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The Myth of the 800 GMAT

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Stacey Koprince wrote:
I have not heard of any admissions committee rejecting someone because of a very high score.
http://www.urch.com/forums/mba-admissions/6376-article-whom-stanford-accepted.html

please check this post ..by the stanford GSB adcom. thank you

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Yes, I've seen that. He does not say that they turned down those students *because* of the 800 score. They're just pointing out that, if you get an 800, it's not automatically going to get you in. (Nor will an Olympic medal or a Rhodes Scholar award - as he also points out.)

Be careful with language here - it isn't the case that they looked at the scores and said, "Oh, you got an 800, you're out automatically." They looked at the rest of the application and said, "Well, the 800 is nice, but the rest of the application is not amazing enough to cause us to accept you."

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Interesting topic. One thing that sticks out to me is that there hasn't been any discussion of the breakdown between the quant/verbal as it relates to the overall score.

One of the schools I'm applying to (read: Wharton) seems to have an 80th percentile benchmark for the quant score (nothing official- I'm basing this off of informal remarks made by admissions officers and current students). The thinking being that an 80th percentile quant shows that the candidate has the ability to excel in a program that emphasizes analytical and quantitative skills.

However, if the candidate has demonstrated sufficient quant ability in other aspects of his/her application - an undergraduate engineering degree or a number crunching job - the 80th percentile threshold might not be as necessary, because the adcom would be able to "check the box" based on other aspects of the candidates application.

I bring this up to say that although I haven't taken the test yet (this weekend - fingers crossed), I've been testing in the 700 range. My verbal scores are reliably in the 99th percentile, and that brings up my quant scores which are so far around the 60th percentile. I could definitely see a situation in which (if things go well), I end up with a score in the low 700s, but would consider retaking the test to see if I could raise the quant score. For an applicant like me (background in humanities and a job that doesn't involve many quantitative tasks) - I think a retake (assuming I could actually raise the score) could be worthwhile.

When it comes down to it, I'd much rather end up with a 720 that breaks down somewhat evenly along quant/verbal lines, than a 720 skewed heavily towards verbal.

Any thoughts?

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In general, I agree - for the very top schools, they tend to prefer a balanced set of subscores to a skewed set. There are a lot of schools that don't examine the subscores at all, but for those who do, generally speaking, balanced is usually preferred.

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Ladies and Gents,

1. Half of scores are not higher and lower than the average... that is defined as the median (not mean)!
2. The mean is a weighted score that and it is not normally distributed in this case since the theoretical and practical caps of top schools are close to the higher end.
3. Practically, far more than 50% of students exceed the 730 mean weighting out a small percentage of lower "nobility" scores in the 640+ range (or whatever).

Also remember that a ten point step is along the bell curve and therefore there is a big difference between 700 to 720 and 720 to 740.
So ironic that I am writing this on a GMAT high score forum!

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EPOC wrote:
Ladies and Gents,

1. Half of scores are not higher and lower than the average... that is defined as the median (not mean)!
2. The mean is a weighted score that and it is not normally distributed in this case since the theoretical and practical caps of top schools are close to the higher end.
3. Practically, far more than 50% of students exceed the 730 mean weighting out a small percentage of lower "nobility" scores in the 640+ range (or whatever).

Also remember that a ten point step is along the bell curve and therefore there is a big difference between 700 to 720 and 720 to 740.
So ironic that I am writing this on a GMAT high score forum!
What's even funnier is that it took 2 years for someone to point this out. This has been a pet peeve of mine since coming to the forums. I heart you! Smile

It is interesting when you see schools post their score ranges and you see a place like HBS has a range from 500-790 whereas a place like Stanford is more like 580-790. Both schools lack an 800 scorer, however, Harvard has a lot more wiggle room because it has such a larger class, so it can accept the low outlier knowing that s/he will be well compensated for by the majority of students scoring above a 700.

(These ranges are approximations from my fuzzy memory...don't quote me on this...)

I also want to say that it also seems absurd that you need to be in the 80th percentile to be considered competent. Just because 20% of people get a score doesn't mean that anything less is competent. It's specious to say that only a certain percentage of people taking the test is competent because they have to be above average. Averages are relative to the data points at hand (by definition), so why should we not assume that perhaps the data points are just getting juicier? Smile

Is a 50 really that much easier in the quant than in the verbal? Probably not, it's just that people study more for quant or have stronger quant backgrounds. If English PhD candidates were taking the exam, I'm guessing the skew would be much different.

I'm obviously just bitter because my 48 on quant has slid from 82% percentile to 78% in recent GMAT history. That's crazy talk!

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This is a rather weak post.

If you've worked at a managerial position, you know nothing is absolute. GMAT is only a piece of the pie.

One can easily demonstrate their leadership with track-record through essay, resume, recommendation ON-TOP of his/her kickass GMAT score.

the post assumes you cannot have BOTH. A cliche i hear during my undergrad is that "grades means nothing, it's all about people skill." but it fails to recognize that the most successful ones often those who have BOTH.

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This is a very interesting post, so I just wanted to leave my general thoughts on the whole process from what I have gathered thus far and from my general experiences in life, as I have thought about both quite a bit:

Grades - I have a big issue taking them that seriously, depending on the subject that you studied of course. For example, if you studied Mathematics, I mean there is only a definitive way to do well on the test, to know the material. There isn't anything that needs to be critically thought out, 2+2=4 - we know that definitively. However, if you are studying something such as Economics or Finance where the theory diverges into different schools of thought such as Monetarism or Keynesian type policies or value investing vs. Modern Portfolio theory and your school only teaches and emphasizes one school of thought, perhaps you realized what they were teaching you was factually not correct and perhaps not in your best interest to sit around and memorize. So instead, you took the information and applied it to the world around you to see what exactly you agreed with and what worked. Also, schools generally don't hold teachers accountable to teach classes, from my experience, the same exact way each year. So for example, you could have one teacher teach Microeconomics and then another teacher teach it and the difficulty level could be COMPLETELY different or one of the teachers could scale and the other could not. Teachers also have their own incentive to get students to score in the typical bell curve. Now if you want to exasperate this point of view, think about that from a point of view where there are 2,000 + colleges in the United States. However, if you are going to take the route I just elaborated on, you have to be able to prove it. Just as if you say you are really good at basketball you have to PROVE that you are really good; which in Finance, for all you finance buffs out there, takes time as not everything happens right away and there are lag times from when policies are implemented which effects security prices Smile. Alright next topic

GMAT - I think that obviously you want a 740 over a 700 or a 650. Again at some point though, you have to think that this is merely a test that some guy from across the country/ world made and maybe your time would be better allocated doing something else than fighting for a 760 instead of a 740. This is a barrier of entry, in my opinion, nothing more. It shows that you are intellectually capable to handle the target schools program. It says nothing about your character, who you are as a person, or if you are talented at what you do. It is merely the first step. I mean, all things considered equal, like Stacey said, if you have two identical candidates and John scores a 720 and I scored a 650 - John should probably be the one who earned that position in a top B school. In fact, I would say he deserves it over me and tell him congratulations, but that is just my personality. In regards to the schools ranges of accepting people from a 500-780 I think that shows, in my opinion, a failure of accountability and basically allows the school to do whatever they want; however, I guess it is their school. In my opinion though, I don't care if it is George Bush's son, I don't think he should get into Harvard if Harvard is insisting on telling people that to get in they expect you to score in their general GMAT range. I guess there are exceptions to this; however, I would say that takes an emotional IQ and you should be able to defend it in a newspaper if you are going to argue that. There is a big difference in letting in George Bush's son who is let in simply because he has a prestigious name or letting in a guy from Africa who scrummaged through the trash to create electricity for a village of 10,000, and then without the internet and just one old 7th edition of the OG managed to score a 610 in hopes to one day start his own electricity business in Africa.

Work Experience - I think this is probably the toughest thing to measure and completely almost circumstantial. Some people could have connections so they got a top analyst position at a large investment bank but may not be talented or even good at what they do. Others could have had horrible experiences working with people/ bosses who are irrational so that they got fired, and that thus reflects poorly on them as a person. I mean I don't really have any control over anyone else's behavior but my own, so theoretically you cannot MAKE someone hire you or if there is information asymmetry issues, you can't make them be honest. Let me use a hyperbole - There could be another Anderson Silva out there, but if no one lets him into the ring to fight or if he never had the proper trainers or dietitians assisting him he may never even have a shot. I mean it isn't as if he could MAKE the UFC give him a shot. I guess that is the job of the admission people is to find those people out there and give them an equitable shot. Good luck.

Ok those are just my general thoughts, take it or leave it. Smile

-BP

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Well there is this school "Indian School of Business" (it was ranked in top 20 few years back and now its around mid 30's in FT ranking)...
Published avg GMAT of this school is 711. However, they have asked many many candidates to increase GMAT from their current scores of around 700-720 to 740 or something like that.
Reason they are giving is..."since you are engineers, we expect higher GMAT scores from you!"

Please comment!

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That is silly, sounds like Indian School of Business is more interested in increasing its ranking than getting better qualified candidates. Oddly that will probably just lead to lower rankings since they are trying to manage an ex post metric rather than an ex ante set of causes. Reminds me of something Nassim Taleb once published that he calls a BS (Bullshit) detection Heuristic:
"You can tell if a discipline is BS if the degree depends severely on the prestige of the school granting it. I remember when I applied to MBA programs being told that anything outside the top 10 or 20 would be a waste of time. On the other hand a degree in mathematics is much less dependent on the school (conditional on being above a certain level, so the heuristic would apply to the differene betwewn top 10 and top 2000 schools).
The same applies to research papers. In math and physics, a result posted on arXiv (with a minimum hurdle) is fine. In low quality fields like academic finance (where almost all academics are charlatans and all papers some form of complicated storytelling), the "prestige" of the journal is the sole criterion."

Something to chew on. I know THIS MBA does...

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