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**First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help**

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**First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2008, 19:54
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Hello all,

This is my first time posting on this forum after reading other people's experiences in their GMAT journeys, and is hoping that I could share mine as well as get some serious help.

I am currently an application developer at a financial firm. I got my computer engineering undergraduate degree from Columbia two years ago. I am 24 years old and a non-native English speaker (born in Hong Kong), but literature courses were my strongest areas at school. I have always wanted to apply for an MBA at Columbia because I want to change my career, geer it towards finance and management, and eventually secure a job in Asia. I strongly believed that an MBA degree can open many more opportunities for my future. I am aiming to apply early decision to Columbia's full-time MBA program for Fall 2009, which application period is from July 2008 to October 2008.

From last year I have been doing a few problems daily, if not once per two days, and this was really just to get familiarized with the test. My materials consist of OG 11 and Kaplan 800. Two weeks before my first exam on May 29, 2008 was when I really started die-hard studying. I studied through the very end of the day before exam. I did through all of Kaplan 800, downloaded GMATPrep and took its two practice exams several times. I did not get through all of OG 11 because I thought it had too many problems and most of them were too easy. Day before, I simply browsed through OG for tips on the AWA section, which I didn't even bother spending more than a hour on. I took my first GMAT test and scored 640, 40Q & 38V. I did NOT even get to problem 25 on the quantitative section when time was up, but I found verbal to relatively easier. I noticed that my math really sucked.

I scheduled my next test to be today, July 5th, 2008. From there on, I purchased all of the GMAT Club Challenges and up to now went through 17 quant sections and 3 verbal sections. The quant sections were extremely difficult for me even up till the 17th, and I never turned on the timer when doing them because I knew I would not finish on time, and often ended up spending up to 2 hours on each quant test. As a supplementary material I purchased the Winner's Guide to GMAT Math Part II from www.winningprep.com, which gave me some help on numerical properties, combinations and permutations, and probability. Only a week before exam I began the verbal sections in the Challenges, and they were still relatively easier for me compared to the quant sections. As the day approached, I pulled back up GMATPrep and redid the two exams again and again. I found my speed greatly increased, or I found myself know-when-to-stop-and-guess more frequently when doing the quant sections. I was scoring from 690 to 750 but I know this is overestimating my abilities because most of the problems I did before were re-encountered.

On my second exam day, today, I was at full stamina when I brushed through the usual AWA section, and when I got to the quant section I managed to finish on time (partly by guessing answers, and literally random clicking on the last two questions), and I felt relieved that it was over. However, on to the verbal section, although I was breezing through the problems, I found myself more light-hearted than ever. Some questions I found obvious answers, but some of them I found few possible answers but didn't spend much time on double-checking. I kept thinking that since I finished the quant section, at least I will not be worse than last time on the verbal section.

When I got my score report this morning, though relieved to see that my score didn't go down, but I was shocked to see 640 again, 47Q & 31V. My quant was greatly improved, but I messed up on the verbal section.

Originally I thought today would be the beginning of freedom, as I planned to start my application for Columbia early and after my second exam, but with this score I see no hope. Recovering from disappointment, I decide to take the exam the third time in early August so that I can meet the deadline. Getting a higher score after taking the GMAT three times should definitely look better than the 640 on my application. This means I need to really brush up and aim for 700 or above in this month.

:(

Before I humbly ask for help from all the veterans in this forum, I have several questions that I would like to clarify:
1) I read from other threads that finishing the OG 11 is a must, but to be honest I'd rather spend time on a few hard quant questions than on 200+ straightforward math questions. It was solely because of this I didn't even bother going to the verbal section of this book. Maybe I am utterly wrong?
2) Many people say the first 10 questions on the GMAT are the holy grail in determining the difficulties of following problems. If you get the first few questions wrong, most likely you will get problems of lower score and ultimately score lower on the exam. However, when I failed to answer some of the first 10 questions in the GMATPrep tests, I still scored high given that the problems later on were solved correctly. Is this myth even true?
3) Many people say that finishing the test is much more important since uncompleted questions will cause greater penalties on your score. Should I have to finish the test even if that means I have to do random clicking if unfortunately I run into a 10-problems-left-but-only-1-min-to-complete situation?

Thank you all for your time listening to my story, and if possible, any help is appreciated...

Thanks again,
TFA
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2008, 20:33
One OG 11 is not easy, focus on the last third of questions and know them and know what makes them tick. You may be familiar with them and know the answer but learn the ins and outs of those questions. Especially Quant. Verbal may be tougher to do since once you know an answer it seems very intuitive but I suggest manhattan gmat books if you haven't heard of them, at least for SC. Do gmatprep religiously. reinstall and take quant tests over and over again. At 48Q you are at a really good level and if you keep that level you will you fine but there is no reason why you can't get that up to 50Q with more practice and some luck.

Verbal is harder but you are capable of a 38V, you already achieved that. I suggest taking a little more time on verbal, try to notice patterns in problems , and question your first intuition. Verbal has a way of making you feel comfortable, actually all gmat questions do that, and you need to question questions that seem a little "too easy". You have the skills, you got a 48Q and 38V that is probably a 700. You just need to perform them together. Another month of studying will help, and it may just be the luck of the draw but you are capable of a 700. Go in there confident. Get your time management down as that seemed to be your original problem.

Verbal is a tough beast and i was unable to crack it. I got a 38V two times in taking the test. I looked back on old tests and I was able to get a 38V on a practice test a year before. This was after studying verbal intensively and learning a lot more and getting a lot more practice. So I can't help on verbal too much but quant, I went from low 40s quant high 30s to a 50 Q on real test. 50Q questions aren't overly hard. You just need to get the medium questions down flawless and get half of the hard ones (which are not that hard, just tricky). That is where the test and mult choice helps. You know a question will probably be tricky if you are at that level, they won't be that easy. Find the answer they want you to answer, and answer one that seems the least intuitive from just a simple read of the question.

You can get there. If it doesn't do it on your next test, take it again. Sometimes it is the draw of the questions. You are capable like I said of the 700 score, just execute on test day.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 06 Jul 2008, 07:59
Thank you terp36, that was indeed encouraging :)

I want to know what did you use for studying verbal? I have only a month and the coming exam will be my last, I have to do well on it, so I need to breakdown and manage my time on the right materials.

Currently I think this is where my level is at on quant and verbal on my second exam yesterday:
Quant 47)
- For the first few questions, I did find places where I took blunt guesses, either because I was nervous or it was too hard
- Moving along I found harder questions, mostly DS, but I was at least able to drill down to two answer choices
- For problem solving questions, some took time and some didn't, I could see I was better at them than at DS questions
- I finished up to 35/37 when I had only 1min left, so I randomly guessed the last two problems
Verbal 31)
- I stumbled on the third question and took a guess
- Moving along I ran into some really weird RC problems, the article was not paragraphed, was long and annoying, and the questions were not that intuitive. One article talked about the effects of some issue. The question asked, as suggested by the author, what was the usual effect of that issue, and *ALL* the answers were possible effects of that particular issue. I spent 2min on it and at last figured out it was asking only for the *usual* effect, and decided my answer. However there were more than one of these tricky questions in RC, and I was not at all confident.
- I actually found a SC question *EXACTLY* the same as one that I had encountered before, but I forgot the answer to it, and it was a long, so I made a guess... shame on me...
- I actually managed the last few questions pretty well (at least I thought) and finished the exam 6min early... turned out to be not too good...
- From this experience I actually find SC and CR questions relatively easier to manage than RC. Usually SC and CR I could easily drill down to at most 2 answer choices. For some reason this exam I got some harder RC questions than I did on my first exam.

Now, the following materials are what I intend to focus on this month:

OG 11 (which I've only touched for a few pages in problem solving section, I intend to focus on the last third of both verbal and quant as terp36 suggested, any other ideas on how to study with OG 11?)
GMAT Club Challenges (did 17 quants, 3 verbals)
GMATPrep (redid over at least 10 times, but as you suggested I will continue doing so)
GMAT Club Postings (especially the verbal part, never done this before, but should be worth a try, any good recommendations and approaches?)
Any suggestions for verbal? I didnt get any of the Manhattan books, should I do so?


Lastly, any more answers to the 3 questions I had posted would be much appreciated!
Thanks again!

TFA
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 06 Jul 2008, 08:07
Yeah you can't leave out any question unanswered otherwise GMAT will punish you severely. So, you have to pick your battles and learn to pass the question you know would take forever - remember Tiger does not score birdie or eagle in each hole to win the championship. Get yourself http://www.gmatter.biz for verbal and quantitative questions more in CAT format. I would also order MGMAT sentence correction book if you arent very comfortable with SC.

BTW, I have, also, seen that nasty 640: 47Q, 31V. So, yes I can relate!
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 07 Jul 2008, 14:52
Hi TFA

Man... sorry to hear that bro. 640 is a big hump - it's not too high and not too low. You're certainly capable of scoring 700+.

You took the test twice:
1: Q40 V38
2: Q47 V31

The big drop seem to come from the Verbal. So I would focus on that. SC is the most rigid of the three types. Memorize the common rules and you will rock it.

I will try to answer the three questions at the bottom of your post:

1) I went through the OG. I feel that the OG is a great way for one to get use the type of questions and structure of questions on the GMAT. It may not have the tough questions, but it certainly helps. Should you do it? For the Quant, I would not (you're at 47, above what the OG can provide). For the verbal, yes.
2) I never cared for the 10-15 first-questions rule. The difficulty of the test moves with whether you have made a correct choice. The only rule I abid by is: Answer the question right in 2 minutes or guess.
3) My personal model: Answer the question right in 2 minutes or guess. Stick with the 80/20 rule is also helpful. Don't spend 80% of your time trying to get that 20% of the questions correct. Just make sure you finish.

GL homie.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 07 Jul 2008, 15:40
You might not need any more practice at all, as you have demonstrated you can score Q47 V38. Have you ever scored like this in practice?
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 07 Jul 2008, 16:20
Thanks all for the suggestions!

I think I will definitely get the MGMAT SC book as two of you had suggested it already.

leeye84: Thanks, glad to know that there are some people who don't adhere to the first 10 questions rule and still get high scores. I have this psychology urge to spend more time on them, but now the 2 minute rule makes most sense. OG 11 verbal definitely makes sense too.

tarmac: When I took the GMATPrep tests I usually score above 690, but I don't think it is a good indicator since some questions came up repeatedly. However I do think that I had alot of luck when I got V38 on my first test, because on my second test I got some relatively harder questions all the way.

Another question, do any of you use the GMAT Club forums to study? If so, was it helpful?


Thanks again!

TFA
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2008, 06:55
I feel compelled to reply to the post of a fellow Columbia SEAS graduate.
Though I am older and will be 30 at matriculation....

Anyways, first thing first.
If you can make Q48, V38.. that'll give you a 710.
How do I know? I just did it on Monday this week.
From the look of your top score both in V & Q, you can make it to 700+ with no problem.

However, I don't feel like I am in a good position to teach people how to study, since I can honestly say that I did not study too hard.... :oops:
Below is what I did:
1. Princeton Review's sample test -- to understand GMAT format better
2. OG11 evaluation -- see where I stand with just basic understanding
3. Finish all questions in verbal OG11, since it is my weakness
4. Finish first 125 questions of problem solving sections in QG11
5. GMATprep, test 1 -- got 710
6. Finish 2nd 125 questions of problem solving section in OG11
7. Started preparing for AWA 1 month before the actual exam by writing practice essays
8. GMATprep, test 2 -- 720 2 days before the actual exam
9. Review all of the wrong answers day before the exam (both CAT & OG11)
10. Take the actual exam

In the end, I wrote 8 practice essays, about 10 or so outlines of topics, and the questions stated above. I probably would've had a better score if I did some questions on DS... but math has not been overly difficult for me and my main focus was to familiarize myself and raise the score in verbal....

In any case, do all problems in OG11, at least the last 3rd of all sections.... Those are the harder problems and will help you a lot. You need to be do enough problems to have an intuition of what the answer should be and trust your instinct. This is how it has been for me for all the exams, be it SAT, GRE, or GMAT.

Lastly, I do believe that the very beginning of the section matter more. So take your time with the first few questions and make sure you get them right. Once you feel the questions are a bit challenging, that usually means you are in good shape.

Hope to see you in school next year!
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2008, 16:25
thanks fellow alumn! i am currently focusing much more on the OG, and like you said, the later parts of the sections are much more challenging, and i find the explanations useful. hopefully this will do!

thanks much again!
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 14 Jul 2008, 21:41
Have you looked at Manhattangmat's verbal books? they are pretty good.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 06:09
I just took it again last Saturday, and...



680 (Q47, V35)



I have really mixed feelings about this score...
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 09:20
just took the gmat and got the same score as you did in your second test ... even the break up is same...this time verbal 31..last time verbal 34..this time quant 47..up from 45 last time... got 710 in prep but am not trusting gmat prep anymore... i guess am doomed if i don't bring up my verbal even if i manage to get a 49 in Q next time :cry:
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 10:09
Was 680 your 3rd GMAT? I would stop here, don't go over 3.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 10:22
I've heard this recommendation before from many. Take a look at my situation...All my practice exams I'm scoring 700-730, but on my first try scored a 660. On my 2nd I crashed and burned with a 520! So now I'm coming up on my 3rd try. Hopefully this will be my last...if I can score a 680+ I'll be satisfied, but the way I look at it I have nothing to lose by continuing to take the test. Hopefully, I can get that 700 in the real thing. Why not keep taking? Because it will look bad to adcoms? In my opinion, what will look worse is applying with a 660 and getting rejected because of GMAT score. My opinion is to keep taking until you score what you want...who cares if it takes 10 tries. It shows you dedicated yourself to hitting your goal. Now also...I'm saying keep trying BUT also concentrate the same on your apps as you would if you hit a 700 the first time. Apps are just as important.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2008, 22:07
I agree, if you feel that you can break 700. But remember, GMAT is only 1 component of your overall app.

You can also consider building an alternate transcript as well (obviously A s) 700+ isn't the only way to convince adcom that you can handle the work.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2008, 22:39
I thought I'd might chime in. Looking at how your scores move around so much, I think you have the ability to do very well, 700+ definitely. But time seems to be your problem. I would definitely plan a time thing, when I took the exam, I just looked at the time every 10 question knowing where I should be at about 10,20,30th questions.

There has been alot of good advice above, but here's 2 suggestions.

also 2 suggestions, since you say OG is too easy, I would use Kaplan CAT. that exam is rediculously hard, I scored about 80 points lower on that then the actual exam, and after every kaplan one, I felt drained.

Also what I did for studying, is I took exams with the TV on and radio on, (sounds crazy I know) but when the exam came, with the headphones on, I was in a zone.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2008, 06:24
What schools are you planning to attend? If you are looking into part time programs, they may be a tad less competitive than their full time counterparts. For instance:

Median/Avg score for part time chicago is 680/685.
Median/Avg score for part time kellogg is 695.
Median/Avg score for part tiem Ross is 665.

IMO, if I were you I would have let one of those admission consultants review my profile and then let her suggest whether GMAT improvement is mandatory in your case. If it is required, I guess then you have no option but to work on improving that score.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 17 Aug 2008, 09:18
Thanks all.

I got mixed advice on whether to retake the test, but it seems like that the GMAT is only a small part of the application juice. I have decided to move on to my application with my current score. I am applying for Columbia ED and I want to perfect my application sooner than later.

I am not a good standardized-test-taker, that is apparent when I scored 1240 in my SATs six years ago. However I still managed to get into Columbia undergrad and excelled. If test scores are just a measure of how well I can handle school work, I am pretty convinced that my GMAT does not reflect my ability to do well in business school curriculum.

I noticed that Columbia has an optional essay to address any weakness in my application. Is it a good idea to talk about my GMAT scores in this area?
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 18 Aug 2008, 11:52
I'm applying to Columbia ED also whoo whoo! 1200 SAT and 640 GMAT's aren't bad in my opinion. As for writing an optional essay, I don't know if it would be helpful, since I don't know what you can say about it. I think you're in the range that you can just let the other part of the application speak for itself. Again in my Opinion.. Although after ED, I would think you may want to retake it again, since it does seems like you can definitely score much higher.
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Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help** [#permalink] New post 18 Aug 2008, 13:00
TheFreedomAngel wrote:
Thanks all.

I got mixed advice on whether to retake the test, but it seems like that the GMAT is only a small part of the application juice. I have decided to move on to my application with my current score. I am applying for Columbia ED and I want to perfect my application sooner than later.

I am not a good standardized-test-taker, that is apparent when I scored 1240 in my SATs six years ago. However I still managed to get into Columbia undergrad and excelled. If test scores are just a measure of how well I can handle school work, I am pretty convinced that my GMAT does not reflect my ability to do well in business school curriculum.

I noticed that Columbia has an optional essay to address any weakness in my application. Is it a good idea to talk about my GMAT scores in this area?

You've got age on your side. You're only 24, so if you don't get in this year you will have the opportunity to improve your application and reapply in the coming years. Average age of 1st year MBA students is what, 27-28?

Also, don't give up on the GMAT. It took me three attempts to break through, and I am really glad I didn't give up after my 2nd disappointment. The timing if this year's application cycle may not give you the opportunity to retake, but don't give up on the GMAT if you end up applying next year.
Re: **First time post, took GMAT twice, both 640, need help**   [#permalink] 18 Aug 2008, 13:00
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