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Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score

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Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2011, 10:36
Hi guys,

I'm looking for advice on improving my quant score. Background: I always had stronger verbal skills than quant skills throughout my life. (English is my second language). I never liked math. However, my WE has been 100% in IT for a loooong time where I usually utilize analytical skills rather than quant skills. Being away from school for a long time, I knew I needed to work on math. My diagnostic test confirmed it - I couldn't even finish math section. The verbal section was OK. So I started with Kaplan Premier, went through a half of it and then switched to MGMAT. I went through Math Foundation first, then Number Properties, FDP's, Geometry, and half of Word Translations. I also completed CR Bible. Overall time for study - 4 months. Generally, I can solve most of the 600-700 questions in OG12 (without time limit). OG Quant Review feels a bit harder than OG12 to me. I also use MGMAT flash cards and Anki spaced repetition software.

CATs:

CAT1 MGMAT: 510 (Q27, V33) - My timing was bad on quant. I spent 8 min on one question and got it wrong. Also I had two 5 min questions and had to guess about 10-12 questions.

Week later
CAT2 MGMAT: 520 (Q24, V38) - This time around I selected an option for exam to move on after 2 min per question. The result is no answer on 2 questions, one string of 6 wrong answers and another one of 4 wrong answers. Plenty of guessed questions as well. At the same time, I felt good on verbal and didn't have any time pressure on it.

Overall impression: During the quant section I'm struggling with time (unless it is 400 level question) and I'm having a feeling as if all formulas were washed out of my brain.
However, when I review the questions I got wrong, in most cases I wonder how come I didn't solve them.

Proposed course of action: finish OG12 and Gmat Club tests. However, I don't think it can take me to mid-40s on quant. (700+ is overall goal)

Do you guys have any suggestions?
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2011, 12:54
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Well, it seems that your main problem is lack of practice. At the current moment you need to solve as many problems as possible, bringing your quant skills to the level when you can recognize patterns immediately. Ideally, you should see how to solve the problem in first 10-15 secs after reading it. (that's my opinion) So the main thing is to bring all required for GMAT concepts in a system. Imagine that you have a garret in your head (like Sherlock Holmes :)) and when you see a problem you simply search a tool that can solve it. So all needed to be done is to improve search speed. When you practice a lot, you get this improvement quite fast. I love the way MGMAT guides classify problems and tools for tackling 'em, just go through these books and solve OG/QR questions, I think everything will be alright after that. Also consider going through end-chapter questions, they help to memorize key concepts. I've noticed you've already completed some of the books. However, try re-doing questions which were hard for you. And, of course, check OA. So the general advice is: keep practicing and don't worry about your speed, it will improve quite automatically I believe.
When you obtain certain level of confidence, try going through GMATclub tests. This is a very useful tool, I've started using these tests recently, they are quite challenging but overall doable. Also my advice is to go untimed first 5-7 tests so that time issues won't distract you from searching patterns.
Finally, I don't think you should take many CAT's at this moment. Just focus on memorizing concepts and techniques.
Hope this was helpful.
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2011, 13:15
DaoEmo wrote:
Well, it seems that your main problem is lack of practice. At the current moment you need to solve as many problems as possible, bringing your quant skills to the level when you can recognize patterns immediately. Ideally, you should see how to solve the problem in first 10-15 secs after reading it. (that's my opinion) So the main thing is to bring all required for GMAT concepts in a system. Imagine that you have a garret in your head (like Sherlock Holmes :)) and when you see a problem you simply search a tool that can solve it. So all needed to be done is to improve search speed. When you practice a lot, you get this improvement quite fast. I love the way MGMAT guides classify problems and tools for tackling 'em, just go through these books and solve OG/QR questions, I think everything will be alright after that. Also consider going through end-chapter questions, they help to memorize key concepts. I've noticed you've already completed some of the books. However, try re-doing questions which were hard for you. And, of course, check OA. So the general advice is: keep practicing and don't worry about your speed, it will improve quite automatically I believe.
When you obtain certain level of confidence, try going through GMATclub tests. This is a very useful tool, I've started using these tests recently, they are quite challenging but overall doable. Also my advice is to go untimed first 5-7 tests so that time issues won't distract you from searching patterns.
Finally, I don't think you should take many CAT's at this moment. Just focus on memorizing concepts and techniques.
Hope this was helpful.


Thanks for your response. In other words, the more practice questions I solve the faster is a response time. Make sense. I often wonder how on earth someone has time to rephrase a question and then evaluate it in DS :)
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2011, 13:49
Yeah, DS questions can be harsh sometimes :) However, the more answer explanations you read, the more equipped you are. There are special chapters in MGMAT guides also, as I remember, you can check how to rephrase there. Keeping attention to small details is very important when solving DS questions. Always notice words like "positive", "integer" and so on, this may be crucial.
Forgot to say, I think your goal is quite achievable since you have decent verbal and quant is much easier to master. Good luck!
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2011, 14:50
Don't just do OG problems--reread the MGMAT books and find out how to solve all the most common types of problems. You need to be able to recognize all the ways the GMAT uses to make simple questions look more obscure...for example, how complicated-looking questions can be simplified to (a^2 - b^2) which obviously equals (a+b)(a-b). And you MUST memorize all the equations and formulas, exponent rules, characteristics of geometric shapes, etc.
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2011, 08:33
DaoEmo wrote:
Yeah, DS questions can be harsh sometimes :) However, the more answer explanations you read, the more equipped you are. There are special chapters in MGMAT guides also, as I remember, you can check how to rephrase there. Keeping attention to small details is very important when solving DS questions. Always notice words like "positive", "integer" and so on, this may be crucial.
Forgot to say, I think your goal is quite achievable since you have decent verbal and quant is much easier to master. Good luck!


Yeah, I noticed that about DS questions. By the way, I find it time consuming to draw tables for work/rate and speed/distance problems. By the time I fill it in, like 60-80 seconds are gone.
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 01 Feb 2011, 14:50
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The beauty of DS is that you don't have to do any calculations at all. Sometimes, in the harder questions, I'll make some quick notes and throw around the numbers a little, but that's it.

Since GMAT throws only a limited number of problems at you it's mostly about learning the math behind the different kind of problems.

- Absolute values
- Basic equations
- Different kinds of rates
- Geometry
- Probability and some permutations and combinations

And so on.

What I've learned so far:
- Try to learn different approaches to the problems so that when you get stuck you'll have different methods.
- Always try to learn and practice on how to solve the problems faster. Many different problems can be solved a lot faster with different shortcuts. For instance, learn the different triangles (30,60,90 / x, xsqr(3), 2x) so that you don't have use the Pythagora theorem every time you see a problem with triangles.
- If you can solve the problem faster with another method - use that method instead.
- Work on any weakness you have until you master every topic.
- Practice, practice until you can solve most problems without any calculations at all.

The best of luck!
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 01 Feb 2011, 17:19
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Hey guys,

Great discussion so far! If I could add a few suggestions...

1) Data Sufficiency

Another great way to get your mind in tune with DS questions is to train yourself to "think like the testmaker" by turning each DS question into a series of a few questions - ask yourself how they could change one word, symbol, etc. to elicit an entirely different answer. For example, there's an OG question that reads:

For nonzero integers m and n, is m/n > (mn)^4?

1) m/n > 0
2) m < 0

For this one, since we know that m and n are integers, there's no chance that m/n could ever be greater than (mn)^4. Thinking logically, on the left we take the same m and divide it, whereas on the right we multiply it by m^3 n^4. Even if either is negative, the right hand side will end up positive because of the even exponent. At worst we can construct a tie if all values are 1 or -1. The answer is D.


But to become a true master of DS, ask yourself how they can use the same setup to elicit a different answer. One way - if they just changed the direction of the inequality in the question to:

Is m/n < (mn)^4?

Usually the answer will be "yes" - take 4 and 2, 4/2 is much less than (4*2)^4. BUT, since we know that we can construct a "tie" with all 1s, then we can still get that answer "NO". Here, we learn that with inequalities you have to be careful because the yes/no question format can be tricky with the potential for a "tie".


2) Timing

One of my favorite timing drills is one I call "Quick First Step", in which you take 10 or 20 quant problems and start on each in 30 seconds, then move on to the next. When you're done with 30 seconds/question, go back and finish the question. Here, your goal is first to train yourself to begin questions quickly by drawing relationships and identifying your known quantities - so often people spend 30 seconds reading, 15 seconds worrying, and then it's almost a full minute before they start "doing". You want to actively read and begin work on a problem, both for pacing and confidence reasons. Second, you'll also learn which mistakes you tend to make when setting up a problem quickly. I'd argue that most quant mistakes come in the first 30 seconds and last 30 seconds you spend on a problem - you're either setting it up incorrectly or beginning with false assumptions, or you're missing steps or leaving a problem short when you finish. This drill allows you to focus on that first-30-seconds portion that can be so crucial.
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Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score [#permalink] New post 02 Feb 2011, 06:41
VeritasPrepBrian wrote:
Hey guys,

Great discussion so far! If I could add a few suggestions...

1) Data Sufficiency

Another great way to get your mind in tune with DS questions is to train yourself to "think like the testmaker" by turning each DS question into a series of a few questions - ask yourself how they could change one word, symbol, etc. to elicit an entirely different answer. For example, there's an OG question that reads:

For nonzero integers m and n, is m/n > (mn)^4?

1) m/n > 0
2) m < 0

For this one, since we know that m and n are integers, there's no chance that m/n could ever be greater than (mn)^4. Thinking logically, on the left we take the same m and divide it, whereas on the right we multiply it by m^3 n^4. Even if either is negative, the right hand side will end up positive because of the even exponent. At worst we can construct a tie if all values are 1 or -1. The answer is D.


But to become a true master of DS, ask yourself how they can use the same setup to elicit a different answer. One way - if they just changed the direction of the inequality in the question to:

Is m/n < (mn)^4?

Usually the answer will be "yes" - take 4 and 2, 4/2 is much less than (4*2)^4. BUT, since we know that we can construct a "tie" with all 1s, then we can still get that answer "NO". Here, we learn that with inequalities you have to be careful because the yes/no question format can be tricky with the potential for a "tie".


2) Timing

One of my favorite timing drills is one I call "Quick First Step", in which you take 10 or 20 quant problems and start on each in 30 seconds, then move on to the next. When you're done with 30 seconds/question, go back and finish the question. Here, your goal is first to train yourself to begin questions quickly by drawing relationships and identifying your known quantities - so often people spend 30 seconds reading, 15 seconds worrying, and then it's almost a full minute before they start "doing". You want to actively read and begin work on a problem, both for pacing and confidence reasons. Second, you'll also learn which mistakes you tend to make when setting up a problem quickly. I'd argue that most quant mistakes come in the first 30 seconds and last 30 seconds you spend on a problem - you're either setting it up incorrectly or beginning with false assumptions, or you're missing steps or leaving a problem short when you finish. This drill allows you to focus on that first-30-seconds portion that can be so crucial.


Great post Brian! I think the 30 second "Quick First Step" drill is going to highlight one's weaknesses and gaps in the knowledge of basic math concepts. I'll definitively try that.
Re: Looking for suggestions to improve quant speed/score   [#permalink] 02 Feb 2011, 06:41
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