I believe that the biggest factor in a stock's ability to beat the market is to beat the market's expectations. That's why I look every week at three companies that have humbled Wall Street's pros over the past few trading days. If a company has more in the tank than the analysts figured, capital appreciation often follows.

We can start with Dell (NASDAQ:DELL). The computer giant posted a fiscal-second-quarter profit of $0.28 a share before one-time charges, good enough to barrel past analyst expectations of $0.23 a share on the bottom line. Revenue also clocked in ahead of Mr. Market's projections.

This isn't a revenue growth story. It will take time before Dell begins growing its top line again. However, the company is committed to eliminating $4 billion in annual costs by the end of the next fiscal year. 

Dollar Tree Stores (NASDAQ:DLTR) hit a 52-week high after the discounter crushed the pros. The thrifty retailer earned $0.63 a share in its latest quarter, comfortably ahead of both the $0.42 it earned a year earlier and the $0.54 guesstimate from Wall Street.

Shoppers love bargains in a dour economy, so it's not a surprise to see Dollar Tree join other discounters such as Big Lots (NYSE:BIG), DSW (NYSE:DSW), and Tuesday Morning (NASDAQ:TUES) by checking in with better-than-expected quarterly results in recent days.

Finally, we have Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ:COCO) making the grade. The post-secondary educator earned $0.31 a share before severance and impairment charges. The market would have settled for a profit of $0.25 a share. With displaced workers looking to beef up their resumes, it's no wonder that for-profit players such as Corinthian and Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL) are growing nicely.

So keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, doing so will be a rewarding experience for investors as the market rewards the overachievers. That's the kind of surprise we look for in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

Dell is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.