This morning, as I sat for the Real Thing, my stated goal was to never have to worry about the GMAT again. Now I know I won't! I'm fairly satisfied with my score, though I would have preferred to have a lower overall but an 80th percentile in math (as you know, 47 is now 79th).
When I started (July 2008), I noticed I was strong in verbal (though being a non-native) and not so good in quantitative (expecially when compared with the gurus here). Hence, I almost did not study or practice SCs, CRs and RCs as I chose to focus on the Q part.
The result: I scored just the same on my first full GMATPrep as I did this morning
My previous test results:
GMATPrep1: 720 (Q47, V42)
GMATPrep2: 770 (Q50, V46)
MGMAT1: 700 (V43, Q42) - stopped doing them as lack of confidence would have outweighted benefits given limited time to test
GMATPrep1-retake (day before): 730 (Q49, V42)
What I learnt: it is very hard to get from 47-49 to 50-51 in math. In fact, if you have forgotten part of the math concepts but are a rather smart guy, you can easily come away with a 47 on your first test. If you want to improve to 50, you have to a) cover all the bases and more importantly b) practice a lot under timed conditions
for strategies. I did a) but not nearly enough b). If you embark in the 48-to-50 process, be thorough
. I am convinced that as you brush up on concepts, you will tend to implement frameworks and theory more and rely on your intuition/looks less. This can be detrimental if you do not develop the ability of answering within 2 minutes. Since you are now trying to apply the "rigorous" method (and rightly so, you can't get to 51 by intuition), timely habits will develop, and the only way to trim times down is practice. You have to get to the point where you are cranking questions almost unconsciously, this will shelter you from panic during the exam.
Story of my Q: was willing to accept up to a 5-minute cumulate lag in the first half of Q. Did probably first 2-3 right but took me a lot. Then things got harder and, since I did not practice, my theory/strategies vanished and I ran even more out of time. I got some very easy questions and started to think I was doing poorly. From question 20 on, I was able to recover and having studied advanced concepts allowed me to answer a couple of medium-hard questions in <30 sec (e.g. easy Q on advanced concept, like comb/perm: the type of questions for which practice is less useful). The last two questions were hard and I had 3 minutes left: I spent 3'30" on the first of the two, then made an educated guess. I can recall the question and I was wrong. The last was very verbose and with 30" left I just guessed. I knew I was in the 46-48 range.
Break: I thought about verbal. I am strong in verbal and I tend to finish it with about 20 minutes to spare. That is because I am confident that my answer choice is decent after 20-30 seconds. I knew I had to force myself to spend more time on every question even if that would have changed only a handful of choices from my initial one (I work in MC and I hate
diminishing returns!). Otherwise, I would have scored 720. I wanted 750.
Verbal: force myself I did. The ability in answering with high confidence well within allotted time is the most useful thing you have for time strategy. Mine was just right - I spared 30 second and was never in a hurry. Got 3-4 easy ones at the start, then only medium and hard questions. What I did to spend that extra time - and I think it was useful:
- notes while reading
- read question that try to go from text to question using reverse engineering (writing down all logical passages): try to have in mind what to look for in the answer choices (just like you had to write down the answer yourself).
- write down the letters A B C D E for every question. As soon as you spot an error in answer A (inline), rule out A by crossing it out and any other choice with the same error. Rinse and repeat. Work exclusively by exclusion until you have 2 answer choices (if you don't cross it out physically, part of your brain will continue to weight incorrect choices, and you will lose tranquillity and brain cycles).
- you now have two answer choices, you know the right answer is there. Read one word at a time and spot ANY difference among the two (e.g. re-read this last sentence). You are now able to cross out one of the two.
- read the question BEFORE the text
- imagine the answer before reading answer choices
(continued from story of my V part): I got the hardest RC passage, very brief but chock full of information, variables and assumptions. Surely dinged 1-2 questions there. The rest was medium and hard and I sensed the aforementioned "detailed" approach was working well. It is very demanding too, and I got to the end exhausted. But that was, indeed, the end.
Final results did not surprise me. My advice
Premise: people here tend, on average, to focus more on Q than on V. But then again, people here are on average more good at Q than at V, especially at the intermediate level (650-710). Guys, do not overdo your math! Two more right answers in V will do for your score more than the 51 you are aiming for in Q.
Indeed, improving in V from 35-40 to 42-45 is entirely possible with little effort, while even quant geniuses failed the coveted 51 and scored 50 instead (you never know on the test).Look for the big returns
. My big returns were in rather banal V techniques I experimented the first time when taking the test, and I was already strong in V. For almost all of you, the big payout is in V. Random tips
- Arrive at test center 1 hour before, you will be calmer and they will be likely to allow you to start early.
- Do not drink anything with less than 2 hours to test time
- AWA: chineseburned guide is an absolute must
-- Write down your template on the noteboard during the 10-minute tutorial at the beginning. -- Type it down thoroughly immediately after beginning the test, leaving blanks.
-- Do not worry about the argument/issue until you have all template words that you can remember neatily on the screen.
-- Then read.
-- Then fill in the blanks. Force yourself to finish well before the deadline.
-- Bottom line: don't waste any psychic energies on the AWA. The method outlined above it is awful, but you have to be unmerciful with the GMAT. It will come after you later on.
And that's about it guys. Thanks to anyone sharing his/her knowledge here. I particularly appreciated, among others, Oski, durgesh79, x2suresh. I wish I had learnt math as a child as you did, guys.
I will now focus on the B-school application boards and hope to give back something to the community sharing my MC experience.