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710 - Q49, V38, AWA 5.0

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Joined: 22 Mar 2012
Posts: 44
Location: United States
GMAT 1: 710 Q49 V38
GPA: 3.1
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 6 [0], given: 56

710 - Q49, V38, AWA 5.0 [#permalink] New post 17 May 2012, 10:52
I finally finished the GMAT on May 5. Took a while to post the debrief because I was busy with applications.
As for the score, it might be ok for the part-time programs I am applying to. I am not great with words or good stories, so I will just stick with the template for debriefs.

Books & materials used - I used OG 11 and probably half of Kaplan's GMAT 800, purely because these were the only good ones available in the local library. Would have loved to study with OG 12, but the library made OG 12 available a day after I finished the GMAT :lol: . I also had the 2003 OG (published by ETS) and Princeton Review's Cracking the GMAT that I got from another library.

The only book I finished completely was OG 11. no not completely, did nothing with the AWA :)
Used only the AWA template from Cracking the GMAT.
Used Kaplan's 800 for DS, PS, SC and partly for CR, but not RC. Did not like the quant section - I felt it was too easy. Some of the CRs had ludicrous reasoning, but SC was good practice.
Used the 2003 OG early in the preparation, but stopped after I got the OG 11, and after I realised there was much overlap between the two.

I took the following tests -
GMATPrep 1 - 750 was stunned with the good score, inspite of a bad quant section.
Manhattan free test - 660
Platinum GMAT free test - 680-690
GMATPrep 2 - 780 (a few questions repeated after I reinstalled the software)
Veritas free test- 680 - very easy Quant section. I dont think this quant section represents the actual test very well.

After getting a 750 on the very first test, almost 5 weeks before the actual test, I had started dreaming of scoring 800. But then the next test brought me back to reality. I had thought before starting with preparations that quant would be my strongest area, but the second test, certain problems in OG 11 and problems posted by people like Bunuel proved that wrong.

now before i go on any further i must mention that after OG and GMATPrep (or maybe at the same level), i benefited the most from GMATClub. this forum, its founders, and all members are phenomenal, i cannot thank them enough.

Background information (education, employment, etc.)
experienced IT professional, with an engineering undergraduate degree

Length of study
I decided to go for the GMAT sometime towards the end of February. Studied on and off for about a month, more seriously after that. My total study time (wild guess) is probably more than 200 hours.

General strategy
I feel very embarrassed writing this - I had very little strategy to follow. Early on, I believed I was good at math, so did not do much with it. i thought i would finish quant well before time and find verbal tough, but the reality was the exact opposite. in the first couple of tests, i ran out of time with 2-3 questions remaining on quant, but finished well in time for verbal. after these jolts i decided to go after math - since i felt i had to score in quant. but then i followed Zeke's advice in one of his free videos. what he basically says is that an increment in the verbal scaled score results in a greater increase in the total score, as against with the same increase in quant. i think he also says that SC is the easiest to make improvements in. i started putting in more efforts in verbal, and started doing well in every part of verbal (i was really surprised with my low verbal score because i was getting a lot of them correct in all practice test, and i thought i did very well on the actual test, but more about that later).

Also, I did not keep any notes or log, just went with the general feeling of knowing which area needs to be worked upon. I always tried to solve all quant questions orally. at one point when i was getting too many wrongs in quant, i consciously started using pen and paper to actually solve even simple ones. realized early on, that i was poor at DS and practiced it as much as I could.

similarly for verbal i tried creating a map of the RC and CR passages, but that was being too organized to suit me. i just went back to reading the whole passage. i did not skim through as some find useful. i always read the entire RC passage and did not read the questions first.

i also used these from this forum, found all of them very useful -

http://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-prep-problem-collections-114358.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/sameer-s-sc-notes-101380.html#p794883

and numerous others from gmatclub. i really feel there is so much on this forum alone, that one could easily get a decent score without using any other material (except that OG and GmatPrep are indispensable).

Things you wish you knew
i wish i had approached everything a little methodically, like understanding concepts before jumping into answering questions. i found this blog to be a great one for concepts, but i discovered it just 4 days before the exam -
http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/category/gmat/quarter-wit-quarter-wisdom/

i feel for verbal, only SC needs one to first understand concepts. RC and CR can probably be mastered by practice, because it is difficult to teach logical reasoning.

similarly, while studying from the OG, it is important to read all explanations, even for the 4 incorrect choices.

AWA preparation - I did not prepare very well for AWA. Went over the templates in Princeton's Cracking the GMAT and chineseburned's post (http://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html). Also briefly read the tips and fallacies in 800score AWA Guide - with bookmarks - download it here http://gmatclub.com/forum/download/file.php?id=11777. I took AWA lightly because it doesnt affect the total score, but realized too late that the essays are also sent to the school. Not sure if the school cares, but I think it wont hurt if they have further proof that you are good at critical thinking. Overall, I might have written about 5-6 essays, which is not sufficient. Take AWA seriously - it might not need as much practice as the rest, a little bit everyday over the entire study period should help you get a good score on AWA.

Finally, the test experience
i visited the test center 2 days before the test, and made sure there were no surprises. on test day, had a good brunch at home, took 1 water bottle and 1 very sweet cereal bar with me to the center.

the formalities took a short time, i soon started with AWA. true to my own self, i forgot the template i had in mind, and panicked for a few minutes. then settled down and wrote ok essays (got 5.0). took the full 30 mins for each. i had a scare in the middle of one of the essays, the terminal froze. i panicked again, thinking of having to restart and how it will affect my score :lol: called the proctor, but by the time he reached me, the computer was back to normal.
TIP : i am used to highlighting one or many words using ctrl+shft+left or right arrows, and the computer froze when I did that. but i am sure it had worked before for the same sequence of keys. needless to say, i did not do that again. i dont know if it is prohibited, atleast they dont say its not allowed.

after that, quant. again, all the strategies i had (like spend more time on the first 10, write everything etc.) went out of the window. couldn't handle the very first question i got, after spending what seemed to be several minutes, i guessed and moved on. i dont remember getting any incredibly tough problems after that. everytime i got a very easy one, my heart sank. i think there was a simple one on probability, but nothing on permutations and combinations. i knew i was not doing well, however was on target timewise throughout the test. clicked on ok with about 5 seconds remaining. at the end of the section, was not too happy, but i had made up my mind to stay cheerful and not let the next section be affected.

took the break. i feel the break is not well understood by test takers nor well explained by GMAT. in 8 mins, you call the proctor, he locks the terminal, walks you to his desk, looks up your name, you then verify using the palm reader, go to the bathroom, stretch, then the sign in procedure again, you read the tutorial after he signs in !! thats too much in 8 mins. i dont know how people get time to eat - hence my tip, eat well before the test, drink a little water in the breaks.

verbal went very well after that. was ahead of the time throughout the section, i knew i was finishing it before time in the practice tests. spent an unnecessarily long time on each of the last few, because there was time left. plus i did not get any brutally tough ones. i did get a question with bold sentences, so i assumed i was doing well. 1 RC passage was a little difficult, but barely. however, after all this, i got only 38 in verbal, i am a little disappointed.

was ok with the result. not bad, considering i was so low on confidence in the last 1-2 weeks that i would have accepted anything above 650 and also considering that i thought quant didnt go that well.
overall i felt my preparation was adequate. i did not do the brutal SC or the very tough and tricky problems posted by Bunuel. those are probably for the ones aspiring 750+. if you cant get those tough ones, dont feel disheartened.

a few tips for GMAC to make the test experience better -
1. improve the mymba website, it is pathetic.
2. if you want people to read all the instructions before they sign off, provide more than 8 minutes or dont time that part. find a way to get test taker's signoff before the test or even after it.
3. change that clock - either show questions remaining+time remaining, or questions answered+time spent, but not a mixture of the two. i have to calculate everytime to know how many more to go in how many minutes.
4. decouple reporting of scores from the test. why cant that be done on the website, why cant that be done before you take the test.
.... and many more, will keep updating....

so that was my long debrief, hope someone finds useful things in it.
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710 - Q49, V38, AWA 5.0   [#permalink] 17 May 2012, 10:52
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