If you’re planning to take the GMAT, you’re probably wondering how to get the highest score possible. Maybe even a perfect one? Is that even possible, and how many students get there every year? In this article, I’ll go over what a perfect score on the GMAT entails, how important it really is in terms of MBA admissions, how to ace the GMAT (or get very close), and the top tips to getting as close as you can to a perfect GMAT score.
What’s a Perfect GMAT Score?
A perfect GMAT score is an 800. When we refer to “the GMAT score,” we mean the total score: the combination of your scores on the verbal and quant sections of the exam.
A perfect score on the GMAT is very rare. Only about 30 people per year—out of 200,000 test-takers from over 100 countries—get an 800 on the GMAT. This number remains fairly consistent from year to year.
What’s more, it’s probable that not all 30 of these test-takers are students. Test coaches and tutors, who take the GMAT not in order to get into business school but to help their students ace the exam, also take the test every year. It’s probable that some of them are the 800 scorers, so it’s likely that the number of prospective MBA students who score an 800 is even lower than 30.
We know that a perfect score on the GMAT is incredibly rare. But would it help you get into business school? Next, let’s go over just how important a perfect GMAT score would be in your admissions packet.
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Do You Need an 800 GMAT Score?
Though having a perfect GMAT score obviously won’t hurt your application, it’s fairly unrealistic to aim for an 800.
For one thing, it’s hard to predict whether you’ll get a perfect or near-perfect score, even if you make hardly any mistakes. Just one wrong answer could be the difference between an 800 and a 780. So sometimes, the difference between “perfect” and “less perfect” when it comes to the GMAT could be no more than a fluke. If you want to score an 800 GMAT, you’ll need not only skill, but also a bit of luck.
Secondly, as I showed you, it’s very rare for test-takers to get a GMAT perfect score.
Since only 8% of students score above a 700 on the GMAT each year, if you score above a 750, you’ll already be considered highly exceptional. Since around thirty students get an 800 GMAT score each year, and thousands more end up in business school, it’s clear that you don’t need a GMAT perfect score to get into a prominent MBA program.
However, there are certainly advantages to a very high GMAT score (750 or above). Getting a 750 or above on the GMAT will definitely make you stand out among other MBA applicants, even at top schools. The average GMAT score of incoming students at 16 of the top 20 MBA programs is over 700. The highest average GMAT score, 737, is at Stanford, with Wharton and Harvard trailing closely behind with average GMAT scores of 730 and 729, respectively (meaning, of course, that many students scored higher).
Given the fact that the average GMAT scores of incoming students at top schools tend to hover around the 720 mark, a GMAT score of 750 or above will make you stand out not only to admissions committees, but in merit scholarship decisions as well. All the top MBA programs offer at least a few scholarships to top students. As one barometer of your likelihood to succeed academically in business school, an especially high GMAT score can help put you in the running for MBA funding.
Next, let’s talk about how to ace the GMAT.
8 Tips to Getting a Perfect Score on the GMAT
There are tried-and-true ways to efficiently improve your GMAT score. If you want an 800 GMAT score, you’ll need to focus all the more on study strategies, as you don’t want to waste time preparing ineffectively. Let’s go over the best ways to improve your GMAT score as much as possible.
#1: Study Consistently
One of the most common ways to halt your GMAT prep progress is to study blindly with no clear goals in mind. Doing so stops you from honing in on what you really need to focus on and prevents you from achieving the kind of precision you’ll need to do exceptionally well on the exam.
To study effectively for the GMAT and get closer to an 800 GMAT score, you’ll need to study regularly for at least three months. At least three months of a dedicated study routine is important because it gives you enough time to prep on a regular basis, gauge your progress several times along the way with practice tests, and alter your study plan if need be. When it comes to GMAT prep, consistency is key.
Cramming isn’t likely to significantly improve your score (certainly not to a 750+ level). Instead, you’ll need several study sessions a week in which you can drill particular skills and take practice tests to realistically gauge your progress.
Set clear goals for each study session at the beginning of your prep. Instead of “work on verbal section” or “take practice quizzes,” for example, your study schedule could read “complete 10 practice sentence correction questions in 10 minutes,” for example. This will prevent you from falling into the trap of repeating the same errors over and over without seeing any significant increase in your score.
#2: Use the Best Practice Materials
To make the most of your GMAT study time, you should use the highest quality practice materials. That means you should pick both the best practice books and other tools available in terms of how close they are in tone, format, difficulty, and content to the real GMAT, and the best practice materials for you, i.e., the ones that will help you target your weakest areas. Any test-taker wondering how to ace the GMAT should first ensure that their choice in practice materials is sound.
The best GMAT practice materials are in computerized adaptive format, like the real exam. To get closer to a perfect score on the GMAT, you should also look for timed practice tests to help you get accustomed to the length of each section.
Official GMAT practice resources, such as the Official GMATPrep Software, are the best place to start, particularly as a diagnostic tool at the beginning of your prep to gauge how much progress you need to make and in which areas. Find more information about GMAT diagnostic tests here. Our guide to the best GMAT practice resources available will help you select additional GMAT prep materials.
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#3: Stay on Top of the Fundamentals
To improve your score significantly and aim for a GMAT perfect score, you’ll need to study every aspect of the GMAT. For example, strong fundamental math, reading, and grammar skills are necessary to do well on the exam.
After you take your first diagnostic GMAT and go over the answer explanations, honestly assess where your skills are lacking. To get a perfect or close-to-perfect GMAT score, you’ll need high scores on both the verbal and quant sections, so you should devote more time and energy to the one in which your initial score is lower, especially if there’s a significant gap.
Your more conventional GMAT prep (practice questions and tests, for example) should be accompanied by reviews of fundamental skills.
If you have trouble with reading comprehension questions or sentence correction questions, for example, reading articles from publications like The Economist, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Science can help you get used to common turns of phrase in English and comprehending complex material. Timing your readings and summarizing them afterward can also help you become a faster, more effective reader, which will help you on all parts of the verbal section.
If math is more of a problem for you, you’ll need to brush up on the fundamentals of algebra, trigonometry, statistics and probability, and geometry. Even if you did well in math classes in high school and college, you should review the math rules that are tested on the GMAT. While the math topics covered on the GMAT aren’t tricky in and of themselves, they are tested in unique, complex ways. You can review the math you’ll need for the GMAT here.
#4: Practice With Hard GMAT Practice Questions
If you want to get close to an 800 on the GMAT, you’ll need to find challenging practice questions. Some GMAT practice materials have more easy or medium practice questions, which won’t help you if you’re seeking to bump up your score those last few points. To get to an 800, you’ll need to answer the trickiest questions on the GMAT correctly.
Most GMAT practice materials allow you to select sets of practice questions by difficulty. If you’re trying for a perfect GMAT score, when you complete practice tests and quizzes as part of your study routine, complete as many sets of difficult practice questions as you can to ensure that you’re up to the challenge and ready for whatever the GMAT throws at you.
#5: Focus on Timing
To get a GMAT perfect score, you’ll need to focus not only on the content of the exam, but on timing as well.
You’ll need stamina, as the exam itself is about three and a half hours long, and a knack for appropriate pacing. If you go too quickly, you might miss important details in a question or answer choice; if you aren’t fast enough, you risk not finishing a section, which can significantly decrease your score. Pacing is particularly important if you’re hoping for a perfect score on the GMAT, because even slight errors in timing can cost you several questions, which you can’t afford if you’re aiming high.
To improve your timing on the GMAT, first and foremost, practice with timed tests. Take breaks only when you would get them on the exam. This way, you won’t experience burnout when you take the real test. You’ll get into a rhythm that will seem familiar as you get closer to exam day.
Pacing drills can also help you improve your timing. Choose the question types you struggle with most, calculate approximately how long you should spend on each question, and set clear goals for each drill accordingly. You should incorporate pacing drills into your routine study sessions, particularly if timing is a weak point for you.
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#6: Target Your Weaknesses
Targeting your weaknesses is the single most important component to succeeding on the GMAT. If you simply study every aspect of the exam equally, you won’t get the kinds of significant score increases you might need, and you’ll likely miss important details that could bump you up to the highest rung of scores.
When you take your initial diagnostic GMAT, assess your weaknesses as precisely as you can. What kinds of errors are you making? Were there pacing problems? Which question types are you struggling with the most? Within those question types, what skills do you need to beef up? Did anxiety cause you to make careless errors? Are you not reading every question fully? Did the format confuse you?
Whatever the problem is, to get your score up to the 750+ level, and especially to get an 800 GMAT score, you’ll need to troubleshoot it down to the last detail. After every practice quiz and test, take time to read the answer explanations fully and consider where you went wrong. Are you repeating similar error patterns? Set up drills during your practice sessions that target those patterns, and consider using additional practice materials to hone in on your weakest spots.
#7: Practice in Realistic Test Conditions
To get a perfect score on the GMAT, you’ll need to prepare not only for the timing and content of the exam, but for the format and testing conditions as well. Even the smallest of things can throw you off during the exam and cost you precious points, so you should feel as comfortable and prepared as possible for every aspect of the GMAT.
For example, practice with official practice tests in computerized adaptive format as much as possible. The more accustomed you can get the GMAT format, the less likely it is that you’ll lose precious time on day exam day or waste mental energy trying to figure out what a question is asking you.
You should also never use a calculator for quant practice, since you won’t have one on the exam. You can prepare for this by practicing calculations in your head as much as possible on an everyday basis and as a regular part of your GMAT prep. Check out our guide to prepping for taking the exam without a calculator here.
At the exam, you’ll be provided with a double-sided, laminated scratch pad about the size of a legal pad and a thin dry erase marker to take notes with. Practice with a legal pad and a thin marker at home as you take notes during practice tests so this doesn’t throw you off during the exam. You can also purchase a simulation GMAT scratch pad from Manhattan Prep to get used to the size and feel of what you’ll get on exam day. Read our article about the provided GMAT scratch paper for more tips on using your GMAT scratch pad effectively.
#8: Make the Commitment to a GMAT Perfect Score
Still wondering how to ace the GMAT? There’s no way around it: getting a perfect or close-to-perfect GMAT score will require a great deal of hard work and commitment, along with the right attitude. You’ll need to put in the time to make a real difference in your score, and especially to analyze your weaknesses so you can avoid them in the future. Test-takers who improve their scores by 50 or more points often report over 100 hours of study time, so if you expect a radical shift in your score, you’ll need to be prepared.
Lastly, stay positive! Just as commitment and consistency are important when you’re looking to significantly improve your GMAT score, so is stamina, which requires a positive attitude. Don’t get discouraged if your score doesn’t shoot up right away; stick with your study plan, hone in on your weaknesses, and you’ll most likely see the change you want to see.
For an overview of everything you need to know about the GMAT, from prep to exam day, check out our GMAT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
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