Can I cancel my GMAT score and should I?


George from Georgetown writes:

Dear First Choice Admissions.  I’m going to take the GMAT test in about a week and I’m very nervous.  If I totally blow it, can I can cancel my score?

Dear George-

Yes, the GMAT can be very nerve racking but it’s reassuring to know that if you have a disastrous attempt you can, indeed, cancel your score.  In fact, the GMAT will let you look at your quant and verbal scores before you make the decision.  And if you do decide to cancel your score there will be no record of the attempt – it’s like it never happened.   The schools you’re applying to will not even know you took it.


The more important question is:  Should you cancel your score? The predictable yet unsatisfying answer to that question is….it depends.

First of all, most students I work with take the test on average 2-3 times and admissions departments know this –so don’t get too caught up in making it look like you were a brilliant test taker right out of the gate.  That’s much less important than submitting a score that makes you competitive for your target schools.

Also, most of the students I work with are shooting for scores in the 700+ range.  And they tend to be in that range on practice tests.  So if a student gets a 650, it’s a pretty easy decision.  They cancel the score.  But what if you want a 700+ score and get a 680?  It get’s a bit more complicated.

First of all, depending on how strong the other areas of your application are –  a 680 can be a very competitive score.  There will be lots of students admitted to top 10 schools with scores of 680 (and some below).   In that case, I’d keep the score and take the test again and try to improve.

If you are way off your target score (by 30 or more points) AND you have consistently posted better scores on practice tests, my general advice is to go ahead and cancel your score.

The other thing that might persuade you to keep a score that is a bit lower is if you performed particularly well on a section that you needed to perform particularly well on.  I had a student who was a political science major and worked in the state department for a number of years.  He didn’t have a strong quant background and needed to post a very good score on the quant section of the test.  He got a 680 overall but got a 49 on the quant.  So He kept the score and got into an Ivy League School.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you can take the GMAT a total of 5 times in a year and a total of 8 times in a lifetime.  If you are on your 4th attempt, I would lean more toward keeping the score (unless it’s a absolute disaster and you KNOW you can do better) and then try to improve on your last attempt.

I hope that helps, George.  And good luck!

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