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740 (99th percentile)! No prior math background...

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740 (99th percentile)! No prior math background... [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2004, 14:52
My score on Monday was 740 (99th percentile overall; 98-V, 82-Q). My story might be helpful for anyone who is strong in verbal but weak in math, as I had not studied math for nearly a decade.

My last score in October was 640 (96-V, 48-Q). A 48th percentile in math would certainly have killed my applications to top schools. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts; I studied very, very hard for about two months, and frankly, I've come to rather enjoy word problems! Below is my advice. I will summarize my study plan in the end, for those who donтАЩt want to bother reading it all.

There are two distinct elements to success: (1) Knowing the concepts, and (2) practice taking the tests.

(1) To learn the concepts, I would suggest picking up an old high school pre-calculus textbook, which should have one or two chapters reviewing geometry and algebra, as well as a chapter on probability/permutations. There were at least three or four questions on my GMAT on permutations or probability; knowing the formulas, these questions were a cinch. I do not think any of the GMAT-prep books are sufficient to teach probability; only recently have such problems started to regularly and frequently appear on the GMAT. The math in a pre-calculus book will in fact be harder than that which appears on the GMAT, but approach will help you master the skills and concepts rather than formulas and shortcuts.

Of course, I did all of the GMAT prep books anyway. If you are starting from scratch, ARCOтАЩs GRE-GMAT math review is a comprehensive, basic review, but the math on the GMAT is much, much harder. Then, there are two essential books: KaplanтАЩs GRE-GMAT math workbook, and KaplanтАЩs GMAT 2004 general edition, which contains about three chapters of math review/problems. Additionally, I found the study guides from http://www.crack-gmat.com to be helpful. These math problems are more difficult than those on the GMAT, so if you can master them, you are on the right track! I reviewed each chapter of crack-GMAT at least two times.

Finally, do all of the problems in the Official Guide. Generally, these problems are listed from easy to hard. If you have limited time, start with last few problems, and work backwards. Now, itтАЩs not just enough to do these problems. Carefully keep track of which problems you get wrong. Take a two-week break, keep studying the concepts, and then return to these problems. If you still are getting any single problem wrong, review and review and review! There are only about three or four problems total in the GMAT Official Guide that I still donтАЩt understandтАж including problem #434 on page 134.

Finally, there are some good sources of additional problems on the links section of this websiteтАж

In general, you have to master the тАЬskillтАЭ of math. It is more than memorizing formulas. It is an ability to see a problem, understand its language, translate it into a formula, and approach it in various ways. Really, itтАЩs a matter of overcoming your intimidation. I am not a math person, and basically dropped out of calculus in high school. Nevertheless, although we might not all have an innate mathematical talent, I believe than any human mind is equipped to understand and apply quantitative fundamentals; it might (initially) require more effort for some of us тАУ like me тАФ but it is possible!


(2) Now, equally important to learning the concepts are the practice tests. Always take computerized tests with the тАЬCATтАЭ format; donтАЩt waste your time on paper tests. One reason I bombed the first test was a lack of sufficient test preparation. I spent way too much time on the first ten problems, and then basically panicked when I saw the clockтАж I probably got most of the remaining 27 problems wrong. Granted, it is essential to correctly answer the first 5-7 questions, but make sure you practice taking tests to learn the timing! You have to learn how to pace yourself; I think this will be different for everyone. You will learn to recognize problems that you probably cannot answer; for these, it pays to just guess and move on! I did this once on my GMAT, somewhere between questions 25/30. Skipping a problem (near the end) buys you an extra two minutes, which is about what each problem should take.

The Princeton Review tests are much easier than the real GMAT, but this can be a good starting point as a тАЬwarm-upтАЭ; the Princeton Review GMAT 2004 comes with a CD with four tests.

The Kaplan tests are a decent approximation of the real GMAT, although your score on the real GMAT should be about 50/100 points higher than your score from the Kaplan practice tests. (Kaplan GMAT 2004 has four practice tests on CD.) The Kaplan tests are also great because they tell you your timing for individual questions.

Also, I purchased PetersonтАЩs GMAT CAT Success, which has an additional four practice tests on CD; these tests are also a very decent approximation of the GMAT, although the real GMAT will have a wider range of problems.

If you buy the $29 crack-gmat package (http://www.crack-gmat.com), it comes with five practice tests. These tests are more difficult than the real GMAT, but it makes for great practice; master these, and you are set!

Finally, and obviously, do the Official GuideтАЩs two tests, which should very closely correlate to your final score. In fact, my last OG test was 740, which was my exact GMAT score. I did both of these tests in the beginning of my studies, and then again at the end of my studies.

When I took all of these tests, I never bothered with the verbal. However, it is important to practice writing the essays for an hour before taking the quantitative test. Do this at least one or two times. Part of the problem on the real GMAT is by the time the math section comes, you are already drained from writing two essays on idiotic topics.

This is important: Always return to the tests and review the problems that you got wrong! This is just as important as taking the test itself.

Summary:

(1) Skills

1. A high school algebra and/or pre-calculus book. Do the word problems, also!
2. ARCOтАЩs GRE-GMAT math reviewтАФ skip this if you already know the basics.
3. KaplanтАЩs GRE-GMAT math review. I did all of the problems 2x.
4. KaplanтАЩs GMAT 2004 (chapters 6 to 10)
5. Crack-Gmat math review (http://www.crack-gmat.com), which has twenty-six chapters with practice problems.
6. Official Guide 10th Edition: All problem solving and data sufficiency questions. Make sure to review thoroughly the oneтАЩs you get wrongтАж


(2) Practice Tests

1. Princeton Review GMAT 2004: Four practice testsтАФ as a warm-up only!
2. PetersonтАЩs GMAT CAT Success: Four practice tests.
3. KaplanтАЩs GMAT 2004: Four practice tests.
4. Crack-Gmat: Five practice tests
5. Official Guide: Two practice tests

I focused on the practice tests the final two/three weeks of study, after I had already mastered the concepts. I did one quantitative practice test each day, taking at least a day or two off so I did not get burned out.

Good luck! Any additional questions, let me know.
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 [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2004, 16:39
Congrats
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Inspirational [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2004, 21:26
I really like what you posted. It was thourough and to the point.

I am taking the GMAT March 6th. I was wondering if you have any advice for me. I have the all the books you listed.
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 [#permalink] New post 03 Jan 2004, 17:57
Congratulations. And thanks for a comprehensive post. I'm sure that will be very helpful for a lot of people. How long did you spend studying between the two gmats you took. If it's written above I apologize for not reading carefully. I took the Gmat, scored a 700 and am looking to take it a second time. Your answer will be very helpful.

Oh, and where are you applying? I'm sure your score will help your chances anywhere. Good luck!!!
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 [#permalink] New post 03 Jan 2004, 19:48
I had ten full weeks between the first and second test. The truth is, the first few weeks I studied daily and dilligently, but not nearly as much as I had wanted. When I realized I only had four/five weeks left, I got pretty nervous, ended my social life, and studied for many hours every single night and weekend (although once every five or six days I would crash and take the day off).

I'm pretty much applying to the same top schools as most, with Stanford and Tuck at the top of my list. Really, I had no choice but to get a high score, since I have a weak academic background with no math courses. Still, I know the top schools are very competitive and look at many other factors, so even with a 740, my success is far from certain.

Good luck.
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Arco GRE GMAT Math Workbook [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2004, 17:06
I was wondering how useful you found the Arco GRE GMAT Math Workbook.

I have mainly been using it for Geometry, Word Problems and some Algebra.

I've used Crack the GMAT as well as Kaplan. Now I am focusing on both of Kaplans workbook's for the next 6 weeks which is the time I have left until the test date along with the OG and was wondering if you have any advice on how to use these books optimally.
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response [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2004, 18:56
(1) The ARCO is a good book, but very, very basic. The math on the GMAT is significantly harder. Skip it if you are already familiar with the concepts.

(2) The Kaplan GRE/GMAT workbook provides a very solid foundation for most problems, although it does not sufficiently cover probability or permutations. Many people seem to encounter anywhere from one to three probability/permutation problems. Make sure you pick up a high school textbook, or some other source, to learn these skills.

(3) Regarding both the OG and Kaplan, there is an excellent piece of advice that I actually read in someone elseтАЩs posting on this Forum. When you get a problem wrong, return to it. Do it slowly. Change the numbers or parameters to make a similar but new problem, and try solving it. Also, keep a record of any problems you get wrong, and return to them after a week or two. In other words, when you get any single problem wrong, review it and repeat it until you understand it. Basically, if you do the problems in the OG and Kaplan, and you тАЬunderstandтАЭ at least 95-98% of the problems, you will probably do quite well on the GMAT quantitative.

(4) Also, when you are trying to solve a problem that you donтАЩt understand, take the time to try to figure it out yourself before just looking up the answer. There were five or six problems that I probably spent about twenty minutes on each, and finally I was able to answer (almost) all of them. By slowly coming to the conclusion myself, it really helped me master the process/concept. It forces you to use your own brain. Of course, this type of study depends on how much time you have to study.

(5) If you find yourself pressed for time, work backwards in the OG. The harder problems are towards the end. Remember, keep track of any problems you get wrong, and return to them. Keep studying these problems until you understand the underlying concept.

(6) Finally, it is important to consider timing in your practice and study. This is why I recommend taking as many practice quantitative exams as possible. Alternatively, when you study, you can time yourself. Trying doing blocks of twenty questions in 35-40 minutes, or less than two minutes per question. The first time I studied for the GMAT, I did not practice this type of discipline in doing the questions. Then, on my first GMAT, I panicked and ran out of time. The GMAT is not only about knowing the concepts and doing the problems, but doing them in less than two minutes each, on average.

(7) One final note: Kaplan teaches a few тАЬtricksтАЭ to solve problems, like substitution or back-solving. This can actually be helpful. There were probably one or two questions on the GMAT that I could not do the math, but using these tricks, I was able to arrive at the answer. I prefer tricks as a last resort; ideally, you should know the math and underlying concept. However, you should also be familiar with the tricks. As you do the practice problems, try using formal math first. Then, see if you could have applied one of the tricks also to solve the problem.

I hope these miscellaneous bits of information help. The GMAT is not that hard to beat. I was not able to тАЬaceтАЭ it, but through lots of study, my math score is places me in the top fifth, and my overall is the top 1%. It took a great deal of effort to learn the language of math, and to develop the confidence to tackle the math problems. But itтАЩs really just a matter of resolve and practice.

Good luck!
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Jan 2004, 21:33
Is this true ? My score on the GMAT is also 740. However, my score is 98 percentile. There must be some mistake that ETS or this post is making !. While there can be differential percentiles for different scores on V and Q, under no circumstances can the percentiles of the final score differ !!
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revision [#permalink] New post 15 Jan 2004, 22:06
Yeah, in fact, I just good my "official" score from ETS yesterday, and the percentile is 1% different than on my print-out from the test day. My scaled scores, however, are the same. It is slightly upsetting, but so close that it doesn't really matter. My final scores are: 740 (98%), 44-V (98%), 47-Q (82%), and 5.5 AWA. Last time I had a 6.0 on the AWA, but most schools barely take this into considertation.

Congrats on your score, btw.
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Jan 2004, 00:12
Thanks Alpha. That helps. Congrats on your score too and best of luck with your apps.
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 [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2004, 06:22
Forget the Math, any tips for verbal? All Hail!
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Verbal sources [#permalink] New post 19 Jan 2004, 13:57
What did you use as your verbal resource.
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verbal... [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2004, 16:59
Well, my background is in humanities and writing.... so the verbal was sort of natural; my advice is mostly for those with no math background. Nevertheless, I did study a bit of verbal. I did every single verbal question (RC,SC, and the logic??) in the Official Guide. It is important to especially practice the SC. IF you practice, you learn to recognize the common mistakes. For instance, a very common error in SC includes improper modifiers; look out for this. Also, there are three 'tricks' which I applied to every RC and SC: (1) Skim the passage, then read, then skim again. (Or, with SC and logic, read it carefully twice.) (2) There are usually three obviously wrong answers, and two answers which seem correct; identify these two, and then narrow down the choice. (3) The final answer must match 100% If the answer you choose does not sound right, it probably is not. Once you identify the correct answer, it is very obviously and unambiguously correct. As a final word of advice, the best way to prepare for verbal is, assuming that you have a few months, to read! Read stuff that you normally would not, and learn to read actively, not just passively for enjoyment. That way, you hone your general verbal skill and linguistic sensibility, rather than try to memorize rules, idioms, etc.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2004, 19:29
Thanks , excellent advice for those weak in verbal like me
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2004, 20:29
Just a train of thought. I think ETS is trying to level the playing field and minimize people with unbalanced scores getting high GMAT number overall.

That being said, my verbal numbers in my practice tests took a quantum leap in one week. There was no magical book or sauce. All I did was started trying to develop an "instinct" for the right answer. "Feel" the author regardless of whether its RC/SC or CR.

I think your post reinforces what has been my own experience. We'll see if I'm right when I take the test next 12 days or so.....

What do u guys think?
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What did you find to be the best source for DS [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2004, 20:45
DID YOU LIKE KAPLAN OR PRINCETON REVIEW WHEN YOU STUDYING HOW TO MASTER DATA SUFFIENCY.
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 [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2004, 23:42
This is so strange, Its uncanny. I got 630 and my split was verbal-94, quant-40. I flunked bcos of the probability problems. Was lost. I have to confess that I did just 1 cursory sweep thru OG and 1 thru kaplan. But thanks, am trying again in april and this sounds encouraging.
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 [#permalink] New post 01 Feb 2004, 11:31
Wow!!

That is a huge jump in the score 640 to 740 congrates!!!

How do you rate the quality of verbal questions on crackgmat tests?

Thanks
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 [#permalink] New post 06 Feb 2004, 12:04
Thanks for sharing your gmat exp. stick around and still share your application experience. tip us off on do's and don't of the appl. you will b a great asset to this club; don't leave!
  [#permalink] 06 Feb 2004, 12:04
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