GMAT percentile rankings, part II

As a private GMAT tutor, I regularly receive calls from students (or potential students) who are nervous about some sort of “imbalance” between their verbal and quant scores on the GMAT.  In many cases, those worries are absolutely reasonable–if you have, say, a 51Q/30V, you clearly have an issue.

In many cases, however, the imbalance might not be quite as bad as it seems, especially if you’re (overly) focused on percentile rankings.  Over the years, I’ve met quite a few people with wonderful GMAT scores (48Q/48V, 44Q/42V, 44Q/49V) who worried that they have an imbalance because their quant percentile rankings are much, much lower than their verbal percentile score.  In many of these cases, I don’t think that the test-taker has much to worry about.

In a previous post about percentile rankings, I mentioned that a large percentage of GMAT test-takers do extremely well (raw score of 47 and above) on the quantitative section, but not so well on the verbal.  I admiringly call this the “Asian effect,” since I’m convinced that the bulk of these GMAT quant studs come from math-intensive education systems.  (The United States, of course, is one of the world’s worst wealthy nations when it comes to teaching K-12 mathematics.  You should never hire an American GMAT tutor… crap, wait a minute… scratch that last part.)

Anyway, I clumsily punched some GMAT data into an excel spreadsheet, and made a little chart out of it.  The chart shows the rough shape of the GMAT verbal score distribution (approximately normal or bell-curved), the composite GMAT score distribution (also approximately normal or bell-curved), and the GMAT math score distribution (not so normal).

Please keep the following disclaimers in mind:

Disclaimer #1:  This data is extrapolated from a GMAT score report.  It is definitely NOT very precise data.  I also tinkered with a few numbers to smooth out the curves, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Disclaimer #2:  GMAT section scores and GMAT composite scores don’t really belong on the same axis, since you can’t easily convert from raw scores (0-60 scale) to a composite scale (200-800) unless you know the GMAT algorithm… and even then, they still wouldn’t really belong on the same axis.  Again, this is just a rough visual representation.

Okay, enough prefaces–I think you’ll get my point as soon as you see the graph.  Here it is.  Enjoy.

2 responses to “GMAT percentile rankings, part II

  1. The consensus seems to be that verbal is harder than math, but base on the chart and your theory (which I agree with), it appears that math is too easy!

    • I think they’re both pretty hard… it’s just that the scaling is different. Apparently, you can miss quite a few questions on math, and still get a 51. But if you miss one question on verbal, you’ll pretty much ruin any chance of earning a 50.

      I have no idea why it works that way, but it gives GMAT students and tutors plenty to talk about. :)

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