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650 to 730 in 31 days - sometimes it's better to just RELAX

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650 to 730 in 31 days - sometimes it's better to just RELAX [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2014, 16:22
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Hi guys,

I've been a bit of a lurker here, but just had such an eye opening experience with the GMAT and I thought it might help others to share:

I should start out by saying that standardized tests have always been horrible for me. I have moderate test anxiety and the adaptive style of the GMAT was totally killer.

Prep
I started the Manhattan GMAT complete course in Jan. I always did the standard homework (1 hr/weeknight and 3-4 hrs on weekends), but with full-time work, I found it difficult to go above and beyond. After the MGMAT Tests and GMAT Prep 1, I had basically resigned myself to getting below a 700.

I took these practice tests between Jan - May as part of the course:
MGMAT I: 590 (Q33 V35)
MGMAT II: 630 (Q40 V36)
MGMAT III: 590 (Q37 V34)
MGMAT IV: 640 (Q38 V38)
GMATPrep 1: 650 (Lost the breakdown)

First Test Day

It would be an absurd understatement to say that I was nervous. I did everything I could to prep myself - found the center beforehand, got a good night's sleep etc. AWA and IR seemed to go ok, and then came math (my worst). The first few problems totally threw me, and I panicked. I started to analyze how difficult the problem was, missed my timing benchmarks, and then just threw up my hands. I walked out, tried to shake it off, and hit verbal, which felt ok.

I ended up with a 650 (Q36 V42). I was proud of the verbal score, but had been thinking I could at least get a Q38 or above. I had planned on taking the test twice and already had my next date lined up for 31 days later, so I set my sights on that.

THE 31 DAYS

Some other people in this forum might say the best thing you can do is to shut yourself off from the world and buckle down for the month. Focusing is important, but I'm inclined to say, like everything, moderation is key.
I focused on math because my verbal felt strong, but don't let it go completely - remember, high verbal brings up your score much more than math.

I also got Magoosh to practice areas that I felt I was still weak in after MGMAT.
(I'll say this, MGMAT is fantastic, but it does focus on the most difficult quant. I actually found that to be a detriment for me the first time around - I was strong in really difficult problems, but not in the basics. In the test, I never even hit the difficult probs because I was so tied up in low-level math). Magoosh helped me get a solid foundation, especially in my weak areas, and is great for tips and tricks for the test.

Since timing was an issue for me I tried to do at least one timed set a night (that's only 20m: 6 Problem Solving and 4 Data Sufficiency). If I could, I would review the answers that night, if not, another time.

Tip #1: Do timed sets - not only is it a good way to practice timing and also is easily managed within a schedule
Tip #2: As much as possible, try not to look up the answer to a problem you got wrong. Take as much time as you need and struggle through it until you get it right. I only started doing this in the 31 days, and it totally changed the way I learned - I started recognizing problem types a lot quicker and remembered solution steps much better.
Tip #3: Accept your weaknesses - Motion problems throw me. Beyond the basics, I just stopped studying them. Basically, I knew if I got one on the test, I'd probably get it wrong and waste time trying. I accepted that I would skip any that came up (I ended up only getting 1 on test day!)

GMATPrep 2: 710 (Lost the breakdown) Honestly, I thought this was a fluke. Because I took my GMATPrep 1 at a different computer, I got some repeat questions. One big realization came from this though:
Tip #4: Don't over analyze- In the middle of the Quant section of my GMATPrep 2, I was sure I was completely failing. I kept trying to analyze if a problem was easy or hard. I was shocked once the practice test was over. This realization really eased my anxiety. Accept that you don't know boo when it comes to problem difficulty. Just power through until the end. Someone once said to me that taking the GMAT is like going to war: you can analyze whether the soldier approaching you has tattered clothing which means he's weak and should be easy to kill, or maybe it's just a disguise, but at the end of the day nothing changes that he's still coming at you and you better be ready to fight.

Test Day Part Deux
I felt pretty relaxed this time around - I had a very zen moment of que sera sera.
Tip #5: Plan to take the test twice I was at the same test center, so I felt that I knew the drill. That took a lot of the "unknowns" pressure off. Definitely eased my test anxiety. AWA and IR felt pretty standard. I hadn't practiced these at all in the 31 days so I was mostly just trying to get through it to get to the good stuff.

Quant: honestly, I didn't take my own advice and occasionally wondered why the problems didn't seem that bad. But I got really good at refocusing only on what was in front of me. I finished thinking, ok, that felt solid, but who knows.
Verbal: I let my timing slip a little here, but managed to get it back. Nothing new or different.

Well, you already know the big reveal - I ended up with a miraculous 730 (Q48 V41). Never in my dreams did I think I could hit that mark.
Remember, it's just a test, and one piece in the large puzzle that makes up your b-school application. Keep perspective, take care of yourself, and just do your best. You'll be surprised what you can do.
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650 to 730 in 31 days - sometimes it's better to just RELAX   [#permalink] 16 Jun 2014, 16:22
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