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How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again

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How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 12:22
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I took the GMAT for the first time yesterday (Jan 03, 2012) and scored 720 (Q51, V36). In this long post, I will try and provide as much insight into my preparation and what went wrong on the test day. Hopefully, some of it will help you prepare your own strategy.

I will try and avoid "you should" or "do not", or "you must" kind of a tone. But, the nature of the beast (that is GMAT) and the camaraderie that exists between fellow members on this board may make me use such a tone in a hope that one day someone may avoid the same pitfalls.

Background


I am a non-native speaker from south east Asia. I am an engineer and it's been more than 7-8 years since I studied or took any academic exam. I live and work in the United States (mid-atlantic/south). My primary reasons for MBA are career change and progression. Chicago, Wharton and Columbia are my dream schools (mostly in that order).

I have not completely ruled out international MBA. However, I am not sure how helpful the one-year programs (such as INSEAD) would be in pursuing my ambitions in Finance and Corporate Strategy.

Preparation



Stage 1: The beginning


After some prodding by peers, mentors and family member, and soul-searching in September/October, I have come to a point where I sort of now know what I want to do with my life over the next ten years. Upon research, the first step and probably the fastest way to achieve such a goal was an MBA.

A quick google search landed me here and I ordered OG12 and couple of MGMAT guides from Amazon. While I was waiting for the books to arrive, I downloaded GMATPrep and gave the first practice test (without essay).

GMATPrep (sometime in early October) - 710

I do not recall the breakdown. In fact, I don't have that laptop anymore. Quant was somewhere in 47/48 range and Verbal must have been mid 30s. There were number of questions in Quant I wasn't too sure if I was solving the right way. Most of the Verbal answers were based on how the answer choices sounded to my ear.


Stage 2: A month in books


The books arrived and I started digging into both OG12 and MGMAT Number Properties simultaneously. I would strongly advise against doing anything with OG12 in the beginning other than trying the diagnostic test.

I liked the MGMAT guides and upon reading comprehensive reviews on Amazon and here, I ordered all the rest of the guides. For the next month and a half I studied all the guides, did most of the problems from the MGMAT guides. I was doing the OG12 Quant problems in the meanwhile and had also ordered the Official Quant and Verbal review books for additional practice.

I found all MGMAT guides to be well written and structured. I will definitely recommend them all to a friend.

I spent some good time on the SC guides, but just quickly skimmed through the RC and CR guides.

Stage 3: First practice tests and shock


11/30/2011 - First MGMAT Test - 690 (Q48, V36) *no essay*
I seriously struggled for time on both sections. Somehow finished the test. I was in a phase of denial. How could this be? Probably I wasn't paying attention.
Two days later I gave another one.
12/02/2011 - MGMAT 2 - 680 (Q47, V35) *no essay*
This was really bad now. I frantically read perhaps 10-20 debriefs on this forum. Fortunately, I came across slingfox's debrief and his commandment of not timing the first few tests. Good idea. But, there must be something else wrong in Verbal.
Upon analyzing the results, I had made multiple mistakes in RC and CR. And, I had taken both of these for granted over the last couple of months.

Looking back at the MGMAT guides, I got no additional insight on what I was doing wrong. I went back to bb's comprehensive book review post and found mentions of PowerScore guides. Ordered them on Amazon.

Both of these books are phenomenal. I can't speak highly enough of how they have helped me improve my Verbal.
First, the SC guide. Comparing it to MGMAT guide, the content is very similar. What I like about PS SC is its presentation. It builds layer after layer in an easy to understand, conversational way. If you read the book aloud in your mind, you may get the feeling that you are sitting in a classroom being taught by a GMAT instructor. I was very confident after going through this guide.

The same things can be said about PS CR guide. Very structured, conversational language. Couple of times I felt the language and tone to be very southern. Then I flipped back the book and what I find - the company headquarters are in Charleston, SC, no less. And, of course, the book is named Bible. LOL.

Anyway, I would highly recommend both of these guides to anyone struggling with Verbal. Once you have mastered the CR, the RC comes easy. You read "actively" with structure and tone in mind, looking for change in direction, conclusion and so on.

The other thing I picked up on this forum (and MGMAT RC guide) was taking notes for RC. I always thought I could read and understand a passage without taking any notes. While that is probably still true, taking notes for GMAT RC helps. I never refer back to my own notes. In fact, if I referred back, I won't understand a word of it. Its mostly just gibberish. But, the process of taking short-hand notes helps your brain assimilate that information into smaller chunks of useful information. Think of it as a tool that divides the passage into useful blocks of information and stores them into separate interconnected chambers. When you come across a question afterwards, you just refer back to those chambers and without hesitation you have the right answer.

Stage 4: Untimed



Now that I thought I had mastered my weaknesses, I decided to take another MGMAT CAT. This time untimed.
12/13/2011 - MGMAT 3 - 770 (Q50, V45) *no essay*
So, I know now what I am capable of.

I spent the next couple of weeks finishing up all OG verbal questions, the Verbal and Quant reviews. I was getting more than 90% correct on CR and RC and about 90% on SC.

Quant seemed to be ok. I had some trouble with Number Properties questions, but I knew my capability for improvement on the subject was only so much considering the time I have.

Stage 5: The next set of CATs and timing struggle



All the following tests were with both the essays and while allowing only 8 minute breaks.

MGMAT CAT 4 - 12/20/2011 - 710 (Q49, V38) Miserable timing both in Quant and Verbal. Was able to do only 35 in Quant and only 37 questions in Verbal
MGMAT CAT 5 - 12/29/2011 - 720 (Q50, V37) Timing was better. Finished all quant questions on time. Rushed towards the end in Verbal and did 3 questions wrong in a row.
GMATPrep 1 - 12/xx/2011 - I had lost the laptop on which I gave the first GMATPrep1. I decided to take it again, reminding myself to take care of timing.
750 (Q48, V45) - Guessed last 4 questions in Quant. I was in a library (to change the test taking atmosphere from familiar surroundings). After the Quant I was like "how could I let myself get personal with those few questions". I need to learn to let go. Happy with Verbal, only 3 incorrect.
MGMAT CAT 6 - 12/29/2011 - 720 (Q50, V37) Timing better than all previous tests, still not ideal. Verbal low as I got last 5 out of 7 questions wrong. I must have rushed through them. Not a single verbal error till question 25.

Final GMATPrep 2 - two days before exam - 01/01/2012 - 750 (Q50, V41) - Much better control on Quant timing. Was able to comfortably finish Quant on time. Verbal was also ok on time, if not great. 6 mistakes. One CR guessed (running out of time). I RC mistake. Must have lost focus.

Discussing the night before the test, my wife asked how I felt and what my concerns were if at all. I hadn't told anyone regarding my practice test scores. I am little superstitious regarding that. I told her that I 'll score ok, only if I manage time properly.

D Day



Good night's sleep. Oatmeal for breakfast. Half a cup of coffee. Other half reserved for breaks.
Essays were ok. Took my break. Ate a small candy, half a banana, two gulps of coffee.

Came back for Quant. I must have stared at the first question for 4 minutes or so. It was an optimization question. One variable reduces while the other is increasing. Find the ideal point where the result would be maximum. It was a word translation problem. I must have reread the question 4 times trying to formulate the algebra. Then started brute force AC elimination. Half way through elimination, realized what was being asked and picked the right answer.

I looked at the clock after the second question and I had already consumed six valuable minutes. For a moment I felt like getting up and going home. This was turning out to be one more same old, same old timing struggle. Convinced myself, that there was no point in quitting and that I should just focus on finishing.

I don't know what I did on the next 20 problems. But, I just seemed to solve them in an auto-gear.

I encountered only 3-4 number properties questions and 2-3 permutation/combination, probability questions. Couple of gotchas in DS questions. Towards the end there was this crazy geometry question with 4 squares and 8 circles within a rectangle. It was a DS question. There were at least 4 unknowns. I know I could have solved it. But, it would have taken me more than 5 minutes. Decided to choose C and move on.

After finishing Quant, I took the next break. Ate another half of banana, one more small candy and a gulp of coffee.

Verbal started ok. I was conscious of the fact that I was taking longer on each question, but I wanted to get the first few right. I knew, I 'll gain some speed by the time I got to my first RC. That did happen and I breezed through the first RC in probably 5-6 minutes.

What happened after that is hard to explain. It was as if my brain froze in a thick sheet of ice. I was reading every sentence twice, every CR at least 3-4 times before making sense of what was the topic and what was being asked. I looked at the clock and there were 12 questions to go and just about 15 minutes. I knew I was doomed. I knew there was a 4th RC coming around question 35. At that point, it was hard to concentrate and do anything right. When the RC came as expected around question 33, I had under 5 minutes left. I guessed the entire RC, two CR and half-guessed two SC. Must have been 7-9 questions.

When the section ended, I wasn't sure for a moment what just happened. For a moment I thought perhaps the section went ok. Then thinking back at how MGMAT's scoring had penalized me for getting last few questions wrong and specially RC questions wrong, I sort of knew it couldn't have been too good.

I did two or three of the experimental questions and then randomly selected the rest.

The score - 720 (Q51, V36).


Looking forward



I always thought slingfox was paranoid about test day strategy. I mean sugar, Tylenol before the test, combination of potassium and salt blah, blah.. blah.
Now, I understand why I should have read those posts carefully. From the moment I started driving from home (8am) till the end of the test (2.30pm), it was more than six hours. And, I should have realized I am not the same 20 year old anymore who can do a marathon study for six hours without a break. At a certain point in the test, the mind just refuses to cooperate. The only way out - sugar, little salt and perhaps some (more) caffeine.

I am not saying this is a bad score. I also realize that a 750 may not necessarily increase my chances of acceptance at a program.

Also, I think the Q51 was a fluke and I won't be able to repeat that performance again. There is a good possibility that in my next test, I may end up with a lower Quant score, like 47 and a similar (high 30s) Verbal score.

But, I know for a fact that this test was not the true reflection of my potential. If I would have scored same 720 after completing all questions in time, I would have accepted it as "my" score and moved on.

I have rescheduled my exam for February 11th. I am not applying this year, so no sweat there.

Thanks for reading this long story. Please feel free to ask questions, I 'll help as much as I can.

PS: I am yet to go through all retake experience threads. If you have specific suggestions for me, please feel free to let me know. I am off the books and any kind of preparation for the next 7-10 days.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 12:36
Kudos man for the nice breakdown,

It sucks that stamina was what brought down your verbal score, but at least you know what to do for next time. If you stay disciplined and decidated, a 750+ score is very doable.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 14:52
Hey good luck with your retake. My story is similar to yours. My first attempt was Oct 8. I think my nerves really affected me, because in the Quant section I froze up and was having trouble answering questions that I normally would have been able to solve in 60 seconds. That threw me off and I ended up botching the timing. My score was 730 (45q, 45v).

I went home and immediately scheduled my retake for the for the following month. A number of people said it was silly of me to retake since 730 is a great score, but I felt the score didn't reflect my capabilities. My second attempt was Nov 12. I went in feeling much more relaxed and I nailed the timing. My new score was 780 (49q, 50v).

I hope your second sitting treats you better.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 16:42
rjdunn03 wrote:
Hey good luck with your retake. My story is similar to yours. My first attempt was Oct 8. I think my nerves really affected me, because in the Quant section I froze up and was having trouble answering questions that I normally would have been able to solve in 60 seconds. That threw me off and I ended up botching the timing. My score was 730 (45q, 45v).

I went home and immediately scheduled my retake for the for the following month. A number of people said it was silly of me to retake since 730 is a great score, but I felt the score didn't reflect my capabilities. My second attempt was Nov 12. I went in feeling much more relaxed and I nailed the timing. My new score was 780 (49q, 50v).

I hope your second sitting treats you better.


@rjdunn03, I might have already commented on your other thread, let me say it again, 50v, O..M..G!!

any specific tips on what helped you keep your nerves together on the test day?

@unforeseen, thanks. I know your test day is approaching. Keep your cool, you 'll do great. Let me know if I can help in any way.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 17:26
Great score! I'll be taking the exam on the 18th. Did you find the verbal representative of the manhattan CATs and GMAT prep or were they more difficult? Also, any recommendations for quant study this close to the exam? Good luck on whatever you decide to do!
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 20:43
I would say don't retake, but that's just me.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2012, 22:12
Personally I wouldn't retake. I've heard it said that the difference between a 720 & 750 when applying is not much. Although it might help if you're gunning for scholarship money.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 01:23
There is not much difference between 720 and 750, but any higher and the difference becomes significant. 720 is 95%ile and 760 is 99%ile. So from 1 in 20 you become 1 in 100. You have outshined 4 out of 5 candidates in the Top 5%.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 01:54
AbhiJ wrote:
There is not much difference between 720 and 750, but any higher and the difference becomes significant. 720 is 95%ile and 760 is 99%ile. So from 1 in 20 you become 1 in 100. You have outshined 4 out of 5 candidates in the Top 5%.


I did retake after a 730 and got a 760. In your case, you clearly felt you were sub par in Verbals, so I think you should definitely go for it. You anyways have 720 as a backup, All the best!

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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 04:09
Hey congrates for this score
and good luck for the next score.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 12:18
leadout1 wrote:
Great score! I'll be taking the exam on the 18th. Did you find the verbal representative of the manhattan CATs and GMAT prep or were they more difficult? Also, any recommendations for quant study this close to the exam? Good luck on whatever you decide to do!


I like MGMAT CAT SC problems. However, I had issues with RC/CR questions. Even if I got those questions right, I felt at times that they were not testing similar concepts as problems in OG guide.

That's one of the reasons I didn't do SC 1000 or RC99.

If you have OG12 and the Verbal review that should be more than enough for you to practice your CR and RC. If you have exhausted all OG and VR questions and are looking for what to do to practice some more, do them again and look at why the wrong answers are wrong.

I found the first RC in my test relatively straight forward. Second one was short, but question stems were tough. More like CR questions. Asking me to find assumptions, inferences and parallelism.

Third RC was long and I think had 2-3 questions related to details in the passage. As I mentioned in my debrief, I didn't have time to read the 4th RC.

Initial CR questions were similar in difficulty level as OG and Verbal Review. Later questions slightly difficult as for most assumption/conclusion questions there were two very close answer choices.

For Quant - identify your weak areas. GMATClub Tests were amazing. They told me which areas my preparation is sufficient and which I lack. I didn't do any further questions in the areas that I know I was relatively strong. I feel number properties, inequalities involving mods sometimes stump me. I searched bunch of VeritasKarishma's posts on this forum and read all her explanations very carefully.

If you find a particular area too difficult, doing too many difficult problems may not improve your ability significantly as you will continue to struggle increasing your frustration. Rather look at how to understand the fundamental concepts behind the problem area. For example, I started utilizing RTW/RTD charts as suggested by MGMAT, something I wasn't doing before. I started using number lines to try and figure out tough mod problems and so on.

Reading explanations on this forum will help you train the way other users mind works when they see a certain problem.

Some people do tons of permutation/combination and probability problems. I think I got 2 counting problems and 1 probability. Nothing too hard.

For a moment in the test, I thought I wasn't doing very well. I got a question that was like what is the sum of all numbers between -n and k. Few other problems that I found really simple. Don't try and estimate how you are doing on the test. Just take each problem and solve it as best as you can.

During my GMATPrep tests, almost all my mistakes were DS questions. During the actual test, I made a mental note to Check for B and D as possible answer option to each problem.

In my opinion, GMAT Quant questions are not simple, but all of them test basic fundamental concepts. If your calculation gets too complicated or you are having to borrow knowledge from outside what is tested, then you should realize that perhaps you have misunderstood the problem or your approach to solution is wrong. Either way, its high time to make an educated guess and move on.

Hope this helps and good luck.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 12:24
@jazzman, @thugly921 and @AbhiJ -

I understand when you suggest not to retake. And, I know in reality it may make no difference. Rather I might be able to package my sob story of non-native speaker in a nice wrapping with this score. :)

But, I am sure you 'll agree that this is one piece of the application package that we have most control over (other than essays, of course). And, if I have already spent more than 2 months fine tuning my base and skills for this test, then what the heck. Another month and $250. Not that, either of them don't carry much value for me, but they are worth it for the personal satisfaction and confidence I may gain going into the application season.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 12:33
Go for it!

I got a 730 and have somewhat similar story. I recall being on last 12 questions with having 13 minutes left.

At least, you will be at peace with self. That's more important. You can easily bring your verbal to 42 - 43 range and with 50Q, you should be in 760+ range.

I had a rough estimate of timings for Q .i.e. as to what question I should on be at a particular time, but didn't have such a strategy for verbals. This time I will focus on timing and spreading the errors rather than having them concentrated in the end.

Hey, is anyone aware of practice tests for verbals?

I really don't like MGMAT tests as they have horrible answer choices with most of them not-GMAT like.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 12:43
:idea: Somehow after reading all the stories of 720-730 scores, I believe the GMAT logic wants you to stop at 720-730 and give up. It helps GMAT prove that it is the best test out there. :)

Don't give up, but do share GMAT tests that you plan to take for improving verbal. I am stuck with many releases that I had postponed to have after my GMAT test and can't research on GMAT till Jan 22nd.

Will take the 3rd retake in Feb.

My journey: 710(q49 v 35) -> 730(q50 v39) (BTW I scored 780 in all tests I took:- 7 in total)

May be, God of verbals: rjdunn can enlighten us here? Dude, is 50v possible? You must be an English genius.

8-)
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 14:21
Man, I am jealous of your Q51. I badly wanted that.

BTw: I agree with your comment that GMAT quant is more about logic than rigorous calculations. There is no point doing those confusing probability problems. I have just seen too many of them on the forums.
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2012, 16:52
Expert's post
Very nice debrief!
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 07 Jan 2012, 04:08
Can absolutely understand your point of view... I am in the same boat as you are..

Scored 720 (Q51 v35) 10 days back... and I am certain I will be giving it again...

I did not have any timing issues on the verbal.. which makes me think I was pathetic, because with the timing issues and guessing around 4-5 in the end you managed a v36 :). But I was completely out of sorts while solving verbal and my stamina definitely let me down. I'm taking a break for about 2 weeks and will gun for it again..

Congrats on your back-up score by the way, and hope you do really well if you decide to retake!
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 12 Jan 2012, 13:36
Thanks for the experience! It felt as though I were taking the test. I recall a similar experience when taking the PMP exam years ago.

Now back for more punishment, only this time its the GMAT. I'm too young to retire and too old to live with mom!

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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 12 Jan 2012, 18:10
GMAT test prep, esp. the prep for re-take, is somewhat torturing. You are awesome, scores and your personality!
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Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2012, 00:29
hi congrats :)

can anybody tell me from where to get GMAT prep question dumps
Thanks in advance :(
Re: How I got 720 (Q51, V36) and why I am going for it again   [#permalink] 13 Jan 2012, 00:29
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