Multiple GMAT Goal Scores

September 9, 2010

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Goal-setting is tough. Many students skip it altogether, just picking a number that sounds good (700!) or blindly aiming for the average score of the MBA program they'd like to attend.

Neither of those approaches take into account your own ability level or the amount of time you have to study. Both are far more important. No matter how badly you want a 700, you can't will yourself to reach that score.

A New Approach

Take some sort of diagnostic to get a feel for your current ability level. The practice test in the beginning of The Official Guide will suffice. Of course, there's plenty of opportunity to improve from there, but your room for growth isn't infinite.

Next, consider your available study time. As a general rule, for every 10 points you want to increase your score, you'll spend 20 hours studying. (Yikes, right!) In the beginning, it will probably be faster than that. But if you score a 690 and hope to improve further, you could easily spend another 100 hours studying and not improve at all.

Three Goal Scores

With this in mind, set three goals.

First, consider the score you would not be thrilled with, but would be good enough that you wouldn't retake the test. This might the bottom of the "middle 80 percent" range published by a school you will apply to.

Second, determine a score that you would consider a solid achievement. That might be the average published by your desired program.

Finally, pick out your dream goal.

Let's say these three scores are a 600, a 630, and a 680. Write these down. Commit yourself to them.

Post-GMAT Analysis

When you finally take the GMAT and receive your score, look back at those goals. If you get a 610, that means you're done! It might not be your ultimate, ideal score, but as you committed pre-test, it's enough so that you won't retake it.

If you get a 630 or 640, that's fantastic!

If you score closer to a 680 or above, you should rightly congratulate yourself on reaching the highest goal you could realistically set for yourself.

The most important thing here is to hold yourself to your pre-test goals. Too many people get a score in the lower range of these goals (say, a 610 or 620 in this example) and then spend weeks stressing out over whether to retake.

If you've set goals in this way, there's no decision to be made. You've already decided to be content with a 600. Done deal; now it's time to work on your applications.

And if you get closer to a 680, you should realize just how much of an accomplishment it is.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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