Should You Cancel Your GRE Score?

March 7, 2014
Boris Dvorkin

GRE hippo

Seeing one of these guys in the testing room means that you get to cancel your GRE score. Otherwise…no.
Photo Credit: digitalART2 via Compfight cc

Options aren’t always a good thing. When I buy shampoo, I spend agonizing minutes looking among the dozens of bottles for some kind of normal, regular shampoo. But no. Nothing like that is ever there. All I see are endless rows of arcane admixtures infused with vegetables, tropical fruits, aloes, bear spit, and who knows what else. In principle, it’s great that I could wash my hair with coconuts if I wanted to. But the presence of all these options makes it impossible for me to get what I want, which is Boring Shampoo: The Plain Old Kind. How does this relate to your GRE score? Read on and find out.

When you take the GRE, you’ll have the option to cancel your score. This might seem like a great option, but like the GRE calculator, it’s more of a trap than a benefit. The catch is that you have to decide whether to cancel your GRE score before you see it. Once you see your GRE score, you can’t cancel it; and if you cancel it, you’ll never know what it was. In this post, I’d like to tell you a short story and a long story about this score-canceling option.

The short story is: don’t cancel your GRE score. Period.

The long story is that there are many reasons why canceling your GRE score is a terrible idea:

  • For one, the option appears at the end of a 4-hour exam that leaves you emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted — which is exactly when you DON’T want to make critical and irreversible life-altering decisions.
  • Another problem with the option is that the fundamental logic behind it doesn’t make sense. If the GRE went so terribly that you need to cancel your score…then how did you make it all the way to the end of the test? I like to joke with my GRE students that you should cancel your score if a stampeding hippo crashes through the computer lab. Realistically, though, if a stampeding hippo DID batter down the walls while you were taking the GRE, you’d run away screaming in terror. Or maybe you’d be like me, and heroically wrestle the hippo into submission. Either way, you wouldn’t finish the test. Just about any legitimate reason to cancel your score would stop you from seeing the score-canceling option in the first place.
  • The main reason many GRE students feel an urge to cancel their score is that the test “felt hard.” Or occasionally: “it felt REALLY hard.” And that’s NOT a good reason to cancel your score, no matter how many “reallys” you tack in front of the word “hard.” I’ll tell you a secret: I teach this thing for a living, and if I took it, I’d think the GRE was hard. That’s not because I’m bad at the GRE (I hope!), but because the GRE is a hard test. It’s long, it covers a wide intellectual area, and it adapts to your test-taking ability and throws you problems at the upper reaches of your skill level.

I’m not even surprised anymore when students send me post-day emails like, “I felt horrible and thought I bombed it…and then I got a higher score than any of my practice tests!” People are not good at judging their own GRE performance, which is why you need to undergo an epic catastrophe — “I fell ill and left half of two sections blank” — in order to justify a score cancellation.

So let’s wrap it up and return to that short story: don’t cancel your score. Period.

Boris Dvorkin After picking up degrees in English and computer science from Case Western, Boris Dvorkin worked for six unfortunate months as a computer programmer before finding a home at Kaplan in May 2008. Boris was named Kaplan's Teacher of the Year for 2010 and worked on Kaplan's curriculum for the recent GRE revision. When he's not gushing about standardized test trivia, Boris enjoys playing obscure strategy board games, and is the proud owner of no less than three different board games about Portuguese spice merchants.

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