GMAT Impact: How Does “Sending Scores” Really Work?

When it comes to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this weekly blog series, Manhattan GMAT’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

My friends at mbaMission have very helpfully provided me with a list of common GMAT questions that their clients ask. Today’s post addresses a frequent question: how does this “sending scores” business actually work?

How do I send scores?
When you go into the testing center to take the exam, you’ll be allowed to select, for free, up to five schools to which you can send your scores. If you choose to send a score report after the exam is over, however, you have to pay a fee of $28 per school.

Seems like a no-brainer: I can save $140 by selecting the schools while at the test center! A lot of people pass on this opportunity, though—they don’t select any schools for free while at the exam center. Why? In a word, psychology. We have to make this selection before we take the test, and many people think, “I don’t know my score yet. What if I don’t do well?”

Can I send only my best score to my schools?
No, unfortunately, you can’t. A GMAT score report is like a university transcript: the schools will see it all. GMAT scores are valid for five years, so scores from any tests taken within the past five years will be on your score report.

On the bright side, though, you might as well select five schools for free while you’re in the testing center. If you end up applying to any of these schools, they will see your entire score report anyway, so it doesn’t matter whether you don’t end up getting the score you want today.

But I don’t want them to see a bad score first!
It’s useful to know how this “sending scores” process actually works. Nothing is mailed to the schools; rather, the schools have access to an online database, and they’re simply given permission to view your record.

You’re thinking, “Well, that doesn’t change anything. I still don’t want them to view my record until I have the score I want!” I completely agree. Here’s the key point: the schools aren’t going to bother to check your record unless and until you submit an application. They don’t care how a bunch of random people did on the exam. They care about verifying your score if they think they might want to admit you. As a result, they verify your score report after they receive your application. At that point, someone verifies that your self-reported GMAT score is actually valid according to your official score report. Remember, it is also in the schools’ best interest to consider your highest score the “valid” one, because higher scores help boost their averages. Improving your GMAT score can actually be a positive thing, because it demonstrates tenacity and a commitment to achieving a goal.

The moral of the story: pick five schools for free when you’re in the testing center. If you’re not yet sure where you’re going to apply, pick five likely schools. If you take the test again a few months later, pick five different schools. (If you don’t take the test again for several years but still plan to apply to the same schools, then you may want to select them again, just to make sure.)

Let us be very clear, high scores and high percentiles are great. We are not a firm of Polyannas, but applicants need to look past superficialities and statistics to understand the bigger picture, in context. We are always happy to provide that context through a free 30-minute consultation.

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