This is a significant change for MBA applicants, who will now need to add one step to their GMAT test preparation: a score cancellation strategy session.
Until recently, we systematically recommended GMAT test takers to never cancel their score. It is indeed very common to hear of candidates who scored 700+ GMAT scores while feeling they had performed poorly during the test. I remember almost cancelling a 750 GMAT score myself after answering a string of very easy quant questions towards the end of my test… I incorrectly thought that something had gone terribly wrong.
With GMAC’s recent change, GMAT candidates are now in a position to make an informed decision. Because of the limited time available to click on the accept / reject score buttons (only 2 minutes), we strongly advise test takers to set their cancellation threshold (if any) before taking the test.
Here are a few tips to make your decision easier:
1. Set a target GMAT score
Depending on your target schools, you should already have a ballpark estimate in mind for your target GMAT score. A HBS applicant should probably try to score above 700, while applicants to elite European business schools may feel comfortable with a 680 or 690. Have a look at your target MBA programs’ GMAT ranges to get a sense of where most applicants stand (Wharton’s middle 80% GMAT range is 690-760 for example).
Your target score will obviously depend on the overall strength of your application (e.g. do you need an above average GMAT to compensate for a somewhat lower GPA? Can you secure outstanding LORs?…).
2. Know yourself (i.e. rely on your mock GMAT test results)
While it is important to have a target score in mind going into the official test, this goal should remain realistic. If after months of preparation your have consistently scored below 700 during your mock tests while your target score is 720, you should either postpone your official test date or be ready to walk away with a slightly lower score and build a strong application around it.
Over and over again, we have found the mock tests provided by GMAC or Manhattan GMAT to be great indicators of a candidate’s performance on test day (note that Manhattan GMAT scores are usually 20-30 points lower than GMAC scores for the same candidate and should be adjusted accordingly).
So be honest, and know where your stand. Your score on test day will most likely be within 20 to 30 points of your latest mock tests.
3. Define your “walk-away” score (if relevant)
Steps 1 and 2 should allow you to establish your “walk-away” score for test day. Having regularly scored 740+ in mock preparation tests, and with a target score of 730, I would probably have canceled any score below 690 had I been given the unofficial score before making my decision.
Our suggested approach is to review the median score and middle 80 percent range for your target school and make a decision based on these values, your past scores, and the overall strength of other pieces of your application.
You should note however that it is perfectly fine to keep your score even if very low. HBS has accepted applicants with scores below 600 in the past, and showing a strong progression between test dates (e.g. improving your GMAT from 610 to 690) could demonstrate perseverance and determination. Furthermore, a low score will allow you to submit an application should you not be able to schedule a new test… while a cancelled score won’t. While a 650 won’t position you very well for a top 20 US school, it might open doors at lower ranked, yet reputable, programs and at some well-respected European institutions.
Just be prepared and know your lowest acceptable score before taking the GMAT if you are considering cancelling your score. The ultimate decision should be a mechanical one, as you probably won’t be able to think clearly and rationally after a 4-hour exam.
What’s your opinion? Please let us know by leaving a comment in the dedicated section below.