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From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights

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From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2012, 14:11
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Background information:

not affiliated with any numbers at work, so no IT, Finance or Accounting. Haven't practiced my math skills for more than 8 years. Social Science student.

First attempt:

About a year ago, I took the GMAT and scored a 510 or something similiar with a breakdown of Q32 V28. Given this result, I didn't feel the need to keep the transcript. At that time, I wasn't aware of tactics, forums, timing issues etc. As far as I remember, I started with the preparation about 2 weeks before the exam and used the 8 MGMAT books, OG 12, VR2 and QR for preparation. I didn't have enough time to finish the MGMAT series. During the exam, I didn't watch the timing and had to finish Math with about 10 questions left and Verbal didn't go better. I had a kind of balanced score so I think that I was way behind those guys who do improve significantly because the usually have already an outstanding Qant with Q50 V22 e.g. and only need to improve their Verbal.

Second attempt 640 (Q39 V38):

This time I prepared for 8 weeks. I started in the beginning of December and took a one-week break during christmas and new year's eve.

Books I used:


Additionally, I kept an error log and a stop watch. I switched over to the Archer Lite from Manhattan after some time.

For the first five weeks, I read all the Manhattan books and solved the OG problems listed at the end of each chapter. I waited for a practice test untill this point of time and was shocked by the result: only 520 in Powerprep! All the work was for nothing. I had to find a way how to make it work for my personal situation and learning pattern. As the latest date to cancel my appointment (7 days before the exam) was getting closer, time was running out. The next two wooks I focused on simply solving OG problems and I would watch the solutions online as well. The best thing was that I bought the CR bible and it helped me the most. It took me three days to read it and I instantly felt that I grasped the concept way better. This was also proven in my hit rate. So with one day left to be still able to cancel my appointment I took the second Powerprep test and scored 650 (Q44 V35). This was very important to me as it got the confirmation that I can improve. Furthermore, I watched out for the timinig and could end each section.
The next 5 days I made a big mistake given my experience with the wisdom of hindsight. I focused on theory again and watch mainly online videos that were a waste of time. Although I did practice some questions, they weren't from the OG sources. Three days before the exam I took my first GMATPREP test. I cancelled it twice as I simply couldn't focus. Two days before I took the second test and scored 550. Devastated by the result, I tried to stay focused and simply review my error log. In the last two days things in Verbal turned around. My biggest weakness, RC became my strength. I tried to get a feel for it and had a breakthrough only 1 day before D-Day when I found out that I rarely missed the answers any more. CR wasn't as good anymore and SC became my weakest part. On the last day, I couldn't find sleep before the test which was the worst case, because I am person who can't concentrate when he is tired.

The exam day:

As mentioned before, I was very tired. Coffee or energie drinks were no option because I don't drink them usually and tend to get very nervous. I drove to the test centre and it was the exact feeling I wanted to avoid: I was to slow in my mind and dozy.

AWA: I finished the first part just in time and the second with 1 minute left. Went outside to take a break and washed some cold water over my face to wake up. Didn't really work.

Quant: the first question took me more than 4 minutes but I could finally solve it. I wasn't very fast and around the middle I realised that I was way behind. Moreover, I lost my concentration. My new tactic was to only focus on PS and guess DS instantly or spend max 1 minute to sort out an answer choice and rely on intuition. I had the impression that Quant was made of 60% DS...I felt hazy and a question with a graph and almost 1 page explanation popped up. Started to ask myself if I guessed that many questions right? Probably not, it was rather an experimental question. At the end I randomly clicked an answer choice for the last 3 questions.

Verbal: I took a little longer for the first question in SC but got it right. Overall, it guess RC went pretty good, CR medium and SC medium-bad. I had a better run than in Quant anyways, yet I was earlier exhausted and lost my focus and concentration. I fighted back and tried as hard as I could, which worked 2-3 times but in the end I didn't stand a chance. Around question 15, SC was very tough for me and I started to simply rely on my feel and stopped comparing splits. I would just read it once and tick what sounded right (I'm not a native speaker, lol). There were many CR question towards the end and I randomly clicked trough the last three questions.

The score popped up and it showed 640. I pumped my fist and was pretty relieved although I didn't reach my goal of 680+, however given the circumstances that I was so tired it felt good to me. In addition, it was very important to me to know that I can improve.Looking at the Verbal splits from my practice exams, I could steadily improve. Unfortunately Quant didn't act in the same way; it even decreased at the real exam.
Later at home I was rather disappointed because I knew with a clear mind I probably would have scored 30-40 points better. Also, the questions seemed pretty ok this time which can vary at any attempt. What is more, the deadline for my particular program is over and I need to have a 680 to be competitive. There are only two alternative programs that I can apply for in April but I would have to score at least 710+ to be in the range.
Both good and bad is the fact that I studied in the wrong way so I know there is way to improve.

Most important things I learned:

    Study style: This has been mentioned before in the forum. You have to find your own best way to get better and improve. I seem to be one of the minorities who has a different approach. I wasted my time with theory. Now I do remember that some fellow students at Uni prepared for Statistics by only doing practice exams and at the end reading the script to understand the context of what they are doing. I need to internalize the rules of numbers for example by practicing. Some gurus advise you to not simply repeat questions and memorize solutions. However, I think this is mostly true if you are already at a 650+ level. When you do a lot of OG problems you do get a better feel of the questions. Of course, you should still review the answers. Therefore, I think the OG Guides are enough for most of the guys to get to 710. Personally, I think the MGMAT series was a huge waste of money and time. Frankly speaking, I think they are professionally made, but not of great use to me. I would even say that the SC book is only good and not that outstanding as it is often depicted. I definately can recommend the CR Bible. On a higher level I will come back to these books as they also have them in the library. To get a 650-680 you can just practice with OG problems. Two guys I know scored these results with 1 week prep time and only the plugin methods from Princeton. Another fellow student got 710 with 1 month OG problems only and two scored 730+ without any practice...However, one of them studied mathematics and the other IT.
    Also, I realised that this is a big industry like any other and of course the players in it want to make money. I look rather sceptically at those sites that teach you SC and other things on video

    Concentration: Often referred to as stamina in the forum, I need to take a more whollistic approach. I knew this is one of the biggest problems I realized after my first attempt. I can't stay focused for more than 90 minutes. I often get distracted and surf on the Internet while studying or random thoughts come up in my mind. I had to work on my thesis during preparation and other problems that would distract me. I try to get rid of these things next month and maybe even do some concentration exercises such as Yoga.

    Timing: Not neccessarily in the exact sense of counting the minutes and have a strict plan where you need to be at what question, but rather the fact that you need to finish the exam or you get penalised. Being rather perfectionistic, this was also hindering me from scoring higher. It is obviously better to skip or guess every 6th or 8th question instead of being stuck at a question and loose time. At the same time, the GMAT will give you a harder question in case you got it right and this will lead to an even bigger problem of time running out. I also didn't know that you can get a respectable score with 6-8 wrong answers.

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Last edited by fiendex on 01 Feb 2012, 01:06, edited 10 times in total.
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Joined: 14 Dec 2011
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GMAT 1: 730 Q50 V39
GMAT 2: Q V
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Re: From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2012, 14:29
Congrats for the big improvement! I can see that Q is a section you can improve. I am surprised that you don't like the Manhattan Guides, but we all have preferences.
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Kudos [?]: 15 [0], given: 12

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Re: From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2012, 14:46
thanks, I will definately try that. I was maybe a little bit to harsh on MGMAT. I just think that in my personal situation I would probably have to go through the books at least 8 times to internalise the content and get a use out of it. I think they will help me more once I am in a higher range, such as 680+. As I sold them already, I will go to the library and see if they can help me to improve later on.
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Location: Germany
Concentration: Strategy, General Management
Schools: IE '15 (M)
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Kudos [?]: 22 [0], given: 7

GMAT Tests User
Re: From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights [#permalink] New post 02 Feb 2012, 23:31
Congrats on the improvement and thanks for the debrief. I am in the middle of my prep time and are currently stucked. But i guess that is normal once you have reached a personal level. Hope to have a breakthrough this weekend.
Re: From 500 to 640 - feeling mediocre but gained new insights   [#permalink] 02 Feb 2012, 23:31
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