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GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+

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GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2009, 23:17
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Get Over the 700 Hump GMAT Study Plan


Improvement: 50 points
Concept: you are at 670 or above and want to get the magic 700+ score
Recommended for: Top 10 applicants, GMAT score junkies and perfectionists
Minimum GMATPrep Score: 650
Study Time: 1-2 months

Other Study Plans:

Study Plan for those who are just starting out
Ultimate Verbal Study Plan
GMAT Pill 1 Month Study Plan


Before we start this Study Plan, I would like to point out that the average GMAT score is 550 and as a 650+ scorer, you have alredy reached an above-average result. If you want to improve it and go beyond 700, several options are available to you but none are quick and easy. This plan assumes that you are very familiar with the test and have gone through a number of prep books. This plan is not for newbies or those looking to start their prep Fresh.


First let's take a look at the root of the problem - reasons for getting stuck at below the 700 level:
  • Gaps in fundametals of math, grammar and logic, English language profficiency, often resulting in unbalanced score
  • Poor timing/test taking skills
  • Lack of knowledge of advanced topics


Study Plan Option 1: Self Prep


General Strategy:
Chances are, you have probably gone through a lot of test prep material and may have covered all the staples of GMAT Prep books. (If not, definitely familiarize yourself with those).

Before we even start - make sure you use an Error Log - it is a tool that is indispensable and must be used! The concept is that you keep track of all mistakes (or possibly all questions) that you have covered. BUT, you are not just keeping track of these questions, you are also printing them out, or copying, or marking them and come back later on to attempt them again. A good approach is to cover the entire book/test/section before coming back to the questions you have either missed or guessed - remember that for a 700+ score, there is no guessing and if you were lucky on your home test, you may not be at the test center.

If your timing is poor, there are several recommendations to improve timing on the GMAT:



Quant Section:
If you are continuing to miss arithmetic questions or are plagued with silly mistakes - perhas a good review of basics will help. Until recently there has not been a good math review book really, but today 2 options are available that could be covered within a few days:
1. Kaplan Math Foundations - this book starts out very basic but you can always skip the first few sections and find your level.
2. Kaplan Math Workbook - good practice as well but assumes a certain level of proficiency

If you feel that you need a good coverage of advanced topics such as Probability, Combinations, etc you can also get either of the two recommendations above - both cover them. Another alternative is to look into Jeff Sackman's Math Prep PDF - there have been positive comments about this document but it is pricey. However, most test takers at this stage can improve their score via question practice. For tests, the best recommendation is the GMAT Club tests which are specifically designed to go from 45 to 50+ quant score. They are free if you have 200 posts on the forum or you can also buy access to 1000+ questions for $79. You can read a number of testimonials of 700+ scorers here.

For tougher questions - such as overlaping sets, probability and combinations - make sure that you understand how to solve these questions and you can actually solve them in 2 minutes. If you can't - follow this approach: memorize an example from a GMAT Book. Memorize the exact words for the problem, the exact solution, solution and the final answer. Then, when you encounter these questions, write out the memorized problem and solution from memory and use that model to plug the numbers in. Many Math questions are very much template driven, and this approach works great and you will never have to use your energy to solve them.

Other Optional Materials:
Kaplan Advanced - has some good 600-700 level questions
Princeton Review 1012 - has a good compilation of categorized GMAT questions - use your error log to determine which questions to practice - don't waste time on all of them


Verbal Section:
For the verbal section there are the usual suspects - MGMAT CR/PowerScore CR, MGMAT SC/PowerScore SC, and MGMAT RC. If you have not used these books - do get one for each section. Both Manhattan GMAT and PowerScore are good books to use.

There are several plans of attack for Verbal and you need to make sure you have one. When you go in to take the test, you must know exactly how you plan to answer each question type, how much time you can afford to spend on each, and when it is time to move on.

My personal strategy was to spend 45 seconds on SC's (read question once, identify the problem, phrase it in my mind, and find the correct answer that matched the one I made up). Usually I could hit these in 30-45 seconds and in 20% of cases needed as much as a minute and a half. I would spend 1:30 on each CR question. I could crack half of them in 30-45 seconds but the other half took closer to 2 minutes, so it was averaging about 1:30. All of this was building up towards the section I had the most problems with - reading comprehension. I knew that I needed 45 x 15 for SC's, 1:30 x 14 for CR's and that left 40 minutes for RC, which meant I could spend 10 minutes per passage. I would read the passage very carefully and spend probably 5-6 minutes doing and not feeling rushed as I knew I could read any passage in that period of time. After finishing the text, I knew I had 1 minute for each question so I did not need to rush either. On the Verbal, I did not really keep track of the clock when moving from question to question, but I would note the time when I start the RC passage and made sure I did not go over the alotted time by the end.

Again - use your error log for the verbal section. If you are struggling with a particular section - attac that section. Here are suggestions for each:

Critical Reasoning: The only way to get good in CR is to use one of the MGMAT CR or Powerscore CR guidebooks if you have gone through them and still feel weak - get PR 1012 book - it organizes questions in topical format and great for practicing Assumption or Weaken questions - make sure you note any question that you miss or guessed. These are your own personal "Hard Question" collection. Also, if you are an international student and encounter a word you don't know in a CR question - make sure you write it down and learn it.

Reading Comprehension: One of the hardest areas to overcome for many international students. Usually the weakness comes from very scientific or specialized texts that use rare words many international students never encountered. There is no easy solution to this unfortunately except to train your ear reading harder and more stimulating literature than found today on the web. Some recommend reading The Economist or Scientific articles. My recommendation is actually the opposite of that - read interesting fiction that will keep your attention and will motivate you to read as much as possible (rather than boring you with some biology). I call it GMAT Fiction - a compilation of interesting books that have great stimulating language and good grammar. See my post on GMAT Fiction about the advantages of reading a few thousand pages before taking GMAT.

Sentence Correction: If you are weak in English grammar, there are a few things you can do to improve - 1) Get a good grammar book. i can recommend either Kaplan Verbal Foundations (pretty good but not as complete as I would like it to be) or the Doing Grammar book that has been recommended by a few high verbal scorers. 2) Read a lot - by reading you will start to train your ear to pick up something a grammar book cannot teach you - style. Style questions are the harder verbal questions on the GMAT and the easiest way to pick them out is to train your ear reading good quality English Fiction - take a look at my GMAT Fiction recommendations or feel free to pick out your own.


Option 2: Class/Tutoring


Enrol with a test-prep company that guarantees XX point improvement or provides money back. The only two I know that do that is Knewton and GMAT Pill (50 point improvement or money back - doublecheck it though) Both are online, so you can take it from any location, at your own pace and schedule. If you score higher than 700 - you got what you wanted. If you don't, at least you don't have to pay for it, so you "win" both ways. There is a 7-day trial, so recommend you give it a shot either way. (To learn more about Knewton and see what other GMAT club members had to say about the class, see this post: knewton-live-online-gmat-course-85519.html. For more information about GMAT Pill's method, visit this post: gmat-pill-discount-save-110700.html). This is the recommended path for those who took gmat twice and still have not gotten to their target score - save your time and effort - take a class - probably a better experience overall at this point.
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Last edited by kirstik on 21 Mar 2011, 13:36, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 29 Jun 2009, 15:10
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Nice post bb .. I'm actually thinking about retaking the GMAT and the approach lined up is quite helpful.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 29 Jun 2009, 15:38
Thanks for starting this thread. I look forward to reading the "Ultimate/Hardcore/Comprehensive GMAT Study Plan" post.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2009, 18:49
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pleonasm wrote:
Nice post bb .. I'm actually thinking about retaking the GMAT and the approach lined up is quite helpful.


Yup, me too. I'm retaking it end of August or early Sept. I can't believe I messed up Quant...come on, I'm Indian! Math is supposed to be my strong suit, not verbal!!!! :oops:
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2009, 20:52
Its a good one though I hadn't attempted the test yet!!

Thanks for the valuable post !! :)
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2009, 21:10
Thanks for this bb. This fits in with my goal. :-D
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 07 Jul 2009, 10:58
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Some tips and pointers:

Quant:
. After you solve a problem but get it wrong, don't look at the solution. Try solving it again until you get it right.
. Make a note of problems that took longer than expected to solve and look at the solution to see if there's a faster way.


CR:
. Read EVERY SINGLE WORD! I tend to fast read and skip words to get the context. It's great while reading a magazine or book and even with RC, but terrible with CR; completely the wrong way. Most of my wrong choices with CR were because I was not reading every single word.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 09 Jul 2009, 21:21
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I also would like to suggest detailed study plan:

Monthly Study Plan
4 weeks of hard work, 1 week of rest & relaxation

Weekly Study Plan
10 hours/week
Quantitative - 2 sessions for 2 hours each
SC - 1 session (2 hours)
CR - 1 session (2 hours)
RC - 1 session (2 hours)

Duration of preparation - 3-4 months.

Last edited by DenisSh on 12 Jul 2009, 22:49, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 09 Jul 2009, 22:51
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DenisSh wrote:
I also would like to suggest detailed study plan:

Monthly Study Plan
4 weeks of hard work, 1 week of rest & relaxation

Weekly Study Plan
10 hours/week
Quantitative - 2 session for 2 hours each
SC - 1 session (2 hours)
CR - 1 session (2 hours)
RC - 1 session (2 hours)

Duration of preparation - 3-4 months.


Thanks! This is somewhat "unorthodox" - I like it :)
Have you taken the GMAT yet to share how the strategy works and what improvement you achieved?
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 09 Jul 2009, 23:26
bb wrote:
Thanks! This is somewhat "unorthodox" - I like it :)
Have you taken the GMAT yet to share how the strategy works and what improvement you achieved?


Thank you! :) Why do you think my approach is "unorthodox"?
In fact, I'm going to retake the GMAT in nearest 3-4 months, so I hope to provide such information afterwards.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2009, 01:19
Expert's post
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bb wrote:
Thanks! This is somewhat "unorthodox" - I like it :)
Have you taken the GMAT yet to share how the strategy works and what improvement you achieved?


Thank you! :) Why do you think my approach is "unorthodox"?
In fact, I'm going to retake the GMAT in nearest 3-4 months, so I hope to provide such information afterwards.


I like the idea of taking a break for a week. Most study through every weekend and every available hour as they hurry to be done with the GMAT. Definitely curious how it goes - please keep us updated on your progress!

Also, I just posted this thread on starting GMAT Prep from scratch - may be helpful: gmat-study-plan-for-gmat-novices-start-your-gmat-journey-80727.html
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2009, 14:34
Actually I like the idea of taking breaks as well. I prefer not to study on the weekends - but this means that your weekdays are screwed completely - and I'm ok with that. Taking off to a beach or somewhere nice on the weekends really helps to relax and for the 'learning to settle down'.

I heard someone say that the a few Chinese have adopted a specific way of learning, especially in ping pong. The player will practice one and only one stroke for almost 10 hours and then get a good sleep. So, the learned behavior kind of settles down during the night and practicing one stroke for 10 hours will definitely hone in perfection. I'm wondering if something like that can be tried for GMAT - I mean imagine a day full of reading comprehension, jeez there won't be any need for additional sleep :)
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2009, 16:50
pleonasm wrote:
Actually I like the idea of taking breaks as well. I prefer not to study on the weekends - but this means that your weekdays are screwed completely - and I'm ok with that. Taking off to a beach or somewhere nice on the weekends really helps to relax and for the 'learning to settle down'.

I heard someone say that the a few Chinese have adopted a specific way of learning, especially in ping pong. The player will practice one and only one stroke for almost 10 hours and then get a good sleep. So, the learned behavior kind of settles down during the night and practicing one stroke for 10 hours will definitely hone in perfection. I'm wondering if something like that can be tried for GMAT - I mean imagine a day full of reading comprehension, jeez there won't be any need for additional sleep :)


Ha ha, let me see if that works for me...I'm in between jobs so I have a month for GMAT, kayaking, sailing and biking!
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 14 Jul 2009, 13:16
w103psp wrote:
pleonasm wrote:
Actually I like the idea of taking breaks as well. I prefer not to study on the weekends - but this means that your weekdays are screwed completely - and I'm ok with that. Taking off to a beach or somewhere nice on the weekends really helps to relax and for the 'learning to settle down'.

I heard someone say that the a few Chinese have adopted a specific way of learning, especially in ping pong. The player will practice one and only one stroke for almost 10 hours and then get a good sleep. So, the learned behavior kind of settles down during the night and practicing one stroke for 10 hours will definitely hone in perfection. I'm wondering if something like that can be tried for GMAT - I mean imagine a day full of reading comprehension, jeez there won't be any need for additional sleep :)


Ha ha, let me see if that works for me...I'm in between jobs so I have a month for GMAT, kayaking, sailing and biking!


Sailing huh .. why the devil would you want to go to b-school if u're already in the sailing club .. :-P
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 14 Jul 2009, 13:36
pleonasm wrote:
w103psp wrote:
pleonasm wrote:
Actually I like the idea of taking breaks as well. I prefer not to study on the weekends - but this means that your weekdays are screwed completely - and I'm ok with that. Taking off to a beach or somewhere nice on the weekends really helps to relax and for the 'learning to settle down'.

I heard someone say that the a few Chinese have adopted a specific way of learning, especially in ping pong. The player will practice one and only one stroke for almost 10 hours and then get a good sleep. So, the learned behavior kind of settles down during the night and practicing one stroke for 10 hours will definitely hone in perfection. I'm wondering if something like that can be tried for GMAT - I mean imagine a day full of reading comprehension, jeez there won't be any need for additional sleep :)


Ha ha, let me see if that works for me...I'm in between jobs so I have a month for GMAT, kayaking, sailing and biking!


Sailing huh .. why the devil would you want to go to b-school if u're already in the sailing club .. :-P

You wouldn't believe it, but it's only $240 for a full year in Boston to sail, kayak and windsurf, and this includes lessons!
http://www.community-boating.org/index.php
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 19 Jul 2009, 07:12
Excellent article and definitely helps.
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2009, 22:08
Thanks for this tip, BB!

My problem is more with Quant than Verbal - I was never a math person and often the issue is with setting the problem correctly & quickly now that I have memorised the basic formula, etc. I also find that it takes me so long to do simple calculations since I've been using calculators since high school and excel now crippled me....is it just a matter of doing a huge number of questions - i.e. practice, practice, practice - or is there another way? Would really appreciate any help on setting up prob & cal very quickly. Timing's always an issue for me on Q! Thanks! :)
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2009, 23:18
Expert's post
Salisaaa wrote:
Thanks for this tip, BB!

My problem is more with Quant than Verbal - I was never a math person and often the issue is with setting the problem correctly & quickly now that I have memorised the basic formula, etc. I also find that it takes me so long to do simple calculations since I've been using calculators since high school and excel now crippled me....is it just a matter of doing a huge number of questions - i.e. practice, practice, practice - or is there another way? Would really appreciate any help on setting up prob & cal very quickly. Timing's always an issue for me on Q! Thanks! :)


You are a bit of a minority on GMAT Club - most are good at quant. Take a look at this post for starters:
new-to-the-math-forum-please-read-this-first-77764.html

and then this one:
Take a peek at this one: timing-strategies-on-the-gmat-80176.html
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2009, 02:04
Thanks bb for the super fast response. I do feel like I'm in the minority being worse at Q than V! Arts undergrad prob explains it. Will work on it based on your tips!
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+ [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2009, 21:35
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Nice post bb.

I also though of adding a small tip, which can be helpful for verbal section.

My advice is to read Editorials published daily in some reputed English newspaper. Some of them are even available online. In India the news paper "Times of India" publish some good editorials daily, available online as well at http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/. There must be similar editorials available in other countries.

Benefits:
1. Cheapest, but still one of the best means on earth to improve Reading skills, to increase speed, and to make one's ears accustomed to sentence structures and English styles.
2. Editorials are generally not very lengthy, and structure is similar to the GMAT comprehensions.
3. Well built complex sentence structures and paragraphs by some of the writers.
4. With online version, one can practice reading paragraphs on computer screens :)
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Re: GMAT Study Plan: go from 650 to 700+   [#permalink] 21 Jul 2009, 21:35
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