Imagine you’ve just spent over three hours staring at a testing center computer.
You’ve struggled and second-guessed your way through essay writing, quant, verbal, and integrated reasoning.
Several times, you’ve paused mid-question to consider an alternative career path.Perhaps one that doesn’t require answering questions about integers and parallelism.
You answer the final question, and wait anxiously for your score. You’re sure that you’ve done horribly.
And then the test gives you a chance for a do-over.
More precisely, a screen appears asking you whether you want to cancel your score. You don’t have to see exactly how badly you’ve done. You can just click “Yes,” cancel your score, and try again in a few months.
You’re already thinking about the best weekend to retake it. You’ll wake up early before work and buy every practice book in the bookstore’s GMAT prep section.
But no matter how much you want to click “yes,” go home, watch something sufficiently mind-numbing on TV, and try again in a few months, there are a few things to remember first:
Because the GMAT is a computer adaptive test, every question should challenge you. Just because you’re not sailing through the questions doesn’t mean you’re not doing well. And it’s virtually impossible to gauge your score when you’re not in state of absolute panic.
Schools will always accept the highest score. Even if your score on this particular exam is far below your target score, you can always take the test again. The GMAT allows applicants to take the test up to 5 times each calendar year, which means you have plenty of chances to improve.
In fact, some would say that having a low score followed by a higher score demonstrates the applicant’s persistence and commitment. On the other hand, schools do see score cancelations on your report. And while they won’t necessarily hold a canceled exam against you, it’s certainly not going to look much better than a low score.
Even if you tell yourself that the circumstances will be better next time, you have no way of knowing whether this will be true. It’s impossible to create perfect testing conditions. You might run out of time and not get a chance to retake the test before the application deadlines.
There are an infinite number of things that could interfere with either your ability to study or your actual exam. A busy work schedule or personal issues could interfere with your ability to study. Things like illness, distracting testing conditions, or even simple sleep deprivation could interfere with the test itself.
It should go without saying that the most accurate measure of your ability to perform well on the GMAT is…well…the GMAT
Even if you can’t see the exact mistakes, your GMAT score report is a valuable tool when you start prepping for a retake. If you decide to take the test again, you now have a score to keep in mind as you’re slogging through practice tests. When you’ve taken the GMAT again (and hopefully exceeded your score), your previous exam is an excellent measure of how far you’ve come.
When the test asks you if you would like to cancel your results, you have very little to lose by selecting “No.” And even if you’re on the verge of a breakdown as you wait for the computer to calculate your scores, it’s still better than never knowing your score in the first place.
Update: As of 6/27, the GMAC allows you to see a score preview before choosing whether you would like to cancel your score. Check out our advice in light of the change here.