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New GMAT Score Preview Piles Pressure On MBA Applicants

A new GMAT score preview feature is likely to lead to an increase in cancelled GMAT tests, and could harm prospective MBA applicants’ chances of being admitted to business school.

By  Seb Murray

Mon Jun 30 2014

A new GMAT score preview feature is likely to lead to an increase in cancelled GMAT tests, and could harm prospective MBA applicants’ chances of being admitted to business school.

Prospective MBA students taking the exam will now be able to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them.

Under the new process, test takers will be given two minutes to decide whether to accept scores. If they do not make a choice, their scores will automatically be cancelled.

This is likely to pile more pressure onto test-takers, many of whom rely on a high GMAT score to gain admission to top MBA programs – although applicants will be able to reinstate their scores within 60 days for a $100 fee. It will also result in an uptick of cancellations by MBA candidates hoping to net a higher score.

But this could result in business schools speculating on a cancelled test and may harm an MBA application, suggest leading admissions consultants.

“I’d say it will be a slight cause for concern for them, especially if there are multiple cancellations,” says Jon Fuller, a senior admissions counsellor at Clear Admit, LLC. “A cancellation opens the door for speculation about a candidate’s academic ability, judgment, and other things, and one of the last things you want to invite an application reader to do is speculate,” he adds.

He says it is common to see a candidate with multiple test results with an upward trajectory in scores. But if admissions committees see two cancellations, for example, “now they’re wondering just how bad the scores were – I’d say it’s more likely that they think the candidate really bombed the first two exams”, says Jon, who led the full-time MBA admissions team at Michigan Ross.

MBA applicants will also need to develop an extra element of strategic thinking. “One of the worst things I can imagine candidates doing is going into the test experience [with the] mind-set that they can just cancel the score if it doesn’t go well,” says John.

Aviva Legatt, who was an admissions officer at the Wharton School of Business, says: “Given the two minute interval to make the decision immediately after the test, the choice to cancel or report a score may not be carefully considered.”

Aviva, who is now a consultant at InGenius Prep, also suggests that the mean GMAT score will increase, putting “more pressure on test takers to get even higher scores”.

GMAC, a non-profit association of business schools, administers the test for use in admissions by more than 6,100 graduate business and management programs around the world.

The new score reporting feature is in effect at all 600 test centres across the world. Analytical Writing Assessment scores are unaffected by the change.

MBA applicants are encouraged to know exactly what score they’re willing to accept before taking the test.

Stacy Blackman, who runs leading applicant consultancy Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc, says: “It will be a stressful couple of minutes for many, but I think it is a positive that gives applicants more control over their own process.”

Akkshay Chugh, founder and CEO of online MBA applicant platform gotMBA.co, suggests applicants contact alumni at their target schools, who were accepted in spite of a low GMAT score. “[They should] understand their application strategy, and assess if they would still like to apply to business school,” he adds.

However, Aviva points out that GMAT test scores are not the only considerations that business schools will review. “I encourage students to check in with their top-choice MBA programs to get information on minimum, median and mean scores,” she adds.

Ashok Sarathy, GMAC’s vice president of product management, said: “The new score reporting feature gives test takers more certainty and control in the testing process, and in how their scores are reported to schools.”