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580 (Q39,V29) to 730 (Q49, V41) in 3 months! [#permalink]
25 Nov 2009, 04:59
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A friend of mine who scored 750 once told me, when it comes to the GMAT there really is no substitute for practice and preparation. I have found this to be absolutely true. If you have been working for a while (I graduated 7 years ago), and you are not in a profession where you both frequently use your quantitative skills and write formal English, then my suggestion is budget 2-3 months study. Of course if you are exceptional, then by all means you can ignore this Otherwise I read somewhere that a good guide is roughly 2 hours for every point you want to improve over your initial GMAT prep, which roughly worked out for me. Different people will adapt and learn differently but the key is just regular practice and preparation.
Also if you can’t be bothered reading the long write-up then a summary is this: 1) Practice lots, practice perfectly 2) Manage your time 3) Manage stress 4) Stay healthy 5) Oh... and practice lots.
Longer Write-up I started my GMAT journey in the first week of September thinking that I would take the GMAT at the end of 2 months. I didn’t, it took me 3 but there are various reasons for that - comfort factor and holidays (explained later). Had I done it after 2 months I believe I would have scored around the low 700’s anyway.
I stumbled across GMAT club and quickly absorbed as much as I can from the various guides, suggestions, reviews etc. I bought a variety of books based on this information.
The materials I used include:
- Kaplan Premiere Live 2010 – Good for fundamentals, totally lacking in SC. Online tests I found were of average quality. This is a good start for fundamentals. - OG12 – Best source of questions. Do every question in this book. - MGMAT SC – Excellent SC guide - OG Verbal - Used only for SC but obviously as good as OG12 - GMAT Club forums – Great source of tricky questions, don’t be discouraged if you cannot answer all very difficult questions. I couldn’t. - GMAT Club tests – I only did 5 but they are very good. I wish I had time to do more. - A couple of iphone apps- you can see my post about that here: iphone-apps-and-podcasts-to-help-with-gmat-prep-86316.html
Study Plan and key takeaways I loosely followed the plan that was posted on this forum for novices, with some variation. It is important to develop a plan and to stick with it. However, you need to be realistic. Do you have a demanding full time job? A demanding wife? Weekends away? Can you really sacrifice all your weekends? I managed to successfully execute mine but there are some learnings and takeaways I’d like to share. Also... you need to be realistic about your target score. By no means is this statement meant to be discouraging, you just need to have A target score so you know how much effort to put in... mine was 700. I did not care if it was 700 or 730 and I still do not.
I have been fortunate to come across GMAT club and have taken away a lot from the experience of others so hopefully someone finds some use for these tips. You will find most of them have been mentioned many times before:
- Make sure you know the fundamentals first. ESPECIALLY for SC, I cannot stress this enough. I spent roughly 2-3 weeks on solid fundamentals across all topics with some questions thrown in. - My preference was to study quant together with verbal. I did maybe PS/RC one night and then SC/DS the next. I did not want to do quant for one month and verbal for one month as I wanted to keep all topics fresh. - Error log – enough has been said on this forum about it and it is all true. - Stay healthy – this means eating and sleeping properly, taking your vitamins etc. - Balance quality with quantity – It is extremely important that you do a lot of questions to get wide coverage and exposure. There is no substitute for this. But if you do not read and understand where you’ve gone wrong and why you will not benefit. Outside of the above I barely touched any material because I went through it carefully. - PS – number theory is KING. Everything else to me seems secondary. I don’t even think I had a single combinations, modulus, standard deviation question. You should know these things as well, but number theory is your number one priority. Learn these rules! GMAT club challenges are good for these. But my recommendation is GMAT club challenges are of most benefit once you’re in the 45+ range. - DS is your quant time saver – Learn how to solve these. I find most DS questions are pattern based, you don’t know to solve, just need to know whether it is sufficient. - RC/CR – I’m not great at these. My only advice is develop your own RC technique, numerous ones are posted on this forum, scanning, taking notes, reading carefully. Do what works for you. I actually ended up reading carefully. The only real ‘tip’ I have for this is be carefully of extreme language in answer choices, that allows you eliminate quickly. - Master your SC – These are quick, easy, fun (well I think so) and can quickly pull up your mark a lot. You should not just learn how to identify one error, but explain every single error with the sentence. This will allow you to solve SC quickly under exam conditions. My strategy for this was to go through a set of 10 questions under exam conditions (as in 1 min per question), then go through carefully and identify each error, you will learn a LOT from this. - Forums participation – Don’t just answer “Answer is E”. Most of my learning was from trying to explain an answer, if you cannot do this, you probably are not confident of it yourself. - PRACTICE EXAMS – Some people disagree with doing lots of these. I probably did about 10 of these in a period of 2 months. It served 3 purposes for me – built my test stamina, learnt time management, and served as checkpoints. - Manage your time – Aside from content knowledge this is the next big thing, know your timing strategy, know when to fold your hands and guess strategically, I guessed 3 questions in my quant, I wasn’t comfortable with doing it, but I had to in order to maintain my timing, and they were the right ones to guess. - Stamina – when I did my first test by the end of verbal i was not concentrating, I was hungry and I was cranky. You need to build up your stamina, that includes properly attempting your AWA at least a few times - Burning Out / Holidays – This is probably the only tip that is unique to my experience. I had the fortunate (yes fortunate) situation that I already had a holiday planned midway through my study plan. This holiday was booked months in advanced and I couldn’t move it. I was concerned about the effect it would have so I posted a question here: week-off-from-study-83885.html The result was that I believe this holiday helped me. Prior to taking it I was getting this irritated feeling when I was studying and doing questions. I can only attribute this to burnout, both from working fulltime and from study. So my tip is this.... it is okay to put down the books. Even if it’s for up to a week (my trip was 10 days and yes I did some light study but not much). I believe the brain functions in a similar way to other muscles in the body, the time you learn is when you are resting, not when you workout. Sleep it off, take a few days off start fresh, you will be surprised at your results. - Study life balance – the one thing I would say I neglected has been my friends during this period. As stupid as this advice sounds, make sure you enjoy life at the same time because this balance takes your mind off your study and when you sit down to study again you will focus.
As I mentioned previously, I'm an advocate for doing lots of practice exams. This only works if you review all your errors though. It typically took me around 4 hours to review and understand all errors and the questions I guessed right. These should form part of your error log as well.
I did another 4 tests in between the first and 2nd entry, those marks ranged from around 640-680. The initial GMATprep was prior to picking up any material, the rest of these results are from the final month of study. As you can see from my initial score, I am no maths or English wiz. All it takes is practice.
Test Day Tips These have been mentioned before as well but this is what worked for me:
- Scope out the place a week beforehand – find out if your test centre is cold, hot, smells, loud, whatever... - SLEEP EARLY the night before if you can. I couldn't sleep because I didn't want to 'do anything out of the norm' so went to bed around midnight. But I felt anxious and ended up sleeping at around 3am. If you can avoid this do so you'll feel much LESS anxious the next day. - Bring Gatorade, a snack or chocolate bar, your ID. 4 hours is pretty long. - Don’t freak out about the writing pad... if you’ve used a felt tip pen before you’ll be fine. You may smudge a bit but it won’t affect you. I don’t know if this was just my test centre but you get 10 pages not 6. - Breaks are increased to 8 mins now. I used them.... washed my face, had a drink, used bathroom, closed my eyes for a minute and refocussed. Oh I had a throbbing headache at the end but I suggest if you get headaches bring panadol. - FOCUS ON THE QUESTION – yes you guessed the last one, yes you may have stuffed quant, or did you? Yes your heart is pumping. Shut everything out and focus on the current question. It’s so easy to get distracted, I actually think I may have not hit confirm in time for my last quant question and it was messing with my head for about 10 minutes but then I had to let it go.
Anyway finally I just wanted to thank the folks that have helped create this community as well as the folks that have contributed to my learning here. Thanks for all the help. I’m glad I’m at the end of my GMAT journey, but the number of essays I now need to write has brought me back to reality. Thanks for reading my story
Re: 580 (Q39,V29) to 730 (Q49, V41) in 3 months! [#permalink]
25 Nov 2009, 17:15
Hello yangsta8, Great score !! My test is scheduled next week. So bit worried. Can you please tell me whether the difficulty of verbal was same as GPREP & MGMAT or was more tougher than that. Also, do you feel the quant was tougher than GPREP and MGMAT. I often hear that GMAT is getting tougher and GPREP is just easier to boost your confidence. PLease dispel my doubts.
Re: 580 (Q39,V29) to 730 (Q49, V41) in 3 months! [#permalink]
26 Nov 2009, 01:42
Thanks for all the kind words. Hopefully my story and some of my tips are useful to people.
My test is scheduled next week. So bit worried. Can you please tell me whether the difficulty of verbal was same as GPREP & MGMAT or was more tougher than that. Also, do you feel the quant was tougher than GPREP and MGMAT. I often hear that GMAT is getting tougher and GPREP is just easier to boost your confidence. PLease dispel my doubts.
gmat620 - This is purely my opinion but I do NOT believe the GMAT is harder than GMAT prep. In fact I scored 730 exactly twice in the weeks leading up to the GMAT so if anything I would say its a true reflection of the difficulty that you would expect. However, I do believe that MGMAT quant is harder and even the MGMAT is slightly harder than the GMAT. MGMAT and GMAT club challenges are great prep though.
Just one query,, what is the secret of success in RC???
Hussain15 - There was no secret really. I am a native English speaker and have to sift through lots of documentation for my job which can be quite boring so this came naturally to me. The key is to develop your own technique. I found reading through it carefully once and then referring back when required worked for me. I can read a whole passage and have a pretty good understanding in about 3 mins so it works for me. If you can't then perhaps the other techniques such as skimming will work for you. I do not recall the GMAT RC's being difficult at all.... probably on par with that of the mid level OG ones... although that may just have been because my verbal was not very high.
Re: 580 (Q39,V29) to 730 (Q49, V41) in 3 months! [#permalink]
26 Dec 2009, 07:06
Hi guys.... good luck with your GMAT exams and I hope you find this post useful
DestinyChild - yes I've decided to apply for LBS R2, Columbia RD and to INSEAD R1 Jan 2011 intake. I'm almost done with my apps for the first two with deadlines looming and will start on INSEAD in the new year. I thought the GMAT was tough, but applications I believe are equally hard if not harder.