How to Get a 700 on the GMAT

Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - How to Get a 700 on the GMAT by Chelsey Cooley

Getting a 700 GMAT score isn’t easy, and it’s not the right goal for everyone. But if it wasn’t tough to get a 700, it wouldn’t be such an accomplishment! Here’s how to get a 700 on the GMAT and add something really special to your MBA applications.

Who Gets a 700 on the GMAT?

Most people who take the GMAT don’t get a 700. As of 2018, about one out of every eight GMATs gets a score of 700 or higher. Even among students at top business schools, not everybody has a 700 on the GMAT. And many excellent schools regularly accept students without a 700 GMAT score.

Whether you get a 700 GMAT score depends on your Quant and Verbal subscores. If your two subscores add to 87 or higher, you’ll probably get at least a 700. (However, the relationship between your subscores and your overall score isn’t exact. Check out our GMAT score calculator to learn more.)

Here are some possible ways to earn a 700 on the GMAT (percentiles are from the GMAC’s latest score data):

Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - How to Get a 700 on the GMAT by Chelsey Cooley

GMAT Verbal is a Key Part of a 700

Notice anything about the chart above? Even with a perfect GMAT Quant score, you still need at least a 71st-percentile Verbal score to get a 700.

Now, percentiles don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Depending on your background, you could find 71st-percentile Verbal to be much easier—or much harder—than 71st-percentile Quant. But it’s clear that to get a 700 GMAT score, you need to outscore most test-takers on the Verbal section.

A lot of us make the mistake of ignoring Verbal when we try for a 700 GMAT score. Here’s why. Suppose that you just took the GMAT, and you got the following scores:

Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - How to Get a 700 on the GMAT by Chelsey Cooley

If that’s your score profile, should you focus on Quant or on Verbal? It looks like you should focus more on Quant. But the score calculator tells a different story.

Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - How to Get a 700 on the GMAT by Chelsey Cooley

If that was your starting GMAT score, it would be impossible to earn a 700 without improving your Verbal score! Even with a perfect score on Quant, you couldn’t go past 690 without getting a higher score on Verbal.

The takeaway is this: if you want to reach a 700 GMAT score, don’t focus on the percentiles. Your overall score is based on your subscores of 0 to 51, not the percentiles they represent. One point in Verbal is worth exactly the same amount as one point in Quant. So if your Verbal subscore is lower than your Quant subscore—even if the percentile is higher—you should spend some significant time working on Verbal.

How Many Times Can You Guess and Still Get a 700 GMAT Score?

Guessing should be part of your GMAT strategy, even if your goal is a 700 or higher.

To understand why, read this article analyzing the GMAC’s Enhanced Score Reports. The data in the article includes 11 people who earned a 700 on the GMAT (or higher). One of them missed at least a quarter of the questions on both sections—and still scored a 710 overall!

Most of our 700 earners missed fewer questions than that, but nobody, not even the highest scorers, came close to getting every question right. If you guess intelligently on the hardest questions, you won’t hurt your chances of getting a 700 at all. It’s definitely safe to take at least two or three random guesses per section.

From Zero to a 700 GMAT Score

Your path to a 700 on the GMAT depends on where you’re starting. If you haven’t taken a practice GMAT yet, take one now, even if you haven’t started studying.

Why? Because you need to choose what you study based on where you are now, not where you’re trying to go. Let’s see a concrete example to understand why.

Joanna and Ravi both take their first practice test, and they both score a 480, with a 29 on Verbal and a 27 on Quant. However, Joanna’s target schools have an average GMAT score of over 700, while Ravi is aiming for schools that would accept a 550.

So Joanna sits down and starts studying 700-level problems. She spends a very long time on every problem, but she works with each one until she’s completely sure she understands how to solve it. Ravi, on the other hand, begins working through Foundations of GMAT Math and Foundations of GMAT Verbal, and tries to get a solid grasp on the basic math and grammar.

Two weeks later, Joanna and Ravi both take another practice test. Who does better?

Everybody’s GMAT starts in the same way: with an average-difficulty question. Suppose that Joanna and Ravi both choose to take the Quant section first. They’ll probably both miss that first question: after all, they started out with very weak Quant scores, and neither of them is a Quant expert just yet.

When you miss a question on the GMAT, the next question is a bit easier. When Ravi sees that slightly-easier question, he’s right in his element. Joanna, on the other hand, hasn’t had time to practice solving equations or translating word problems. She might get that problem right, but it’s not a guarantee. Ravi, on the other hand, will definitely get it.

The GMAT chooses which problems to show you based on how well you’re doing right now, not how well you want to do. If you want to see harder problems on the GMAT, you have to get the easy problems right first. And if you want to get the easy problems right, you have to practice easy problems.

Plus, Ravi will probably be a smarter guesser! When he sees a combinatorics problem, he knows that he’s not going to get it, so he guesses and moves on. Joanna, on the other hand, has been staring at combinatorics problems all week. She’s much more likely to waste a ton of time trying to solve it.  

You maximize your score on the GMAT by “pushing it up from below”—by practicing problems that are right around your current level, until you get nearly all of them right. At that point, the test will start showing you tougher questions, which you should start studying.

Joanna and Ravi should start by studying the same material (with some variation based on their individual strengths). The difference between them is that Ravi will stop when he hits the 550 level, while Joanna will keep going, focusing on tougher stuff.

Here are some guidelines for where to start, based on your current practice test score:

If your current score is mid-500s or lower:

  • Brush off the rust and become a confident expert with the basic material.
  • Start with Foundations of GMAT Math and Foundations of GMAT Verbal.
  • Don’t do too many official problems right now—although doing a few easier official problems will help you understand the GMAT’s style.

If your current score is high 500s to low 600s:

  • Start getting more specific. Analyze your practice test and find the areas where you’re missing easier problems.
  • Read our guide to studying for the GMAT, and consider the GMAT Strategy Guides, GMAT Interact, a GMAT course, or tutoring.
  • Do a significant number of real GMAT problems, but focus on the ones that are moderate in difficulty. Do timed sets of randomly-chosen problems and targeted sets of specific types of problems.
  • When you see a really tough problem, the point isn’t to figure out how to solve it! It’s to learn to recognize it so you can move on more quickly next time.

If your current score is mid-to-high 600s:

Advice from People Who Earned a 700

While researching for this article, I spent a lot of time reading the Share GMAT Experience forum at GMATClub. In this forum, people with all kinds of GMAT experiences—both good and bad—share their advice.

I strongly recommend checking it out for yourself. Here are a few categories to browse:

There’s a lot of variety among these reports, but there are also a few shared factors. Here’s the most common study advice I’ve seen from people who earned a 700 on the GMAT.

  1. Quality over quantity. A number of test-takers report that their score only started improving when they started sucking the juice out of every question, instead of trying to finish as many questions as possible.
  2. Record and redo. A number of people broke the 700 barrier by writing down the problems they missed and making a habit of redoing them later.
  3. Learn the fundamentals. Then learn them again. A lot of people earned a 700 GMAT score only after returning to the easy stuff a second time. Even if you know all of the math and grammar basics, reviewing them can be worth your time.
  4. Have a schedule. It’s more important to have a study schedule than to have the perfect study schedule. I’ve heard from people who earned a 700 on the GMAT via self-study, tutoring, Interact, and taking a course. One thing many of them have in common is that they diligently stuck to a consistent study schedule, whether they made it themselves or followed a course syllabus.

What to Do Next

There’s no magic recipe for a 700 GMAT score. Whether you get there by taking a class, studying on your own, or working with a tutor, you’ll need patience, consistency, and thoughtfulness. A 700 on the GMAT is an accomplishment that only 1 out of 8 test-takers achieves, so the journey probably won’t be easy. But it’s also not mysterious: a 700 is the product of lots of hard work and a little strategic thinking. The best next step is to learn how to study for the GMAT—make a study plan and get started! ?

Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.

Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

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How to Get a 700 on the GMAT