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GMAT debrief (long) 770 - Q50, V44

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GMAT debrief (long) 770 - Q50, V44 [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2014, 16:27
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Hey guys,
Just took my GMAT 6/13 and scored a 770 (Q50, V44), and thought I’d share my experience here. GMATclub forum certainly helped a lot, and I thought that writing my debrief might help others diligently reading through this site.

To start, a few general takeaways:
- Every person is different and what works for one person might not work for another. Tailor your studying to what works best for you.
- Studying for any standardized test is like going to the gym for the first time. Everyone starts somewhere. Don’t be intimidated by those who score above a 650 on their initial diagnostic, everyone has room to improve if they just work proactively.
- Stay positive. There will be days where your performance isn’t where you expect it, but you should only use those days to motivate yourself to work harder. There will be days where your performance is at or greater than expectations – stay humble, don’t slack.
- Remember that if you do what most people do, you will get what most people get. This test certainly requires a sacrifice in terms of personal life, but the results will pay off.
- The GMAT does not measure intelligence. It's simply a measure of how good you are at studying for the GMAT.

Background:
Born in India, went to grade school in the states. Graduated undergrad a month ago, so still fresh in the mindset of studying and taking 3 hour tests. Also had a phase in college where I wanted to pursue law, so took the LSAT and scored in the 90-something percentile on that. Not going to law school anymore, but definitely accounted for my verbal diagnostic (see below). I took a gmat prep diagnostic in September 2013, but didn’t actively study much until the last month or two before my official test (6/13/14).

Materials used:
OG 13 (plus the verbal and quant supplements)
MGMAT Sentence Correction (strongly recommended)
GMATclub Free Tests
GMAtclub Math book, SC checklist
Kaplan Free Online Test

Practice tests:
GMATprep 1: 9/2013 – 670 (Q43, V39)
Kaplan: 5/2014 720 – (Q50, V42)
MGMAT: 5/2014 640 – (Q43, V35)
GMATprep 2: 6/2014 740 – (Q50, V41)
GMATprep 1 (reset): 6/2014 770 - (Q50, V46)
Gmatprep 2 (reset): 6/2014 740 – (Q49, V41)

After my initial diagnostic in September, I realized my goal was to improve at least 50 points. My verbal was pretty high, and I had made most of my mistakes on sentence correction, so I realized I had to focus on that. My quant was not up to par, and I realized I needed a refresher in the fundamentals. After lollygagging for a year, I decided to take the test in June, and began diligently studying around 2 months before. Overall, I believe the key to success on the GMAT is to cover the fundamentals (500 -600 score), apply the fundamentals (600 – 700 score), and then go beyond the fundamentals to actually get inside the head of the testmakers (700+). I will explain this idea below as I cover each section, but my basic method of studying was to first review my math concepts to make sure I had all the formulas and concepts drilled down for each category of math. I have a strong background in math, so I didn’t need to invest in math study guides, but I certainly recommend investing in the MGMAT strategy guide (8-book set) because I hear it’s worth it. Then I read through the MGMAT SC book, and my strategy consisted of studying, doing practice problems everyday, and taking a practice test occasionally.
I studied on average, 3 hours a day for ~ 1.5 months. I didn’t maintain an error log, but I made sure to review the questions I got wrong from the practice tests and the official guides as frequently as possible and even retook these questions to make sure I could do them properly. I wrote down my most common pitfalls in thinking, and how the test tricked me so that I would be prepared for those traps. Definitely recommend not only reviewing your errors, but reading alternate explanations for solving the problems. The OG explanations for some of the math problems were in my experience, over-the-top. Unless you’re a math theorist, you don’t need to always use complex algebra manipulation to solve data sufficiency problems. Remember that you’re working against the clock and you need the answer in the quickest way possible. Shoutout to RonPurewal, I would always read his explanations on the MGMAT online forum for questions I got wrong. He’s clearly the master, and knows how to put any GMAT problem in perspective (quant and verbal). I also recommend practicing with the OG questions for the most part (only when you’ve covered the fundamentals first. Read up on strategy guides and grammar rules before you approach the OG problems). If you can master every single OG question from both the big book and the supplements, and you can tell me why each answer is correct and the other 4 answer choices are wrong, you’re well on your way. Also, be sure to read through the Gmatclub Math review pdf, and SC checklist. In addition, definitely take all of the free GmatClub tests – these have hard quant problems, though not as hard as the MGMAT CAT’s. The truth is that the OG simply doesn’t have enough 700+ quant problems, and if you’re gunning for the 48+ quant, GMATclub q’s have harder questions.

This brings me to my next point on CAT’s:
There are many reviews about different practice tests and their accuracy to the real GMAT. In my experience, the only accurate CAT is the Gmatprep software. After I had been practicing for 2 weeks, I took a free Kaplan online test and scored a 720. I then took a CAT from MGMAT a couple days later and scored a 640. I was shocked – but I noticed a lot of major differences in the questions that other test prep companies use when compared to GMATprep questions. Thus, I would say that you should take these other CAT’s for good practice – and to build stamina if you’re not used to focusing for 3-4 hours at a time, but don’t worry too much about the score. I only took one Kaplan and one MGMAT, and then the two GMATprep CAT’s (and then retook these). If you’re starting out, definitely take an official GMATprep diagnostic to see where you stand and where you need to improve. This test is all about identifying your weak spots and fine tuning them. You can always reset these tests, but note that there will be several repeat questions, so these reset tests will have inflated scores. Be sure to take these CAT’s under accurate test-prep conditions. You also don't need to take 10 practice tests the month before your exam. CAT's are meant to guage performance and build stamina. I took my last test 3 days before my actual exam. Spend most of your time reviewing your tests and problems and working on pacing.

My test day experience went smoothly. Remember that the proctor won’t tell you how much time you have left during the breaks –8 minutes is a short time so get back to your station quickly. I thought the difficulty of the test was around the same difficulty as the GMATprep CAT’s, maybe a little harder. Still, I was prepared for it and confident in my ability. I stayed positive and double checked my work. Don’t let the anxiety get to you, keep a level head, and focus on making sure you’re on pace. If you’re rushing, spend more time checking your work for stupid mistakes. I’ll conclude with some tips on each section – feel free to leave some questions that I’ll try and get back to!

PS: Always double check your arithmetic, especially on easy questions. If you’re not quick at number crunching, practice makes perfect. Try to avoid doing mental math computations and instead writing it out to make sure you can retrace your work if the answer you get does not match any choice provided. I mentioned before that to score high on the quant section, you have to get inside the testmaker’s mind and see what concepts they are trying to trap you on, and how they are trying to slow you down. You have to solve the easier questions in under a minute to leave more time for the harder questions. For example, say you have a word problem that you’ve boiled down to two equations. Xy=160 and (x+3)(y-12)=160. You could certainly solve this by multiplying and factoring the quadratic to solve for x and y, but that is a time crunch. Instead, use the answer choices to your advantage. The GMAT likes to use whole numbers, and you know that y has to be a number greater than 12 (because y-12) can’t be negative or 0. Look at the answer choices and pick 5 for x and 32 for y. Soon you’ll see those numbers satisfy both equations. It’s this method of thinking that will save you time for harder questions.

DS: Some questions you will not always have to solve completely to determine the answer. Be warned that this is also a double edged sword because the test makers can trip you up on it. Use your judgment to decide whether you need to solve completely to ascertain the truth of the question at hand. DS is similar to a case study – you have to plug in different cases (numbers) to see if the statements are sufficient. Remember to test negative numbers, positive numbers, whole numbers, and fractions! Don’t just mechanically plug and chug. Going beyond the fundamentals involves actively thinking about shortcuts. If both statements end up saying the same thing, you know the answer has to be that either each statement is sufficient alone or together, they are not sufficient.

SC: If your grammar is not strong, definitely pick up a book on grammar and read through it. Once you’ve covered the basics, read through the MGMAT SC book. Then do some practice problems, and read the MGMAT book again. Memorizing that book and doing the practice problems in that book definitely helped my SC (weakest part). You need to understand how to go from plugging in each answer choice mechanically to being able to read proactively – so that when you read each statement, you’re keeping an eye out for key words that fall under most common grammar traps. Then you can split the answer choices. Remember that when in doubt and totally stumped, go with A. Also remember that at even though a choice sounds awkward, there’s a good chance its grammatically correct over the choice that sounds concise. And if you’re of indian descent like I am, remember that “are…verb+ing” is awkward. We use it all the time in conversation, but it is not grammatically proper present tense to use are + gerund.

CR: Definitely pick up the powerscore logical reasoning guide if you’re new to these kinds of questions. It’ll walk you through how to approach each question. To solve these questions accurately and quickly, you have to read proactively, keeping an eye out for the premises and the conclusion that follows from those premises. There’s usually a gap between the premises and the conclusion and that gap leads to a bunch of assumptions that are usually overlooked. I usually read the stem and when I get to the conclusion I think “Why can’t this conclusion follow from the premises given”. That usually leads to the faulty assumption. At the highest levels of the test, the question is more about scope than anything. There might be plenty of assumptions, but only one of them falls under the scope of the argument. You need to work on identifying that scope.

RC: Certainly the hardest to improve for non-native English speakers. Read the New York Times, read the Economist, and try to digest what the articles are saying. Focus your proactive reading more on the structure of how the passage is presented. Finally, note that the correct answer choice is usually the most lightly worded answer. As in, the choices with “probably” not the choices with “definitely” or absolutely. If you’re inferring something from the text, it can’t be something definite, on a conceptual level. This also applies to CR – if you’re totally stumped, try to go with the answer that has the least definite wording. IE. “Few of the people would probably benefit if…”
Best of luck with your preparation! :-D
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GMAT debrief (long) 770 - Q50, V44   [#permalink] 14 Jun 2014, 16:27
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