Ask Kate: Does Low GMAT Score Mean Haven’t Grasped Fundamentals?

Doing Well In Math On The GMAT Is Essential To Your Scores.


I took my first shot at the GMAT today after about 150 hrs of study and scored 640 (42Q 35V). I am pretty disappointed because I scored a 620 (40Q 34V) on my very first Gmatprep practice test. I am certainly going to retake in about a month or two, but I am concerned that I may have a fundamental flaw that could be impeding my improvement. I have always thought of myself as a quantitative person (3.5 GPA as a Finance Major, A’s in Calc courses etc.) so I am surprised that I have not been able to improve that score. Have you seen cases like this (barely beating baseline after long period of study) and do you think I am capable of reaching my goal of a 48Q? My fear is that because so much study led to so little improvement that I might have hit some sort of ceiling and I am really hoping this is not the case.

Thank you for any help!


FundamentalsHey John,

1. There is no real ceiling (below 780, or 50Q, or 43V), but there are practical ceilings based on your socio-economic-cultural upbringing.
2. There are also factors that contribute to such a poor performance despite the time put in. You didn’t give the particulars of how you spent the time so here is the most common problem I’ve seen:

Students who start within a reasonable distance of their target often work the areas for improvement that are incremental not foundational, for example, geometry. Geometry, probability, combinations, etc. these are tested, but are not profoundly important. Spending more than 10% of your prep time on those (all three total) is a waste. They comprise not even 5% of the overall test. But, they are easily picked out as areas of weakness so many students spend time on them.

Number properties, number line theory, remainder theory – those are profoundly important. These are where you make the quant gains. These are also the least sexy of all the Quant topics. But just cranking through the OG won’t get you any further.

You need to see an expert – specifically a GMAT expert – to properly diagnose your quant challenge. Don’t hire a math tutor for the sake of learning math. GMAT quant is more about logic and thought process and less about math.

You also need to work on Verbal. That score will hold you under 700. Not all 150 hours are created equally. Your time is worth something. If you can afford to invest the time, invest a few dollars so you’ll at least get a positive return on your time.

All the best,


Leave a Comment