From a 560 to a 710 GMAT score one step at a time
For months you’ve used every available minute after work (and sometimes during) to study for the GMAT. You’re reteaching yourself basic math dormant since middle school, waking your logical reasoning skills, and, in general, trying to wrap your head around the nuances of the test. You’ve got an error log and are lurking around the GMAT forums reviewing like mad. After what seems like an unbelievable amount of GMAT preparation, you’ve tested your mettle on one official GMAT after another -- but all to no avail. Your GMAT score, the one stain on an otherwise excellent business school application, seems doomed to mediocrity. What can make matters worse is the idea perpetuated on the GMAT forums and in test prep propaganda that substantial 100+ score increases come easy. Well, they don’t (usually).
Ben came to the tutoring program already knee deep in GMAT preparation and stuck in a rut, struggling desperately to elevate himself from the mid-500s. He’d self-studied for three months and taken the GMAT twice but was still over 100 points shy of his goal: a 680 GMAT score.
Almost everyone emailing us here at Atlantic is looking for a 700+ GMAT score, so Ben’s 680 was refreshing. Still, a 680 GMAT is excellent and a 100 point improvement shouldn’t be taken lightly. In the end, Ben improved by 150 points from a 560 to a 710 GMAT score, zipping from the 48th to the 92nd percentile. Read on for how we did it!
Secret to a 710 GMAT Score?
There is no secret formula to GMAT success, but there is a formula. It’s just so obvious that most people have a tough time discovering it. Good old-fashioned hard work is just one part of it. But Ben had done plenty of that and was still falling short. The work needs to be focused and high quality with an organized study plan and appropriate materials. It doesn't hurt to have a great tutor to keep you on track but, the reality is: tutoring or any kind of instruction is secondary to being extremely organized, dedicated, and, primarily working on official GMAT materials.
For most anyone, the road to jumping 120 points from a 560 to a 680 is going to be a long and challenging one no matter how you slice it, but planning the entire preparation and then breaking down the process to the day not only makes studying more manageable but more impactful. It is very challenging to study long term. Going for the long haul? Go ahead and have a look at this post about GMAT study schedules and this one about 6 months of GMAT studying.
I started tutoring Ben in early October, setting a plan for him to sit the GMAT shortly before Christmas. That gave us just 10 weeks to get him into fighting form. 10 weeks? Hugh? That’s forever! That may appear like a lot of time but:
- Fundamental verbal skills take some time to develop (Ben’s verbal was decent but not great)
- While there’s a limited world of GMAT content to cover it’s still a chunk of stuff that you need to learn and consolidate so you can apply it under the pressure test conditions.
(Organized) Hard Work from the Start
Ben’s initial HW results were terrible. That said, usually we don’t use HW scores as a proxy for how someone is doing in the GMAT tutoring program (they’re just one piece of the puzzle). What tends to be a better predictor of GMAT success is the dedication to review: filling up the error log, churning through it regularly, and bringing questions to sessions. Fortunately, Ben proved highly dependable right from the start. He never lagged on his homework, always put in extra time on tough concepts, and was highly prepared for sessions armed with questions for review. Every weekend before our tutoring sessions he’d even send me a curated list of questions that he’d found to be particularly inscrutable the previous week. Though failing his homework sets Ben was excelling.
GMAT Heating Up
Ben’s homework scores kept notching up and up as the weeks passed so I ratcheted up the difficulty level. 680 GMAT here we come! A month out from his real GMAT he took his first practice test: 600. We didn’t pop a bottle of champagne for the 40 point increase but, really, any improvement on a first test is great. It’s not uncommon for the score to stay flat or go down on the maiden voyage as students try to apply new things. Of course, Ben reviewed everything he’d missed on the exam and had the feeling he’d made a bunch of careless mistakes. Then the next weekend: 700! Pop (there goes the champagne). The 140 point improvement was incredible. In the weeks leading up to his Official GMAT, Ben was riding high knowing that his 680 was within reach.
100 points down 20 to go!
Ben didn’t hit the 710 GMAT score on his first attempt, but he did manage to hit the target for his first test: a 100 point improvement from 560 to 660. And, because Ben had already hit a 700 on a practice test, we felt confident that the 680 GMAT was right around the corner. Ben was energized by the forward momentum and excited to get back to work but with the winter holidays descending we decided that he should take a much-needed GMAT study break.
Stepping away from GMAT studying for a bit can be a good thing. This isn’t to provide you with an excuse to be lazy! It’s to say that especially if you’ve been studying for 3+ months (in Ben’s case, 6+ months) getting some rest and relaxation can actually help you consolidate and give you perspective. After a three week break we were back at it with a month of our most challenging homework that we use specifically for GMAT retakes. We also scheduled a few tutoring QA sessions to make sure we were covering all of our bases to secure a 680 GMAT score.
To GMAT 680 and beyond...
GMAT day: Ben didn’t get a 680, or a 700, but a 710 GMAT score way up in the 92nd percentile with a 48q 38v. He rocketed from a 37 to a 48 on the quant side. An 11 point improvement is incredible! That’s the 32nd% to the 67th%. I know, a 67% quant score doesn’t sound great but, in today’s hyper-competitive GMAT quant landscape, it’s pretty damn good. For information on why a failing quant percentile will get you into Harvard have a look at our mega article on GMAT percentiles.
It’s inspiring to see someone pull off a 150 point increase to a 710 GMAT score in such a straightforward and reliable way. I think that says a lot about Ben and how he applied himself to our tutoring system. Every day he set himself to the task of: best GMAT preparation possible. Not only getting through the work but putting his back into it and making sure to pulverize the review.
Will everyone increase their GMAT score 150 points? Nope. Will everyone hit a GMAT 710? Probably not. It's the 92nd percentile for a reason! That said, Ben was neither an expert mathematician nor someone who came in the door with a ridiculously high verbal score. In fact, he was scoring somewhat in the middle of the pack on both sections of the test. It just goes to show: you can push yourself far beyond your baseline. But, like many amazing achievements, it may not come easy.
GMAT 560 to GMAT 710 FAQ
What percentile is a 560 GMAT score?
560 GMAT score percentile = 48th percentile
What percentile is a 680 GMAT score?
680 GMAT percentile = 84th percentile
What percentile is a 710 GMAT score?
710 gmat percentile = 92nd percentile
Is a 710 GMAT score good enough?
A 710 GMAT score is excellent no matter how you slice it. Whether it puts you in a stellar position for MBA applications depends on the rest of your application and, most importantly, on what schools you’re applying to. If you’re considering top 10 schools the 710 is going to be a bit below the middle so, in that case, it’s not unlikely that you’ll need something else in your application to balance things out (GPA, Essay’s, Recommendations…).
Outside of the top 10 business schools a 710 puts you in a very competitive position.
Will a GMAT 710 get you into Harvard?
Not on its own. For Harvard, and other top of the top schools, a 710 is solidly below the middle of the pack. That doesn’t mean that a 710 will keep you out of Harvard. I’ve had students admitted to Harvard with 670s. Same as above though. If you’re below the middle on your GMAT you need something else of equal or greater value on the plus side.