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Just done: 760 (99%ile) Q 50 (95%ile) V 42 (96%ile)

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Just done: 760 (99%ile) Q 50 (95%ile) V 42 (96%ile) [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 06:13
I have not been a regular poster here though I regularly read the forums. I found out about this forum pretty late (2 weeks before my test) though I was much more active in TM. I wanted to share my test experience here too.

Overall: Thrilled
Q: Little dissapointed on missing 51
V: Pretty happy with 42

Long post warning. Wanted to give an overview of the test before the details start to fade away. I will hold off on the "How I prepared" part of it till I get a bit more free time.

One note before delving in: The debriefings are all individual-specific. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. So take it in with a pinch of salt and as a guideline, not as a bible. You will have to customize the debriefings for yourself. I think this is true for almost all the debriefings I have read.

Scheduling the test: I scheduled the test 2 weeks in advance and wanted a Monday so that I could have the previous day off. It is good to schedule the test when you think you are about 80% done. This gives you motivation to wrap up your preparations and most importantly peak at the right time. If you start thinking about scheduling a test a week after you think you are ready, you will probably burn yourself out before the test worrying about the test.

Night before the test

I had the worst night ever, tossing and turning and barely sleeping. I estimate that I probably slept for about 2 hours in total and even considered rescheduling my appointment! What saved me was that I had been sleeping for a good 8 hours every day in the previous week. I would recommend not studying too much in the last week and taking plenty of rest. Chances are you will gain very little by studying at the end. If you can, try not to follow my example and try to sleep well the night before. Even if you do not sleep well, do not despair. I was able to retain razor focus during most of the test even though I had not slept well.


Test centre: Not many people have given input on this and I wanted to share my 2 cents on the centre I wrote the test in. It was the Prometric Centre in San Jose. It is an *excellent* idea to visit the test centre a week before the test. You will feel a lot more comfortable about the test experience. I asked a few inane questions such as "How much earlier should I come for the test", "What ID" etc when I went there last week. You can note the general topology of the place and kind of visualize how you will write the test. It reduces one unknown from the test.

This test centre was pretty good, busy but peaceful,and the best thing was the "noise cancelling" headsets they gave. It was excellent and totally blocked out ambient noise. This is especially important since not all test takes are giving the GMAT. There are many who give other tests that need constant keyboard use. If you are like me, it gets on your nerves after some time. If your test centre does not have these headphones, I recommend practicing with an earplug and using it on test day. Try to learn how to use earplugs. I remember the time when I gave the GRE and I didnt know what to do with those earplugs.

A few things that surprised me about the test centre that you may want to know
1. You cannot choose your seat (in this centre). You get assigned to one. Not a big deal, just FYI
2. You have to sign in and out everytime you leave for breaks etc. Again, not a big deal, just FYI.
3. The breaks are *NOT* timed by the computer in this centre. Someone will unlock the keyboard between sections. That means you do not have to restrict the break to 5mins. That does not mean you can take a half hour break, but I did take a 9 min break between Q and V. Even then, I barely had time to splash cold water on my face, eat and drink some stuff. Btw, cold water splashing was very refreshing. Try it in the breaks.
4. Wristwatch was not allowed inside. You have to follow the wall clock in the lobby for timing your breaks.


Now for the test

Pre-AWA: When you choose the 5 schools to send your score to, do not press next after entering the first one like I did. I believe there should be another choice for next school or something. Look carefully. I thought "Next" will let me add the Next school. No such luck. It took me to the next section. Then I had to manually fill in the codes after the test and give it to them.

AWA: First was an "Analysis of Argument" Usually I am more comfortable with arguments than I am with issues. But this particular one was not my cup of tea. But still I managed to find 3 invalid assumptions and flaws. I wrote 5 paragraphs, proof read it and finished with 2 mins to spare. Nothing spectacular. I found that it is best not to drain yourself to write the best essay of your life. Your energy is better spent on Q and V.

"Analysis of Issue" was closer to my heart and as soon I as I saw the topic gazillion points leapt to my mind. I made merry and wrote 6 paragraphs and finished with 5 mins to spare. I was becoming visibly tired towards the end of Analysis of issue which brings back my original point of not burning yourself out for the essays.

Break1: In my opinion it is better to take the breaks and rejuvanate yourself, even if you feel you are on a roll. Cold water helped me start thinking about DS and PS even before the section. I found it useful to get into this mode before the section. I kept a few cookies and had them for instant energy. I felt hungry even though I had eaten a good breakfast. So, do carry something to eat even if you feel you may not need it. I took a mountain dew with "caffeine" incase I zoned out (as I had not slept well) but did not need to use it. I also took a Gatorade but did not use it. Just sipped water.

Quant: Echo what everyone else wrote in the forum. Way harder than OG and some were even harder than Kaplan. In both powerprep tests I finished Q with 0 mistakes out of 37. All my Kaplan's had scaled score 50 for Q. Even in the famed last 100 DS questions in OG I got only 2 wrong. I think Statistics did me in. I got 2 questions on standard deviation and 2-3 on mean, median etc. I did not pay too much attention to statistics and probably got the statistics DS questions wrong. I half-guessed Q36, a DS on statistics. There were some tricky number theory questions that I enjoyed solving. I used to get a lot of these wrong in the earlier stages of my preparation and then arrested the trend by substituting these numbers for all such problems [-2,-1,-0.5,0,0.5,1,2]. This method works well. P&C and probabilty were very easy questions in the early stages (before Q10). There were couple of arithemtics using decimals. Geometry questions were also challenging, but since I enjoy geometry I found them interesting but not impossible to solve. Overall I should say that I really enjoyed the Quant section and was pretty disappointed not to have scored a 51. I would recommend not solving too many quant problems in the last few days just to keep your mind hungry for solving them during the test.

Timing wise I was: 10Q 25 mins (a bit behind)
15Q 37 min
20Q 50min ( a lot behind)
Then I raced through and consistently maintained 1.5 mins/q till then end which was why I guessed on the statistics DS.

Break2: I felt pretty good during the break, but I knew the killer section was coming. Verbal was always a make or break for me since my Quant was pretty consistent. More cold water, more cookies and an apple too!

Verbal: The first SC was long but of medium difficulty. I knew I nailed it. The second was another SC testing concept of "each" being singlur/ plural. I wavered and finally selected. Immediately I knew I had got it wrong as I got an RC. I read somewhere that high scorers typically got 3-4 SC's in the begining. This was my lowest point in the whole test. I felt a bit down and desperately tried to recover. I had told myself a thousand times before the test to focus on the question in hand and it finally helped. The RC (35 lines about high tech industry) was very easy and I am pretty sure I nailed it. When I started prep I was weak in RC, but I improved it tremendously towards the end. After the RC I got a medium CR and then another RC (45 lines). This one was a lot harder and I felt better. Maybe I had recovered.I believe I cracked this RC too. 10-20 some SC and CR's, nothing too different from OG. I may have got a ac ouple wrong here. From 20 onwards it was a race against time. I had 27 mins for 21 questions. My time management was and has been very poor. I got an involved RC (65 lines Womens reform kind) with some hard questions. I tried to do my best to answer this. After this it was 16q in 21 mins. From now on I raced through the SC's and for the CR's I read the stem, stimuli and formed a mental picture of what could be a possible answer. Then I searched for the answer among the choices. Sometimes I did not even read the other choices. Things were happening in a blur though I maintained my compusre throughout and made educated guesses. Q33 and the 4th RC popped up. A hard biology one but comparitively easier questions. I may have missed one here. SC's and CR's continued. I just got one boldface around 26 or so, was not very hard. Finally I felt very diffident about the verbal section. I estimated that I got about 10-12 questions wrong. However, I had felt the same after PP1 (before OG) and I got the same scaled score (42) then too. I had made 7 mistakes then. However, I cannot conceive the possibility of making just 7 mistakes in the real test. I am pretty sure I got a lot more wrong, or maybe not... Who can say!

Most important learning from the verbal is not to try and double guess the CAT. I think it is in your best interest not to estimate how you are doing, however irresistable it may seem. One question at a time IS the key. Sometimes ETS throws easier ones at you, maybe to throw you off track or it could be that you may find the question easier and others may not. Also, back yourself to solve questions correctly if you have prepared well. I may not have got as many questions wrong as I am estimating.

One interesting thing was that 2-3 question I got were the exact same questions I saw in one of the forums. Though I did not remember the answers I was pretty surprised to see the exact questions. Just FYI, not that you can depend on the forums to give you all the questions.

Post test
I did not feel too excited about seeing my score as I was expecting something like a 720-730 or so based on my verbal performance. During the preparation phase here were my expectations.

Q: Bad day: 49
Average day: 50
Good/ very good day: 51

V: Bad day: 37-38
Average day: 39-41
Good day: 42
Very good day: 42+

Expected score: 720-770 [ PP1 (before OG)=770 (51,42) PP2 (after OG)=780 (51,45)]

But after the sleepless night before the test, I was willing to even take a 700 !!!

Finally I blazed through the survey questions and past the multiple "do you want cancel" screens and stared blankly at the 760. Pumped my fists a couple of times and waltzed out feeling great!!!
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 07:39
Congrats!
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 07:41
Congratulations! I particularly liked the info on the test centre.

Good luck with your apps!
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 07:49
Awesome! Thank you for your detailed experience! All the best for the years to come. :musband
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 08:19
Congrats and best of luck with your apps.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 08:25
Background

Bachelors in EE in India (BITS, Pilani), Masters in Comp Engg in the US and 3.5 years work experience in microprocessor design in one of the well known semiconductor companies in the Bay Area.

Preparation

Two years ago, I wanted to give the GMAT and started studying vaguely. Tried to improve my verbal but without much success. My diagnostic was 690 and my PP practice tests were 710 and 730. Most importantly I had no confidence in the scores and felt that on a bad day I could end up with a 690 or so. I just gave it up at that time as I did not have any immediate requirement to give the GMAT.

Recently, I had a quite period at work and finally decided to take another stab at the GMAT. This time I had an invaluable resource that I did not have the first time, the forums. I would attribute a 30-40 point jump to the forums and most importantly it ensured the consistency I was so lacking the first time.

Diagnostics: First off, I took the diagnostics. The Kaplan and Princeton ones online. I found that my quant was pretty strong and identified that I was rusty in P&C in quant. Verbal was definitely weaker and I felt very uncomfortable with SC's and RC's especially. CR's seems much easier. These were my diagnostic scores.

Week Test Q NumberWrong V NumberWrong (SC/RC/CR) Score
1 Princeton Diagnostic 48 2 39 7(2,4,1) 730
3 Kaplan Diagnostic 47 2 40 9 (6/2/1) 720

Weeks 1 and 2 were spent mostly in trying to identify resources, scrouge the forums, read a few Just Finished the test posts and formulated general strategy for preparation. From the third week onwards I started full scale preparation. It involved atleast 2 hours every night and 5-6 hours every weekend day. First I concentrated on SC and P&C.

P&C: I had done similar problems a long time back, so I knew I could start doing them well. I just needed practice. For this purpose the Math forum is excellent. I started solving questions from there and over time gained immense confidence. Doing problems like counting number of words that can be formed by rearranging letters of a word (and variations like vowels need to be together) strengthens the basics tremendously. After you start understanding the basic concepts the rest follow pretty intiutively. I was never weak in probability but I still did some for practice.

Other math: I found that I was strong in geometry, algebra, measurements, work problems etc and relied on the practice tests for practice on these. One method to find interesting problems is to sort the math forum by number of replies. The hardest and trickiest problems in the archives show up on top. I found that I was making mistakes in number theory and then fixed that by substituing [-2,-1,-0.5,0,0.5,1,2]. I never relied on backsolving, plugging in answers etc since I could solve the problem by multiple ways and doing so increased my confidence on the correctness of the solution. I typically found that I never made too many careless mistakes since I solved each problem in atleast 2 different methods. This practice helped me blaze through questions in the real test when I had time pressure with relatively good confidence on the solution. Surprisingly, I never made silly mistakes in conversion etc since I was always on the lookout for the tricks.

Sentence correction: Here comes the biggest focus in my entire preparation. I knew that I had to master this section if I wanted to get the 99 percentile range. There is simply no way to crack the GMAT by having a glaring weakness in one of the sections. I knew that the SC questions showed up a lot in the earlier questions in verbal and would be key in determining my range. I started by reading Grammar Smart by Princeton. Believe it or not, when I started my preperation I did not know what an adverb was. I meticulously did all the exercises and slowly the difference between a participle, gerund, infinitve, subordinating conjunction and independent clause dawned on me. Though these concepts are not tested in the GMAT it is imprtant to understand what each means when the OG talks about them in the solutions. Also, in general it increases your confidence on sentence structures and subconciously helps you identify mistakes faster.

The next step was to start from the oldest posts in sentencecorrection.com and work my way backwards in the archives. Here is where I gained the most in terms of what is being tested on the GMAT. For example, here is where I learnt when to use "that" and when to use "which", what is the difference between "like" and "as", when can "one" take a plural verb, when is "each" singular and when is it plural. These are all subtle concepts that you will be definitely tested on if you are above the 85 percentile. Make no mistake. This process is long, painful and a very hard route. But as far as I can see this is the surest way to crack this section. I did about 500 questions, before I started seeing repetitions and my ROI was much lower and I stopped. If you are focussed you can do 50 posts a day and you can get this done in 10 days. Does not seem very unreasonable, does it? The key here is not to move on if you got the question right. It is to read explanations written by various people and understand the concepts.

Reading Comprehension: Surprisingly, I got 7 RC questions out of the first 10 questions in the real test. Q 2-5(business) and Q7-10(native American) were RC's and I cracked both. This was where I probably lifted my level even though I had missed the second question. This section looks to be increasingly important nowadays. When I started prep I was very weak on this one too. I used to skim the passage not understand it well, look at it with hatred and muffed up the questions.

Then I changed my attitude. I started to read the RC's with relish. I looked forward to reading RC's as a way to improve my knowledge on different subjects. I started taking an active and curious interest in the passage. Consider the caffeine example in the OG. As soon as I see the passage, I tell myself that it is a good way to understand why people are addicted to caffeine and how does it really stimulate the body. As I keep reading I get excited by the information the passages and by the time I an done I have a clear picture of the passage. This improved my RC hit rate and timing tremendously. For most questions I did not have to go back to the passage and I could easily sense the answer. Maintaining scope is very important in RC's and you cannot add your views on top of what the author says. It is good to do about 20 passages from the OG. Once I understood the concepts I did not have to spend much time preparing for the RC's.

Critical Reasoning: I never had much trouble with this from the begining. Basic strategies like reading the stem first work here. If you practice from the OG and if you fell comfortable you are good to go. It is important to have a clear mind for this section. One thing I found useful was to make an answer grid and score out choices that are totally out of scope. This helped me prevents re-reading the choices just to be "sure" after you find the right choice. This saves a lot of time. In the real exam I did not have time to read all choices in many questions and relied on my mental map of what should be the right choice. You can try to make similar mental maps.

Practice Tests: As I kept preparing, I took the practice tests though I never cared much about the scores except for the powerprep ones. The practice tests are only good for stimulating a 4 hour mental marathon. None, except the PP mimic the GMAT. I would recommend not trying to estimate your final score based on the practice tests and focus on concepts you missed in the tests. Here are my practice test scores.
Week Test Q NumberWrong V NumberWrong (SC/RC/CR) Score

4 PP1(before OG) 51 0 42 7(2/3/2) 770
5 Kaplan1 50 3 37 12 670
6 Peterson1 50 3 57 7(2/3/2) 790
6 Kaplan2 50 3 36 12(2/5/5) 650
7 Kaplan3 50 1 35 13 650
7 Peterson2 50 3 39 7 690
8 PP2(after OG) 51 0 45 3(2/1/0) 780

Kaplan: Excellent for math. Terrible for verbal. I sleepwalked the verbal sections
Peterson: Math was good again though had some wrong answers. Verbal is OK for practice.
PP: Math is much easier than real test. Verbal is pretty similar to real test. After PP1 I felt pretty good. After PP2 I did not feel so confident as I was not solving most of the questions as I remembered them. Still it was good to get a feel of the real test just before the test. Another good thing is that the lack of confidence in the verbal just before the test, kills even the smallest overconfidence you might have!

Preparation Material:
- Forums are the best for Math and SC
- OG is best for RC and CR.
- Kaplan is good for math
- I cannot stress the importance of OG enough. I recommend doing the OG in the last 2-3 weeks if you are already scoring well. You remember the last material the best. lf you are not doing that great, you may want to do the OG in the very early stages once and do it again towards the end.

Some random notes

- You will do yourself a favor if you do not underestimate the psychological nature of the test. It is more of a mental marathon than anything.
- Use a practice answer grid and keep reviewing the questions you made mistakes on (especially in the OG). Staple all the sheets so you do not lose them.
- If you burn yourself out with overpreparation you will not peak at the right time.
- There is NO shortcut to the GMAT. You have to practice, practice and practice your weak points. Learning the concepts rather than shortcut strategies is the best way for a 700 plus score. Over time these concepts are embedded in your mind and this is very important when racing through the sections. If your aim is less than 650 the basic books like Kaplan, Princeton may be good enough.
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 09:25
I am speechless!...

just by your complete report, we can see that you are a very sophisticated writer and that you express yourself freely!.

congratulations on your great score!!!!

:good :good :good
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 12:19
wow,

thanks for an excellent, thorough and insightful couple posts. i have printed them out and will be reading on the waty home.

thanks dude.


good luck!
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 16:01
Wonderful Score... :beer
and Thanks for the insights....

My questions:
What was ur breakup of timing in the Verbal Portion in GMAT particularly for the earlier questions.. (0-10, 11-20, 21-31)? :roll:

When onw should start thinking (in verbal) that one is lagging behind time?
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 16:51
My timing was approximately

Q 10: 52 mins to go
Q20: 28 mins to go [ 10-20 was where I was slow. 24 mins for 10q is unacceptable]
Q30: 11 mins to go

My timing should probably be the worst you can do. If you are doing worse than this you are VERY slow. Considering that the first few questions are slightly more important ideally it should be something like this

Q 10: 55 mins to go [2 mins per Q]
Q20: 35 mins to go [2 mins per q]
Q30: 17 mins to go [1.75 mins per q]
Q41: 0 [1.6 mins per q]

jpv wrote:
Wonderful Score... :beer
and Thanks for the insights....

My questions:
What was ur breakup of timing in the Verbal Portion in GMAT particularly for the earlier questions.. (0-10, 11-20, 21-31)? :roll:

When onw should start thinking (in verbal) that one is lagging behind time?
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 [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2005, 20:26
Congrtualtions alakshma.

Thanks for sharing your preperation strategy and tips.I agree with your tip on RC to read "to know more".I've tried few times that technique recently and it helped a bit.I tell myself like "wow....really...interesting...".I got a low verbal in my first attempt and trying to improve on Verbal.Any additional tips you can give of Verbal?

Any specifc DS preperation startegy you had.I have math background school but DS tricks me quite a bit.

Thanks.
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 [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2005, 23:22
Alakshma
Congrats for your score. A wonderful post!
You basically summed up lot of wonderful insights in a very logical way . No doubt you scored so well. I agree with you 101% on what you said about SC. I request all those struggling with SC, and in a way with GMAT verbal, to understand what he says.
Quote:
I knew that I had to master this section if I wanted to get the 99 percentile range. There is simply no way to crack the GMAT by having a glaring weakness in one of the sections. I knew that the SC questions showed up a lot in the earlier questions in verbal and would be key in determining my range


Quote:
Make no mistake. This process is long, painful and a very hard route. But as far as I can see this is the surest way to crack this section. I did about 500 questions, before I started seeing repetitions and my ROI was much lower and I stopped. If you are focussed you can do 50 posts a day and you can get this done in 10 days. Does not seem very unreasonable, does it? The key here is not to move on if you got the question right. It is to read explanations written by various people and understand the concepts


Me too realized exactly this during my preparation for GMAT this time and that realization did pay off to an extent. I guess I lacked that killer instinct somewhere to go for an all kill which probably made a difference between 38 and 42.
This is the one of the best posts I have read here. I would recommend putting it in the sticky area.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Mar 2005, 08:40
I gave almost all the tips I wanted to, on verbal, except for one maybe. It is not just how hard you practice that matters but, more importantly how hard you analyze. One thing that is not good to do is to fool yourself that you got a question right because you knew it, when actually you did not. Many times we get lucky when answering questions. This is somewhat summarized in the first few lines of the SC explanations in the OG (p 696).

"Remember that it is the problem solving strategy that is important, not the specific details of a particular question".

So I would recommend spending a lot more time on analysis of the type of question than on solving.

For DS, I would recommend treating it is 3 questions. Option 1 is first question, option 2 is second question and Option 1&2 combined as the third question. If you treat it that way it is the same as PS. Also, the lesser you plug in answers in PS and the more you rely on concepts, the better it is for DS. Because in DS you do not have answers to plug back. You have to know the concepts.


700Plus wrote:
Congrtualtions alakshma.

Thanks for sharing your preperation strategy and tips.I agree with your tip on RC to read "to know more".I've tried few times that technique recently and it helped a bit.I tell myself like "wow....really...interesting...".I got a low verbal in my first attempt and trying to improve on Verbal.Any additional tips you can give of Verbal?

Any specifc DS preperation startegy you had.I have math background school but DS tricks me quite a bit.

Thanks.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Mar 2005, 10:49
Reading your posts makes it easy to understand how you scored a 760.

You're meticulous. This is just the motivation i need to perfect my preparation for test day.

Thanks and with such writing skills you'll mesmerize the adcomms in your essays. all the best
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Mar 2005, 13:47
Great post! Congrats and good luck with your applications.

What all GMAT forums were you subscribed to?

I have a funny problem with repeat questions - If I see a repeat question, one that I did not answer correctly the first time, I tend to waste time trying to recollect what my answer was on the previous attempt.

Still, I will grab any repeats I get :)
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 [#permalink] New post 29 Mar 2005, 04:51
Thank you for your kind words kwasi7. I do want to point something out here and put things in perspective for others. Though my post may look very organized I am not the totally meticulous person I sound to be.

I understand that a lot of people are not 100% meticulous and I hope they do not lose confidence thinking that being 100% meticulous is the only way to crack the GMAT. There were a couple of times when I felt too lazy to learn and glossed over a concept (case in point - the Statistics DS questions I missed due to lack of preparation).

Being reasonably meticulous is good (which I admit I was) and ofcourse the more meticulous you are the better it is, but my point is that even if you are not 100% there you can still crack the GMAT. Sound preparation and calm mind are the most important attributes.

kwasi7 wrote:
Reading your posts makes it easy to understand how you scored a 760.

You're meticulous. This is just the motivation i need to perfect my preparation for test day.

Thanks and with such writing skills you'll mesmerize the adcomms in your essays. all the best
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 [#permalink] New post 29 Mar 2005, 20:39
I subscribed to gmatclub, testmagic and scoretop score top forums.

I have the same problem you have i.e trying to guess the answer when I have already seen a question. In the test I had to literally force myself to solve the question instead of trying to guess the answer. So, you are not alone :-)

mckenna wrote:
Great post! Congrats and good luck with your applications.

What all GMAT forums were you subscribed to?

I have a funny problem with repeat questions - If I see a repeat question, one that I did not answer correctly the first time, I tend to waste time trying to recollect what my answer was on the previous attempt.

Still, I will grab any repeats I get :)
  [#permalink] 29 Mar 2005, 20:39
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