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750 on First Attempt: My Debrief

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750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 15 Jun 2011, 08:18
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Hi,

I took the gmat test for the first time on April 1st and have been pretty busy since then but I found the debriefs on this site useful so I promised myself that I would post one when I had time to reflect on the gmat experience.

I'm not sure how useful my experience will be for others though since I didn't study for very long (relatively speaking) and I have always done exceptionally well on standardized tests. Not trying to brag, just want to let you know so you can see if you think my tips are right for you.

I decided to go to business school sort of late in the application season so I only had 3.5 weeks to study. I wasn’t working at the time though so that allowed me to concentrate much more than if I had still been working full-time. Here is my recap.

Final Score: 750 (Q-49, V-44, AWA 5.5)
Prep Materials: Official GMAT Guide 12th Edition, Official GMAT Quant Guide, Kaplan Premier

Day 1-5:

Bought and read some of the Official GMAT Guide just to understand what the test was all about. Also read some general gmat tips on the internet so that I could create my study plan.

Note: The "gmattutor" site gave me some good info. I modified it to fit my needs but it provided a good framework.

I decided to do a handful of practice questions in each category of the official guide and then take the first official GMATprep practice test to see where I was at.

Day 6-13:

Took the official gmat practice test and scored a 700 (Q-43, V-44). I was surprised that my verbal was so high because I thought that would be my weakness and also surprised that my quant wasn’t higher because I thought that would be my strength. I carefully reviewed each question and found that many of the quant problems I got wrong were due to careless mistakes.
I decided to also purchase the Kaplan GMAT Premier 2011 book mostly for the strategy tips and the practice tests.

For the next week I spent about 2-3 hours per week day (split into two different sessions so that I didn’t get fatigued) completing the practice questions from the official book and the Kaplan book.

Day 13-20:

I took the first Kaplan Prep practice test and scored a 650 (Q-42, V-40) and was pretty happy because I read that their test scores are usually much lower than the official scores. The Kaplan practice test was still a little helpful but I started to notice that their questions just “felt” different than the questions in the official guide. After working with the official guide you can sort of get a feel for what they are looking for and their overall tone. I decided that the Kaplan questions were throwing me off a little so I stopped studying with them.

At the same time I noticed that the data sufficiency questions were my biggest weakness so I needed to work more with those questions. I went to the bookstore and read the DS tips in the Princeton Review book and then bought the Official Quant Review so that I had extra DS questions to practice with after I finished all of the ones in the big Official Guide book.

Day 21-23:

I was doing better overall on the DS questions and was feeling much more confident overall. I continued to study and then completed my second, and last, official GMAT practice test four days before the actual test. This second test really helped a lot with my timing. I scored a 720 (Q-46, V44) but could have done better because I took too long on a couple of difficult quant problems and had to rush at the end.

It was a great final lesson because it showed me that estimating the difficulty of each quant question is just as important as completing it. That’s because, in my opinion, the test makers want to see how good of a test manager you are and not just how good you are at answering quant questions. So you have to think strategically about the test.

Day 24-25:

I studied a little bit the morning before the test but then took the night off and went to see a movie, which was a very helpful tip that I read online. The morning of the test I went to the gym as usual to get my blood pumping and my mind sharp. I only worked out for 30 minutes though so I wouldn’t be tired during the test. I did some light reading while waiting at the test center to get my eyes used to the text and then it was time to get it on.

During the test:

The one procedural mistake that almost cost me a lot was not taking the second break. I didn’t want to take the first break because after my essays I felt like my brain was rolling quickly and I didn’t want to lose my momentum. I felt the same way after the quant section so I skipped that break too but it was a mistake. About 5 minutes into the verbal section I was reading a long passage and my vision got blurry because I was staring so intently at the screen for so long. I almost panicked but I stopped, closed my eyes, and titled my head back for about 30 seconds. After that things were better but it was a close call.

After the test I felt I did well but wasn’t sure because it was all a blur so I was shocked when I saw that I got a 750! (Q-49, V-44). I think that the adrenaline of taking the real test actually helped my performance and the timing lesson I learned from the last practice test also increased my performance.

So here are some overall tips that I learned from my experience:

-The Kaplan GMAT questions and tests are ok but you are better off working with as many of the official questions as you possibly can.

-Make sure to review each question you got right AND got wrong on the practice tests. Focusing too much on the ones you got wrong can hurt your confidence and make you start to overthink even the easy questions down the road.

-If you usually exercise, continue to exercise throughout your studying and up to your test day. It will help you sleep and stay healthy.

-Do not study when you are really tired. It will only frustrate and confuse you. You’re better off studying one or two hours per day when you can concentrate rather than four hours when you are tired.

- No alcohol for at least THREE days before your test. Even though you might think a little hangover can only last one day, I’ve found that a little “foggyness” can last up to two or three days.

-Getting a high score on the quant section is all about timing. You need to be able to let go of difficult questions before they suck up too much time and hurt your chances of correctly answering the medium level questions. Remember, the test takers will probably throw some really long and difficult questions at you. If you take the bait and spend 4 minutes on them you have already lost (sometimes that is even if you get the answer right).

-The Data Sufficiency questions are purposely tricky. If it looks too easy, take a closer look. I also, preferred to read the second fact first so that my brain didn’t accidentally use the first fact when trying to independently judge the second one (that’s one of the test makers’ favorite tricks). I have a lot of thought about these questions so let me know if you are having trouble with them.

-Take the final official GMATprep practice test very seriously and take it at the same time of day that you will take your real test. It was tremendously helpful for me.

-Be confident and pretend it’s you versus the test and you are going to win. I think poor confidence hurts a lot of smart test takers.

If you have any questions at all feel free to ask. I’m happy to help because I know how stressful studying for the GMAT can be. I can also tell you that the payoff is worth it. My score definitely opened a lot of doors for me and even though your personality, work experience, etc, are very important to getting accepted, a high GMAT score does give you an edge.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 23:18
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congratulations for super duper score
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 15 Jun 2011, 23:42
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 08:52
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Quote:
I took the first Kaplan Prep practice test and scored a 650 (Q-42, V-40) and was pretty happy because I read that their test scores are usually much lower than the official scores. The Kaplan practice test was still a little helpful but I started to notice that their questions just “felt” different than the questions in the official guide. After working with the official guide you can sort of get a feel for what they are looking for and their overall tone. I decided that the Kaplan questions were throwing me off a little so I stopped studying with them.


Quote:
-The Kaplan GMAT questions and tests are ok but you are better off working with as many of the official questions as you possibly can.


I SOOOOOOO agree with this! I thought I was crazy for thinking this. I am glad to see someone else thought so too. I am still taking some Kaplan practice quizzes though just because I ran out of questions!
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 21:49
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Congrats buddy !!! I too have just 24-25 days...your post just appeared at right time. All the best with your application process.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 23:11
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Super! Congratulations, I think your tips are really helpful..
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2011, 08:21
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Thanks for all of the feedback everyone! I received a few questions via private messages and I answered them with private messages but I might as well post my answers here in case they can help someone else. I'm going to also follow up soon with some additional general tips that I didn't list in my first post.

Question #1: I'm having trouble with the Data Sufficiency questions in general. I can't pinpoint the cause at this point so do you have any general tips? Also, any tips on how to choose numbers to plug into formulas to test them?

Response: Sounds like you need a basic strategy for the DS problems and for that I would recommend reading the Princeton Review guide. The official guide is great for practice questions (I don't even like to look at the practice questions in the other books because they throw me off) but the other books have more strategy tips. I thought Princeton Review's strategy for the DS problems was better than Kaplan's.

In that guide they will explain the art of the DS questions better and how to avoid the tricks. They show you how the test makers try to trick you and how not to fall for them. (Note: their "Joe Boggs Thoery" is a good one but don't rely on it completely. I still preferred to trust my instincts)

My process for the DS questions was to read the stem question very carefully and slowly. I would then mark down on my notes whether it asked for a value or a yes/no answer before even looking at the two facts. This was important for me because I was often tricked by the question itself.

For example, I would use the two facts and determine that I didn't have enough information to solve the problem (I couldn't find the number of tickets, the exact percentage, the number of gallons, etc). I would get the question wrong though because I overlooked the fact that the question was just asking for a yes/no answer (were there more than 20 tickets sold, less than 30%, more than 5 gallons, etc) so I actually did have enough info to answer the question because it didn't ask for the exact value.

As for which numbers/values to plug in for the DS questions there is no specific process that I know of but you have to think strategically. Try to use different "types" of numbers. For example: a positive interget, a positive fraction, zero, a negative fraction, a negative interger.

So give the Princeton Review and those tips a shot and it should at least give you the basics to build your own strategy. After that, you should be able to avoid the basic tricks and narrow down your mistakes. Then, you can really analyze your mistakes and find your "blind spots".


Question #2: I'm having trouble with the Reading Comprehension questions. I ran into a difficult one on the test that I don't think I did well on and everything was a haze after that. Any tips?

Respone: I also encountered an extra long Reading Comprehension (RC) question on the real test and it was intimidating. It was very technical and dealt with tree spores. I took some extra time with that one and I think I was able to do ok on it. The important thing is that once I was done with it I moved on to the next one and didn't think about it again.

Here are some tips for the tough RC questions:

1. Make sure to take a break after the quant section. I didn't and it was a mistake because my eyes became fatigued.

2. When reading the passage for the first time, try summarizing each paragraph in your own words before moving on to the next paragraph. For example: after the first paragraph you may say to yourself "the author is stating that he disagrees with a current theory" or "the author is giving background info on earthquakes in the early 1900's".

This will make sure that you are understanding what you are reading before moving on and should help you to be able to link everything together. Otherwise, I have found that I can get to the end of the passage and think to myself "What the heck did I just read?!" and sort of panic.

If you can't summarize the paragraph in your own words, then you didn't really understand it and you're better off re-reading it right then instead of going any further.

Remember, you need to comprehend the passage very well before going on to the questions or you will spend too much time searching through the passage for the specific information you need after you read the question.

3. Read the questions and the possible answers VERY carefully. This seems simple but it's not as easy as it seems. One way the test takers make their hard questions actually hard it by making them tricky. There is often one little word that can change the whole meaning of the question or of a possible answer. Whenever I got a RC question wrong and went back to figure out why I missed it, it was usually because I misread something.


Now, if you do good on the practice tests it might just have been nerves that threw you off on the actual test day. Keep in mind that everyone gets a passage that they find difficult. That is how the test works; it gives you harder questions until you get some wrong and then it knows what level you are at.

The good test takers aren't thrown off by getting a difficult question, even if they don't know the answer. The poor test takers get shaken and can let a tough question throw off their whole section. So keep practicing, go in there with confidence, and you should be fine!
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2011, 09:49
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tkyle 19 I wanted to thank you for this post and one suggestion in particular - reading option B first in DS.

Im trying that out beginning today on OG 10 questions and seems to have improved my accuracy already, I succumbed all too often to the "carrying over info from a" GMAT trap.

Rewriting GMAT for the 3rd time on August 3rd.

Thanks buddy!
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2011, 11:49
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srilekhya wrote:
congratulations on your achievement! Its an outstanding performance. BTW, may i know your profile and what all universities are you applying for?


Sure. I'm a 30 year old male. Originally from Hawaii. Worked in New York City as a lower manager and then back in Hawaii as the director of operations for a small business. 7 years total after college experience.

I applied to St. Gallen University in Switzerland and Mannheim Business School in Germany (my wife is from Germany). I was accepted by both but chose to attend Mannheim Business School.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 04:47
Congrats on a great score! I'll be taking my GMAT next monday. Looking forward to it! :D

Could you please mention what was your score on your final GmatPrep exam (the second out of the two) which you took right before the actual exam?
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 07:54
Thanks Hussain15!

frederickbenny,

Here is my score on the second and final GMATprep test (4 days before the actual test):

720
Q-46
V-44

As you can see I was able to increase my quant score by three points. It was probably a little luck but also, I felt that I timed that last practice test poorly but the real test perfectly. On that last GMATprep test I took a little too long on a couple of questions and learned my lesson. If you don't think you will be able to answer a question, move on! I think that this is especially hard for people that are usually good at taking tests because they aren't comfortable giving up on a question.

Anyway, on the real test I skipped two questions that seemed extremely hard and was able to use the extra time to work on two or three questions that were fairly hard but I was able to figure them out because I had a little extra time to work with.

The reason I didn't learn this lesson until the final practice test is because I made a crucial mistake while timing myself during the practice questions. On the practice questions, I would answer 10 or 20 at a time and as long as my average answer time equaled 2 minutes per question I thought I was doing ok. That wasn't accurate though because during the practice questions I would always run into a bunch of easy questions. On the real test, there aren't many "easy" questions though because the test program quickly figures out your skill level and adjusts so that most of the questions are hard or very hard. So I really should have been resetting my stopwatch after I answered each question to make sure I didn't go much over 2 minutes on even the hardest ones. I hope that all makes sense.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 16 Jun 2011, 08:01
Yeah, makes really good sense :)
Thanks for the pointer. Will keep this in mind.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2011, 09:05
Congratulations and all the best for your applications!+1
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2011, 17:10
That's a really good score! congratulations! may I ask what your background is, like work experience, education, how long you've been out of school and working? I know 3.5 weeks of preparation is not enough for me to get that score!

Also, I've been practicing with DS and PS but I'm trying to reserve the official questions for later. I want more practice before I go to the official guide but sometimes I feel like I should concentrate on the official guide, like you mentioned. Would it not be a waste of official questions to concentrate on the official guide? I don't want to run out of official guide questions for my final practice runs.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2011, 11:17
glenn0613 wrote:
That's a really good score! congratulations! may I ask what your background is, like work experience, education, how long you've been out of school and working? I know 3.5 weeks of preparation is not enough for me to get that score!

Also, I've been practicing with DS and PS but I'm trying to reserve the official questions for later. I want more practice before I go to the official guide but sometimes I feel like I should concentrate on the official guide, like you mentioned. Would it not be a waste of official questions to concentrate on the official guide? I don't want to run out of official guide questions for my final practice runs.


Sure. I have always done well in school while studying very little so my results definitely aren't typical. I grew up in Hawaii and went to college in the midwest of USA and studied advertising. After school I worked in New York City for 6 years as a lower level manager for a book publishing company and then moved back to Hawaii and managed a small audio visual business. So I've been out of school and working for about 7 years.

Thanks for the question. If you will be studying for more than 100 hours total, saving your official guide questions is a good idea. I should have pointed out that since I studied less than 100 hours, the official guide and the additional official guide quant book were just enough (don't forget about that additional official book of quant questions). Since the official guide questions are much better than any other practice questions out there you should finish up with them rather than the ones from Kaplan or Princeton Review.

Good luck on your test!
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2011, 11:18
Aximili85 wrote:
tkyle 19 I wanted to thank you for this post and one suggestion in particular - reading option B first in DS.

Im trying that out beginning today on OG 10 questions and seems to have improved my accuracy already, I succumbed all too often to the "carrying over info from a" GMAT trap.

Rewriting GMAT for the 3rd time on August 3rd.

Thanks buddy!


Thanks, I'm glad to hear that I could help. The test makers love that trap!
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2011, 11:14
congratulations on your achievement! Its an outstanding performance. BTW, may i know your profile and what all universities are you applying for?
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2011, 12:05
Great going :) I've given my gmat on july 1st and scored 600. I'm planning to write again in a couple of months. What should be my score to get into a decent b school? I just graduated from college and stepped into work now aspiring to do MBA in one/two years? Should it be terribly high?
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2011, 12:14
srilekhya wrote:
Great going :) I've given my gmat on july 1st and scored 600. I'm planning to write again in a couple of months. What should be my score to get into a decent b school? I just graduated from college and stepped into work now aspiring to do MBA in one/two years? Should it be terribly high?


The score you "need" depends on a lot of variables from what I'm told.

First of all, it depends on what you mean by a decent b-school. I'd say to pick a few schools as possible targets and then do some research on them. You can usually find out the gmat range of their past accepted students.

Then, try to evaluate your work experience, leadership potential, essays, interview ability, etc. If you are strong in those areas you should be ok even if your gmat score is in the low end of the schools range. If you aren't so strong in those areas, you might want to try and be at the top of their range so that you can stand out.

My score was at the higher end of the gmat range for the schools I applied for. I think that helped me ease some of the schools concerns about my lack of experience at a large corporation.
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Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief [#permalink] New post 28 Jul 2011, 23:16
congrats!
Re: 750 on First Attempt: My Debrief   [#permalink] 28 Jul 2011, 23:16
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