GMAT Tip: Never Cancel Your Score

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The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test-prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs and GMAT instructor at Kaplan Test Prep.

On test day, after you submit your answer to the final question, the GMAT is going to offer you a choice: You can either keep your scores, they will be sent to you, and as many as five schools you selected to receive your score report, or you can cancel your scores. If you choose the latter option, no one, not even you, will ever know what happened on the test you just took. For most test takers, the No. 1 reason to cancel is because they felt the test was too difficult and therefore they did poorly.

Trying to assess your performance during your test is a fool’s errand. Your perception is skewed. Let’s assume you feel you did poorly because the test was extremely difficult. The GMAT, like all computer-adaptive tests, reacts to correct answers by giving test takers more difficult questions. By virtue of how a computer-adaptive test works, hard is good.

If the GMAT is asking you very difficult questions, it thinks you ought to be asked them. Also, while a test taker gets more credit for getting difficult questions right, you get less taken away when you get them wrong compared with questions that are less difficult. Bottom line: You have no way accurately to assess if you have an unsatisfactory score. Your decision should simply be this: Never cancel your score.

Mitchell helps manage Kaplan Test Prep’s GMAT business, including marketing, program development, and delivery. An active GMAT and GRE instructor, Mitchell is leading Kaplan’s efforts to revamp its curriculum to teach the GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning section. He is a best-selling author, and his previous experience includes consulting for the Pentagon and product development at Google. Mitchell graduated from Harvard University with a B.S. in physics in 2001 and completed his MBA in 2007 at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.