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540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience!

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540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience! [#permalink] New post 13 Dec 2012, 14:30
Hello All,

After taking the GMAT the first time around and feeling extremely disappointed with my score, I decided to retake the GMAT about six months later. I found these message boards and the MGMAT Road Map very helpful in designing a study plan that got me to my target score. If you're in a similar situation, don't get discouraged. After receiving a 540, I did the whole "maybe I just won't go to b-school, the GMAT takes too much time to prepare for, etc." thing. I took 6 months off, spent a lot of time reflecting on it, and I realized that if you put the hours in, you will get the score you want. I waited for a time in my life when I didn't have a ton going on outside of work, and I committed to studying until I was happy with my score.

I thought it would be helpful to break out my post by (i) mistakes from the first time around and (ii) what I think I did right in order to get to my target score. Let me know if you have questions, and good luck to everyone out there.

Mistakes I Made the First Time Around (540 - 37Q / 30V):
1. Overestimated my ability to "just wing it." I scored 1510/1600 on the SATs with virtually no preparation, and I thought I could replicate that performance on the GMAT. WRONG! I only studied for about 7 weeks. During this time, I was very inconsistent with my study schedule due to work constraints. I would cram in a couple hours during the evenings after long days at work, and this was not effective.
2. Took an in-person Princeton Review course. The instructor was very nice but not a great instructor. The Princeton Review content focuses mostly on "tricks" like plugging in answers, picking your own numbers to plug in, etc. These are great if you only need to score in the 500's, but you need to spend the time to master the fundamentals if you want to score in the 700's. ~$1000 down the drain on a pretty much worthless course and I got to my target score by just studying on my own with the MGMAT set...
3. Spent too much time taking non-GMAT Prep practice tests. I was consistently scoring in the 600's on the Princeton Review practice tests, but I did not have time to fit in a GMAT Prep practice test. Even though the GMAT Prep tests do not include answer explanations, they are preferable since they contain questions from the test maker (and seem to correlate pretty highly with your actual score).
4. I did not visit the test center in advance and was unprepared for how strange the GMAT experience can be.
5. I listened to advice that "the first 10 questions are absolutely critical - if you don't get all of them right, there is no way you will score in the 700's." On my first attempt, I had no clue how to set up the first problem. This caused me to panic, I then spent 5 minutes trying to solve it to no avail, I panicked more, and the whole experience spiraled from there.

What I Did Right the Second Time Around (700 - 46Q / 40V):
1. Realized that it was going to require 100+ hours of studying to get my score into the 700s. I laid out a 3 month schedule with 2 hours of studying each weekday and gradually scaled the study hours on the weekends to 4 hours each day. I've never been much for studying in large chunks of time, so I decided to spread the studying over a relatively long period of time. Also, I rarely studied for more than an hour at a time, but I was extremely focused while studying. I found it easier to wake up an hour early and study prior to going to work while my mind was fresh. I would then spend another hour studying during my lunch break or after dinner. In total, I studied 144 hours prior to my second attempt (excluding studying prior to my first attempt).
2. I spent ~3 hours just planning my studying. The MGMAT Road Map is extremely helpful in a similar way that this site is helpful, and it offers many helpful tips for getting back into study mode if you're been out of college for a while.
3. I used higher quality study materials. I purchased the MGMAT complete set and only did practice problems from the OG, OG Verbal Review, and OG Quant Review.
4. I made flash cards for quant problems that I struggled with and reviewed them weekly (a tip from the MGMAT Road Map).
5. I set weekly goals that I knew I could accomplish. Specifically, I devoted one week to each MGMAT book in the set. I read a chapter or two each day, and I did practice problems from the OG that corresponded to the content. If I finished a book during the week, then I rewarded myself by cutting my weekend study time.
6. I focused on GMAT Prep tests. I took the first test 4 weeks prior to scheduling my GMAT and got a 700. After getting a score in the 700's, I went ahead and scheduled the GMAT for 4 weeks from that time and started my review immediately. I took the 2nd GMAT Prep test 1 week prior to the actual GMAT and scored a 720. My actual GMAT score fell 20 points, but I can't complain.
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Re: 540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience! [#permalink] New post 13 Dec 2012, 18:20
Congratularions on your score.. I am planning to retake the gmat.. I got a 640 Q:45 V:34.. I am hoping to get as close to the 700 barrier as possible.. I think I can push my Q score a bit further.. but I think the an improvement on the Verbal section will be crucial..

Any advise on the verbal section?
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Re: 540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience! [#permalink] New post 14 Dec 2012, 08:30
Despite always doing well in English classes and doing well on the SAT verbal, I had to put in a LOT of time to get my verbal score into the 40's. After reviewing my GMAT Prep scores, I noticed that I was missing far fewer questions in verbal than quant, but my quant scores were much higher. This is only speculation, but I think that the GMAT is much more punitive for wrong questions in the verbal section. On test day, I honestly thought I missed 5 questions in the verbal section max. I clearly missed more since I ended up with a 40... Goes to show you what a waste of time speculating on your score is.

In order to boost my verbal score, I read all of the MGMAT books and refined a strategy for each type of question. I thought I was great at CR, but I was missing ~1/2 of the CR questions on each practice test. In order to improve on CR, I read the MGMAT CR book twice and made sure I had a refined approach for each type of CR question.

I felt like I improved at RC just by doing a lot of practice questions and by taking notes while reading. I also read many boring, detailed news articles leading up to the test. Pretty quickly, I went from missing 1/2 of RC to getting almost all of them.

For SC, I would recommend just doing as many practice SC problems as you can. Also make sure you understand WHY all of the wrong answers are wrong. This will help you to identify trap answers in future questions.

Lastly, I think it's important to practice test stamina in order to succeed in verbal on test day. Leading up to the test, I could answer pretty much any verbal practice problem correctly. However, after over 2 hours of intense testing, my performance deteriorated.

Hope this helps.
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Re: 540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience! [#permalink] New post 14 Dec 2012, 21:54
Hey,great score improvement!Congrats! Can u tell me what kind of questions u encountered on quant and which topcs' questions were the trickiest/time consuming?

Thanks,
Shreeraj
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Re: 540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience! [#permalink] New post 16 Dec 2012, 05:51
Congrats Ian ! That's a very nice jump you managed from 540 to 700 and it shows your effort :-D !!
All the best for your next steps!
Re: 540 to 700 - Hope Someone Can Learn from my Experience!   [#permalink] 16 Dec 2012, 05:51
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