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Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan

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Intern
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Joined: 30 Oct 2013
Posts: 6
Location: Canada
GMAT 1: 680 Q46 V37
GMAT 2: 750 Q48 V46
GPA: 2.7
WE: Consulting (Telecommunications)
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Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2014, 07:54
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750, 98% – Q 48 (76%) - V46 (99%) - IR 6 (67%) - AWA 5 – Feb 7 2014
680, 85% – Q 46 (68%) - V37 (85%) - IR 5.5 (50%) - AWA 5 – Dec 9 2013

Let me start by saying that if I could do it, anybody could! It’s not about working hard, it’s about working strategically and never never losing hope.
I spent hours reading posts on this forum, I hope I can now bring a positive contribution to help fellow GMAT takers overcome the monster.
If you are at the beginning of the process, you might think why is this person rambling about this, no big deal, but the more you dive into GMAT world and you read posts, the more you will feel the pain we all went through :)

My background
I am 28, female, bachelor in industrial engineering, business consultant, 2.7 GPA (from French school)
My mother tongues are French and Arabic, I learned English 4 years ago, I live in Canada.
I studied about 6 months. I left my job and was backpacking around the world while studying, taking spanish classes every day, volunteering and preparing my b-school applications.
I am targeting ivy schools. My first CAT was 520, 4 months after I scored 680 on my first attempt (with which I applied to B-schools) and 2 months later 750. I have interviews lined up at LBS, INSEAD and Oxford.


Suggested study plan - What I would do now that I know (and it is just what I would do, it does not necessary mean it will work for everybody).
First thing first, do a MGMAT CAT or a GMAT Prep CAT just so you can position yourself.

Months 1 and 2 - Knowledge acquisition phase
Get the Manhattan GMAT material (they have ebooks too) and access to their site. Read and summarize every chapter of every single book, do all the 2013 OG problems with OG archer, (good for timing), watch all the labs, attend Thursdays with Ron (if possible).
Get the e-gmat SC. The platform is old school but the approach is top notch. I read the MGMAT SC book 3 times and was doing miserably, got e-gmat and it worked magic.

Months 3 and 4 - Practice phase
Start doing CATs. There is no point on doing CATs before because you probably don’t master the material yet. You should have 5 MGMAT CATs lefts by now, I would also suggest you get the free GMAT Prep CATs, they are the more accurate indicators in my opinion, the package has 2 and you can do them twice, so technically you should have 9 CATs. Now, here is how I approach CATs, I will do one in the morning, really take the full 3h30 to do in real exam conditions. Then, I will take up to 9 hours to review every single problem that I had wrong and redo it without looking at the solution, then I will look up the solution and try to understand where I failed. Once I got this I will do 3 things:
1. Create a flashcard.
2. Note in a separate sheet what chapter or part I need to review, for example isosceles rules, terminating decimals, like versus as etc.
3. Create a table with every question numbered, the time I spent, the theme and if I got it right or wrong and then I tried to look for tendencies, for example, 5 out of 10 wrong answers were geometry and rates.
Once I had all my weaknesses and all the points I wanted to revalidate, I will dive into the MGMAT books, reread the chapter and do the exercises. This will take me up to 2 weeks. Once, I felt I tackled most of the things I wanted to work on, I would do another CAT, but not until I felt comfortable. Then, the more CATs I did, the less errors I made, the less review I had to do and the less time between CATs I needed. This was the most time consuming and pain in the butt phase.
At this point, if you are ready to make the financial commitment, get some MGMAT private tutoring. I had 3,5 hours total and it helped wonders. Stacey Koprince looked at everything I did and her and I worked mostly on verbal. I scored 99% and I am a french speaker. I think it is enough said.

Months 5 and 6 - Refining phase
By now, you should know what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses. I got the GMAT Prep Package 1 and did 25 questions everyday (5 SC, 5 RC, 5 CR, 5 DS and 5 PS). I found that consistency helped a lot. I tried to focus on the hardest and medium ones. When I was doing this, I created my cheat-sheet. It was a document that evolved and where I noted everything that I had trouble remembering. Every week I would do a new one, until I got a one pager that I knew by heart (like right triangles 3,4,5-8,12,13, powers of 3 and 7, divisibility rules, modifies rules, a number of, the number etc.). I also had new CATs with this package that I did, just to have an idea of where I was. Finally, I reviewed my flashcards when I didn't have my computer and had spare time.
Final step - give the damn GMAT, beat the hell out of it and celebrate!
Note. Of course this timing information is just a suggestion, you can spend 3 weeks total or 8 months, it’s just what I think makes more sense in my case.


Things I used
MGMAT material - loved it, I would recommend it in a heartbeat, except the SC book everybody is raving about (not sure why, I hate that book!). The labs also are very cool.
MGMAT 9 weeks online course - useless, waste of money in my case.
MGMAT Private tutoring - Amazing, I don’t think I would of scored this without Stacey Koprince. I took 2 sessions, 2 hours and 1h30.
MGMAT Free Post Assessment GMAT - Also great, I had Emily look at my performance and it was a huge confidence booster. She gave me really good tips. It’s an 1 hour session.
MGMAT IR interactive workshops - Loved them, didn’t spend much time on IR, those labs were enough, Whitney Garner is great.
MGMAT Advanced quant. Yes, if you want a high score, but this will only work if you master everything easy.
Chinese AWA template. Scored 5, didn’t spend a lot of energy on this, just learned the template.
E-gmat SC - You need this. Don’t hesitate. I did it all, it took about 10 hours.
E-gmat CR - Didn’t like it that much, I had worked a lot of CR with Stacey so the e-gmat was a little redundant with the MGMAT material. I only did 2 or 3 modules, not even 2 hours. The CR MGMAT labs are better in my opinion.
GMAT Prep - The free CATs and the Package 1, I owe my improvement from 680 to 750 to this product I think. I highly recommend it. The questions are the same type and level as in the real exam and the CATs are pretty accurate.
GMAT Club tests - Did not like them, I scored horribly every time and they were way too hard compared to the real thing, it just demotivated me, so I stopped using them after 2 weeks.
Grockit - Useless. Too easy, stopped using it after 2 weeks too.
OG 13. Of course a must. I also used the 2 additional verbal and quant books, I just did the hard problems.

As you can see, I tried a LOT of things, not all were useful and I feel I wasted a lot of money, if only I knew better, this is why I am writing this post. I only suggest:
The MGMAT full membership (guided self study, $599, it includes OG 13, or even just the books package $290)
GMAT Prep Package 1 ($79)
E-gmat SC ($69)
Private tutoring if you can.
All the rest is a waste of money in my opinion.


My lessons learned and tips
Never ever give up. Seriously, it’s not even a joke, I scored 520 on my first CAT, I am a non-native english speaker and scored 99% in verbal! I had a heavy schedule and I studied A LOT and was still scoring 650 on my CATs, reading these forums encouraged me to never give up and I ended up scoring 750. This test has nothing to do with intelligence, it pushes you to the edge and it’s about how you handle stress, how methodic you are and what’s your strategy. I read a million posts on people putting in so many hours without getting the results they wanted. In my opinion, the GMAT is about keeping calm, learning the material, practicing everyday and learning from your mistakes.
The GMAT is NOT about knowing everything, it’s about maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. You will have a LOT of wrong answers and can still score 750.
In the first months, I studied a lot and my results were not improving. I told Stacey Koprince, my MGMAT super star instructor that I studied 6 hours per day this week and she kept telling me it was not about quantity, it was about quality. It’s not before I shifted my mindset that I started to see improvement. I spent less time and used my study sessions more intelligently. I focused on running often, going to yoga, going out with friends and being happy while tucking an hour here and there, I still had the GMAT on the back of my mind most of the time but I believed it was possible until the end and I did beat it!

The difference between my first attempt and my second was huge. For my first attempt, I had to travel to another city because there was no availability where I was. I took an 8 hours bus, booked a hotel, went to the test centre before but I was SO stressed, I also read so many reviews saying their score was 50 points lower than their practice scores, this dragged me down. Oh and I was in Brazil, so not my natural environment. For my second attempt, I was at home, I knew where the test centre was and I absolutely refused to let myself read negative reviews. I practiced every day, I did several CATs, my scores were not high but I didn’t lose hope.

You need to chose things you are ready to give up on. In quant, I knew rates and probabilities were my weaknesses, no matter how many exercises I did, I never knew when the damn 2 trains will meet! So I would just guess and move on. If you understand how the GMAT works, you would see that it’s not about how many questions you get wrong but it’s about the difficulty of the questions you get wrong and your score is the difficulty level of the LAST question.
Verbal is way more important than quant in calculating the total score. I got 76% in quant, 99% in verbal and 98% overall. Choose your battles.

There is no point on working 4 hours straight. When your brain shuts down, it’s over, you will not assimilate anymore. Close everything and start over. I tried many time to read and read and read the explanation to a problem I was not understanding after a 6 hours session. The day after, when I opened my laptop all fresh it took me 3 min.

Consistency is key. Do a little bit everyday is better than doing a lot once or twice a week. I saw a huge improvement on my CAT results when I practiced an hour a day everyday rather than 10 hours over the weekend.

For timing, here is a little trick I came up with that tremendously helped me. For quant, for each question, I will write the question number and the time remaining and every time subtract 2 min. So I wrote Q1 - 75, then Q2 - 73, Q3 - 71 and so on. I knew my benchmarks and every time I just subtract the time on my clock from the remaining time on my sheet, so I knew I was 6 min behind or 3 min ahead. For verbal it was harder because it’s not 2 min per question but usually for SC I will subtract a min, CR 2 and RC 3 for the passage and 1 for each question and I knew that around question 25 I need to have about 27 min left (25 min left at question 25 in quant). This was a huge lifesaver as timing was a big issue for me, I needed to cut myself and that developing a minute sense never worked for me.


My scores
As you can see, my practice scores were around 680 so don't give up!
My retake strategy was to do 25 problems a day via GMAT Prep Package 1 and 7 CATs, I studied one hour a day for 80% of the 2 months + all the days where I did the CATs.

MGMAT CAT 1 - 520 Q38 V24 - Aug 13, 2013 (I thought it’s gonna be a long road…)
MGMAT CAT 2 - 610 Q45 V30 - Oct 1, 2013 (after finishing the 9 weeks MGMAT course)
MGMAT CAT 3 - 640 Q44 V33 - Oct 31, 2013 (30 points after working super hard for a month)
GMAT Prep 1 - 680 Q47 V35 - Nov 16, 2013 (I started to think, I’m getting there)
MGMAT CAT 4 - 670 Q46 V35 - Nov 23, 2013 (oh no!)
GMAT Prep 2 - 670 Q49 V31 - Nov 29, 2013 (the same score 3 weeks in a row, noooo!)
MGMAT CAT 5 - 720 Q44 V45 - Dec 3, 2013 (Alright! My GMAT was in 6 days I started doing a CAT almost every day)
GMAT Prep 1 Retake - 720 Q50 V38 - Dec 5, 2013 (I was getting more confident)
MGMAT CAT 6 - 680 Q45 V37 - Dec 6, 2013 (What??!! no!!)
GMAT Prep 2 Retake - 690 Q49 V35 - Dec 7, 2013 (no no double no!)
Real GMAT - 1st attempt - 680 Q46 V37 - Dec 9, 2013 (FAIL!)
MGMAT CAT 1 Retake - 710 Q49 V37 - Jan 8, 2014 (well, I had already seen almost all the questions)
MGMAT CAT 2 Retake - 670 Q45 V36 - Jan 9, 2014 (you must be kidding!)
GMAT Prep 3 (Package 1) - 680 Q48 V35 - Jan 22, 2014 (no I don’t believe this!)
GMAT Prep 4 (Package 1) - 710 Q50 V36 - Feb 2, 2014 (fiou…finally getting there)
MGMAT CAT 3 Retake - 680 Q46 V37 - Feb 3, 2014 (and no, same score as 3 months ago, all that work for nothing!)
GMAT Prep 3 (Package 1) Retake - 680 Q48 V35 - Feb 3, 2014 (seriously??! at this point I refused to take another CAT, I was getting depressed)
Real GMAT - 2nd attempt - 750 Q48 V46 - Feb 7, 2014 (OH YES!)
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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2014, 19:15
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congratulations on your success . a great story to read .

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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2014, 11:16
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Heartiest congratulations for the great score and specifically 99% in verbal! I am bookmarking this post so that I can revisit it every time I need inspiration.

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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 25 Feb 2014, 12:24
Congrats on scoring a 760.

Please let us know how you prepared for CR section
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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 25 Feb 2014, 12:41
Hey I am also scoring in the same vicinity. My last score GMAT prep score was 680 ( Q48 , V35). I would like to know what different did you do in the last 4 days that took you from a moderate 680 to a mammoth 750 ? Pls. advice

GMAT Prep 3 (Package 1) Retake - 680 Q48 V35 - Feb 3, 2014 (seriously??! at this point I refused to take another CAT, I was getting depressed)
Real GMAT - 2nd attempt - 750 Q48 V46 - Feb 7, 2014 (OH YES!)
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GMAT 1: 680 Q46 V37
GMAT 2: 750 Q48 V46
GPA: 2.7
WE: Consulting (Telecommunications)
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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 03 Mar 2014, 04:08
Hello,
For CR, I used the MGMAT book and Labs. Afterwards, I worked with Stacey on creating an Excel Spreadsheet for every CR question I did for a month or so, based on their methodology, for every question, note all the ABCDE answers and why each answer was right or wrong, what was the trap, the lesson learned etc. It was so long and such a pain but really worth it.

For the jump in score, I think it had a lot to do with the ground work I did for a month before my real GMAT and the mood I was in that day. I consistently worked an hour in the morning and an hour at night on the GMAT Prep package doing 25 to 50 questions every day for a month, reviewing every answer diligently, updating my cheat sheet, reviewing my flashcards etc. My exam was at 10am because I noticed I always got really tired around 2pm, that morning, I felt good, ready, calm and I felt I did everything I could, there was nothing else I could do at that point. I listened to happy music and looked at pictures of friends and boosted myself. I had food, rest and everything I needed. I think this is what made a difference! Really, morale is key!

Oh an one last thing, I was expecting a 710 or 720, I think this is my real level, the thing with the GMAT is that they throw in there fake questions, this is how they do their calibrating, so if you have a wrong fake question, it does not affect the rest, I probably had some, especially in verbal towards the end, I remember looking at an impossible question about penguins and having absolutely no clue, so I just guessed and moved on, it was either a test question or my guess was right!!

Good luck!!!
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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 06 Mar 2014, 21:14
Hi,

Thanks for sharing the CR plan. I will try to follow it.
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Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan [#permalink] New post 21 Apr 2014, 07:24
a very long debrief, and very useful indeed! I can see how much effort you put in the process
Re: Non-native english speaker (750) - 6 months study plan   [#permalink] 21 Apr 2014, 07:24
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