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750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores

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750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2013, 09:21
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Background

1. I am an Indian IT engineer
2. Work Experience: 9 years
3. Had no idea about GMAT 3.5 months back
4. In my 10th and 12th standards, I was fairly good at Math and English. These skills have grown rusty now
5. I had taken another competitive test, called Common Admission Test (management entrance test in India), 6 years back. Although the format of GMAT differs widely, the basic Math concepts needed for the two exams largely overlap.
6. I have been an average student in my academic career
7. I work from home

Prep Materials

1. Official Guide version 13
2. Manhattan GMAT SC Guide
3. Aristotle SC Grail
4. Manhattan GMAT CR Guide
5. GMAT Verbal Review 2nd Edition
6. GMAT Club Math Book
7. Manhattan GMAT Number Properties Guide
8. 800Score. com 5 Quants short tests
9. Manhattan GMAT 6 CATs
10. GMATPrep 2 CATs
11. Manhattan GMAT Test Simulation Booklet w/ Marker

Preparation

Milestone 1. The Beginning

In March, 2013, I started sensing saturation in my technical role and wanted to progress in my career. I just did not know how. A very dear friend introduced me to the idea of writing GMAT. I found him highly informed. He gave me the initial tips to get started. He also helped me all through my preparation. This score is as much his as mine.

Milestone 2. OG13 purchase

I purchased Official Guide version 13 (OG13), in the middle of April, 2013. By the end of April, I wrote the Diagnostic Test from OG13. This is when I started appreciating GMAT question types, the exam format, etc. I felt motivated to prepare for GMAT at this point.

Milestone 3. OG13 Practice and Review

I started serious preparation from May 2, 2013. My friend advised me to pay equal attention to all test sections during my preparation. I went through the OG13 tips in each test area. For my daily practice, I prepared a table with the following test areas in my notebook:
a. Problem Solving (PS)
b. Data Sufficiency (DS)
c. Reading Comprehension (RC)
d. Critical Reasoning (CR)
e. Sentence Correction (SC)
f. Integrated Reasoning (IR)
g. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

Except for the IR and AWA sections, I attempted 5 to 10 questions from each remaining section more or less daily. I did not time myself initially. I noted down the success rate in my notebook. I reviewed my errors immediately after a short test. My goal was to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I did not have any idea of an error log at this stage.
I tried to understand the pattern of my mistakes. I realized that in RC, I was able to shrink down the answer choices to two and then picked the wrong answer choice invariably. Later on, I realized that in such cases, certain words in an otherwise appealing answer choice can ruin it. I guess, GMAT introduces these words in answer options deliberately. Sample words: “only”, “all”, “more”, “a few”, “some”, “evidence”, “explain”, “discuss”, “describe”, “debate”, etc.
In CR, I had a very bad patch initially. Then I read the first chapter of Manhattan GMAT’s CR guide where they teach you to identify Premise, Assumption and Conclusion. I practiced a few CR’s splitting them into Premise, Assumption and Conclusion explicitly. I did not draw the diagrams that the CR guide suggests you to practice. My CR performance improved dramatically from this point.
My SC performance was pathetic. I reviewed key grammar concepts from my High School Grammar book. However, it did not help me much. I understood that this was my weakest section in Verbal.
I was faring well on PS and DS. I bypassed the Probability and Statistics questions initially. Then, I reviewed my Standard 12 concepts on Probability and tried a couple of MCQ’s from a High School book to reinforce the concepts. In Statistics, Standard Deviation (SD) was a big challenge. A lot later in my preparation, I understood that GMAT tests the understanding of the concept more than the ability to apply the complex formula for SD. GMAT Club Math Book helped me appreciate the various properties of SD and allayed my fear in that area.
I barely did any IR initially, which seemed the toughest section of all. I got a couple of my AWA essays reviewed by my patient friend.
Toward the end of May, I lost zeal. Around that time my work pressure had also increased.

Milestone 4. Inspiration

By June, I had developed a fair idea about the GMAT question patterns and also some sense of the types of errors I was prone to. However, my passion had fizzled. To reinvigorate myself, I started reading debriefs of successful test takers. I came across several good ones in Beatthegmat forum. Some of the interesting ones that I remember are:

Fieldwolf: 770 (Q50, V44) or how I stopped worrying and loved the GMAT
Megadeath: 770(Q-51,V-46), IR-8- How an IIT Guy Cracked the GMAT!

Milestone 5. SC Practice

Mid June, I started SC preparation with passion. I picked up Aristotle SC Grail and went through it at least 4/5 times to absorb almost all the key concepts. I prepared notes for my revision. This book helped me see a method in the madness. My performance on 600-700 level SC questions improved significantly. However, my performance was pathetic on 700-800 level questions still. Following Megadeath’s advice, I started going through MGMAT’s SC guide. This was one hell of a book. I cribbed about the poor organization of the book but could not help appreciating the detailed treatment. This book dealt with concepts to a depth that I had never seen before. To resolve the issue with organization, I plugged these concepts to the revision notes that I had prepared from Aristotle SC grail. I was still faring pathetic on 700 – 800 level questions from GMAT Club. Learning SC concepts is one thing and developing the ability to apply the right concept at the right time is another.
Meanwhile, I started reviewing number theory concepts from MGMAT’s Number Theory guide. However, not much was new.
Finally, I wrote the VeritasPrep Free Mock Test and scored a 680. I was not able to finish any of the test sections in time. I was devastated.

Milestone 6. Timed practice

After the VeritasPrep eye opener, I started practicing CR/RC/SC/PS/DS questions from OG13 in a timed manner. I started reviewing the online IR questions that came with OG13. During this time, I came across a post by Stacey Koprince on time management. The article introduced me to several new ideas:

Stacey Koprince: Everything You Need To Know About Time Management

I tried inculcating a 1 minute time sense and understood that I lacked the required level of discipline and dedication. I left this one point but soaked in the rest. At this juncture, I read an excellent debrief in GMATClub. I found an alternative time management strategy and more:

2x2Matrix: 770 (Q50, V45) < 3 weeks prep: Journal, Advice, Materials

This post introduced me to certain unique ideas. The ideas appealed to me because they were off-beat, innovative and practical. The concepts of “Timebank”, “Cooling off”, “Preparing Grid” were magnificent.
I started taking 800Score. com Quants short tests to eliminate my timing woes. My success rate was average (usually hovered around 25-27 correct responses out of 37).

Milestone 7. Mock Tests

Encouraged by 2x2Matrix’s post, I purchased Manhattan GMAT Test Simulation Booklet w/ Marker for my mock tests. I started taking MGMAT Mock Tests from the beginning of July. I used the Test Simulation Booklet and drew up a time grid on my scratchpad every mock test. I did AWA and IR on all these tests. Here are my scores:

MGMAT 1: 640 (Q46, V32) Date: July 6
MGMAT 2: 670 (Q45 V36) Date: July 17
MGMAT 3: 670 (Q46 V35) Date: July 21
MGMAT 4: 670 (Q45 V36) Date: Aug 3
MGMAT 5: 680 (Q46 V36) Date: Aug 5
MGMAT 6: 670 (Q45 V36) Date: Aug 6

Taking MGMAT mock tests was great practice. MGMAT has a wide pool of just the right questions to familiarize you with the GMAT challenge. I reviewed the mock test results within a couple of days of completing the tests.
I was not disciplined enough in maintaining an Error Log. However, I tried to avoid repetition of similar mistakes on consecutive tests.
The pattern of mistakes I committed was surprising. The mistakes clearly revealed specific areas and subareas for improvement. After taking three tests, I used MGMAT’s reporting feature to analyze my mistakes in the tests. For example, my report showed that I took more than 2 minutes to answer CR questions on argument evaluation. I made most SC mistakes in Pronoun related questions in one of my mock tests. Once I improved that, I made a few errors in Modifiers in my next test. Based on the reports, I concentrated my revision focus.
Nevertheless, I was flummoxed by the MGMAT scores, which were consistently low, compared to my expectations (700+). I was doing moderately well on timing. I had to rush through last 6-7 questions in all sections on most of my tests. However, my biggest complaint is that the MGMAT mock test scores did not reflect the test by test gains I made on the questions that I answered with time on my side.
After the third MGMAT test, with dented confidence, I took my first GMAT Prep mock test with the aim to find out whether my intuition or MGMAT tests scores represented my GMAT preparation better. I took the final GMAT Prep mock test three days before the real thing. I took the remaining MGMAT mock tests in between. Here are my GMAT Prep scores:


GMAT Prep 1: 710 (Q49 V37) Date: July 28
GMAT Prep 2: 740 (Q50 V40) Date: Aug 10

During this phase of my preparation, I revised Quants concepts from the GMAT Club Math book. For refreshing CR skills, I skimmed through Manhattan CR Guide. I devoted maximum time on the chapter on “Minor Question Types”.

There was a video from eGMAT that introduced me to the idea of Takt time and the theory on importance of the first 20 questions over the latter ones. Oops! I have lost the link to the video now. Takt time is the optimum time an individual needs to mark a question of a certain type (e.g., Assumption CR or Inequality DS) correctly. MGMAT’s mock test reports feature can be used effectively to calculate Takt time.
There is a school of thought that suggests that you must answer SC questions by 1 minute. In my case, the strategy did not work. After I got introduced to the concept of takt time, I observed that 1:30 minutes is the average time I needed to mark an SC question correctly. I improved only marginally on that timing later on through practice. In my actual test the average time I took to answer SC questions should have been somewhere close to 1:20 minutes but not 1 minute. However, CR was my strength and I observed that on an average I needed 1:45 minutes there. I read almost all RC passages big or small between 2 to 3 minutes and took 1 minute to answer the questions that followed.
Typically, in the test, you will receive an average of 4 RC passages with a total of 13 questions, 14 CR questions and 14 SC questions. If you do the math, my timing strategy fits perfectly into the total 75 minute span for Verbal. The bottom line is that there is no one size that fits all when it comes to timing strategy. There is no point compromising on accuracy on questions where you tend to be naturally slow. Improve timing where it can be improved and only to an extent that is possible without giving up accuracy. Takt time is a great concept and you can guess it fairly for different question types from MGMAT test reports.
I am still unsure about the importance of the first few questions over the rest. However Bunuel and Vercules from GMAT Club did a wonderful study on GMAT Prep scoring algorithm. Check the interesting results:

Bunuel & Vercules: GMAT Prep Software Analysis and What If Scenarios

Logically, it makes perfect sense to concentrate deep while answering the first few questions in a section. At this stage of the exam, you are getting into your rhythm. So, going slow makes sense. You will accelerate on the final questions anyway and at that time you will, inadvertently, compromise on care. However, we need to define “careful”. To spend extra time in re-reading questions is not being careful. Being careful also does not mean double checking solutions or thinking about the last question after moving out of it. Read questions slowly if that helps you concentrate better. Pause after reading the question stem to absorb what you just read. In PS, check answer options before working out a solution. Keep paperwork clean. This is how you can be careful.

Milestone 8. Last 3 days

In my last GMATPrep mock, where I had scored 740, I had answered 8 questions incorrectly in Quants and 10 questions incorrectly in Verbal. I desperately wanted to score 40+ in Verbal in the real test. My target score required less than 10 Verbal mistakes. I was doing well on CR’s already. For RC there was no strategy that worked for me except staying cool, absorbing the passage with an eye toward its broad organization, attempting the questions, and coming back to specific portions in the passage to resolve the tricky answer choices. I knew improving RC performance in 2 to 3 days was unlikely. However, SC was one area where I had made significant gains in the previous fortnight. There was room for further improvement. In the last three days I read the entire Manhattan SC guide multiple times for theory. In the evening I would attempt questions from the GMAT Verbal Guide to apply my learning. The result of this dedicated effort was amazing. On the eve of the real test, the errors started leaping out to me like never before. I started realizing the issues in the question stems even before I would go down to the options. It was just amazing. I finally mastered SC!

I must acknowledge a GMATClub post that helped me in Verbal:

BeckyRobinsonTPR: Predicting the Answers in GMAT Verbal

During the last three days, I reviewed the Quants questions from my MGMAT tests and the Quants concepts from the GMAT Club Math book. I analyzed the nature of mistakes I had committed in all sections PS/DS/SC/CR/RC during my OG13 practice.

Test Day Experience

I reached the test center an hour before the test start time. Half an hour before the test, the proctor checked my Id and my appointment email, scanned my palms and made me sign on an electronic pad. I was the only person who took the test that day in that center. I was directed to a locker where I kept all my belongings (cell phone, wallet, back pack). I kept my food and a bottle of glucose out of my backpack for easy access. They had some initial trouble with the camera set up at the test center. Thankfully, the issue did not affect my test start time. I was given a couple of spirally bound notebooks with 10 pages each and two sketch pens (blunt tip). The pad and the pen looked very different from my Manhattan Test Booklet and felt pen (sharp tip). I was a little disappointed. I had decided to lay out my time grid on my notepad before the test. I had decided to do this on the untimed screen where I need to select institutes. However, the proctor told me that I am not allowed to pause on that screen for long. This was to respect the overall appointment time of 4 hours. This was a shock for me. I moved ahead. Still, I managed to draw up a grid for IR and Quants using the time allotted on various other tutorial screens, which I had already read during my GMAT Prep exams. Since I was the only person in the room, I was able to concentrate well. In fact, on a couple of questions I might have calculated aloud as well.
AWA was easy. I was able to spot many holes in the question stem. It became a challenge to judge which the biggest holes were. I jotted down my arguments in the first 5-7 minutes and then typed my essay very fast. I had some trouble handling the keyboard. However, I did not let that dampen my spirits. I loosely followed the AWA template recommended by Chineseburned in GMAT Club:

Chineseburned: How to get 6.0 AWA....my guide

I completed the AWA section with 2 minutes to spare. I scanned my essay to identify any glaring mistake. I submitted the essay with a few seconds to spare.

In all my mock tests, I had performed the worst in IR. Mostly, I would not complete the section in time and even if I did, I would guess 5 / 6 questions in a row. I did not care as much about IR score as I cared about its potential to affect my overall morale. Thankfully, I got a dream IR section. The questions were easy and needed minimal calculation. IR section of the test seemed easier than that from any of my previous mocks. I made one mistake though. I should have used the calculator on one question on multi-source reasoning. I guessed instead.
After IR, I took the full 8 minutes break when I washed my face and neck and drank half of my glucose stock. I also stretched my limbs. Invigorated, I started Quants.
Overall, Quants in the test was trickier than that in my GMAT Prep exams. I had planned to pick up speed from the 15th question. However, the nature of questions thwarted my plans to gallop through. Still, I maintained good speed. I zoomed through some of the easy PS questions and guessed a few DS questions along the way to stick to my time grid. I had more than 3 minutes left when I reached the 37th question. I used all the time to work out the solution. I finished Quants with 20 seconds to spare.
I took the 8 minute break at this point. I washed my face and had some chow mein. I finished the bottle of glucose and stretched a little. I also tried to relax mentally. At this point the proctor advised me to resume the test as there were barely a few seconds left. To judge the time without a watch is tough when you are writing GMAT. It gets tougher when you are taking breaks. I had a brief delay in starting the Verbal section. Moreover, I did not have any timing grid drawn up for Verbal. Still, I did not panic. I stuck to my strategy. I started eliminating answer options on scratchpad to arrive at my answers as I had practiced in my practice tests. The questions in GMAT Verbal section were tougher than those from my GMAT Prep Verbals. The SC questions that I dreaded were tough. Still, I was able to spot the splits and issues. I was figuring out CR answers fairly easily. I knew I needed extra time to knock off ‘evaluate’ CR questions and devoted adequate time on those. I zoomed through the RC passages noting the broad structure and the twists in the author’s argument. I was able to knock down the RC questions fairly easily. I completed the Verbal section comfortably with a few seconds in hand.
I was a little nervous when I clicked the button to report my scores. After the scores revealed, I had no regrets.

Advice and Tips

1. Practice OG13 thoroughly including the online IR questions
2. If you are consistently uncomfortable with a particular area, plan to spend extra effort there. For example, I needed to brush up my Probability skills during my preparation.
3. Choose sets of questions for timed practice from OG midway in your preparation. Never select less than 10 questions for such practice. Use bookmarks to flag a variety of questions from different sections of OG.
4. Start taking mock tests at least 6 weeks prior to your target test date
5. Take mock tests in a timed manner
6. Do not skip AWA or IR sections in your mock tests
7. Mock tests are a great way to identify gaps in your preparation. Do not just review the questions and correct answers. Try to find a pattern in your mistakes. Once you find a gap, plug it before the next test.
8. Use a Test Simulation Booklet with Pen for rough work during the mock tests.
9. I found that there are three broad error categories: Careless mistakes, Lack of concepts, Idea depravity
10. Careless mistakes can be tackled through tidy paper work. In Quants, once you realize what has been asked for, write it on a notepad and put a circle or a box around it. So, if a PS question stem asks “what is the value of 2x”, do write the following down and enclose it in a circle/rectangle: 2x= ? Otherwise, you might work out for x and mark an incorrect answer option.
11. In Verbal, use symbols on your notepad to select/eliminate answer choices. For instance, 2x2Matrix (see above) has a picture in his post. The picture shows that he has used “O” to select and “/” to eliminate. I used the symbol “C” for a contender (or selected) and “O” for out (or eliminated). Initially, I may have several contenders in a verbal question. The good part with the C-O symbols is that, I can quickly change a C to a O without overwriting.
12. OG practice and a few initial mocks will clearly show what concepts you lack/need to revise. Do not ignore this signal. Everyone has some weakness or the other. Accept and improve. Note these areas down and record the specific questions. Revise the concepts and retry the questions.
13. Idea depravity happens when you know your concepts well but you are not able to invoke the right concept needed to solve a particular question during a test. Record these questions and revisit them often.
14. Pay special attention to Inequalities and Number Properties concepts during your Quants preparation as a lot of difficult DS questions can hail from here.
15. As explained before, try to understand your takt time in each section in Verbal by the end of a couple of mock tests.
16. Gut feeling is a real help on certain questions whereas mechanical methods are better at others. Identify where your gut-feel works and where it does not. For example, in SC, my gut feel works great in identifying sentence fragments, run ons, and even parallelism but not so much in identifying subject verb agreements or pronoun errors, etc. I used my ear to eliminate glaring run on errors or parallelism issues in a question stem (not answer options) and then scan the same sentence again for S-V Agreement or Pronoun errors. Try this approach on OG13 SC Question # 132 (on ‘heirloom tomatoes’). Run ons and sentence incongruencies in various answer choices can be easily identified using gut feel.
17. When you improve performance in a particular section, you will feel it. Scores may not reflect this always. My MGMAT mock tests did not. Still, respect your intuition. You know yourself best.
18. I did not book a test date till my intuition told me that I have made significant progress in time management as well as in the various sections of the test.

Strategy

1. AWA: I followed Chineseburned’s AWA template for my essays. Initially, I had written a couple of AWA essays in my notebook. Later on, I realized that this was not needed. Later, I typed AWA essay in a word document directly. I did not skip AWA in my mock tests. They are good practice in this largely neglected area.
2. IR: Get familiar with the various question types in this section. This is arguably the toughest section in GMAT. IR can sap you of your energy. Use the “sort” feature on table data to arrive at your answers. I did not realize this on the first few mocks resulting in wastage of time. Mostly, calculator is a largely underutilized feature in IR. Use it if you need it. In my real test, I had a calculation intensive question where I should have used calculator. However, since I did not use it during my practice tests, I forgot about this feature in the test. So, remember calculator.
3. PS: This is core math. If your concepts are clear and you do not suffer from occasional idea depravity during the test, you should do well. However, be careful about two things. Clean paperwork is needed to avoid careless mistakes. Answer options need to be checked before starting to work out problems. If you have 4 seemingly improbable answer choices, you will be able to pick up the fifth correct answer without working out a solution. Remember Bruce Lee’s famous dialogue from the movie “Enter the Dragon”: “You can call it the art of fighting without fighting”. For example, check OG13 PS Question # 138
4. DS: The AD BCE strategy is helpful in DS. My occasional inability to evaluate sufficiency of statement (2) independent of the information in statement (1) was the biggest source of DS careless errors. Do not let that happen to you. Keep paperwork clean to counter this issue. Also, remember to test three categories of numbers for trial and error on DS questions related to numbers: negative numbers, fractions and zero. The most common numbers that we test are positive integers but they are not always enough. Also, remember that if you cannot deduce a unique answer from any one statement in the question stem, the statement is not sufficient. Sometimes DS question stem asks if a particular expression is true or false. E.g.,
If x is a positive integer, is x even?
(1) x + 5 is an even integer
(2) x-7 is an even integer
Statement (1) & (2) independently yield that x is always odd (reverse of what the question stem has asked). Statement (1) as well as statement (2) is still independently sufficient to answer the question. So the correct answer choice is (D) in this case. One common careless mistake I used to commit was to eliminate statement (1) & (2) as insufficient in such cases as they turn the statement in the question stem false. So, carelessly, I might answer (E). For example, check OG13 DS Question # 136
5. RC: Understanding the passage with special attention to location of critical arguments within the passage helped me. Occasionally, understanding the significance of certain words in the passage helps. For example, answer to OG13 RC Q#83, hinges on the word “Surprisingly” used in the passage. Like me, if you are usually confused between two answer choices, focusing on the significance of words used in the question stem and/or answer choices will help. Watch out for restrictive words like “all”, “only”, “never”, “always”, “most”, etc. Also, watch out for subtle differences between words like “discuss”, “evaluate”, and “explain”, etc; “evidence”, “assumption” and “opinion”, etc.
6. CR: I practiced to distinguish between Premise, Assumption and Conclusion. I studied the various CR types from Manhattan CR guide. Based on my error pattern, I came up with the following modus operandi for CR:

A. Glance through the question statement (to check what the CR is asking for – assumption, strengthening point, weakening point, or role of boldface statements, etc)
B. Read the paragraph with the aim of identifying "Premise(s)" and "Conclusion". In most cases I develop a hunch about the answer at this point. Example:

a) what is an (unstated and conservative) assumption,
b) what kind of information can strengthen/weaken the conclusion (important for "evaluate" questions)
c) what can be an inference
d) tone (boldfaces)

C. Fuzzy idea about possible answer choice should be formed by this stage
D. Look at the answer options with the fuzzy idea formed. More often than not, the correct answer choice can be identified through elimination.

7. SC: I had to spend a lot of time on SC. I am happy that the investment paid off. I went through the Manhattan SC guide multiple times. During my first few passes, I highlighted all the portions, where I found counter-intuitive information. In my latter passes, I noted down a few relevant Mock test, OG13, and Verbal review question references against relevant theory sections. Based on the pattern of my mistakes, I reviewed relevant sections of the SC guide, regularly. During the final few days, I devoted a lot of time to cover the book from end to end in not more than three sittings. During this phase, I practiced 10 – 15 new questions each day to ensure that I can consistently apply what I learnt. I had saved my Verbal Review questions for this purpose. Make sure, you know how to split/resplit answer options. It has been explained at the beginning of the SC guide. Form your own modus operandi based on your mistakes. Here is mine:

A. Read the question stem looking for buzz words/constructs/idioms
B. Check if any of the following tactics need to be applied on the question stem:

a) Abstraction (mentally replacing long sentence portions with variables, like X, Y, etc)
b) Flipping
c) Ignoring (e.g., sentence portions between commas)

C. Fuzzy idea about what the question tests should be formed by this stage.
D. Are sentence portions shifted around?
A) YES: Read answer options HORIZONTALLY for modifier and run on issues

a) Misplaced modifier
b) Dangling modifier
c) Run Ons
d) Sentence fragments
e) Glaring parallelism issues

B) NO: Test the following on answer options VERTICALLY*

a) Verb number check (Plural noun/pronoun – Plural Verb touch traps)
b) Pronoun number check (Trap: Singular pronoun separated by a long distance from referred tricky plural noun, e.g., criteria, phenomena, etc)
c) Pronoun case check (possessive noun traps)
d) Apple to Apple comparison check (careful: Like/As traps)
e) Run on check in long sentences (Independent clauses without subordinators or semicolons or comma-conjunction combinations)

E. Test the clarity of meaning

a) logical sense
b) superficial and actual parallelism
c) contrast

F. Decide tie breakers on Concision

a) BE CAREFUL of pronoun disambiguation traps

*VERTICAL reading method:
A. First check the first word and the last word for differences
B. Try “split/re-split” using pen and paper

8. Timing: I had my biggest challenges here. There is no one prescription to get rid of timing issues. Carefully inculcating a sense of urgency in the mock tests helped me to a great extent. I used to slow down around question #15 in Quants and Verbal. If needed, scratchpad can be marked in advance with indicative flags to pace up near problem question numbers (e.g., Question #15 in my case). I timed my OG13 question practice during the latter half of my preparation. I had a tendency to slow down in Verbal. This section has maximum number of questions, 41. Also, a test taker enters this section with a fatigued brain. A couple of RC passages toward the end can impact confidence and score. Try to apply the time bank strategy by consciously trying to save time on the initial questions and spend the savings wisely later on. Time can be saved without compromising on accuracy. The initial questions are relatively simple. Clean paper work in scratch pad can ensure accuracy. Initially, I used to take short cuts by not using scratchpad for answer choice elimination. Later on, I realized I was wasting more time on certain tricky questions by re-reading answer choices and getting into a negative time position too often. I improved my Verbal paper work since then. I cannot emphasize enough the need for taking full length mock tests in a simulated environment. Many experts advise against taking tests at home. However, I religiously took all of my mock tests at home. Also, you cannot avoid pausing exams occasionally when you take full scale mock tests. I tried to keep these interruptions at a minimum during my mock tests.

Review of materials

1. OG13 is terrific preparation material. However, to extract the maximum value out of it, a disciplined and regular approach is needed. I was regular but not highly disciplined. For instance, I did not maintain an Error Log consistently. Also, I have observed that a lot of people complain that OG questions are too simple and lack the fuel to get you past the 700 mark. I have noticed that the questions in each section of OG13 after Question #100 tend to get difficult. Although I am no expert in judging the difficulty level of questions, I believe practicing OG13 questions strategically can take you to 700+ zone. You do not need any other prep book for practice.
2. Manhattan SC guide is an awesome book. A thorough research on past GMAT questions must have gone into the preparation of this guide. It discusses individual issues in detail and adopts no short cut strategy. However, I was not as happy with the format/organization of the book as I was with the content. Related concepts are scattered all over the book and I found it tricky to collect all relevant concepts for revision. For example the book discusses the “possessive case” in at least 4 different chapters. Still, I strongly recommend this book for SC concepts. Several re-reads may be needed before the mind develops a judgment sense based on the various rules discussed in the book. Such a consciousness dawned on me on the eve of the exam. I tested this sense on Verbal Review SC questions and the results were impressive. So, be patient.
3. Aristotle SC Grail is a good SC book too. It scores over Manhattan SC guide in organization. It is a good starting point for SC concepts and the tips presented can be highly effective for simple SC questions. However, I felt that it lacked the depth of Manhattan SC guide. It is difficult to answer every 700+ level SC question based on the concepts presented in Aristotle SC guide alone.
4. Manhattan GMAT CR guide helped me understand CR’s. After reading the first chapter I understood the different ways to identify Premise, Conclusion in a CR passage. It also introduced me to the idea of “Assumptions”. Remarkably, around 70% of OG13 CR questions are “Assumption” related! If this is a representative distribution of GMAT CR questions, just one chapter of the book helped me answer 70% of the questions! I skimmed through the rest of the book and found most other chapters less rewarding. However, the chapter on Minor Question Types was helpful. This chapter discussed various difficult CR types and strategies to tackle them.
5. I purchased GMAT Verbal Review late. Toward the end of my preparation, I used this book as a sandbox to perfect the concepts I had learnt. It is a good book. The book has retired GMAT questions. Buy it if you run out of authentic questions and feel the need for additional practice.
6. GMAT Club Math book helped me refresh my Quants concepts. I knew a lot of the concepts already. But I had forgotten some. The book helped me to refresh all of them and introduced me to some new ones. This is a good book to get all the key Quants concepts in a nut shell. Additionally, there are a few tricks on very common question types. I had highlighted them all during my first reading and revised them before my exam.
7. Manhattan GMAT Number Properties guide was helpful. But I do not think it covered any concept that the GMAT Club Math Book missed. Also, I did not like the extra emphasis given on drawing charts/boxes etc.
8. I used the 800Score. com Quants tests to improve my timing and accuracy in Quants. They were good practice at a time when I did not have enough time or preparation to take full length mocks.
9. Manhattan GMAT mock tests were splendid in terms of the question pool. The questions resembled actual GMAT questions closely. I reviewed the questions several times during my preparation. The ability to generate reports is a bonus. I used it to judge my Takt time and weaknesses. In the last week of my preparation, I solved all the tough questions from these mocks again. However, my biggest complaint against MGMAT mock tests is around its scoring algorithm. MGMAT mock test scores did not reveal my gradual gains. Never increasing mock test scores almost frustrated me.
10. GMAT Prep Mock tests are indispensable. They use the real GMAT scoring algorithm and hence score over MGMAT mock tests. On the flip side, you just get two such tests. There is a high likelihood of questions repeating if more than two tests are attempted (As I learnt from posts by others). Both the GMAT Prep tests were very significant in my preparation. The first test supported my intuition of progress while MGMAT mock test scores sank my morale. The second one, taken two days prior to the real thing, closely predicted my scores and helped me set concrete targets for the real test.
11. Manhattan GMAT Test Simulation Booklet with marker was a wise purchase. I used this regularly during my mock tests. I got comfortable with handling notepads in the real exam. The time grid was a big part of my exam strategy. Thankfully, I had practiced laying that out on the scratchpad in advance.

Thanks

1. My family: They held their patience during the last three odd months while I prepared.
2. My friend: Had he not informed and guided me all through the preparation I would not have written GMAT today.
3. My company: It provided me with the opportunity to work from home. Although workload was not any less during the preparation phase, still I could save commutation time each day and devote that to my preparation.
4. GMAT Club, Beat the GMAT and Manhattan GMAT blog contributors: Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge, strategy, experience, and prep material.

Update 8/30/2013: Official scorecard is out. AWA 6.0 and IR 7

Last edited by Invertendo on 22 Dec 2013, 22:57, edited 19 times in total.
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Re: 750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2013, 14:43
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Dear Invertendo,

750 is a great score. I am glad that the concept of Takt time helped you and that you applied the same diligently. It's excellent how you worked out your strengths and weaknesses and planned accordingly. Everyone should do that to fine tune their preparation and maximize their performance on the exam. Lastly, I applaud that you stuck to your strategy despite starting late in the Verbal Section.

I also like your notion of "Idea depravity". It makes perfect sense.

By the way - the session in which I discuss Takt Time is on Sunday. Interested folks can join the same by clicking here
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Re: 750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2013, 22:52
Congrats on your score. Your hard work paid off.
I am impressed by the clarity in your thinking and planning - A very important area, apart from studying, for people who are trying for a 700+ score.
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Re: 750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 22 Aug 2013, 14:18
Thank you for such a long debrief. Partly could see myself both in the profile and the way you prepared... All the best with your Essays.
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Re: 750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 23 Aug 2013, 21:48
First, Congrats on such an awesome score.

This debrief is one of the the best...motivating, knowledgeable,great advice & tips... you have covered everything in it...thanks for taking time to write such a long debrief.
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750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores [#permalink] New post 05 Aug 2014, 03:22
Dear Invertendo,

I am scheduled to write the GMAT in about 7 weeks. I hope I can do as well as you have. First of all congrats on your fantastic score. Secondly, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write one of the best debriefs I have come across yet! The depth of detail and the clarity of the ideas you have expressed above is nothing short of encouraging and inspirational. Thanks again.:)

-K
750 (Q50 V41): How I bettered my mock test scores   [#permalink] 05 Aug 2014, 03:22
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