Guessing strategy for a "good enough" quant score?

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Hello,

I recently took the GMAT and did well on three out of four sections-8/8 on Integrated Reasoning, 5.5/6 on Analytical Writing, and 89th percentile on verbal-but quite poorly on the quant, around 40th percentile, for a combined score of 630. I've scored as high as 670 on practice CATs, and I have until November/December to retake the GMAT, so I'm pretty confident that I can raise my score with the right quant strategy (and I think I can pick up some more points on the verbal as well).

To give some background on my score and my application: I'm a book editor looking to transition into digital media product management and entrepreneurship (I'm enrolled in a pre-accelerator for a media startup I'm working on), so my understanding is that admissions officers are not looking for or expecting a terrific quant score from me. I know a former book editor who was accepted into Columbia Business School with a little below a 70th percentile on the quant. I know another former editor who was accepted into NYU-Stern after being called in for a special interview to discuss her low quant score.

So I am not aiming for a high score on the quant but rather a decent one for someone with my background, something like 60th or 65th percentile. I'm most interested in the one-year Cornell Tech MBA, for which 680 is the floor of the middle 80 percent. If I can score ~680, I will be thrilled.

My issue with the quant isn't the math concepts-I've been studying on and off for the past year, and I'm comfortable with most of the topics by now-but rather a lack of time, and the anxiety that comes with it. Because math isn't hardwired into my brain, it just takes me longer to do. So what happens while I'm taking the test is I work carefully on the first third of the questions, and I'm fed mostly medium-difficulty questions-then I pick up the pace on the second third, and then I have to race through the last third. In the last two-thirds of the test I end up guessing a lot of answers almost at random because I know I'll be penalized for not finishing. By the end I'm getting a lot of really easy questions, and I know I'm not doing well. Clearly, this approach isn't working out.

So my question is: What is a reasonable quant guessing strategy for someone looking to score in the 60th-65th percentile range? As far as I can tell, guessing is my only option if I want to pick up the extra time I need to get more questions right (in a perfect world I would have ~3 minutes per question). How often can I guess? Can I guess in the first third of the test, or do I have to wait until later on, since the first third is supposedly crucial in establishing your score? Or should I study the math concepts obsessively until they are hardwired? Or should I just take the GRE?

Infinite thanks for your insights!

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by [email protected] » Sat Sep 19, 2015 10:12 am
Hi editorialpro,

With a 630, you're actually closer to a 680 than you realize. While you could pick up some points in the Verbal section, your concern is about the Quant section, so we'll focus on that for now.

One of the great aspects of most GMAT Quant questions is that they're designed so that there's more than one way to get to the correct answer - and there are often faster solutions than just "doing math." So when you define your situation, it's possible (and even likely) that "your way" of handling Quant questions is the "long way" - and THAT is why you have this pacing problem. Thus, while strategic guessing might be the solution to your problem, a focus on Quant Tactics, pattern-matching, etc. is what you should actually be focused on.

1) How long have you studied?
2) What resources have you been using?
3) When are you planning to retake the GMAT?

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by ReasonGMAT » Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:58 am
I could probably write a book on proper time management and guessing strategies for the GMAT. Guessing is an essential part of taking the GMAT and doing it well is definitely a big factor in increasing your score. Again it would probably take too long to cover all of the nuances of how to do it, but I just happened to write a blog post on my site about how to practice the skill. That might help you.

And there are other posts on my site where I discuss time management and guessing strategies, including one about the "myth of 2 minutes per question." The link is https://www.reasongmat.com/gmat-time-man ... -question/

Not trying to promote my site here - just want to direct you to some information that might help you.

To just give you a little more insight here, you do not need to wait until the second 2/3's of the test to start guessing. The early questions are a little more important so I would be a little more willing to "go for it" there, but if the question is out of your range then it would be foolish to spend 5 minutes on it only to get it wrong in the end. You need to choose the questions that you think you can answer in a reasonable amount of time. And often on the harder questions you may be able to find a logical way to eliminate some answers and make a really good educated guess. If you can do that in 30 or 45 seconds that would be far better than spending 4 or 5 minutes, not getting it, and then making a flustered non-strategic guess.

Hope that helps!
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by ceilidh.erickson » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:06 pm
First things first: ignore the percentiles. What you described as your friend's not-so-great 70th percentile quant score would have been a 48/51 raw score. That's 3 points away from perfect!

In recent years, the test has become more international, meaning that more test takers are non-native English speakers. This has driven verbal percentiles up, but quant percentiles have plummeted. The same raw score in quant represents a much lower percentile today than it did even 5 years ago. A near-perfect 50 is only 87th percentile now. You don't have to hold yourself to that standard! https://www.mba.com/us/the-gmat-exam/gma ... -mean.aspx

Generally speaking, top business schools will consider any quant score at or above a 45 strong. That should be your goal.

There's no way you're going to hit a 45 if you don't have time to properly finish the last 3rd of the questions, though. You need to balance your time throughout - don't spend more time on the questions in the beginning, since it will hurt you in the end. It's a fallacy to think that the first 3rd is more important than the last 3rd. It's simply not true!

Here's information on how to set up your scrap paper to track your time: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... tch-paper/ As you're going through the test, whenever you notice that you're more than 2-3 min behind time, SKIP A QUESTION within the next few questions. I recommend that every student skip at least 3, but you can skip up to 6 before it starts to hurt your score. Skip (and when I say "skip," I obviously mean "put in a guess answer," not "leave blank") the questions that - based on previous practice tests - you know that you're less likely to get right anyway. Then you'll have more time to commit to the ones that you're more likely to get right.

So yes - you should skip enough questions to keep on pace to average 2 min per question through the test.
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by ceilidh.erickson » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:10 pm
I wanted to follow up on another thing... you asked:
Or should I just take the GRE?
I teach both the GRE and the GMAT, and I've been hearing this over and over again in the last year or so: "I've heard that the GRE is easier, so I'm going to switch to GRE." Before I get into the specific differences, I want to point out a major misconception - yes, many of the problems on the GRE are easier, but that doesn't actually mean that you will do any better on the GRE! It's still a percentile-based test, so if it's easier for you, it's also easier for everyone else. You probably won't get a much higher score relative to everyone else who's taking it!

Here are the major advantages to taking the GRE, with caveats:

- the GRE is not adaptive within a given section, so you can go back and review questions you've already done. For a lot of students, knowing that they can go back reduces anxiety. But... it's still a very time-constrained test, so chances are that you won't have time to go back anyway.

- you get an onscreen calculator for quant.... but GRE questions often involve more complicated computations, so you'll actually need the calculator. This makes it harder to estimate or guess well.

- the quant one the whole is more straightforward.... so you need to get a much higher percentage of questions right to get a top score. There are also a few very hard questions on there if you get the hard 2nd section.

The timing on the GRE is also very constrained. If you struggled with timing on the GMAT, you would almost certainly struggle with timing on the GRE. Switching tests wouldn't help.

For more about GRE Misconceptions, see: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gre/blog/ ... t-the-gre/
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by editorialpro » Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:20 pm
Thanks to all who replied to my post, and apologies for this very late response. I can happily report that I retook the GMAT yesterday, and I was able to raise my score from 630 to 710!

Unsurprisingly, I did well on verbal and not as well on the quant, but significantly better in both: 48V (99th percentile), 40Q (46th). I would have liked to do a little better on the quant, obviously, but I'm very happy with my total score, which puts me right in the range for Cornell and NYU.

In the end, it really just came down to managing my time more effectively and guessing on a hard question whenever I realized I was more than a minute or two behind. I found the scratch-pad setup strategy recommended by Ceilidh very helpful (thank you, Ceilidh!). I would also say that after taking some time off from studying and returning to it, I found that something had just clicked as far as my facility with the math.

Now the only problem I have is that I'm not sure whether I should apply to Columbia. It's probably not a good idea to throw together an application this late in the game, but on the other hand I'd like to keep my options open by applying to three schools. My application to Cornell Tech is close to done, but I'm just starting my NYU application; both of those are due 1/15. I took Columbia off my list when I didn't think my GMAT score was in the range, and honestly, given that Columbia is a very quant-focused school, I'm not sure I'm a good fit, or that it's a good fit for me. That application is due 1/5, which is very soon. But I have the next two weeks off from work, so I might actually have enough time to put together a strong application-essay writing is my forte, and my GPA is around 3.6 for undergrad, 4.0 for my MA-but I really need to let my recommenders know right away.

If anyone feels like persuading or dissuading me, I'd be grateful. (And I promise to respond much more quickly this time!)

Thank you!

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by [email protected] » Fri Dec 18, 2015 10:34 am
Hi editorialpro,

You're ultimately asking Admissions questions right now, so you would likely find it best to talk with an Admissions Expert. There's a Forum full of them here:

https://www.beatthegmat.com/ask-an-mba-a ... t-f40.html

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