GMAT Score: Crossing the 700 Line (Part 2)

Written by Kelly Granson. Posted in GMAT Study Tips

GMAT-Scoring1We concluded our previous post with the fact that a GMAT score of 750 or higher means success on both sections. Today we will consider how the total score is derived from the section scores, whether business schools care how many times you take the test, and whether a 700+ score is really important.

First, let's talk about the total GMAT score. Each section is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 60 points. Each score has a corresponding percentile—that is, a rating that reflects your place among other test takers of recent years. For example, if you got 40 points on the verbal section, you scored in the 90th percentile. That is, 90% of recent test takers scored less on the verbal section than you did.

Only administrators of the test know how and why a particular score corresponds to a certain percentile. Identical scores can be composed of different combinations. For example, if you got 750, your sectional scores could be 41V/51Q, 44V/49Q, 45V/48Q, 46V/47Q, or 47V/47Q. A combined score of 760 might be composed of 42V/50Q, 44V/50Q, 46V/48Q, or 51V/46Q. As you can see, to get a score of 750 or higher, you need to be equally talented in both sections.

Now, for the most ambitious of you, let's talk about the perfect GMAT score — 800. First of all, the 800 score does not mean that you have answered all the questions correctly. All it means is that you answered correctly the maximum number of difficult questions. For example, you can get 51 points on math and 51 on the verbal sections. As you can see, the maximum 60 points are not required.

Now, here is information for those of you who are desperate to cross the 700 line. What if you just cannot exceed 700? Some believe that after three attempts you have no chance to improve your GMAT score — either you have exceeded the limits of your intelligence or you are strongly immune to standardized tests. The good news is that THIS IS NOT TRUE.

There can be several reasons for consistent failure. First, if you take the test too often, you do not give yourself time to prepare and reinforce your weak links. It makes no sense to take a test every month and simply hope that the result will improve by itself. Rather, it is important to return to the concepts, practice, and detailed analysis of each question; or just learn how to use your time effectively, in the event that your failures have something to do with your inability to complete the test. The first step is to determine what makes you fail. Lack of knowledge... insufficient practice... poor time management?

A second reason for failure is pessimism. It sounds like a cliché but it is true that low expectations will bring low results. If you want to get at least 700, set a goal of 800.

Now, do business schools care how often you take the GMAT? You will find it very reassuring that the answer is no, they just look at your highest score. They are interested in your best result because admitting students with strong results helps them keep their own places in the rankings. Moreover, GMAT is only a test; by itself, it says nothing about your achievements. It is used only as a preliminary factor in the elimination process. The results show only your ability to work with numbers and think logically. There are no known cases of admission attributable primarily to a good GMAT score.

It is impossible to determine whether your score will grow quickly or slowly. Sometimes test takers improve their results from 620 to 720 or from 590 to 690, and sometimes their results deteriorate. It may be that you are lucky the first time and get something like 720, or you may be among those who need four attempts to get 690.

What about 690? Is it really not enough for the best business schools? Do you need to retake the test until you get 700 or higher? In fact, that prediction depends on the school, more precisely, on two criteria: average and median. The first simply means the average GMAT score of students who were accepted. However, we do not know how many of those students got an above-average result. The second term appears more specific. If the median GMAT score for a certain school is 700, then exactly 50% of students got scores above 700. However, how much they were above 700, and how far below the other were, remains a mystery.

Sometimes schools mention a minimum qualifying score. This is not necessarily their standard cutoff score, but the score of a particular student who was admitted with this result. Harvard could write that the minimum score for a particular class was 640. However, this would not mean that if you had 640 you would be admitted. It just means that some student, about whom we know nothing more, was admitted with such a result. It may happen that at the age of 20 he headed his own large company, was a world champion athlete, and in his free time rescued children from burning buses. The GMAT did not work out for him because Superman had no time to prepare.:-)

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