What Does My GMAT Score Really Mean? (Part 2)

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In my last post I discussed how to interpret the various parts of your GMAT score. In this section I’ll discuss how you should think about it. If you score a 650 what does that mean? Should you re-take the test?

The first thing that’s important to remember is that the GMAT is simply a tool to help you achieve your goal: admission to the business school of your choice. I mention that because the often-stated goal “to score as high as possible” isn’t really useful. As long as the end goal is accomplished, the score doesn’t really matter. That being said, there are many extremely competitive schools, and so any incremental gain in your score can be a slight edge in your application.

That being said, your GMAT skill is not fixed like your height. If you’re six feet tall today, you’ll be six feet tall tomorrow. If you score 650 today, you may or may not score the same thing tomorrow. If your skill level is at a 650 scoring 670 or 630 is fairly likely. Are your guesses lucky? Did you happen to get reading comprehension passages that you understood very well? Were you feeling good and confident and quick on the day of the test? All of these differences can help determine where in your range that you score.

So should you re-take the test? The first consideration you need to consider is the end result. Would the score you have be enough to get you admitted to the school of your choice? If it would, congrats! You’re done with the GMAT. If not, you have to ask whether you need a small improvement or a large improvement. If you need a large improvement, it’s time to reconsider your study methods and consider getting some more help to achieve your goals. If what you need is just a small improvement, you may want to consider taking the GMAT again soon. GMAC will allow you to re-take 16 days after your initial test (rather than the former 30 day wait), so it’s certainly possible to brush up on a little more practice and be ready to go quickly. But should you?

Your scores in full practice tests should be a good indication. If you’re able to score higher on reliably scored full practice tests, it’s worth taking a shot again and hoping you can have a better day to get what you want. If your practice scores show that your score is fairly reflective of your current skill level, it’s okay to take a shot at a better score but be aware that a lower score is also a possibility! As long as you’re willing to take that risk, go for it.

If you decide to try again, good luck!

 What Does My GMAT Score Really Mean?

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I’ve had a few students take their GMAT scores and come back with a score. But what does that score really mean?

First, let’s break it down into parts. The first part is the Analytical Writing Assessment. You will receive two AWA scores, one each from two readers. At least one of those readers is human. The other is likely a computer. The thought of software somehow judging the merits of my writing has always been a bit odd to me, but the system seems to work. The score you will be given is from 0 to 6, in half point increments. Score a 6.0 or a 5.5 and you’re set. A 5.0 is an acceptable score almost anywhere. Scores in ┬áthe 4.0-4.5 range are about average, but may be cause for concern if you’re applying to top schools.

Next is the integrated reasoning score. Your raw score is between 1-8 in one point increments. I have heard for admissions officers at top business schools that integrated reasoning scores are not yet considered in the application process because not all applicants have these scores. Once integrated reasoning has been part of the GMAT for five years, these scores will likely take on greater importance. For now, some have said that a strong IR score can bolster a weaker quant score.

Finally, the central pieces of the GMAT scores are the quantitative and verbal scores. In each section you will be given a raw score that corresponds to a percentile as you can see here. The combination of those two raw scores will correspond to a scaled score, which is the 200-800 number we commonly refer to at your GMAT score.

So, as you can see there are a lot of numbers and a lot of scores, but hopefully that gives you a better sense of what it all means!

 

 How to Start a Critical Reasoning Question

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There is a debate in the LSAT and GMAT communities about where to start a critical reasoning question (the LSAT calls them logical reasoning, but everything I say holds true for both). One camp holds that you should start by reading the paragraph of information (usually an argument). The other says that you should start by reading the question before doubling back to read the argument. I’m amazed the argument even exists.

Imagine if they released the “Where’s Waldo?” books without a title. Here’s a massive jumble of people. That’s nice. After you’ve spent a couple minutes looking at the page, someone tells you that you are supposed to be looking for Waldo. Sure, there’s a chance you stumbled upon Waldo when you were looking at everything else, but there’s a much greater chance that you spent your time focusing on a whole lot of other irrelevant things.

Read the question first. It allows you to focus on the correct things and to figure out what’s important and what isn’t. And that’s even more relevant because not all critical reasoning questions ask about the same thing. Some tell you that an argument is coming and ask you to figure out what would strengthen it. Some tell you an argument is coming and ask you to find a flaw. Some tell you there’s no argument, just a set of facts and ask you to find what must be true. Knowing which of the question types you’re going to get allows to focus on the proper approach to the problem, filter out the irrelevant information and find Waldo much more effectively.

 So a Circle Walks into a Bar…

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It sounds like the beginning of a math joke, but it isn’t.

“So a right triangle is inscribed into a circle…”

That’s the premise of a couple interesting GMAT questions that I came across lately, so I thought I’d share the issues that these problems bring. First it’s important to define that term inscribed. It’s the kind of term that you may have come across several times without ever knowing what it means because the visual diagram that accompanies the problem has you covered. In geometry, when we talk about something being inscribed we mean that it is drawn inside another shape such that all of its corners touch the edge of the larger shape without going outside of it. When a shape is inscribed within a circle it’s a little like that shape has a custom-built bubble surrounding it.

Now back to our problem. So there’s a right triangle in a bubble. So What? Well that particular situation actually gives us a very important piece of information. Whenever a right triangle is inscribed in a circle, the hypotenuse of the triangle is the diameter of the circle.┬áThat’s a fantastic rule, and one you ought to remember, but when we get to the difficult end of the quant section where a question like this is likely to occur, we’re probably going to need more than that.

So what other concepts fit in with this rule? Well, our rule gives us a fantastic way to find the hypotenuse of the triangle if we know something about the circle (or vice-versa), so a nice extra step is when the GMAT asks about the length of one of the other sides of the triangle. When would we be able to find the length of the other sides of the right triangle knowing only the length of the hypotenuse? When it’s a special right triangle! So, be on the lookout for 30:60:90 triangles or 45:45:90 triangles. Even if these aren’t immediately apparent, remember that every distance from the center of the circle to the edge of the circle is a radius, and drawing one or more of these radii in often gives you more opportunity to solve.

Keep this fantastic rule and these tips in mind the next time you come across a similar problem!