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# Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??

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Intern
Joined: 30 Mar 2019
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Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 19:01
Hi guys. This is actually my 1st post to the forum, so sorry if this kind of thing has been answered or something.

Ever since starting my GMAT studies in January, I have taken 8 practice test and 1 actual GMAT test and gotten a pretty wild range in scores, my lowest being a 540, and my highest being a 700.

For reference, here's the details of all my practice tests/my one actual test:

1. Kaplan practice test (Jan 4) 630 (42Q, 34V)

2. Official GMAT (Practice Test #1), Attempt #1 (Jan 10) 620 (39Q, 35V)

3. Official GMAT (Practice Test #1) Attempt #2 (Jan 25) 620 (40Q, 36V)

4. GMAT (Actual Test) (Feb 22) 580 (36Q, 34V)

5. Manhattan practice test (Mar 25) 590 (36Q, 34V)

6. Official GMAT (Practice Test #2) (Mar 30) 540 (35Q, 30V)

7. GMAT Economist Practice Test #1 (Apr 14) 690 (45Q, 39V)

8. Official GMAT (Practice Test #3) (May 3) 630 (39Q, 37V)

9. Official GMAT (Practice Test #4) (May 19) 700 (48Q, 38V)

At the start of my studies, I was self-studying by practicing questions from the official GMAT books and reviewing what I got wrong, etc. My practice tests had me sitting at a 620-630, but when I took the real test in late Feb, I got a 580. I'd say this was caused mostly by nerves and possibly also not taking studying as seriously as I should have. I continued self-studying for another month, but did so poorly on my two practice tests (590 and 540) that I decided to purchase access to the Economist's GMAT course.

Even after a week into the course, I already felt like it was doing wonders compared to just doing questions by themselves. Two weeks in, I finally took one of the the Economist's practice tests and made a 690. I was really shocked that I could have gone from a 540 to a 690 in just two weeks, but super pleased, so I continued following through the course.

Roughly 2 1/2 weeks later, I took another practice test, but this time an official GMAT one, and I got a 630. I will say I was in a minor car accident in between the 690 and 630, so I do wonder if that was partially the cause.

Finally, after continuing pretty consistent work on the Economist course, I took another official GMAT test today and got a 700, which just so happens to my goal! The thing is, I'm really worried that I won't be able to replicate this score on my real test day (June 1st), especially given the fact that I've done as bad as a 540... In other words, I'm worried that this 700 could have just been a mix of luck/me being at my best/getting topics I'm good at. Also I've read somewhere on this forum that you should have at least something like 30 points of "padding" on your practice tests (ie I should be scoring around 730 on practice tests in order to expect a 700 on the real one).

Has anyone else had similar experiences with their GMAT scores jumping around? Should I be concerned that my scores vary so wildly? And any tips for the next two weeks before my real test?

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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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21 May 2019, 18:37
2
Hi kelseyk3,

You certainly are in an interesting situation. First off, it’s important to understand that when you take practice tests from companies other than GMAC, you may find some variation in algorithms used and thus variations in your score. That said, it’s a great sign that you were able to score 700 on your May 19 practice exam; however, you saw quite a jump from your previous official practice test, so it’s tough to say whether you saw a favorable batch of questions or you’ve improved to a “700 level.” Let's see how things go on June 1. If for some reason you do not hit your score goal, reach back out and we can discuss new plan.

Good luck!
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Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 20:18
1
If I understood you correctly, you are okay with using your June 1 GMAT as a sort of "practice test?" If that is the case, then I think you should spend the next two weeks going over all the questions you got wrong and resolve then. Also keep in mind the reason you got them wrong the first time and try as much as possible not to repeat the same mistakes on your real test. Please let me know how it goes. You can PM me for further queries.

Cheers!

P.S: I thought I should let you know that I am not an expert. It will be interesting to hear what the experts here have to say.
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 20:32
1
I guess you're quite in the range of scoring around 700 and you clearly seem to have improved ever since your last GMAT(provided that you have given your mocks in actual condition). Right now your focus should be on the review. review every official material you have practiced so far and don't think about your past scores. GMAT is different everyday..so go ahead with confidence and win the battle. adn yeah, most importantly, keep a check on your nerves(try meditation, yoga etc) Goodluck
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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21 May 2019, 15:34
1
Hi kelseyk3,

Since your Official GMAT is 10 days away, you have enough time to take another 1-2 CATs. It's worth noting that each CAT is really a 'measuring device' - when used correctly, it will give you a realistic score and help define your strengths and weaknesses, but it will NOT help you to fix any of those weaknesses. To raise your scores, you have to learn the necessary Tactics and put in the proper practice and repetitions. The CAT will show you whether your studies are helping you to improve or not. As such, you really shouldn't take more than 1 FULL CAT per week - and your last CAT should be about 1 week before Test Day.

The big 'unknown' at this point is how accurate your last practice CAT result actually is. If it's an accurate reflection of your current skills, then you might just need to continue studying as you have been - and not 'burn out' before Test Day by trying to do too much additional studying. However, if your current 'ability level' is closer to your other Scores (re: in the low-600s), then you would need far more than 10 days of study time to get to the point that you could consistently Score 700+. If you're certain that you want to take the GMAT on June 1st, then we should proceed with the idea that that CAT Score IS accurate. To that end, you should stick with your current study routine - and make sure not to do too much studying in the last 2-3 days before your Exam. A bit of light practice and review during that time would be fine, but you would be better served by getting some extra rest, so that you can go into Test Day calm, clear-headed and ready to work.

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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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21 May 2019, 19:10
1
Hi

I think your Verbal score is pretty much same and Quant is more fluctuating.

For Quant I would suggest you go thru Manhattan Quant guides and couple them with GMAT club tests, which will help you reach Q48+.

Thanks
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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21 May 2019, 21:18
1
Another thing to think about is that you're probably strong in some concepts and weak in others. That could explain the fluctuation in your quant score, you might've been lucky by getting questions you were really strong at during your higher attempts or vice-versa. Additionally, you're taking a wide variety of tests from different sources, so it is to be expected.
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 19:43
Hello,

I am not an expert but the jump from 39 to 48 in quant for your last two official mocks looks suspicious. Do you have official mocks 5 and 6? If yes, then I think you should review your weak quant areas, do targeted practice quizzes for each area, then take mock 5 to gauge your level.

Best wishes!
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 20:08
1
Hi Bebs,

Thanks for the response.

I don't have mocks 5 and 6, but I plan on purchasing them. Since my test is so soon (June 1st), do you still recommend I try to fit in another mock after reviewing my weak areas? Honestly I'm okay with getting somewhere around 670-700 on my upcoming test as long as I get the 700 on my next go. That said, I still want to do whatever I can to prepare over the next two weeks while also not stressing out too much/overthinking (which I have a tendency to do) and burning myself out. I realize a lot of this may come down to factors that vary from student to student (ex like what kind of test taker they are) but do you have any general advice on how best to approach these next two weeks leading up to my test?

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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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20 May 2019, 14:06
Hi kelseyk3,

The scoring algorithm on the Official GMAT is far more complicated than most people realize. Since that algorithm is proprietary, no GMAT company has an exact match for it, thus CAT scores can vary based on the 'biases' involved in their respective designs. GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, most of your earlier CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 600 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. While it's certainly possible that you've honed the necessary skills to perform at a higher level now, the fact that you're questioning the accuracy of these results implies that you might have been dealing with a biased score result (the 690) and a bit of a 'lucky day' (the 700). There's certainly no harm in taking the GMAT as scheduled, but you could always pay to push back your Test Date a couple of weeks and put in some extra study time.

1) Since your Goal Score is 700+, will you continue studying if you score less than that on Test Day?
2) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
3) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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20 May 2019, 14:08
Hi This tends to be the case when doing a wide variety of practice tests. Don't worry abouit it.
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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20 May 2019, 18:59
EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi kelseyk3,

The scoring algorithm on the Official GMAT is far more complicated than most people realize. Since that algorithm is proprietary, no GMAT company has an exact match for it, thus CAT scores can vary based on the 'biases' involved in their respective designs. GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, most of your earlier CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 600 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. While it's certainly possible that you've honed the necessary skills to perform at a higher level now, the fact that you're questioning the accuracy of these results implies that you might have been dealing with a biased score result (the 690) and a bit of a 'lucky day' (the 700). There's certainly no harm in taking the GMAT as scheduled, but you could always pay to push back your Test Date a couple of weeks and put in some extra study time.

1) Since your Goal Score is 700+, will you continue studying if you score less than that on Test Day?
2) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
3) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

Hi Rich,

The school I plan on attending (and have already been accepted into) offers substantial scholarships based on GMAT scores alone--a 650 qualifying for 50% of tuition and 700 for 100%. It is for this reason that I am shooting for a 700 (and luckily don't need to worry about scoring any higher than 700.)

To answer your first question, I will definitely continue studying if I don't get the 700 on June 1st. These last few mocks have shown me that a 700 is POSSIBLE for me, even if it was a combination of a relaxed testing environment and/or luck (after my first real test, I started to seriously doubt my ability to reach a 700 at all.) That said, I'm in a place where I can't really afford many extraneous exam fees, so I'd ideally only be taking the test two more times (including the one on June 1st) max. All that aside even, I'd probably lose more confidence in my abilities the longer I have to stretch this out (for a while at the start of the year I told friends and coworkers that I planned on being done with the GMAT altogether by late April-mid May...)

Based on the other responses I've gotten here, I guess my takeaway so far is to just focus on my problem areas as much as possible over the next two weeks? I'd love to hear any other advice you have on what to do so close to the test date though, if you have anything else to add.

I guess my main reason for bringing my concerns here was my paranoia about slipping back into the "deep end" of the low 600s or even the high 500s on my upcoming test since I've seen such huge swings in scores over the past few months... while I WOULD be disappointed about making, for example, a 670 or 680, and not reaching my goal, I'd still feel like I'm in a good place to study for a few more weeks and try again. If I make something like a low 600s score, I think my confidence will take an even bigger hit than the first time around...

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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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21 May 2019, 18:37
kelseyk3 wrote:
I don't have mocks 5 and 6, but I plan on purchasing them. Since my test is so soon (June 1st), do you still recommend I try to fit in another mock after reviewing my weak areas? Honestly I'm okay with getting somewhere around 670-700 on my upcoming test as long as I get the 700 on my next go.
If you are planning to take the exam again, I think it'd be a good idea to save tests 5 and 6 for the retake.
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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02 Jun 2019, 18:35
Hi guys, just wanted to provide an update on how my test went. I ended up with a 690 (48Q, 36V)! It's disappointing that it's just shy of my 700 goal, but I'm very pleased with the result all things considered. I felt like I bombed the quant section since there were a few questions I had to completely guess on, so I was shocked to see that I had maintained my highest quant score.

The next available appointments for the month are June 15th and 29th, and since two additional weeks shouldn't hurt at this point, I may go for the 29th.

Does anyone have any advice on how to move forward leading up to my next test? Before this test, I've focused heavily on quant since I've been seeing the most fluctuation in those scores. Despite the fact that I've now seen (mostly) good quant scores recently (45, 39, and 48 on my last three mocks, and then the 48 on my actual), I'm wondering if I should focus on quant more BECAUSE of that fluctuation (since 1. I could "slip back" on my quant score, and 2. the fluctuation could mean I have more potential to do better on quant more easily than I can change my verbal score, which has stayed relatively consistent). On the other hand, my understanding is that a point higher on the verbal section is "worth more" than a point on the quant section since the mean verbal score for all test takers is lower than the mean quant score?

The weight of the two sections aside, I realize a good game plan is very subjective depending on the person, but I hope either a test taker whose been in a similar situation as me or someone who is more familiar with how the GMAT works can provide more insight. Thanks!
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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03 Jun 2019, 08:40
kelseyk3 wrote:
On the other hand, my understanding is that a point higher on the verbal section is "worth more" than a point on the quant section since the mean verbal score for all test takers is lower than the mean quant score?

That's actually a myth, except when you're at the absolute highest extreme of the scoring scale. It's possible to separate yourself a lot from the average in Verbal, because Verbal scores go deep into the 99th percentile, while there's only one 99th percentile Quant score, the Q51. So once you get past V45, adding a Verbal point usually matters more than a Quant point, But that's not at all true for scores that are not so extreme; for most test takers, adding a point to one or the other score will have a roughly equal effect overall. You can see that just by imagining adding a point to your two scores - if you google Q49 V36 GMAT, the first recent reported scores are 710s, while if you google Q48 V37 GMAT, the recently reported scores are 700s. Now, you won't always get those overall scores from those scaled scores, because of rounding (your score out of 800 is calculated before your Q and V scores get rounded off to integers, so the same Q/V split can produce slightly different overall scores). But in your case, adding one point to either score should get you to your target.

It depends on the person, but it's usually easier through study to improve Quant than to improve Verbal. It does seem that your natural Verbal level right now might already be a V37 anyway, so if you took a test tomorrow, on an average day you might very well add a point there anyway. The fluctuation in your Q scores on the other hand is a bit unusual. It's definitely encouraging that you have two very good scores in a row, but I'd be a bit concerned that those two scores overstate your level slightly, or that there's some gap in your foundation that matters on some tests but not on others, depending on the questions you see. So it probably makes senses to focus a bit more on Quant, just to make sure you maintain, and possibly improve on, that Q48, and then if you can just give an average (for you) Verbal performance on test day, you should have a good chance to hit your goal. Good luck!
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??  [#permalink]

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04 Jun 2019, 06:28
Hi kelseyk3,

Great job with the 690! Regarding your retake, I think a good move would be to focus on both quant and verbal to maximize your score increase. Regarding how to improve in those areas, a good plan of attack would be to go through GMAT quant and verbal carefully to find your exact weaknesses, fill gaps in your knowledge, and strengthen your skills. The overall process will be to learn all about how to answer question types with which you currently aren't very comfortable and do dozens of practice questions category by category, basically driving up your score point by point.

For example, if you find that you are not strong in answering Number Properties questions, then carefully review the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions and practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties: LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, remainders, etc. When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type.

As you do such practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

Each time you strengthen your understanding of a topic and your skill in answering questions of a particular type, you increase your odds of hitting your score goal. You know that there are types of questions that you are happy to see and types that you would rather not see, and types of questions that you take a long time to answer correctly. Learn to more effectively answer the types of questions that you would rather not see, and make them into your favorite types. Learn to correctly answer in two minutes or less questions that you currently take five minutes to answer. By finding, say, a dozen weaker quant areas and turning them into strong areas, you will make great progress toward hitting your quant score goal. If a dozen areas turn out not to be enough, strengthen some more areas.

You can work on verbal in a similar manner. Let’s say you are reviewing Critical Reasoning. Be sure that you practice a large number of Critical Reasoning questions: Strengthen and Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, find the Conclusion, Must be True, etc. As you go through the questions, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get correct. If you missed a weaken question, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize what the question was asking? Did you skip over a key detail in an answer choice? Getting GMAT verbal questions right is a matter of what you know, what you see, and what you do. So, any time that you don't get one right, you can seek to identify what you would have had to know in order to get the right answer, what you had to see that you didn't see, and what you could have done differently to arrive at the correct answer.
When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and, when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

how to score a 700+ on the GMAT helpful.

Feel free to reach out with further questions.

Good luck!
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Re: Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??   [#permalink] 04 Jun 2019, 06:28
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# Getting wildly different scores (540-700) on practice tests??

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