Data-Driven Answers to Questions about GMAT – Part 2

This article is the second part in a series of three articles. You can find the first part on this link.

What is the maximum Verbal or Quant score can I reach if I get a certain number of questions wrong?

Here’s the data for Verbal:

Total Number of Incorrect Questions
(Out of 30 Questions)
No. of StudentsRange of Verbal Scores
2145
3145
6238- 41
7434- 41
8232- 35
9829- 38
10925- 34
111125- 36
121722- 34
13720- 34
14523- 31
15519- 33
16219- 24
18113

As you can see, I don’t have a lot of data points (no. of students) for the smallest (2-6 incorrect questions) and the largest (>15 incorrect questions) number of incorrect questions entries. However, I have a decent number of data points for the entries in-between. One thing very clearly comes out is that for the same number of incorrect questions, you can get widely different scores. For example, with 12 questions wrong, you can get the lowest of V22 (i.e. 30 %ile) and the highest of V34 (i.e. 71 %ile), a very significant difference indeed.

Besides, it is also possible that a person with 15 questions wrong ends up getting a higher score than a person with just 8 questions wrong. There was indeed one such case in my data in which a person with 15 questions wrong had a V33 and a person with 8 questions wrong had a V32. You may be wondering how this is possible. How could a person get almost half the number of questions wrong compared to another person and still end up at a lower score? Did the person with V32 get a lot of initial questions wrong? We’ll look at these questions in the later sections of this article.

Here’s the data for Quant:

Total Number of Incorrect Questions
(Out of 28 Questions)
No. of StudentsRange of Quant Scores
2150
3250
4350
5349
6847 - 49
71047 - 49
81047 - 49
9547 - 48
101632 - 48
111135 - 48
12345 - 47
13236 - 45
14120

We can observe in the above data that three students scored a Q50 with 4 questions wrong and three students who scored 5 questions wrong got a Q49 each. There seems to be some consistency at this end of the table. However, as we go down the table (6-13 questions wrong), we see that there are wide ranges of scores for different number of incorrect questions. For example, one student had a Q32 after getting 10 questions wrong and another who got 10 questions wrong had a Q48, a sea difference in the scores without any difference in the number of questions marked incorrect.

Clearly, the GMAT algorithm is driven a lot by the kind of question a person gets wrong. Logically, a person marking an easy question wrong should be punished more severely than a person getting a difficult question wrong. By getting an easy question wrong, a person is indicating that he cannot be depended on even for correctly solving simpler problems consistently. If you cannot depend on a person for consistently solving easier problems correctly, logically he deserves a low score. On the other hand, on difficult problems in life, a lot of us falter in some way or the other. So, getting a difficult question wrong shouldn’t be as significant a problem as getting an easier question wrong should be.

If you compare the Quant and Verbal tables above, you’ll see that while it is possible to get a Q45 with 13 questions wrong, in Verbal, the highest you get with 13 questions wrong is V34. It is quite clear that getting a V45 is nowhere as easy as getting a Q45. This brings us to our next question.

Why has GMAC made it much more difficult to score high on Verbal than on Quant?

At least a part of the answer seems to lie in their (the GMAC guys’) perception of the difficulty of the questions. Quant questions that are quite easy for an average Indian test taker are considered by GMAC more difficult than Verbal questions that are quite difficult for an average Indian test taker. In other words, a quant question of Medium difficulty level per GMAC is generally an easy question for an Indian test taker, whereas a Verbal question of Medium difficulty level per GMAC is generally a hard question for an Indian test taker.

How do I know this?

From the ESR reports.

What would be the level of difficulty of Quant questions a person who has scored a Q45 must have faced in the exam?

Most Indians would call such questions Easy-to-Medium.

GMAC doesn’t agree.

Here’s the difficulty level of the Quant questions that people who got Q45 faced:

First SetSecond SetThird SetFourth Set
MediumMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
Medium HighMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
MediumMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
Medium HighMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
MediumMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
MediumMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
Medium HighMedium HighMedium HighMedium High
MediumMedium HighMedium HighMedium High

As you can see, almost all the Quant questions that these people with Q45 faced were Medium High. Now, let’s compare it with the level of difficulty of Verbal questions that people with V45 faced (I had only two such data points with me).

First SetSecond SetThird SetFourth Set
MediumMedium HighMediumMedium
MediumMedium HighMediumMedium

Per GMAC, the guys with V45 faced mainly medium-level Verbal questions, and medium-high questions only in the second quarter.

According to you, what would be the difficulty level of the Verbal questions a person with V45 would face?

Would you call that difficulty level ‘medium’?

I believe most of us, non-native speakers, will say no. At V45 level, we’d expect very difficult questions.

However, that is our perception, not GMAC’s perception.

Thus, even if you solve a lot of these questions correctly, you deserve a V45, not V51.

I think it’s easier to understand why there is such difference in the perceptions of difficulty level of questions. Indians are generally good at Quant and weak in Verbal. On the other hand, Americans are quite the opposite. Thus, GMAT, a test conducted by a US-based organization, is expected to reflect the perceptions it currently reflects.

To answer the question, GMAC hasn’t deliberately made it more difficult to score high on Verbal than on Quant. We feel that GMAC has done so because with Verbal, our comfort is much less than the comfort of an average test-taker in America, in which GMAC is based. The Verbal questions that are pretty hard for us are manageable for them, and the quant questions that are manageable for us are pretty hard for them.

That’s it for this article. In the next article, we’ll answer the following questions:

  1. Are the first few questions more important than the remaining ones?
  2. Does the GMAT algorithm follow a fixed pattern i.e. giving similar difficulty level of questions for similar performance?

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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  1. Pingback: Data-Driven Answers to Questions about GMAT – Part 3 - GMAT with CJ

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