace and confidence. Do all you can do before the test and on the exam day.
Accept the score, however bad or good it might seem at that moment. After the test, your brain is already exhausted. Don’t push it to make more decisions.
You have many other things other than your GMAT score to think about.
Any reason why you might want to cancel the score? Please share your views in the comments below.
Here are some GMAT AWA tips.