Tag Archives: GMAT score improvements

don’t let the GMAT forums fool you

If you poke through popular GMAT forums like Beat the GMAT or GMAT Club, you’ll quickly encounter dozens of tales of GMAT glory.  You’ll read about people who improved from 580 to 710 or from 440 to 630.  You might even encounter the amazing story of the guy who got a 420 on his first practice test, and eventually made it to Harvard.  These “I just beat the GMAT!” stories seem to be everywhere, and some of them make beating the GMAT sound awfully easy.

Almost every week, somebody contacts me about GMAT tutoring, and asks me why they haven’t been able to crush the GMAT like everybody in the GMAT forums.  And the first part of my answer is always the same:  there really aren’t that many forum participants crushing the GMAT.  It just looks like it.

The triumphant tales of GMAT success receive tons of comments, and end up getting bumped to the top of the forums.  But for every loud “I just clobbered the GMAT!” story with 40 comments, there are at least five (mostly unnoticed) GMAT forum posts that begin or end with “please help!!!” And I’m sure that there are exponentially more GMAT forum “lurkers” who have been demoralized by the GMAT, but choose not to post anything online.  The people who get ripped to shreds by the GMAT either post a very quiet “um, how do I improve?” query on the boards, or they don’t say anything at all.

So whatever else you do over the course of your GMAT preparations, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you suck because “everybody else is beating the GMAT.”  They aren’t.  Only a very small percentage of people who retake the GMAT actually improve their scores substantially.  Most GMAT test-takers are suffering, just like you.  And most of the guys who made huge GMAT score improvements also suffered, just like you.

So while the GMAT success stories are absolutely wonderful if you’re looking for some inspiration, keep them in perspective: we read these stories because they’re relatively rare.  That’s why they get all of the attention on the GMAT forums.

If you’re having a hard time with the GMAT, you’re definitely not alone.  Spend some time in the darker corners of the GMAT forums, and you’ll find plenty of people just like yourself, who are working their butts off to achieve their goals.  The GMAT may be easy for a very small handful of people, but if you want to improve by 100 points or more, you’ll have to work like crazy.  But at least you’ll have plenty of company.

GMAC says you probably won’t improve your GMAT score

If you’re like most people who stumble across my little corner of the GMAT blogosphere, the GMAT has already punched you in the gut, and you’re probably preparing to retake the test.  But if you’re starting at a 600 or above, the researchers at GMAC have a message for you:  you’ll probably fail in your quest to improve your score.

In a brief article published in 2011 and an accompanying GMAT blog post, the GMAT’s chief psychometrician, Lawrence Rudner, tallied up some numbers on repeat test-takers, and came up with some interesting data:

  • nearly 25% of repeat testers actually score lower on their second GMAT test
  • the overall average gain on the second test is 33 points, but the vast majority of these gains are enjoyed by test-takers who scored below 600 on their initial exam
  • test-takers who score between 700 and 790 gain an average of only 8 points on their second exam, and their scores actually decline slightly on the third and fourth attempts
  • test-takers who score between 600 and 690 on their first GMAT exam gain an average of only 20 points on their second exam, and their scores barely improve at all on the third and fourth attempts

So basically, the guys who write the GMAT are saying that you probably won’t achieve a meaningful score improvement, especially if you’re already starting in the 600s or 700s.

In a way, GMAC has a point:  the GMAT isn’t a content-based test, and the reasoning skills required for success are extremely difficult to develop.  To make things worse, the test-writers specifically design the GMAT for “reliability,” meaning that test-takers should be expected to perform similarly on repeated testings.

So it’s definitely tough to achieve GMAT score improvements, but I can introduce you to hundreds of successful test-takers who have enjoyed huge gains on the GMAT.  Nearly all of them worked their asses off for the privilege, but it can definitely be done. With enough effort, it’s always possible to beat the odds.

Still, the statistics suggest that a large percentage of repeat test-takers are wasting their time, and GMAC is telling you that you’re likely to fail. Now please go out and prove them wrong.