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From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies!

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From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 06:25
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Hi all,
I took the GMAT at the end of September and wanted to share with you this experience.

My background:
- French, never lived or travelled more than two weeks in an English speaking country (it does not help for Verbal)
- Undergrad in Asian languages, litteratures and civilizations (it does not help for Quant, my last maths class was in High school... Some 15 years ago!)
- I am the father of a 4 months (when I started studying for the GMAT last May) daughter and do have a very very demanding job (it does not help to find time to study and get rest during the night)

As you can see the odds were pretty against me. I took my first GMATprep 3 years ago and scored a great 540! I don't remember the breakdown but at least I was in the 50th percentile without preparation (yes I was proud of me at this time!).
I gave up the MBA idea for 3 years, mostly because I had a promotion at work, but started to look at it again in May this year.
I took GMATprep 1 again on the 24th of May and got a 590 (Q42, V29). My objective at when I started studying was 700 but I already knew that the gap between 590 and 700 would be very difficult to overcome. I purchased the OG11 as well as V and Q supplements and Kaplan premier. The diag test of the OG gave me the following result:
- PS, Average
- DS, Below average
- RC, CR, SC, Above average

I knew that Q would be the most challenging part for me: I did remember nothing from my high school time and my brain was so rusty. On the contrary I also knew that I could master V quite easily as I was already pretty good in grammar and that I just had to get familiar with the questions format.
I worked through some dozen questions of the OG and took GMATprep 2. My prior analysis of my weaknesses proved to be good as I scored Q42 V44 700 on June 7. Ahahah way toooo easy I thought, in 2 weeks I could go from 590 to 700, 2 weeks more and I would reach 810! Well, I was ecstatic but it did not last.

After reading several good posts on this forum I decided to purchase Manhattan GMAT SC guide (SC was my weak point in V) which came along 6 CAT tests. I took my firt MGMAT test on June 22 and scored Q35, V35 and 590. F... I was so sure to be part of the 700 scorers league. I took another one the week after and got Q41, V40, 670, still not 700. I retried the week after and ended up with Q41, V35, 630. At that point I was quite depressed as 700 seemed out of reach. I said to myself: MGMAT tests are not reliable they are much more difficult than the actual tests I should better take a GMAT prep again. Full of confidence I launched GMATprep1 and got a Q38, V39, 640. I was devastated... :(

1 comment at this point: MGMAT CAT tests are very good for STUDYING, their questions are a bit different from the actual exam (more calculus, less tricky) but their explanations are top notch, you can learn a lot from them. I highly recommend you to use them at a early stage in the preparation and to read all their explanations.

I understood that my studying method was not good (mostly, do 40 questions every day from the OG) because I lacked basic knowledge in Q. I browsed more seriously into the Math review of the OG and Kaplan and wrote down everything I did not know in a notebook. I reached a point where I could score 45-46 in Quant on a regular basis but I had exhausted all my study material. I took the decision to purchase GMAT club tests. They are very good material pretty close to the actual GMAT questions. My results at these tests were very bad: I had between 20 (very often) and 29 (1 time) out of 37 answers correct. Nevertheless I learned quite a lot with these tests, I also tried to focus on my weak points: combination/probability, geometry. I studied so much probability that I eventually became a real crack in prob! I was quite unhappy that most people reporting their GMAT experience said they barely had 1 question on prob/comb in the actual test: crap! I've studied prob so hard and I will perhaps have no question on it. I took another GMATprep on the 9th of August and scored Q48, V40, 720. I was now consistently above 700! At the end of August I registered for the GMAT and planned to take it 3 weeks later

In spite of this already big achievement I could not really find satisfaction: I knew that there was still room for improvement in Quantitative, I did not master the all the topics as well as I wanted to. Two weeks before the test I took two decisions: purchase Jeff Sackmann's challenges and extreme challenges, and stop doing questions for one week.
During one week I did not work on any question, instead I studied math review intensively and tried to understand the explanations for the most difficult questions I had so far. This method is perhaps not good for everyone but to me it was a turning point. During the last week I then worked on Jeff's questions (very good sets, sometimes easier than GMATclub tests, but hard questions are tricky). Extreme challenge has some very good level questions but is really focused on Combination/Probability, so I said: crap why do I have to study so much probability problems while I will have only one of them during the actual exam? The main point here is that after my one week pause the questions seemed to be more clear to me, and I was able to find the answers more quickly than before.

One day before the test I took my last GMAT prep (I do not recommend this to everybody) and score Q49, V42, 750. It helped me to gain confidence.

Test day:
I slept very well the night before. I woke up at 7:00AM (test time was 9:30AM), had breakfast, worked on 15 questions to wake up the brain and took a shower. I took the bus at 8:00 and arrived at the test center at 9:10. Registered, then started. AWA went not so good (I did not really prepare) but it did not lower my confidence.
Took a pause, a leak, a cup of energy drink and started the fight with my behemoth: Quant.

The first 3 questions in Quant were piece of cake but problems started around questions 4 or 5. I had to fight on every question until question 30 (made 1 educated guess, as I didn't even understand what the question was), had 5 easy questions but 36 was tricky. I finished the test with 30 seconds but I was trailing behind around question 20-25 (something around 4 or 5 minutes late) so I had to speed up a bit between questions 25-30.

Took a break, a leak, a cup of energy drink and started verbal
Verbal was very similar to GMATprep, except: RC texts were very loooong but not difficult, on the contrary the questions themselves were very difficult. Around question 18 I met one bold CR question, it made me think that I was doing not so bad. I had a problem with pacing (never had during my practices in V) but I really wanted to double check my answers, finished with 15 seconds left.

I answered the general information and then waited for my score, I was expecting between 700 and 720, and BING Q50, V42, 760! My best quant and overall score ever! I was very happy.

Some general comments
- Work all the subjects: there is a common belief that Quant test throws only few probability questions. This might be true for most people but I can tell you that it was not the case for me. I had during my actual GMAT around 8 questions related to probability/combination and sometimes two in the row. I can tell you that I was quite relieved to have studied probability so hard before the test
- The difference between a Q48 and a Q50/51 mostly lies in the speed and the level of practice. People who score high in Q do have the same level of knowledge as somehow lower scorers but they can identify more quickly the solutions to a question
- Quick identification of the problems in quant is the key: allow you 10 to 15 seconds for each question to analyse it, no more except for some specific cases. If you decide to go brute force quickly go ahead and do as fast as possible. For example, during the actual exam I had a quite easy question, something like: what is the sum of the digits of 10^30 - 123. Believe it or not my mind was so blurred that I quickly took the decision to WRITE DOWN ALL THE FIGURES and then count them. Well this method is not smart, but at the end I had the correct answer
- The most difficult questions in the GMAT are not DIFFICULT, they are just VERY TRICKY. I met around 10 questions like this during my exam, learn not to fall into common traps

There are many other thing I would like to write about this GMAT, but I will keep them for later if you have any questions.

As a conclusion the GMAT preparation was a nightmare for my private life:
- I gained 8KG (no exercise...)
- I had almost no time to rest during 4 months
- My wife threatened to fill for divorce 2 times
- I regret not having the time to take care more of my baby daughter and see her grow up :|
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 07:04
Congratulations on the great score.
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 07:15
Great debrief . Good luck with your apps.
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 15:52
Expert's post
Congratulations and thank you for posting! Very very impressive score, esp with family and work constraints you had to work around (I have an 8 month old right now - not very easy indeed).
(I linked your post in the 99th percentile list.)
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 18:06
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Congrats!!!
Very impressive! All the best with application!
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2009, 20:58
kinokosarada,

Way to go! Exemplary resilience mate…!
So does your wife still want to let you go? because it would shocking then...! :))
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2009, 05:14
Balancing GMAT studies with personnal and professional life is a challenge for most of us.
Sure, in my case it required a lot of resilience.
Basically I would study during week-ends (CAT tests, analysis of previous mistakes) and 4 days during week days (I always took 1 day off a week as I didn't want to overburn myself).
My typical day was:
- 3:30AM, wake up because of baby crying, prepare and give milk then sleep again at 4:00AM
- 6:00AM, wake up and work on 20 GMAT questions
- 6:45AM, baby's awaken, prepare the nurser and have shower. My wife would wake up and take care of the baby from now on
- 7:30AM, go to work
- 8:00-12:00AM, work
- 12:00-1:00PM, lunch time. work on some GMAT questions or do 1 GMATclub test while eating a sandwich or my lunchbox
- 1:00-7:00PM, work
- 8:00PM, dinner with wife and baby
- 8:30PM, wash the dishes (I always do! :-D )
- 9:00PM, play with baby and send baby to bed
- 9:30PM, study GMAT for 2 hours
- 11:30PM, go to sleep, knowing that I will be awaken 4 hours later

I lived like this for 4 months. Many people would need less time to prepare for the GMAT because they are naturally good at quant, but for a quant dummy like me tere was no other way.

Some additional tips:
- learn (I say LEARN) the math review of OG. You must know and understand EVERYTHING that is written. 99% of the GMAT questions find their answers in this math review, you cannot score high if you don't master it fully. Math review of Kaplan can be a good additional study material
- learn the most common square roots, powers or prime numbers. for example numbers between 2^2 and 2^10 are very common in the GMAT, you will save a tremendous time if you know them
- print MGMAT flashcards, they are good and free! Also, print the most difficults problems with their explanations (especially if you don't understand the explanation at first) and read them whenever you have time (in the train, in the bus, when you poo...), it helps a lot

I have one question regarding MBAs: I plan to move to MC. I have very good WE, average academics and average EC (president of several clubs/associations) but I am quite old (32), should I bother applying to H/S? Or is it a waste of time?
Thank you.
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2009, 05:33
kinokosarada wrote:
Basically I would study during week-ends (CAT tests, analysis of previous mistakes) and 4 days during week days (I always took 1 day off a week as I didn't want to overburn myself).
My typical day was:
- 3:30AM, wake up because of baby crying, prepare and give milk then sleep again at 4:00AM
- 6:00AM, wake up and work on 20 GMAT questions
- 6:45AM, baby's awaken, prepare the nurser and have shower. My wife would wake up and take care of the baby from now on
- 7:30AM, go to work
- 8:00-12:00AM, work
- 12:00-1:00PM, lunch time. work on some GMAT questions or do 1 GMATclub test while eating a sandwich or my lunchbox
- 1:00-7:00PM, work
- 8:00PM, dinner with wife and baby
- 8:30PM, wash the dishes (I always do! :-D )
- 9:00PM, play with baby and send baby to bed
- 9:30PM, study GMAT for 2 hours
- 11:30PM, go to sleep, knowing that I will be awaken 4 hours later

I lived like this for 4 months. Many people would need less time to prepare for the GMAT because they are naturally good at quant, but for a quant dummy like me tere was no other way.


Who are you - GOD? Living like this for 4 months - WoW!
Great, great score...Congrats.
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2010, 07:55
awesome score under such a circumstances

I salute your will power and persistence
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2010, 08:24
Right now,I am a full time mom to my 13 month old. So, I know it is not easy studying with kids at home.
Hats off to you ! Awesome score .
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Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies! [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2010, 08:25
Thanks for the debrief... a very motivating post :-D
Re: From 540 to 760 (Q50, V42) AWA 4.5 :( Quant for dummies!   [#permalink] 14 Aug 2010, 08:25
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