If you want to achieve a 700+, as a general rule, you need a scale score of at least a 38 (85th percentile) in Verbal and a 48 (67th percentile) in Quant. Remember that the scale scores in the GMAT go from 6 to 51, and they are not related with the number of questions (check what the GMAT scores mean here). We have studied more than 1000 results from official online GMATPrep exams and hundreds of Enhanced Score Reports (which contain the official GMAT algorithm). Our results are summarized in Table 1:
Our results indicate that you can afford to have quite a few mistakes and still achieve a good score. However, notice that some of the ranges are quite spread out. After analyzing the data, we noticed that the scores depend on many variables:
- Distribution of mistakes: the more spread out the mistakes, the higher the score. Thus, avoid consecutive mistakes (2 or more in a row).
- Position of mistakes: consecutive mistakes at the beginning of the exam or towards the end affect your score more negatively.
- Difficulty of the question: the lower the difficulty of the incorrect answers, the lower the score, and vice-versa.
- Unanswered questions: leaving blank questions affects your score more negatively than answering them incorrectly. The algorithm will penalize you more for not finishing the exam, so you MUST finish it, even if that means guessing the last questions. Otherwise, you will be deducted an average of 3 percentile points for each question you leave unanswered.
- Experimental questions: We call this the “luck” factor. There are around 6 experimental Verbal questions and 3 experimental Quant questions. Answering those correctly or incorrectly will not affect your score at all. If you are “lucky”, many of your mistakes will be experimental. The problem is that you will never know which questions are experimental, so you must treat each of them as if the question counted towards your score.
Consider a Verbal score of 38 (85th Percentile); some people have achieved that score with 5 mistakes, while others with 14 mistakes (the average is about 10 mistakes). That means that most examinees can answer nearly 27% of the questions incorrectly and still receive a score of 38!
In conclusion, how many mistakes can you afford to achieve a 700+? As a general rule, we recommend no more than 8-10 mistakes in Verbal (out of 36 questions) and 6-8 mistakes in Quant (out of 31 questions). With those numbers, you are very likely to achieve at least a 700. However, sometimes the variables mentioned above can shift your score a bit under or above a 700.