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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