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Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief

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Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief [#permalink] New post 13 May 2010, 07:04
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For those of you who want the bottom line figures, you can skip my story and I'll just tell you. 620 (Q40:V36) 71st %ile.

Last June I thought about doing the GMAT so I bought OG11 and took a hack at the diagnostic test. I did very poorly and was discouraged. I didn't get serious about taking another run at the GMAT and committing myself to improving until December 2009. Lame, I know. But considering how poorly I did on the original diagnostic test it's truly awesome how far I've come.

Prep Highlights

I started prepping in early Decemeber 2009 and quickly identified MGMAT as the go to self-study guides and invested in them. They were immensely helpful and very comprehensive. I highly endorse them for anyone who is serious about the GMAT.

I wrote the LSAT a few years ago and the CR/RC was my strong suit on that test so my main focus was SC and Quant. My grammar has always been poor and while I'm decent with, and enjoying using, numbers I'm well short of being considered a bonafide quant-jock.

My first tip is to begin your studies with a strength and polish it up so it's rock solid. It gives you momentum and confidence as you delve deeper into your prep and it also serves as the anchor of your test - the one area you KNOW you can dominate. I spent the first month reading and re-reading MGMAT SC and was getting a grasp on it. After that I spent two months straight on quant and when I returned to SC I had forgotten most of what I had learned. In hindsight I should have spent the first two weeks on RC/CR to just get my confidence up.

After reading a good chunk of the MGMAT books I actually cancelled my Princeton Review course. I originally wanted to take it after a few months of study so I knew where my weak points were so I could maximize the value of live instruction. After comparing the material Princeton sent me versus MGMAT I decided I'd be better off to do the self-study and save the $1000+ Princeton wanted.

As I reviewed the MGMAT books I kept a stack of flashcards handy and any question or concept that was unfamiliar or I thought I would forget I made a card. By the end of the 5 quant books I had a stack probably 4-5 inches high. I would do maybe 10-15 FC's a night before bed. They were very valuable.

I spent several hours after work each night on prep as well as weekends. I worked hard but you can always work harder.

All-in-all I probably spent 90% of my prep on quant and 10% on verbal.

Prep Materials Used

-MGMAT guides - invaluable
-OG12, OGQuant and OGVerbal - There is no substitute for official questions. Other sources have very useful materials but only the OG has questions with that real test "feel".
-GMATclub tests - a great source of tough and challenging questions. Realistic interface and great for improving your pacing. A very worthwhile investment.

I read all MGMAT quant books twice, the SC book probably 4-5 times. I did all 3 OGs twice and all GMATclub tests twice. I know, I'm a psycho.

I've been kind of anti-error logs but I did keep one of sorts. What I would do is photocopy the blank answer sheets out of the back of the OG and as I was working through the questions anyone that I got one wrong, took longer than 2 minutes to complete or had a tough concept (or a concept I could use a refresher on cause I figured I would forget) I would highlight. Then later I would take another photocopy of the blank answer sheet and circle all the questions that I had previously highlighted on my last answer sheet, that way I could target specifically the questions I had trouble with. I did this with every section in all 3 OGs.

For GMATclub tests I would 'flag' questions as I did the test so I could then return to the test later and 'review flagged' and instantly work through my weak spots.

My CAT results from the 6 MGMATs and 2 GMATpreps ranged from 570 (first test) to 670 (3 days before the test).

GMAT club test results ranged from 14 or 15 correct to 30. My average was probably around 24 or 25 correct.

Test Day

Arrived at the test centre, and made the mistake of trying a few OG questions while I was waiting. Mistake. I had a bit of the jitters and had trouble slowing my mind down. I missed 9/10 questions and it did little to help.

Sign-in process was no big deal.

AWAs were also no big deal, kind of a good way to settle in, writing essays that basically don't matter. I read chineseburned guide for about 10 minutes and that was enough.

Now, I don't want to scare you guys that haven't written the test yet, but the buzz on the forums is that the quant on the real-deal is more difficult than the OG. I would say for the most part this is true. I went in expecting some tough, but manageable, questions. I was unprepared for the GUERILLA WARFARE that ensued, and in essence was AMBUSHED. First question, weird concept. Guess. Second question, another odd concept. Guess. Third question, awkwardly worded. Guess. Forth question, strange diagram. Guess. I was in SHELLSHOCK. Most of the quant is a blur. I got tripped up out of the gate and fell behind on pacing. Often with the quant you either find the trick OR you are being tricked. I was not finding the tricks. From my prep tests I did the best when I was finding the tricks and would let that build my confidence. It's hard to tell how you are doing but often you know when it is generally going well or not well. This was the latter. I guess or semi-guessed on many questions. More than in any of my prep tests. The questions were either real difficult or annoyingly easy. This debacle quickly led to me losing that KILLER INSTICNT. You know that feeling where you are just hunting down the answer and avoiding traps with ease. This was a big mistake. Next time I will go in with that killer instinct and let nothing diminish it.

Be prepared for this guys. Be prepared to cut your losses on some questions and to move forward without losing your confidence. I thought I had it under control but ultimately did not when things really got hairy. Have a strategy to mitigate this going in.

I collected myself at the break and held the course on verbal scoring in the range that was in line with my prep-scores. I would say the verbal was much more in-line with official materials.

The quant was just a killer though. I spent so much time prepping for it and I scored in the 58th %ile. Frig. My preps had this in the 42,43,44 range.

A 620 is not a total loss for me. It's well short of my goals and expectations but its not totally unusable like a sub-600 would be. For this I am thankful. I'm Canadian and looking mostly at tier-2 Canadian programs where a 620 is about the average GMAT score of accepted applicants. I was hoping to do better though so it would help offset my ho-hum 3.1 GPA, mediocre work exp, and non-existent volunteer work.

I'm especially concerned with the poor quant score and how adcoms may view it unfavorably. I will re-write the test, if for nothing else, for a chance to kick around that quant section like it deserves to be and like I prepared to do.

At this point though I've exhausted a lot of top flight material. I've been though the MGMAT material, OGs and GMATclub tests multiple times. Any ideas on new sources of quality material moving forward? I'm considering Jeff Sackmans extreme math challenge as one possibility. Or Knewton with their 50 guarantee, but money is tight and I’m trying to save up for a down payment so I can move out on my own OR pay for my MBA. Any suggestions?

For verbal I will order an LSAT official test book to keep my CR/RC sharp and again review MGMAT SC with 1000SC for practice. If I could move my verbal scores north as well I'd be happy.

A long debrief but hopefully useful to a few of you out there. Any thoughts/questions?
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Round 1: 05/12/10 handling-a-grenade-thesituation-s-official-debrief-94181.html

Round 2: 07/10/10 - This time it's personal.

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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief [#permalink] New post 13 May 2010, 17:44
thanks for the details... I like the chineseburn guide to essay also (didnt know about that one). Did the quant questions get easier towards the end?

best of luck.... why not use Kaplan as well ?
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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief [#permalink] New post 13 May 2010, 20:21
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Tough day man!
I had a similar feel with my test - I had no idea how I was doing and on 2 occasions I caught myself almost moving past a question with wrong answers, and that made me feel even more paranoid.

At the end, I felt as though I was always failing and always not sure about the questions - they were tough....

I would say give it your best shot question by question and don't worry about the entire test, just the question you are on. I did spend 3.5 min on a probability question and almost burnt myself with that - not recommended.
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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief [#permalink] New post 18 May 2010, 11:40
pranrasvij wrote:
thanks for the details... I like the chineseburn guide to essay also (didnt know about that one). Did the quant questions get easier towards the end?

best of luck.... why not use Kaplan as well ?


Like I stated in my debrief... questions were either real difficult, ie. I'd read it and think "Wow, I mean, I don't even know where to start." or annoyingly easy like simplfying fractions.

The best thing I can think of to help, and everyone says it but its so true, is that you just can't try to figure out what the algorithmn is doing and don't assume that you are getting questions wrong. Doing both of these will just keep you distracted from the task and hand and consistently deflate your confidence.

The test is hard, it is calibrated to be hard whether you are at a 550, 650 or 750 level. No use in trying to figure out how you are doing. Just put it out of your mind.
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Round 1: 05/12/10 handling-a-grenade-thesituation-s-official-debrief-94181.html

Round 2: 07/10/10 - This time it's personal.

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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief (Updated [#permalink] New post 18 May 2010, 15:14
Got my official score today.

The only new information is the AWA and I scored a 6.0.

The only study I did for that section was to read chineseburned's AWA post the day of the test! For about 10 minutes.

If you are a native speaker and are a confident writer this section is very conquerable. I found all the study for SC helped me improved my writing in general by helping me focus on clarity in my writing.

In any event, in the final hour before your test just read chineseburned's AWA guide and forget doing anymore practice questions. Read it twice, or three times if you have to. As noted above, if you get practices questions wrong it can be a crucial last second hit to your confidence at a very inopportune time to be anything less than 100% sure of yourself. Reading and focusing on the AWA guide will give you something to channel your pre-test jitters into without the risk of damaging your confidence.

Hope it helps.
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Round 2: 07/10/10 - This time it's personal.

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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2010, 13:42
Id like to see a break down of ur gmat prep scores and manhattan gmat CAT scores. Your prep was well in line with 700+ scorers. I mean you did everything
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Re: Handling a Grenade: TheSituation's Official Debrief   [#permalink] 19 Aug 2010, 13:42
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