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Posted on
06
Oct 2020

GMAT Percentile Rankings: Demystified

by Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ilia Dobrev

The GMAT exam is an important part of the admissions process for over 7,000 business programs worldwide. GMAT performance is widely regarded as one of the best predictors of not only high academic honors, but also long-term career success. Achieving an excellent GMAT score and ranking in the top percentile is the first stepping stone in anyone’s journey to a prestigious business career.

The competitive admissions environment surrounding top tier universities has resulted in a 10-20% acceptance rate. This corresponds with percentile rankings in specific sections: for example, the GMAT Quant. But what do percentile rankings really mean?

This article describes the relationship between GMAT scores and respective percentile ranking, both in terms of individual sections and as a whole.

How do GMAT scores translate into GMAT percentiles?

According to the GMAC, two-thirds of test takers from all over the world score between 400 and 600. GMAT scores also translate into a percentile ranking. A number indicating the percentage of test takers at or below a given score. Percentile rankings are determined by comparing scaled Quant and Verbal scores (which can range from 6 to 51) to your peers’ scores. For instance, if you scored in the 90th percentile, that means that just 10% of all examinees outscored you. It’s important to note that the percentiles are recalculated every summer. This means that the current percentile rankings are likely different from the previous year’s rankings. 

The GMAC considers a sample size of test takers tracked since January 2017 to calculate percentiles. Until the beginning of 2020, a total of 695,794 GMAT exams were taken and scored, with a standard deviation of slightly above 116. Consequently, the GMAC shares average percentiles rankings for each of the four sections:

 

  • Quantitative: 36%
  • Verbal Reasoning: 45%
  • Integrated Reasoning: 33%
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 19%

 

While these numbers seem low, applicants need to score well above the average to earn a spot in the most competitive business schools.

GMAT Percentile Table

GMAT percentile rankings

How have percentile rankings changed by section?

Over the years, there is a trend towards increasing average GMAT scores and, consequently, percentiles have risen, too. In particular, the GMAT Quantitative percentiles have become considerably more competitive and increasingly important for MBA admissions. As more and more test takers master the GMAT quant section, it gets harder to score in a high percentile. 

One reason may be that as the GMAT’s worldwide popularity increases, non-native English speakers coming from math-proficient countries such as China and India make up a large proportion of the GMAT test takers. On the other hand, the GMAT Verbal section remains rather challenging–a score of 40 out of 60 ranks in the 90th percentile. The increasing representation of non-native English speakers might also help explain why the verbal section remains challenging. 

In any case, balanced percentile refers to the combined result of your scores on the Verbal and Quant sections.

What about the AWA and IR?

The Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections are scored separately. They also have their own scoring scale, independent from the 200 to 800 scale used to evaluate Quant and Verbal. A strong performance on the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections can boost your admissions chances. Nevertheless, we recommend that applicants prioritize ranking in the top percentiles in the Quant and Verbal sections.

What do GMAT Percentiles mean for admissions to B-schools?

While most business schools don’t have a straightforward cutoff for GMAT results, the majority of admissions committees consider both percentile rankings and total scores. 

Top-tier institutions like Wharton, Stanford, INSEAD, and MIT are known to perform more in-depth analyses of candidates’ total scores compared with percentile rankings. These programs value exceptional scores, but place additional weight on how competitive candidates are compared with their peers. During particularly competitive admissions cycles, the most selective business schools only consider candidates who scored above the 90th percentile. Admissions decisions entail a more holistic selection process in which committees consider work experience, former education, motivation letters, resumes, recommendations, and other factors that signal applicants’ potential for success in the business world.

If you want to get into the right business program, it’s a smart move to familiarize yourself with the yearly data reports that most business schools produce regarding their current students’ GMAT scores and percentiles. 

Boosting your GMAT score

Depending on your score goals, current level of preparation, and anticipated exam date, you can opt for one of three GMAT prep options that will best suit your needs, budget, and learning style. If you’re aiming for a 700+ score, a professional GMAT tutor might provide the guidance you need to leverage your strengths and weaknesses. This could ultimately put you on the path to degree and career success. 

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does the gmat matter after graduation article
Posted on
15
Sep 2020

Does the GMAT Matter After Graduation?

High GMAT scores are a requirement for acceptance to thousands of different graduate programs, from top tier MBAS to EBMAs to PhD programs in business management. More than a quarter-million students take the exam every year. 

Admissions officers see GMAT scores as one of the most reliable predictors for future success. A high score signifies not only an applicant’s technical and quantitative proficiency, but also his or her ability to perform at a professional level. 

But do GMAT scores matter after graduation? The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

What exactly does the GMAT test for?

To understand why elite business schools and fortune 500 companies take GMAT scores so seriously, we need to ask another question first:

What exactly does the GMAT test for?

At first glance, the GMAT seems like a fairly standard exam; it tests for command over basic algebra, arithmetic, geometry, grammar, and multi-source data analysis. However, on a deeper level, the exam evaluates an applicant’s critical thinking skills and creativity–two essential traits in the modern, highly competitive business world. 

Why is a good GMAT score so important?

The GMAT isn’t about rote memorization. Every GMAT question has multiple paths to a solution. However, some paths are significantly shorter than others. The GMAT doesn’t test how much applicants know; rather, a successful applicant demonstrates what they can do with that knowledge in a narrow time frame. To do well on the GMAT, applicants must demonstrate a strong ability to analyze and contextualize information with speed and efficiency. 

GMAT performance has become one of the most decisive factors for business school admissions committees because the score isn’t just a score. It’s a representation of the candidate’s traits and abilities. A high score reflects focus, diligence, hard work, intellectual aptitude, and time management skills. A high score signifies not only a candidate’s technical and quantitative proficiency, but also his or her ability to perform at a professional level. 

Is taking the GMAT a must?

While every top tier business school requires GMAT scores, not every company does. A 2018 Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) survey showed that only 6% of surveyed companies use GMAT scores in their employee selection process. Of the remaining companies, 21% stated that while a high GMAT score can help a job candidate, the GMAT doesn’t typically play a significant role in the selection process. The remaining 72% said they don’t consider GMAT scores at all.

However, the 6% that do use GMAT scores to vet job candidates are the cream-of-the-crop in the business world. All major banking, investment, and consulting firms, including Accenture and Goldman Sachs, require high GMAT scores for all positions–even internships. 

Most of these firms specialize in quantitative-intensive labor. As a result, the quantitative section tends to carry more weight. For example, if a candidate has an overall score of 680, but a quantitative score of 51, he or she has a good chance of getting an interview at a major firm.

However, there are diminishing returns. Many recruiters believe that a candidate’s efficiency doesn’t increase proportionately to the score. Let’s say candidate A has a 3.2 GPA, candidate B has a 3.5 GPA, and candidate C has a 3.8 GPA. The difference between candidates A and B is the same as the difference between candidates B and C. However, the value candidate B adds to the company compared to candidate A is a lot greater than the value candidate C adds compared to candidate B. This applies to GMAT scores, too. 

How to get a high GMAT score

The advanced skills that business schools and employers look for aren’t solely the result of inborn traits. With a positive attitude, drive, and high quality tutoring, these skills can be learned. Effective GMAT prep trains test takers in the crucial areas that promote logical thinking and mental acuity, and the work habits, determination, and rigor acquired throughout the preparation process lasts for a lifetime. 

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Posted on
28
Aug 2020

How Does GMAT Scoring Work?

By: Apex GMAT

How You Should Think of Your GMAT Score

If you’re just starting out on the GMAT you probably have a lot of questions about how the GMAT is scored? How the scoring algorithm works? How this plays into your chances of admission all other things being equal, at various institutions. This is why we’re going to talk about GMAT scoring and break it down on a section by section basis. 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how the GMAT is scored I want to start out talking a little bit about the score. How you should think about it. The short answer is, you really shouldn’t think about it. It’s about as useful as reflecting on how quickly you’re running when you’re running as quickly as you can. 

Thinking about the score, thinking about your time, is only going to distract you from your performance. And we see this so often where GMAT test-takers get psyched out about score. They worry about it in advance and on the exam and it not only distracts them from their performance. It can also lead to over-and-under confidence. 

The Effects of Practice Test Scores

People take a practice test and if they do really well they feel great and they tend to lighten up. People take a practice test and if they do poorly they start beating themselves up. It undermines all the confidence that they’ve built up with real skills. 

Practice tests are for calibrating timing decisions and for identifying problem areas. And while they are a useful benchmark to track progress, it’s a mistake to put too much weight into them. So try not to take them too much to heart. Not because they’re inaccurate but because if you’re fully focused on the process the outcome will take care of itself. 

How is Each Section of The GMAT Scored?

Let’s begin by talking about the four sections on the GMAT and how they’re scored individually. Thereafter we will get to the big ‘out-of-800’ score, which is an aggregate of the quantitative and verbal sections. 

Analytical Writing Assessment

First off, the AWA writing section is scored out of six points in half-point increments. And generally, anything above a four or four and a half is considered acceptable. These are very wide gaps, where they have large groups of people all scoring the same thing. Usually about 15 percentile points for each half point increment. Therefore we can assume that the admissions committees are looking at it more as a referendum. To see how well you can put together an argument and how well you can write in general. 

Remember that they are going to have your writing samples from your essays. In all likelihood, they’re going to interview you. So this is more of a box to check off and shouldn’t take up too much of your time or energy in preparation once you’re at an acceptable level. 

Similarly, when it comes to taking the GMAT you don’t want to burn a lot of mental energy here. It’s the first section, it’s half an hour, but you’ve got a long race to run. This is something that you want to give a short shrift to, relative to the rest of the exam. Allocate your time where it’s going to be most meaningful, which is going to be later on in the Quantitative and Verbal sections. 

Integrated Reasoning

The next section up is the Integrated Reasoning section. Like the AWA, it’s half-hour long, and also like the AWA, they divide us into fairly wide tranches. The integrated reasoning section is scored out of eight points in single-point increments. It’s a relatively new section on the GMAT, about five years old at this point. 

What the Integrated Reasoning section tests is your ability to sort through massive amounts of data and it utilizes skills both from the Quantitative side and the Critical Reasoning on the Verbal side in one section. 

This section is increasingly important, especially as a differentiator among those who already have high scores because it tests a different type of skill. 

Verbal & Quant

This brings us to the big sections: the Verbal and Quantitative. Both seventy-five minutes long, these sections combine to give us our score out of 800. This is the score that everybody talks about. But let’s take a look at them individually at first because each section is scored on its own. 

The Verbal goes up to the mid-40s. A score above 44-45 is entirely elite. And there are a bunch of numbers up to the theoretical 60 max that really aren’t scored. Similarly, in the Quantitative, the score maxes out at 51 and the GMAC leaves these higher raw scores open in the case that they make the exam more challenging in the future. 

It’s important to remember that your raw scores from Quantitative and Verbal aren’t on the same scale, so a 42 in verbal and a 42 in quantitative do not indicate similar achievement. In fact, a 42 on quantitative is sort of so-so, and 42 on verbal is quite strong. 

So, each of these raw scores is used by an admissions committee to understand how you work or how strong you are in a particular section. Typically they’re looking at the quantitative score because most MBA programs focus or at least have a certain minimum amount of quantitative classes, work, etc. 

Overall Score

This brings us to the big score, the score ‘out-of-800’ – the entire GMAT. This score is just sourced from your raw Quantitative and Verbal scores. The precise algorithm that the GMAC uses is confidential but broadly the better you score in each, the better your score is overall. 

To drill down a little further, in general, having roughly equal scores in both, maximizes your overall score. Another thing that we know is that a raw point on the Verbal section is worth marginally more than a raw point on the Quantitative section. While in general, this doesn’t inform how we prep or what we do on the exam, it’s something useful to think about if you’re looking only for 20 or 30 more points and it’s something that we look at when we’re mapping out study plans. 

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to score incredibly well in either the Quant or the Verbal section to have a totally stellar score. So for example, you can have a 90th percentile verbal, 90th percentile quant and these will come together to give you on the order of a 760 which is 99th percentile. The reason is that many people who are strong at Quant are not so strong at verbal and vice-versa. So, the score out of 800 looks at your aggregate performance and gives admissions committees a better sense of how you score overall. 

Do Not Focus To Much on Your Score

I hope this was a useful tour of how the GMAT scores. The big takeaway here, though, is that focusing too much on your score or really, anything more than surface-level looking at it to understand it, takes away from your ability to perform and can wrap you up in knots emotionally and psychologically. 

So, know it, think about it when you’re crafting your study plan but also don’t dwell on it. As long as you’re doing your best, as long as you’re progressing and becoming better at leveraging the skills that you’re learning through self-prep or with a tutor and you’re seeing those results when you’re self-prepping, when you’re in an exam, that’s all that matters. The score will take care of itself. 

For more introductory information to the GMAT you can read this article: 5 minutes with the GMAT or the GMAT – a comprehensive review. To speak to an Apex GMAT instructor about your prep you can schedule a call HERE.

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Posted on
30
Jul 2020

Should you include your GMAT score on your resume?

A lot of our clients ask if having a good GMAT score can help you on a job search. The truth is that for some jobs it can be immensely useful. However, other jobs might not even take a look at it. Ultimately, it’s up to the HR departments of your potential employer. Still, there are some rules of thumb to follow. 

A Really Strong Score

Let me first begin by saying that the only time you should list the GMAT on your resume is if it’s a really strong score. We’re talking 700 or above. There’s no sense talking about a middling or even middling-good GMAT score if you run the risk of having someone ask: “Well why didn’t you score higher?” Really, the bar is about 700. 

There are a lot of industries that really value the GMAT and those are going to largely parallel those that value the MBA. Finance, banking, and consulting firms will generally respond favorably to a GMAT score and one of the things to understand about why this is is to understand what the GMAT is and how it factors into a hiring decision. 

GMAT As a Signal

The GMAT’s what’s called a psychometric exam and much like other standardized tests, whether it’s the SAT, the ACT, GRE, LSAT, these test not just what you know but to varying degrees how you think and many of the top consulting shops have HR departments that have their own in-house tests. So the GMAT serves as a good proxy for those and signals that you will likely thrive and do well in the testing environment that, let’s say, McKinsey might place you in. 

Understand that a strong GMAT score immediately says to the the recruiter, that you can handle a certain amount of intellectual rigor and then you have a certain amount of pliability to the way you think. That’s the value of a GMAT score on a resume, aside from the fact, of course, that it compares you to your peers favorably. 

Include Your GMAT Score Where Necessary

So, as you’re hunting for jobs, whether it’s post-MBA or whether you just took the GMAT and decided not to go to business school or got an alternative degree, think about listing your GMAT and think about it as a talking point for how you overcame an obstacle or in a way that might be complementary to the profile or the narrative that you’re trying to present to a particular hiring manager. I hope this helps and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!

If you enjoyed this video, you can find more useful GMAT content such as: Everything you need to know about the GMAT and GMAT Prep Tips

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Posted on
19
May 2020

GMAT Scoring – Demystified

One of the most common questions asked by those who are new to the GMAT is how exactly does the computer adaptive test or CAT work? The long and short of it is that if you get a problem correct, they give you a harder one, if you get a problem incorrect, they give you an easier one. By doing this the GMAT is able to bounce up and down and calibrate to your skill level.

Should You Spend more time on the first 10 questions?

A few things come out of this including questions about how to spend your time. Whether certain questions are weighted more than others, whether your timing, that is the amount of time you spend on a problem factors into the score.

To start, there’s a common misconception that you should spend more time on the first 10 questions because they tend to adjust your level for the computer adaptive test at a greater rate. While that’s true in the sense that the computer adapted model on the GMAT does influence it more at the outset, whether you should spend more time is actually a more complex question because generally the GMAT is going to give you problems that are about average and build up or down from that average.

Planning To Score An Elite GMAT Score

If you’re planning on performing at a top level, at an elite level, if your goal is 700 or even 600, you need to assume that those early problems that are average level problems you’re going to do well and in a timely manner anyway.

That is spending extra time to ensure you get them correct is a grandiose version of spending extra time to make sure that you’re getting two plus two correct. You wouldn’t check that because you’re confident enough in your skills and if you’re in the GMAT and you’re getting ready to shoot for a 700 you should already be confident enough in your skills not to have to spend extra time on average level problems. To take these problems on a problem-by-problem basis rather than with blanket statements.

Does The Test keep Track of Other Information?

A common question is whether or not the test keeps track of the type of problems you do. This can refer to:

    • subject matter
    • problem solving versus data sufficiency 
    • reading comprehension versus critical reasoning versus sentence correction

However, we can still go about it with the core rule: if you get it right you’re going to see something more challenging, get it wrong, less challenging. We tend to believe that they don’t keep a great track of that but really rely upon the bouncing up and down to calibrate you to your average performance level. You don’t want to sweat any single problem or worry about any single problem type in regards to the Computer Adaptive Test.

Certainly,  sometimes you’ll know that certain types of problems require more or less attention from you or that you make common errors on those problems. However, that’s not a CAT thing, that’s just a general GMAT thing. 

You are penalized for spending too much time on a problem but not in the way you think.

The other big question we hear a lot is whether or not the amount of time you take on a problem factors into the score. The answer here is subtle, it’s yes and no. No in the sense that the GMAT scoring algorithm does not track the amount of time that you spend on a problem. But, yes in the sense that the more time you spend on problems the less time you have for other problems. In particular, if you’re scoring above average, you’re on this ascendant curve so that the difficult problems at the end require more time than the less challenging problems at the beginning.

Therefore, if the GMAT kept track of your time and penalized you for spending longer on problems they would actually be penalizing you twice and this gets us into our timing decisions and the trade-off between time and score.

Time and Score Trade-off

When you’re armed with confidence and knowledge about how something works you don’t have to worry about how it works or how what you’re doing affects how it works and you can focus on the task at hand. 

The more that you can offload the burden of worrying about the scoring and the mechanisms by which the GMAT measures you, the more success you will find. As always, I hope this helps and keep prepping!

If you enjoyed GMAT Scoring Demystified, watch The Effects Of Coffee On GMAT Performance.

 

 

 

 

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Posted on
13
Mar 2020

What Are GMAT Scoring Plateaus and How To Overcome Them

Mike from Apex GMAT, here to talk about scoring plateaus on the GMAT. You might be surprised to learn that I don’t really want to talk about specific scores. Plateaus exist and as tutors we kind of know where they are but the important takeaway is not to focus on the score but rather the skills that you have or don’t have that cause you to plateau at a certain level.

Scoring Plateaus Explained

Everyone goes through one or two, sometimes three plateau levels during their prep. This is very normal, but it can be disconcerting especially if it’s the first time that you’re encountering this. Or if you’re used to being excellent in school or with a particular subject matter. These scoring plateaus have everything to do with the way you approach a problem and what we call the level of abstraction that you understand the problem at. Whether we’re talking about quantitative problems or verbal problems. At different levels on the GMAT, it requires us to look at them from an increasingly abstract wide angle lens to understand what’s going on and what’s being asked of us.

The First Scoring Plateau (mid 500s)

At the most basic level, certainly through the first 40, 50th percentile on all the sections. So up to the mid-500s let’s say, most of what you’re being asked is skills oriented. That is if you understand the mechanisms of action the formulas the basic English construction behind problems you should be able to get to an answer. That’s not to say that your correct answer will have been done in a timely manner. That is that you’ve used the correct solution path or rather a time efficient, optimal solution path but you should be able to get there. But then the GMAT has to differentiate among all the people who have the base level skills and they really expect you to have these skills.

Implementing Your Knowledge

It’s not that they’re testing you on whether you know how to compute the volume of a cube. They want you to know that. They want to see what you can do with that when you’re presented with a more complicated problem. And so the first level skill set is to see a problem not as a, identify the problem, plug in a formula, analyze an argument, get to an answer, but rather be aware of the construction of a problem and understand what an optimal solution path looks like. Recognize shortcuts, recognize signals in the problem that permit you to have a greater understanding and a quicker decision process.

The Second Scoring Plateau

As we progress further, the next scoring plateau comes in where the GMAT that presents something in such a new way that you are not unprepared for it. Where you have to utilize and bring to bear some of your creative thinking skills to a problem because it’s presented in a way that’s less familiar or less practiced. The GMAT can do this at any level. But this means that your focus needs to go from understanding what’s in the problem to understanding what the problem is asking for and the common mechanisms of action that the GMAT will use to enhance the complexity of a problem. Once you’re aware of how they complicate a problem you can more readily address it. And directly utilize your knowledge of the underlying subject matter to come up with a creative on the spot solution.

Final Plateau

At the highest levels, this is in overdrive. Where you’re given a problem that’s highly complex and usually requires inductive rather than deductive thinking. Deductive thinking is starting with some premises and breaking them down further. Inductive thinking is taking your premises and what they break down to but adding something at the level above that. This causes us to be able to see something in this pyramid further down the line. This is a type of thinking that’s taught much less at schools. It is one of the core characteristics that allows for success at the highest levels of the GMAT. Where you need to think beyond what you’re given and create a new nest a new home for this problem that gives it additional definition.

This is of course much easier said than done. The scope of this video is to outline this thematically. If you look at our other videos, you’ll start to see hints of this framework as we talk about different problems, the way to approach them and of course what the GMAT exam tests. So check out some of our videos below and give us a call if you need some help. We’re here to help and we want to see you succeed.

If you liked this video, check out: GMAT: Not a Standard Standardized Test. For more videos visit: Apex GMAT Vlog

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