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Thread: GMAT: How is the GMAT scored? First questions worth more?

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    After reading several posts concerning how the GMAT is scored, I decided to ask ETS myself. I had always thought that the first few questions are 'weighed' more and are more important to your score. The first time that I heard this is untrue is from Erin. Thank you so much b/c you are right! My test is in a few weeks and thank goodness I found out! I pasted the emails I had written ETS and their response below. Take it for what it's worth.

    Erin, could you please look at these emails and answer my last question I asked ETS? I'm afraid they will not get back to me in time! Please, someone help!

    Hi,

    I have always heard that it is more important to spend more time on the questions in the beginning of each section since those questions determine your score more than the questions at the end.

    However, a source online has said that all the questions are of equal weight and that I should spend the same amount of time for all the questions. Is this true? Please help since I am taking the exam in April.


    Thanks,

    Thank you for contacting GMAT.

    It is not the case that the questions at the beginning of a section are weighted more heavily than questions toward the end of a section. In general, it is true that the computer's estimate of your ability changes more in response to a question early in a section than to questions later in the section; however, this is due not to the computer's giving greater weight to the earlier questions but rather to the fact that early on the computer's estimate of your ability is based on very few questions, while near the end of the section this estimate is based on a greater number of questions and is therefore a more reliable estimate. For example, if you answer question 1 correctly, the computer can infer only that the your ability is probably at or above the mean for the population taking the GMAT, but it cannot tell how far from the mean, and it will then deliver a more difficult question, corresponding to a higher ability level, in order to begin the process of narrowing in on your true ability. If near the end of the section the computer delivers a question that is comparable in difficulty to question 1, it does so with the benefit of a considerable amount of information about your ability level, information based on responses to all of the questions you have received. A correct response in this instance would not cause the computer to make as large an adjustment to its estimate of your ability, precisely because it is taking into account more than this single question in computing its estimate. However, questions late in the test count just as much as early questions in determining your final score.

    If you write to us again, please include all previous messages.

    Hi,

    Thank you for the quick reply. I have a follow up question pertaining to your response. In general, would a person score higher if he answered the first 20 questions correctly and then missed the rest of the 21 questions (assuming it's the verbal section) or if he missed the first 20 questions and answer the rest correct? Based on my interpretation of your response, I would think that since the questions are weighted the same, the scores should be roughly the same in both situations. This theory, however, goes against everything I have read in prep books. What is the true result?

    Thank you again,


    Thank you for contacting GMAT.

    You have answered your own question correctly, since the questions are weighted the same, the scores should be roughly the same in both situations.

    If you write to us again, please include all previous messages.


    Hi,

    Now, I am thoroughly confused how the test is graded. Let's just assume that two different people took the test and both only answered 10 questions correctly in the math section. Person 1 answered the first 10 correctly and missed the rest. Person 2 missed all the questions except the last 10, which he answered correctly. Shouldn't Person 1 receive a higher score since he was able to get and answer tougher questions than Person 2? Because Person 2 missed all the questions up to the last 10, those last 10 questions should be easy.

    I'm going to use the following scale to help explain myself. Let's say that all questions are assigned a difficulty from 1 to 10. Person 1 would have received the following questions with level of difficulty 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 10 10 10 since he was able to answer the first 10 correctly. On the other hand, by the time Person 2 starts answering the questions correctly, his first question would have a level of difficulty of 1. Therefore, the questions he answered correctly would have the following level of difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. By the time he gets to a question with level of difficulty 10, he would have finished the test already. Now, my question is: shouldn't Person 1 receive a higher score since he was able to answer more tougher questions correctly? If he doesn't, please explain how it is fair that Person 1 and Person 2 receive the same score.


    Thanks again,


    Thank you for contacting GMAT.

    We have forwarded your inquiry to the appropriate department. You may expect a response in a separate mailing. Thank you for your patience.

    If you write to us again, please include all previous messages.


    Please Erin... can you explain why??? Thank you in advance!


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    Ankylosaurus Forum Admin Erin's Avatar
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    Here is what I wrote in this topic:

    I don't want to leave you in suspense, so here's a summary of why I say that the first questions do not count more:

    1. GMAT/ETS wrote me an email and told me that it's not true.

    2. I have tested the PowerPrep more than ten times, experimenting with getting different stretches of questions correct in different locations, and my score was identical each time. Remember, I've been teaching the OG questions for many years, so I've got most or all of the answers pretty much memorized, so I can easily choose to answer a question correctly or incorrectly.

    3. None of my students who have gotten good scores on the GMAT has ever told me that they used a strategy of paying more attention at the beginning, although I should say that I don't find this evidence enormously compelling as it's quite possible that they have used this strategy and simply haven't told me.
    ☼ Waiting for Godot

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    Originally posted by roborob

    Let's just assume that two different people took the test and both only answered 10 questions correctly in the math section. Person 1 answered the first 10 correctly and missed the rest. Person 2 missed all the questions except the last 10, which he answered correctly. Shouldn't Person 1 receive a higher score since he was able to get and answer tougher questions than Person 2? Because Person 2 missed all the questions up to the last 10, those last 10 questions should be easy.

    I'm going to use the following scale to help explain myself. Let's say that all questions are assigned a difficulty from 1 to 10. Person 1 would have received the following questions with level of difficulty 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 10 10 10 since he was able to answer the first 10 correctly. On the other hand, by the time Person 2 starts answering the questions correctly, his first question would have a level of difficulty of 1. Therefore, the questions he answered correctly would have the following level of difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. By the time he gets to a question with level of difficulty 10, he would have finished the test already. Now, my question is: shouldn't Person 1 receive a higher score since he was able to answer more tougher questions correctly? If he doesn't, please explain how it is fair that Person 1 and Person 2 receive the same score.
    First, you should know that ETS does NOT release the scoring algorithm, and you will likely NOT ever receive the answer you want to hear.

    Second, the level of the question is not adjusted immediately (to allow for the element of chance).

    Third, if ETS says the scores would end up being approximately the same (which I've confirmed in my own "experiments"), then you should adjust your "formula" so that it matches the result, not the other way around.

    Fourth, please remember that it is actually almost as difficult to answer every incorrectly as it is to answer every question correctly--to answer every question incorrectly, you would have to know the correct answer (so that you wouldn't choose it). So you need to account for random correct answers as well.

    In my experiments with the PowerPrep, I tested answering half the questions correctly (on purpose) and guessing randomly on the other half. I tested the correct stretch of questions in various locations--beginning, near the beginning, middle, near the end, and the end. Each time, my score was exactly the same.

    I would have to say that there is a preponderance of evidence showing that the first questions do NOT count more toward your score.
    ☼ Waiting for Godot

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    Thank you, Erin!! I am still a little confused and have a few questions pertaining to what you have said.

    1) I know that ETS will not tell me its scoring algorithm, but don't they have to publish the way the exam is scored? I mean, what if in reality (as absurd as it may sound) ETS only counts the first 10 questions on the exam? Doesn't the examinee have the right to know?

    2) So, by what you're saying, it is the NUMBER of questions you answer correctly that determines your score and the level of difficulty of the question doesn't matter. If I answer 30/41 correctly on verbal section (assuming that there are no experimental questions) on any span of the test, I will receive the same score?

    Thanks again Erin for the detailed response. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I give the GMAT on 4/19. :-D



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    OMG I just knew this!
    I quit the whole exam cuz I waisted so much time on the 1st 4 questions and wasn't sure i got them right,then I managed to solve thee other questions,and by the time I got to question 22 I realized that I probably screwed up and i just hit (end the exam button)!
    Myabe if i fnished I wud have got a good score,not excellent but good ?
    Oh god !

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    I might not agree whole heartedly with Erin...I made 9 mistakes in Quants and got a 44 (Powerprep)...I know people makiing 10 mistakes and getting 50 (GMATPrep)...i made too many mistakes at the start ..and it might hv pulled down my score...

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    I would say first 10 questions are actually very important because i have never seen any gmat takers who did poorly in first 10 get over 700. However, i did see many who scored very well having completed the first 10 successfully. Additionally, you will feel psychologically confident knowing that you are on the right track

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    Re: GMAT: How is the GMAT scored? First questions worth more?

    i've always had the impression that the first few questions mattered the most, and some guide books have said so as well. how certain are we on this?

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