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600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really.

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600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 09:47
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Finally, I’m done with the GMAT. I took my 2nd try yesterday and scored 710, Q48V39. I spent around 5 months of intense preparation, and by intense, I mean studying for an average of 6 hours a day. And now that I finally cross the 700, I can say that if I can do it, so CAN anyone. Trust me, I really mean that. I’m a non-native speaker with very very weak foundations in both the verbal and the quant sections. I scored 390 in my very 1st GMAT Prep CAT (I didn’t know anything at all about the sections in both sections: SC, CR, RC, DS, and PS.) Yes, that bad. Then I started browsing online for more information on the GMAT. And this is when I encounter the GMATClub. I read many debrief and when I came to learn about the breakdown of the scores and how many people easily cross the magic 7, I realized my 390 was a joke. So that was when I decided to get serious. I won’t let whatever weaknesses and fears I had bring me down. And the journey begins.

Books used:
1. OG 12 and 13 – Official questions; very very very valuable.
2. Quant and Verbal Review 2nd (ed) – Official questions; very very very valuable.
3. MGMAT Series – All are highly recommended, especially the Number Properties and Sentence Correction.
4. MGMAT Advanced Quant – Instrumental in helping me to get used to dealing with questions level Q49 and above. Helped me destroy my fear in facing complex questions
5. PowerScore CR & LSAT – Highly recommended for those who are struggling with CR. Just get either 1 is fine, the contents overlap in both books
6. GMAT Question Pack – Additional source for official questions, worth the money
7. Aristotle SC – If you have the time, get this too.
8. KAPLAN 2012 & KAP 800 – I think they didn’t make much difference.
9. Writing Skills for the GRE/GMAT by Mark Alan Stewart (I hope I spelt his name correctly)

Additional resources:
1. Of course the GMATClub forum! – The place I would go to whenever I have a problem in dealing with any quant problem. And the man to look for? Bunuel.
2. BTG & MGMAT forums – Posts, especially and mostly by RonPurewal, tremendously helped to improve my CR and SC.

CAT’s:
• GMAT Prep – The best
• MGMAT CAT’s – Very close to GMAT Prep, and the quant problems are definitely tougher.

I spent a total of around 4 months of intense preparation for my 1st attempt.

Here are the CAT’s I did during my 1st attempt:
GMAT PREP 1 Q44V26 580 17/04/2012
GMAT PREP 2 Q40V32 600 2/6/2012
MGMAT 5 Q46V34 660 17/07/2012
GMAT PREP 1 Q47V35 670 31/07/2012
GMAT PREP 2 Q49V38 710 20/08/2012 IR 8 With AWA
MGMAT 6 Q45V39 690 27/08/2012 IR 3 With AWA
NEW MGMAT 1 Q49V39 720 30/08/2012 W/O IR With AWA
GMAT PREP 1 Q50V32 690 3/9/2012 IR 8 With AWA
NEW MGMAT 2 Q49V39 720 5/9/2012 IR 5.69 With AWA
GMAT PREP 2 Q51V35 720 7/9/2012 IR 8 With AWA
Real Q49V23 600 10/9/2012 - -

I was very disappointed with the 600. The only reason I can think of to console myself was that I didn’t get any sleep the night before, probably because I was too nervous. My body was asleep, but not my mind. And another reason I used to console myself was I messed up my timing in my verbal section.

Anyway, my 2nd attempt was exactly 1 month and 1 week from the day of my 1st attempt. I took a week break to get rid of GMAT from my head. The CAT’s I did during my 2nd preparation:

MGMAT P3 Q43V36 650 26/09/2012
MGMAT P4 Q44V37 670 30/09/2012
GMAT P1 Q50V41 750 2/10/2012
MGMAT P5 Q45V31 620 7/10/2012
MGMAT P6 Q46V40 700 10/10/2012
GMAT P2 Q51V37 730 13/10/2012
Real Q48V39 710 16/10/2012

The Start
For those who are struggling to break through the 600s, I would highly recommend the MGMAT Series to build up a strong foundation for both quant and verbal. PowerScore is a must if you really want to improve a lot in your CR. It took me 2 months to cross the V30. Just take a look at my 1st and 2nd CAT score during my 1st attempt. I knew I had to work more on my verbal, so I decided to spend close to 3/4 of the two months studying just verbal. I did mostly MGMAT SC, CR, RC, and PowerScore CR and LSAT. As for the quant section, I spent the next 2 months going through all the MGMAT series, from FDP’s to Number Properties. I think the series has 5 books on quant. Some of the things I did during my preparation also include noting down all the questions I got wrong into a document. I would separate them into CR, DS…accordingly, and I would spend a day each week going through those questions again.

The Second Attempt
I gave myself a month. I prepare differently, though it might be considered intense still by some of you; I did around 4 hours each day, 2 hours on each section. However, during my second attempt, I did nothing but the OG12,13, 2nd Ed for quant and verbal. That was how it went for the entire month.

My advice on:

PS & DS: I was a little intimidated at the start, but that didn’t last very long after I went through the MGMAT series. I did nothing but practice, practice, practice, practice, and practice. When I get wrong, I would seek solutions from online. Posts by Bunuel helped me tremendously. And when I get right, I would try to remember the concepts that are being tested because I believe there is only a limited amount of them (limited but still a lot). So, in conclusion: practice. And make sure you learn something from all the questions, easy or hard. One last thing, the GMAT doesn’t require you to be good in every type of question to score a Q48 and above. For example, I admit that I have problems in Inequalities, and I told myself that I already did my best in improving on it, and there is nothing further I can do about it. If an Inequalities question appear in the exam and I can’t do it, I told myself to just skip it. I think what’s more important is for you to build a very strong foundations; i.e. make sure that you can solve all the 500-600-650 questions, or at least 95% of them. Don’t worry too much about very difficult questions; worry them only after you conquer the easy and medium questions.

CR: Man, the hardest for me. This section not only requires you to reason well, but also requires you to understand some of the crazy talk they wrote. Even with PowerScore, I still had problems with the CR, mainly trying to understand what the argument is trying to say. That says a lot about how weak I was CR, even after going through PowerScore. After doing official problems over and over again, I notice there were patterns with the answer choices, both correct and wrong. Not all, but some. It is very crucial to go through the wrong answers here for one very important reason: they might appear again as a wrong, or even right, answer in your very next CR question (depending on what type; strengthening, weakening, or…) Once you are able to see and understand these patterns, it will make your life easier with the CR, at least it did for mine. Oh, and remember to know all the types of CR questions: Weaken, Strengthen, Paradox, etc…

SC: If you are weak in SC, then you must get the MGMAT SC book. Trust me, the book is worth it. I was really bad with SC to the point I had problems with simple Subject-Verb-Agreement problems. And of course, practice. Practice helps you to train your thought in approaching different problems. Some of such problems involve Parallelism, SVA, Pronouns, Idioms, and a few others. Make sure you know how to deal with all these. One very important thing that I recently learnt during my preparation for my 2nd attempt was: Meaning in the sentence. Yes, meaning. I believe when I started approaching any SC problem by trying to understand the meaning in the sentence has helped me to improve my SC during my 2nd attempt.

RC: The only part that I totally didn’t know how or what to do to improve on. There are a few approaches to RC and I guess I can’t say which one is good or bad. You have to try different approaches to know which one works well for you. Anyway, to improve on RC, I read 3 articles every day. I would recommend reading articles from Scientific American, The Economist, and The New York Times. If you find it difficult to understand or find the articles boring, then try to find the ones that interest you. Of course, over time, once you get used to reading different types of topic, try to challenge yourself by reading those articles that bored you in the beginning. I also did 3 RC passages every single day, and I think that helps a lot to improve.

AWA & IR: Didn’t really do much preparation. I took a week to prepare them. I used chineseburned’s guide and I just practice doing 1-2 essays a day for one week. As for IR, I did questions from the site given when you purchase the OG13 and from question pack 1. If you are not good at writing, don’t worry. Like I’ve said, practice. It will help in time.

The Real Exam: I don’t think there will be any surprises if you do a good amount of preparation. The questions I did during the exam were no surprises. Some of them were very similar to the ones in OG. Don’t panic if you get too easy questions in the middle of the exam. I panic a little during my 2nd try and I think that cost me from getting a Q49 or Q50. I was feeling good about all my answers for the first 20 questions and then I was given 2-3 very simple questions. I panic. The questions were too simple and I started to have doubts whether it was a trap question. I spent an additional minute on these easy questions and I regretted this. So, in conclusion, do not panic no matter how easy the questions are, even if you are given them near the end of the exam.

If you get nervous easily, I would suggest that you visit the test center days before your real exam day. Familiarize yourself with the routes etc. And it would be good also if you practice on a similar scratch-pad like the one provided during the exam. You can get a similar one from MGMAT.

Food: A lot of people recommended getting snickers, red bull, gatorades, or any other energy booster to consume during the break. I had a powerade and snicker during each break and I think both do help a little bit.

CONCLUSION
Never give up. Keep trying and practicing. I will tell you why. During my 2nd attempt, even though I was confident of my quant, the verbal section was really terrible. Man, I thought I was a goner. I find the questions terribly tough and I couldn’t find any splits in SC that were easy. The CR was alright, yet still tough. The RC was crazily tough for me, I had 2 scientific passages and I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I was slightly puzzled by the V39 to be honest. The only reason I can think of why I managed to pull off such a verbal score is that I practiced a lot during my preparation. And I didn’t let my fear or nervousness pulls me down. I just approach each question slowly and I did like what I had done during my practice. So I believe that the practice I did, and with a little bit of luck, was mainly responsible for my V39.

To bb, Bunuel, RonPurewal, StaceyKP, if by any chance you are looking at this, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contributions to the GMAT.

I’m going to stop here; I don’t know what else I should add. Sorry if the debrief is not very organized and if it is hard to follow. And please note, I’m writing this mainly for the people who are still struggling to even cross the 600 mark. So, if you are already in the 600+, I apologize if the debrief bores you.

Please do not hesitate to message me if you have any questions. I’ll be more than willing to answer and help you in any way I could.

-H
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Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 11:58
Really inspiring debrief! Even i am stuck at Q48 for some time now,hope to reach Q50.
Can you please answer my below queries:
What kind of questions did u encounter during the exam,especially in quant. Which topics u feel one should stress more on in quant
and which topics' questions were time consuming?
Do u think the level of difficulty was the same as that of gmatprep exam?

Thanks,
Shreeraj
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Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 12:30
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Hi shreerapj99

1. I remember I had a one question on ratios for both attempts, a few NPs, a question about exponent on both attempts, and the question was pretty much similar. Overlapping sets, Speed RTD. Can't remember the rest

2. IF I have to guess the kind of question that has a higher chance of coming out in the exam, I would say Number Properties. However, having said that, I personally think that it is a bad idea if you prepare with the idea of putting more emphasize on certain topic and hoping that the topic will come out. I think it would be better if you concentrate more on your weaknesses. The ideal plan of taking on the GMAT is to have as few weaknesses as one could possibly have. Strengthen those, and you won't be surprise nor afraid of what the GMAT is going to throw at you. Time consuming questions, hmmm, I think that depends on the individuals? Whatever you are weak in would probably cost you more time. For me, I know that I need more time with Inequalities, Complex RTD, and VICs. And again, by strengthening your weaknesses and practicising, you will slowly cut the amount of time you need to face the type of questions that you are weak in.

3. I think the level of difficulty for the quant section is pretty much similar to that of the GMAT Prep.

Don't put too much focus on certain topic and hope that the question will appear. I had that in mind when I started my preparation and half way I realised it wasn't doing me any good. If you want to achieve a very high score in Q, you need to minimize the number of weaknesses you have.
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Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 12:34
Thanks a lot and Best of luck for ur applications :-)
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Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 12:42
Thank you, and best of luck to you too.
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Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really. [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2012, 18:15
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That's great man, keep it up.
Re: 600 to 710. If I can do it, so can anyone. Really.   [#permalink] 17 Oct 2012, 18:15
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