Just wanted to report back in. I've been on these forums for the past few months, asking dumb questions and generally doing badly on the SC/CR forums, but regardless—I took the test today and got a 770 (Q50, V46). I don't want to come off as contrite, but I was actually aiming for a 780. My college degree was in Chemistry, so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that math is a strength of mine (i.e., I was hoping for a Q51). My last 5 GMATPrep/MGMAT scores were 780, 770, 780, 790, 780. But only one of those was a Q51 (rest were Q50), and I'll take the result happily, and give myself a couple days off before I start working on applications.
I have a (very) long post prepared [strike]for[/strike] on strategies and experience, but I'm about to grab [strike]a few[/strike] several beers with some friends tonight, and I'm late. For now though—thanks GMATClub! You've been a tremendous help.
Okay, I'm having a hard time sleeping, so here goes.
I graduated at a top 50 school, 4 years ago, with a Chemistry degree. I initially started off as a Chem/Art History major, then transitioned into a Chem/Econ major, but finished off with just Chem. I also joined a band in between, and kept up my music journey (which I consider integral to my life experience), and helped start and maintain a family business, so my overall B-school credentials would likely be considered "well-rounded."
Because of a general lackadaisical attitude in college, and overall time constraints, my GPA wasn't as good as I'd hoped it'd be (3.26). I'll admit that, sometimes I look back and wonder how I received any A's. Yes, in a nutshell, that was my college experience.
In 2008 I looked into studying for my GMAT's, so I purchased the Princeton Review
, Kaplan Premier
, and MGMAT books
. The economic slowdown hadn't fully hit my industry, however, so I returned the MGMAT books
and stashed away the others. After a particularly frustrating day at work, around early March (in 2010), I decided to look back into graduate school and pick up the old books. I knew if I wanted to overcome my less-than-stellar GPA, I would have to do awesome on the GMAT.
If you search through my profile, you'll find the first (or second, or third or something) post I made on GMATClub, bemoaning how I was doing okay on CR, RC, and PS, but doing terribly on DS and SC. I asked for advice on here, and well, I knew the answer all along (Tony—study, don't waste time on the internet). I ended up going through the full Kaplan
book, but I was annoyed that I wasn't understanding the explanations (this is critical to GMAT success). Advanced combinatorics, number properties... wth? After reading bb's review on Amazon.com, I decided to purchase the MGMAT series
in late May.
First off, let me start off by saying the MGMAT books
are a GODSEND. Essential. Critical... whatever you want to call them. Case in point: there are 5 MGMAT math books, each with about 9-12 chapters (not including the OG lists). 5 * 10 = 50. You only see 37 questions on the quant portion of the exam. Master these, and you'll get a 51 every time.
The Verbal books were solid as well. With the price that Amazon.com lists the whole set at, I don't know why one would choose the specific books over the whole set (Number Properties, Word Translations, Sentence Correction). It can make the difference between a Q48 and a Q50 (sigh, why wasn't it a Q51), and I'll pay the extra $60 and few dozen hours any day.
After coming across several confusing Kaplan
answer explanations (confusing because I didn't understand the technical basics), I knew I had to bite the bullet and study hard. I was practicing music production after work for about 2-3 hours a day, and had hoped to cram in 2-3 hours of GMAT studies alongside that. I'm a big believer in "action learning"—the action of writing notes will better solidify knowledge within—so I spent an inordinate amount of time writing, sometimes verbatim, page after page of the MGMAT guides
. This. took. me. forever. In hindsight, this probably wasn't worth the time, but [strike]like[/strike] as I said before, I'm not going to argue with the results. I'll post a picture up later, but I wrote about 400-500 pages of notes, which wasn't a terrible thing, considering I work in the luxury writing instruments industry.
After a few weeks of music + GMAT studies, I realized that, at the pace I was going at, the MGMATs would take about 3-4 months to finish. I had hoped to finished them in 8 weeks. I cut out the music, dedicated myself fully to the MGMAT's (3-4 hours a weekday, 5-6 hours a weekend), and went forward.
My MGMAT Math studies went [strike]like this[/strike] as such—MGMAT Math basics 1-5 + OG Quant
, then MGMAT Math full 1-5 basics review + advanced. I just summed up about 1.5 months of studying there. Again, in hindsight, some of this wasn't especially needed—the MGMAT is significantly more detailed than the actual test, but I had the time and can't argue with the result.
Overall, it took me about 2-3 months to do about 2 full reviews of the MGMAT books
, sans Reading Comprehension (didn't need to read that twice). I would estimate that this alone took about 150-200 hours. Such a detailed read was a little overkill, but this became especially effective on Sentence Correction, when I'd remember almost verbatim certain MGMAT passages. Even when I missed the problem, I generally knew where to re-reference myself.
After finishing up the MGMAT, and doing several MGMAT CAT's, I went ahead and started the OG12
. Up to this point, I'd only used the OG Quant
and OG Verbal
in my MGMAT practice studies, and I highly recommend this policy of leaving the OG12
last. You need some OG problems to work alongside the MGMAT books
, but you also get better perspective of the GMAT when you're focusing on a full set of 50-100 questions. I went through the OG 12
book fully once, skipping over the entire RC section.
About halfway through my OG studies, in mid-September, I decided to take my first GMATPrep test. I'd already taken 3 or 4 MGMAT CAT exams, never scoring higher than a 730, and I'd heard all of the thoughts that the GMATPrep was easier than the MGMAT. I scored a 760 on my first try—Q50, V41—and immediately signed up for the test for early October. After looking over the dumb questions I missed (missed about 6-7 each on Quant and Verbal), and realizing that I still got a 760, I knew 3 weeks would be enough time to work out my kinks.
Between mid-September and now, I basically holed myself up, went through the OG 12
book, re-reviewed any part of the MGMAT I wasn't confident in (Word Translations, Number Properties, VIC's, Sentence Correction), did GMATClub tests
(my terrible record is below), finished up the MGMAT CAT exams, and took 4 more GMATPrep exams.
Although math was my strong suit coming into the exam, and CR/SC were beginning to show up as weaknesses, something "clicked" for me for Verbal around this time. I got, at most, 3 Verbal incorrect on each GMATPrep exam, and most of the time I was missing 1 or 2. I can't really describe what clicked, but I can say that the GMATPrep and OG questions are far more straightforward than Manhattan (to some degree) and some of the questions on here. As far as quant—I looked over my work, and every Q50 on my GMATPrep translated into answering 6-7 questions wrong. 30/37 is *not* difficult to achieve, people—that's an 81%. I noticed at least 2 or 3 dumb errors per exam—not carrying over a digit, marking in the radius instead of the diamater, etc.—so I actually spent more time at the end of my studies practicing math than I did on verbal. In the end... well... I guess it didn't pay off.Days leading up to test/test analysis:
Surprisingly, I was actually pretty nervous in the couple days leading up to the exam. I was worried that my high Verbal scores wouldn't hold on the exam, as all of my V47's and V48's relied on answering only 2 verbal questions wrong per CAT. I knew this could easily swing to 4 or 5 questions wrong, and pull me down to about a V44/V45. There's nothing much you can do about verbal, however, especially CR, once you've practiced it in, so I trusted my mental/muscle memory and went forward.
Some people suggest relaxing the day before. I couldn't. I did 1 CAT exam for the 4 days leading up to the test, structuring in GMATPrep #2 to fall in 3 days before the test, so that it would give me some time to review any areas I did especially poorly on. These 4 tests went very well—770 on said GMATPrep #2, 780, 790, 780. In the beginning, I was always a little shocked by my higher scores (and then mad at myself upon reviewing the dumb questions I missed). Towards the end, however, I began to expect these scores and could get a gauge of how well I was doing throughout the exam. Much like my actual GMAT, I always thought I did well on quant, but shaky on verbal, but my verbal scores were always high.
I had problems sleeping the night before the exam, tossing and turning for 2-3 hours (till well past 4am) before deciding to nibble on a little bit of melatonin. This caused me to be a little groggy around 11am, so I went for a quick jog before I got dressed, but my heart was pounding so hard the jog turned into a brisk walk and was over within a half mile. Got into the car, spent some time figuring out what my GMAT soundtrack would be, decided [strike]in[/strike] on natural/electronic.system. and Donato Dozzy (Italian techno DJ's—ambient, deep, dark, melodic), drove down to Back Bay, to my favorite indie coffee shop (Kean's Coffee in Newport Beach), then went back onto the freeway up to the exam center, which I'd scoped out the day before.
The test itself went about as well as I'd hoped (hindsight bias?). Checked in with the numerous palm scans, stored some almonds, Gatorade (based on that one woman's Share Your Experience post), a small bottle of 5-Hour Energy (wasn't needed), quickly used the restroom, and started my AWA's.
To be honest, I rarely did any AWA's in my prep or CAT exams. I did the AWA's on my last two practice CAT exams, and they did get me thinking about specific terms to use (efficacy, feasibility of plan, causal effect, conjecture, etc.), but most of the time I would just jot a list of reasons down, list-style, as practice. The day before my GMAT I looked up Chineseburned's AWA. I was structuring my AWA's in a similar manner, but after reading a few of his 6.0 essays, I started to brainstorm better ideas and use concrete examples to back up my argument.
I will say one thing—be sure to read the sentence before the AWA "argument" or "issue." I glossed over the argument in my AWA, and began writing my essay. It wasn't until the end of the essay did I re-read the argument and realize the subject I'd directed my essay on was slightly incorrect. I took about 2-3 minutes changing all of the times I mentioned the subject, and this threw me off a bit, but in the end I was pretty happy with my AWA's.
Took my break, went to the restroom, came back for quant. I honestly thought I passed quant with flying colors (aka "Q51")—the questions were no more difficult than any I'd encountered in my GMATPrep tests
. In fact, I would say they were a bit easier. I was scrambling to finish the quant portion on the last GMATPrep exam I took, so I was pushing myself a little faster on quant. About halfway through the problems I found myself about 10 minutes ahead of time. When I reached question 26-27, I had about 30 minutes of time, so I slowed down (a few of these last problems were a little long-winded), and finished the exam with about 8 minutes to spare.
Took my final break, went to the restroom again (even though I didn't have to go, I didn't want to be stuck holding my pee through the end of Verbal), tried forcing down some almonds and Gatorade, and went back in. The Verbal part actually surprised me a bit. I never, ever had any issues with timing on Verbal, often finishing with 15 minutes to spare, but a few of the first CR and SC problems were stumping me. And to top it off, I literally spent about 7-8 minutes on the first RC problem I encountered (3-4 minutes reading the passage, and another 3-4 minutes going back and forth between 2 choices). I actually found myself about 2 minutes behind time, halfway through the exam. I tried to speed up without sacrificing quality, and the longer/more difficult CR/SC problems I encountered usually became clear after about a minute's worth of intense scrutiny. I would often catch some obvious error on an SC choice at the last second, after I'd narrowed my choices down to two. This is where my verbal "intuition" (developed through heavy practice) paid off I suppose—the second half of the verbal was considerably easier than the first (to me), and even the more difficult CR questions would have a pretty obvious answer, after some review. I ended up catching up to the "2 minutes/question" I like to pace myself at, and finished with about 4 minutes to spare.
In the end, I found myself very focused on the exam, and even though my mind would occasionally drift to thoughts of wealth and riches and babes in bikinis surrounding me (I'm totally kidding), I generally test well. About halfway through my Verbal, I was picturing the Q51, V38 in my mind (yes, I thought I had really struggled in Verbal and did awesome in Quant), but by the end of the Verbal I was hoping for a better Verbal score.
*click* *click* (oh by the way, remember to fill out your MBA.com profile) *click* *click* Boom. Q50 (93) V46 (99) 770 (99).
...wait a minute, Q50? Whaaaaatttt? Oh man why Q50? 93rd percentile?!
*shrug* Can't complain. Called up a few friends, my dad called to ask how I did ("very well, Dad" "better than 90th percentile?" "yep." "congrats!" "thanks Dad!" "I owe you dinner, Tony, let's go out this weekend." "hehe alright, take care"), and thus ends my experience. There's a throng of attractive, intelligent women outside my door right now, so I must attend to them. *checks outside window* Okay maybe not.
In the end, this was exactly what my GMATPrep #2 predicted, and less than my last MGMAT CAT. I guess everybody's right—the GMATPrep is the best indicator.GMAT CAT Exams:
MGMAT #1 (7/6/10): 630 (Q36, V40). I didn't finish the last third of quant problems, so my quant score died. The MGMAT analysis shows I was scoring in the high 70's before my score fell off, so if (does "if" work here?
) this [strike]were[/strike] had been untimed, I assume it would've been about a Q45, V40. All of the probability, geometry, and combinatorics problems stumped me on this one—I was only finishing up Book 1 of the MGMATs (Number Properties).
MGMAT #2 (8/17/10): 690 (Q48, V36). Took this test after I finished all of the MGMAT math books. Verbal score curiously went down.
MGMAT #3 (9/8/10): 710 (Q48, V39). Took this test as I was finishing up SC for the first time. This was the test in which I scored about 20-30% on SC, even though I'd just finished up the SC book. I made a post on here complaining about SC, and took some time to focus on SC examples before I went forward. Most of it cleared up after heavy OG practice.
GMATPrep #1 (9/14/10): 760 (Q50, V41). Looking back, this was only 1 week after MGMAT #3, but I'd already forgotten the "where" modifier rule ("where" can only modify places). I got that wrong on 2 SC questions, and it's an easy mistake to avoid. After getting this result, and realizing how easy the GMATPrep actually was, I signed up for the exam date (10/7/10). The math questions I answered wrong were also fairly easy as well, and I knew some brushing up would help that number out.
MGMAT #4 (9/20/10): 730 (Q48, V42). This is when I started doubting my abilities. Why wasn't my MGMAT CAT showing the same numbers as the GMATPrep? I chalked it up to quality of questions, but looking back on my wrong answers, they seem pretty obviously wrong to me now.
MGMAT #5 (9/28/10): 730 (Q51, V39). huh. V39? What happened? I took the quant portion untimed, and this was my first break into the Q48+ for MGMAT. GMATClub tests
helped me out on a good portion of tricky inequality and number problems. I tossed out the verbal result as an anomaly, but again, looking back on it now, I can't figure out why I picked the answers I picked—they seem obviously wrong to me now.
GMATPrep #1 try 2 (9/29/10): 780 (Q50, V48). This is when my verbal scores started drastically improving. Heavy OG testing burned some logic questions into my mind, and viewing CR as a sort of "spatial" problem really helped (see below). GMATPrep SC questions are rather easy (and I would say the ones on the actual GMAT are comparable). They rarely make you choose between two undesirable answers, and once you spot the big errors—pronoun confusion, modifier confusion, advanced parallelism (parallel structures within modifiers—e.g., parallel the noun or parallel the modifier questions)—the answer choice is often clear.
GMATPrep #2 (10/3/10): 770 (Q50, V47): Got 7 quant questions wrong and only 2 verbal questions wrong. I got into the habit of taking screenshots of every wrong question on the GMATPrep, and this helped dictate areas I needed to work on. Overlapping sets, cleaning up my algebra, ratio DS, etc. This was the last "true" GMATPrep test I took (there are only 2, re-takings are useful but question overlaps skew the results a bit), the Sunday before my Thursday exam. Looking back, it was totally in line with what I actually scored on the GMAT.
MGMAT #6 (10/4/10): 780 (Q51, V45): Aha! This is what I was looking for! For some reason, this MGMAT test was very logical to me, and I finished the math portion with time to spare and verbal was not as tricky as it'd been before. I guess getting better at the OG can help you out in non-OG tests too (something I was a little apprehensive about—I was learning only OG strategies... would that work out in the end?).
GMATPrep #1 try 3 (10/5/10): 790 (Q50, V51). This V51 came after answering every question right. I can't say too much about it, though, as I probably saw about a 25-30% overlap in questions, some I'd gotten wrong before and figured out. But it was still nice to get such a high score 2 days before the exam.
GMATPrep #2 try 2 (10/6/10): 780 (Q51, V48). Aha, finally! A Q51 on a GMATPrep! Missed 3 quant and 2 verbal.
Because I'm a musician at heart (not by trade, I like my steady salary thank you), I'll say this. I'm proficient at the piano (used to compete), took a few years of guitar lessons, and have been learning electronic music and music production over the past several years. When you approach a musical instrument, there are a few steps you need to consider. First, you need to learn the basics—scales for piano, chords for guitar, stance, technical ability of DAW software, etc. You then learn songs, and integrate the basics into results. After you start to get proficient with songs, you finally encroach onto the advanced categories—the muscle memory. This is key. If you ever watch an amateur violinist, vs. a professional, you'll see that the professional expresses himself effortlessly. Everything is casual, unconstrained. The amateur is clenching his or her shoulder unnecessarily, and you can almost hear it in the strings, even though you can't pinpoint how the shoulder, or knee, or whatever, is affecting their rhythm.
You need to learn the basics of the GMAT (through MGMAT guides
, for me), then apply the basics onto practical examples (OG), and then transcend these two to really grasp how the GMAT thinks and determines what a correct answer is. For CR, I initially found myself stuck between two answers, but after going through hundreds of OG CR problems (GMATPrep, OG12
, and a few off OG11
), I would start to understand why a certain choice was better suited to the answer. I started off believing answers needed to strictly pertain to what was answered, but that led to me thinking beyond my intuition, and thinking beyond what the test was actually asking for (I tried to "trick" the test), and in the end I'd get these questions wrong. My initial intuition was often correct. I'm afraid I can't explain myself in much more detail, and I hate to devolve the strategy to a Malcolm Gladwell/Blink tenet, but I will say this is something I'm very keen on studying (I'm actually more interested in getting my doctorate in management/behavioral economics than a standard MBA).
I will stress this repeatedly... All of you who write in shorthand—stop it. Practice correct grammar in everything that you write. That includes these GMATClub posts. Do not say "Pls kudos me." It's "I would appreciate a kudos." Do not say "gr8 score!" say, "wow, you did really well!" I cannot stress this enough—you NEED to integrate SC into every part of your life. I would be dozing off to bed, thinking to myself "man, that girl's dress was really cute today, I wonder if we have a chance." "wait a minute, is it 'we may have a chance,' or is it 'we will have a chance'? no... i think the way i initially said it was right." Yes, this is the craziness I endured, but eventually SC became second nature.
...Notes to Self (two days before exam):
First, read sentence. If it's obviously wrong start concurrently reading the other choices.
Pick out the obvious errors—tense, meaning, quantity, parallelism. Often this will weed out the tricky idioms.
Read the sentence choices again and note which "feels" right.
Go back between the 2-3 choices leftover and note pronoun usage, 'which' modifier, general modifier clarity, and more advanced parallelism.
If you're still deciding between two, go with what sounds right.
For idioms, the active structure (to) is often preferred over passive (for).
The GMAT likes to stick with idioms for comparison and parallelism. Note the big ones (not only, but also; consider x y; because vs. since, as many as, as something as). If you see correct usage of this, minus any glaring errors, that choice will generally be right.
Glance at the question stem as you're reading the prompt. Try to answer the prompt before looking at the choices.
CR is very logic/spatial based. The pillars analogy is a good one. Anything that supports the roof more = strengthen. When comparing two choices, think of one pillar on the side, or one holding up the middle, or one reinforcing a major pillar. Select the more important pillar and move on.
The CR can ask for outside info for support. The CR will probably not ask for outside info for assumption clarity.
Point out the conclusion.
Read the whole prompt when stuck. Often key words are missed when you are thinking about a supporting conclusion that is not in the choices.
Assumption questions are often pretty lame. The answer is usually self-fulfilling and obvious, doesn't add much to argument (it's just an assumption).
Least extreme negation.
Quantity questions are pretty easy. Percent does NOT equal numbers. (easiest question)
Again, at the end go with your gut choice. Don't try to outsmart the exam, usually your first natural reaction to a situation is the most logical.
Boldface comparisons—write down what each does. Evidence vs. Argument vs. Hypothesis that is later refuted, premise, conclusion, etc.
Understand that rc questions (that aren't cr-like) are based off specific terminology. This passage supports, or argues, or proposes. Is there a difference between those 3? Yes, subtle. Understand the difference between the author "explains a proposal" or "proposes an explanation."
Most questions will be easily referenced in the text.
RC is the longest question type for me. Write shorter notes, but continue reading carefully. The full "vibe" is necessary to determine those tone questions.
Shortcuts—(x-y)(x+y). Divisibility rules. Test quickly for vic's (test #'s)
Review geometry rules and number properties. Geometry: diagonals, inscribed right triangles in circle, complementary angles, exterior angles. Number properties : number line stuff, exponent adding/dividing.
Practice work, overlapping sets/ratio, and comb/prob questions.
Overlapping sets/ds questions are hard, and take a while. Write them out, do your best to translate the word to algebra.
Cut down on silly mistakes. Clean your algebra on paper.
Recognize *distinct/different/integer* when you see it.
Understand multiplying a negative number by a positive +1 number makes it *smaller*
Review problems that require lots of testing (books sold over a week problem, Friday 2nd most, how many 7's are in 700-900, etc.)
There's some trick regarding 24 and squares of primes (divisible + remainder 1). Look out for it.
Practice DS.GMATClub Tests:
By the way, I really believe the GMATClub helped me out on 2-3 questions per exam, but for a hearty laugh:
Test Correct Total % Correct Mean time msec Percentile
m01 32 37 86% 106.2126 sec 1250 85%
m02 35 37 95% 106.6331 sec 1250 96%
m03 33 37 89% 108.6357 sec 1250 92%
m04 30 37 81% 100.6385 sec 1250 70%
m05 30 37 81% 71.9979 sec 1250 85%
m06 31 37 84% 121.0547 sec 1250 89%
m07 34 37 92% 115.1758 sec 1250 93%
m08 29 37 78% 121.2087 sec 1250 84%
m09 29 36 81% 25.1445 sec 1250 74% (changed this to untimed halfway through, and still did meh)
m10 33 37 89% 92.0748 sec 1250 93%
m11 29 37 78% 100.2602 sec 1250 61%
m12 23 37 62% 116.4903 sec 1250 32% (last GMATClub test I took, last week)
m25 27 37 73% 108.7096 sec 1250 72% (free test—first test I took)
v01 34 41 83% 73.6677 sec 1250 91%
v02 36 41 88% 63.1374 sec 1250 94%
Yes that 32% was kind of a what the #*&@. It was also the test "in which" (oh no, GMAT SC structure again) I decided to stop the practices and focus more on OG. I did it about a week ago, iirc a little bit drunk.
Random Notes (I'll add to these over time)
• If you want to score well (750+), read what others have done in this forum. I bookmarked many of the 760-780 threads, and would review them from time to time to see [strike]if[/strike] whether my behavior and results mimicked theirs.
• You'll note the numerous strikethroughs I've used in this post. My grammar is not perfect or ideal, even though I'm a 99th percentile verbal scorer and a native speaker. SC is easier when you're shown the various choices, but practice self-correction [strike]like[/strike] as I have. I'm leaving these mistakes open so others can see my mental process.
• After thorough studying, you should begin to see similarities throughout the GMAT. CR to me ended up being very similar to DS. CR presents a format and asks you to strengthen the result. DS presents a format and asks you whether information provided answers the result. Also as such, missing one or two words can be critical on either CR, DS, or word PS problems (missing a "twice" or reading "in the past hundred years, scientists believe" as "scientists believe," and not noting a "hundred years" clause in the answer choices). Reading RC and CR will help out your SC—the GMAT will never throw a grammatically incorrect passage at you.
• Slingfox's notes were quite useful. There are some CR questions at the end of the CR note section, that I tried doing the night before the exam. I think I got about 50% correct. Yes, this only added to my nervousness.
• Before the exam I spent a considerable amount of time guesstimating how many questions I could get wrong for a certain score. I figured 2-3 questions for math and 2-3 questions for verbal would give me the score I wanted (780). This wasn't good for my sanity, so instead I switched my goal to score 800. Yes, my goal was to get every single question on the GMAT right. This helped me focus on each specific question, instead of trying to guess how many questions I could let slip by while still scoring in the 99th percentile.
• Give yourself enough time to prepare. I'm a big believer in the latest trend of Outliers/Talent Code potential (again, something I'd be interested in researching), where they show evidence that, as long as somebody spends enough time on a skill, they can master it. The concept of being "naturally gifted" is flawed. Some people here tab up their studying hours and are shocked to have spent 150-200 hours. I honestly think I put about 300-400 hours of studying and practice in. I initially wanted to take the test in late August/early September, but I made sure to not sign up for the test until I was extremely prepared. In fact, I think if I had studied another couple weeks I would have honed down my math even more and gotten that Q51 (and 780) I was looking for.
Discipline + Hard Work = Success! 770 (Q50, V46)