Good question, vivecan - I didn't specifically fit the profile you described, but I've seen <500 scores turn in to >700 scores many times, and can give you some insights in to how it's done.

Because the GMAT doesn't offer "partial credit", you'll find that you can do 95% of the work correctly and still get a question wrong. This happens frequently in cases where:

-Students skip one final step when answering a question (you achieve an answer solving for the variable "x", but the question actually asks for how much is left over when, say, x gallons are drained from a 28-gallon tank).

-Students add or subtract one key word (like "always" or "first" or "only") from a passage or question.

-Students make one computational error that is easy to make (one of my favorites - try setting up an equation for the statement "there are twice as many apples as bananas"; typically about half of test-takers will set it up incorrectly. I'll answer that one at the bottom of this post.)

Because of this, I hate the notion of taking a practice test "to see where you stand", because I think this practice prods people to infer limits on their abilities. (i.e. "I have a 400, so 700 is out of the question"). In actuality, your 480 might be a lot closer to 700 than you think...you could be 95% of the way to the correct answer on a majority of the questions you miss, and just need to be a little bit more precise in the way that you work through them.

A quick anecdote - one of my first-ever GMAT students made a 490-to-710 jump over the course of a weekend (this was back in the early days of the CAT format, during which you could take the test once per calendar month and he took the test on something like the 29th, our class from the 31st to the 2nd, and then the test on the 3rd or 4th). I was pretty surprised that he was able to do so, but when we talked after (he called directly from the test center to let me know), he said that, ultimately, the few mistakes he was making most often clicked, and he avoided those, worked more quickly through a few problems that ordinarily would have taken him an extra minute or two, and was then able to use that time more productively on other questions. His jump came from realizing that he was a lot closer to a high score than he had thought, and by shoring up those last few steps to get there.

***"There are twice as many apples as bananas would algebraically be represented as: 2B = A. Try this - from the statement you can come up with an example in which there would be 2 apples and 1 banana (twice as many apples as bananas). Well, in order to set the quantities equal, you'd need to multiply the number of bananas by 2, giving you 2 = 2(1), or A = 2B. People often invert this equation, putting the "2" next to apples. This is incorrect, because the language cue for "=", "are", doesn't divide the two items in to an equation, but rather precedes them and gives you a description of a ratio, and not an equation.

Brian Galvin

GMAT Instructor

Chief Academic Officer

Veritas Prep

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