GMAT Treatments

Gmat Prep 700 Level Questions

A common question on the GMAT forums goes something like this:

On my first practice test, I scored a 49 on the Quantitative section with 12 questions wrong. On my second practice test, I scored a 46 with 10 wrong. Shouldn’t my score increase when I get more questions right?

The quick and easy response is that the GMAT doesn’t work the same way most tests do. With most tests, the more correct responses you get, the greater your score. Not so with the GMAT.

The GMAT is computer adaptive, which means each question you see on test day is tailored to you, based on your previous responses to earlier questions in the test (along with other factors). This means the specific questions you see on test day will be different from the questions other test-takers see.

Since each test-taker sees a different set of questions, it wouldn’t be fair to calculate scores based on the number of questions answered correctly. In fact, students who score 450 (14th percentile) on the GMAT often have the same number of correct responses as students who score 650 (72nd percentile).

So what determines your score then?

In this article, we’ll examine (and test) the two most popular answers to that question.

Question placement

Many students believe that question placement plays a significant role in the calculation of their scores, and that the first 10 questions impact their scores much more than the later questions do.

The test-makers (GMAC) say otherwise. In fact, in every GMAT Official Guide (aka OG), you’ll find the following statement:

Despite this warning, many students feel they should devote extra time to the first 10 questions. This belief is largely based on experiments with the official GMATPrep practice tests in which the scores resulting from getting questions 1 to 10 all correct are contrasted with scores resulting from getting questions 1 to 10 all wrong.

The main problem with those experiments is that they’re unrealistic. Very few test-takers can correctly answer the first ten questions, and very few test-takers are incapable of answering any of the first ten questions.

So, rather than examine extreme scenarios, I tested a much more realistic scenario. I completed the Quantitative section of the official GMATPrep test #2 five times and intentionally got the same questions wrong each time.

The questions I got wrong were #3, 4, 5, 10, 13, 15, 20, 23, 25, 30 and 31.

Given the placement of my 11 incorrect responses and the fact that I correctly answered only 6 of the first 10 questions, you might be surprised to learn that I received a Quantitative score of 49 (74th percentile), which is the third highest score possible.

You might also be surprised to learn that I didn’t get the same quant score for all five tests, even though I incorrectly answered the exact same 11 question placements each time.

My five scores were: Q49 (74th percentile), Q49 (74th percentile), Q27 (10th percentile), Q31 (14th percentile), and Q49 (74th percentile).

Given the huge range of scores, I think it’s safe to say that, if question placement plays a role in your score, that role isn’t very significant.

This brings me to…

Question difficulty 

An important feature of my experiments, which I haven’t yet mentioned, is that for each question I encountered, I located that question on GMAT Club’s forum and noted its difficulty level as defined by GMAT Club’s question difficulty algorithm, which assigns a difficulty rating from 5 to 95 (in 10-point increments) to each question. Questions rated as 5 or 15 are considered sub-600 level questions. Those with ratings of 25 to 45 are considered 600 to 700 level questions, and those with ratings of 55 to 95 are considered 700+ level.

On my first practice test, I intentionally answered difficult questions (as noted by GMAT Club) incorrectly, and this resulted in my Q49 score. For the remaining four tests, I incorrectly answered the same questions (#3, 4, 5, 10, 13, 15, 20, 23, 25, 30 and 31) for consistency.

Note: At the end of the article, I discuss the limitations of using GMAT Club’s difficulty ratings as well as other factors that could affect the results of these experiments.