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From 720 (46Q, 44V) to 740 (48Q, 44V): Struggle w/ quant? [#permalink]
24 May 2011, 10:05
This post received KUDOS
This story is for kids like me, that naturally rock at verbal and suck at quant. Although it might be a little long, I think it will be very helpful for those that fit this profile.
As an unemployed job-seeker (another story), I had plenty of time to study on my own. I spent two months studying 5-6 days per week, 5 or so hours per day. For those considering preparing this way, I could have condensed this process further to take the test after 1.5 months studying full-time.
I started by taking a practice test (NOT one of the GMAC ones, save those for just prior to test day) as a diagnostic. I scored in the 96th percentile in verbal and something atrociously below 50th percentile in quant. As such, I focused my efforts 100% on quant.
Hear is my deal with math. When it comes to higher-level math, armed with a calculator, I’m actually very good (I got straight A’s in calc I and II, stats, etc.). However, I am naturally terrible at mental math, and for some reason adding the time crunch and pressure of the test made for a very ookie cookie. I am the poster child for careless mistakes.
I purchased the full line of MGMAT math stuff, which was essential as a starting point. I also got an android app called “Math Workout” to tighten up my mental math, which made a huge difference (I’m surprisingly good now!). The real ace up my sleeve, however, was the GMATClub challenge sets. Worth every damn penny if you ask me. Get them, do every single one, and do a few multiple times. The key for people who are bad at quant is to not only master the techniques for answering questions, but also the tricks the test makers employ to distract and confuse you. Learn the trickery on a conceptual level and see the careless mistakes before they happen.
One technique that is great for the challenge sets is to create an excel file and, for each challenge set, copy and past the results of your first go around. After a couple weeks, retake it. Then copy and paste those results in the excel and compare how you did. If you got the same problem wrong twice, you better figure out what it is that is making that question hard for you and master it! If you are like me you will want to refine your analysis further. For each question, did you get it right the first time? The second time? Did you do it faster or slower the second time around? Can you smell an excel formula brewing? Make it happen.
Regarding flash cards, I highly recommend iFlash (for mac). If anyone is interested I have nearly 400 flash cards already made and I could pass you the file. The things I recommend using the flash cards for are memorizing tricks, memorizing lots of common squares, radicals, number properties, etc., as well as “things to remember” for just prior to sitting down to take a practice test/actual test.
After taking mountains of challenge sets and practice tests, my biggest flaw was getting behind on my pacing. Since I learned how to do all of the questions, I would naturally not move on w/o being sure of each answer. I would get nearly everything right and then half way through the test the reality of being 5-8 min behind my pacing would set in and I would head straight down hill from there. As such, there were a few key elements to my strategy:
1. Don’t try to get every question right: I scored in the 93rd percentile on one of the GMAC prep tests and got SIX questions wrong… think about it. Trust that the scoring algorithm is not as harsh as you would be on yourself for getting that many wrong. If you hit a question that you are unsure of how to answer, more often than not you should just bail and move on. 2. Under pacing pressure, go with a 90% positive strategy: Basically I discovered that, in the majority of circumstances, the amount of time that it took me to get to being 90% sure of an answer almost always took less than 1:45 sec. To get to 100% sure would take me another 30 seconds, and that was time that, when behind on my pacing, I simply didn’t have. 3. Don’t, under any circumstances, attempt to gauge how well you are doing based on the questions that you are getting: This is not only energy that would be better spent focusing on the test, it’s simply a futile effort. As you get better at taking the test, many questions that are actually “hard” will begin to appear “easy” to you. Although it is tempting to think you are doing poorly because your last question was “easy”, there is absolutely no value in such assessments. I’d argue that battling the psychological elements that arise during the test is equally as hard as the test itself. Trust your training, breath deep, you got game. 4. Go into the testing center knowing that, save for ridiculously extenuating circumstances, you WILL submit your scores: This speaks to the last point. Accept the fact that you have no clue how well you did and submit your scores. I thought I totally biffed both times and came out with a 720 and then a 740. Unless you are naturally gifted at this stuff and fall into the 780-800 range (in which case my story is probably not useful to you), this test will mind-f you. Accept your ignorance and roll the dice.
The first time I took the test I got a 720, 97th percentile verbal, 75th percentile quant. Despite the hours of planning, I went into the quant very nervous and much of my game plan was pathetically compromised. I attempted to “control” the test in the only way I knew how: try to get every question right. I fell into the pacing trap and the rest was history.
After freaking out during the quant, I went to the bathroom during the break to re-center my chi. I strongly recommend this. For kids who rock at verbal and suck at quant, you can still get a very strong overall score by doing what you do best. Once the quant is over, turn the page and get down to business on the verbal.
The decision to retake:
So, after taking the test for a first time and getting a 720, I fell into the "High Quant/Low Verbal" quandary. To retake or not to retake? I couldn't believe that I was pissed about getting a 720, but I also couldn't deny that I only scored in the 75th percentile on the quant. My retake decision was based on the following logic:
1. I felt my quant score would almost certainly go up: a) As far as practice tests go, my quant ranged from 77th percentile up to 93rd percentile b) I was fully aware during the quant that I was dropping the ball, such that I couldn't possibly do worse on a retake 2. My verbal score always falls between 97th and 99th percentile
The thing I was most concerned about was the fact that I would have to wait a month before retaking the test. I was at the peak of my ability when I took the first test, and I knew it would be a challenge to keep my mojo up.
Sure enough, keeping the mojo up turned out to be very very difficult. For people who have already gotten a respectable score, this is a factor that should weigh in significantly. Continuing to study for this god-forsaken test despite having scored a 720 was painful. Overcoming this required focusing on the fact that, by retaking, I was putting my ass on the line again. Scoring worse would be very bad. This helped. Focus on that fear and use it as a motivational force (or don’t if that freaks you out!).
On retake day I was primed. During the quant I felt that, although not perfect, I was doing better on the quant than I had done before. I was sticking to my strategy, allowing myself to guess and move on a couple of times and employing the 90% strategy when necessary to keep my pacing in line. Then the infuriating happened: I got sucked into the last question and the clock ran out w/o even a guess being submitted. The rush of rage, frustration, and fear that quickly followed was, to say the least, not enjoyable.
During the break I focused my energy on the fact that my quant score had to be at least as good and probably better than my last go around because I stuck with my strategy, was less rushed overall, and the question I left blank was clearly a 700 - 800 level question. Despite the fact that I said earlier that you can’t gauge questions, you tend to have more false negatives than positives when assessing whether a question is hard. I allowed myself to believe this in order to settle down for the verbal section.
With chi centered, I went back in and followed through nicely on the verbal.
Imagine my relief to get a 740, 97th percentile verbal, 82nd percentile quant. Although I could ultimately do better on the quant, I am very happy with the result.
1. I would be happy to answer questions about my experience 2. I wrote this primarily as a thank you to GMATClub and all you wonderful people who contribute to making this site the most valuable resource one can have when studying for this test 3. The quant can be mastered. If there is a will, there is a way. 4. Good luck!
Re: From 720 (46Q, 44V) to 740 (48Q, 44V): Struggle w/ quant? [#permalink]
24 May 2011, 13:49
Congratulations on such a great score! You're right MGMAT strategy guides are they key to unlocking quant. Like you I struggled greatly with quant so I know the time you must've put in to really master the material. Q48 is a really good achievement. Good luck with your applications.
Re: From 720 (46Q, 44V) to 740 (48Q, 44V): Struggle w/ quant? [#permalink]
25 May 2011, 06:45
Super, congrats! I was wondering do you have a background in math or did you need to study for everything from scratch.. I have a gmat coming up in 4 weeks but pfff it's still going like $##@$
I was a philosophy major in college, though I took a bunch of econ, calc I and II, stats, intro finance, comp sci I and II, and some other stuff. That was years ago though, and I felt that when it came to the material on the quant I had to start from scratch.
Are you studying full-time? If so, get the MGMAT math books to start. Begin with the "foundations" one and do all the others before finishing with "word translations" and "FDPs" (simply because those types of problems test the material that is covered in other books). Try to bust through the content and problem sets of one per day, while leaving the OG problem sets at the back of the book to do the following couple days while you tackle new content. Try to do a practice test every three or so days to put the skills you are building to the test. Think of it this way: you are building math muscle. Like any muscle, you need to keep working your math out so that you keep it fresh in your mind.
Once you have tackled the MGMAT books, get cranking on the GMATClub sets. Get through that and you will see massive improvements.
Note: during the process of learning content, you may not get great scores despite your effort, and you may find yourself forgetting stuff that you already learned. That is normal, just go back and review. Think of it like carrying laundry in your arms and trying to pick up more laundry. Sometimes when you dip down to pick up a sock, another one falls. You will eventually get all that laundry under control! The scores only REALLY start improving once you have nearly all of the content learned/mastered.
Re: From 720 (46Q, 44V) to 740 (48Q, 44V): Struggle w/ quant?
25 May 2011, 06:45