I took my GMAT on monday and scored a 710 92nd percentile (Q 47, V 41). My goal was 700+ so I am more than happy with my result (+190 points in 4 months, 520 Knewton diagnostic). I really have to say that GMAT Club paved the way to taming this beast so here is my (hopefully useful) contribution!!Who is this debrief useful for?
Mostly people who are struggling with Quant. I spent about 80% of my study time on quant, as I started out with pretty decent Verbal scores. So if you are struggling with quant read on! If not, I'm sure there is still useful stuff somewhere in this post! Although Q47 isn't an exceptionally high quant score I really came from the Quant underworld (Q22).
So first off a quick overview of my CATs, schedule and materials:My CATs
Knewton Diagn. - 520 (V38, Q22 Ouch!)
Knewton CAT 2 - 590 (V41, Q31)
Knewotn CAT 3 - 540 (V41, Q22 Ouch!)
Knewton CAT 4 - 570 (V37, Q33)
Knewton CAT 5 - 650 (V47, Q35)
MGMAT 1 - 690 (V40, Q43)
MGMAT 2 - 700 (V41, Q43)
MGMAT 3 - 640 (V35, Q43)
MGMAT 4 - 640 (V42, Q35)
GMAT Prep 1 - 700 (V41, Q44) - 4 days before the test
GMAT Prep 1 - Quant re-run 47
GMAT Prep 2 - 770 (V47, Q48) - 2 days before the test - holy guacamole!Actual GMAT - 710 (V41, Q47)My schedule
I started studying mid-January this year and booked an appt. for my test immediately (May 17th) in order to pressure me into studying. This I didn't feel like I had forever to study and it forced me to just try and get it over with. So I studied for about 4 months.
- January - 6 hour crash course introduction to GMAT,
with a local GMAT tutor - 3 hours Quant and 3 hours Verbal - verdict? useless, I think I took this course because I didn't know what else to do, but in retrospect it was a lot of money for absolutely nothing, you can't learn much in 3 hours and at that point I was so clueless that anything sounded convincing. My recommendation is to avoid this sort of thing, either take a full blown course or self-study.
- January to end of March - Knewton online Course
(I did all 42 hours of lectures, all course work, all extra work and all CATS) - it was truly a great way to kick off my GMAT experience. I will talk more about Knewton later in the post. I studied about 1 hour a day after work and about 5-7 hours on both saturday and sunday during these months. During these months I didn't do anything other than Knewton (it was quite a time consuming affair!)
- April - Spring break -
I made a very hard decision and stayed home over easter break to read the 5 MGMAT Quant guides - best decision I ever made. I will talk about MGMAT later in this post.
- April to May -
Original Guide 12 and OG Quant
took up the majority of my time, I did my MGMAT CATS during this time
- May -6 hours of online private lessons with VERITAS
- I turned to Veritas prep
for my final preparation, I sort of ran out of questions to do (I did ALL OG Quant
Quant questions twice) and had some major weak spots I felt I needed to address with a tutor. This proved to be one of the most helpful stepping stones on my prep, I only took 6 hours but my tutor made a world of difference, and the Veritas
materials that i got included with the price of the private lessons were absolutely fantastic. I will talk more about Veritas
later in this post.
- The 9 days of vacation before my exam were absolutely crucial - I made the most drastic improvements in confidence during this time. My materials
- Knewton online materials
(concepts, videos, lectures etc)
- OG 12
(did all quant questions 2 times. did final 40 PS and DS questions 3 times)
- OG Quant
(did whole book once and did final 40 PS and DS questions 2 times)
- MGMAT Guide Number properties
(ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE!)
- MGMAT Guide Word translations
(ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE!)
- MGMAT Guide Geometry
(very good to have)
- MGMAT Equations inequalities and VICS
(ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE)
- MGMAT percents and decimals
(massive waste of time, way too basic for most...unless you are really rusty on fractions and dividing by decimals etc)
- advanced word problems (Fantastic book, lots of what I would say are 44-47 level questions
- Geometry (great for focused Geometry practice, approx 100 Geometry questions)
- Data sufficiency (great for extra practice on DS, good challenge set)
- GMAT Advanced
- didn't have the chance to use it (no more time) but I skimmed through it and read the main bullets and it seemed pretty good
note> I'm not sure if you can buy the Veritas
material separately, I got it in the post as part of my 6 hours of private lessons (including a headset and laminated sheets similar to the ones you get for the GMAT). I'm not sure why the VERITAS
material is never really mentioned on the forum... I found it very helpful to be able to concentrate on one topic per day during my final preparation e.g. one full day of just Geometry, one full day of just word problems etc.... and the questions were pretty good, most were of similar difficulty compared to the last 30 or 40 of the OG. other materials included:
- a modified version of the error log
posted by Spoilt and Trianglok (found it on this forum, just search for it).
- I made screen shots of all my CAT errors and redid the questions a couple weeks later
- I made about 20 copies of a worksheet I made myself with the main factoring concepts e.g. (x^2-y^2) = (x+y)(x-y) etc. main, formulas, tricky concepts, helpful things to know and be able to solve. I will post this worksheet. I filled one out every 2 or 3 days (took me about 15 minutes) and would then check the answers. It may all seem like basic stuff but I think it is stuff that is so unbelievably essential that you have to be able to do it within the blink of an eye. This worksheet was key to bringing me past 40.
- Someone posted a set of work and rate problems in one of their debriefs and I spent one whole day (i.e. 8 hours) just solving those 20 or so problems. Sounds like a lot of time for 20 problems but I literally did them about 6 or 7 times each until it was automatic. After all the work and rate problems which the test makers will include in your actual GMAT will be built on a very similar structure (if not the exact same structure).
- MGMAT Test simulation booklet (yellow laminated sheets that are similar to the ones you get at the test center) - I solved almost every single question I did during my GMAT revision using this booklet - I wanted to feel like a fish in water when using it on test day. I bought extra pens on amazon (staedtler non permanent lumocolor F). In retrospect, it was a bit exaggerated to use this thing every day but hey, it didn't hurt either.... but what was very annoying is that the laminated sheets I got on test day were white... lol!
_______________________________________My main GMAT learning points:Diagnostic scores
I took a GMAT crash course in January and my teacher said that an increase of more than 60 points in 4 months is not realistic - in retrospect I now know that this is the biggest nonsense that anyone has ever said to me. I increased my score by 190 points since my Knewton diagnostic and there are many many other people on this forum that have managed even more! As I said, the GMAT is completely learnable
Do NOT get bogged down by low diagnostic scores (I actually took my first diagnostic 3 weeks after having started my knewton course, so I was even lower when I started) - they are not representative of what you can actually achieve.GMAT "learnability"
I really want to use this post to motivate people and to really highlight that the GMAT is completely "learnable" - if you put in the work and really focus on your goal you can achieve you dream score!! I am not a gifted person, I am not quick at math and i am not a particularly quick learner, but I focused on the task at hand and put in a considerable amount of work and (dare I say it?) passion to achieve my goal. So anyone who thinks a 700+ score requires a genius gene, erase that notion from your mind, hard work and focused practice can get you there just the same. the GMAT is finite - the GMAT Deja vu factor
The most motivating thing I read on this forum about the GMAT (mainly quant) is that it is 100% finite. There are a limited amount of concepts that the test makers will test you on so during your preparation all you have to do is make sure that you try and cover the majority of this "finite syllabus" several times over.
On the same note, it follows that you will have an amazing amount of deja Vus whilst doing practice questions and CATs, the same concepts and questions just keep coming up and that is exactly what the GMAT is testing you on. How well can you study for something?
I think the GMAT test makers would phrase this as follows> "I am giving you a number of Original GMAT questions with answers to revise. Go and study them inside out. Then come back in a couple months and I'll give you a set of similar questions and see how you do" - This realization is key to your revision! They aren't testing you on random math to see how good your spontaneous random math is... there is a fixed set of concepts they want you to know!
My actual GMAT was like one ongoing deja vu... I felt like i had already done 75% of the questions before... Knewton
Knewton is a great course, I felt incredibly motivated to watch/attend the lectures and the whole website is so user friendly and encouraging that it makes studying a lot easier - it organizes everything for you in terms of schedule, topics, homework etc so you spend less time trying to figure out what to do and more time actually doing stuff. The lecturers are also really great. I managed to get a 650 on my last Knewton CAT but unfortunately I still was underperforming on Quant. Anyhow, I do recommend Knewton to anyone that has the time and energy to complete the course. It is really great value for the money and the CATs are pretty well done. You can also send in AWAs to Knewton staff and they will grade it and send it back with comments. I must say during my actual GMAT I used lots of strategies and things I learned from Knewton quite proactively. (e.g. in critical reasoning, if X causes Y, then you are assuming that Y doesnt cause X and Z doesn't cause Y... sounds strange but it helped me solve 2 CR questions in my actual test).
Having said that I would be wary of starting a Knewton course if you only have a couple months left for review or if you are already at a 600 to 650 level and are aiming for a 700+. Your time would probably be better spent going over the OG several times and doing other practice questions and working on your specific weaknesses. But this is probably true for any GMAT course out there. At some point you have to start swimming on your own and focus on your specific weaknesses. Besides once you are at about 44 Quant you know most of what there is to know and you just need to practice, perfect your skills and minimize errors. Veritas
I took 6 hours of private lessons with a Veritas
Private tutor, this really was great and contributed a lot to my confidence in the week before the exam. I also learned to approach certain problems I was having difficulties with (overlapping sets and permutations and combinations). I can highly recommend this type of targeted private lessons (if you are willing to dish out the money).
Although the lessons were unbelievably expensive (which is why I only took 6) I got quite a lot of value for my money. I almost exclusively used the Veritas books
I got with my 6 hours for my last week of revision. I got about 10 books, each on a different subject, with about 150 practice questions each, so it was a fantastic source of fresh, relatively challenging questions after I finished the OG 12
and OG quant
. I spent about a day per book, and did all of the questions 2 or 3 times over, by doing 40 question timed sets. And since the books only cover a certain topic (e.g. word problems, geometry etc) it was great for improving my weak areas!MGMAT
Hands down the best GMAT books on the market.
I don’t know what I would have done without the Math guides. I took 5 days during spring break to read each math guide and take detailed notes of each chapter. I didn’t do any problems whilst I was reading, I really just focused on the content and getting the “theory” down. Just reading these books improved my quant from around 35 to 44… I cannot stress enough how important I think these books are for anyone’s GMAT prep… they are concise, easy to read, thin enough to cover in about a day and above all contain most of what you need to know about GMAT math!
Having said that, I have major beef with MGMAT CATS. I think they were the single most frustrating factor of my GMAT prep. My scores fluctuated up and down dramatically every week and I never was able to finish a Quant section without having to guess the last 5 or 6 questions. Don’t get me wrong, the questions are great and you can learn a lot from MGMAT tests, but in my opinion they are not entirely representative of what GMAT math really is like. They had way too many time consuming calculations and mixed concepts. I made screen shots of all my errors and when I looked at them again after my actual GMAT I couldn’t help but be amazed at how different they were from the real thing.
So don’t put too much importance on MGMAT CAT scores…. There are plenty of people who score well on them and seem to think they are even better at predicting your score than the GMAT PREP, I completely disagree. I think I was at a 700 level much before MGMAT told me I was, and after 4 months of prep it was very frustrating not to see any major improvement.
Use MGMAT CATS to learn concepts and practice efficiency, they are great in that respect, but don’t put too much importance on scoring well on them! (after all it is much nicer to take the real GMAT and feel like it is easier…right?)Error log
I started using the error log
and gave up after I realized that I wanted to study in a completely different way.
Instead of micromanaging my errors I just redid whole question sets if I got too many wrong. And I redid the whole question set until I got most of them right. Then I did the same question sets a couple of weeks later and It might sound a bit exaggerated but I feel I strengthened my strengths whilst I improved on my weaknesses. The more automatic things become the better!
But I can fully understand how micromanaging your errors and weaknesses might be more efficient and targeted, so each to their own. GMAT Timer by walker
This is a must!! I didn’t answer one question out of the OG or the Veritas books
without timing it with the GMAT Timer
you can find on this forum… I usually switched the timer to the verbal setting and did 40 question sets (the quant setting only lets you do 37, and I wanted round numbers so I could remember what question I left off at). I didn’t only review questions I got wrong but I redid every single question I took over 2 minutes to complete. Improving your quant from a 22 to a 47
up to 35> multiplication tables, common squares, common square roots, common formulas (circles, area, circumference, average etc), flash cards with basic concepts (e.g. highest prime number under 100, 2 is a prime number, how to calculate the LCM, GCF. If you are scoring under 30 you are lacking really some absolute fundamental knowledge about things like prime numbers, averages, and percentages. I brushed up on this stuff by using flash cards.
Up to 44> MGMAT guides
, MGMAT guides
, MGMAT guides
, MGMAT guides
, MGMAT guides
. If you are under 44 there is still stuff you have to learn, concepts you haven’t covered or haven’t learned how to implement when confronted with a question. So theory is good but at 44 you have to try and bridge it with question practice.
Up to 47> after 44 you basically know most of the stuff you need to know so all you need is practice practice practice. I did about 3 or 4 40 question problem sets every day for 9 days before my exam and redid problem sets I didn’t feel comfortable with. This rapid fire way of solving problem after problem was fundamental in getting past my 44 rut.
I also started thinking and talking to myself a lot more when doing problems to try and reduce silly mistakes. Once I solved a question I would rethink it at the end and then ask myself “does my answer actually answer the question”? I saved myself from making at least 4 mistakes during my actual GMAT by asking that question – e.g. if it asked for Bill’s age in 2 years and I solved for Bill’s age now… Be prepared!!!
Despite lots of posts on the subject that claimed the contrary, my testing center didn’t have ear plugs, didn’t have a proper new pen, and they only gave me one pen. The pen they gave me had a worn down tip and I was so happy I brought my own and asked If I could use my own since the tip was dead on the one she gave me.
There was also an incredibly annoying clock above my computer which made an annoying ticking sound, so I was really happy I brought my own ear-plugs.
I also brought water, a twix, a banana, and a red-bull to the exam, so my 8 minute breaks were a treat (although I actually only took about 4 minutes of each break, I was far too nervous to wait for another 4 minutes lol)The first question
If you mess it up, guess and move on!!! Don’t let it bring your whole test down – staying cool is key!
Right so those were my key learning points.
Reading GMAT Prep debriefs were really helpful during my prep, so I hope that you all might be able to draw a couple useful things from my GMAT experience.
A big thank you to bb and everyone else at GMAT CLUB, you guys all were such a great help!
Over and out!