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My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720

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My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 12:53
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I took the GMAT this past Tuesday and I am excited to report that I broke the 700 club by scoring 720 (Q44 V45 overall 94%ile). I was elated considering that my first GMAT was a 540. I remember being so disheartened that I crumpled my score report and chucked it in the garbage on the way out. I don't even remember what my score split was. Many thanks to all faithful GMATClubbers! Your insights into the GMAT experience from preparation all the way to taking fingerprint scans at the check-in were a critical component of my success. For those who have shared their frustrations openly and honestly as they have struggled from a disappointing first score to a successful entrance to the 700+ club, thank you for your encouragement. I hope that sharing my experience will help encourage others who feel a bit overwhelmed by the GMAT.

Background: History degree with 3.6 GPA from a small, Southern liberal arts school. Worked as an analyst for three years at a boutique investment bank then returned to my alma mater where I am currently working as a dean of admissions. I initially took the GMAT about a year ago and planned to apply in the third round for a handful of top 25 b-schools. When I finished the test and a 540 popped up on the screen I was extremely disappointed and knew my chances of getting into a top 25 school were slim to none. As I reflected on my lack of preparation, I knew that I needed to commit a much greater amount of time to the test if I wanted to reach the 700 club. I decided to leave banking and take a job that would allow me to spend more time studying for the GMAT.

Materials Used:
OG - Make the OG your bible and study it intensely. The questions contained therein are without question the best reflection of the types of questions you will see on the GMAT. I made a big jump in scores on my practice tests after I went through the entire OG, solved every question, and then went back to review the questions I missed. Here is the MOST IMPORTANT part of studying for the GMAT; accept that it is going to be a meticulous, painful process and be willing to review the explanations in the back of the OG over and over again. However, DO NOT just read the explanations. You have to re-work the problem to internalize the concepts. This goes for any other study materials you use, but is especially true for the OG since its questions are real GMAT questions that have been retired.

Kaplan GMAT Premier - I found that the book was useful for reviewing some mathematical concepts, but I found the questions to be somewhat unrepresentative of real GMAT questions. Moreover, the CAT tests that come with the book always scored me considerably below the scores I got on the GMAT Prep software. Unfortunately I did not keep a record of my CAT test scores or dates, but I was consistently scoring between 540 and 580 on the Kaplan tests, even after several months of disciplined study.

Knewton - It seems like everyone else out there is taking a GMAT class, so you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage by not taking a class. With that in mind, I explored Knewton, Manhattan, Princeton, Kaplan and a few others, but I thought that Knewton offered the best learning platform and did so at the lowest price. It was a no-brainer. A few weeks into the class, my decision was confirmed by the quality of the instructors, all of whom are not only very intelligent, but are also engaging in their presentation of learning material - even though they're doing it through a webcam! If I missed a class period, I could simply watch the recorded class later on, or I could switch class sections and attend the same class at a later date. Each class has a handful of homework assignments that give you practice relevant to topics that are frequently tested on the GMAT. Knewton does a great job of writing questions that closely mirror the questions you will see on the real GMAT. If you can solve Knewton's questions with confidence and accuracy, you will do well on the real thing. Another great component of the Knewton offering is its interactive nature. If you have a question during a class, you type it into a chat box that resembles an AIM conversation and one of two or three Knewton tutors who is not on screen will address your question and give you thoughtful advice on how to accurately answer the question. If you have a question outside of class time, you can email a tutor. I usually got an answer within a few hours. Knewton also has a large bank of videos and written explanations of various topics tested on the GMAT. You can read a brief lesson, perhaps just a couple paragraphs, and then watch a video explaining just about every single topic you need to know on the GMAT. These mini-lessons cover everything from misplaced modifiers in SC to combinatorics in PS. I highly recommend signing up for Knewton.

GMAT Club Tests - I took all the GMAT Club math tests and I don't think I ever scored higher than 50% on a test. The questions are more difficult than the average question you will see on the real GMAT. These questions are a great way to stretch yourself. Even though the GMAT Club tests beat the hell out of me, I continued to take and review them. In my mind, I equated taking the GMAT Club math tests to lifting heavy weights. By solving extremely difficult questions, I developed my math skills much quicker and comprehensively than only working the questions in the OG. Also, as others have mentioned, the GMAT Club Tests teach you to read questions closely. Oftentimes I would know how to solve for an answer, but I would neglect to re-read the question before answering. Consequently, I would miss a minor detail that would have led me to a different answer. Constantly be aware of when a question says "an integer" or that a number is "odd" or "even". These minor details which are easy to overlook can be the difference between falling for a trick answer or answering correctly and moving on to a higher level question.

Study schedule: My work schedule is much more manageable now than it was as an investment banking analyst. My work flow is much more consistent, so I have been able to work until 6 or 7 just about every night, grab a quick dinner, and then head to the library where I would grab a venti Starbucks and get cranking. I would typically study until about midnight and then head home. I kept this schedule from last August until this past week. All together I put in 9 - 10 months of consistent, diligent study. Throughout the course of my study I took all the Kaplan CAT tests. As I stated, I don't remember exact score splits or dates, but I usually scored in the 540 -580 range. I also took the GMAT Prep tests in the month leading up to the real test. A couple months out from the test I got a 680 (Q42 V41). A couple weeks later I took the second test and got a 690 (Q40 V44). Finally, about a week before the test I re-took GMAT Prep test one and got a 700 (Q48 V39).

Based on my own experience, I would suggest spending a lot of time studying questions without the constraints of a clock ticking against you. Make certain that you understand the fundamentals before moving on to practice tests. If you begin taking lots of practice tests before internalizing the core concepts tested by the GMAT, you are likely to score poorly and hurt your confidence. When you do take a practice test, go back through and make sure you understand why the correct answers are correct. Be able to solve PS and DS questions efficiently and correctly. Also be sure that you understand the logic underlying CR or RC. My undergraduate studies were heavily focused on writing, so I was fortunate enough that I did not need to spend a lot of time studying RC, CR or SC. However, for those that do need extra help, I recommend Knewton's mini-lessons on specific topics. They do an excellent job of breaking down difficult concepts into easy-to-understand tidbits. I also recommend, as have others, regular reading. Read the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, or well-written fiction. The more you read good prose, the more natural proper grammatical constructions and idioms will look to you. You also may want to consider picking up a copy of Elements of Syle by William Strunk. It is a comprehensive review of English grammar that has served me well as a reference for all types of grammatical constructions.

A final word - the GMAT is a challenging test that necessitates intense study for the vast majority of individuals to score highly. DO NOT let yourself get discouraged by a low GMAT score. You can always go back to the drawing board and study more. Use your shortcomings as motivation to study even harder. The GMAT is beatable. If, after exhaustive study, you're still unable to achieve the score you're aiming for, then go ahead and apply anyway. Perhaps your chances of getting into your dream school won't be as high, but you will get in somewhere. And when you do - bust your butt and absorb everything you possibly can so that you can max out your potential. Then, take it to the professional world and make it happen! The beauty of capitalism is that the cream rises to the top. If you're a more productive worker and leader than someone else with an MBA from a top 5 school, you can and will rise above them.

See you at the top!
_________________

My GMAT Debrief: my-gmat-experience-540-to-92850.html
Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him. - Emerson

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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 13:13
Congratulations - nice debrief . Good luck for future.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 18:40
great, awesome and inspiring; all the best for your next move.
could you please tell the difficulty level of CR and RC
thank you.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 18:48
Congratulations nice debrief. Your verbal score is excellent, any tips / strategies you would like to share. How was your approach to handling RCs ?
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 18:50
phillypointgod21 wrote:
I took the GMAT this past Tuesday and I am excited to report that I broke the 700 club by scoring 720 (Q44 V45 overall 94%ile). I was elated considering that my first GMAT was a 540. I remember being so disheartened that I crumpled my score report and chucked it in the garbage on the way out. I don't even remember what my score split was. Many thanks to all faithful GMATClubbers! Your insights into the GMAT experience from preparation all the way to taking fingerprint scans at the check-in were a critical component of my success. For those who have shared their frustrations openly and honestly as they have struggled from a disappointing first score to a successful entrance to the 700+ club, thank you for your encouragement. I hope that sharing my experience will help encourage others who feel a bit overwhelmed by the GMAT.

Background: History degree with 3.6 GPA from a small, Southern liberal arts school. Worked as an analyst for three years at a boutique investment bank then returned to my alma mater where I am currently working as a dean of admissions. I initially took the GMAT about a year ago and planned to apply in the third round for a handful of top 25 b-schools. When I finished the test and a 540 popped up on the screen I was extremely disappointed and knew my chances of getting into a top 25 school were slim to none. As I reflected on my lack of preparation, I knew that I needed to commit a much greater amount of time to the test if I wanted to reach the 700 club. I decided to leave banking and take a job that would allow me to spend more time studying for the GMAT.

Materials Used:
OG - Make the OG your bible and study it intensely. The questions contained therein are without question the best reflection of the types of questions you will see on the GMAT. I made a big jump in scores on my practice tests after I went through the entire OG, solved every question, and then went back to review the questions I missed. Here is the MOST IMPORTANT part of studying for the GMAT; accept that it is going to be a meticulous, painful process and be willing to review the explanations in the back of the OG over and over again. However, DO NOT just read the explanations. You have to re-work the problem to internalize the concepts. This goes for any other study materials you use, but is especially true for the OG since its questions are real GMAT questions that have been retired.

Kaplan GMAT Premier - I found that the book was useful for reviewing some mathematical concepts, but I found the questions to be somewhat unrepresentative of real GMAT questions. Moreover, the CAT tests that come with the book always scored me considerably below the scores I got on the GMAT Prep software. Unfortunately I did not keep a record of my CAT test scores or dates, but I was consistently scoring between 540 and 580 on the Kaplan tests, even after several months of disciplined study.

Knewton - It seems like everyone else out there is taking a GMAT class, so you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage by not taking a class. With that in mind, I explored Knewton, Manhattan, Princeton, Kaplan and a few others, but I thought that Knewton offered the best learning platform and did so at the lowest price. It was a no-brainer. A few weeks into the class, my decision was confirmed by the quality of the instructors, all of whom are not only very intelligent, but are also engaging in their presentation of learning material - even though they're doing it through a webcam! If I missed a class period, I could simply watch the recorded class later on, or I could switch class sections and attend the same class at a later date. Each class has a handful of homework assignments that give you practice relevant to topics that are frequently tested on the GMAT. Knewton does a great job of writing questions that closely mirror the questions you will see on the real GMAT. If you can solve Knewton's questions with confidence and accuracy, you will do well on the real thing. Another great component of the Knewton offering is its interactive nature. If you have a question during a class, you type it into a chat box that resembles an AIM conversation and one of two or three Knewton tutors who is not on screen will address your question and give you thoughtful advice on how to accurately answer the question. If you have a question outside of class time, you can email a tutor. I usually got an answer within a few hours. Knewton also has a large bank of videos and written explanations of various topics tested on the GMAT. You can read a brief lesson, perhaps just a couple paragraphs, and then watch a video explaining just about every single topic you need to know on the GMAT. These mini-lessons cover everything from misplaced modifiers in SC to combinatorics in PS. I highly recommend signing up for Knewton.

GMAT Club Tests - I took all the GMAT Club math tests and I don't think I ever scored higher than 50% on a test. The questions are more difficult than the average question you will see on the real GMAT. These questions are a great way to stretch yourself. Even though the GMAT Club tests beat the hell out of me, I continued to take and review them. In my mind, I equated taking the GMAT Club math tests to lifting heavy weights. By solving extremely difficult questions, I developed my math skills much quicker and comprehensively than only working the questions in the OG. Also, as others have mentioned, the GMAT Club Tests teach you to read questions closely. Oftentimes I would know how to solve for an answer, but I would neglect to re-read the question before answering. Consequently, I would miss a minor detail that would have led me to a different answer. Constantly be aware of when a question says "an integer" or that a number is "odd" or "even". These minor details which are easy to overlook can be the difference between falling for a trick answer or answering correctly and moving on to a higher level question.

Study schedule: My work schedule is much more manageable now than it was as an investment banking analyst. My work flow is much more consistent, so I have been able to work until 6 or 7 just about every night, grab a quick dinner, and then head to the library where I would grab a venti Starbucks and get cranking. I would typically study until about midnight and then head home. I kept this schedule from last August until this past week. All together I put in 9 - 10 months of consistent, diligent study. Throughout the course of my study I took all the Kaplan CAT tests. As I stated, I don't remember exact score splits or dates, but I usually scored in the 540 -580 range. I also took the GMAT Prep tests in the month leading up to the real test. A couple months out from the test I got a 680 (Q42 V41). A couple weeks later I took the second test and got a 690 (Q40 V44). Finally, about a week before the test I re-took GMAT Prep test one and got a 700 (Q48 V39).

Based on my own experience, I would suggest spending a lot of time studying questions without the constraints of a clock ticking against you. Make certain that you understand the fundamentals before moving on to practice tests. If you begin taking lots of practice tests before internalizing the core concepts tested by the GMAT, you are likely to score poorly and hurt your confidence. When you do take a practice test, go back through and make sure you understand why the correct answers are correct. Be able to solve PS and DS questions efficiently and correctly. Also be sure that you understand the logic underlying CR or RC. My undergraduate studies were heavily focused on writing, so I was fortunate enough that I did not need to spend a lot of time studying RC, CR or SC. However, for those that do need extra help, I recommend Knewton's mini-lessons on specific topics. They do an excellent job of breaking down difficult concepts into easy-to-understand tidbits. I also recommend, as have others, regular reading. Read the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, or well-written fiction. The more you read good prose, the more natural proper grammatical constructions and idioms will look to you. You also may want to consider picking up a copy of Elements of Syle by William Strunk. It is a comprehensive review of English grammar that has served me well as a reference for all types of grammatical constructions.

A final word - the GMAT is a challenging test that necessitates intense study for the vast majority of individuals to score highly. DO NOT let yourself get discouraged by a low GMAT score. You can always go back to the drawing board and study more. Use your shortcomings as motivation to study even harder. The GMAT is beatable. If, after exhaustive study, you're still unable to achieve the score you're aiming for, then go ahead and apply anyway. Perhaps your chances of getting into your dream school won't be as high, but you will get in somewhere. And when you do - bust your butt and absorb everything you possibly can so that you can max out your potential. Then, take it to the professional world and make it happen! The beauty of capitalism is that the cream rises to the top. If you're a more productive worker and leader than someone else with an MBA from a top 5 school, you can and will rise above them.

See you at the top!


What was the relationship between your Knewton practice scores and the 720?
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2010, 19:18
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Sandeep & sh00nya: I'm not 100% sure I know what you're asking, but I'll take a swag. Throughout the verbal section on my test I felt like I was getting very challenging questions, particularly sentence correction. It seemed like every sentence I got was long, wordy and had several awkward constructions. The answer choices were much the same. I cautiously worked my way through the answer choices and eliminated as many as I possibly could. I did encounter a number of 3/2 splits that allowed me to immediately identify an error and eliminate 2 or 3 answer choices. The CR and RC questions did not seem as tough to me. I know RC can be daunting sometimes, but always remember - it's an open book test! You have the text open in front of you, so use it liberally. If you're totally stumped by a question, don't hesitate to go back and quickly read through the passage a second or even third time. I also noticed in a couple different RC questions that the test put a trick answer in either slot A or B and hid the real answer in D or E. At first glance I would get excited that I had found the correct answer, but when I read through the remaining answer choices, I quickly changed my mind. Keep this in mind as you move through the answer choices. Make sure you don't find an answer that looks correct and select it without thoughtfully considering all your options.

One tip I would give is to write the letters A, B, C, D & E on your sheet and physically cross out the letters you eliminate as you work through a question. I found it very helpful to not keep track in my head of which answers I had eliminated and which I had not. Once I got down to only 2 possible answers, I felt much more confident when I made my educated guess and moved on.

lagomez: I did not take all the Knewton tests. Around month 2 or 3 of my studying I got pretty discouraged after scoring in the mid 500's on the Kaplan CATs and then scoring in the upper 500's on my first Knewton test. I then went back to the books and focused exclusively on learning the fundamentals and recognizing what concept a particular question was asking. After a couple months I took another Knewton test and got up to 650. Shortly after that I took a GMAT Prep and got a 680. It's a very limited sample size, but based off those two tests, I would say that Knewton's CATs are a pretty good indicator. I can, however, speak more to the indicative abilities of the Knewton homework assignments. I did all the homework assignments and I could see a parallel rise in my performance in the Knewton homework assignments and my accuracy with the OG. In fact, I think that working both the OG and Knewton concurrently helped me quite a bit. Knewton's question writers do a nice job of mirroring the tricks that the GMAT will throw at you. They are also good at using a lot of the same wording structures that the GMAT does.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 18 Apr 2010, 08:08
thank you phillypointgod21,
for sharing your experience what i was looking for. thanks
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 18 Apr 2010, 19:01
Congrats !! great score...

Thanks for the encouragement !!
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 18 Apr 2010, 21:17
inspiring one great!! all the best for your app
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 19 Apr 2010, 04:54
Thank you guys for the encouragement! This community was invaluable to me as I trudged through one set of practice questions after another. Knowing that others had made large leaps helped me convince myself that I could do likewise. The GMAT is a leviathan for sure, but it is beatable for those who are willing to make a serious commitment to it.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 19 Apr 2010, 06:25
Congratulations on the 720--your hard work certainly paid off!
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 19 Apr 2010, 10:02
Thanks Josh. Congratulations on the big round of financing you just took down. I know FirstMark and the rest of the investors will see a nice return on their investment. Keep up the good work!
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 19 Apr 2010, 10:34
Great debrief! Thanks for the inspiration.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 02 May 2010, 11:49
Great debrief! It is really inspiring!
and thank you a lot for recommending me "The Elements of Style".
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 03 May 2010, 02:22
Congratulations! And thank you for sharing your experience.
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 15 Jun 2010, 10:32
Very good write up, congrats
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 23 Jul 2010, 02:23
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kiss - as tough as the GMAT is, it is definitely beatable. Get yourself a consistent study schedule and buckle down for a battle. I think BB's recommendation to read a lot is very helpful and I know that making a habit of reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times every day helped me with SC and RC. Plus, it kept me up to date on everything in the world of business.

Take some time to lick your wounds (and a few beers), but get back at it!
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 23 Jul 2010, 22:02
Congrats , great score !!
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2011, 11:16
Excellent debrief. +1
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Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720 [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2011, 13:32
Great story! Congratulations!
Re: My GMAT Experience: 540 to 720   [#permalink] 11 Jan 2011, 13:32
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