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750 (Q50, V41)

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750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:15
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I have been lurking here for 2 months and after taking the GMAT for the second time on Friday, I thought I would post my debrief. You'll notice from below that I really overstudied for this and should have done much better on my 1st attempt given my practice scores. Note also that I wasted a lot of time @ the start with bad material (i.e. PR/Kaplan books).

Bio:
30 yrs old, CS degree from Stanford, 8 years work experience, been living in the UK for past 5 years running the office for a software company. I quit my job this summer and studied full time for the GMAT from late Sep to end of Oct (took GMAT first time), then spent approx 10-20hrs/week on GMAT in month of Nov (before taking exam for 2nd time). I hadn't taken a standardized test since the SAT 12 years ago.

Actual Scores:
GMAT (2nd attempt): 750 - Q50, V41, awa 5.5
GMAT (1st attempt): 660 - Q44, V37, awa 5.5

See bottom of post for prep material and practice test scores in chronological order. Sorry this is so long, I hope some of my advice helps some people out there and wish I had found this forum sooner.

My Testing Experience:
-I was 100% ready for the GMAT the 1st time and scored below my target mostly because I slept about 2 hours the night before (nerves) and because I got stubborn on 1 Quant problem and wasted too much time, by the time I hit verbal, I was exhausted and so shaken from my quant I couldn't recover, also got caught up on an impossible short RC that put me behind time and ended up having to guess on final 3 V questions
-I didn't really improve much between attempts, but was just better mentally prepared, I had 3 tutoring sessions with an MGMAT tutor before the 2nd take that helped to build my confidence, focus on my weaknesses (getting specific with DS), and come up with a timing strategy
-Second time, I also didn't sleep particularly well the night before but had a better timing strategy for both quant and verbal. For quant, I had no more than 3 or 4, 3 minute questions, but had enough easy (1min) ones mixed in that I picked up time, I had 5 questions and 5 minutes to go but luckily some of the last questions were easy, never had to blindly guess on any of them. For verbal, I made myself stick to the timing strategy described below, but still burned too much time on one RC passage and am confident this hurt my score.

Advice:
-Timing strategy: Verbal - complete 8 questions every 15 minutes (60mins remaining, on question 9, 45 remaining, on question 17, etc); Math - Every 5 or so questions, take question you are just starting, subtract from 37, multiply by 2, then add 2, that's how much time you should have left. You should never be more than 2-3mins behind. Sounds kinda complicated, I know...
-Practice using a realistic marker and noteboard (MGMAT sells them), I have horribly messy handwriting and definitely lost my concentration trying to get a new one in the middle of a tough problem
-Do NOT be stubborn in quant: in EVERY SINGLE practice test, I barely finished quant. In my first MGMAT practice test, I only made it to question #32! This was purely because I was stubborn - I'm good at math and couldn't let a question go. Further, I only wanted to solve a problem using the prettier algebraic approach. Do NOT only rely on the algebraic approach, also be able to plugin numbers. In addition, DO NOT HAVE a 4 or 5 minutes question or more than 3, 3+ minute questions: my first take I sat on a medium level difficulty question for 5+ minutes because I made a multiplication mistake, this killed me and I ended up with 10questions w/10 to go
-Do NOT be stubborn with RC: in both attempts, I got 1 absurdly difficult but SHORT RC, I spent probably 4-5 minutes trying to understand it before hitting the questions, I should have been at the questions earlier, because those extra few minutes on the passage didn't really improve my understanding
-Use the MGMAT OG Tracker Spreadsheet and OG timer to create your error log, the payoff and summary stats are extremely useful in terms of figuring out where you should focus (I also used Excel's auto-filter and added a few extra columns for notes / to highlight problems that needed review). The payoff stats will hopefully drill into your brain that sitting on a question for a while usually has limited return.
-The .docs floating around that contain all the SCs and the 198 700 level quant problems (not all are 700 level, but most seemed like it) from GMAT prep are best source for hard material; don't do these until the end though or your GMATPrep scores will not be representative
-Paper tests, although not adaptive, were great for working on timing in both Q and V (I used the MGMAT OG timer when I took these and followed the time constraints for each section), even though Q is way easier than GMATPrep or real GMAT, being able to sail through the easy Q problems on real GMAT is most important skill I picked up in my final month of prep before retake; for V, there were always a few difficult SCs and CRs and while on the whole most of the problems were easy, emphasis on speed really helped
-Retaking GMAT Prep had diminishing returns: I ALWAYS got 5-10 repeats in Q and V and, particularly for verbal, would always remember the answers and couldn't force myself to sit there for 2 minutes watching the clock tick to truly simulate the experience, so I was always way ahead of time in V whereas on the real test I struggled to finish; I think using the SC/Quant docs is a better use of time
-As everyone notes MGMAT math is harder than real test, but CATs provide best timing practice available
-Don't waste time with KAPLAN or PR Cats or any of those books for that matter, CATs too easy and books lack sufficient detail for quant -- they just don't compare to the MGMAT quant books
-Take NOTES on everything you read, I rarely looked back at them, but by writing I simply learned the material
-Spend time with every question you get wrong, particularly in GMAT Prep, Ron Purewal on MGMT forum's has great explanations for virtually every GMAT Prep question, read them, learn them, then do the question over yourself
-MGMAT SC great, CR bible good for improving skills on attacking causal arguments
-05 versions of GMATPrep had too much overlap with OG, PowerPrep was even worse in this regard
-I learned hundreds of Idioms (even though I'm a native English speaker) using notecards and it felt like only the "most common ones" as outlined in the PR or Kaplan books really appeared on the test, probably not worth the effort if you are a native speaker

If I were to do it all over:
-Buy OG12, Verbal/Quant 2nd editions, MGMAT SC, all MGMAT quant, and CR Bible
-Go through all MGMAT quant books, take detailed notes, do associated MGMAT question bank after you complete each book, don't do OG homework problems, yet
-Go through MGMAT SC and take copious notes (this will be painful), same for CR Bible, though less painful, still don't do OG problems, yet
-Take 1 MGMAT CAT
-Do timed contiguous sets of 10-20 from OG (PS,DS,CR,SC,RC) using MGMAT OG Timer and track in OG Spreadsheet, jump around in terms of difficulty level, sometimes do lower numbers sometimes do higher numbers, the easy problems are just as important to do as the hard problems, I would have ideally done non-contiguous sets (i.e. 1,11,21,31,41) but it was too difficult to get this data into the OG tracker (pasting columns into an auto-filitered spreadsheet doesn't seem possible w/out MACROs), if you get a question wrong or run out of time, try to solve it untimed before looking at official answer (also use MGMAT online OG companion for better explanations
-Intersperse 3-4 more MGMAT CATs during OG practice
-OG practice complete (3 weeks to go), do GMATPrep 1
-2 weeks to go, GMATPrep 2
-Final weeks, redo all OG problems you missed, from SC doc and quant doc w/problems from GMAT Prep do sets of 10-20 (using MGMAT OG timer), take GMAT Prep 1 or 2 again if you want and do final MGMAT CATs

If you run out of material:
-Paper Tests were great speed practice and GMAT Focus was pretty good for new quant problems, though maybe 5 in each take were repeats from OG
-800 score quant was pretty decent, verbal not worth it
-GMAT Club math was hard, sometimes as hard as MGMAT, but also a good resource

Prep Material (good)
OG11, OG12, Verbal/Quant 1st/2nd editions
all MGMAT books (except CR/RC), all question banks, 2 advanced quant "hw" banks (access provided because I had a few hours of tutoring)
Powerscore CR bible
GMAT Focus
Paper Tests I & II
All SCs from GMATPrep
198 quant questions from GMAT Prep
GMATClub Math tests (all "Hardest Question" sets)

Prep Material (bad)
Kaplan 800
Kaplan Premier
PR GMAT
PR 1,012 GMAT questions

In general, I was always in the 40+ range for Verbal, with Quant varying from mid 40s to 50.
Practice test Scores (before 2nd attempt)
GMATPrep 1 (3rd time): 800
GMATPrep 2 (2nd time): 780
800score #2: 780
800score #5: Q48 (no verbal)
800score #1: Q47 (no verbal)
GMAT Focus #3: 47-51
GMAT Focus #2: 47-51
GMAT Focus #1: 46-50
PowerPrep 1: 760
GMATPrep 1 (2nd time): 750

Practice test Scores (before 1st attempt)
GMATPrep 2 (2005 version): 740
GMATPrep 1 (2005 version): 740
GMATPrep 2 (1st time): 740
MGMAT 6: 750
Kaplan #5: 790
MGMAT 5: 720
Kaplan #4: 750
MGMAT 4: 750
Kaplan #3: 780
GMATPrep 1 (1st time): 770
MGMAT 3: 680
MGMAT 2: 700
MGMAT 1: 630

Last edited by dbesser on 07 Dec 2010, 03:56, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:35
Thanks for that, it is an interesting experience you had.
Could you please give me more details about the "MGMAT OG Tracker Spreadsheet and OG timer", so that I can try to build my "error log"? It looks like this is one of the important things to do right?
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:36
btw: congrats, this is a very good score, I wish you all the best for your applications!
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:37
oh, and while I am here: what is "GMAT Focus" exactly? I have never heard of it, could be useful.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:47
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drisss wrote:
oh, and while I am here: what is "GMAT Focus" exactly? I have never heard of it, could be useful.


GMAT Focus is 3 sets of adaptive quant questions from GMAC (it's the 2nd hit when you search on google for GMATfocus, I can't post URLs on this forum as I don't have privileges).

drisss wrote:
Could you please give me more details about the "MGMAT OG Tracker Spreadsheet and OG timer", so that I can try to build my "error log"? It looks like this is one of the important things to do right?


The OG Timer and Spreadsheet are available from MGMAT, I do not know what you need exactly to get access, all I bought was the 6 CAT exams and in the student center, there is a link at the top called "OG Stopwatch". Once you click that, you can download the spreadsheet and you can run an unlimited set of timed exercises which can be exported to a temp spreadsheet and the answers pasted in to the master spreadsheet. Sounds complicated but it's quite easy once you download the master spreadsheet and look at the export from a timed activity.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 04:55
Ok thanks for that, I bought one of the MGMAT books, so I guess I will have access to that, I will give it a try (and get back to you if it gets complicated :P

Thanks for the GMAT focus, I will have a look
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 05:03
hmm... it is a little bit expensive though (65$)... would yu definitely recommend it??? Could you give us a quick "pros Vs Cons"?
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 05:18
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drisss wrote:
hmm... it is a little bit expensive though (65$)... would yu definitely recommend it??? Could you give us a quick "pros Vs Cons"?


I wouldn't spend the money on it unless you have exhausted all the official material, particularly the 198 quant questions from GMATPrep.
There are 3 sets of 24 questions each, you'll probably get 3-4 that you've seen before on each test.
However, it did help to build my confidence so I felt like it was worth it, but others may consider it a ripoff.

Last edited by dbesser on 07 Dec 2010, 03:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 05:21
thank you for all that... appreciate your help.
Good luck for your applications
What schools are you considering?
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 07:42
Well done man,

I had my 1st try on Friday as well (46/40) 690... After reading your post, I am seriously considering giving it another shot. And congratulations to your great result, good luck with the apps.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 16:24
Congrats.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 06 Dec 2010, 19:30
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2010, 00:37
congrats on a great score.

what is - 193 quant questions from GMAT Prep?
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2010, 01:32
Awesome score!!! wish i could take your identity :P
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2010, 03:45
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BlitzHN wrote:
what is - 193 quant questions from GMAT Prep?

Sorry, it should be 198. This is a document I found on one of these forums. A few of the questions are wrong, but other than that, it's a very good resource. A google search for "198 Level 700+ Questions from GMAT Prep I" should do the trick.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2010, 09:42
Thanks man.

dbesser wrote:
BlitzHN wrote:
what is - 193 quant questions from GMAT Prep?

Sorry, it should be 198. This is a document I found on one of these forums. A few of the questions are wrong, but other than that, it's a very good resource. A google search for "198 Level 700+ Questions from GMAT Prep I" should do the trick.
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Re: 750 (Q50, V41) [#permalink] New post 16 Dec 2010, 22:27
How are the gmatfoucus tests any inputs on them.

I am stuck at Q44 or so. Do you have any inputs on how I can improve further. I am done with All quant guides from MGMAT, OG12
Re: 750 (Q50, V41)   [#permalink] 16 Dec 2010, 22:27
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