To Cancel or Not – What to Do When the Test Doesn’t Go Your Way
Test day is a very important time in the life of a future professional. The older you get, the more important it becomes to put forth the best performance possible. While scores on exams such as the SAT and ACT are important, they become even more high stakes for law school, business school, and other professional-level applicants. With everything riding on how well you perform, and with the rising cost of the exams themselves, the idea of cancelling your scores may seem like one you’d never consider. But there are times when you should. Let’s now look at that ever-present question: To Cancel or Not? What to Do When the Test Doesn’t Go Your Way.
Pros of Cancellation
Believe it or not, there are more pros to cancelling your scores than you might think. Rather than worry about the loss of money that comes with making this decision, if you do have to resort to it, then here are some of the benefits.
Acclimating yourself to the testing environment. Poor test takers may get a case of the nerves on their initial time taking a test like the LSAT, GMAT, or GRE. With so much riding on performance, the pressure of that first time taking the test can get to you. However, if you go through the experience one time – even when you know you haven’t done that well – it can become easier to take on subsequent test dates.
Avoiding a bad impression with your schools of choice. At the graduate level, the schools where you attend really speak highly of the quality of the education you have attained. If you really want to go to Stanford or one of the Ivy League schools, then sending a less-than-stellar score can hurt your long-term chances for getting in. Not leaving things to chance when you know you’ve done poorly is a good idea. Cancelling the scores will ultimately allow you to retool and get it right the next time.
Learning from your mistakes. Even when a test session goes poorly, you can make the most of things. You do that by identifying the sections and question types that you clearly did not know and hitting those harder during future study sessions and preparation classes. If you just didn’t take the test seriously enough – and that happens all too often – then a shellacking on test day can ensure that you never make the same mistake again. A future test may still be challenging, but it won’t be from lack of preparation.
Cons of Cancellation
This part of score cancellation is probably a little easier to identify, so let’s get right down to it.
Wasting time. Let’s say the problem isn’t that you spent too little time studying. You just didn’t have a good plan and were all over the place, spending time on the wrong sections or looking over dated materials. Every minute that you spent preparing for exam day seems like a waste of time when there are no results to show for it. Still, cancellation may be a better idea than pushing through and reporting horrible results.
Wasting money. Professional-level exams like the GRE, GMAT or LSAT, don’t come cheaply. You have to fork out a few hundred bills you may not have just for the chance to take the exam. Cancelling your score in a tough economy hurts even worse.
Sabotaging a good score. If you’re the finicky type, then there is a danger that you cancel before really giving yourself a chance to consider how well or poorly you may have performed. We’re sure that in the history of the GRE, GMAT or LSAT, just as examples, there have been cases where a good score was actually canceled because a test-taker overreacted. Don’t be “that guy (or lady).”
When to Cancel Scores
First, consider how comfortable you are with the material. If you performed well in your undergraduate education, took studying for the exam seriously, and have a legitimate passion for your future career field, then intuition is very effective in determining how well, or poorly, you may have performed. If you’ve got a “bad feeling about this,” then you may want to go ahead and cancel your scores at the end of the exam. (That’s one way.)
However, sometimes a number of things can happen that distract you from the actual taking of the test – even a test you’ve adequately prepared for. If your attention has been drawn away by circumstances beyond your control, then you may want to sleep on it and cancel in the next day or two. Rules are different for each exam – LSAT gives you six days to decide, for example – so make sure you know what the deadline is, and give yourself some time to replay the test session in your head before allowing intuition to take over. (That’s the other way.)
Just what are some common distractions you have to watch out for? Maybe the person sitting next to you is bi-polar and has continued outbursts at the complexity of the exam. Maybe you’re sick with the flu on test day, and you know it isn’t your best effort. Perhaps you’ve had the unlucky draw of proctors, who don’t take their responsibilities seriously and won’t shut up the entire time. Strange things can happen on test day, and they can weaken your overall performance. Don’t let them determine the first impression your schools of choice have of you.
Eliminating the Need to Cancel
Most of the time, with adequate preparation, you will not need to cancel. Especially with high-level professionally-geared exams like GRE, GMAT and LSAT, you have spent four years of undergraduate training preparing for the opportunity. Rely on past teaching, enroll in a study course, and take two or three practice exams each week leading up to the big day. By taking prep time seriously, you should be prepared for most any challenge that test day throws your way.