At the end of the GMAT, you will be asked whether you want to report your scores or cancel them. This is an important moment, because it is the only opportunity you will have to cancel your scores. Once you report them, you cannot reverse the decision.
If you choose to report your scores, any schools you apply to will see them, even if you retake the test later. In addition, GMAC will automatically proceed to send your scores to any schools you specified at the beginning of the test.
On the other hand, if you request to cancel your scores instead, they will not be sent out, and prospective schools will never be able to see them (although they will be able to see that you took the test and cancelled). Cancelled scores can then be reinstated for a $100 fee at any point in the next 60 days if you change your mind and decide not to retake the test.
GMAT test-takers have always had the option to cancel their scores, but in the past, you would not be able to see your scores before cancelling them – you had to simply base your decision on how well you felt like they did. Now, due to a new policy introduced in June 2014, test-takers are able to see a preview of their IR, Quantitative, Verbal, and total scores (everything except the essay) before deciding. After this preview, you will be given two minutes to choose whether to report or cancel your scores. If you do not respond within the given timeframe, your scores will be automatically cancelled.
After taking a 3 ½-hour test, you will probably be worn-out, which can hinder your judgment. Moreover, since there is a time limit, you will not have a lot of time to think. Therefore, it is in your best interest to have things planned out as much as possible beforehand, so you will not have to make this decision under pressure on test day. You should be familiar with GMAC’s policies, have a strategy in place, and understand whether cancelling your scores would be advisable (or even possible) in your particular situation.
One major thing you need to consider is whether you have time to retake the test. You are allowed to take the exam up to five times a year, but you can only take it once in any 31-day period. You will also need to allow time for GMAC to send your scores to schools – a process that can take up to 20 days. Therefore, if you want to retake the test, you will need to have almost two more available months before your applications are due.
Before you take the test, determine the minimum score you want to report. This will minimize stress and guesswork on test day – but only if you stick to your original plan. You may have second thoughts when you actually see your score, so make sure you feel secure in your decision before the day of the test.
Also, keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to cancel your scores if you are not happy with them; instead, you could simply retake the test and allow schools to see both scores. If you get a significantly better score the second time, schools may be impressed by your progress. Since schools will be able to see any cancellations, consider whether a cancelled score will really look better on your application than a less-than-desirable score. Unless you do very poorly on the test, you may be better off reporting both scores.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to ask yourself, “How do I know I can get a better score if I retake it?” If you took the test without much preparation, then spending more time studying may enable you to raise your score. However, if you studied very hard and took a lot of practice tests, this may be the best score you can get.
Remember: schools may be impressed if they see that you retook the test and got a better score, but it will definitely not look good if you receive a lower score the second time. Cancelling your scores for the second test will not really help, since schools will just assume that you performed more poorly on the second test.
Everyone’s situation is different, so it is up to you to figure out what course of action will be best for you. No matter what you decide, simply having a plan in place will help you minimize test day stress and walk away feeling good about your choice.