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My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42)

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Joined: 28 Nov 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Italy
Schools: Bocconi '15 (A)
GMAT 1: 720 Q47 V42
GPA: 3.87
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 5 [0], given: 4

My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42) [#permalink] New post 20 Dec 2012, 16:09
Unconventional? Maybe not, but le me explain...
First of all, I'd like to THANK from the bottom of my heart this forum and the whole Gmatclub community, as I owe my score entirely to you people. And when I say entirely, I mean it literally. The knowledge and tools I have used to achieve my score are the materials I found on this forum: I haven't bought one single book/guide/exercise book, nor have I taken any course or tutoring prior to my exam (except for the free GMATPrep software, which I have used only before discovering this forum), which I think is not usual, as for what I've seen on the forum.

My background:
I am an Italian undergraduate student, I will finish my degree in June next year. I will major from an Italian University, Ca' Foscari, and an American University, Georgia State University, within a Double Degree program in Economics and Management. I am not applying to a proper MBA, but rather to a Graduate School, at Bocconi University in Milan (yet in my profile I have selected SDA Bocconi, this is not the program I am applying to). I have no proper working experience. The GMAT will be one of the standards of evaluation of my application for a scholarship for the Grad Program. For this reason, I didn't need to do the AWA, for instance, nor the IR (which is why I don't need the official report to say that my AWA will be 0.0, and IR will probably be kinda low). Not too active member on the forum, but I've been following silently.

Note: I have a solid background in math from high school, statistics from my second year of University, and English for the time I spent in the States.

Books and Materials used
As I said in the beginning, I haven't bought any material. This forum was my GMAT Bible! In particular, for studying I literally devoured the following resources:

- Quantitative notes by Bunuel: I don't think one couldn't ask for more than that. Well, actually, I also found a Sparknote for the SAT test that I found really helpful, especially for geometry, triangles and things alike.
- Free tests and questions on GmatClub (I was lucky I got to enjoy the free tests day for Thanksgiving and the Gmatclub anniversary). Really, there is everything on the download page of all the attachments, but I found most of the things pretty much casually and according to my need (I would do a question, come up with a problem, say permutation or mixture problems or whatev, look up for the topic with an answer, and if present, download attachments).
- Video on Youtube from Gmat Pill on CR: I will post the link tomorrow, I have to find it out and it's quite late now here in Italy :P
- Free GMAT flashcards: very useful for a final review, not to study because I find them a little messy.
- Various notes from the Verbal section of the forum.

Length of study and general strategy
I spent about a month and a week to prepare my test, BUT I was done with an internship and I don't have classes until January, so I could dedicate as much time as I wanted to the GMAT. Roughly, I think I spent three hours to five hours a day, every day, in a quite irregular way. First thing I did was downloading the GMATPrep software, I did some exercise with that, after some days I discovered this forum, after roughly a week I took my first mock exam and scored 690, Q47, V38, but I already knew some answers, so that wasn't quite representative (I can assure that my Q improved from the beginning).

I started brutally with the Quant section: I quickly found my weaknesses, combinations, work rate and speed problems, number theory mainly. I felt already well prepared with geometry (I only had to refresh the rules for triangles), powers, and percentages/interests (coming from Economics...). I think I literally mastered combinations, I actually found them really fun to do! Instead, I basically gave up on work rate and speed, and just stick to the simple problems, hoping to not find too many of the difficult ones on the GMAT (which actually happened!). Number theory was a bit of a beast, mainly because there are so many rules and shortcuts that are useful. I covered well factors, prime numbers, factorials and fractions, while leaving a little uncovered consecutive integers and evenly spaced sets (I refer to Bunuel's notes here), and of course I found like 10 questions on this! I think I could have nailed a 48, maybe even 49, if I didn't freak out on a couple of questions about these topics.

Whereas, I started late with Verbal: I was pretty strong in SC and RC, while I still can't seem to grasp the logic of CR. Of course, I can get most of the questions, but I could probably have used a little more exercise on that. I really don't think I can say too much about Verbal, as I said before the GMAT flashcards were really useful to review some main points.

Words of advice
Best advices I found on the forum:
For Quant:

- In general, a lot of shortcuts for number computation (divisibility, quick ways of multiplying numbers, etc.), and learning off by heart a number of roots and powers, as well as some fractions and percentages
For Verbal:
- In CR, read the question first and come up with your own answer!! That was like the Graal for me!
- For RC, Take. Notes. I did it my own way (if one sees my notes, they're like an unreadable mess of scrabbles and symbols that luckily I can decipher) and it really helps to understand and answer quickly the questions
In general:
- Time your answers
- BRING EARPLUGS TO THE TEST CENTER. Gosh, that is a real must.

Advices I HAVEN' T followed (that of course might work for others):
- Error log. Nope, not for me, definitely. Just a mess, too time consuming, I am just NOT that precise kind of person.
- Don't study during weekends/the day before the test: I did study every single day, including the day before AND the morning of the test. This is how I prepare my mind for every exam, I just dive into it; I found myself thinking weird stuff like: "oh there's 5^3 ml of lotion in this bottle!" because the number 125 was written on it, or asking my friends to solve some questions from the GMAT (OK, in that case I was just bragging on them because I could find the sum of all the integers from 1 to 250 or things like that, uuuuh they love me so much now :D). HOWEVER, I did took my time for some of my hobbies all along (a lot of time, too much maybe!)
- Buy this or that book. Again, I found everything here, and what I lacked during the exam was just due to me. I was actually really precise with this: I have a folder in my pc with all the files divided by argument, question, and so on, and I made sure to have something about everything.
- Take the test in real test day conditions. Aaaand I kind of regret not having done this one.

My test experience
I booked the test at 13.30 in the afternoon because the test center is in another city, and I had to take the train early in the morning (oh yeah, did I mention that I definitely didn't follow the advice: "take a good night of sleep"?, I was too nervous!). As I said above, I had literally built the GMAT within me, and of course I was a little tense (juuuuuust a little).
I arrived at the tst center two hours early because of the train. When I entered the center, I was greeted by the girl at the counter with a "There has been an overbooking for the test today: you are one of the latest and you might have to take the test on the 7th of January, or later".
Ok, I cannot say I broke down, but I was really close to doing it. I had to wait until thirty minutes into the planned time for the exam to finally be confirmed, and of course I took the exam at the end.
I skipped the AWA (not required), I could have answered randomly the IR too but I decided to give it a little look just to start getting into the test mode (and I think that actually helped).
The Quant was... weird. The first questions seemed really easy, I remember I finished the first 13 in about 20 minutes, and I was worried of rushing too much, so I slowed down. Biiiig mistake: I ended up slowing down too much, and rushed through the last 6, more or less. The last ones were actually getting a little more difficult (combinations, statistics, some complicate mixture stuff), so I think I could have got a couple points more just with better timing. Final Q score: 47
I took a break to eat a chocolate candy with coffee, hoping for a sugar boost or something for the Verbal...
... which actually didn't happened. Verbal literally killed me: not only because I found the questions fairly hard, but also because I was freaking tired already toward the 21st, 22nd question (I started looking at the clock quite often). I regret I haven't exercised as much as for the quant, but at least I did a good timing overall. Final V score: 42
Overall, 720, 94th percentile and proud to be! I came out of the room physically shaking! I think the compliments from the counter girl made my day :D (she printed out the score and saw it). Again, one thing I think made the difference was to bring the earplugs! When I took them off after the Verbal I noticed how noisy the room was!! People coughing, seats squeaking, typing on the keyboard, entering and exiting the room... Might seem not too much when you have to do something lighter, but for the GMAT being able to concentrate is everything!

I know this might not seem the conventional way of approaching the GMAT, but I wanted to share my experience, which I believe is a little different from the ones I read in this section. Again, many many thanks to the forum and the materials that you provide here, free of charge! If anyone is interested I can provide the links to the various materials I used, but really, everything is here in the forum under the Problem Solving resources, and one should use the forum as the extremely precious tool it is, for instance by looking only for a specific type of question or its specific difficulty, and taking advantage of tests, chat rooms, and other resources provided!

(my mind is still in SC mode: I re-read my post thinking about run on sentences, misplaced adverbs and repetition.... Oooh well too bad I won't correct anything now :P)
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Re: My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42) [#permalink] New post 22 Dec 2012, 08:46
Congratulations on the great score, and thank you for an awesome debrief!

Sure, you broke plenty of GMAT "rules", but there were three things I particularly loved about your experience:

1) It sounds like you developed a passion for some of the material, and that's enormously helpful. For example, I think that every test-taker should internalize key numbers so thoroughly that they see 5^3 in their heads whenever they see a 125 ml bottle of lotion, and SC rules should become so automatic that you can't help but see those errors in real life. I think this definitely contributed to your success.

2) Yes, it's possible to study for the GMAT without spending much money! Sure, a prep course or a pile of books or a tutor are a good investment for some people--and maybe absolutely essential for others--but you don't necessarily need to spend a dime on your prep. That's the power of GMAT Club! You've just proven that you can kick butt without even denting your wallet. Good stuff.

3) You did your prep your way, and focused on things that worked for you. Honestly, there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to studying, and it's really important to pay attention to what works for you as an individual... and then go with it, even if it doesn't fit the conventional advice. It sounds like you were completely yourself during this process, and I think that's awesome.

Congratulations again!
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Helping students kick the GMAT in the nuts since 2002... www.gmatninja.com.

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Joined: 28 Nov 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Italy
Schools: Bocconi '15 (A)
GMAT 1: 720 Q47 V42
GPA: 3.87
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 5 [0], given: 4

Re: My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42) [#permalink] New post 23 Dec 2012, 08:47
Thank you very much GMATNinja, that was exactly what I was trying to tell!
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Re: My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42) [#permalink] New post 23 Dec 2012, 09:39
congrats and good luck mate
Re: My Debrief: an "unconventional" 720 (Q47 V42)   [#permalink] 23 Dec 2012, 09:39
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