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I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0)

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I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 03:46
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Guys,
Six month ago I started my GMAT journey.
Four month ago I earned 690, the score I considered irrepresentative of my abilities, therefore I spent another two months in heavy verbal prepartion.
Today, I scored 710: +2 improvement in quant and 0 improvement in verbal. AWA is perfect 6.0 again.

As my contribution to the favorite forum, some advices and an overview of resources used:

BEFORE YOU START: ATTITUDE AND PSYCHOLOGY

First of all, the GMAT is not The Ultimate Test of your life. If you fail it, nothing really bad happens: you will re-take the test, GMAC will become USD250 richer, and any normal school will select your HIGHEST score from all available.

Second, before you even start your study, please decide on your 'operational definition' of success and failure, that is very important! Although it is very sexy to have a GMAT score of 750+, you need to assess cost/benefits involved in doing so: Does it worth 3-6-9 months of your life and several attempts to reach SO high score? If you have 1-2 years before your application, when try to get 750+. But if applications are due in 2 months, forget about storming GMAT and focus on your application instead. That being said, you shall not compromise on your GMAT score: if you feel you were not challenged at the real test and your score is SERIOUSLY UNDERREPRESENT YOUR TRUE POTENTIAL (>50 points mismatch), then take another test!

Third, stay calm while reading fancy stories such as 'I earned 770 after reading OG for 3 days'. Of course, there are some very few geniuses who can easily do so. Also, there are many students and fresh graduates at the forum who have probably several years before their application time, so they can 'test the test' in pursue of high scores. BUT what you do not see, is a vast number of candidated who tried the test and failed miserably. Bear in mind that the average score ~560, so for every one who boasted 770 there is somebody who got 330! So... unless you can easily teach Shakespeare English and Decart Math, be prepared to spend 2-3 months studying. No pain - no gain, or без труда не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда.

OBSTACLES (you won't have them :) )
My preparation 'routine' was crazy: I work abroad and during my preparation I had to fly home several times to renew my passport. Also, I spent a month in the 3rd country doing a project. These moves screwed my preparation logistics: my Amazon books arrived at one country while I was working at another; I could not take all 8 MGMAT books with me because of luggage weight limitations etc. On top of that, I was completing my Six Sigma Black belt certification.
Guys, if you live a normal steady life, your preparation will much easier and you HAVE TO EARN a decent score.

SCHEDULE
From the very beginning I committed to '2 hrs a day no matter what' schedule . Normally, I studied from 20.00 till 23.00 EVERY WORK DAY (with some rare exceptions) and spent 5-7 hours every Sunday. On Saturdays I was taking CATs (one per day) and then enjoying ungmatted life :) Important: don't neglect any part of preparation, solve quant and verbal problems on the same day!

MATH
My educational background is engineering, but I work in the transportation industry in commercial functions. At work, I don't do crazy stock market models, however I am confident working with data and still recall some of my uni math. And, in parallel to the GMAT, I was preparing to my Six Sigma exam, which requires knowledge of statistics and probabilities. In conclusion: math was not tough for me.

Resources used (my view of their value for someone who aims at 700+score):

Total GMAT Math by Jeff Sackmann (PDF, $50) - 5 of 5!
An excellent book with a slightly murky structure. Jeff made a really great job by not only explaining core and advanced G-math concepts, but also by presenting them in a time-saving way. For example, his approach for solving Venn's diagrams is much-much-much clearer than in MGMAT books. There are ~200 practice questions with detailed explanations.

MGMAT books (5 quant, 3 verbal, USD120 Amazon) - 4 of 5
I ordered the complete set, however, due to my unique travel challenges, I was not able to use all of them (Geometry I did not even open). With MGMAT books you get access to excellent MGMAT CAT tests. IMHO, Number properties and VICs are the books worth reading. Overalll, use either Jeff's book or MGMAT - whatever source you find better suits your needs.

Gmatpill.com QUANT (online, $ vary) - not valuable - 1 of 5
I noticed this site due to their unique video RC explanations and purchased complete access for verbal and quant parts. Their quant material is alone not sufficient for a high 600s score nor it will build a solid quant foundation. Therefore I don't recommend it.

Gmatclub tests (online, $ vary) - HOLY GRAIL! - 10 of 5
That is the best online resource investment you can made. I solved all 25 tests twice under timed conditions, moving from 30-40 %tile to 70-80 %tile. In my first attempt, I was barely solving all questions on time; in my second attempt, I was solving all questions in around 55 min! These tests were extremely helpful in my preparation: after difficult Gmatclub questions, the real gmat quant part was a walk in a part.

OG12, Quant supplement 2 (books, ~$20 each) - 2 of 5
The questions are too easy and some tough areas (coordinate geometry, probabilities etc) are not well represented! If you aim at 650+ score, these books are of very limited value.

GMATprep (online, free) - 4 of 5
In contrary to the official books, the official test software contains math questions that represent the difficulty of real test questions. The only disadvantage of using GMATPrep is once you solved many questions from it, your CAT score won't be representative because you'll see more and more duplicates.

Conclusion: the winning combination is either Total GMAT Math or MGMAT math books combined with Gmatclub tests: for less than $200 you'll become the Master of GMAT Quant universe!

VERBAL
I am not a native speaker. Although I work in an international company, speaking and writting english daily, I was not comfortable with GMAT verbal part.

OQ12, Verbal 2 - (books, ~$20 each) - 2 of 5
If your target is 650+, these books are not sufficient. While RC questions are somewhat representative, SC and CR problems are too lame in comparision with their tough relatives you'll encounter at the real test.

GMATPrep (online, free) - 4 of 5
SC are much easier than problems at the real test. CR as slightly easier. RC are of comparable difficulty. Highly recommended.

MGMAT books (3 verbal) - 3/4 of 5
CR book is fine: it explains how to deal with CR questions. However, I personally found Powerscore CR bible a much better book for that topic.
RC a so-so source. IMHO, you need to see HOW to attack the passage, not to read about that.
SC is the best SC guide. However, even it omits some parts: the GMAT makers advanced a lot in inventing crazy SC questions that are not covered by any source available.

Powerscore CR bible (book, $35) 4 of 5
An excellent book for CR preparation, dense and thorough. The only disadvantage is a limited number of problems.

Total GMAT Verbal (PDF, $50) 1 of 5
Unlike its quant's relative, this book is a complete waste of money. Stay away!

Gmatpill.com VERBAL (online, $ vary) - 3/4 of 5
I purchased the access to get a grasp of RC technique. Zeki, the author, explains in the videos his way of thinking through the passages and his way to solve the questions. These videos are great and useful. Unfortunately, Zeki in his examples uses OG passages, thus most of the questions are much easier in comparison to the real test questions. This course is good for enhancing CR and RC skills, but I would not recommend it for SC and quant material.

MasterGMAT (online, $ vary) - 3/4 of 5
I purchased only the verbal part of their online course and it helped me a lot in improving my understanding of RC and CR questions by explaining how they are structured, how to read RC passages etc. MasterGMAT is a great resource for RC and CR. However, its SC part differs significantly from the real test - the questions are very easy, normally you can deselect 2-3 incorrect answers almost immideately.

Aristotle Prep (PDF, $/free) - 5 of 5
CR - a great question bank. Once they add explanations, this set will be useful for CR preparation (questions are more difficult than those in OG).
RC99 - an excellent RC bank with clear explanations. Unfortunately, even it was not sufficient to boost my confidence with RC. Maybe, the problem lies in myself?
SC Grail - a somewhat basic manual and its question bank is too easy.

Conclusion: unlike in quant, in verbal there is no a single resource that will meet all your needs (no magic pill :twisted: ).
For SC, use MGMAT SC.
For CR I recommend Powerscore CR bible, MasterGMAT and MGMAT CATs.
For RC I recommend RC99, MasterGMAT and Gmatpill explanations.

CATs
GMATPrep - the best set, but after the 2nd retake you'll start getting duplicates, therefore don't take this score as an indication of your future success.
MGMAT - the 2nd best set. I was getting Q49-50 in their CATs and I got Q49 in the real test. The verbal part, unfortunately, is not that representative: while CR and RC are ok, SC is below the real gmat's difficulty level.
Kaplan - significant difference with real test questions.
MasterGMAT - significant difference with real test questions.

EXTRAS
Jeff wrote some highly valuable advices on how to study and what to study. These are available from his site gmathacks.com
RIN's RC strategy - great document, highly recommended
Chineseburned AWA guide - simple and effective
MGMAT's Thursdays with Ron lessons - a must to learn.

Last edited by AN225 on 08 Apr 2011, 01:26, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 05:27
waiting your debrief about gmatpill, I just registered and would like to know how to fully use it, And also did you get your money back then? :)

Goodluck on your next preparation!
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 11:01
excellent debrief, I'll be checking out Total GMAT math and dodging some of the other books thanks to you!
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 17:41
Congrats :) May be if I decide to retake the GMAT, I"ll look into Total GMAt Math :)
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 19:22
great debrief! can you explain a little bit on what source you used for Verbal questions. As you mentioned OG12 and 2nd edition does not have a great question bank for learning, what you suggest for preparing on the Verbal questions.
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2011, 00:01
Dude...... is there any book/online material you havent referred to????? I see every book/GMAT resource referred to!!!! and on top of it you say that you have been travelling here and there and were giving another exam simultaneously. Hats off tou and your dedication.
Congrats on nailing yuor target score.
Regards
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 06 Apr 2011, 23:08
brandy96 wrote:
great debrief! can you explain a little bit on what source you used for Verbal questions. As you mentioned OG12 and 2nd edition does not have a great question bank for learning, what you suggest for preparing on the Verbal questions.


Unfortuantely, I did not find the Holy Verbal Grail yet (in contrary to my finding in Quant). The plan now is to take TOEFL out of my way, and then to take the last attempt with the G-word :lol:
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38) [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2011, 23:41
Congrats Vorskl on a sacred 7 series score !!! Good luck with the apps .
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0) [#permalink] New post 12 Apr 2011, 22:50
hahaha Master of GMAT Quant universe!

great post. how did you get the Aristotle materials for free?
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0) [#permalink] New post 12 May 2011, 10:44
menacel wrote:
hahaha Master of GMAT Quant universe!

great post. how did you get the Aristotle materials for free?


I did not. CR bank is free and rest is for sale, but the price is very small.
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0) [#permalink] New post 12 May 2011, 18:19
I LOVED this :-D :

Vorskl wrote:
Also, there are many students and fresh graduates at the forum who have probably several years before their application time, so they can 'test the test' in pursue of high scores. BUT what you do not see, is a vast number of candidated who tried the test and failed miserably. Bear in mind that the average score ~560, so for every one who boasted 770 there is somebody who got 330! So... unless you can easily teach Shakespeare English and Decart Math, be prepared to spend 2-3 months studying. No pain - no gain, or без труда не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда.
:wink:

Good Luck with apps.
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Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0) [#permalink] New post 13 May 2011, 02:34
Good post. Good luck with the apps.
Re: I've passed the sound barrier: 710 (Q49, V38, AWA 6.0)   [#permalink] 13 May 2011, 02:34
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