Suppose that you took the GMAT exam, and you felt like you got the living #$^%*&@! beaten out of you. Maybe the quant section felt ridiculously difficult, and you had to race through the last 12 questions to finish the section before time ran out. Maybe all of your reading comprehension passages felt completely incomprehensible.
By the time you finish the exam, your heart is pounding out of your chest, and you have two minutes to decide whether to cancel your test or view your GMAT scores. Should you cancel your test?
Probably not. And here are three reasons why:
Reason #1: it’s almost impossible to know how well you did
Once upon a time, I worked with a skittish woman who always seemed to doubt her capacity for GMAT success, especially on the quant section. She earned a 660 on her first attempt at the test, and then contacted me for some help. After a couple of months of tutoring, she went back to face the beast. And I made her promise not to cancel her score, no matter what.
The poor woman was convinced that the quant had beaten her to a bloody pulp. The questions seemed strange, and she felt bewildered for most of the section. She only had about 15 minutes left for the last 12 questions, so the final third of the quant section passed in a blur. Pardon the expression, but she was convinced that she had shat the bed.
And guess what? She got a 760, and was offered merit-based scholarships everywhere she applied.
I’ve heard this sort of story dozens—or maybe even hundreds—of times over the years. The GMAT is a sneaky, slimy, deceptive creature. You never know how well (or how badly) you’re doing until the score pops up. Unless you literally wet your pants during the exam, you can’t possibly know whether you did terribly. And if you don’t believe me, click here or here or here or here to read recent GMAT forum debriefs written by test-takers who struggled during the exam, but were somewhat surprised by their fantastic scores.
So “feeling bad” about your test is a lousy reason to cancel. You might be canceling the GMAT score of your dreams, and that wouldn’t be cute at all.
Reason #2: even if your GMAT score was bad this time, you’ll learn from the result
I’m sure that many of you are thinking, “No really, ninja dude: I know when I’m getting my butt kicked by the GMAT.” And I respectfully disagree, but let’s pretend that you do know that you had a crappy test. Should you cancel your score?
Again, I’d argue that you shouldn’t. While it’s maddening that you can never see exactly what you missed on the actual GMAT, the score does provide you with some feedback. You might be surprised by how high (or how low) your score is on one or both sections. And as you prepare for your next battle with the test, that can be an invaluable piece of information.
Let’s suppose that you were aiming for a 710, but only got a 600. Now you know exactly what it feels like to get 600, and as you replay the test in your mind, you’ll almost certainly learn from it. Even a disappointing exam can be a great learning experience, and the score provides you with some feedback that can help you move forward.
Reason #3: why waste $250?
This might sound silly, but I always feel like a complete chump whenever I spend money on something I don’t use. For example, there are a few test-prep books on my shelf that I almost never touch. The $20 or $30 that I spent on each of the books isn’t going to destroy my bank account, but I still feel like a moron for buying them.
Couldn’t we say the same thing about a canceled GMAT test score? If you “buy” a GMAT test for $250 and never actually get a score from the experience, wouldn’t it feel like a complete waste of money? You’ll basically spend $250 for some frayed nerves and an unsatisfying, blank line on your GMAT score report.
The GMAT is already sodomizing your wallet for $250 whenever you take the test; personally, I would feel even worse if I didn’t at least get something back from them in return. A bad score at least counts as something.
So don’t feel like a chump with a sodomized wallet: take a good look at your score, even if you’re pretty sure it’s going to be crappy. At worst, you’ll have a rallying cry for your future studies. And at best, you’ll be surprised with a 760, even if you felt terrible during the exam.
One last thing: if you’re worried about having a crappy result on your GMAT score report, don’t be. An upward score trajectory always looks great, and MBA programs are being completely honest when they say that they consider your highest score.
So unless you really do have a bladder malfunction during your test, please don’t cancel your score. At the very least, you’ll have a data point to work with as you continue your GMAT studies. And if you’re really fortunate, your score might surprise you.