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Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46)

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Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 10 Aug 2012, 03:33
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I have just got back from the testing centre, and I am elated with my score! This is how I feel:

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GMATClub has been extremely helpful for my preperation. I have read a ton of debriefs, and found them really useful, so hopefully I can share some tips.

My Background

  • 25 year old native-english speaking male
  • Analyst at an investment bank
  • Degree in Finance and Computer Science

First Attempt: 720 (q44, v46)

November 2011, I sat the GMAT and scored a disappointing 720. Don't get me wrong, 720 is a great score, but it was largely inflated by my verbal performance. I absolutely bombed quant. I still do not know exactly how this occurred, but I believe it was a combination of pressure, nerves, bad luck and poor preparation. Specifically:
  • My preparation was subpar. A couple of things stand out: I took my first GMATPrep 9 months before taking the real thing. I only took two Manhattan GMAT practice tests. It took me four-five months to get through the MGMAT books. All of these things are ridiculous in hindsight, yet somehow they happened.
  • Exam pressure is real. It is easy to look at an explanation posted on the forum and say "Oh yea, of course! I made a silly mistake! Next time I will remember / do it that way". It's much harder to pull out innovative techniques under exam stress.
  • I underestimated how important it is to practice exam style questions under timed conditions. MGMAT's books are superb for teaching you the concepts, but just because I understood the concept, it did not necessarily mean I was able to solve a question employing the concept in a tricky way in under two minutes in the exam.

I wanted to resit because I felt my low quant score would be big question mark in my applications. But, I knew my approach had to change. I also needed a break from the GMAT. Some of the advice here is to resit as soon as possible while things are fresh. However, my study had been so long and drawn out, I felt like I had been studying for a year, even though in reality, I had only gone through the MGMAT books / OG.

The Resit: 770 (q50, v46)


Deciding to resit
Six odd months after my first attempt, I decided that I would resit the GMAT. My first move was to lock in a test date for, knowing that this time I needed to keep my preparation short and sweet. Booking the exam and having a date set was extremely helpful. One of the most challenging things about studying for the GMAT is keeping up momentum. Like most people, I work full time, and I am also a chronic procrastinator. Working at an investment bank, my free time (and hence study time) is limited. Studying during the week was basically impossible, and I often had to work in the weekends. Locking in a date put the pressure on myself, and forced me to study. I didn't want to full into the trap of my first attempt, where because I had no defined date, I would often just skip the study for a weekend saying "I'll just make it up next week".

Preparing for Quant
My Quant study was less about going over the concepts, and more about learning how the exam tests these concepts. I felt I knew the theory fairly well from my first attempt, so I did not go through the Manhattan books again.

This time, I focused on getting 'match fit'. I needed to take questions under exam conditions. I used several sources: I took all six of the MGMAT CATs (quant section only). I took GMATPrep probably 5 times (just the quant). I purchased the GMATPrep question expansion pack. I went through all the OG questions again. I also took a GMATFocus just to make sure I was making real improvement.

This really helped tune my exam technique. With the added pressure of the clock, I had to look for solutions that were not textbook. I started to learn when to move on from a question. I learned when to pick numbers, when to back test answer choices. I started to look at common answer pairs and efficient rephrasing. I started to think about graphical solutions to algebraic questions.

One of the things I really did not 'get' the first time around is that Quant is not a math test, it is a critical thinking test. One of the keys to changing my mindset and approach were Karishma's excellent forum posts and blog. I put her blog posts on my Kindle, and I would read them on the way to work. I also would closely analyse the solutions she posted to questions. One thing I have noticed and find interesting is the contrasting styles people employ when solving GMAT problems. For instance, Karishma and Bunuel often both give solutions to the same questions posted on this forum. But their style and approach are often so different. For some people who are particularly mathematically inclined, Bunuel's approach may be perfect, and really resonate with them. For me, Karishma's approach–staying logical–worked best and was the mindset that I tried to employ.

It's incredible how often when you take a step back and ask "What is going on here? What is logical? What happens to this part of the equation when I pull this lever?" how certain questions that appear hard, become easy. Here is a great example. The algebraic approach is messy, and tough work. But, as soon as you identify the problem as a weighted average question, it is trivial. So many questions are like this on the GMAT.

Recognising verbal was a strength of mine, I did not really do any further verbal study. I would do the occasional verbal problem to stay in touch with the section.

Test Day
The testing station was familiar from last time, but I was still extremely nervous. I tried to calm myself down, but really couldn't!

AWA was straight forward. I found the integrated reasoning substantially easier than the practice questions in GMATPrep. I finished this section with 10 minutes to spare, which really surprised me. I think in the GMATPrep version I ran out of time, and so probably overcompensated on the day. I didn't study for this at all, and have no real idea how I did. Do not think it matters at all for this application cycle. There is a lack of information out there on the IR section. I think people are still working out the best approaches and ways to prepare. Personally, I think studying for the quant and verbal section is practice by itself. Sure, you need to have some familiarity with the question types, but apart from that just roll with it (at least for this application cycle).

Quant was interesting. The first question was (in retrospect!) an extremely simple work problem. I started at it for 3-4 minutes before guessing and moving on. The next question was an even simpler exponent question! I had started to calm down, quickly answered and started to relax. The rest is a bit of a blur. All of the questions were very similar to what you get in GMATPrep. I finished quant with about 5 minutes to spare (unusual for me). I felt like I had done better than last time, was hoping for Q50, but wasn't sure.

Verbal is my strength. I felt good going into it. It was very similar to GMATPrep as well. I always finished verbal with an absurd amount of time remaining, like 30 minutes, so I really tried to slow down and take my time. About half way through, it started to feel like I wasn't quite in the zone. I was extremely tired by this stage, as I was running on a poor night's sleep (was dreaming GMAT questions!). When I finished, I felt I had scored around V44.

I knew I had done better in Quant this time, but I felt I had underperformed in Verbal. I told myself, well even if that is true and you score the exact same score again, the resit would still be worthwhile. Then I thought oh no - what if I didn't even crack 700? What if I actually did worse! Time to find out. "Do you want to report your score?". Pause. Deep breath. Click. Wait. 770. I fist pumped the air in the testing room like Tiger Woods, and rolled out of the testing station on cloud nine.

Verbal Tips

I think verbal and me "understood" each other from the start, so perhaps I am not best to give advice. I do know that I have my verbal strategy down. Quant on the other hand, even though Q50 is a dime a dozen, I really felt like I had to work to improve - I went through a process. I didn't have to do this with verbal. So while I scored well, I'm not sure if my advice here is useful. Anyways here goes.

Use only official material
Seriously, I can't emphasise this enough. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • Unofficial material can be off in tone, incorrect, ambiguous, illogical, full of grammar errors etc. For every decent unofficial question, there are 100 poorly written ones. It is not worth your time.
  • You need to become attuned to the GMAT style of verbal - unofficial resources at best do not have this style, and at worst, are just confusing.
  • You know official questions are correct - if you think there might be an error, the fault lies with you. With unofficial questions, if you think there is an error often the fault lies with the question. With official questions you can never say "well that's poorly written". The only issue with official questions you get wrong, is that you made a mistake.

Establish a routine for each question type and stick with it
Do not just mindlessly wander around the question reading different bits, deciding what to do. This is especially fatal for CR questions. I outline my strategy below - this may not be the one you employ, but just make sure that once you find a strategy you feel works for you, employ it consistently. This is similar to a pre-shot golf routine in golf or cricket. Watch professional golfers line up a putt or a tee shot. They employ a consistent pre-shot routine, every time. Or in cricket, you have a consistent trigger movement you use against every bowler. Doing this for GMAT questions will help train your brain, and give you confidence:

Crews and Boutcher (1986) have defined preshot routines as “a set pattern of cue thoughts, actions, and images consistently carried out before the performance of a skill” (p. 291). A combination of cognitive and behavioral routines has been shown to be beneficial for obtaining an optimal physical and mental state prior to motor execution

SC
  • Manhattan SC is clearly where it is at. I went through this book twice, and would often pick it up and just re-read a section. It can get a bit technical, its important to not try to take this book all in at once. Rereading after a month really locks in concepts.
  • The most important SC concept is parallelism. Seriously, this pops up everywhere.
  • The most overrated SC concept is ambiguous pronoun references and idioms.
  • OG answers are often very hard to understand or learn from, but be very careful with explanations found on forums. For SC explanations especially, only rely on answers from genuine experts. In my opinion, RonPurewal is the most consistent SC expert going around. The Manhattan GMAT forum contains excellent SC answer explanations.
  • In my first GMATPrep test, nearly all my errors were in SC. I think I had one CR and one RC questions incorrect. After going through Manhattan SC, my verbal score jumped to ~V45 and stayed there.
  • I really found it useful to write out 'A B C D E' on my paper and eliminate answer choices as I went through.
  • Manhattan SC says something like "Eliminate the middlemen and skip the warmup". Very good advice. When I read a SC question, I would always do this. Although this is useful for subject / verb errors, you will understand the structure of the sentence much better, and really helps on trickier questions.
  • I would alternate between looking for splits and reading answer choices in their entirety. It really depends on the length of the question / underlined portion. I consider this to be part of my routine - I would conciously decide to do one or the other (90% time I would identify splits).

CR
  • Powerscore CR Bible will help you understand the mindset of the test writer. There are so many useful nuggets of information in this book; it really is superb. This book increased my confidence and understanding of CR questions dramatically. My favorite GMAT book by far. My tips below are heavily influenced by what this book advocates.
  • I fully subscribe to Powerscore's suggested approach of reading the argument before reading the question stem. This allows you to paraphrase answers, and also lets you focus on truly understanding the argument. I would diagram every CR question. I would try to deeply understand the argument before I even looked at the stem, or question choices. This takes discipline, but I firmly believe it is the best way to approach CR questions. Manhattan GMAT teaches the opposite technique (read stem first) - find out what works best for you.
  • My diagrams were solely used to focus my mind on the structure of the argument. Diagraming helps prevent you from re-reading and getting lost in a question. Once I understood the argument, I basically never referred back to the diagram. Your working memory is more than capable of remember the argument once your truly understand it
  • Make sure you identify the conclusion. Do not move on to the stem / answer choices until you the conclusion is crystal clear.
  • Prephrase arguments. You need to practice this skill, but it really helps. You will find you will begin to pick holes in arguments, think of ways to strengthen an argument etc. Then quite often, one of your thoughts will be in the answer choice verbatim. This really helps you from being led astray when reading the answer choices.
  • By the time you have diagrammed, understood the argument, identified the conclusion, prephrased, you then look at the stem, you have 90% of the hard work.
  • Do not be led astray by the CR answer choices. If you don't understand what an answer choice is saying, move on, chances are your brain is saying "Huh?" because it does not make sense. If you don't find a clear answer, then go back and consider these answer choices once more.
  • If the phrase "out of scope" is in your CR elimination response repertoire, you are on the wrong track. "Out of scope" gets bandied about all the time on the forums. It is meaningless. To put this in perspective, the phrase appears in a couple of official CR answers. A couple of times! Seriously, like once or twice in the entire OG12! Start looking for definite identifiable reasons to eliminate answer choices.
  • Random observation: The GMAT often makes CR questions harder not by changing the argument, but by changing the difficulty of the question choices.

RC
  • Similar to CR, truly understand the RC passage. I would also diagram these.
  • Don't get too bogged down with technical, intricate arguments in the passage. Just read these parts quickly initially. However, be prepared to dig back into the detail if required by a question
  • The only way to truly get better with RC is to read more. I love reading. To improve your RC, you need to read. It is as simple as that. Start reading NYTimes, Economist etc everyday.

Some Key Takeaways


  • Book the exam. Keep the pressure on. If you don't book the test, you will let your busy job/friends/life delay your study
  • Don't worry about assessing your performance mid-test. I got some extremely trivial quant questions near the end (like plug in number type stuff), and felt like verbal was going poorly.
  • There are so many good resources around, but focus on finding experts and resources that fit your style.
  • Exhaust GMATPrep. Take it 5 times. Seriously. Your timing and exam strategy will be so much better for it.
  • For verbal, official questions are vital. Do not waste your time on unofficial questions.
  • Manhattan SC will improve your SC.
  • Fully understanding the argument is critical for doing well in CR.
  • Employ a consistent approach to questions - particularly SC and CR question types

Thanks for reading!

On to the applications...
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 10 Aug 2012, 10:25
Hey congrats,thats a great score!!
Did u refer to earlier OG editions?What kind of questions did u encounter during the exam,especially in quant.Which topics u feel one should stress more on in quant?

Thanks,
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2012, 00:20
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shreerajp99 wrote:
Hey congrats,thats a great score!!
Did u refer to earlier OG editions?What kind of questions did u encounter during the exam,especially in quant.Which topics u feel one should stress more on in quant?

Thanks,
Shreeraj


I used the latest version of the OG, OG13. I went through OG12 in my first attempt so used OG13 to get some fresh questions. Turns out enough time had passed from when I first went through OG12 that the repeats didn't really matter.

Quant was just the usual array of concepts, nothing really stood out. I did get two questions on triple overlapping sets which I thought was a little unusual. If I were to stress any concepts, it would be weighted averages. Karishma's blog posts are awesome on this. These pop up everywhere.
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2012, 02:09
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2012, 13:44
congrats pike! 770 is an amazing score
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2012, 22:16
Thank you for sharing your experience.This is really helpful.
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2012, 01:59
Congratulations and thanks for the detailed debrief!
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2012, 12:53
pike wrote:

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Congrats Punter!! insightful debrief! learnt some tricks for my D-Day which is in 5 days!! GMATPrep it is for next 5 days!
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2012, 12:04
Happy ...!! for u :) nice score..!! and gud luck..!

i hope i l get this score :) PLz GOD help me :(
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2012, 14:22
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2012, 18:33
Excellent debrief! Much thanks! I read through your debrief slowly and carefully and feel solidifying my test taking strategy. All the best for your application.
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 12 Dec 2012, 21:19
Congratulations man ! Really helpful debrief !
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 00:10
Thx, debrief is excellent! Congratulations with successful Stanford application :)
I'll try to add my two cents... I'm not a native speaker, so still I haven't scored more than 34 after 3 tries and after all the resourses I used. Moreover, my verbal score is getting worse every next try, the phenomenon that I can't explain, feeling that I'm better in verbal than was before every time. While I may seem a bad advisor here because of my results, there is no doubt that MGMSC and e-GMAT courses are really very useful for improving verbal skills :)
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 08:29
Izomer85 wrote:
Thx, debrief is excellent! Congratulations with successful Stanford application :)
I'll try to add my two cents... I'm not a native speaker, so still I haven't scored more than 34 after 3 tries and after all the resourses I used. Moreover, my verbal score is getting worse every next try, the phenomenon that I can't explain, feeling that I'm better in verbal than was before every time. While I may seem a bad advisor here because of my results, there is no doubt that MGMSC and e-GMAT courses are really very useful for improving verbal skills :)



I think non native speakers are slow readers and have trouble negotiating difficult sentence structure. Though have not achieved V35+ believe that reading non fiction books/economist and practicing LSAT problems simultaneously will help immensely. The regular reading habit will help improve reading speed while LSAT practice will help you determine how do you read a passage.
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 08:44
I should say that this is the best debrief that I've read. Your Q/V split is my goal. Where are these blog posts you recommend?
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 13:28
vandygrad11 wrote:
I should say that this is the best debrief that I've read. Your Q/V split is my goal. Where are these blog posts you recommend?


Good luck!

Karishma's blog is: https://www.veritasprep.com/blog/catego ... er-wisdom/
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 14:11
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Great debrief! I like how you recognized that some problems are much simpler than they appear. The key is to not get bogged down, remember that everything they can ask is solvable. It's often just a question of perspective, and the more you understand the types of problems you can see, the more you have a 360 degree view of the problem being asked.

As for Karishma's blog, I may be slightly biased but I think there's no better math resource to get your quant score from ~90th to ~99th percentile. She understands the very difficult problems and breaks down the theory on a weekly basis. Great place to learn GMAT math well and apply it to problems.

Thanks!
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 17 Apr 2013, 23:09
AbhiJ wrote:
I think non native speakers are slow readers and have trouble negotiating difficult sentence structure. Though have not achieved V35+ believe that reading non fiction books/economist and practicing LSAT problems simultaneously will help immensely. The regular reading habit will help improve reading speed while LSAT practice will help you determine how do you read a passage.


Thx, AbhiJ! I will try to rise the frequency of reading the Economist and NG :) *already googling what are these misterious LSAT problems* :)

Talking about Q44-Q50 improvement, I should say that Manhattan's Advanced GMAT Quant and after it the set of problems in Downloads section "Quant700-800.zip" give the result. If you solve all problems from this set, you will score 50-51, because you will look at the problem and instantly understand the type of it and the way to solve it. My girlfriend without Maths background scored 48 on GMAT Prep and Manhattan CATs after memorizing all the formulas in Manhattan Guide. Then she solved almost every problem in above-mentioned set and showed outstanding Q50 :) Good luck!
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 30 Apr 2013, 11:30
Thanks for the debrief. Congrats on the awesome score! I'm like you, I feel like verbal is my strength (though not as well as you). I also scored a 44V on my first exam, I need to get it up to 48-50. Couple questions:

1. How long did you take to study for the retake? I don't think you mentioned that. I took it 10 days ago, I'm not sure how long of a break to give myself to balance burnout vs. getting rusty in my concepts.
2. I think one weakness I have isn't necessarily getting to the right answer, but determining the most efficient way to get there. I try to work too many problems from the solutions backwards instead of trying the algebra. Any tips?
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Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46) [#permalink] New post 01 May 2013, 21:03
jeffdill wrote:
Thanks for the debrief. Congrats on the awesome score! I'm like you, I feel like verbal is my strength (though not as well as you). I also scored a 44V on my first exam, I need to get it up to 48-50. Couple questions:

1. How long did you take to study for the retake? I don't think you mentioned that. I took it 10 days ago, I'm not sure how long of a break to give myself to balance burnout vs. getting rusty in my concepts.
2. I think one weakness I have isn't necessarily getting to the right answer, but determining the most efficient way to get there. I try to work too many problems from the solutions backwards instead of trying the algebra. Any tips?


If you get right answer mostly every time you solve a problem the best way to increase efficiency of solving for you is to solve as much of them as you can. Your brain will eventually start solving every problem by using the quickest way. I have maths background and thus know what I am talking about. So, I strongly recommend you the above-mentioned set of problems "Quant700-800.zip" in Downloads section. In this set, there are numerous problems of every kind tested on the GMAT. Moreover, there are solutions for them, in which you can find the quickest ways to reach right answers. Good luck in training yourself :)
Re: Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46)   [#permalink] 01 May 2013, 21:03
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Resit success! 770 (q50, v46) from 720 (q44, v46)

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