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An Epic Battle With The GMAT Comes To An End - 740! [#permalink]
15 Jul 2006, 19:31
This post was BOOKMARKED
My Score: 740 (48 Quant, 44 Verbal)
I have spent a lot of time reading the messages on these boards and never actually posted anything. My GMAT experience is a long and painful one (with a happy result). It started a year and a half ago when I took a princeton review course. I went into the test shooting for a 680+. I was shocked and dissapointed when a 650 showed up on the screen. I decided I'd go in a week later and take it again (this was when ETS ran it and you were alowed to stack test dates like that) to my horror I scored a 650 again! At this point I gave up on the GMAT. A year and a half later I decided to take it up again. This time I studied even harder and my practice test scores where higher (680-700 range). This time I was sure I would hit at least 680. Went in, took the test, felt good. My score: 650!!!!! I was DEVESTATED!! I even came close to crying (and since I'm a man of course i never cry - haha). The next morning I woke up and said, This test is not going to get the better of me! This is when I started to incorporate some things I learned on this forum. I made an error log. I timed every question. I took Kaplan and MGMAT tests because their harder. And I took GMATPrep 4 times (included retakes which had a couple duplicates). By the way, GMATPrep is exactly like the real thing. During the next month of intense study my practice tests were as follows:
Kaplan 1: 570
Kaplan 2: 600
Kaplan 3: 700
MGMAT 1: 620
GMATPrep1: 720 (include a couple repeats because I'd taken it before my last test)
GMATPrep2: 720 (2-3 repeats)
GMATPrep1: 730 (5-6 repeats)
GMATPrep 3: 750 (nearly half repeats)
I would be more than happy to share my observations on the difficulty of the real test (as well as how it compares to the ETS version) and how it compares to princeton, kaplan, mgmat, gmatprep and powerprep practice tests. I also have a ton of information on pacing strategies (which was a major problem for me on math), math content strategies, verbal content strategies, error log etc. I have studied obsessively for so long that I feel like I know this test inside and out.
So if you have ANY questions, shoot away!
Thanks to everyone for the congrats. I am still recovering from last night but I will do my best to answer all the questions.
I believe that everything (RC, method of attacking questions, pacing, etc) is tied together. First, and most important, while it may seem obvious I would say that the most important thing is to maintain focus at all times! I'm sure you're saying, "well of course I will stay focused because its such an important test" but the thing to remember is that by the time your approaching the end of the verbal section the GMAT has been punishing you for nearly 4 hours (and I think if you've done well on math its even worse because GMAT can really throw some pretty brain draining questions at you). When I took the GMAT a month ago I definately started to lose focus on Verbal. A big part of my solution to this problem (and I think it deserves a major caveat that this is not appropriate for everyone) was to drink a red bull (in a thermos to stay cold) and eat a protein bar after the Quant section. I don't think its a good idea to drink cafeeine at the start of the test because you will start to "crash" before the test ends and obviously this is not what you want. Also, I think everything with cafeeine is a diuretic and thats not good. But I think drinking it after quant gives you a great boost to keep you focused during verbal.
Ok, now as far as overall strategy for attempting problems I really think its Critical to use Process of Elimination. There were many, many times on practice tests where I felt uncomfortable with the answer but since I had eliminated everything else for better reasons I picked it and got it right. On verbal, many times the "correct" answer will still be very lousy. So write ABCDE on your paper and use POE.
Reading Comp: On reading comp I thinks its appropriate to use what I called a "multi-pronged strategy" to attacking RC problems. I place RC in 3 categories. Category 1 is a passage thats relatively short, its on a topic that you are very comfortable with, and you are not behind on your pacing. On these passages I think its worth it to read the whole thing, understand it and then answer the questions. Category 3 (I know I skipped 2) only applies to the last passage and it is when you are way behind on your pacing and you get a pretty long passage. Category 2 is the most common and I used my category 2 strategy on 3 of the 4 passages on my last GMAT. It is basically everthing that does not fall into cat. 1 or 3. I will get to the strategies for each category in a second. First, I think its important to point out that the primary reason that I use 3 different strategies on RC is Pacing. Like i said at the begining I think everything ties together (ie your strategy for attacking questions must be a strategy that helps you get the correct answer and finish the test on time). By the way my Verbal pacing schedule was: 50-55 minutes left after first 10, 30-35 minutes left after number 20, 15-20 minutes after number 30. Memorize this.
I think Category 1 is pretty self explanatory.
Ok, RC Category 2: The first thing you need to do is BRIEFLY skim through the passage. Usually that means reading all of the first paragraph, the first sentence of body paragraghs and the last sentence in the passage. The important thing here is to NOT GET BOGGED DOWN IN THE DETAILS. GMAT kills you with the details on RC. They throw way to much stuff at you. After I skim a passage I get a very brief idea of what the passage says such as "the author is trying to convince me that Just In Time manufacturing is good" thats it. keep it simple. Its very easy to get bogged down in the details and its tough to train yourself to ignore the details on your first read through but I think its critical. You also need to write a very, very brief 1 sentence on each paragraph. At the end of this brief read through you should have a very simplified idea of what each paragraph and the passage overall are talking about. You should also note whether the author is trying to convince you of something (ie making an argument) or if he is simply discussing something. knowing this will help a ton on the general questions. Now at the end of this brief read through you should not know details. If they spent a paragraph talking about some study, then thats all you should know about that paragraph. you don't care about the details of the study. Now its time to go to the questions. There are 2 types: specific and general. General basically is, what is the purpose of the passage type Q's. This should be easy for you. Use POE. Was the author discussing something or arguing? If he was discussing than eliminate something such as, to argue about ... or to defend. keep choices such as "describing, discussing, explaining". This should get you down to 2 or 3 choices right away. Now look for ones that fit your brief one sentence describing the passage. Eliminate answers that are to strongly worded, and one's that have to broad or to narrow a scope. Ok, type 2 is specific Q's. Now its time to learn some details of the passage (but only the details GMAT asks you about, usually there are major parts of the passage that GMAT will not even give you a question on). On these you just need to go back to the passage and look for the word, topic, etc that the Q is asking about. When you find it read a couple lines above and a couple lines below. Go back to the Q and use POE. Do you have it? If not, go back and see if the word shows up somewhere else in the passage. It also might be a good idea to think of your answer before you look at the answer choices so that you don't fall for traps.
Category 3: Is basically the same as 2 except that you just go straight to the questions cuz you are really short on time.
Now the last thing I want to mention on RC is that the last passage on the GMAT is VERY IMPORTANT. I personally believe this is the most critical part of the entire section. On GMAT you get 4 passages and 1 is experimental. I don't think that last one is experimental. A month ago i was doing very well on verbal (lots of bold face RCs etc) but i screwed up my pacing and blew of the entire last passage. This killed my score! If at all possible you need to save yourself enough time to use approach 2 (above) on this last passage. But at the very least, keep a clear head, go straight to the questions and try to get at least half of them right. When you do OG practice on RC you should practice all 3 approaches to passages until you are fully comfortable with all of them. On the real test your pacing will determine what approach you use on a particular passage.
Sentence Correction: For right now i just want to say that you can't let yourself get bogged down on an SC you can't solve. If your over 2 minutes and you can't figure it out you probably won't. Eliminate answers you know are wrong, guess and move on. Save this time for Q's you have a better chance to get right (of course this may not apply if SC are your best questions).
I have a little more to say on SC, CR, and verbal pacing and a lot to say on Math strategies and pacing. I will post this information later today. I hope this stuff helps a little.
Ok, I'm back to try and add the rest of the info. First off, I forgot to mention that when you try out these new methods for RC it is very possible that you will actually be slower and have lower accuracy at first (I'm pretty sure that happened to me). But if you keep practicing at it and don't get bogged down in the details it should improve both timing and accuracy. Also, for practice probs I strongly believe that the 3 OG books are far superior to anything else out there (fyi Kaplan RC's are awful don't waste your time on these).
Ok, onto SC. I have read some very good things about the MGMAT sentence correction book on this forum from people that performed very well on the Verbal (Rhyme comes to mind). I bought the book but didn't end up using it much because I'd already gone through the princeton review SC lessons and MGMAT seemed to have a little bit too much information for me. I think your well of with either MGMAT or Princeton Review for sentence correction. PR is a bit more condensed, MGMAT is a bit more thorough. Whichever source you use the bottom line is that you need to have the big 6 (or 8 depending on the source) errors down cold. This can only come through learning the rules and practicing. Now, one thing I would like to mention is that the SC on the GMAT seems to be a bit tougher than OG or PR problems (but very similar to GMATPrep). The errors being tested are more subtle (change in meaning, redundancy, style, etc) and there are rarely clear "splits" in the answer choices. Chapter 1 in MGMAT covers these topics well (PR seems to mostly skip over that stuff). Unfortunately I can't give you to much more advice on SC, its something where you really just need to study the rules. However, I would like to point out again that POE (process of elimination) is very helpful on SC. A lot of the time you will not like the answer GMAT has chosen, but if you have concrete reasons that the other choices are wrong then you have found the "correct" answer (to me correct on GMAT Verbal often just means the best of crappy options). Also, don't get sucked into a really hard SC on the test. Its easy to spend to much time staring at a sentence and then find yourself way behind on pacing. Don't let this happen to you. Also, I think its a good idea to review a list of common GMAT idioms (PR and MGMAT have lists) but the way to really learn idioms is through practice and an error log.
CR: These were my favorite questions on the entire test. For some reason I just really got it so I didn't spend to much time working on CR. I think the main thing with CR is to first find the conclusion. If your not sure that what you identified is actually the conclusion use the "why test". The why test involves asking why to whatever statement you think is the conclusion. Example: Therefore the manager thinks sales will go down. Ask, why will sales go down?. The rest of the passage should logically answer that question. If the why test fails then you are looking at a premise and not a conclusion. Another thing thats helpful (particularly on strengthen, weaken and assumption questions) is to identify the assumption and write it on your scratch paper. The assumption will "fill the gap" between the author's conclusion and the statements he uses to support that conclusion. If you can't see the assumption its probably because you are making the same assumption as the author. Step back for a second and think, what am I assuming? why does this argument make sense to me? Now take your conclusion and assumption info and go to the answer choices. Apply POE. Oh by the way, read the question and write down strengthen/weaken etc on your paper before you read the argument. This will prevent careless errors such as picking an answer that strengthens on a weaken problem.
Last thing on Verbal. You should time every single practice problem that you do. Shoot for 1.5 mins SC, 2 min CR, 2 min per Q for RC passages and 2 mins Quant. Keep a log that shows question type, time, right or wrong and diagnosis. If you get the question wrong (or even if you got it right but the problem made you realize something important) make a note of why you got it wrong. You may end up noticing that you keep missing certain idioms (I kept missing the "consider" idiom for example). These are the idioms you should memorize. Also, there is a great pacing strategy series article on MGMAT. I'll try to post a link later.
I hope this helps you guys out a little bit on the Verbal section.
Math will follow
couple quick comments before I get to Math. willget800 - I would not say that princeton review verbal is easier than the real thing. In fact, I would say its the closest to the real thing of any of the practice tests. PR math, on the other hand, is much easier than the real GMAT. Also to the poster who asked where my score improvement came from. My first GMAT was 40/40. My last one was 48Q/44V.
Math Pacing and Strategy:
I developed what I called the 3 point plan for GMAT Math. Its cheasy I know, and some of my "points" are rather cheasy also but I do think there's some valuable info in here.
1) Always Be Attacking (I told you these were cheasy).
Don't stare blankly at the question. Usually just finding some way to start attacking - write down rules from the question stem, start a factor tree, transcribe diagram, put together a rate pie (this is a PR thing), etc - will lead to the path of getting the answer. Also, sometimes you may not see the "shortcut" right away but if u just start working the problem the long/hard way oftentimes the shortcut will appear (even if the shortcut doesnt appear it is better to start working it the long way right away than to just sit there staring at the screen wasting time trying to think of the shortcut). Believe me, you can waste a lot more time staring blankly at the screen then you think (at least I know I can). I also believe that "Always be attacking" allows you to more quickly . . .
2) Recognize when you need to make an educated guess and move on.
In my experience there was always at least 1 but usually 2-5 problems I had to make educated guesses on. You must use the internal clock you've been developing through practice problems to notice when you are around the 1.5-2 minute mark. At this mark you need to make a quick pacing decision. If you think the problem is going to take 4+ minutes or you have no idea how to solve it you need to make an educated guess and move on. If you are confident that you can answer it correctly in less than 4 minutes, continue working the problem. DS is usually ideal for making educated guesses cause you can usually get it down to AD/BCE or BD/ACE or even CE in 2 minutes or less (ask me if these splits don't make sense to you and i'll explain them). Then you might get stuck and even another 2 minutes won't make things any clearer. THIS IS IMPORTANT - recognizing where you are on the test helps out a lot with guessing. For example if i'm on #10 and feel like i've been doing real well then i probably am getting a real hard question. If this question is a DS and statement 1 says something really obvious that clearly is sufficient and statement 2 says something really complicated then the answer is probably not A (that would be to easy) the answer is most likely D.
3) Make every guess an educated guess
Hopefully you can find a way to eliminate at least one answer choice (look for answers that are to obvious, answers that are to big for the constraints given in the problem, etc).
Also, my pacing schedule was 50 mins left after the first 10, 30 minutes after #20, and 10 minutes for the last 7. Just memorized 50/30/10. I know that there's some dispute as far as the importance of the early problems but I took GMATPrep like 6 time and I can tell you that my performance on the first 6 Q's explained like 90% of my score. If you do well on the first 6-7 you basically just have to maintain for the rest of the test. My 3 point plan above is applicable to questions 8-37 only. The first 6-7 questions deserve extra care (re-read the question before you pick your answer, do a quick double check of your work, etc). Usually, you can be a little extra careful on these early problems and not really fall off pacing because they are also the easiest questions you'll get on the whole test.
One last comment on math: To eliminate careless errors I think its a good idea to re-read what the question asks you to solve for (or what the constraints are in a must be/DS questions) before you pick your answer. It only takes an extra second and I think it eliminates the most common careless errors (like having your answers in inches instead of feet or dissproving a DS statement using a number that is not allowed based on the question stem).
Thats it for Math. Please feel free to continue to fire away with any questions you have. If you have questions that are more specific, questions about practice tests, study materials, whatever. I am more than happy to help. I know how brutal it can be trying to prepare for this test and now that I've made it I want to do anything I can to help.
Last edited by IHateTheGMAT on 16 Jul 2006, 22:35, edited 1 time in total.
"To dream anything that you want to dream, that is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself, to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed."
I am facing similar things in my practice.. I am just not able to improve my verbal score.. it keeps hovering around 33 to 36.. for Princeton.. And I know GMAT is harder.. I gave my Gmat once scored 660.. Q:50,V:29.. My practice scores from before I gave official GMAT in Verbal also ranged from 33 to 36.. So I feeel no improvement.. Any suggestions? ideas?
Dude, this was a fantastic post - especially to see that determination of not letting it get the better of you. Feels good for people like me who sometimes have had days when giving practice tests - and when I read this, I know I stand a chance too!
Great stuff. I'll look forward to the quant posts. What schools are you targetting?
necromonger - I am very glad that I could provide encouragment. I definitely had times when studying for this test would get me down but you just have to keep plugging away at it. With hard work and determination I'm sure you'll reach your goal. As far as the schools I'm looking at I still need to sort of refine my list but I'm thinking: Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Chicago and a hail mary pass at Harvard.
I also had one more thing I wanted to say about math. I think its very important to be flexible with your approaches to problems. There are usually multiple ways to get to the same answer. For example a word problem might be able to be done using algebra or backsolving. A DS might be able to be done by re-arranging equations or by picking numbers. I think that you need to be comfortable doing problems multiple ways (sometimes I would solve the same OG problem multiple ways for practice). This basically just gives you more "tools" for dealing with math. Now when your taking the test, you can use whatever approach seems easiest or fastest for that particular problem and then apply it. For example, backsolving can sometimes take much longer than algebra but sometimes (especially if your unsure of how to work the problem) it can be faster. Also, with backsolving, plugging in, etc you are less likely to make a mistake that will lead you to one of the GMAT's trap answers.
Last edited by IHateTheGMAT on 18 Jul 2006, 22:05, edited 1 time in total.
thanks a lot for the detailed post.. i feel encouraged. i have been down for a while.. and reading your post gives me some encouragement to keep it going...
The problem I face is.. I see most people find it easier to improve quant, but ahrder to improve verbal.. you were able to get your verbal score from 40 to 44.. which is great.. but were yuou already on 40 before you started any preparation? i got a 29 in verbal.. in my practice exams i was 33 to 36.. but somehow I got 29 in the final one.. now again i am scoring 33 to 36 range.. i just dont know how to get that above 36...
willget800 - I did not start at a 40 on verbal that was just my score on my first official test. I think my first practice test I got around a 34-35. So, I improved from 35 to 40 and then later I improved from 40 to 44. Verbal improvement is possible, just keep working at it! On your official test where you got a 29, how did you do on the last RC passage? Did you have to totally blow it off because you were short on time? How was your pacing?
I think my RC was way earlier.. All my RCs if I remember was completed before question 35..
I think my pacing was ok.. I had 3 minutes left for the last question.... from what I remember when I used to get 35-36 in verbal, it was because I used to get 12/14 right on CR..
I think I found the CR's different and the SC's different from OG.. It kind of blew me off.. CR's were generally my strength...... RC's I got easy passages..
One thing I knew for sure that my head was aching a lot after my quant.> i was drained mentally after quant!
I still feel sometimes maybe it was just a bad day.. because I have not got 29 again with all the practice exams that I do.. I get 80% in CR and RC. Sc was always fluctuating variedly...
PS: So you feel PR Verbal is of the same level? Because I just scored a 41 in PR Test 3 today.. dont know if this looks like a good thing... or is it just a score that will decieve me in the final frontier..
Thanks a lot for your help!
Congratulations on the great score.
You have really given some great tips and insights in this post.
Best of luck woth your Apps and I will try to follow the quant tips you have given.
I have a habit of staring blankly
willget800 - to be honest it sounds to me like you just had a bad day. Now that you're at 41 Verbal on PR I think you should be fine. Nonetheless I've thought of a couple things I wanted to suggest to you. First of all I noticed that you said you felt mentally drained after quant. Thats exactly what happened to me on earlier GMATs. I think that having a little cafeeine (red bull) and a snack after the quant section really helped me stay focused last time. Unless you never drink caf., in which case this would be a bad idea, I think you may want to consider it. Also, I agree with you that the SCs on the GMAT seem to be a bit tougher than OG. I think GMATPrep is the closest. I would suggest doing some retakes of GMATPrep, you'll see some repeats but most questions will be new and even if your score is a little skewed due to the repeats I still think its a good idea to see as many GMATPrep questions as possible. In addition to that I would do some focused work on SC. Re-work whatever guide you used to learn SC rules PR, MGMAT, etc and then do a lot of extra work in OG and GMATPrep and make sure that you use POE. Do you own the OG Verbal supplement? As far as CR goes, with your hit rate on practice tests I'm thinking it may have simply been the fact that you were so mentally drained from quant that made you think the Q's were so difficult. After all I think Crs require the most brain power on the Verbal section.
ps_dahiya, I'm glad you liked my RC strategies. Remember that you might temporarily get worse at RC before you get better but you will improve. I think its a good idea to practice all 3 ways of doing RCs on OG passages. Once you're comfortable with all 3 approaches you will have that many more "tools" to help you attack the GMAT. And depending on your speed and accuracy using the various approaches you'll be able to be flexible during the GMAT and apply the appropriate technique based on time remaining, etc.
buzzgaurav, Do you time yourself when you practice OG? Thats where I realized how much time I was wasting staring blankly at problems. Assuming you have already covered the material I think its a good idea to start timing yourself on individual problems and keeping a log. On the other hand I think that people that are just starting their GMAT practice should focus on accuracy before timing. Let me know if you have any questions.
Last edited by IHateTheGMAT on 17 Jul 2006, 21:38, edited 1 time in total.
wow... this reminds me of rhyme's story great determination and aggressiveness... I guess those are the most important ingridients for success!!!
I found some useful tips from your post as well... especially the timing strategy on verbal and explanations on RCs... I used to hate CRs as well as they take a toll on a brain power, but now I kind of like those.
Agree with SC... it is all about the rules
As far as math... WOW ... may be my staring at the question is the problem that keeps me from higher math scores... I would stare at it trying to look for shortcuts -> don't find those and my mind is slowly shifting the focus... by the time I decide that backsolving should be the easiest here time ticked away 1 min Aggressive approach should help... one really doen't want to focus on the big picture while s/he does a specific problem.
thanks for your post... and good luck in the future plans