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From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey

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From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 31 May 2011, 02:09
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I took my first GMAT on october, 2010, scoring 620: Q44 V32. I was never really confident about Quant but Verbal section was a shocker as I considered Verbal my stronger area of the two. After the test I thought, like most people not hitting their target score do, that this was just a "bad day" and I probably should take the GMAT as soon as possible, ie after month when GMAT will allow me to take it again. I'm glad that I didn't.

Instead, I thought of taking a break for like a couple of weeks before even trying to find out what went wrong on my first attempt. No GMAT for a while. And then, I started to list down the things I had done before taking my first GMAT: Major ones were:

Getting obsessed with test scores: I took a lot of practice tests before my first attempt. And as I remembered, I was taking them just to see the score at the end. A 620 made me frustrated, a 680 made me relatively happy. What I was not doing was that I was not reviewing my tests properly. I didn't even go back and check the topics I was faring poorly on. For me, only the scores mattered and that was probably the biggest mistake I made the first time around.

Not pwning the OG problems: For OG questions, I did go back and check on the questions I got wrong, but not really with that scrutinizer's eye that I should have. Especially on the Verbal part, I never looked again at the questions that I got right, reviewing only the wrong ones.

Although, solving a few questions here and there, my actual preps for my second crusade started somewhere around early March this year, and I this time I determined not to make the mistakes I did the first time. I will list out the strategies that worked for and I hope that someone, somewhere may find them useful. So here goes my 2nd attempt debrief:

Material used: I purchased alot of them. Allow me to review them:

1. OG 12/ OG Quant/ OG Verbal: Everyone has them. But I've seen a lot of people say that the difficulty level is below that of the actual level. Well, while the first 50 questions on each of the two quant sections may be relatively easy, the verbal level is throughout very representative of the real GMAT. IMO, all OG questions really have to be treated like gold. I learnt this rather late but soon enough to realize their importance.

2. Manhattan Series: All the things you’ve read about them, well, are mostly true. The books I found most useful were the SC and Number Property ones (of course!). The rest, well, is too basic for anyone wanting to score above 700. I wonder why they publish such thin individual books such as FDPs, Geometry, Inequalities and VICs when they can easily club them into one single book. Any guesses? Anyways, that’s besides the point! Lets move on.

3. Kaplan Math and Verbal Workbooks: Decent books. IMO, they may be used to build a good foundation.

4. Veritas Prep books: I used 2 of them: Statistics & Problem Solving and Combinatorics/ Probability. Except for the fact that they’ve unnecessarily thickened the books by providing like 3/4th of a page to solve each of the problems, I rate these books quite highly. Each of the two books contain around 120 extremely GMAT like questions and the explanations are good too. These books are not available in India and I had to ask my brother to ship them here. Otherwise, I would have purchased more of their books.

5. Nova: Good for quant practice but way off target in the verbal section. You don’t need to make one assumption to qualify another assumption in a CR assumption question on the real GMAT. You know what I mean.

6. Princeton Review: Another OK book but perhaps too basic. If you’re looking to score in the 700s then you may give this book a skip. If your aim is a little lower, may be you could give this book a read.

7. Barrons: I just saw it at a store and picked it up primarily because it was very cheap and that I had heard that this book was popular with GRE test takers. Never really got to study it so I can’t comment how this book is.

Miscellaneous material:

1. Jeff Sackmann Extreme challenge: Excellent set of 100 very realistic tough GMAT questions. And the explanations are hotshot too. The only drawback is that its too combinatorics heavy. I got 75 correct out of 100. Folks targeting 50-51 in Quant may want to score more here, perhaps around 90.

2. 1000 SC/ CR etc: I was pretty excited to learn about them but the excitement soon gave way when I found out there is no authentic source for explanations or even correct answers. I quickly gave them up and focused on more genuine questions.

3. GMATPrep SC and CR document: the most helpful resource I ever used! Too bad I found them just about a week before my tests. Solving these questions really exposed my weak areas and helped me to work on them to at least some extent. These can be found as “sticky posts” on the respective forums and are a Must-Do, but only after you’ve completed your GMATPreps. Perhaps the best time to solve these questions is just before your test, so that your mistakes will be fresh in your mind. Note that "just before" may mean different time periods to different people.


Section by Section Strategy:

1. SC: The more you practice, the more the mistakes you make, the more you review your mistakes, the better you will get with SC. I primarily used Manhattan SC but I got real confident in SC when I started to take down my own notes. This really really does help folks. Give it a try for at least one chapter and you’ll see it for yourself. When it comes to solving questions, the only sources I trust for authentic questions are the official ones. I really believe that although Manhattan SC is a phenomenal book for theory, but for questions, it falls short of the real deal(I’m talking about Manhattan GMAT CATs). Its my opinion, however.

2. RC: The strategy that really helped me was to make a gist in the mind as to what any particular paragraph in the passage is functioning as. Is it providing examples to a phenomenon described before, is it providing counter-evidence, is it providing additional evidence etc etc. Understanding the role of different paragraphs is the key to understanding the theme and main idea of the passage. IMO, you can solve almost 60% of OG questions if you did just that.

3. CR: Ahh! How can I enough thank the Powerscore CR bible. I think I cant! I did this book around 3-4 times and whenever I did, my CR accuracy shot up like crazy! Give this book a try if you’re looking to improve your CR and buy the original one guys, not the one floating around on rapidshare :D

4. Quant: I have always struggled with both timing and accuracy. One strategy that worked particularly well for me was that I got reasonably good with number properties and was able to solve these questions in around 1 minute and considering there are almost 8-10 questions from this topic, I could manage to get some extra time to attack word problems and harder questions such as inequalities and mixtures. So, in the end I would say to improve your score in Quant, you have to devote time to practice. period.


Tests I took:

1. Manhattan tests: I finished all of them during my first attempt. 670 being my highest. I feel the quant section in these tests is way too difficult. But well, I scored 48 on the actual thing and may be 50/ 51 level test takers may not find it so difficult. Verbal part is decent but I’ve come to believe that there is no material in the whole wide world that is representative of the real questions except the OG/ GMATPrep.

2. Kaplan CD tests: Good tests but as is universal knowledge, the scoring is pretty screwed. My highest was around 660 on these tests. I would advice that use these tests to see where you are going rather than to see the score at the end. I feel Quant section is very good but the Verbal section is too tough. You don’t expect to see too many parallel reasoning/ boldface questions when you’re hitting 30-32 right? Well, expect them on these tests.

3. Randon free Tests: took the free tests from Knewton/ Veritas/ Princeton review etc. I’m thankful to these guys to provide free tests. Although scoring is not GMATPrep accurate, the tests do have some good questions.

4. GMAT Club tests: Helped me immensely to get rid of my math phobia and to time myself. I started off with around 19-20 incorrect answers and graduated to average around 9/10 incorrect per test. I would say that if you can finish the test on time with not more than 5-6 wrong on a consistent basis, you may well be on your way to Quant glory. Also, these tests are recommended for those who are already at around 44-45 level. If you’re currently scoring below that, may be you should refer the Manhattan books first and then attempt these tests. Otherwise, you risk getting frustrated. More so because even the short explanations provided for the questions assume that you have a solid foundation already.

5. GMATPrep: These tests give you the most authentic experience. Be ready to see the exact same type of questions on your real exam. Take them as many times as possible, even though you may see a lot of repeats. The point here is that you should be familiar with as many official questions as possible. Especially on the Verbal area. I brutally misused these tests in that I never took them with AWA, scoring around 730-740 on the previously un-attempted tests. So guys, get in the habit of taking the AWA with your test. If you do not then you can safely take out 30 points from your score.



Test Day Experience:

Got to the venue early. It began on a good note because as soon as I entered, I saw a very pretty girl sitting in the waiting area. I was like, hmmm not a bad start as compared with my last attempt where there were only dudes sitting who looked just like me!

After the formalities, I was shown in. I said a silent prayer and started the race. The AWAs were pretty staright forward but as soon as my 1st essay was getting submitted, I spotted a small typo and that really ruined my 2nd essay. I’m yet to receive my official score. I'm praying my AWA score isn't all that horrible.

Quant Section: Went like a breeze. The questions were very representative of the OG Quant review. I got some 3-4 combinatorics question if I remember correctly out of which one was phenomenally tough. It took me 2 minutes to understand the question and 2 seconds to decide that I’m not even going to try :) A big problem that has plagued my quant score throughout is the silly mistakes, almost 3-5 questions/ test. And I’m sure these mistakes cost me a lot on the real test also as after the section, I thought I’d nailed 50. But anyways.

Verbal: SCs have grown tougher. Lot tougher. I averaged around 45 secs/ SC during practice but I think around 90 secs on the real test. May be I was tired, but I don't think the questions were in any way easy. I got a lot of style/ meaning/ comparisons related questions. CR was pretty okay. - mostly Assumptions and Fill in the blanks type questions. CR questions were similar to OG to such an extent that I can’t disclose as GMAC will sue me! RC: the three short passages were pretty decent but the long passage, which also happened to be the fourth, was both convoluted and tough(Phytoplankton/ neurotransmitter kinda stuff :roll: ). Or may be I felt that way as I had really run out of steam by that time. I’m pretty sure I got all 4 questions of this RC wrong, the only reason I can see for my score not being 42.

Phew! Test completed- irritating information form fillup over- Now it was time to report or cancel the score. I actually froze up at this moment as upto this point, the thought that I will see a score at the end had not occurred to me!! Anyways, clicked on “report my scores” and was relieved to see a 710. Q48-damn! V40- Ah okay I’ll take it considering the latter half of my verbal section was absolutely pathetic.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Its been like 5 days since my test but I haven’t received the official score report yet. May be I’ll shoot an email today. I am giving myself a months time to really relax and not think anything about the MBA. Will start research on schools after that. I belong to the Indian-Male segment (thankfully, not IT!!) so I really have to work hard on my essays. May be a re-take/ may be not, I’m not really not thinking anything about it at this stage. I haven't really zeroed in on the schools I will apply to, and my re-take decision will largely depend on the choice of my schools. And may be scholarships.

In any case, my priorities for the next month have nothing to even remotely do with MBA- trekking, movies, working out my a$$ off, my band, hook up with an ex etc etc :P I think I'll need that much time to reward myself for how far I've come in the last 6-8 months.

Thanks for taking out time to read my story guys! If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to answer. I think I will be able to most help folks who are at 600 level now and want to score around 700, as my journey has been exactly that..

Wish you all the best!

gP
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 31 May 2011, 03:20
congrats for score

wonderful debrief

liked everybit of it...and specially Getting obsessed with test scores
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 02 Jun 2011, 11:36
Congrats! Enjoyyyyyyy :D
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 02 Jun 2011, 12:10
Good work, that is a very nice increase. That is what I am shooting for as well. My first practice test was a 630, and I am hoping for a 700+.
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 03 Jun 2011, 22:12
Good work sirjee. Cheers.

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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2011, 03:17
Awesome defrief, gmatpapa. Just awesome.

I have got some comments and queries. Would really appreciate if you could reply to the queries.
gmatpapa wrote:
Getting obsessed with test scores: I took a lot of practice tests before my first attempt. And as I remembered, I was taking them just to see the score at the end. A 620 made me frustrated, a 680 made me relatively happy. What I was not doing was that I was not reviewing my tests properly. I didn't even go back and check the topics I was faring poorly on. For me, only the scores mattered and that was probably the biggest mistake I made the first time around.
A big learning for me. Recently I also found myself to be with this very same symptom!

gmatpapa wrote:
2. 1000 SC/ CR etc: I was pretty excited to learn about them but the excitement soon gave way when I found out there is no authentic source for explanations or even correct answers. I quickly gave them up and focused on more genuine questions.
Are these completely worthless? I have collected these materials too. Should I better avoid these?

gmatpapa wrote:
4. Quant: I have always struggled with both timing and accuracy.
I am having the same issue but with verbal. Any suggestion(s)?

gmatpapa wrote:
4. GMAT Club tests: Helped me immensely to get rid of my math phobia and to time myself. I started off with around 19-20 incorrect answers and graduated to average around 9/10 incorrect per test. I would say that if you can finish the test on time with not more than 5-6 wrong on a consistent basis, you may well be on your way to Quant glory.
Thank you for this concrete idea.

gmatpapa wrote:
5. GMATPrep: I brutally misused these tests in that I never took them with AWA, scoring around 730-740 on the previously un-attempted tests. So guys, get in the habit of taking the AWA with your test. If you do not then you can safely take out 30 points from your score.
Thanks, again, for this.

gmatpapa wrote:
Quant Section: A big problem that has plagued my quant score throughout is the silly mistakes, almost 3-5 questions/ test.
Same here. Any overcoming strategy(ies) to suggest?

gmatpapa wrote:
Verbal: SCs have grown tougher. Lot tougher.
Does this toughness have something to do with the length of the stem sentence or to do with introducing some new types of grammar rule?
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2011, 10:03
great score and very informational debrief.
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 05 Jun 2011, 06:51
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Thanks guys :)

Schawjibb wrote:
Awesome defrief, gmatpapa. Just awesome.

I have got some comments and queries. Would really appreciate if you could reply to the queries.
gmatpapa wrote:
Getting obsessed with test scores: .

A big learning for me. Recently I also found myself to be with this very same symptom!
Yes, the score-mania can have opposite consequences at times. After taking tests, just make sure to devote some time to review your tests. Tests should be used as an assessment+learning tool and not just the former.

gmatpapa wrote:
2. 1000 SC/ CR etc:
Are these completely worthless? I have collected these materials too. Should I better avoid these?
Actually, I didn't do them enough to form an opinion as to whether these are useful or useless. However, what i can say is that if you do the OG questions extremely closely, ie reviewing each and every question (including the ones you got right) you may just not need these resources.

gmatpapa wrote:
4. Quant: I have always struggled with both timing and accuracy.
I am having the same issue but with verbal. Any suggestion(s)?
Dedicate time to theory as well. Only way to improve timing in either of the sections is to have the foundations rock solid. Whichever books you're following for Verbal, make sure you get into the habit of taking notes. It helped me alot.


gmatpapa wrote:
Quant Section: A big problem that has plagued my quant score throughout is the silly mistakes, almost 3-5 questions/ test.
Same here. Any overcoming strategy(ies) to suggest?
Develop speed. In that case, you can have some extra time to double check on questions, especially the shifty DS ones. The GMAT Club tests may just help you on these issues as they have tons of questions that require a very sharp focus. Slowly, you'll start getting a hang of them. Also, remember things like: checking for zero, reading the question properly, if x is non-negative then x is not necessarily positive etc etc Blah! I wish I followed my own advice. Again, do the GMAt Club tests- they'll train you for these things and let me be clear that you'll learn a lot of things the hard way :D happens to everyone and if you find yourself hitting your head against the wall in disgust or tearing off your answer sheets, you're on the right path lol :)

gmatpapa wrote:
Verbal: SCs have grown tougher. Lot tougher.
Does this toughness have something to do with the length of the stem sentence or to do with introducing some new types of grammar rule?
Well i saw a lot of unconventional questions on SC- use of being, questions with dash (-), colon (:) etc etc. Invariably, I was stuck between two answer choices at the end and had to really push my brain to go back to the basics and evaluate the two remaining answer choices. Nothing to do with the length of the stem and absolutely no new grammar topics.


HTH, If you have any more questions, just let me know!
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 05 Jun 2011, 19:27
gmatpapa wrote:
HTH, If you have any more questions, just let me know!
You are just AWESOME! Will get back to you again once I finish my quant section prep and begin my verbal section prep. :-)
Thanks a zillion.
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 07 Jun 2011, 04:28
Excellent job and great debrief! I just took my first practice exam and scored just shy of 600. How did you attack your weakness areas? Did you completely dedicate to improving Quant first, then verbal? Did you mix the both? Thanks.

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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 07 Jun 2011, 23:00
Thanks for asking T5G 8-) I think I should've included my study plan in the debrief itself, but here it is now:

Total duration of study: Around 2.5 months.

First month: Quant Quant and only Quant:
During mock tests, I figured out two things:
(i) Verbal is not really a pain area for me and I wouldn't need to devote too much time on it.
(ii) Doing well on Quant is extremely important for not only a good quant score but also for a good Verbal score. Reason is that if you do not stress out too much on Quant, your mind will have that much more energy during the Verbal section. Therefore, I dedicated more time to Quant in general than I did to Verbal. It paid off as my quant section on the G-day went well (at least stress free) and it gave me major confidence for Verbal section.
So, if quant is one of your weak areas, you may want to become comfortable with it, and then move on to studying Verbal section. For material I used, refer to the main debrief above. I may also recommend that you make a study plan that suits you and stick to it. Don't make it too tight though.

Second Month: Both Quant and Verbal but mainly Quant.
I was still not extremely confident with Quant and still had timing issues. here's when GMAT Club tests came into picture. I started taking them one by one, reviewing mistakes and making notes of them. For the mistakes I made, I would then go and find similar questions on OG and GMAT Club forums and solve around 5-10 of them. Slowly, both timing and accuracy improved.
Verbal: Started taking notes from MGMAT SC and Powerscore CR Bible, simultaneously solving relevant questions from OG and GC forums. For RC, I just practiced from OG 11 and 12, referring to MGMAT RC book somewhat but not to a great extent.

Last 15-20 days:Solidifying basics, taking tests and solving OG Quant and Verbal review books:
Till this point, I was relatively comfortable with both sections and now it was time to just train my mind to not do anything stupid on a continuous basis. I was 100% confident that I won't be able to avoid all stupid mistakes that I make on mock tests, but then I had to try to minimize them. So, this period was pretty much dedicated to carefully solving OG questions and GMATPrep questions- a very real indicator of how you stand section wise. And of course, reviewing them. I started to use an error log but soon gave it up. Not that I didn't see value in them but that I was kind of a lazy ass.

Also took GMATPrep tests multiple times during this period. But I so regret that I took them without AWAs. Thats the biggest advice I can give you. DO NOT waste GMATPrep by taking them without AWAs. There are plenty of other tests on which you can skip AWAs and see a good score at the end, but do not flatter yourself on the next best thing to the real GMAT.

Hope you find this helpful :)

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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2011, 03:37
What were ur repeat gmat prep scores ?
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2011, 07:15
I pulled out my 1st attempt scores from MGMAT

MGMAT 1: 670 Q43 V38
MGMAT 2: 640 Q38 V38
MGMAT 3: 600 Q36 V36
MGMAT 4: 650 Q44 V35
MGMAT 5: 630 Q37 V38
MGMAT 6: 710 Q45 V41 (whoa!! I absolutely didn't remember I scored this during my first attempt. I remembered a 710 in MGMAT but i thought it was on a retake! But anyways, I guess all the tough questions would've been exhausted by this time)

Tests I took during second attempt:

Kaplan tests: I reset the tests but as far as I can remember- all were between 620-660
MGMAT tests: I took only Quant tests with a different login ID, scoring around 46-49
Knewton free test: 650 Q41 V41
Veritas free test: I dont remember but somewhere around 650
Princeton Review: Dont remember the overall score but they scored me horribly on Quant. i think 41 or 42, that too like a month before my exam. It was a major let-downer
GMATprep1: 730 Q49 V41
GMATprep2: 740 Q49 V42 I took GMATpreps multiple times after this.

All tests taken without AWAs.
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Last edited by gmatpapa on 08 Jun 2011, 07:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2011, 07:21
bblast wrote:
What were ur repeat gmat prep scores ?


over 750
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2011, 08:19
gmatpapa wrote:
I pulled out my 1st attempt scores from MGMAT

MGMAT 1: 670 Q43 V38
MGMAT 2: 640 Q38 V38
MGMAT 3: 600 Q36 V36
MGMAT 4: 650 Q44 V35
MGMAT 5: 630 Q37 V38
MGMAT 6: 710 Q45 V41 (whoa!! I absolutely didn't remember I scored this during my first attempt. I remembered a 710 in MGMAT but i thought it was on a retake! But anyways, I guess all the tough questions would've been exhausted by this time)


Awesome, thanks for sharing the scores. I figure your verbal dipped after your 2nd CAT since you were more focused on quant, huh? You mentioned that you weren't worried about verbal. I'm having a hard time deciphering if I should split up the workload (one day quant, one day verbal, etc...) Thing is my Q/V split was almost even 35Q 33V, so I'm not necessarily weak in one particular area, but I'm looking to significantly improve the verbal portion since it's more weighted than quant.
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2011, 01:17
Quote:
Awesome, thanks for sharing the scores. I figure your verbal dipped after your 2nd CAT since you were more focused on quant, huh? You mentioned that you weren't worried about verbal.

Nope.. it was during my first attempt and I didnt really focus on anything except just thoughtlessly taking tests on back to back days.

Quote:
I'm having a hard time deciphering if I should split up the workload (one day quant, one day verbal, etc...)

Its upto you how you decide to split your workload. But I would suggest that if you're doing a particular topic, say Mixtures, don't move onto anything new unless you've mastered the topic at hand.

Quote:
Thing is my Q/V split was almost even 35Q 33V, so I'm not necessarily weak in one particular area, .

35Q 33V is not an even split. 35Q is less than 50th percentile while 33V is around 65. An even split will be 44Q 33 V. Clearly, you need more improvement in the Quant area. 33V is a not-so-bad score and I think you should be familiar with most of the topics tested. You just need to dig deeper now (OG/ GMATprep questions).

Quote:
but I'm looking to significantly improve the verbal portion since it's more weighted than quant

I'm not too sure that I quite understand what you're saying, but both sections are equally important. A 51V and 40Q 750 will not impress the adcom as much as a 41V and 50Q 750 will.

Best of luck with your study plan, and let me know if there's anything else I could help with :)

Thanks and Regards,
gP
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2011, 16:11
Good job sir!
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 09 Jul 2011, 12:10
great debrief and thanks for your posts.
for SC,what was your accuracy on the CATs. did you practice Q's only from OG? i am not doing too well on this section and hence looking for good practice Q's. My current accuracy is around 60% and have already read MGMAT SC twice.

Thanks,
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 10:37
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Hi LifeChanger,

My accuracy in SCs on non official questions was pretty high- close to 85%. On Official questions, it was lower than that. Around 75-80 I would say.

I learnt concepts primarily from MGMAT SC. For practice, I did mostly Official questions (OG11+OG12+Verbal review+ GMATPrep questions) and reviewed questions from MGMAT CATs I'd taken during my first attempt.

If you seek my opinion, I would suggest you to do all official questions really thoroughly, especially the GMATPrep questions (you can find them here: gmatprepsc-105446.html . For me, that was the best SC resource. Sort of a reality check so to speak. The SCs that you're gonna see on the real test will be of similar difficulty level if not tougher. So, if the need be, do them twice after a gap of say 20 days or so. If you dont have that much time, do as many you can but do them like you have to own them.

Regards,
gP
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Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 11:50
gmatpapa - Thanks for your advice
Re: From 620 to 710: My GMAT journey   [#permalink] 10 Jul 2011, 11:50
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