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560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story

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560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 10 May 2012, 11:33
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Long story short I did too much.

Let's elaborate:

FIRST ATTEMPT

Background

I'm italian and I completed my undergraduate course in October 2011; in order to enroll in the Bocconi Graduate Course 2012/2013 (I wanted to take one year off in order to gain working experience and the much needed money) you can either submit your GMAT or take a test at the Bocconi on certain dates.
This may sound somewhat unusual since the majority of gmatters take the test to enroll in an MBA course.
Enough with the background.

I started preparing on December 2011. Test scheduled for February 10th, 2012.
I always had very big gaps in my math fundamentals so when i first took the GMAT I got scared by the apparently obscure questions and decided to focus 100% on quant; I never had significant problems in english even tough I am not a native, so I relaxed about the verbal.
Grabbed the OG12, maked the diagnostic: math both sections below average, verbal both sections above average.
I relaxed even more about the verbal and focused on the math; busted the dust off my high school math books and started studying them over again from the very first concepts (sets, rational numbers) up to the slightly advanced ones (second degree equations and higher, complex factorization and so on).
In the meanwhile I would take on the OG12 quant problems in sequence without timing and focusing on the explanation of the problems I wrong. I would usually get wrong 3/4 questions every 10. This obviously is not indicative since I would take up to 3 minutes and a half for a single question.
I finished all the RC Questions onthe OG12 and half of each of the CR and SC sections and I did not feel like I had big issues.
Again, this is because I would take on the questions following the book sequence in a timed but non adaptative environment.
That's not the same thing as the real test.
I did not take the GMAT prep until a couple weeks before the test: surprise surprise 570 Q33 V31 (ish).
My goal was at least 650.
Grabbed "Cracking the Gmat" beacuse a friend advised me to; honestly? the worst thing I could have ever done.
I had struggled so hard to understand how the test "thinks" and the test wants me to behave (set up equations, for example) and then this book comes along and tells me things like : "the GMAT wants you to set up complicated equations when you can plug in numbers, eliminate answers choices" and so on.
No doubt this should just be an addiction and should be used as a smart parachute when facing hard questions, but in my personal experience it just brought my score down and confused me.

Real Test February 10th : 560 Q34 V32

SECOND ATTEMPT

I rested TWO days then got here, looked up the best books and strategies and decided to restart everything; clearly my method was flawed.
This time I bought the Manhattan GMAT 8 set guide, scheduled for a May 4th date and decided to dedicate more or less one week to each guide.
So I did.
First book, first chapter, learn the concepts, excercise on the book, excercise using the problem set. Same method for all 8 books.
First retake of the gmat prep 2 after the new strategy and got 600. The week after that 620 (Mgmat Cat 1) and the week after still 640 (Mgmat cat 2).
The test was now four weeks away and I felt good; I decided to raise the bar: 8 hours a day, every day for the next two weeks redoing what ever concepts I did non feel sure about, harder questions, reviewing error logs and taking on timed question banks for stamina.
I would study 1 hour plus 8 minutes rest, plus 1 hous and a quarter, 8 minutes rest and then another hour and a quarter.
New simulation Manhattan Cat 3 690 (Q37 V42 if I remember correctly).
Three weeks to go... let's raise the bar even more!
I went for twelve hours a day even though I had not taken ONE single day off since March 1rst.
It had become an obsession, I would not get out of my room, let alone the house.
Eat, sleep, excercise. No phonecalls, no friends, no girls, no tv, no nothing.
6 days before the test i took another simulation: Gmat prep 1... 560 Q33 V32
I was completely crushed... I immediately realized I had squeezed everything out of my brain and it was backfiring.
I decided to stop!two day rest, no test, no study... what it's done it's done.
But I could'nt do it; I would go back on the gmatclub, I would go on the magoosh channel on youtube, i would read some more.
3 Day before the test I scored 550 (Mgmat cat 4).

Test Day

The day of the test I actually felt good, I was very very relaxed and confident the pause had cleaned my mind;
490 Q23 V31

I realized later I was not relaxed, I was "stoned", completely worn down from the stress.
In the very near future I will take on the challenge again, I know a can do it, I just need to relax a little more :-D

I have doing bodybuilding for three years now so I now how important it is to rest, to give your body and your brain the time they need, I just got obsessed because of some very bad living conditions that really took me down.

Am I Disappointed? obviously, because I did something stupid: I have been trying to shove study down my throat.
Am I giving up? absolutely not; I learned my lesson the very hard way, if I give up now than it would be one useless lesson 8-)

Thanks everybody for the passion and the time you fill the club with :wink:

Andy
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 05 Mar 2013, 04:40
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Just did 700 on Gmatprep test 2.

I wanna go do the test a couple days from now, and I am scared.

I do not want to wait anymore, not even one single day. Will report how it goes.

Whatever happens, I hope my story helps all those out there who lose faith.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 16 Jan 2013, 10:10
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I found this post very interesting, it just goes to show that having a balanced life is important, and the brain is like any other muscle and needs time to recover. GMAT studying can be compared to working out in a sense that after a certain amount of time you get dimishing returns in the gym as the lactic acid builds up. A good study plans involves balance, rest, and studying in short durations of high focus/concentration.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2013, 05:37
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Took the test yesterday, scored 610 Q36 V40.

My first reaction was of bitter disappointment, because as you might have read above the last mock I took was 700 Q44 V41.
Then I calmed down a little bit and realized where I was at: the whole point of retaking is improving, right? my highest official score was 560, now replaced by 610. I improved by 50 points, there is absolutely no reason to beat myself over the idea that I could have done better. It's just pointless.

How did I prepare

I started studying back in october; because of very difficult familiar and economic conditions I knew I would have needed a bit more than three months. I ignored all the previous preparation I had done in april/may 2012, and just restarted from scratch going thru the Manhattan quantitative guides first, eventually using Mgmat Math foundations for the harder sections.
For every chapter I would do the related official problems and then search the club for alternative explanations, whether I got the question right or wrong. Al the times and percentages were reported using Manhattan's OG Archer Lite.

First Advice Use the OG Archer Lite if you need to know specifically where you are weak and how's your basic time management.

December 18th I took the first full length mock test since August and scored 630 Q38 V37. (Manhattan CAT 2)
Math was never my strong point, as you can see.

Second Advice Take Manhattan's scores with a pinch of salt; they are pretty accurate (give or take 30 points) but it looks to me they might be a bit more benevolent than the actual gmat. To be honest I am not even sure Q38 V37 results in a 630 on the actual Gmat.

I took a couple more weeks to refine the quant section and then tackled Verbal until the middle of January.

New mock test ( Manhattan CAT 3) on January 18th 690 Q42 V41.
Quant's percentile was still somewhat disappointing but the overall score was balanced and a nice improvement from the original 560.

Let's make it official...or maybe not
A couple days later I fell sick; still, I had to attend to my everyday job, so it took my body nearly 10 days to get back its energies. New problems presented themselves at my door and it became increasingly difficult to keep focus.
Let me just put it like this: It is difficult to wonder what "the main purpose of the passage" is when someone you love is crying bitter tears in the next room.
I had planned to take the official test on the beginning of February, no matter what. Now I was starting to question myself.

Another week went by and I could never find the time or the focus to take a new full length mock test; I kept doing question banks (usually 20 questions in 40 minutes or less) and reviewing each and everyone.
February 8th I finally took the horn by the bulls and took Gmatprep test 1 and scored 580 Q34 V35.

I gave up; just like that. I had been in the same exact place the year before; the same exact steps. I just said "this is beyond my capabilities in this environment".

The final rush

One week and a half later I fought back: took a one week leave from work and said to myself to go through with it, whatever the cost.
Hell, I thought, I can not let this test break me down. Matter of fact, there is nothing else I would rather do in this moment.

Went through all the the official verbal problems I could in 6 days, everyday from 8:00 to 22:00. SC the first three days, CR the next two and RC the last.

Third Advice It might help you, especially if you are a non-native, do similar full immersion in the verbal problems. I found it to be the fastest way to develop a knack for the way the Gmat reasons; it also boost your verbal score temporarily; at least it did for me.

The next 2 days I took the GmatClub tests averaging Q40, maybe more, maybe less.

Final mock test Gmatprep 2 700 Q44 V41.

This gave me enough confidence to schedule the exam for two days later.
The test center closest to me is more than 400 miles far away so I had to travel about 7 hours the day before the test.

Test Day

I was as nervous as I have ever been, I had slept less than six intermittent hours but I wanted to get it over with.
The Gmat has been in my thoughts for so long that I wanted to get rid of it, one way or the other.

During the first half of the quant section I was still tense and a couple of times I even found myself distracted. One thing I was happy with was my time management.

Fourth Advice Do not have an overly rigid timing scheme; personally I found it helpful to stay as close as possible to the two minutes mark, but in any case never give up on a question or rush it before the clock has hit the full minute; for example, if I find an easy question that I can solve in 1 minute and 23 seconds, I do not confirm until another 37 seconds have passed and I use that time reviewing all the possible mistakes I might have done because of the speed.
I messed up during the official test, but this time management system has helped me many many times.

After the quant I took the break, splashed water on my face, stretched my legs and forced myself to focus. I knew I was losing it, I knew I was feeling the pressure of everything that had happened between me and the Gmat.

That horrible 490 still in back of my head, like a nightmare.

Sat down again and actually shook my head a couple of times to keep focus. And then I just did the verbal as good as I can.

I honestly found it to be slightly harder then how it might appear on the OG.

You have completed your exam, press "yes I want to report the scores" and feel the heart bumping in your chest like you are jumping from a cliff.

610. Less then what I wanted, more than what I had. My arriving point, for now. A certified proof that resilience in the end pays.

Fifth Advice Never give up. You can live with the pain of a 490 and then come back and amend it a little bit with a 610. But the pain of thinking "what if I had kept going?" never goes away.

I am a bit tired from the last couple of days right now, that is way my debrief is lacking a lot of info about practical aspects; but the club is full of great guys and debriefs that can teach you how to deal efficiently with overlapping sets more that I can.
If you have any specific question just ask and I'll answer as soon as I can.

Right now I just hope this story means something to someone out there who might be traveling through the same muddy waters this test sometimes puts us in.

And to all the guys here that kept me going.... THANK YOU! To give you a measure of how important it is for me, just know that I never met another gmat test taker in person; never ever.

Thank you :-D
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2013, 02:05
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Samwong wrote:
Thank you for the debrief. No doubt this is a very hard test. I have taken it twice and I still could not cross the 600 score. Can you elaborate on your verbal preparation? You improved from V31 to V40 (90-percentile). That is a huge improvement! What did you do to improve your verbal score? My first V23 and second V29. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.



I used Manhattan's guides for both the verbal and the quant section; for the verbal I dedicated one full week to each guide, going through everything except Idioms in the SC guide and the advanced chapter, also in SC.

All the questions were taken in timed conditions, using the OG Archer stopwatch, and in banks of no less than 20 questions.

I did not force myself to answer any question type in a specified amount of time, because I wanted to see were I was standing on my own.
As it turned out, answering the related questions immediately after I read the chapter would make me average 1:03 with a 92% rate of correct questions on SC, 1:26 with a 87% rate on CR and 1:36 with a rate of 89% on RC.

Since I was pretty confident about my timing, I would take as much time as I needed for any specific question and never rush an answer in order to follow the clock; my only rule was to leave at least 5 minutes for the last 5 questions in the Verbal section.
Anyway, I found out my knack for the nuances of the questions in the Verbal section deteriorated very fast if I did not keep practicing, that is way one week before the official test I averaged 250 verbal questions a day. I am a non native speaker, I guess this is one reason why I have to remind to myself some things.

The basic technique for SC was to read the whole question and then identify one single word or portion that would allow me to split the answer choices in 3/2 blocks. Then looked for the following things in this order: grammar (especially verb subject agreement), meaning and concision. Parallelism is tested so very often that it pays off to try and make your own sentences parallel when you write, in order to develop a sense of what it means.

For CR I would read the question stem first and then tell to myself: "this is a weakening question, wich means I have to find an an answer that adds a new premise or line of thinking that renders the conclusion less likely to be true" and so on for any question type.
After I identified the question I proceeded by identifying the single parts of the argument; what is a premise, what might be the conclusion and so on.
At this point the guide suggests to draw a T table to deconstruct the argument; but I found this to be very distracting and time consuming for me, so I did not draw any scheme either in CR or RC.

What I did, and this might be the single most important factor in the improvement, was writing three ABCDE columns at the top of each page, horizontally, just like you might see here. The I would work from wrong to right for any type of question, slashing all the choices I thought were wrong and leaving blank the ones that had potential. I usually found myself between two answer choices.

For the RC passages I followed a similar method. I read the first paragraph very carefully and then the first sentence of each subsequent paragraph, skimming over anything else.
Then I would classify the various parts; for example: there is this theory (hmm, this looks like the author is introducing a theory in order to discuss it), but some scientists believe it to be wrong... and so on. Always be careful when you see words like BUT, HOWEVER, THEREFORE.

Also I bought myself a Kindle on the beginning of December and read 7 books in the following three months. The ones I would recommend are : "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking, "Winter of the World" by Ken Follett and "Steve Jobs", by Walter Isaacson.

I hope this helps 8-)
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2013, 05:01
Funny thing is I am planning on retaking and just made 690 again on the Mgmat mock a couple days ago; instead of pushing harder, this time, I took a day off, went out. It is exactly like bodybuilding, train rest, eat and sleep well.

Well done with your score, hope to reach you soon enough.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2013, 10:49
I'm sorry that you had to go through this. But, this is one of the better debriefs shared on this forum, in that it gives a clear and very important message: don't overdo stuff. As important it is to put in your maximum effort, realize you have limitations and it is important to maintain a balance.

I'm sure you will do great the next time you take the test. Good luck!
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2013, 15:51
You should bring the bodybuilding mentality into it man, in a sense that you focus on different muscle groups on different days (different types of questions) and have various workout sessions of high intensity. I hope you can keep up the motivation and get the score you want the next time around. Stick with it, work hard, and you will see progress.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2013, 16:06
Expert's post
muscle exhaustion = mental exhaustion

Don't over kill. It does help to condition yourself to think your study sessions are actual test sessions - treat it like the real thing.

One issue with doing practice question after practice question forever - is it leads to mental exhaustion/fatigue. While this may be good in building your stamina, you should also fit in sessions in which you treat the next 15 questions as actual real exam questions. Rest properly and prepare mentally for these 15 questions.

If you go crazy with studying, then all of a sudden sit in for the real test, you'll freeze up. So fit in this mini-test-pretend sessions during your study to avoid mental fatigue.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2013, 07:25
If things go as I planned i will retake during the next 25 days, maybe 30.

Right now I feel I have learned the lesson and I am going out a couple of times a week, working out every day, working my day job every morning and studying Gmat every afternoon + weekends. I take breaks when I really have done too much the day before and feel I am starting to obsess again.

The 690 mock I took on monday really got me tired and excited at the same time, just like a very heavy session at the gym, but I paced myself and basically convinced my brain that I do not really care, whatever I score.

The way I see it it's better to have learned this lesson the hard way now that I am 23 and the stake is a score instead of sometime in the future when I might be putting on the line much, much more.

Thank you guys for your support, it means so, so much to me. I will keep this post updated and write my latest score and study plan debrief as soon as I am done.

Thank you all, again.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 06 Mar 2013, 12:15
Ul do well man! Do share with us ur xperience :)
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 07 Mar 2013, 06:36
Hi,
Hope you have had a satisfying experience this time. Waiting for the result Andy....
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A WAY TO INCREASE FROM QUANT 35-40 TO 47 : a-way-to-increase-from-q35-40-to-q-138750.html

Q 47/48 To Q 50 + the-final-climb-quest-for-q-50-from-q47-129441.html#p1064367

Three good RC strategies three-different-strategies-for-attacking-rc-127287.html

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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2013, 11:14
Good story. Thanks for sharing!
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2013, 11:26
Thank you for the debrief. No doubt this is a very hard test. I have taken it twice and I still could not cross the 600 score. Can you elaborate on your verbal preparation? You improved from V31 to V40 (90-percentile). That is a huge improvement! What did you do to improve your verbal score? My first V23 and second V29. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2013, 09:04
Wow, thank you so much for taking your time answering my question. Those advices are awsome, and I will follow them. Hopefully I can replicate your verbal score!

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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 08 May 2013, 00:23
Final Update

I got the news today, I got admitted at the Bocconi Management School 2013-2014; I hope this helps anyone out there who might feel discouraged or even wants to give up. I was so close to giving up I would have never believed this day would come.

Keep it up!
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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 08 May 2013, 19:23
Hi Congrats....
I am really happy fr u...Bt i did not understand what was ur final score....I mean was it 690 or 610....
Anyhow u deserve the moment dude ....enjoy it

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Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story [#permalink] New post 09 May 2013, 04:22
highdiving wrote:
Final Update

I got the news today, I got admitted at the Bocconi Management School 2013-2014; I hope this helps anyone out there who might feel discouraged or even wants to give up. I was so close to giving up I would have never believed this day would come.

Keep it up!



Hey Congrats!

I have a very similar story to yours. I originally took my first gmat in october after 6 months of studying and got a 460. Then I did about 3 months in May and received a 540. I took a week off and plan to take again in a month. See my plan in the link attached.

http://gmatclub.com/forum/one-month-retake-plan-152019.html

Did you take the GMATPREP tests multiple times? Do you think your score was inflated resulting in the 700 score that you received before you took the exam? I am going to be taking the GMATPREP exams ONLY during my retake...(have gone through MGMAT CATS 2 times) and I felt like the GMATPREP was the cloest to the real thing.
Re: 560 to 690 to 490 - The Burnout story   [#permalink] 09 May 2013, 04:22
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