Lifting Your GMAT Score


lifting gmat scoreHow do you maximize your score on the GMAT? Sure, you have to learn to answer harder questions correctly “ but that’s not actually enough.

Let’s stipulate a couple of things. First, whenever I say easier or harder in this post, I’m referring to easier or harder for you, the reader; everything here is relative to your current scoring level and your desire to lift that level to whatever your goal score is. In other words, this works at every level and for every goal. 🙂

Second, as a general rule, you take (on average) more time to answer harder questions than you take to answer easier ones.

Okay, what does that mean? Most people don’t spend much time studying the things that they generally already know how to do; they don’t analyze questions that they answered correctly unless there was some other issue (such as spending too much time).

That’s a mistake “ and not just because we can still learn things from questions that we answer correctly. More importantly, if you want to lift your score, then the questions that you find of medium difficulty today need to turn into questions that you find easier in the future.

Think about how the test works: if you’re scoring in the 80th percentile, then 65th percentile questions are generally fairly easy for you, the 75th to 85th range is medium, and 90th percentile questions are too hard. If you want to lift your score to 90th percentile, sure, you have to learn how to tackle those harder questions. At the same time, the 75th to 80th percentile questions have to become your easier question pool “ medium level will no longer be good enough!

Remember when I said that we generally take more time to answer the harder questions? That’s okay, within reason (say, up to 30 seconds beyond the average for that question type). In order to have that extra time, though, you’ve got to be saving time on the easier questions. Those questions that are medium for you right now “ you’ve actually got to be able to do them more quickly in order for them to turn into easier questions in future.

Beyond all of that, there’s yet another benefit. Shortcuts or alternate solution methods that you figure out for those easier and medium questions can often be used on harder questions as well. You will actually learn how to tackle some of the harder stuff by getting even better at the easier and medium stuff.

If you’re going for a really high score (720+), then I’ll leave you with a couple of challenge exercises. Answer this math question and this CR question in a minute (or faster). Good luck!

  1. Mohsin Hassan April 2, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Thank you so much Stacey for your great suggestions and tips. This will be great help in improving my score.

  2. Stacey Koprince March 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Those are all very good approaches, shail. I’m a bit confused, though, because you’re asking whether you “must [also] build (memorize) shortcuts” – but I would’ve said that learning shortcuts would be part of your approaches 1-2-3 listed above. Part of what you’re doing during those stages is learning how to get even better / faster.

    Or maybe I’m misunderstanding your question?

  3. Stacey Koprince March 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    A lot of work. 🙂 I can’t give you one overall planning approach that will work for everything because it’s very different based on question type and content area.

    I can, though, give you an overall study method, which is to analyze to death every problem you do. If you did get confused during any of the stages, then when the clock stops ticking, go back over that problem, look stuff up, look for help online, whatever, until you figure out what the best approach is. Then ask yourself, “Okay, now that I know that, what are the clues in the original problem that should have prompted me to think about this type of approach in the first place?” In other words, find the clues retroactively.

  4. shail March 30, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Since I have not yet given GMAT, so I am not sure how much time shortcuts can SAVE. But I have seen lot of attended lot of sessions from Thursdays with Ron (new and old archive): I can conclude following TAKE-AWAY in big caps —

    1) Have a SYSTEMATIC approach to the problem – each and every time.

    2) If the systematic approach requires 10 steps – each and every time those steps shall be taken – regardless of the problem complexity.

    3) As you practice more and have built very solid foundation – each individual step might start taking very less time – like 5-10 seconds. For easier problems, each step might take only few seconds but for harder problems, some steps might take bit higher time – perhaps because you took time to realize the next step.

    4) Know when you are not able to move further, then quit and pick alternate approaches.

    Why I am noting it down above ? ===> I need a feedback.
    Because I plan to completely avoid need of learning too many things from my study plan and I just want to focus on few core foundations (like triangle inequality rule, area of circle, etc) and I want to learn & follow intuition based approaches.

    @Stacey, would I be able to achieve a score > 750 with this type of simple approach or I must need to build (memorize) shortcuts. My score target is very high – almost > 770. As per few mock tests I have given, with my current level of preparation, I am confident of achieving ~710 score.

    Please advise.


  5. Mohsin Hassan March 29, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Thanks a lot Stacey.. Great Article… It will help me a lot to improve my score and convert harder questions for me to easy or medium and medium questions to easy for me. I understand that some questions which I think harder, might be easy for some one else. So I am my self who is gives label to questions as hard, easy or medium. With sufficient practice and analysing errors and method/theory used of medium questions, I can convert them in to easy., But issue is with harder questions. Some times harder questions are testing more than 1 concepts/theories and a person gets confused with method/ technique/ theory to be used on planning stage. Could you please suggest best method/approach used in planning stage of question to tackle harder questions which can save time? Many thanks