Profiles of Candidates Scoring 650 on the GMAT | GMAT Talk
Today we’re going to speak about what we call profiles in the 650. A lot of times people see their score as sort of a fixed assessment of where they are rather than as a result of a balance of different characteristics that they have and that is feeding into their score. So when we speak with clients a lot of times they say:
“Oh well, I’ve got a 650 I want to get to a 720 — What do I need to do?”
The short answer is: We’ve got no idea because there’s a lot of different ways to make a 650 or a 580 or 620 and so we will talk about a few different profiles and how they could all result in the same score.
First off we’ve got Albert who is an engineer. He’s very meticulous. He knows a lot of quantitative information so he’s got really strong fundamentals but he also has been trained in an engineering environment which means he approaches problems very linearly. Not just the quantitative problems but the verbal problems as well because his education, especially his higher education, has been very targeted, very straightforward.
Albert knows the fundamentals but the moment he sees a problem he already has decided how to solve it or rather his training has decided how to solve it. He has one solution path. He knows it works and he’s perfectly clear on what to do so he sits down and he does it. This means it’s generally time inefficient but also that he’s not bringing to bear one of the most useful characteristics to his GMAT, which is creative problem-solving.
By not availing himself of his executive-level critical thinking skills or of thinking about the structure of the GMAT rather than just the content he’s doing everything to perfection which has a time constraint and he ends up performing fairly well but gets stuck on the more challenging problems where the algebra or the technicalities of grammar become overwhelming. And in this way, Albert gets to a 650 but he plateaus. He can’t get any further on the exam.
Next, we have Betty, and Betty is really sharp and has always been someone able to thrive in different work environments and to a large extent in academic environments. However, she’s never been one for more formal education and training.
What happens with Betty is that she’s got great instinct. She looks at a problem and she sees the quick way to solve it partially because a lot of her training isn’t formal and she doesn’t know all the rules or all the mechanics of the grammar or how the GMAT structures critical reasoning or reading comprehension or how exponents work but she’s got a good enough idea to use her high-level functioning skills to ‘bounce’ around to a path of success.
Betty also does well and gets to a GMAT 650 score but her gap is very different than Albert’s. Where Albert needs flexibility Betty just needs a refresh on the fundamentals. Given the fact that she’s already there with strong instincts and some basis in the fundamentals those fundamentals for Betty would be much easier to plug in.
As such she’s going to have a much shorter prep timeline than Albert even though they have the same score going into it. What’s more Albert’s going to have to focus on unlearning habits that he’s developed over years and years of training whereas Betty can lean into her habits.
Finally, let’s talk about Charlie. Charlie has always been a grade 4.0, all A-level type of student. He studies a lot and he’s always been really great at presenting exactly what’s needed to get the marks.
As such he’s always done really well on examinations including standardized examinations maybe like the SAT or the ACT. However, the GMAT is the first time he feels really challenged and the reason for that is that the GMAT is adaptive. So Charlie’s modus operandi — the way he’s been trained and the way he approaches things, is to understand what’s expected of him and then fulfill that. So he’s in reactive mode, whereas the GMAT knows that or the designers of the GMAT know that people who prep in a reactive fashion will eventually get to a point where their solution path’s default solving mechanisms don’t give them the unique approach to allow them to excel past a certain level.
So he also stops at a 650 and he’s sort of halfway between the two others that we already discussed, where he’s going to have to unlearn some habits but he’s also probably in a better position than Albert if he can get away from the prescribed ways that he approaches the exam and the fundamentals. He might need to study the fundamentals but he’s probably over studying them and not looking enough at approaches outside what he thinks the exam wants.
So Charlie would need to work on developing a sense of the structure of the exam, of using the skills that he’s developed to understand when a question is put to him what it is structurally that the GMAT is looking for, how it’s built so that he can react to it with his top-level fundamentals and the creativity that he’s always had as a student but molded in a very different way.
So these are three profiles in a 650 with three very different prep timelines and more importantly three very different sets of skills that these clients need to work on.
So if you see yourself in one or several of these (and these three are by no means exhaustive), give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk with you, understand where you’re coming from on the exam, and try and get a sense of which profile you fall in.
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Bear in mind that everyone’s different and these are three extreme examples. You probably are somewhere in a mix between these and a few other archetypes that we see regularly. By getting a sense of who you are (which also includes your personality and your behavioral and emotional approach to the exam), how you like to learn and how you perform we can put together a way for you to move forward if you’re stuck and you’ve hit a plateau.
If you don’t feel like talking to us, by all means, think about these different characteristics: how reactive you are, how prescribed your methods are, how many solution paths you see when you take a look at a particular problem, and if any of those seem very restrictive focus on that but don’t get caught up in the trap that most people fall into which is reviewing their fundamentals over and over and expecting movement because most of this game (and I’m calling it a game on purpose) is played on a behavioral and emotional level.
If you get a 650 GMAT score and can’t seem to move on from that score speak to an apex instructor to find out more about our personalized approach to GMAT prep.