I took my test on April 18th. I scored 720( Q48, V40). I am not an active participant in this forum. But don't get me wrong. I love this forum and learn a great deal about GMAT and MBA. So I personally think that I should give back to many MBA aspirants, especially those who are struggling with GMAT and to those who took GMAT more than once, twice or even thrice..that's correct "Thrice".My GMAT background:
In my first attempt, I got 600. Then I took after a year and got 590. Depressed with my score, I really “really” work hard. In 2008, I attempted and scored 640. At that time, I thought that I should focus on application rather than mastering the GMAT. I was fine with the score and applied to a couple of colleges, including Duke. I got an interview call but it didn’t pan out. I applied to other colleges the following year. And it didn’t work out either. Last year, I decided to give another try. When I mentioned this to my family, all of them were so happy as if I already got a good score or got admission in a college. My crazy family. In all, my wife supported me in every step of my preparation. I am extremely thankful to my wife.
Lesson : When you start your journey, make sure that you are creating a positive and conducive environment.My Test Day :
Usually, people refer to their test day experience at the end. But, I will take this nontraditional route to mention now. I had a serious case of stomach flu. I frequented restroom. I was this close to cancel my test. But when I looked back and internally analyzed, I got enough confidence to take it. Remember that this is my “fourth” attempt. It was literally now or never situation. I don’t have luxury to take another test. But I am glad I did. However, both in quant and verbal, I have to guess in last 4 or 5 questions as I had to go to restroom. Sorry, I don’t want to sound it gross. On the hindsight, I could have scored more. But I am pretty happy with my score.
Leason : Eat right and be confident on the test day.My Preparation:
Since I am not a native speaker, it was important for me to improve my verbal. At the end of the preparation, my SC accuracy was 95%, my CR accuracy was 95-100%, and my RC accuracy was 80-90%. I didn’t study quant a lot. Taking so many GMAT attempts really worked in my favor and strengthened my quant. Here are my test scores ( not in the order of taking tests)
GMATPrep1 – 710
GMATPrep2 – 690
Knewton 1- 660
Knewton 2- 620
Knewton 3- 630
Knewton 5- 700
MGMAT 1 - 680
MGMAT 2 - 680
MGMAT 3 - 690Veritas
But really it is not important how many GMAT tests you have taken or which GMAT is an accurate representation of official GMAT. I think that Knewton and MGMAT are quite at par , although Knewton’s scoring initially seemed to be puzzling.Verbal PreparationSentence Correction :
- Knewton’s tutorial on Sentence Correction really helped me in building the basis. However, in redesigning the course, Knewton has eliminated many of those tutorials. It’s too bad because even though it may not be completely relevant to GMAT preparation, it did help me to build my basic concepts.
- My notes from Manhattan Sentence Correction
- Ron’s lecture – Not a whole lot. But some concepts such as ellipsis in comparison really helped me.
- GMAT Official Guide
– Guys – If there is anything that you want to learn about the Sentence Correction, which is tested in GMAT, the official guide is not less than a bible. In all my previous attempts, I was using the official guide as an authentic question bank. In this attempt, I used official guide as my first source of grammar book. For example, I have not found any book talking about the use of “now” and “once”, which is common in GMAT. And yet, when they are used in same sentence, they followed verb tense rule – the clause with “now” should be in present tense, and the clause with “once” should be in past tense. And it makes complete sense if you think about it. But applying sense during the GMAT when you have 45 sec to solve is counterproductive , not to mention risky venture. Let me pose another example. We can have a sentence in active and passive voice, and it can still maintain the law of parallelism. For instance, Alice started the mission in 1934 and was joined by army in 1945. This sentence is correct. Look at the active “started” and passive “was joined”. I think you got the point that I am trying to make here. So how to use the official guide as a primary guide rather than as a question guide –
1. First get the basic theory from the reliable sources - Manhattan, Knewton course,etc
2. Now apply the same logic when you solve the OG questions to pick the correct answer. At this point, you know how to pick the correct answer. Good.
3. Now follow this – how many concepts you can apply to pick the right answer? Did you say one? Think again. In my experience, you can apply more than one.
4. With the wrong answers, you know what is not correct. Right? Good. But do you know what is correct with the wrong answer? This is very important. You can learn a lot from the wrong answers.
5. Finally, ask yourself - Have I seen this question before? And have I seen this sentence construction before? If you vaguely remember, go back to it. This approach is tedious. I agree. But it will just fill your brain with the fine concepts of SC that you will not find anywhere. You will learn more about how the GMAT guys come up with the questions.
- Test tip – When you attempt a SC question in untimed fashion, think about all the concepts and apply them. But when you attempt a question in timed fashion, it’s a complete different game. I don’t normally go one by one and find the reasoning for the elimination. No Sir. The concept that you built is in your sub-conscious mind. It will automatically come to you when you are on time crunch. Do not fret that you are not applying your concepts when you are solving in 45sec. But to many cautious mind, I will say one thing – there is a fine difference between “ making sense” attitude and “I know this is wrong but I don’t have freaking time to explain to myself” attitude. What you need is the latter attitude.
- Idiom – Creating flash card for idioms was cumbersome. So I downloaded one excel template that populate the idiom in random fashion. The trick is that when I see a word like “native”, I should come up with all idioms related to “native” such as “native to”. To help my fellow members, I will upload the file. If you like to file, please thank the original creator of the template. Don’t thank me.Critical Reasoning
- Again, use your official guide. Even after 3 attempts, I am that fool who didn’t pay heed to the remarks from top scorers about the importance of the official guide. I prepared my own notes after reading every questions and the answer choices. There are many things that I found in the CR that I didn’t find anywhere else. For example, GMAT uses a limited number of wrong answer choices – wrong subject or role comparison, time period fallacy ( i.e. if something was true in past, not necessarily it will true in future), place fallacy (i.e. if something was true in some country, it will not true in the current situation). The name of the game is to find the wrong answer in CR. Then it will be much easier to find the correct answer. Use the OG wisely.
- Powerscore – When I started preparing for CR, I read the whole book. However, it was not really required. But you do want to read some important chapters such as numerical/percentage, cause and effect,etc.
- Knewton – The questions are good but I was hoping more from it. In one of the survey, I brought this to their attention.
- LSAT – Before you attempt the LSAT, you need to read the article written by David ( Veritas
). (Follow this link - http://www.beatthegmat.com/using-the-ls ... 66548.html
) Read the series. When I was using the LSAT CR, I was just trying to solve the GMAT like questions. The inference type question was my week area. LSAT really helped me to get a firm footing on this.Reading Comprehension
- As you all know that RC has more weight-age in the verbal score. If you are good with RC, you are golden. While I was able to improve my SC and CR, I was not getting grip on my RC skills. And to tell you the truth, I read WSJ daily for past 2 years. Like everyone else, I tried every ounce of suggestions offered by brilliant folks. Nothing really materialized for me. And then I came across GMAT Pill. It was a godsend. I strongly encourage you to take a good look at GMAT Pill method. The creator of GMAT Pill ( Zeke) visually walk you through how to “read” RC that can be used to your advantage. While we all agree that we need to understand the passage, it is important to remember that the only skill that you need is to comprehend, process, and reciprocate - Comprehend the passage ( which is different from knowing in and out of the passage), process the information so that you can locate the milepost, and reciprocate when you are answering the questions. My advice - if nothing works out for you, give GMAT pill a try!!! Sorry, I am not getting any commission. It’s an honest opinion.
- After I got firm understanding of methodology from GMAT Pill, I applied it with Veritas
’s and LSAT’s questions. I practiced for 2 weeks. Again, read David’s comment on solving LSAT’s RC.
- I also made a detailed notes of ADHAM’s advice on RC. I followed part of it. It was helpful in certain situations to me.
- Finally, RC in Knewton CATs helped me. Almost all RCs were long but close to GMAT style. Quant Preparation :
- This time, I focused on my weak areas such as mixture problem, speed distance ( meeting versus overtaking), system and equations in data sufficiency, parabola,etc.
- I used Veritas Books
- “Probability”, “Advanced Word Problems”, and “Statistics and Problem Solving”. I highly recommend these books. Vertitas books are expensive. So if you want to work on some of your weak areas, do consider veritas books
but specific ones. For example, after I finished Probability/Permutation/Combination book, I was always able to solve any problem even though sometimes I don’t know what I did or why I did. Isn’t it amazing?
- I practiced GMATclub test but found it to be hard. You can use it to build the stamina but do not attempt to extrapolate your performance in quant.
- I made a detailed notes of all formulae, concepts , strategies,etc. And reviewed them once in two weeks.Mock Tests:
- While you have built your concept in quant and verbal, it’s time to carve out a plan. After you take any test - sectional or full, try to find out why you were 1) doing wrong 2) taking more time, or 3) not sure. If you cheat yourself here, rest assure you will never come out from this sisyphean journey ever.
- Make notes of your analysis and refer to the notes. I prepared a detailed list of questions that I could not correct in my test. To give you a taste, here is an excerpt from my notes
“ What I did wrong? I could not identify the error. Uncountable and countable issue ”
I practiced these questions time and again till I perfected the concept.
- When you do analysis of the test questions, try to identify
a) Any trend - For example, after every RC, if I get a CR, I was either taking too much of time or skipping it without reading. So I decided to give one read to CR and defied my skipping habit. I said to myself “If I am able to comprehend on the first read, I will attempt or skip it”. But again, I will only skip if the CR falls between the question number 17 and 27, not before or after, as it was impacting my verbal score. See what I mean when I say try to find the trend.
b) Topic to focus - If you have used MGMAT, you will get the list of topics associated with the questions. Using pivot tables in excel, I try to find my weak areas and the respective attempted time. For example, I was doing the set problem correct, but I always took greater than 3 mins. So I found out my own method to solve some frequently occuring questions such as “ A warehouse has some items, 30% of them are toys and 70% of them are boots ( something). 20% of toys and boots were discarded. What is the percent of the remaining toys in the warehouse? To solve this question, I used the tree method. Just assume total items = 100, and start branching out the conditions such 30% toys and 70% boots. Then another branches for discarded toys and boots....I think you get the idea. Try to find ways to make your life simple and fast. Believe me, you will find it.You just need to look for it.
c) Mark each question whether “you don’t know the concept” or “you know the concept”. And in another column, mark them whether “you were confident” or “did you skip” or “did you attempt educated guess”. You must know that there is a big difference between an educated guess and a plain guess. An educated guess requires a certain amount of practice and skills. If you have not practiced this, I will say that you should start now. The educated guess should be your fall back options for two reasons - 1) to build confidence when you encounter a curve ball in your exams 2) to increase the accuracy in your test. Let me give a simple example. During the tail-end of my exam, I had to rush to restroom. I had one CR, which was complex and dense. It was about the increase in price. Again, I didn’t have time to attempt as you know my situation ( Stomach flu). I was looking for “ supply” or “demand” word in the answer choice. Voila!!! I got one choice. Again, I am not saying that I was right. I don’t know as I never read the CR completely or the answer choices for that matter. But I have a backup plan for the worst case scenarios.
- After finishing the analysis of the questions, scribble down the summary of your analysis. Here is the summary from my first Knewton test just to give you an idea.
~ Time Management is very important in RC. I am taking 5-7 mins more.
~ Because of inconsistent time management in RC, my performance in CR is impacted.
~ After 30 questions, I should have 20 mins. In the test, I had 14 mins. I needed 6 mins more.
~ For 7 CRs questions after Q 30, I had 10 mins. I need atleast 4 -6 more mins.
~ In test, I may have to blindly guess 2-3 CRs, possibly before Q 30
~ I need to avoid error in sequence.
~ I should expect 2 to 3 hard SC questions
~ One SC is wrong because of the same pressure.
- Before attempting another test, I always go through my detailed notes, strategy, and previous mistakes. In this whole process, try to avoid the same mistake. Remember this - first mistake shows ignorance, second mistake shows chance, and third mistake shows arrogance. So if you are making the same mistake more than twice, rethink your strategy.Reviews of study materials / tools:
A ) Knewton
- I joined Knewton in August and went through the classes in Sept and Oct. Then I stopped working on GMAT until Feb even though I occasionally attempted short or long tests. I am sensing that Knewton is making a lot of changes to its contents and coaching style. I used to see a lot more topics in Aug, which are gone now. I will not say that Knewton is an exceptional educational shop. But anyone with basic needs can opt for Knewton.
1) Faculty is exceptional.
2) The online instructors are great.
3) The online reading material is great for verbal, especially sentence correction.
4) Offline support of faculty ( but read my comments in Cons). One of the reason I joined Knewton in August for its claim for unlimited offline support. Whenever, I am not sure why an answer choice was correct or incorrect, I sent an email to offline support. In two days, I got a detailed explanation from the faculty.
5) The core homework questions were great.
6) Knewton CAT’s questions are close to GMAT questions. But the scoring was not ( read about scoring in the CONS section). The SC and CR were representative of GMAT.
1) In order to get cheap and cut cost, Knewton is playing with its future. For example, they are now charging $ 300 or something for a year-round course. Using my CR logic, I can strengthen this by quoting that Knewton is trying to make its course accessible to everyone. And I can weaken this statement by saying that if a test taker could not achieve 50+, Knewton will just lose $300, which can be compensated by the increase in the number of participants. I will wait to see how Knewton drives to improve the quality of its education while maintaining the low fee.
2) “Unlimited” offline support is gone now. Too bad so sad. I got an email from Knewtow about how I was misusing the offline support to the extend that I should opt for a private tutors. Out of blue moon, Knewton came with the clause of answering only 15 questions for any students. And if you have more than 15 questions, you need to hire private tutor. I understand that they wanted to generate more revenue. But I deplore such actions from any professional institutes. I sent an email, highlighting my disapproval. Never heard back.
3) Progress report is not accurate. I love the idea of progress report, which will show your strengths and weakness. But Knewton’s progress report was not up to the mark. I ended up creating my our progress report.
4) Knewton CAT test’s scoring method is off. Although, my last score in Knewton CAT matched with my GMAT score, I am certain that something is amiss in the algorithim. Also, when I asked Knewton to give me detailed list of weakness and improvements from the Knewton CAT, I got more or less a generic explanation. Go figure. Again, I created my own explanation sheet as explained under the Mock tests.
- I heard many good things about Veritas
1. I found RC and CR books useful. The CR 2 is not that great. I would like to see more questions that are representative of GMAT style.
2. I always follow David’s advice. Must read these articles in “ Beat The GMAT”. Also, read his explanation.
3. Great customer service. I bought ebook in iPad. I didn’t like it. So Veritas
sent me a free hard copy. I was immediately sold.
1. I attempted the free test. It was easy and I am not sure about the structure.
2. Every book is expensive.
On the hindsight, if I had extra grand, I would have selected Veritas
- I just took the tests. Quant was heavy and verbal was very representative of GMAT.
D) GMAT Pill
1) Just follow the GMAT Pill guy aka Zeke. You will definitely improve your RC skills. I was able to improve instantly
2) Online videos; Clear and concise explanation.
1) The website needs serious content configuration. After I complete my RC, I could go back. I can’t find the link always. Sometime the videos are hazy.
E) Ipad app - Evernote - If you have iPad or iPhone, you should look at this app. I maintained all my notes in this app. Once you put your notes in this app, you can access anywhere. During my lunch, I used to review my notes without carring any documents or hard copy. Cool!!
F) Manhattan's Test Simulation Booklet - Now this is important. I don't think that I have heard people talking about how to use the sheet during the exam wisely. This is what I did. First I prepared time metric for both quant and verbal. This time metric basically helped to gauge my speed. For example, according to my qunat metric , I should finish question 10 in first 20 mins. I joted down the quant metrics from page 1 to 9 and the verbal metics on page 10. Also, I created three sets of grids - one for RC, CR and SC on the page 10. I used grid to answer the verbal questions. And I also used to find out how many CR, SC and RC questions that I have attempted. Just to give you the advantage of drawing this grid, after I finish my fourth RC in GMAT, I knew exactly how many CRs and SCs I had to attempt. Why I am telling this now in this section? During my mock test, I practiced this so I remember doing this on the actual test.
I am sorry for the long essay. I hope my experience is useful to everyone. Please let me know if you have any questions.
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