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BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730

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BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 07:43
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First of all, I must say that I have aced many competitive exams but have never experienced an exam like the GMAT. It’s not as difficult as my engineering entrance since the questions on the test are relatively simple from a technical standpoint; it is not as tedious to prepare for as the GRE (which I aced long back); yet it’s more difficult to ace. This exam challenged me in ways that I had not imagined, but in the process it has taught me a lot of valuable lessons, which I am sure, will help me later on.

My name is Madhu and I am an electrical engineer by profession. I have worked in US for the last 6 years. I have a Master’s degree and have been a straight A student throughout my career. However, I stumbled in my first attempt and scored a dismal 640 (Q50, V28) in March. Then I took the GMAT again last week and was able to improve my score to 730 (Q50, V39). The last 3 months have been an enlightening experience for me; and I am sharing what worked for me. Hopefully this will help you.

First Attempt: Stuck with Stagnant Verbal score



Like most Indians, I am good in quant. So acing the quant portion was not very challenging. I read through the entire MGMAT series in 1 week, and was mostly done with it in about 10 days. I learned a few things from their number properties book. My boyfriend gifted me Kaplan 800 (he was pretending to be caring!!). This was ok but not as challenging. With all this prep, I was easily able to hit 49. I then discovered this forum and looked at questions from GMAT club tests in the quant forum. They were more challenging than MGMAT and Kaplan 800 and probably provided a final push towards 50.

Verbal was a totally different story. I had read horror stories about GMAT verbal, so most of my time during the first attempt was focused on GMAT verbal. I had each and every reputable book on my shelf including Wren and Martin Grammar, Doing Grammar, MGMAT book set, Veritas books, and Powerscore SC and CR. Yet I failed miserably on Verbal. Here are some of the reasons of my failure.

    1: Referred to multiple sources: GMAT is unlike research where you refer to multiple sources to get better. For GMAT, learning the same things from multiple books is a downside. It only confuses you and downs your confidence. The funny thing is that you don’t realize this while reading the book because as you are reading the book, you feel as if you are learning new terminologies. This realization happens when you take your mock scores and when you have to revise a concept. Imagine, revising Verb-ing modifiers from MGMAT, Powescore, and Doing Grammar, with each one providing slightly different information and analysis.

    2: Lack of strategy: Hard work is necessary but not sufficient condition for acing the GMAT. You need to have a strategy to continuously improve on the GMAT. I did a lot of hard work but did not invest my time strategically.

    3: Focused on quantity rather than quality: I practiced too many problems the first time without spending as much time revising. Also I practiced from un-official sources, which at times had contradicting answers. Because of this I made the same mistake multiple times and remained confused in Verbal. I used to memorize all these grammatical rules, but in the end I think I mixed them all up and could not differentiate between the rules that I had to keep in mind versus the superfluous ones.

    4: Confidence and attitude: My target score in GMAT was 710+. However, I was barely getting 680-690 in my mock exams. Hence, my confidence in the actual exam was a bit shaky. This probably led to my doing worse than I would have done otherwise.

Second attempt: Acing the Verbal


Right after the first attempt, I knew that I would be taking the GMAT again. The failure made me more determined to succeed. At the same time it told me that I needed a slightly different approach. So I reached out to my classmate who had scored 740 (thanks to FB). He recommended e-gmat. He said that it helped him and asked me to give it a try. I did their free trial and was quite impressed by the content and approach they had taken and purchased the course. Their approach is very logical, kind of like a divide and rule strategy. The course teaches a concept and make sure that you ace it. After a bunch of concepts it teaches a process to answer GMAT problems through a special concept called application file. This helped me a lot in SC and CR and gave me a lot of confidence to do well in Verbal. In addition to e-GMAT there were other things that helped me improve. I also purchased the GMATClub SC book for idioms. I liked how certain idiomatic usages have been explained – whether vs. if, use of despite/in spite of vs. use of although/though/even though.

    1: Created a detailed plan: I created a plan in which I focused on and aced one verbal section at one time. I put this plan in excel. I spent 4+ hrs creating this plan. My boss once told me “A good plan has 2 qualities; it is detailed to working style, and it assumes that you work only 60% of the time”. I kept his advice in mind and I can tell you that it made a huge difference in the quality of execution. I have provided plan template. It’s not fancy but a simple modification of one of the calendar templates available from Microsoft excel.

    2: Proper reviews: I spent at least 15 minutes on every question that I got incorrect. My goal was to try and understand why I got this question incorrect. I had 3 categories
      a.Did I make a careless mistake?
      b.Did I do the question incorrect because I was not aware of the concept (mostly idioms)?
      c.Did I not answer the question properly (process issue)?
    I would then focus on the pertinent things such that I do not repeat that mistake. Since, I had a lot of free time in my plan, I was able to focus time on revisions and I think that it really helped.
    In addition to reviewing incorrect questions, I also reviewed questions that I answered correctly. During the review, I revised the process that I used to approach each question. This helped me find stuff that might have missed when I attempted the questions in the first place.

    3: Revisions: I revised all the concepts multiple times, even the quant ones. I also revised the GMAT Club problems that I got wrong during the first attempt. For Verbal, I focused mostly on e-GMAT. I revised during lunch time, dinner time, etc. Since e-GMAT is audio visual based, I could revise even when cooking. I also re-read the entire powerscore CR book.

    4: Took GMATPrep multiple times in the end: GMATPrep is probably the most accurate representation of the actual exam. Hence, I wanted to practice all the questions from it. Therefore, I took the verbal exam multiple times. Towards the end I also found a document on GMAT club that had a lot of the GMATPrep problems. I could not use it as much but I would recommend that people who still have time use it.

My takeaways



I learned a lot from my experience of preparing and taking the GMAT.

    1. Keep your cool throughout - not only through the actual exam but also through the preparation. GMAT is a test of endurance. The syllabus is not tough, but it is something that you cannot answer if you are nervous and tensed up.
    2.Careful planning and strategizing is important. Just knowing the final goal is not enough. One should set meaningful interim goals. This serves two-fold purpose – aids in preparation and boosts confidence.
    3.Focus on GMATClub tests for final push from Q48-49 to Q50-51.
    4.When it comes to practicing and revising, quality is better than quantity.
    5.Practice only from official sources and trusted sources.

PS: I could not upload the plan. If you need it, PM me.
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Last edited by madhusinghal2 on 13 Jul 2011, 13:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 08:22
congrats & thanks madhu for the debrief. hmm so it seems verbal section after-all is conquerable :wink: seems you had most problems with SC and Cr section first time you took gmat. can you tell a lil bit about sc questions you got on gmat, were they mostly long scs or short ones testing like/as etc ? Also did the scs centered on one main error or mutiple errors ? and what about rcs ? comparable in difficulty to OG or harder than og.

and best wishes for your applications and all, hope you get the university of your choice. :- )
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 08:42
Congratulations on your score.

Do you remember your Q/V score breakdown of both the tests?
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 09:07
Awesome score and nice debrief ,madhu,

I am also in the final stages, just wondering whether its a better option to retake gmat-preps multiple times or use the documents compiled with the questions ? {I have already used both preps once}

planning on 1-1 retakes 10 days before exam., and then switch to the compiled questionbanks in the last week,
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Quant 47-Striving for 50
Verbal 34-Striving for 40

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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 11:02
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@Bblast: The important thing is to make sure that you practice all the questions. The document is more convinient while GMATPrep provides actual test practice. If you need test practice then use GMATPrep, otherwise the document is probably more convinient if you are looking for concentrated practice.

@cvsmech:
GMAT 1 (Q50, V28)
GMAT 2 (Q50, V39)

@AJ85: Thank you for your wishes :) I would not say that I conquered verbal but definitely improved from 48 percentile to 87 percentile. My dismal percentile in Verbal proves that I had problems in SC/CR/RC. However, improvement in SC help with CR and I could apply many CR strategies to RC.

Most SC questions were longish, which I preferred. There were some short questions. The single most tested concept was modifiers. Then parallelism. Idioms were tested as frequently as parallel constructions. Most questions had multiple errors.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 11:16
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wow i am almost in the same position as you are! I am at Q48 V23. I guess I will look into e-GMAT. Before my gmat prep, CR was my weakest area and after going through half of powerscore CR bible, CR is now my strongest area. SC and RC are now my weakest areas but I am going through MGMAT SC Guide. By the way, how did you improve RC? Did you go through the MGMAT RC Guide or any other strategy guides that seemed to be overtly useful/resourceful? I've got about 1.5 months left of prep. Do you think I can improve my verbal to the 80+ percentile?

Thanks!
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 11:54
congratulations!
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 19:33
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Congratulations Madhu...Can you please send me the plan...Can you not post it here....
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 09:24
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Congratulation on a great score, a 90 point rise in 3 months is worth appreciation. All the best with your applications :)
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 09:32
Congratulations and all the best for your applications! Cheers!
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 14:04
Mahtab: for RC I used MGMAT. IMHO the key thing with RC is learning how to read the passage. MGMAT does a good job of that. I wish you good luck with your prep. For SC I would recommend that you give e-GMAT a try. I found it easier to learn from e-GMAT.

Priya: I have uploaded the plan. I hope you find it helpful.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 14:06
Mahtab: you blog is very well designed +1 Kudos for that :)
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 14:09
madhusinghal2 wrote:
Mahtab: you blog is very well designed +1 Kudos for that :)


Thanks Madhu! Web designing is more of a hobby than anything else but I haven't been doing a job in updating it on a regular basis...just trying to follow your foot steps and work as hard as I can to improve verbal!

Thanks for the advice madhu, I appreciate it.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 02 Jan 2012, 11:59
Madhu,

It seems as if you haven't logged in a while, but I have question for you and greatly appreciate if you could answer it.

How much was the gap between yourr first attempt and second? It seems as if it was 3 months. Also, the e-gmat course you took - were you able to comfortably finish the course within 3 months and gain the confidence you needed in verbal? Obviously, it shows in your second score, but just wanted to know how comfortable the adjustments were with using e-GMAT resource in those 3 months. I am currently listening their trail videos and liking it.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 03 Jan 2012, 01:27
Congrats Madhu for the 80 point increase in 3 months !!

I am also considering the e-GMAT option
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 07 Jan 2012, 18:49
@shinbhu - The gap was 2-3 months. The e-GMAT course can be done in 20 days if you spend time on it. For me, the biggest thing was that it made SC and CR enjoyable. The first time I studied, I felt that I was struggling with these topics. I used to dread these questions (SC more than CR). Once I reached level 2 in SC, I started liking SC. I would wait for SC/CR questions. I hope I have answered your question.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 08 Jan 2012, 12:57
congrats
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 17:39
Thanks Madhu! Absolutely, you did answer my question. After a month of reviewing on e-GMAT (gone through all levels), I am seeing marked improvements in my CR and SC hit rate. I can really break down the SC and CR clauses quickly and identify errors considering meaning into perspective and conclusion-inference. Agree that implementing these methods was a bit tough in the beginning (2 weeks ago) since my mind was tuned to solving these questions in a different way. Now, I am more comfortable and can see that this stuff works. Grockit is tremendously helpful since they throw GMAT-like meaning error questions at you.
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Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730 [#permalink] New post 14 Feb 2012, 05:33
Thank you for the debrief. Loved the smileys in your plan.. Makes learning all that more cheerful :-D :)
Re: BREAKING THROUGH THE 700 BARRIER...FROM 650 TO 730   [#permalink] 14 Feb 2012, 05:33
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