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Realistic GMAT Score Improvements

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Senior Manager
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Status: Professional GMAT Tutor
Affiliations: AB, cum laude, Harvard University (Class of '02)
Joined: 10 Jul 2015
Posts: 441

Kudos [?]: 517 [2], given: 58

Location: United States (CA)
Age: 38
GMAT 1: 770 Q47 V48
GMAT 2: 730 Q44 V47
GMAT 3: 750 Q50 V42
GRE 1: 337 Q168 V169
WE: Education (Education)
Realistic GMAT Score Improvements [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jul 2016, 15:50
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I’ve been tutoring GMAT prep students for 16 years now, ever since 2000, when I was a junior at Harvard, helping friends and family prepare for this test. Upon my graduation, I became a full-time, professional tutor for the Princeton Review. Shortly thereafter, I started my own private, full-time tutoring practice, McElroy Tutoring, which has continued to this day. In those 16 years I have amassed over 16,000 hours of teaching experience, both in-person and via Skype, which means that I’ve seen lots of GMAT students come and go. In other words, my sample size for measuring score improvements is pretty large for just one tutor, anecdotal as my experiences may still be.

A common answer to the question “how much can I expect my GMAT score to improve?” is “50 to 150 points.” I think that’s a reasonable answer, but let’s get into a bit more detail, because I’ve seen improvements of as much as 300 points on the GMAT…but only on the low end of scores.

Let’s start with standard deviation. According to GMAC, the standard deviation of the GMAT is 121 points. This means that over \(\frac{2}{3}\) (68%) of all GMAT test-takers will score somewhere between a 430 (15%) and a 670 (83%). If you can manage to break your way out of this massive group of students, then your chances of B-school admission are much greater.

A standard deviation (SD) is a great way to predict test-score improvements, since most test-takers won't improve much more than 1 SD, and nearly none of them will improve 2 SDs or more, except for very low scorers.

Second, a key principle: it’s much easier to improve low scores than it is to improve high scores. Why? It’s a question of competition. A 500 on the GMAT is 31% and a 600 is 61%. A big jump, yes, but possible with 100 hours or more of prep, because you’re leapfrogging a relatively weaker portion of GMAT test-takers. I've seen plenty of students go from 500 to 650-plus for this reason.

However, a 600 on the GMAT is a 61%, and a 700 is 89%. It’s a smaller difference in percentiles, which might lead some to conclude that it’s an easier improvement to make, but I would disagree--in reality, it's a tougher task than is 500 to 600. The same goes for 700 to 800…it’s only a 10% differential, but you have to compete with the top 10% of GMAT test-takers, a highly competitive and intelligent bunch, which is what makes it so much harder to do.

That being said, below is my list of realistic GMAT score improvements if you are willing to put in at least 100 hours of prep, based upon your starting score.

Please keep in mind that of course some students will improve more, or less, than the improvements listed. Hence the term “realistic,” which could also be construed as “average” (for dedicated students).

200 to 450 (+250 pts) = 0% to 20% (+20)

300 to 500 (+200 pts) = 3% to 31% (+28)

400 to 550 (+150 pts) = 12% to 45% (+33)

500 to 600 (+100 pts) = 31% to 61% (+30)

600 to 700 (+100 pts) = 61% to 89% (+28)

700 to 750 (+50 pts) = 89% to 98% (+9)

750 to 780 (+30 pts) = 98% to 99% (+1)



Note: it’s super-hard to get an 800. If you can score a 750, then you can score an 800…but it will take a lot of persistence and a little bit of luck. Only about .01% of GMAT test-takers earn an 800, which is 1 out of every 10,000.

Personally, I’ve scored in the 700s all 5 times I've taken the GMAT, but I'm still trying for a GMAT perfect score of my own. As I’ve always said, perfection is attainable, but not maintainable!

_________________

Harvard grad and 770 GMAT scorer, offering high-quality private GMAT tutoring, both in-person and online via Skype, since 2002.

GMAT Action Plan - McElroy Tutoring


Last edited by mcelroytutoring on 11 Dec 2017, 15:59, edited 9 times in total.

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Status: On a 600-long battle
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Location: Hungary
Concentration: Accounting, Leadership
Schools: Erasmus '20
GMAT 1: 410 Q18 V27
GMAT 2: 490 Q35 V23
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Re: Realistic GMAT Score Improvements [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jul 2016, 00:55
Hi mcelroytutoring,

I hit a plateau in my practice tests and was scoring around 460 after 3 consecutive CATs, and my final GMAT score was 410.

If the GMAC standard deviation is of 121 points and, based on what you wrote, most test takers won't improve more than one SD, in theory I will barely be a member of the 500 club.

Since you've mentioned that the chances of scoring 2 SDs or more is higher among low scorers (I think I qualify for that hands down), I should be able to break the 600's and apply for my desired master program.

Now let us talk about your chart just to see whether I understood it.

If I were to jump from 400 to 550 (+150 pts), I would have to study for about 100 hours. Is that correct?

So, provided that I study smart, I may be able to reach 600 with approx 200 hrs of study time.

400 to 550 (+150 pts) = 12% to 45% (+33) (My BASELINE) 100 hours
500 to 600 (+100 pts) = 31% to 61% (+30) (Minimum score for application: 600) 100 hours - 200 hours to reach master's minimum requirement
600 to 700 (+100 pts) = 61% to 89% (+28) (Ideal Score: 650) 100 hours
700 to 750 (+50 pts) = 89% to 98% (+9) (Dream Score: 700+) 100 hours

Well, I just refuse to believe that one can't have exponential growth, but your post is very insightful! Thanks for sharing.
_________________

"When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!"

|Welcoming tips/suggestions/advices (you name it) to help me achieve a 600|

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Status: Professional GMAT Tutor
Affiliations: AB, cum laude, Harvard University (Class of '02)
Joined: 10 Jul 2015
Posts: 441

Kudos [?]: 517 [1], given: 58

Location: United States (CA)
Age: 38
GMAT 1: 770 Q47 V48
GMAT 2: 730 Q44 V47
GMAT 3: 750 Q50 V42
GRE 1: 337 Q168 V169
WE: Education (Education)
Re: Realistic GMAT Score Improvements [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2017, 09:44
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diegocml wrote:
Hi mcelroytutoring,

I hit a plateau in my practice tests and was scoring around 460 after 3 consecutive CATs, and my final GMAT score was 410.

If the GMAC standard deviation is of 121 points and, based on what you wrote, most test takers won't improve more than one SD, in theory I will barely be a member of the 500 club.

Since you've mentioned that the chances of scoring 2 SDs or more is higher among low scorers (I think I qualify for that hands down), I should be able to break the 600's and apply for my desired master program.

Now let us talk about your chart just to see whether I understood it.

If I were to jump from 400 to 550 (+150 pts), I would have to study for about 100 hours. Is that correct?

So, provided that I study smart, I may be able to reach 600 with approx 200 hrs of study time.

400 to 550 (+150 pts) = 12% to 45% (+33) (My BASELINE) 100 hours
500 to 600 (+100 pts) = 31% to 61% (+30) (Minimum score for application: 600) 100 hours - 200 hours to reach master's minimum requirement
600 to 700 (+100 pts) = 61% to 89% (+28) (Ideal Score: 650) 100 hours
700 to 750 (+50 pts) = 89% to 98% (+9) (Dream Score: 700+) 100 hours

Well, I just refuse to believe that one can't have exponential growth, but your post is very insightful! Thanks for sharing.


Sorry for the delay in responding, diegocml! Yes, you read that right: an 150-point improvement is possible, but it takes a serious commitment of time.

Any updates on your progress? It looks (from your profile) like you have improved by 80 points already, with a significant improvement on Quant. Put your best Quant score and best Verbal score together, and you have potential for a 530. That's 130 points of improvement right there! Your goal of 600 is within reach if you stay focused.
_________________

Harvard grad and 770 GMAT scorer, offering high-quality private GMAT tutoring, both in-person and online via Skype, since 2002.

GMAT Action Plan - McElroy Tutoring

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Re: Realistic GMAT Score Improvements [#permalink]

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New post 27 Oct 2017, 01:12
Hello,

I have my 1st Gmat attempt in middle of December. Have been preparing for the concepts for 6+months now. The following are my CAT scores:
Gmatprep 1st free test- 490(3 months before)
Princeton CAT - 540 (1 month before)
Gmatpre 2nd free test - 580 (today)- Got 14 incorrect in verbal and 13 incorrect in Quant.

I feel that my hold on verbal & Quant has improved. But still didn't get at least a 600. Now I am feeling disheartened whether I can pull my score by 120 points to touch 700 in about one month. Is it too much to expect? Need motivation :(
Is this jump possible in this short time span?

Thank you.
_________________

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Re: Realistic GMAT Score Improvements   [#permalink] 27 Oct 2017, 01:12
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