Learn the 4 Things You Must Know Before Taking the GMAT!   Download it Now!

Should You Keep or Cancel Your GMAT Score?

I used to hear it from my students all the time: Why can’t I just see my unofficial GMAT score before deciding whether or not to accept it?

Well, now you can! Exciting news indeed.

What has changed?

the gmac now allows you to preview your gmat score before accepting or rejecting it

Should I cancel my GMAT score?

You can read the full press release yourself here, but this is the bottom line: Prospective business students taking the Graduate Management Admission Test® will now be able to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them. When you get to the end of your GMAT exam, you’ll be shown your scores for everything but the essay. You will then have 2 minutes to decide whether or not to accept your scores.

The score reporting feature will be available at all 600 test centers around the world that administer the GMAT exam.

“We are pleased to offer this feature as part of our efforts to make preparing for and taking the GMAT exam easier,” said Ashok Sarathy, GMAC vice president of product management. “The new score reporting feature gives test takers more certainty and control in the testing process and in how their scores are reported to schools.”

Note: You must actively accept your scores. If you do nothing (i.e. if the 2 minutes expires before you take an action), the scores will be canceled. If you do cancel your scores, you will then have 60 days to decide whether to reinstate the scores — for a fee of $100. Also, if you cancel, the schools will still see that you sat for the exam, as always.

“So, how do I decide what to do?”

Let me start by saying that this new feature of the GMAT exam should be seen as something to reduce your stress level on test day, not add to it. Have a game plan going into the test about what score cutoff you’ll accept vs. reject, but then don’t sweat it. As I mentioned above, you can always pay a little money to reinstate a cancelled score. Additionally, remember that in many ways nothing has changed: Business schools only use your highest score, so it’s always best to err on the side of keeping a score. Worst case, you can always take the GMAT again.

Now, that said, there are still times when it makes sense to cancel your score. Maybe you wake up sick on the morning of the test and you just can’t keep your concentration. Or perhaps you mess up your timing so badly that you don’t finish one of the sections (watch: “Get 20 Easy Points on the GMAT” for more on GMAT scoring). As before, you can still cancel your score in those cases. And now, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing just how badly you actually did before pressing the “cancel” button! (or, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised and realize that despite your terrible headache and nausea, you still managed a decent score and want to keep it!).

As I mentioned earlier, though, it’s best to err on the side of keeping your score. You will have just invested 3 hours of your life and $250, after all. More importantly, you never know how you’ll do the next time around. You may assume you’ll improve significantly, but there’s no guarantee. In fact, some students actually score lower on their second (or third) GMAT exam. So it’s best to hold on to a “pretty good” score, even if it’s below your target.

My colleague Stacey Koprince of Manhattan GMAT summarizes it this way: “Definitely keep the score if you are within 100 points of your goal. Strongly consider keeping the score if you are within 150 points. (Pick a specific cut-off point for yourself before test day.) If you are more than 150 points below a reasonable goal (anything above 750 is not a reasonable goal), then go ahead and cancel the score.”

She also presents the following three scenarios (below) which can help serve as a guide for you. You can read Stacey’s full take on this new policy here.

Scenario #1: Goal score 720. Actual score 670.

Do NOT cancel this score. Sure, it’s below your goal, but it’s still a good score—and you don’t know for sure that you’ll hit 720 next time. In fact, some students score lower on their second test. Do not lose this score.

Scenario #2: Goal score 650. Actual score 450.

Most people will want to cancel this score. Several of my fellow teachers argued that we should tell everyone not to cancel anything, since the schools really do take the highest score. Still, realistically, I think most people will want to cancel a score 200 points below their goal. (But you really could leave it—the schools won’t care!)

Where does the line flip? How far below your goal score do you need to be in order to consider canceling?

I’ve been polling my colleagues since the news was announced yesterday afternoon and, while opinions vary, we all agree that anyone within 100 points of their goal score should definitely keep that score.

I’d go a little further. I think you should keep (or consider keeping) the score if you’re within 150 points of your goal. If you score 600+, keep the score even if your goal is 750.

Scenario #3: First official test Q 61st percentile, V 93rd percentile. Second official test, Q 76th percentile, V 84th percentile.

Even though the Verbal score went down on the second test, the Quant score went from a not-very-competitive score to one that is acceptable to all schools, so keep that score! This is true even if your overall score went down.