After spending a month preparing for the test, I was devastated to see 640 pop up on the test screen about a month ago. I had spent a good amount of July and August reading guide books, practicing from questions on the internet and taking practice tests and was not ready to accept a 640. Contrary to popular belief, I was nowhere near the average of my practice test scores ( MGMAT - 690,690,710, GMATPREP- 680,720) and I decided that letting this phase go fruitless would be a big mistake looking back in 10 years. I came back and booked the next available slot exactly one month later.
I've made some observations that have helped a couple of my friends who took the test in the last few days. This post is intended to help people who are retaking the test to improve their scores rather than sitting it for the first time. I am however no guru, and as you can see (from my 710) I am only in the top 7% and there are many more people who can give proven strategies; I'm just trying to strengthen the forum culture by giving back what I can.
My main emphasis is on CONSISTENCY
. If you are reading this post, you may have already gone through a lot of other debriefs, question and answer threads, blog posts explaining smart methods to solve different question types and strategies to go about each section of the test. I did the same and honestly speaking it did more harm than good to my overall test strategy. Although it helps to get critical doubts cleared, going through a lot of content on the internet will overload the already stuffed brain. So I think the best way to go about it is to stick with whatever you are comfortable with and do NOT change your strategy every time you see a slightly convincing way to solve a particular question. There are only a few ways the GMAT will test you on each topic; and the random questions you see online are intentionally made harder than the representative of official GMAT questions. You can score at least 20 points more than you would just by skipping unofficial questions that are either hard and out of context or unrepresentative of the questions you would see on your test day.
Some changes I made in the second attempt and I think helped me cross the 700 mark were:
section can be mastered if you spend your time solving problems that have appeared frequently on the OGs. In both my attempts, I noticed that there is a lot of emphasis on Number Properties,Ratios/Percentages, Geometry. As your difficulty level increases, you will start seeing questions from Probability and Sets. If you are struggling to cross the 46-47 mark, do NOT worry about Probability, Sets, Combinatorics etc.
I spent almost all of the time between the two tests focusing on my verbal score (it was 31 in my first test
) So most of the changes I made to my routine were in the verbal section.
2. Sentence Correction
: From my experience as well as of my friends, SC is the deal breaker for most test takers. Needless to say, a majority of the test taking population is now represented by non-native English speakers ( including me
) and unless you spent a good amount of time reading novels, editorials or conversing primarily in English, you are relatively weaker than your counterparts in the west in the other two question types of the Verbal section. The room for change is larger in SC than in other parts of Verbal causing the percentiles to go up in SC. This is also why there is an observed trend of SC questions carrying more value than CR or RC questions.
Although I did not take online courses for any of the sections, I have heard from a lot of people that e-gmat
courses emphasize on the meaning approach
and rightly so. On reading the sentence for the first time, if you are able to understand the intended meaning, you will not have to spend more than 50 seconds on most SC questions, saving you a lot of time to use on the tricky RC passages.
Moreover, dont fret if you are weak on a particular concept and repeated attempts to get more clarity are not helping. Most GMAT SC questions will have more than one type of error, keeping open the window of opportunity to still get them right.
3. Critical Reasoning
: For me, CR was more like Math than English. The best way to improve your accuracy in this section is by understanding the different logical and structural fallacies and solving as many as official questions as you can. I stressed on the number of questions because I noticed that GMAT CR stimuli are broadly based on an exhaustive set of flaws in reasoning and solving 30-40 questions in each type will make you inherent to the flaw in question.
For people who find bold faced questions difficult, I suggest you follow the Powerscore CR Bible
way of understanding different parts of the stimulus. It stresses on identifying and classifying the sentences in the stimulus into fact, claim and conclusion. And bold face questions have a lot of loopholes which can be attacked just by knowing what role (fact,claim and conclusion) the bold part plays in the question. Once you solve a sizable number of boldface questions, you will readily identify the different ways the GMAT expresses these terms (for e.g claim can be replaced with consideration
4. Reading Comprehension
: My main weakness and probably the reason behind my low verbal score in my first take was RC. Although I am no stranger to reading uninteresting, long, and diverse topics that form the pool of RC questions on the GMAT, I was taken aback when I saw the first passage. Since the passages were taking a lot of time to read( ~3-4 minutes) and as I had no way to reduce the time spent per question on SC and CR, I started looking for ways to solve these passages faster. I read a variety of posts with time saving tips and the most common of them all was "Read only the first sentence properly and skim through the rest, noting down keywords that you can scan later to answer a specific question". This method was a savior, I thought, and started applying this technique to passages that I thought couldn't be completed within 3 minutes. But a flaw in this strategy is, however efficient it may be, the moment you see a slightly interesting passage, you start getting into the specifics and try to understand the passage. Between switching strategies, you lose a lot of precious time; time that will prove very costly in the end.
In my successful attempt, I stuck to my original strategy of reading the whole passage and unless inevitable, understanding every sentence. If you practice 60-70 passages this way, you will understand that this will not take so much time and will actually save time because you will be able to answer 1 or 2 questions without looking back at the passage. You must however be sure that SC and CR questions are not averaging more than 1:30 per question.
Chineseburned's AWA post is more than just enough to get a great score in AWA ( I got 5.5 both times) and I dont really have anything specific about IR.
Overall, I'd like to say that dont force this on yourself and you will start enjoying it day by day. I have not really contributed much to gmat club in terms of posts, but I plan to remain active in the forum and help anyone if required. I attended a 4 week verbal intensive program at CrackVerbal in Bangalore and Arun is a great motivation and an expert in GMAT SC and CR. If any of you guys are based out of Bangalore, check it out. Needless to say, some people like Bunuel, Payal and Rajat( of e-gmat
) and Karishma (Veritas Prep
) who spend their time helping out hundreds of people reach the bschool of their choice.