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## Breaking the 700 barrier

This topic has 11 member replies
Kevin Community Manager
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#### Breaking the 700 barrier

Mon Jun 12, 2006 8:18 am
Many students ask me what it takes to break the 700 barrier on the GMAT. Let's take a look at crossing that increasingly important threshold.

One of the great GMAT myths is that the first 8 questions in each section "make or break" your score and that nothing you do after that point has much of an effect on the score you end up with. False! Eight questions are not enough to determine your score. If they were enough, each section would consist of 8 questions.

One of the consequences of the myth is the belief that in order to break 700, you must answer those first 8 questions correctly. Untold numbers of test-takers have labored over the first eight, afraid that any mistake will send their scores plummeting to unthinkable depths. While it is true that you should give each question your best shot, the absolute number of questions answered correctly is not as important as their difficulty level. Better to have a 50/50 success rate at a high level than a 50/50 success rate at a lower one, even though the percentage of right and wrong answers is the same.

The most serious upshot of this myth is that its believers spend far too much time on the first eight questions and then find themselves racing to finish the section. Often, these test-takers run out of time and leave some questions unanswered at the end of a section. Given that unanswered questions are essentially counted as incorrect answers, it makes more sense to move at a steady pace throughout the entire section rather than concentrate on any particular subset of questions. In fact, spending too much time on early questions may actually damage rather than help your final score.

Also, keep in mind that even for a test-taker of very high ability, getting the first eight questions correct in a section is highly unlikely, even if that test-taker spends a lot of extra time on those first eight questions! Remember, due to the adaptive nature of the exam, if you get the first question in a section correct, you will be bumped up to a very difficult second question. If you get that second question right, your third question will also be at an extremely high difficulty level. You will continue to see questions at this very high difficulty level until you get a question wrong, at which point the exam will adjust the difficulty level downward somewhat. Even test-takers of very high ability levels usually cannot sustain accuracy through the first eight questions in a section.

Do not become a victim of the "first 8" myth: give every question your best shot, but do not let any one group of questions drive your entire performance.

Many people come to GMAT preparation in mortal fear of the quantitative section. Probability! Exponents and roots! The entire section seems like a parade of horribles. Unfortunately, many of these people spend the bulk of their study efforts honing their math skills at the expense of their verbal preparation. Certainly a great performance on each section is ideal, but experience has shown that an excellent verbal performance affects one's overall score more dramatically than does an excellent performance in quantitative.

Let's take a look at what happens at the highest levels of the exam: 700+. A recent test-taker received a scaled score of 45 in verbal (98th percentile) and 40 in quant (66th percentile) and an overall score of 700 (93rd percentile). Notice how much closer the overall percentile is to the excellent verbal percentile. If the overall percentile were simply an average of the individual percentiles, this person would have received about 640. But because the combination of an outstanding verbal performance with a fair quant performance is so rare, the overall percentile and score will be much higher than the lower quant percentile. Another person, who scored 49 in verbal (99th percentile) and 37 in quant (56th percentile), received 710 (95th percentile), even though the quant performance here was a full 10 percentile points lower than that in the previous example. Again, an outstanding performance in verbal significantly offset a middling performance in quant.

Does this work in reverse? That is, will an outstanding performance in quant so dramatically offset a middling performance in verbal? No. This combination is much more common, given the increasing number of international test-takers, who often have excellent math skills but relatively weak command of English. Even among native speakers of English, it is more common to see relatively high quant scores coupled with fair to middling verbal scores. Because these combinations are less rare, they are not rewarded as highly. For example, a test-taker recently received a 50 in quant (97th percentile) and a 37 in verbal (82nd percentile), but "only" a 670 overall (89th percentile). So the truly excellent quant performance was not enough to pull the overall score above 700.

While an excellent verbal performance can indeed take up some of the slack from a weaker quant score, keep in mind that most business schools want to see strong skills in both sections. In fact, some of the top 20 schools apply the "80/80 rule", which requires that successful applicants reach at least the 80th percentile in both sections. So do not put all your eggs in one basket: make sure you prepare well for both sections.

Next week, we will discuss breaking the 750 mark.

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Kevin Fitzgerald
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Manhattan GMAT
800-576-4626

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TestPundit Anurag GMAT Instructor
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Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:28 pm
Thanks for the clarification Kevin. Indeed there is little tolerance for errors in GMAT for anyone who hopes to score above 700. But you do agree that the score weighting is asymmetric along the length of the test, don't you.

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Kevin Community Manager
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Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:49 am
Hello Anurag,
Thanks for your note. You may be misinterpreting our strategy. We are not arguing that the initial 10 questions are not important (of course they are, that's 1/4 of the test!). We are arguing that spending significantly extra time on them is a major mistake for those aiming for a 700+ score. Why? Getting most of the LAST 10 questions wrong (in our experience, a very likely scenario for those who spend too much time on the early questions) will absolutely preclude one from a 700 score. I hope this clarifies things.
Kevin

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Kevin Fitzgerald
Director of Marketing and Student Relations
Manhattan GMAT
800-576-4626

Contributor to Beat The GMAT!

TestPundit Anurag GMAT Instructor
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Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:28 pm
Thanks for the clarification Kevin. Indeed there is little tolerance for errors in GMAT for anyone who hopes to score above 700. But you do agree that the score weighting is asymmetric along the length of the test, don't you.

_________________
Anurag Mairal, Ph.D.
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510 449 2229
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Kevin Community Manager
Joined
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Posted:
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Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:49 am
Hello Anurag,
Thanks for your note. You may be misinterpreting our strategy. We are not arguing that the initial 10 questions are not important (of course they are, that's 1/4 of the test!). We are arguing that spending significantly extra time on them is a major mistake for those aiming for a 700+ score. Why? Getting most of the LAST 10 questions wrong (in our experience, a very likely scenario for those who spend too much time on the early questions) will absolutely preclude one from a 700 score. I hope this clarifies things.
Kevin

_________________
Kevin Fitzgerald
Director of Marketing and Student Relations
Manhattan GMAT
800-576-4626

Contributor to Beat The GMAT!

Kevin Community Manager
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Tue Aug 29, 2006 10:42 am
Yes, that is exactly right. You need to answer all the questions and not run out of time.

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Kevin Fitzgerald
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aim-wsc Legendary Member
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Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:54 am
i remember
putting a case of person A & B
agruably i now realised that if you panic and messed up all final items then your score also goes down dreastically .

is it right.?

that means your final questions are also as important as your initial ones

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krishnakanthpps Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
Joined
23 May 2006
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Thu Jun 22, 2006 3:56 am
hi Kevin.

its been quite a pretty to the point article which did help me clarify on how to deal with quant and verbal in GMAT. I come from a place where we are usually good at math and a non native speaker of english.

Waiting for more of ur articles which wud dispel more myths related to GMAT quant and verbal.

Thanks again.
KK

Kevin Community Manager
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Thu Jun 15, 2006 1:32 pm
aim-wsc,
In the coming weeks, you'll be seeing lots of examples of this process. Be patient and you'll begin to understand the logic and process of the exam scoring.

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Kevin Fitzgerald
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Manhattan GMAT
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aim-wsc Legendary Member
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Thu Jun 15, 2006 1:15 pm
@MrKevin,
sorry sir,
but i disagree with that.
You do u hv a pt that spending too much time on early quests . might damage d things..
@MrAnurag,
to put it in a simple manner, (& what matters to me)

consider a hypothetical case:
mr.A &B take a test, mr.A answers first 30 correctly. mess-up with last7.=30/37
mr.B gets first 7 answers wrong, but manages to answer d rest. =30/37
TELL ME WHO SCORED MORE?

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Last edited by aim-wsc on Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:00 am; edited 1 time in total

TestPundit Anurag GMAT Instructor
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Thu Jun 15, 2006 9:27 am
Kevin:

Welcome to the forum. I am quite impressed by your credentials.

I completely agree with your comment on the 8-question myth. I wanted to clarify something, however. The state-of-the-art computer adaptive testing theory postulates that CAT is more efficient. Part of the efficiency comes from the accelerated estimation of a test-takers ability. A number of optmization schemes can be used to evaluate how accurate the test is in estimating the testtakers "true" score; GMAT uses one such routine. For such an estimation procedure to work and work well, the "steps" in score estimation have to be larger earlier in the test and smaller as the test nears an end. That necessitates that all subgroups of the test not have the same score impact. In view of this, I have to disagree with the assumption that time allocation has to be uniform across the test. From a score enhancement strategy point of view, it can be an advantage to allocate time in an asymmetric manner.

Optimization strategy was a major component of my graduate work, and I would be happy to explain this in greater detail, if you like. You will owe me a drink though .

Once again, welcome to the forum. Looking forward to your posts with anticipation,

regards,

_________________
Anurag Mairal, Ph.D.
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Kevin Community Manager
Joined
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Posted:
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Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:00 am
You are correct, aim-wsc, they are vital. In fact, every question is equally vital! Not just the first 8 in each section but all 37 quant questions and all 41 verbal questions all are equally important. That is why you can't spend extra time at the beginning because the questions at the end are just as vital and worth the same amount as the beginning ones. You need to spend the same amount of time and energy at the end questions as you do at the beginning (which is why you can't spend EXTRA time on the first 8 questions).

_________________
Kevin Fitzgerald
Director of Marketing and Student Relations
Manhattan GMAT
800-576-4626

Contributor to Beat The GMAT!

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