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My roller coaster experience: GMAT SCORE 720

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Joined: 22 Aug 2012
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GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V41
GRE 1: 1190 Q770 V420
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My roller coaster experience: GMAT SCORE 720 [#permalink] New post 25 Aug 2012, 16:07
Hello forum browsers.

I debated whether I wanted to contribute my personal experience on the forum or not. In the end I felt that some poor soul studying for the GMAT may actually find my experiences helpful.

A quick background of my educational background. B.A. in Business admin, completed 1st year of M.A. Economics, both at a california state university. I plan to apply for doctoral programs this Fall (2012).

Standardized Test Taking History:

SAT (2001, old 1600 scale)
Combined Score: 1260 (math was 600-something, verbal was low 500's)

GRE (Fall, 2010)
Verbal - 420
Quant - 770

My verbal has never been strong on standardized tests so verbal has always been my weakest section.

As many people typically post their progression on practice CATs, mine are as follows:

Kaplan CAT 1 (Jul 20) - 600 (Q - 55%, V - 59%)
Manhattan CAT 1 (Jul 31) - 670 (Q47, V34)
GMAT Prep CAT 1 (Aug 5) - 680 (Q47, V36)
Manhattan CAT 2 (Aug 12) - 640 (Q43, V35)
Manhattan CAT 3 (Aug 13) - 660 (Q46, V34)
Kaplan CAT 2 (Aug 19) - 620 (Q - 61%, V - 69%)
GMAT Prep CAT 2 (Aug 20) - 700 (Q49, V35)

Actual GMAT (Aug 25) - 720 (Q49, V40)

Prep Time: Summer 2012 (June - Aug)
- Began with lots and lots of practice
- Last 3 weeks were the most intense, averaging 8-10 hours per day, 6-days a week for two weeks, and 4-5 hours of review the final week.

Break down of Practice CATs

- Kaplan CATs drastically underestimated my quant score in relation to the actual GMAT
- MGMAT's algorithms were in the domain of where my quant score turned out, however the test questions were definitely harder
- GMAT Prep - probably the best predictor (as commonly agreed by most test takers)

At the end of the day, the CAT exams from test prep companies are good for one thing: Making sure you can get the timing down. Personally I feel that if you can complete all of the questions under the time limits with Kaplan / Manhattan CAT exams, you can do so on the actual exam. I found myself easily finishing the verbal section on CATs, but always time crunched on the quant. On the actual GMAT, I finished the quant with about 1:15 min to spare, and had to rush the last two verbal questions. (As a note, I finished the Integrated Reasoning section with 1:30 min to spare, while on the practice CATs I was rushing with less then a minute each for at least two of them).


Resources I used

I tend to dislike paying for test prep courses, especially after my SAT experiences in high school when I felt it was basically a guided course to tell you what to do. Yes, having an instructor there who can help you work through problems is beneficial, but to me the costs weren't feasible.

Prep Books:

Kaplan
- GMAT Premier (2011)
- GMAT Premier (2013)
- GMAT 800

Manhattan
- Foundations of Verbal (5th)
- Sentence Correction (4th)
- Advance GMAT Quant (5th)
- Number Properties (5th)
- IR and Essay (5th)

GMAT Review
- OG (12th)
- OG (13th)

PowerScore
- Critical Reasoning
- Sentence Correction

Now this may seem like a hoard of books to almost anyone. I started with kaplan premier and 800, but I realized that my verbal was the biggest factor that I was lacking. After getting the manhatten books, they just didn't seem to click with my understanding, so I found powerscore.

I have to say, in-between the manhatten and powerscore purchases, I was devastated that after weeks of studying, my MGMAT CAT 2 score had dropped to 640. The test prep companies CATs wrecked havoc on my psychological and emotional states throughout my prep time.

Personally I felt that the books listed below were the most beneficial for someone with relatively higher math analysis skills and low verbal foundations:

Math:
- OG Guide
- Kaplan 800
- Manhattan Number Properties (This is probably the best book for a lot of the abstract problems)

Verbal:
- Powerscore Sentence Correction
- Powerscore Crit. Reasoning
- OG Guide

The rest were fillers that may have contributed marginally, but the above six were the most useful in my experience.

(There are also free resources littered across online forums, including the GMAT Club verbal guide and list of idioms)


The preparation experience was probably the most brutal studying experience I've ever had, even when compared to my Master's Comprehensive Exams.

My highest score on any practice CAT was 700, but my actual GMAT score was 720. Now this seems to be against the norm of most test takers. It was simply the verbal that boosted my overall score going from low 30's to 40 on the actual was by far the dominating factor.

During the experience, ate a powerbar (Powercrunch, ~ 200 calories, fairly balanced bar) before entering, and at both breaks. The break time is extremely limited, so I inhaled the powerbars, drank a few sips of water, stretched out, and returned to the test room.

During the test, I had to keep telling myself that there was nothing I can do about any problems I had doubts on and keep focusing on the one right in front of me. I had some extra time by the time I was 2/3rds through with the quant section, but I ended up staring at a data sufficiency problem for about 5 minutes. By the time I finally submitted my answer, I was down to about 2 min per remaining question again (frustrated the crap out of me but I pushed through).


Conclusion

For those aiming to score 700+, there are a few key things to understand:
- Since so many people score high on the quant section, it is crucial you score above a 48 as well
- Sentence correction is easily the best way to boost your score, ALTHOUGH it is probably, in my opinion, the HARDEST to study for.
- Don't bank on practice CATs to gauge your score. GMAT Prep Software is the closest thing. INSTEAD focus on the time constraints.

All of the advance quant material I spent so much time focusing on was definitely not worth the time. I learned to view MGMAT and Kaplan's crazy 700-800 difficulty math problems. Very few of those types actual showed up on the test (more like none that I can remember). It was the number properties book from Manhattan that helped the most in advance problems. The key goal is to break down abstract question stems into properties that can easily be tested, so without knowing number properties, it would be extremely difficult to do some of the advance PS and DS questions.

I hope someone finds my experience useful and can benefit from it. I'll remain around the forums for a few weeks to answer any questions or comments that may come up.

Best of luck to upcoming and future test takers.
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Re: My roller coaster experience: GMAT SCORE 720 [#permalink] New post 25 Aug 2012, 22:11
Hey,that's great score sapphirerodent!
What kind of questions did u encounter during the exam,especially in quant.Which topics u feel one should stress more on in quant?
Also,did u find the verbal questions(especially SC) to b tougher than GMATPREP questions?
If u were to rate the difficulty of questions in GMAT verbal section,how would u rate them (CR>SC>RC?)

Thanks,
Shreeraj
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Joined: 22 Aug 2012
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GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V41
GRE 1: 1190 Q770 V420
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Re: My roller coaster experience: GMAT SCORE 720 [#permalink] New post 25 Aug 2012, 22:40
shreerajp99 wrote:
What kind of questions did u encounter during the exam,especially in quant.Which topics u feel one should stress more on in quant?
Also,did u find the verbal questions(especially SC) to b tougher than GMATPREP questions?
If u were to rate the difficulty of questions in GMAT verbal section,how would u rate them (CR>SC>RC?)


Questions in Quant section were easier then either Kaplan or Manhattan (as many have reported). As I had mentioned, I do not believe over-studying for all the types of possible adv. quant problems will give you that much more of a boost. A few may help work through the thought process. I believe I encountered one combination problem.

Majority of quant problems that took longer to figure out typically revolved around if you knew how to break up the question stem by using number properties to simplify the question. PS questions typically lots of exponential manipulation and were relatively easy once you sorted through the base of each number.

SC was the toughest portion of my studies, and the questions were similar to the GMAT prep. I also believe Kaplan and Manhattan stick extra errors in their practice CAT exams. This can make it easier or harder to spot possible errors. When it boiled down to it, the actual exam tested two specifics, such as idiom+pronoun, verb agreement +parallelism, etc.

For some reason, I felt as if I was getting way more SC questions then I had ever encountered in any of the practice exams, including the GMAT prep software. I'd venture to guess a had a handful of experimental SC questions from my exam. It really through my off because I preferred CR to SC, but SC just kept coming, I had a streak of about 7 SC after the first ten, then another 6 in the last ten, with the rest strung throughout the middle.

Since I don't know how the breakdown of the questions I got wrong in the verbal section, I can only go with my gut. CR was my strong suit in all three of the verbal sections, so I felt CR was easiest (though still NOT easy by any means), then RC, and SC was the hardest for me. SC is suppose to be easy points, but my tests results have typically been spending extra time on SC and less time on CR since I come to conclusions in under 1.2 min on average.

I suppose everyone has their differences in strengths and weaknesses. I'm just relieved that with my hardcore studying on SC and some luck, I was able to pull off a score of 40 on the verbal section, which according to GMAC is the 90th percentile (as of today's scoring) in the verbal section.

Hope it helps.
Re: My roller coaster experience: GMAT SCORE 720   [#permalink] 25 Aug 2012, 22:40
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