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Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36)

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Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 05:54
I managed to score 700 with Q49/ V36 after 1 month of full-time/ around 3 months of part-time preparation. I am a non-native English speaker, business undergrad. degree.

I used the following preparation material:
- Manhattan GMAT Series (all 8 books for Quant/ Verbal)
- Manhattan Review (Quant/ Verbal)
- Manhattan GMAT CAT (5 out of 6)
- Manhattan GMAT Challenging Problems
- GMAT Prep Tests
- OG 12, Verbal Review 1st/ 2nd Edition, Quant Review 1st/ 2n Edition
- 4 GMAT Focus Online Tests

During my 3 months part-time preparation I spent around 10 hours a week for reviewing the Manhattan GMAT series/ Manhattan Review. I started with the Manhattan Review but soon realized that it does not cover any topic in detail. The Manhattan GMAT Series does a good job for most of the math topics. The only two topics that are not sufficiently covered from my point of view are Combinatorics/ Probabilities. With regards to verbal Manhattan GMAT does a good job for SC and fair job for CR. I did not find the book for RC too helpful.

Before entering my 1 month full-time preparation I took the first GMAT Prep test, scoring a Q43/ V35. I spent 50% of the time on verbal and 50% of the time on math. I focused on the original GMAT sources and different CATs. All original GMAT sources were great for preparation purposes, simply because the questions are comparable to what you will see on test day.

The Manhattan GMAT CATs are great for timing and analysis purposes. The review options allow you to pinpoint accurately where you are doing well and were not. This has helped me a lot in fine-tuning my timing. It is also perfect to determine, when to let go of a particular question. The overall scores were pretty accurate, however, it seems to be slightly too difficult for quant and slightly too easy for verbal - my verbal scores in CAT4/ CAT5 were definitely off in terms of scoring. Another issue is that even though questions are somewhat similar to original GMAT questions, a slight difference remains. I would hence recommend using a balanced blend of Manhattan GMAT questions and questions from the original sources. The closer you get to the exam day the more I would skew the questions toward original sources.

The Manhattan GMAT Challenging Problems question bank was not really helpful. Most questions are extremely difficult to solve. Moreover, the majority of questions do not really resemble real GMAT questions.

GMAT Prep and GMAT Focus are extremely accurate from my experience. They can be used as performance indicators for the actual test. Plus the questions are truly comparable to what you will see on test day in contrast to the Manhattan GMAT CATs.

My different scores across CATs/ GMAT Focus were:
- Manhattan GMAT CAT1: Q45, V35, 660
- Manhattan GMAT CAT2: Q43, V35, 640
- Manhattan GMAT CAT3: Q48, V35, 680
- Manhattan GMAT CAT4: Q44, V40, 700
- Manhattan GMAT CAT5: Q47, V39, 700
- GMAT Prep 2 Test: Q49, V36, 700
- 1. GMAT Focus Test: 42 - 48
- 2. GMAT Focus Test: 41 - 47
- 3. GMAT Focus Test: 43 - 49
- 4. GMAT Focus Test: 43 - 49

In conclusion I think there are many good sources available to ensure a proper preparation. Verbal proved to be extremely tricky for me. Especially RC has been somewhat disillusioning. I would not see how to improve performance of RC without massive additional time spent on English vocabulary. I would also assume that there is a 'natural' barrier for non-native speakers that is hard to cross - without spending hefty amounts of time on idioms, vocabulary, etc. Math in contrast can be trained well, and the performance seems to be directly related to the time spent on preparation.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 06:00
ladidadi wrote:
GMAT Prep and GMAT Focus are extremely accurate from my experience. They can be used as performance indicators for the actual test. Plus the questions are truly comparable to what you will see on test day in contrast to the Manhattan GMAT CATs.

Congrats mate!
I have a quick question for you - did you see a lot of overlap between GMAT Focus and OG 12? I've heard that there but would like you to weigh in on this. Thanks
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 11:08
Congrats for the score, good luck ahead.

Keep us updated!!!
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 12:25
ladidadi, can you give tips on how you went from 43 - 49? Did you keep reviewing the MGMAT guides or did you pick it up after doing a lot of OG practice problems?
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 13:37
Regarding GMAT Focus, there is a slight overlap of questions with the OG12. During my 4 GMAT Focus tests I had 1-2 questions per test that I had seen already. Overall I can still recommend it, in particular if you want a reliable gauge of where you stand with your math preparation and do not mind spending the money of 25$ per test.

In terms of tips for the quantitative section, there are a couple of things that you have to focus on I guess. Timing is definitely crucial. In the first GMAT Prep test I spent way too much time on the first 2/3 of the questions and ended up rushing the last 1/3. I would say that the single most important thing in my preparation was to understand how the adaptive test works and what test taking approach it requires.

Hence I spent quite some time on analyzing the Manhattan GMAT test statistics. Besides general timing issues one thing that I found in my case was that I did better on the 700-800 questions than the 600-700. The 600-700 questions seemed to be more 'calculation heavy' whereas many questions among the 700-800s did not require any calculations at all, but rather an understanding of math principles or general logic. So practicing the 600-700 questions was the second most important thing for me, since getting more of them right simply increased the number of shots at more difficult questions.

In terms of preparation material I would say that Manhattan GMAT was great for understanding the basic/ advanced principles that are required. The same applies to the MGMAT question banks and CAT questions. They are good to practice your fundamental understanding. At the same time I had the feeling that going through the OG questions was more helpful in terms of actual test drilling. Another good source to practice more difficult questions where the 99 700+ questions from the GMAT Prep that you can find in this forum. I only managed to go through some of them, since I ran out of preparation time. But my feeling was that focusing on them for a couple of more days would have helped to score higher at math.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 23:22
Congratulations on your score and thank you for sharing your experience with us.

Could you please describe your study routine in greater detail?

Also, could you describe your test day experience, your study/life/work balance, and how you managed your motivation during your relatively long preparation?

Thank you.

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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 29 Jun 2010, 09:33
Sure, but I am not sure whether I have a lot insights to contribute regarding motivation. My part-time preparation was pretty light I would say. I only spent time on reading the 8 MGMAT bocks and understanding the different concepts. I did not do any exercises during the first 3 months. Having that said, I do not think this was a very efficient way to prepare. In hindsight the best way to do it is probably to go through the theory in one or two weeks straight and then start with exercises. But at least I did not have any motivation issues during the 3 months, since I took it very easy.

My full-time preparation was different and also at least partially frustrating. I had to overcome one major setback. My original game plan was to beef-up my verbal skills and not focus on math too much. Incremental increases on verbal improve your overall score much more than increases on math. So that is why I chose to do it this way. Two weeks down the line I realized that this was not going anywhere. I had not achieved any improvements on verbal. Plus I was very annoyed by the RC section, since I always thought how easy it would be if you could do it in your native language. Anyways, I scratched by original game plan and started focusing only on math for the remaining two weeks. That went much better and since I could see improvements on a daily basis it was really easy to motivate myself to continue studying.

I am not sure whether there is any key learning. For my situation it would have been better to show a more balanced score between quant and verbal I guess. But I guess there was no way to force it. Had I stuck to my original plan, I am sure I would not have stayed motivated and focused.

On a completely different note, I think it is also important not to get too stressed out. I continued with sports for example and continued going out at least once week. I cannot tell, whether this is a make-or-break criteria, but for sure it helps to get some distraction every once in a while.

My study/ work-life balance is easy to describe. During the 3 months part-time preparation I was working. My work does not allow for much studying on the side, so usually I squeezed in 1 hour from 12:00 pm – 1:00 am before going to bad. And then another 5 hours spread across the weekend. During my 1 month full-time preparation I did not work at all. I focused on doing exercises usually around 10-12 hours during the week and around 6 – 8 hours during the weekend. I kept the routine up through-out the whole month and only kept the day before the actual test free. As I mentioned already above, I did verbal exercises during the first two weeks and math during the last two. Overall I felt, that I had squeezed in too much. Another 1 week for math would have been good. My preparation for verbal felt like a complete waste of time.

The test day went quite smooth. On the math part there was really nothing surprising at all. I felt a little nervous during the first couple of questions. I also did more checks before final answers than during test preparation and was watching the time more often. Verbal felt extremely tough. Two of the RC passages felt like a joke since I hardly understood a word. But even that was not too surprising. I had already mentally prepared myself for the worst in verbal. I can tell that for math my feeling was exactly the score that I got and for verbal my score actually exceeded my expectations.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2010, 02:14
Thanks a lot for your answers.

Quote:
That went much better and since I could see improvements on a daily basis


How did you measure your progress and improvement?

Also, didn't you feel tired after studying so intensively for one month? Or are you used to it?
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2010, 22:56
Progress I measured with a test-log (excel test-log from this forum). I classified all questions by type, specific topic and difficulty. These data-points showed me pretty accurately where I was making progress. As I said I could see the 'stats' improving on a continuous basis. For the analysis you can just pivot-table the data and have a look at different splits.

The workload was heavy but I am used to it from my job. I usually work 70-90 hours a week. So the hours spent on GMAT prep fell exactly in that bracket. But again, I do not necessarily recommend my time schedule. Had I had the chance I would have taken more time off, but that was not an option in my case.

If you are pressed in time I would probably recommend you to focus on your area of strength rather than to try to improve your weakness. I think most people are strong in either math or verbal, at least in relative terms. Moreover, if your not a native English speaker and have limited time I think the only good chance you have is to beef-up your math game. I have seen this pattern not only in my case but also among friends and colleagues.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 01 Jul 2010, 02:11
ladidadi wrote:
Progress I measured with a test-log (excel test-log from this forum). I classified all questions by type, specific topic and difficulty. These data-points showed me pretty accurately where I was making progress. As I said I could see the 'stats' improving on a continuous basis. For the analysis you can just pivot-table the data and have a look at different splits.


So every day you took questions from all math categories (e.g., mixture problems, geometry etc.) and compared them to your previous results in the same categories?
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2010, 01:45
I started with taking a mix of all math categories. I used the MGMAT categories for that purpose. Once I had a good sample of data-points, I made some cuts: 1. Good 2. Mediocre 3. Bad. Then I focused on 2./ 3. and repeated the approach until I ran out of preparation time.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2010, 03:37
Quote:
I started with taking a mix of all math categories. I used the MGMAT categories for that purpose. Once I had a good sample of data-points, I made some cuts: 1. Good 2. Mediocre 3. Bad. Then I focused on 2./ 3. and repeated the approach until I ran out of preparation time.


Could you elaborate on this more because I don't think I follow you? A small example would be great. Thanks.
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Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2010, 10:32
Great debrief! Thanks for the details
Re: Debrief GMAT Preparation - 700 (Q49/ V36)   [#permalink] 05 Jul 2010, 10:32
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