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 PrepGeneral 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:
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 questionsPrinceton 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 themVerbal Section:
For the verbal section there are the usual suspects - MGMAT CR
, MGMAT 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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