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720 (Q48/V41) - 95%

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Joined: 02 Jun 2007
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Schools: The University of Texas at Austin
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720 (Q48/V41) - 95% [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 08:06
Hey again all.

You might remember me as the guy who was upset that he was getting 700-710 on MGMAT CATs and then got a 660 on the GMATPrep and a 650 on the real GMAT (try 1). Well I just retook the GMAT and got a 720 (Q48/V41).

Before I go into too much of a debrief (if I even can, I'm f-ing exhausted), I need to explain my GMAT taking frequency. I had originally scheduled the 1st GMAT test in Munich on the 13th of September. I got a call that week telling me that the server in Munich had crashed and all tests were cancelled for the week. By the time everything was fixed (two days later), every GMAT slot at the test center had been taken for that week and the two weeks after. I was not happy. As a result, I ended up flying to Berlin to take the test on the 21st.

Today, roughly three weeks after the 1st shot, I took the test again. GMAC allowed two tests in less than a month due to the Munich test center problems. I'm working up against a Round 1 deadline so this week was really the last week to take it.

Debrief:

Let me start by saying that I'm a terrible test taker. No, really, terrible. It's part nerves but mostly an issue of stamina. Working to improve that has certainly helped (see the comment about AWAs at the end).

I began my prep with the MGMAT 9-week online course. I did my best to keep up with the homework and took another MGMAT CAT every 2-3 weeks to assess my progress. Over the course my CAT scores were:

600 (Q31/V41) - a note from MGMAT later said that this verbal score was inflated
620 (Q42/V33)
650 (Q43/V36)
710 (Q44/V42)
700 (Q46/V40)
700 (Q46/V40)

I was feeling damn good about the test at this point... then I took a GMATPrep test and scored a 660 (I forget the breakdown but Q was good, V CR and RC weren't). This poor performance 1.5 weeks before the actual (expected) test date freaked me out.

I sought out a GMAT verbal tutor to fill in the gaps in my RC and CR. I firmly believe if I hadn't had such a debacle with the 1st test being cancelled, switched, having to fly to Berlin, etc. that what I worked on with the tutor would have helped. I honestly think I was too frazzled to apply it. That said, I did apply it on the 2nd try and it seems to have worked. A lot of people say you can't teach CR or RC which I think is bull. The GMAT sets up typical traps in every problem and a lot of those traps are very seductive. Recognizing that, and eliminating those answers, is a learnable skill. If you guys want me to go into that some more feel free to ask.

From 650 to 720 in three weeks had very little to do with preparation or learning new material, it had everything to do with the right mindset (something that I didn't have in Berlin). In fact, I feel as thought I was less prepared for Q and SC the 2nd time around as I took two weeks of study off as I've been swamped at work. If only I had gotten a good night's sleep and had some time for a comprehensive review! Oh well, not gonna sweat that too hard.

What I used:

-MGMAT 9-week course as stated.
-OG 11th. Buy it, read it, do every problem in it. Period. If you're looking for more material go for the dedicated Q and V OG books.
- Laminated scratch-pad! In my line of work (International Space Station mission control) we use the phrase "sim like you fly" which applies here. Practice like you'll take the test. Period. I bought one from testdayscratch.com which was US legal sized and yellow. The Pearson Vue provided pad was US letter and white. I'd have preferred the real deal to practice on, but the wet erase was good practice, regardless of the size and color.
- MGMAT Quant books are all good.
- MGMAT SC book is the SC bible as everybody says.
- Kaplan 800. I quite liked this book. I kinda see this as the logical step after you've done all the standard OG/MGMAT stuff. They focus on just the hard stuff, especially oddball questions which you're not going to see very many of in the other guides (OG included). Do NOT start with this book!
- MGMAT Virtual Quest for 750 Problem Solving, Data Sufficiency, and Sentence Correction courses. I took all three once I finished the standard course (as a repeat customer I got a massive discount on each course). On the whole, I think they were excellent. Really, A+ all the way.
- GMATPrep software. I'd highly suggest taking a GMATPrep practice test 4-6 weeks before the real test (assuming you've been studying that is). As many people have said over and over again, there is no substitute; it will give you the most accurate assessment, period. The only problem with the GMATPrep is it tends to repeat questions from the OG books.

I've come to the conclusion that MGMAT's CR and RC prep isn't very good. Even during class the instructors flat-out stated, "this isn't how I do it" and for good reason; the diagramming method, IMHO sucks - at least for me (and the instructors).

On the whole, however, I'm happy with my MGMAT experience. If not for the weak CR/RC, I'd have nothing but rave reviews. IMO, this is their one weakness, but it's a serious one. Frankly, I shouldn't have been getting 40+ on the verbal section of the MGMAT CATs and then a 34 on the GMATPrep/actual GMAT. It may be one of the better CATs out there, but I firmly believe that they inflate verbal scores.

A final bit of advice, when you take a CAT, DO THE **** AWA!!! Please, dear god, do the AWA. That extra hour of total test duration can have a huge impact if you've got stamina issues like me (teehee). Learn to deal with it. Even if it isn't scored (MGMAT will score two for you), do it just to go through the motions.

Also, a big thanks to everybody on this forum; you guys rock. That said, I have a massive caveat for anybody who's beginning their GMAT prep: beware of the "Share Your GMAT Experience" sub-forum. Reading about 770+ first-try scores when you're struggling can be more disheartening than helpful. At least it was for me. Some people are just really, really good at this kinda stuff but they are a tiny, tiny minority. For every 770+ post there are dozens of people who didn't post because they're ashamed/frustrated/upset about their scores. Recognize that very, very few people do really well on this test and that the practical differences between a low 700 and a high 700 in the admissions process are small.

Aight, I'm about to fall asleep at the keyboard. Cheers y'all!
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 08:37
Congrats on your score, West! Time to hit those apps! :-X
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 08:56
Ah, I remember you as the the space program guy. Congratulations! You surely are competitive at Stanford now.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 09:16
Congratulations man . !!! You did it

Thanks for all the help you're providing here. Can you please elaborate more on the RC hints and skills ?
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 09:20
Thanks guys! I'm already neck deep in apps but I feel like they're going pretty well thus far. We will see I suppose.

Something just crossed my mind: all told, I've probably dropped close to $2000 on GMAT prep. The strength of the Euro has helped but still... dang. Don't get me wrong, it was worth every penny, that's just a lot of loot.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2007, 09:31
Mishari wrote:
Congratulations man . !!! You did it

Thanks for all the help you're providing here. Can you please elaborate more on the RC hints and skills ?


You got it. This may be better suited for the Verbal sub-forum but I'll let the mods make the switch if they so desire.

With CR and RC, you're looking for the "Golidlocks" answer. It's the answer that isn't too big and isn't too small. It's the one that "just right." The wrong CR and RC answers almost always fall into one of the following categories:

- Too specific. The answer is in the ballpark but focuses too narrowly.
- Too general. Same as above but it's too wide.
- Too extreme. These answers are amongst the most seductive. They sound great but usually have words like "never," "always," "all" in them. They take the right idea and they push it too far.
- Exact opposite. Also very seductive on harder problems. These problem have all the right words, right ideas, but they answer the opposite question. These answers tend to pop up on EXCEPT questions and on long-winded passages that throw in a lot of negations.
- Besides the point entirely. These are the easiest to spot as they are out of scope of the passage. They can still be tempting, however, when you start to overuse your brain (one small assumption may make this qnswer right BUT it's not in the passage and therefor wrong).

Using the Goldilocks method works best when you've narrowed the answer choices down to two or three.

When beginning a problem, READ THE QUESTION FIRST and attempt to logically predict the answer as your read the passage. If it says weaken, think about what will weaken the argument before you even get to the answers.

That's a quick re-cap of what the tutor taught me and it definitely helped. Granted, I'm not a high 40 V scorer but this strategy raised my very mediocre 34 into the 40s.
  [#permalink] 15 Oct 2007, 09:31
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