Study and Strategy questions relating to the GMAT.
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Retaking GMAT with 700+ Goal

by LaurenF402 Thu Oct 22, 2020 11:39 pm

Hello! I've taken the GMAT for a total of 5 times (three in person and twice online) and am planning on taking the test a fifth time. The programs that I am applying to appear to be sticklers for a 700+ score so I am really focused on getting past this threshold.

My GMAT history is as follows:

3/20/20 - 640 (V37 Q42)
6/1/20 - (Online without a whiteboard) 660 (V45 Q37)
8/15/20 - 690 (Online WITH a whiteboard) (V37 Q47)
8/31/20 - 690 (V40 Q45)
10/22/20 - 670 (V37 Q44)

I am really confused, sad and stressed that my score ended up going DOWN between my last two tests. In advance of the most recent test, I took two practice exams, both from GMAC, both one and two weeks before the test. On those I received a 710 (Q47 V39) and a 730 (Q48 and V40). All signs indicated that I would pass the 700 benchmark! I'm not sure what went wrong with the most recent exam.

My preparation for virtually every exam I have taken was 1) review all the Manhattan prep books (read, take notes and do problems) and 2) do all of the problems in the OG. I have literally done every math problem at least 3x. I'm not sure where to go from here but I KNOW that I have the mental capability to get over a 700.

What do you recommend my next study plan to be? Clearly something I'm doing isn't working (or is working inconsistently). I'm aiming to take the next exam ASAP but ultimately have until about the end of November so have approximately 20 days to study. Please help!!
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Re: Retaking GMAT with 700+ Goal

by StaceyKoprince Mon Oct 26, 2020 4:13 pm

Hi! I'm sorry this test has been so frustrating for you. Also, though, you're so close!! You've already hit 690 twice on the real thing, so by definition, you have the capability to hit 700. A difference of 10 points is well within the margin of error.

Given that you've taken the real thing multiple times now, I'm guessing you have already taken advantage of any features that came with any programs that you did with us. But just in case, if you took a full course with us, then you're eligible for one free Post-Exam Assessment. This is a meeting with an instructor to debrief from test day and come up with a plan to re-take the test. If this applies to you (and you haven't done it already), please send an email to to request the Post-Exam Assessment.

I do have a question for you re: your statement that your schools seem to be a stickler for 700+. The top schools do have averages that are higher than 700, but the range of scores for admitted applicants does usually dip down into the 600s. For example, Stanford reports an average of 733 but the range of scores for admitted students was 600 to 790. There probably weren't very many people down at the 600 end of the range, but it's likely there were a number of people in the higher 600s.

The rest of your background also matters, of course—GPA, work experience, the industry you're coming from, etc. For example, if you're coming from a highly-represented work area (banking, consulting, tech), then your numbers have to be better because you have a lot of competition from people with similar work experience. Is that the position you're finding yourself in?

Okay, on to your prep. One thing to note is that the GMAT does have some limits to how much you can take it:
– 8 times lifetime across both types (you still have 3 left)
– In person, 5 times in a calendar year (you still have two left until March 20 of next year)
– Online, 2 times lifetime (so you have to take it in person from now on)

Big picture, you're at the stage now where your scoring range is clearly in the high 600s / low 700s. The question is how to peak on test day so that you hit the higher end of your range.

Your highest V score was 45 and your highest Q score was 47. If we could marry those two scores, you'd have your 7xx score. I'm noticing in your scores that your Q scores are steadier—you maxed at Q47 but you also hit Q45 on another test. Verbal, though, is different—you maxed at V45 but your next highest V was 40.

Given that you've hit Q44+ on 3 of your 5 official tests, it's looking reasonable to think that you can do so again on your next in-person exam. You'd need V41+ to then hit 700 overall—and that's the one that seems to be more of a risk / lift.

What test order did you choose for your in-person tests? Online requires Q then V—if you did any in-person ones with V first, did you notice any qualitative differences in how you felt during and after the exam? If you did change test orders, which test orders went with which exams? Let's see if that shows us any patterns with the scoring data.

If you ordered any Enhanced Score Reports, let me know what the data says. (No need to order if you haven't already. The data is often—though not always—helpful on the Quant side. It may or may not be helpful on the Verbal side—just depends what the data actually is.)

The primary difference between a V40 and a V45 really has to do with how well you handle the answer choices. At this stage, you know the content and you know how to handle most question types / types of analysis—but where they're getting you is in the margin between the most tempting wrong answers and the correct answers.

And by definition, on V, if you select an incorrect answer, you made a double-edged error: You crossed off the correct answer and you selected the wrong one. In other words, they got you to think that one of the wrong answers was better than the correct one. How?

That's exactly what your analysis needs to focus on in order to get these right more consistently. :)
(1) Why was the wrong answer so tempting? Why did it look like it might be right? (be as explicit as possible; also, now you know this is not a good reason to pick an answer)
(2) Why was it actually wrong? What specific words indicate that it is wrong and how did I overlook those clues the first time?
(3) Why did the right answer seem wrong? What made it so tempting to cross off the right answer? Why were those things actually okay; what was my error in thinking that they were wrong? (also, now you know that this is not a good reason to eliminate an answer)
(4) Why was it actually right?

I would start by going back over OG (and other) problems you've already done recently and dig into the above analysis for any that you got wrong but ALSO for any that you got right but found harder. Which wrong answers tempted you, even if you didn't end up picking them? (And certainly do this analysis for any where you narrowed to two and then had to choose without being 100% sure, even if you did end up picking the right one.)

For Quant, we're more looking to make sure you again hit the level that you've already hit 3 times (44+). The two main things that can kick your score up—or down—a point or two are:
(1) Time management / decision-making. Are you spending both your time and your mental energy in the optimal way for your brain and your strengths and weaknesses? What is that optimal way for you and what are the trade-offs / decisions you need to be prepared to make on test day?
(2) Careless mistakes—which can be tied into #1. When you're rushing or mentally fatigued, you're going to make more careless mistakes. It's also the case that you could happen to get a couple more problems in areas where you're more prone to careless errors and there goes a point on the exam. It's important to ID the *types* of careless mistakes you tend to make and then to build up new habits that minimize the chance of that type of error in general.

For #1, this is mostly about making sure that you're not blowing time / mental energy on things that you're unlikely to get right either at all or in a reasonable amount of time. You've got to be really ruthless about cutting those things off.

For #2: For instance, when I was studying, I made the error (multiple times!) of solving for the wrong thing. I did everything right but I solved for X rather than Y (or whatever). So I built in two different new habits to prevent that. First, on my scratch paper, I leave some blank space and then write what I'm looking for at the bottom with a big box around it. Then I go back up to do the the bottom of which I run into my reminder about what I'm really looking for. (This has a double effect—the act of consciously writing what I'm looking for down below slows me down long enough to solidify in my brain "I need to find Y" so I'm less likely to go down the wrong path in the first place. And, second, I have the built-in reminder to catch me if I do accidentally go down the wrong path anyway.)

Second, when I go back up to the computer screen to select my answer, the very last thing I do before selecting is to check the question stem again on the screen. eg: (looking at scratch paper) ok, the answer is x = 3... (looking up at computer screen) the question asks what is y...wait...ugh. Ok, fix that.

Note that my last thought when looking at my scratch paper is not "the answer is 3"—I'm not going to catch myself that way. Rather, it's "the answer is x = 3." That's the piece that allows me to actually check that I'm solving for the right thing.

Those two pieces together (decision making / time management and careless errors) are worth a 2-3 point bump in score—to the top end of your range.

Thoughts or questions on the above?
Stacey Koprince
Content & Curriculum Lead