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Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8)

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Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 30 Mar 2014, 10:04
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I received my official score a week ago, and here’re my experiences and learnings.

I am an Engineering grad, working in one of the top FMCG firms. I have completed CIMA and CFA (all 3 levels).

I am not a native English speaker. The Quant questions were really challenging, but with sufficient practice, I could somewhat tackle them. The Verbal section was my Kryptonite. My strategy may not work for all, but may work for those who find Verbal tough.

Strategies

I had different strategies for each component:

Quant – Know the various types of questions and the common pitfalls.
The mistakes I made were always careless ones, and it never stopped, even though I only used to make generally 2-8 mistakes in a test. (Negatives, Zeros, forgetting the starting words of a question – e.g: Forgetting that X is a positive integer and answering assuming that X is an integer – including 0, and negatives)

Verbal –
CR - Practice as many types of questions as possible.
RC - I was really slow on RC, so I powered my way through many challenging passages – specially the Kaplan ones which always had an array of unfamiliar words.
SC – SC was not time consuming, but on my 1st attempt, they were demoralizing, as I didn’t get some of them right and I knew I was wrong when I hit submit for every question. I overcame this by memorizing the idioms – which contributed to most of the errors.

There were 2 strategies that helped me a lot –

Strategy 1 – Taking as many tests as possible, as many times as possible. Yes you heard me right; taking the same test thrice actually helped me.
From the list below, you can see that I have tried 4 types of tests, and to tell you the truth, I even did all the Verbal sections a second time when I retook. E.g – I took the MGMAT Verbal sections twice just on my retake. You may think that the point is lost when a person faces the same question which he/she just answered 2 weeks ago. I won’t disagree, but the learning comes when your mind feels the exact time pressure and recalls what went wrong the first time, and what the correct method is. This is much better than passively revising the error log.
I always made it a point to time my tests, and always included the IR and AWA sections. Including the IR and AWA is vital, as these are there mainly to take your energy away. So specially if its towards the end, always practice with AWA and IR, and learn to increase your endurance and mental stamina.

Strategy 2 – Error log
Everyone talks about the error log, but here’s my two cents worth anyway. I wrote the errors and the learnings. I noted the ones which were tough and the recurring errors. These I transferred on to another book. Then I used to go through this shortlisted error log very often.

I wish I knew –
I regret having been too cautious on taking the entire practice exam, including AWA and IR. This was good to build stamina, but on my first take, it drained too much of my valuable energy which I could have used on studying my PRECIOUS - Verbal.
On my first take, I focused more on mastering the test format, before mastering the individual components. So I mixed up PS, DS, SC, RC and CR questions every time I did questions and made it into timed question banks. Say breaking the OG questions into 10 of SC, 10 of RC, 10 of CR, 10 of DS and 10 of PS in 100 minutes. Doing all questions at once prevented me from mastering individual components of the test – SC/CR/RC. On my retake, I did SC only at a stretch, followed by RC only and CR only respectively. I never thought I could form a pattern for SC and RC. But on my retake, as I practiced a string of questions at a stretch, I found everything falling into order ( Not perfect order, but at least something acceptable).

Period of study –
1st time – 2.5 months.
Retake – 1.5 months.

Books used
GMAC – OG 13th Edition, Verbal review 2nd edition, Quant review 2nd edition.
Manhattan – GMAT Complete Strategy Guide Set 5th Edition, Advanced Quant.
Kaplan – GMAT premier 2013, GMAT premier 2014, GMAT800.
Powerscore verbal bible.


Actual and practice test scores
1st Time
Actual – 710, Q51, V34, AWA 6, IR 8
MGMAT
Test 1 - 640, Q48, V30.
Test 2 - 620, Q48, V28.
Test 3 - 710, Q50, V36.
Test 4 - 750, Q51, V41.
Test 5 - 720, Q51, V37.
Kaplan
690
690
700
710
740
GMAT Prep
740
740

Retake
Actual – 760, Q50, V42, AWA 6, IR 8
MGMAT
Test 1 - 740, Q51, V40.
Test 2 - 720, Q45, V43.
Test 3 - 690, Q47, V37.
Test 4 - 730, Q51, V39.
Test 5 - 720, Q49, V39.
Test 6 - 720, Q51, V37.
MGMAT After resetting for the 2nd time
Test 5 - 740, Q46, V45.
Test 6 - 760, Q49, V45.

Kaplan
760
760
710
760
760

GMAT Prep
740
740
GMAT Prep extra tests pack
720
770

Kudos + special mention – I took 15 of the GMAT Club tests. I think the Quant helped me a lot by throwing up various types of questions. The verbal was good for understanding different concepts, but confusing at times. I always had 4-6 Quant questions left when the timer was done.

GMATCLUB Quant, and MGMAT Quant were extreeeeemeeely tougher than actual. But I guess this was one of the reasons, I finished Quant way before time was up. Kaplan RC passages were incredibly challenging, and specially for me, there were too many unfamiliar words. But the more Kaplan RC passages I did, the more I learnt about paraphrasing and summarizing in my mind and on paper.

Here's my timing strategy

Time to go ---- Minimum questions complete
Quant
60 ----------------------- 8
45 ----------------------- 15
30 ----------------------- 23
15 ----------------------- 30

Verbal
60 ----------------------- 8
45 ----------------------- 17
30 ----------------------- 25
15 ----------------------- 33

If you're a bit behind planned number of questions, take a few guesses and get back on track. Remember that GMAT penalizes more for 2 wrong answers back to back, rather than 2 spread out wrong answers. Furthermore, GMAT's greatest penalty is for not finishing the test. So if you go slow, get many correct questions but don't finish the exam, then your score will drop drastically.

I’d be more than happy to answer any queries.

Good luck

Last edited by aanakr on 02 Apr 2014, 07:30, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 30 Mar 2014, 20:29
How hard did you find Kaplan tests (specifically verbal part) compared to the actual gmat exam?

My quant is where it should be 49-50q on practice exams but verbal fluctuates.

For instance:
-MGMAT- took 3 exams about 1.5 months ago. Verbal was in 34-37v range=60-65% correct between SC/CR/RC

OG13-practice problems on SC & CR - I get 80-90% correct

Kaplan - my last 3 exams were v33, v31, v32, respectively. Dreadful 50-60% correct on SC/CR/RC... RC is giving me most trouble and Kaplan verbal part is tougher than OG13...

I want to get a q49 v39 so I need to step it up on verbal. With 3 weeks left before exam (April 19th), I am not sure whether to focus on verbal specifically and not waste time on practice exams. I will try to improve my SC and reading comprehension especially -using some different ideas on this forum.

I am planning on taking official gmat prep exam next weekend (the extra pack that costs $40) to see I how I do on those.

By the way! Similar to you math experience.. on my quant most of the wrong questions are simple errors that I am amazed I get wrong sometimes haha. I am content with 48-50q (where I am now). However, even if I get a q51, it won't matter if my verbal stinks!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 30 Mar 2014, 23:27
Kaplan Verbal was tougher than the actual GMAT, specially the RC. It was tougher due to the diversity in vocabulary used, combined with out of the world passage topics. In RC : the detail questions (questions which ask for specific details) were quite time consuming and really tough, the global questions (questions on the theme of the passage or based on the summary) were confusing too. CR and SC also were moderately tougher than the actual GMAT. Kaplan Quant was a level easier than the actual GMAT. In Kaplan, I used to get 60-65% of Verbal correct, but always got 42+ score.

I think MGMAT Verbal is more in line with the actual GMAT, but the Quant is way tougher than the actual GMAT. And yes, the OG13 questions seemed easier than MGMAT, Kaplan and even the actual GMAT.

I don't think that I am the model student, but here's my view on your case. You need to maintain your momentum in Quant, and improve drastically on Verbal. Given your circumstances, I would suggest :
1) Quant - Don't completely ignore it, just keep in touch so that your score doesn't drop. GMATCLUB tests are just perfect for this.
2) Verbal - Focus more on this, and do more questions. I learnt a lot by doing the same set of questions again and again just to learn the nuances, so that I don't miss those when they appear on test day. I think it gives a sub-conscious moral boost too. Just like you, I hated RC as well, but made sure that I put all the more emphasis on RC due to that, rather than ignoring it. Read the passages and read the full answer explanations. You can just opt for the Verbal portions of the practice exams rather than doing the whole exams. Even the toughest RC questions can be solved given sufficient time, so always time the questions so that you feel adequate time pressure.

I feel that GMAT performance depends on knowing the content up to a certain point (lets say 700). But going beyond this, depends on the person's form and timing - just like in football or tennis - practice, practice and more practice. So to keep the momentum on a steep upward curve, I feel that frequent practice exams are good.

Anyway, these are just my points of view, so please do take my words with a grain of salt.
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 31 Mar 2014, 01:09
Since I have 3 weeks left, I will take next 2 days (I work and cannot spend more than effective hours of studying a day during weekdays) to go over my dreadful Kaplan score of 650 (49q, 32v).
After that, I will focus on doing a few RC and CR 700 lvl problems every day.

For SC, I will read the MGMAT SC book over 2-3 times on the commute to/from work. I will probably review SC questions from all previous exams and use some extra questions from magoosh. OG13 are too easy...

Next weekend, I am going to take an official gmat practice exam to get the feel of it. (I took the free gmat practice exams a long time ago). The following week I will take MGMAT exam to toughen me up on IR and quant and give a different take on verbal. I do not have any serious holes in quant but a 51q would be sweet. The tough number properties and 'plug in variables to test answers' problems can be a pain sometimes, but I tend to manage them well for the most part. I try to be very time efficient on easy quant questions so that I have extra time for the tough ones in the end.

By the week of the exam, I am setting a mark to get above a v37. I scored v37 before, so I know I can do it again.

I don't think I have enough time to go over the same tests multiple times (aside from SC), but I will make sure to go over all my right/wrong answers carefully.

Thanks for the insight!

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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2014, 13:59
Hi aanakr

Congratulations on your excellent score. I have my GMAT in 2 weeks and wanted to know a few things from your experience of GMAT. Like you, I have solved a lot of practice tests. I completed my last Kaplan test today. But (un)fortunately I solved the whole GMATPrep question bank available in Gmatclub downloads. I was unaware initially that those questions were from GMATprep question back. Only when I was half way, I came to know what blunder I had done. Now I have already solved every verbal question that will appear on GMATprep test. I even bought the Exam pack 1 hoping that it will have a new question bank but the verbal questions are all the old ones only. The ones I have already solved. So, I have no Official test to judge my progress. If I compare my MGMAT scores with your MGMAT scores, they are similar. I have scored between 710-740 in all of them. I am consistently scoring 51 in quant in both MGAMT and Kaplan tests. But my performance in Kaplan verbal has been poor. I scored 26, 26, 26, 35, 37 in the 5 tests I have given. And the accuracy was extremely poor (Today I scored V37 with 21 correct). Although I know that KAPTESTS are tougher that actual GMAT but I have no official indicator to gauge my performance.

I always feel that the CR and SC questions of both Manhattan and Kaplan tests are too off from the official questions. I have solved around 650 official SC questions twice and while I was solving them for the second time, I was taking less than a minute per question (on average) to solve those questions with 90% accuracy. Similarly with CR questions.

Did you face any such situation during your preparations? And can you please share you individual MGAMT and KAPLAN test scores so that I can get an idea of my verbal performance. It will be extremely helpful. I am thinking of buying Gmatclub tests. How did you feel about their verbal tets...were they any good? I have solved the free verbal test but found it very easy. Solved it in around 60 mins and score 43 (5 incorrect). Are the paid verbal tests better?
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 07:29
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Hi Utkmittal1,

I am unable to recover my individual Kaplan scores. But here are my MGMAT scores.

1st time :

Test 1 - 640, Q48, V30.
Test 2 - 620, Q48, V28.
Test 3 - 710, Q50, V36.
Test 4 - 750, Q51, V41.
Test 5 - 720, Q51, V37.

2nd time :

Test 1 - 740, Q51, V40.
Test 2 - 720, Q45, V43.
Test 3 - 690, Q47, V37.
Test 4 - 730, Q51, V39.
Test 5 - 720, Q49, V39.
Test 6 - 720, Q51, V37.

After resetting :

Test 5 - 740, Q46, V45.
Test 6 - 760, Q49, V45.

The Kaplan and MGMAT SC/CR questions may be a bit off, but I don't think they are too off as you said. It came as a shock on my first take, that most of the actual GMAT questions seemed a lot tougher than the average OG13 questions; I even thought that the Kaplan/MGMAT questions were more in line with my actual GMAT. Anyway, that's just my POV. :-D

The Club Verbal is good, but I wouldn't recommend it as much as I would recommend the Club Quant. Surely, Club Verbal won't do you any harm, so you can try it. Anyway, I would strongly recommend you to do questions you have already done during the last week before the exam. For me, it was more of a summary during the last week - a summary not pouring over error logs, but undergoing the same thinking when you do the questions, and recalling the error I made on my first take, and how I could correct it. Trying out new questions would add little to the pool of questions you've already done, if you've done 650 questions twice, as you said.

Hope some of above helps.
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 12:11
aanakr wrote:
Hi Utkmittal1,

The Kaplan and MGMAT SC/CR questions may be a bit off, but I don't think they are too off as you said. It came as a shock on my first take, that most of the actual GMAT questions seemed a lot tougher than the average OG13 questions; I even thought that the Kaplan/MGMAT questions were more in line with my actual GMAT. Anyway, that's just my POV. :-D

The Club Verbal is good, but I wouldn't recommend it as much as I would recommend the Club Quant. Surely, Club Verbal won't do you any harm, so you can try it. Anyway, I would strongly recommend you to do questions you have already done during the last week before the exam. For me, it was more of a summary during the last week - a summary not pouring over error logs, but undergoing the same thinking when you do the questions, and recalling the error I made on my first take, and how I could correct it. Trying out new questions would add little to the pool of questions you've already done, if you've done 650 questions twice, as you said.

Hope some of above helps.


Thanks aanakr for such a detailed reply. Comparing your MGMAT scores with mine gives me a little confidence. Almost similar verbal scores.
I am not trying anything new now. Just solving practice tests and doing few official questions again. I really liked your suggestion to solve the CATs twice. Simply revising the questions that I did wrong the first time itself takes more than 30 minutes. So its better to give a little extra time. I will be doing the verbal on MGMAT CATs again. Thanks again for the advice. Will let you know my score on 15th. Fingers crossed :)
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 12:50
aanakr,

What score were you getting on the GMATClub Quant tests? Were they about the same as your practice and final score?

Thanks
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 20:56
Cubsfan87 wrote:
aanakr,

What score were you getting on the GMATClub Quant tests? Were they about the same as your practice and final score?

Thanks


I scored 43 in verbal test (5 incorrect questions). But I found it extremely easy. Finished it in around 60 minutes. As far as quant is concerned I had to leave the test in the middle. Solved only the first 19 questions and 17 were correct. Unlike most of the people in discussions, I did not find the first it very tough...At least the first 19 questions. Probably difficulty level increases at a later stage.
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 22 Apr 2014, 21:09
You got a decent score! And your advices are very useful too. During my preparation, somehow I feel that keeping an error log does not help much. Besides, since you got a 6 in AWA, can you share a bit about that? Also, may I know where did you pick your timing table and strategy?
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Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8) [#permalink] New post 25 May 2014, 12:54
@aanakr - After taking the first GMAT test it looked like you focused primarily on practice test. What did you study schedule look like?
Re: Overcoming the Verbal – (760 Q50, V42, AWA 6.0, IR8)   [#permalink] 25 May 2014, 12:54
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