The GMAT Score
The GMAT exam has four independent sections, each of which is scored separately. But the two section scores from the Quantitative and Verbal sections are combined and re-scaled, to give a headline score between 200 and 800. For most people, and most schools, it is this combination score that attracts the most attention, serving as both target and cut-off, for applicants and admissions officers, respectively.
HITTING YOUR TARGET SCORE
The score gap is the first thing to know, before making a plan to hit your target score. A little-known concept, the score gap tells you first of all how much effort you'll need to put it. It can also tell you something about the proper mix of self-study, course work, and tutoring, given some assumptions about your budget, deadlines, and availability. We'll be happy to walk you through the decision tree on this, as it gets easier to do this with experience. But you can certainly make a start by calculating your score gap.
GMAT STUDY PLANS
There is much information, online and on this site, about improving your headline GMAT score. But before launching into any particular plan of study - be it tutoring, a group course, or self-study - it's advisable to get an overview of the quantitative and verbal sections - in particular, the kinds of questions that will be asked, the time constraint, and the CAT scoring algorithm. Advanced knowledge of these topics is critically important, if you wish to maximize the return on investment of your study program.
The time limits are a critical factor to consider when designing a study program. In most students' experience, the timing of the test is aggressive. For example, to solve 31 quant questions in 62 minutes means an average time budget of only two minutes per question. This means you'll need an unusual degree of efficiency, if you are to avoid the penalty for falling short on time at the end of the section.
COMPUTER ADAPTIVE TESTS
Students should also consider the mechanics of the scoring algorithm. The GMAT is one of the two Computer Adaptive Tests used in MBA admissions - the GRE is the other one. Computer Adaptive Testing presents special challenges, not found in the conventional, paper-based testing formats to which we are all accustomed.
And finally, you'll want to know the different types of questions encountered on the Quantitative, Verbal, IR, and AWA sections. Conventional GMAT prep resources do not consider which question type to study first, or which techniques offer the biggest ROI, and so they discuss all questions and all techniques, in equal proportions, and in no particular order of importance. That is a design flaw, with consequences on your return on investment, and possibly also on your score. The top priority ought to be identifying the proverbial low-hanging fruit. It is not unusual to meet students who have spent some months on the wrong track. That is an even greater risk, if you choose to find your way around the online forums. They are a good resource, but only for experienced users with time to burn.