As your Test Day approaches, you need to hold what you’ve got; do not try to add to your load during your final week of prep. Shortly before you sit for the GMAT, shift your focus away from strength-building. Some students think, “I’ve spent months building strengths, is it really time to STOP?” Yes.
For months you’ve worked on building your strengths. The strengths list is now longer than the list of areas that need improvement, so your inclination may be to spend the last week or so knocking those last few items off the list. But those last remaining items are not worth losing anything that you’ve already mastered.
Many test-takers would then focus all of their energy on mastering the remaining items on the list of opportunities. But a Kaplan-trained test-taker knows that moving an item to the strengths list does not mean total mastery. Do not neglect your strengths as Test Day approaches. You need to hold what you’ve got so you have a firm grip for the GMAT. Additionally, Test Day decisions, like if you should cancel your score or the section order, also help you get the best score possible.
Canceling Your GMAT Score
This section is an unusual take on landing your best score; let’s look at the ins and outs of canceling a GMAT score.
Will business schools know if I cancel my GMAT score?
Historically, GMAT takers had to decide on Test Day whether to cancel their score before even seeing it, and the “C” of cancellation appeared in your permanent record submitted to business schools. Fortunately, in 2015 the GMAC changed its score cancellation policy to make the decision to cancel a GMAT score—or to reinstate it—much easier.
On Test Day, you will see your unofficial score as soon as you complete the exam. If you are unhappy with your score and feel that you have the time, motivation, and prep plan to raise your score if you retake the GMAT, you can cancel your score immediately, at no additional charge.* Now, cancelling a GMAT score erases it from your record entirely. It’s as if you never even took it; business schools do not see any indication that you cancelled a score.
If you do not cancel your GMAT score at the test center, but decide within 72 hours of the test start time that you would like to, you can still cancel it, for a small fee.
Also, if you DO cancel (whether at the test center or during the 72 hours after you started the test) and then decide later that you shouldn’t have done so, you have the option of reinstating the cancelled score, for another fee.
What are good reasons for cancelling or reinstating?
Here are some sample scenarios:
- Janice takes the GMAT, sees her score, and feels confident that with the help of a Self-Paced Kaplan prep course she will be able to improve her score enough to be satisfied. She decided to cancel the score immediately, for no additional charge. On her future score reports there is no indication she took the GMAT on this date.
- Robert takes the GMAT, sees his score, and accepts it—although he feels frustrated that it wasn’t higher. The next day he decides he would like to cancel the score. He can do so for a fee, provided he does so within 72 hours of his Test Day appointment time.
- Andrea takes the exam, sees her GMAT score, and cancels it because she is disappointed and feels she can do better. However, she later realizes that she does not have the time to properly prepare to retake the exam and decides to reinstate that cancelled score. She can do so, for a fee, at any time within four years and 11 months of her testing date.
Another bonus of the GMAC policy is that schools will not see any indication that you cancelled or reinstated one or more scores. This takes a lot of stress off the test-taker and allows schools to only see the GMAT scores you want to share.
If you do not have time, motivation, or a proper prep plan to improve your score, think long and hard about whether you should cancel the score.
Selecting Your GMAT Section Order
Test-takers can change the order of the sections they see on the GMAT. Let’s look at some factors to consider when deciding the best order in which to tackle the different GMAT sections.
How to order your GMAT sections
The long-standing (default) section order is Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), break, Quantitative Reasoning, break, and Verbal Reasoning. Because this is a long test, many of my students worry that they will be too brain-drained to perform well on the Verbal section. Now, Verbal does not have to be the last section they face.
GMAC offers three section arrangements, and you will “Select Section Order” before your test begins:
|Option #1||Option #2||Option #3|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Verbal Reasoning||Quantitative Reasoning|
|8-minute break||8-minute break||8-minute break|
|Quantitative Reasoning||Quantitative Reasoning||Verbal Reasoning|
|8-minute break||8-minute break||8-minute break|
|Verbal Reasoning||Integrated Reasoning||Integrated Reasoning|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Analytical Writing Assessment|
Deciding which arrangement is best involves a number of factors. There are pros and cons to each arrangement, and I’m sure there are plenty of test-takers like me who would prefer to have IR and AWA last, but in the other order.
Prioritizing the sections that matter most
Most schools value your Quant/Verbal composite score more than your IR or AWA scores. Therefore, pushing these sections to the end allows you to face the Quant and Verbal sections while you are fresh, or at least more fresh than you would be with AWA and IR appearing first.
Remember, however, that you should take the actual GMAT in the same order that you practiced. So if you’ve been pleased with your scores on practice tests that use the default arrangement, then Option #1 is a safe bet. This is the order the GMAT has had since 2012, when Integrated Reasoning was added. Kaplan has also introduced the Select Section Order option in its full-length practice tests.
Optimizing your strategy to gain points
There may be situations in which changing the order could positively impact your score, and these are worth considering. Do you struggle with remembering formulas? Does math make you panic? If so, choosing Option #3 to approach your GMAT sections might serve you best. You will be able to tackle Quant first, which will let you get that behind you before fatigue sets in.
Do you tend to drift off or lose focus in Reading Comp? Then Option #2 might be your best bet. With this sequence you will be able to tackle Verbal right away, leaving the lesser-value sections for the end of the test.
Does your AWA score impact your chances of receiving a fellowship? This is not a common situation, but some programs factor the AWA score into funding decisions. If this applies to you, you may want to stick with Option #1.
Clearly there is no best way to order the GMAT sections, and you may see reasons that each option would work for you. Think through the potential reasons for and against each and decide which is best for you.