GMAT Tip: The Groundwork for a 700+ Score

The iPad app for the GMAT Official Guide Photograph by Lola Allum

This tip on improving your GMAT score was provided by Vivian Kerr at Veritas Prep.

Whether you have two months to study or a year, if you’re a smart, ahead-of-the-pack student aiming for a 700+ score, you probably already have some of the GMAT bases covered: You’re well-read, fairly strong on grammar, and have a good grasp of basic algebra and geometry. So, how can you best guide your studies? By focusing on the “GMAT triumvirate,” the three aspects of the test that must be surmounted in order to get that shiny 700+: content, strategy, and pacing.

“Content” can be subdivided into two groups: format and concepts. Start with familiarizing yourself with the basic format of the GMAT. Take a free practice test online, pick up a copy of the GMAT Official Guide, and get comfortable with the test’s question types and presentation. The second group is the one that will separate the test-taker stranded in the 500 zone from the savvy 700+ student: a strong grasp of concept. As you begin to study, it’s important to recognize patterns in your incorrect questions. Do you find yourself getting number properties questions incorrect 60 percent of the time? Might want to pick up a number properties supplement. The sooner you hone in on your weak concepts, the sooner you can address them.

“Strategy” is a word that can seem a bit intimidating, but it boils down to this: Do you have a systematic approach to each question type? And, more important, does it work for you? By strategy, I mean a written-out “Step 1 … Step 2 …” plan of attack. Write it down and keep it next to you when you practice questions. Strategy is there to prevent you from missing the traps of harder questions. Sub-700 students will sometimes skim reading comprehension passages, sometimes take notes, sometimes read the question-stem first, sometimes not, to mixed results. If you want consistency and improvement, develop a strategy and stick to it. If it doesn’t work, ask yourself what about it needs to be tweaked? Pay close attention to why you’re getting questions incorrect. Minor strategy adjustments will really boost your ability to go for the 700+ score.

“Pacing” is arguably the toughest component of the GMAT exam. If we had all the time in the world, surely we’d be able to get those word problems correct. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to be accurate and fast. You’ll need to gauge the right time to start introducing pacing drills into your studies. Students who start increasing their pace immediately usually have weak strategy. Students who ignore pacing until three weeks before the exam may be sweating bullets as they watch the timer click down come GMAT day. Make sure you’ve got your strategies and most of the content down first, then alternate working on questions untimed, to perfect your approach, with regular pacing drills. Pacing is not something that you only practice on full-length practice tests (although that’s important, too). Try doing five harder-level data sufficiency questions in 10 minutes, eight sentence correction questions in six to seven minutes, and so on.

Remember that students who get a 700+ score do more than cover the basics. They get inside the heads of the test-makers. To the extent that you can do this, you’ll be gliding toward the 90th percentile in no time.

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep giants tutoring, writing content, and blogging about all things SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT.

For more GMAT advice from Veritas Prep, watch “Mind the Gap in GMAT Critical Reasoning Problems.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.