The sub-4 minute mile, a perfect round of golf, a 300 in bowling… oh the elusive Mt. Everest. A GMAT 800: the perfect GMAT score.
Improbables of perfection, how can any ever hope to summit your slippery slopes?
Hard work won’t quite cut it. An element of luck, a touch of madness, and more than an average serving of raw talent might be enough.
Perfect GMAT Score
In terms of attainability, where does the GMAT perfect score fall — that perfect 800 we wish we could have emblazoned on our transcript? Well, fewer than 30 people a year attain this coveted score. Since I am sure a few of those 30 are tutors, even fewer test takers score a perfect 800 on the GMAT.
To put things into perspective, 150 people climb Everest each year (though 5 do die – which is something I’ve never heard befall a GMAT test taker).
Clearly, a perfect score is extremely difficult to achieve — though not necessarily impossible. Below are some points to keep in mind if you have your eye on GMAT perfection.
GMAT Perfect Score: Some Criteria to Consider
The philosopher-physicist has it best. Strong quant skills coupled with formidable problem-solving skills, this person is able to quickly see the big picture and discern the answer, that one tree in the dense forest of verbiage and equivocation.
Physicists are also adept at seeing some of the underlying patterns in the verbal section. But it is the philosopher who truly excels. The critical reasoning section? Philosophers have been doing this kind of analytical thinking for years – and the level of critical reasoning philosophers engage in makes the GMAT CR seem like a high school equivalency exam.
While the philosopher-physicist hybrid is ideal, there are other fields of study that also handle the GMAT well. If you have a computer science background, you will have the problem solving skills necessary to do very well on the test. In general, math types will fare well; even the verbal section is based on logic (think Sentence Correction). Yet math types out there might want to make sure they are avid readers. If they have a penchant for literature, growing up with the likes of Dickens and Steinbeck, they will likely do well on the verbal. Ultimately, the student who will do best is the one who blends analytical and mathematical thinking with a healthy dollop of verbal panache — whether they be an English major who does Sudoku in their spare time or an engineer with a thing for Jane Austen.
Those who read challenging books and articles should have little problem navigating the dense, quasi-academic language of the GMAT. Proper idiomatic construction should flow from their tongues with the same insouciant ease most of us have discussing the weather. Grammatical niceties will jump out from the page, amidst the noise of GMAT distractors. (I say this based on my literary-inclined friends who find that they can rely on their ear to ace the Sentence Correction section — something even most native English speakers can’t do).
My advice: read challenging – but not utterly boring – works. And pay attention to language and turns of phrases. Additionally, it will help if you read widely. An article on species extinction in The New Yorker for breakfast and post-lunch reading of the latest Booker Prize-winning novel.
The perfect scorer isn’t necessarily the fastest. But they are the most careful. The perfect scorer double-checks their answers and does not leap at an answer choice because it sounds good. He/she is aware of the traps that the GMAT lays, and is assiduously careful to avoid falling for them. Indeed, even perfect scorers aren’t always perfect scorers. Perhaps on their mock exams they missed a few questions.
Likely, once they saw their answer was incorrect, they could go back to the question and identify what was wrong with it. Their mistake wasn’t conceptual; it was careless.
When you get close to perfection on the GMAT, it is likely meticulousness keeping you from an 800. Double-check that answer on Data Sufficiency (that notoriously and deceptively tricky section), don’t gloss over an answer choice on Reading Comprehension and end up missing that one critical word that invalidates the answer choice.
Meticulousness carries over to other facets of the GMAT besides answering questions. How you prepare is key to improving your score, especially when that score is the difference between 750 to 800 (those extra 50 points will require an extra serving of self-discipline.)
The perfect 800 scorer will be highly regimented and devise a GMAT study schedule. They will focus on their weaker areas and be as precise as possible when determining exactly why they missed those precious few points keeping them from scoring an 800. “I’m bad at hard science passages” is not the kind of mindset you need. Rather, “I will make sure to pay attention to how the author slips in a technical term mentioned earlier in the passage, instead of trying to justify an answer that I know is not quite right because I’m looking at the wrong part of the passage”. Essentially, perfect scorers are sticklers who look out for everything, from small math errors to grammatical nuances.
The Best Test Prep
To be able to attain a perfect score on the GMAT, you have to understand the subtleties of the test, and only official practice material will truly give you that. Yes, there is other material out there, some of which does a good job — Magoosh GMAT (yes, I know, conflict of interest), Manhattan GMAT (practice tests are even harder than the GMAT), and Veritas (does an okay job) — and there are the rest, from the benignly bad to the downright abominable, which will actually hurt your score.
This may be the first time you are hearing about Magoosh, and while we definitely can’t promise you a perfect score, we can promise you the best online video prep. You will nail the fundamentals (even if you weren’t a philosopher poet) and will have hundreds of practice questions to help you scale the Mt. Everest that is the GMAT.
GMAT 800: Slideshare
More of a visual learner? Flip through our Slideshare to review the tips you learned above.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February of 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.