A good foundation for a GMAT 770
He’d already achieved a 710 GMAT score but Rich had his eye on HBS and wanted to re-take his GMAT to better his chances at admission to one of the meccas of the MBA universe. Though he hoped for any improvement he coveted a GMAT 770. The 99th percentile opens at 760. Getting there is the GMAT equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Then to get those extra ten points you still need to do some Cross-fit on the summit. I improved my previous top, 770, to a 780 without any active studying while in a test center next to a loud construction site. But, I think I got lucky. I was also in the midst of writing our LSAT for GMAT curriculum so verbal was spot on.
Rich's verbal was a fantastic 42 (90th+ percentile) but he griped about the "imperfect" score since his mom, an english teacher, had pointed out that he should be earning a perfect verbal score. My experience: If you can get a 42v and you're willing to sweat for it you can get a 45v+, the 99th percentile, especially if you chug through LSAT questions. Those extra verbal points make a big difference. With a perfect verbal score you can hit a 770 with only a 47 on the quant and a 700 with a 40 on the quant. Here's a more in depth look at GMAT scoring and percentiles.
Rich and I felt good about the tutoring plan so against the odds but with a positive vibe decided to start trekking.
Inconsistent Quant killing confidence
On the Quant Rich lacked confidence. When encountering GMAT turbulence he would get frazzled and mash on the eject button. I also noticed that he was judging his performance and the difficulty level of questions as he was working - this analysis wastes your mental energy and is akin to spreading out your focus on multiple fronts as opposed to just getting down to the business of working on the question in front of you. This distraction contributed to him forgetting that most of the GMAT math could be solved with very simple tools.
GMAT is the master of presenting something that seems exotic but is actually quite basic. As with most of my students we worked on staying organized and patient and allowing for some unknown (be OK with not knowing everything all at once). Trust that sticking to an organized process will often reveal the path forward. The GMAT doesn't expect you to pull a rabbit out of a hat but to follow a trail of breadcrumbs. 99% of the time there's something simple that you can do to get to the next step. We also worked on slowing down to avoid careless mistakes, which about half of the time were the cause of Rich’s frustration. I see this often with GMAT tutoring students. It isn’t that you don’t know how to set up a question but a careless computation throws the whole thing off kilter. This saps your confidence and makes you feel that you're completely lost, and, worst of all, that the GMAT is difficult.
a 770 GMAT score comes into focus
Totally willing to reprogram his approach, Rich started to see movement on his Quant almost immediately. For verbal I assigned some tough LSAT for GMAT work to sharpen his already sharp critical thinking skills (taking the verbal from an A to an A+ makes a difference!). He generally excelled at critical reasoning but still goofed up the occasional set. Then, one day, his verbal was bombproof. Boom. Just like that. He said there was one thing that changed the calculus: Me telling him that there is only one correct answer. No, ifs, ands or buts. He had been wrestling with some of the questions thinking that two answer could be correct but that one was just better than the other. Once he accepted: one correct/four incorrect it was like getting the right prescription on his verbal lenses and everything sharpened up. The hunt for a 770 GMAT score, an elusive beast, was heating up.
Going for GMAT gold is never a sure thing (but it happens)
Rich scored a 750, 760, 770 and a peak 780 on his official GMAT practice tests. There had been a few repeat questions on the 780 but still we were both happy with the progress. Test day came and radio silence. Not a peep. I was the tiniest bit concerned that GMAT glory had eluded us. That night a ring-ring, ring-ring on the telephone: GMAT 770 and a perfect 51 on the verbal. Holy crap. The first perfect verbal score that I’d ever seen from a GMAT student. He was over the moon. It completely made my week. It’s great to see people do well. Especially ones who are as nice and hard working as Rich. Fire away with questions or experiences!