How Are GMAT Scores Calculated? Review of the GMAT Scoring System

by Maximilian Claessens
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How Are GMAT Scores Calculated - Review of the GMAT Scoring System

Test takers may anticipate a score on the GMAT that ranges from 200 to 800, with 800 being the best available score. The score you get is the result of the rather complex GMAT scoring system. But how are the GMAT scores calculated that you will see in the end of your test day? The three factors that the GMAT score calculator takes into consideration are the overall percentage of correct answers, the number of questions answered, and the degree of difficulty. The difficulty level of the GMAT, a computer-based exam, rises as you move through the test, as the GMAT is an adaptive test.
Let’s spend some time on understanding the GMAT scoring system and how GMAT scores are calculated in detail. This will help you to ideally prepare and get a good score when you take the GMAT.

The Adaptive GMAT Scoring System

The GMAT is a type of test called a computer adaptive test (CAT). That basically means that the difficulty of the GMAT questions you are given depends on how well you are performing. This idea may be easily understood by considering that if you correctly answer a question, you will then receive a somewhat more difficult question. A somewhat simpler question will be given to you if you answer a question incorrectly. Making a test adaptable will enable it to adjust the level of difficulty to correspond with your skill level. As a result, the exam may more effectively expose a larger range of results with fewer test questions.

You will encounter a question of moderate difficulty at the start of each session. As you answer correctly or incorrectly, the complexity of the questions will increase until it is the optimum level for you. The exam will then feed you a variety of questions up to that degree of difficulty (some will be simpler, others will be tougher) until it zeroes in on your precise score. You don’t need to correctly answer every question on the GMAT in order to receive a good score.

Having understood the adaptive nature of the GMAT scoring system, let’s now dive deeper into how GMAT scores are calculated.

How are GMAT Scores Calculated?

It wouldn’t be fair to assess individuals based on how many questions they miss because various students will encounter questions with varying degrees of difficulty.

The difficulty of the questions that the applicant misses is what determines the majority of the GMAT score instead. Let’s say someone does a bad job on the GMAT quant portion by missing 12 questions that were spread throughout. The exam might provide a quant portion score in the 20s or 30s and will never adapt upwards. However, if an applicant misses 12 questions once again, but just the challenging ones, the result may be a 47Q or even a 48Q, despite the fact that he made the exact same number of mistakes.

Similar principles apply to the GMAT verbal part; however, it is slightly more responsive to the number of inaccuracies than the GMAT quant portion is. The test can adjust up and down more simply on quant. The level of difficulty of the questions that are missed — rather than the total number of questions missed — is used to determine the GMAT section subscores.

Interpreting the Analytical Writing Assessment Score

The analysis of an argument essay serves as the basis for the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score. For the AWA, scores are given in increments of 0.5 points, from 0 to 6.

A combination of qualified and approved human raters and a computer algorithm is used to grade AWA essays. An extra human rater will assess the score and may make adjustments if there is a discrepancy between the algorithm grade and the human score.

By using the ‘Essay Rescore Request Form’, you can ask for your essay to be rescored if you think your AWA score is inaccurate.

Interpreting the Integrated Reasoning Score

Scores on the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section range from 1 to 8 in intervals of one. The majority of Integrated Reasoning questions call for several answers. You must properly respond to every response to a question in order to gain credit; partial credit is not granted since the questions are meant to assess how well you integrate facts to solve complicated situations.

From GMAT Raw Scores to Scaled Total Score

Your scaled Verbal and Quantitative GMAT scores combine to calculate the overall GMAT score. How your GMAT scores are calculated is based on three factors: how many questions you answer, how many questions you properly answer, and how challenging the questions are.

The first element is quite simple. You must respond to each question on the exam. You have 62 minutes to complete the quantitative section’s 31 questions. 36 questions in 65 minutes for the verbal.

The second aspect is similarly rather straightforward: you receive points for each question you properly answer. You will obviously receive more points for accurately answering more questions.

The third element of the GMAT scoring system is unquestionably the most challenging. Every question on the GMAT is given a difficulty coefficient, which is a highly sophisticated procedure that is carried out by a large number of extremely knowledgeable psychometricians using a scientific methodology. In essence, it implies that test-takers who encounter harder questions benefit — much like high school students who take AP classes and are recognized with a weighted GPA.

As you respond to questions, the GMAT is continuously updating the scaled score for that particular segment. Because they have a greater impact on the sorts of questions you’ll encounter next, questions at the start of a section are evaluated more highly than ones at the conclusion of a section. Basically, if you get a question at the start of a section right, you’ll get more chances to respond to questions that are more challenging as there are more questions left in the portion.

GMAT Individual Score Ranges

The GMAT scores are calculated using a scaled score, which for each component spans from the lowest score to the highest score. When you leave on the day of the GMAT, you’ll receive an unofficial score report; however, it should take around 20 days to receive your official GMAT results. AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment), Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and the Total are the five scores that will be included in the report. The available score ranges for each portion are as follows:

SectionPossible Score Range
Total (Verbal and Quantitative)200-800
Integrated Reasoning1-8
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)0-6

When we mention “GMAT score,” we often mean the Total Score, which is the scaled sum of your verbal and quantitative results. 70% of test-takers achieve a score between 400 and 600. It is derived from your Verbal and Quantitative (Quant) component results. The GMAC algorithm determines the composite or overall score based on GMAT scoring system. Find out more about GMAT target scores and what GMAT score you may need.

GMAT Scores and Percentile

The GMAT offers a percentile rating in addition to a raw score, which indicates the proportion of test-takers who achieved at or below a given level. The greater the percentile rating, the more challenging the score is. Please take note that while rankings are updated every summer using test data from the previous three years, the percentile number for the same score may vary from year to year. In reality, unless you are filing an application based on an ancient GMAT (from 3+ years ago), this shouldn’t affect you too much. If you do, it would be interesting to see if the percentile has significantly changed and, if it has, to indicate it in your submission.

Check out the chart below for the percentiles for Total GMAT scores based on test takers’ results between January 2018 and December 2020:

GMAT ScoreGMAT Percentile

Enhanced Score Report

The score report might be difficult to understand. The enhanced score report comes into play here. By deconstructing each component of your score report and giving you a thorough explanation of how you performed in each, the enhanced score report aids you in understanding your score report. The purpose of the GMAT enhanced score report is to inform you about how you performed on the test and how it would, in turn, affect your admissions to business schools. It provides you with a thorough understanding of your performance in relation to many elements.

The numerous elements mentioned here include the question’s level of difficulty, the section to which it belongs, the type of question, and the rate at which you’ve gone through the test. It’s crucial to keep in mind that while the enhanced score report provides information about your performance, it is not your official score report. Your GMAT unofficial results are used as the basis. You may see the improved score report 24 hours after taking your GMAT because it is based on your unofficial scores. However, in order to get the report, you must pay $30. The enhanced score report has a 5-year validity period as well.

Final Thoughts on the GMAT Scoring System

So, how are GMAT scores calculated then? Basically, the answer lies in the complex adaptive GMAT scoring system which scores you on each section. The sum of the verbal and quantitative scores is the final score. Each is determined individually and has percentiles that are significantly different from each other. Your score will also include an AWA (essay) score and an Integrated Reasoning score in addition to the Quantitative and Verbal components.

The GMAT is more of a talent exam than an accurate test. In order to get a good mark, you should concentrate on understanding topics and how to apply them rather than just going over the syllabus. Having a good understanding of how GMAT scores are calculated, you can design a GMAT study plan that focused on those areas that you need to improve on.

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