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My GMAT - 570 to 700

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Joined: 09 Nov 2004
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My GMAT - 570 to 700 [#permalink] New post 10 Jan 2007, 15:19
I thought I'd document my GMAT experience for others to read. Hopefully it will be helpful to somebody that is struggling with the exam as I did.

I wrote the GMAT in Feb/05 and scored an embarassing 570 (Q36 V31). Although I did a lot of preparation I really was not prepared in the way you need to be to do well on the exam and I knew it. After the exam I took notes as to where I believed I could improve on the exam and took a long 18 month break from GMAT stuff.

I decided to begin preparing for the exam once in October/06. This time around I was much more focused on preparing in the correct way.

I purchased the Kaplan GMAT Classroom Course (1200$). After my initial failure at the test I looked at areas to improve on my GMAT weaknesses and I believed the Kaplan course offered the tools to strenthen my test taking.

There is a fair degree of Kaplan bashing in this forum but I must say I am very pleased with the Kaplan Product I purchased. In particular the 8 CAT's and the GMAT quiz bank that are a part of the course were very useful for me.

On a daily basis over a three month period I would do mini-quizzes of 16 questions (always timed, always on the computer, using laminated scratch paper and a felt pen) from the quiz bank - perhaps 2 or 3 quizzes per day. After the quizzes I would review my (sometimes) dismal performance and try to learn from my mistakes both in lack of knowledge of material and my strategy for tackling different questions. After a series of quizzes I would write a CAT after I felt my testing skills had been strengthened.

My practice scores were as follows (actual GMAT 700 Q47 V39)

Kaplan GMAT CAT #1 580 Q37 V30
Kaplan GMAT CAT #2 610 Q40 V33
Kaplan GMAT CAT #3 610 Q41 V30
Kaplan GMAT CAT #4 590 Q38 V30
Power Prep #1 680 Q42 V37
Kaplan GMAT CAT #5 660 Q44 V37
Kaplan GMAT CAT #6 690 Q49 V34
Kaplan GMAT CAT #7 710 Q42 V55
Kaplan GMAT CAT #8 700 Q41 V53
Power Prep #2 700 Q48 V38

I followed this approach of quizzing - reviewing - and CAT'ing up until test day always simulating testing conditions as much as possible. Writing the Kaplan 8 CAT's (one of them at the Pearson Vue test center) in addition to the two Power Prep CAT's I believe really, really galvanized my test taking abilities.

I did not find the Kaplan classroom sessions (I only attended three of them) or the learning material (books and online tutorials) particulary useful. In fact if you are intending to purchase the Kaplan program for this I would advise AGAINST it - that would be a waste of money as the material provided is strictly average with one exception: the little blue book titled GMAT Pocket Reference. Provided by Kaplan as part of the materials for the course this little reference book was very useful for me. I found myself reffereing to this book many, many times throughout my preparation (especially for polishing my grammar skills).

So that's it. 570 to 700. I did it and so can you.

Believe me there was a time when I thought I'd never score above 600 on the exam and I used to be baffled by people who were dissapointed by a 700 score (I thought it to be so unattainable for me) I now understand this feeling. I am certain if I put further effort into preparation I could do 730+.

Although I am very pleased with a 700 I remain a bit disspointed with my V39 - I really, really wanted to score a 40+ in the V section (it was my personal vendetta with the exam) I almost want to take the test again to kick some verbal ass....but I won't....

The GMAT is a done dealio for me. Time to move on.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Jan 2007, 16:01
Congrats on your great improvement!!! and thanks for sharing your experience.
Can you provide details about your verbal preparation ?
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Jan 2007, 16:47
Boy that was quite an improvement...

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 [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2007, 03:01
Yeah, that's wonderful, congratulations!
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 [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2007, 13:15
Thanks all. VP_ENG I hope this helps. If I can add more let me know.

Sentence Correction:
I don't think i had a very good preparation strategy but it seemed to work - that is I saw consistent improvement in my quizzes and test results.

I simply brute forced it - I did many, many sentance correction problems over and over under timed conditions. Afterward I would reflect on my results - both correct and incorrect answers. Always identifying where I could improve in speed and accuracy. Even if I completed a quiz perfectly (all answers correct) I would still review to see where I made mistakes in my analysis of each SC problem. In reviewing the questions on the CATs and quizzes I would challenge myself to answer questions on each problem: Is there a problem in the orignial sentence?, What is it?, Why are the other 4 answers incorrect? Why is the correct answer correct?

While doing SC questions I would pre-phrase an answer in my head before looking at the options. Sometimes this was quite beneficial because you actually see the answer infront of you.

Reading Comprehension:
This is where I struggled most in verbal. Again I don't think my preparation strategy was anything special but the tactics I develped to tackle the questions seemed to improve my scores. When reading a passage (always timed, always on a computer screen) I would talk it to myself - sort of wisper it rather than reading it silently. I found this would prevent my eyes from racing ahead of my brain's comprehension speed. Once I had my brain and eyes in sync it was much easier to understand what the hell was being talked about in the passage. While reading a particular passage I would pause and re-phrase to myself what I had just read - on pehaps 2 or 3 occasions in a given passage, whatever made sense.

I also use to practice the technique of eye-brain syncronization and re-phrasing with whatever I would read. Even if it was a newspaper or an E-mail message. I had to break myself of the habit of quck scanning which I think will kill you in RC on the GMAT.

Also to keep my racing eyes in check I used the tip of the pen as a visual marker while reading the RC passage - I would hold it up to the screen while reading the passage and move it along as I read. No rocket science here just another technique hopefully that will make the difference for somebody.

Critical Reasoning:
I carried forward the techniques I used in RC to CR - synchronization and re-phrasing. For the CR's I added the twist of always re-phrasing a strengthening or weakening statement or situation (depending on the type of CR question) before looking at the answer choices. I found this helped me grasp exactly what the situation was in the CR stem.

On the CR's I found myself focusing on adjectives and adverbs in the question stem. If the stem said something like "...local politicians" I would zone in on LOCAL; "...smaller profits" My eyes see SMALLER right away.

I found using POE for CR's was the best technique for me - often incorrect answers are easier to identify than correct ones. In fact often I'd pick a CR answer only becasue all of the other 4 answers were stupid ones.

I retrospect I think my SC skills killed me a bit on the actual exam. The Kaplan material improved my ability in this area but I got quite a few SC questions wrong on the PowerPrep tests and I felt a bit off during the exam. This makes me think that I learned how to solve Kaplan SC's questions better than I learned to solve GMAT SC questions - not a good thing. Conversley I got almost all CR questions correct on the PowerPreps (only 2 incorrect on both tests) and did very well on the RC's (no more than one incorrect per passage).

If I had to do it again I would augment my SC preparation with material other than Kaplan's just to be sure I was well balanced.

Another piece of advice: If you are not ready to write the exam then don't do it. It will eat you alive. Nerves, lack of confidence, etc.. all of this will be your demise. Prepare, get confident, and then tackle the exam when you are ready. Half of the battle of doing anything is believeing that you can (really).
  [#permalink] 11 Jan 2007, 13:15
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