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Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6)

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Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 20 Sep 2013, 13:23
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Hi guys, this is my first post on the forum but must have been my 1000th visit on the forum over past 2.5 months. This forum is the best for GMAT preparation and helped me immensely to prepare for the exam. The high scorers here have been legends for me and I made every attempt to learn from their secrets for success and not repeat some of their mistakes. Even though it may seem obvious to most, good exam prep forums such as this one are an absolute must these days if one wants to improve based on others' resources and experiences. The last exam where I worked hard was IIT-JEE in India and, in those days, mugging the relevant books in an isolated room was usually good enough. Although, I did not contribute to this forum and did consume lots of info from here, I would be very happy to contribute here in any manner possible.

About my background: Indian male currently in US for past 7 years with 9+ years work exp in software industry. I did my Masters and undergrad in EE. I have been a techie/SW programmer so far but am planning to move to a technical marketing role in next 2 months. I definitely see the need to at least do a part-time MBA with specialization in Mktg over next 1-2 years and therefore GMAT was a must-do. Since I felt my skills were quite rusted for any exam, I was reluctant to write the exam. But, wifey's strong persuasion and my professional requirements for at least a PT-MBA finally helped me schedule my GMAT for September.

To keep some isolation from other emails and get me into the game, my wife had one email account exclusively for GMAT prep and added it to my phone to make me pay greater attention to GMAT prep. She even subscribed to this forum's "Questions of the day" and I everyday mentally solved those while having my first tea/coffee of the day with my phone. Aside from that, GMATPill has a good free practice app with enough (100+) questions in each section. I did those during coffee breaks, lunch breaks, putting kids to sleep and therefore is quite handy for on-the-go practice. As such, I am quite unorganized outside my work. With two kids (6 &3), I usually have a lot going on around me. To address this lack of discipline, I decided to apply some Program Management on myself and created an excel sheet on google docs to keep track of my progress (attached with this post). This way, I forced myself to do at least 1-2 activity every day so I have something to jot down. On days, when office work/home-front did not permit me do any GMAT activity, I felt guilty and put in extra efforts during those days when I had greater flexibility.

The books are pretty much the same ones as recommended by the forum gurus (I include below how many times I did each). I was able to find most of these books in my local public library or get through inter-library loan, so it was helpful to not spend a lot on prep materials.

OG13: SC (2x), CR(1x), RC(0.8x), Quant (0.1x)
Orig Verbal guide, 2nd ed CR(1x), RC(1x), SC(2x)

SC:
MGMAT SC (5x)
Aristotle SC Grail (2x)
GMAT Club forum Verbal guide (1x)
Harbrace College handbook, relevant GMAT sections (1x, I just needed one generic grammar book. Could not find Wren-n-Martin in local public library. But, there can be better replacements for a comprehensive American English grammar book)
Souvik's GMAT prep SC collection (0.7x)

CR:
PowerScore CR bible (2x)
MGMAT CR guide (1x)
Souvik's GMAT prep CR collection(0.3x)
Whiplash's GPrep CR collection(1x)

RC:
MGMAT RC guide(1x)
WSJ, switched to reading random articles on art/literature where author’s agenda is not clear from reading its editorials where underlying right-wing agenda is always obvious.

Quant:
MGMAT guides, FDP, numbers, algebra, word probs, Geom (1x)
MGMAT Advanced Quant guide (1x)
GC forum Quant guide (1x)
Bunuel's hard quant DS(1x)
Bunuel's multiple hard problem sets (1x)

I figured out early that I needed to improve my verbal score. I read MGMAT SC guide front-to-back multiple times and referred to it far greater number of times. MGMAT’s forums are the best resources for referring to GPrep problems. Souvik101990 has nicely compiled all the commentary on Gprep problems and his compilation is indeed very helpful. There are other GMAT prep documents on this forum that I discovered a lot later and I wish I knew they existed before. I spent my initial 1 month on 1000SC/1000CR documents and other derivative resources. Problem with these resources is finding the right analyses and, therefore, I believe this exercise was a sheer waste of prep time. On the contrary, GPrep problems are very well analysed on MGMAT forums and more relevant to real exam. I disagree with those guys who recommend saving good GPrep/OG13 stuff for last weeks. In my view, any good stuff (OG13/Gprep) should be consumed ASAP and revised before exam because you never know whether you will have enough time to cover them. I had set myself a 2.5-3 month prep and eventually ran out of time to cover all 400-500 GPrep problems in SC/CR.

For quant, I decided I will study enough to adapt to GMAT-style (100m-sprint) Math. Quite honestly, I still could not do so in real GMAT as I ended up blindly guessing on 2 problems to catch up on timing. Being a programmer with decent exposure to algorithmic coding, I initially thought I won't need to spend time on Quant. But GMAT math did require me to catch up on areas I have not been using for past few years - number theory, algebra, geometry etc. MGMAT tests are good Quant practice and I managed a Q51 in only two of their tests, even dipping to Q45 in one of the tests when I tried to change my strategy to never guess and solve each problem in its entirety. A word of caution though that MGMAT Quant, although great practice material, was a prime candidate for “curb-my-quant-enthusiasm/confidence”. If you solve 6-7 initial problems correctly, it starts to challenge you until you fall prostrate and salute its hardness by partially solving/randomly guessing on few problems. Since most folks recommend doing initial problems correctly (and I agree, although not at at the cost of creating a timing hell for yourself), I was fascinated many times to create the longest chain of initial correct responses but I could never go beyond problem #7 or 8. On Gprep tests, I was able to go to #22. Although everyone is different and I have great admiration for Q51’ers who solve with 15 minutes to spare, generally one should grab as many correct in first 10 problems, even with overall extra 2-3 minutes’ investment over budgeted 20 minutes, and maintain decent accuracy and pace in the later problems. This was my takeaway from analysis on this forum from Vercules and Bunuel.

For AWA, I spent 30 minutes on Chineseburned’s template after first Gprep exam and practiced writing in that template on all mocks. My takeaways from OG13 and MGMAT AWA guide were two things (a) Keep a healthy variety of sentence structure instead of keeping S-V-O format only (b) Elongate sentences to 25-30 words by suitably using modifiers, relative clauses, coordinators/subordinators (My MS thesis adviser considered this bad practice for getting technical papers accepted for journal/conferences, but seems this approach works on GMAT).

I took 12 mocks from GPrep, Kaplan, MGMAT (all scores and break-ups attached with this post). MGMAT is harder than usual on Q and IR. All through, I suspected Kaplan scores as they sometimes put me in V 87%ile for answering only 52% problems in verbal correctly. But, in the end, from a score prediction standpoint, those tests seem more accurate. MGMAT are very good practice but can often disappoint you big time. After scoring a 1 in one of the MGMAT IRs, anything north of 4 in IR was good enough for me, so IR7 was definitely a relief. Perhaps, my biggest issue was timing all through the prep. On my first GPrep test, I had to randomly guess 5-6 problems in Q&V each to catch up on timing and on actual GMAT I did that on 2 problems each in Q and V. So, I did improve, but more practice would have brought me in line. I might sound obsessed with timing, but, as advised on forum, I checked my timings during mock/real only 5-6 times in each section. In my first mock, I was calculating the leftover timer after every 2-3 problems - a terrible waste of time and mental energy. Keeping some personal timestamps is good e.g. 10-55,20-37,30-20, 40-3 in verbal is a good practice. I made this table for all mocks and main exam

I found following stuff very useful:
1. MGMAT: Ron Purewal’s explanations on MGMAT forum and “Thursdays with Ron” are great. I could only watch 7-8 of SC ones but whichever I did, clarified my concepts. Because of strong persuasion by Tommy Wallach in one of videos, I switched my strategy from doing everything in CR in mind to taking some brief notes based on prompt. I agree with him that I read more carefully if I have to take some minimal notes.
2. E-Gmat: I reviewed all the notes on SC from them available on this forum and attended two of their free sessions. They would have been my plan-B if I scored <700 on the test.
3. Souvik/Whiplash’s Gprep compilations
4. Bunuel’s hard math problems
5. 2x2Matrix’s organization of scratch pad for verbal i.e. 1-41 with A-E, 4 passages, 4para each, use leftover space around for CR notes.
6. Chineseburned’s AWA template
7. anupkapoor’s debrief to resolve the moral dilemma of sometimes choosing GMAT prep over spending time with spouse/kids

I did 4 mocks in last week prior to the test. I took 10-day time-off and tried to cover most of GPrep stuff in last two weeks. The last MGMAT score 680 made me cry (plz dont judge my maturity level based on this :-) ). I was a nervous wreck in last 2 weeks and got mad at my wife for putting me through this misery and even considered rescheduling the exam. But, the realization that I would never get more time than this ever again in life was enough to finally go for the exam. On the day before G-day, my son asked me what would I do if I did not pass. I had no good answer to this.

Thankfully, I was very calm in last two days (no mocks) and just focused on OG stuff. I decided not to study at all after noon before the G-day. I decided to not think about exam by focusing on other errands -, shopping trips for Gatorade (everyone on forum likes it), picking kids from school (I usually drop-off only), unusually lengthy chats with pest-control guy, Indian comedy shows etc. I must say, in my mind, I must I was still memorizing command-subjunctives (infinitive vs subj lists) so I would at least crack 1 verbal question in less than 30 seconds. I reviewed the GMAC video but, in my last-minute confusion, I failed to comprehend the passport requirements for ID purposes on the website.

Actual test: On the morning, I ate light breakfast and my wife just suggested to carry a passport just in case I need it. I drove to test center and the guy actually informed me that I had to present either a passport or a green-card. In my heart, I thanked my wife again million of times for saving me, else the guy would have asked me to retake. The test started as usual. AWA went fine. I was even able to review my essay for last 3 minutes and correct some of the spelling mistakes. IR looked easier, although few questions still looked little confusing. I tried to do my best and just move on and still could do only 11 problems and I guess I was at least confident on 7-8 of these. I did not fully understand how 8 minute breaks worked. After raising the hand, I went out for 2 minutes and came back but once the proctor logged back into system, I just had 1 minute left. I hurriedly wrote a few “AD/BCE” (DS strategy from MGMAT) and started the test. I could solve most of the problems but was behind my schedule by 4 minutes on two occasions, so I took guess and just moved. Although, somehow the last 6-7 problems were so simple (probably because of my wrong guess) that I was back on timing and I had 3.5 minutes for last one that was again simple. So, I sat idle for last one for 1.5 mins but thankfully did not agonize enough to mess up my verbal. I had the same 8 minute timing confusion before verbal. As soon as I got on the desk , I again hurriedly started writing 2x2Matrix’s scratchpad template. My proctor advised me to not write anything until he logs into the system, but seeing I was already halfway-thru, he just logged in and went out. Then came a screen with no timing but just said “you will be taken to verbal” or sthg. I thought since this had no timer, I could relax but then had a thought may be its 75 minute counter has already started and I was right. As soon as I clicked next, the counter was 74.20 or sthg and I had lost some 40 seconds. I ignored this and just focused on first SC, which I found somewhat confusing. I had some reservations against my choice but still went with it. Then came few SCs and CRs and #7 was proverbial boldface, which made me somewhat happy. The RC that came afterwards was hard (wordy,confusing options) but topic was business so I enjoyed it. I believe I must have done fairly well in 1st 15 Qs as I started seeing some really hard ones. Parallel reasoning in RC is something that I simply can not do in 2 mins and I made my best guess on that one and just moved on. I also had to randomly guess on two other ones to cope up with timing crunch (i.e. whenever my targets went over by 4 mins). I probably did not do well on the last literature-related passage, but tried to put my best front on those. I guess I performed worse on last 15-20 questions than I did on first 15. Finally, I finished my section just on time (with two random guesses somewhere in the middle on CRs). Scared, I clicked the “show-my score” button and was ecstatic to see the score and got up from seat. Then, I realized I still needed to follow procedures and got back in the chair and raised my hand. I came out of center, called my wife and was glad to be tested fairly balanced on both Q & V and slightly better at verbal Q40(90%ile) > Q50 (89%ile, yep. Now Q51 is the only 90+%ile since July'13). I came home and my son asked, “How many people were there in the exam and how did you do?”. To spare myself explaining the percentiles and instead of saying “I was 24,000th among 800,000 folks or 3rd among 100 folks”, I bragged by saying I stood 1st among 33 other guys (97%ile). I must say, God, family and this forum made this journey possible that looked an impossible one a few days back.
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 20 Sep 2013, 17:10
tmag5 wrote:
OG13: SC (2x), CR(1x), RC(0.8x), Quant (0.1x)


Great Story and good luck on your apps. Does the above quote mean you did very little the quant in OG13? I'm a little curious on why you would do that. Again, congratulations on your score!!
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2013, 13:29
Congratulations! If you can let us know your mock scores, it will help us in a great way.
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2013, 18:31
lovelaw27 wrote:
tmag5 wrote:
OG13: SC (2x), CR(1x), RC(0.8x), Quant (0.1x)


Great Story and good luck on your apps. Does the above quote mean you did very little the quant in OG13? I'm a little curious on why you would do that. Again, congratulations on your score!!


Hi lovelaw27,

Although one can never go wrong with OG stuff and I had planned to finish the OG quant, I eventually ran out of time to cover it. Initially I skipped it because I wanted to catch up on some advanced stuff so that I was familiarized with all kind of weirdo problems i.e. ones that took me 6-7 minutes in Gprep practice tests to come up with right strategy. Two such examples are:

a. Gprep: 75 as sum of three distinct squares
b. Gprep: Point A, B, C, D on number line with distance 18 units....

So, I switched to advanced problem to familiarize myself with all kinds of such problems and commit them earlier to memory than later so I could solve them in 2 mins. Therefore I switched to MGMAT ADVQ and Bunuel problem sets as I reasoned as I thought somewhat simpler OG stuff can be done with my basic Math skills and last minute skimming (I did not do this).

Also, for me, I always gave precedence to Verbal over Quant as there were far greater gains to be made there on top of my baseline Gprep 1 score (Q49, V35). I did quant on those times when I was bored of verbal. Quant was more of a fun thing (I do "Manhattan Challenge Problem of the Week" even now). I wanted to achieve Q51 and could not do so, but I always understood any effort in verbal will have better RoI.

Bottomline, I wanted to OG quant and official quant guide (green one )but could not do so. I returned my green guide to my local library after keeping it stacked
on my table, without ever touching it, even though I wanted to cover it.
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2013, 19:50
gmatter0913 wrote:
Congratulations! If you can let us know your mock scores, it will help us in a great way.


Hi gmatter0913,

I put my mock scores in the attached excel sheet, but for ready reference in this thread, here you go...

My quick summary is that I achieved 700+ in all but one of Kaplan mocks and I was under 700 in all but one of MGMAT mocks. Gprep scores taken 2 and 1 month before final exam were 690 and 710.

All breakups are below. The attached excel sheet is even better as it shows progress after study stages. My overall gain from 2.5 months of prep over first unprepared GMAT prep was 1 point in quant and 5 point in verbal - overall 50 point improvement and crossing the necessary 700 threshold :-D


GMATPrep1(690,Q49, V35, IR7)
Kaplan free test (680, Q89%ile, V72%ile, IR6))
MGMAT test#1 (Overall 650,Q48, V32, IR5.9)
Kaplan test#2 (Overall750, Q 98%ile, V87%ile IR 3)
kaplan test#3 review(Overall 740, Q98%, V83 IR 7)
GMAT Prep2(710, Q49, V36, IR7)
KAPLAN #4, review(Overall 730, Q98, V83, IR 3)
Kaplan #5, review(Overall740, Q98, V95, IR7)
MGMAT#2 (660, Q51, V32, IR4.5)
GMAT Prep #1 retake (750, Q51, V40, IR8)
MGMAT # 3(650, Q48, V32, IR1.63)
MGMAT#4(660, Q45, V35, IR2.26)
MGMAT#5(720, Q51, V37, IR3.87)
MGMAT#6(680, Q48, V34, IR3.1)
GMAT(Q50, V40, IR7, AWA6)
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 24 Sep 2013, 07:57
I have nearly the identical score as you on your MGMAT CATs you took on 9/1. What did you do from 9/1 till 9/7 that boosted your score to 740? Thanks.
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Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6) [#permalink] New post 24 Sep 2013, 22:45
OmniPrep wrote:
I have nearly the identical score as you on your MGMAT CATs you took on 9/1. What did you do from 9/1 till 9/7 that boosted your score to 740? Thanks.


Hi Omniprep,

As I mention in the excel sheet, during my last week, I focused on :

a. Souvik101990's GMAT Prep compilation of SC and CRs (I could not finish all of it). Review of his "SC concept 100 problem" that I did before.
b. Bunuel's hard DS document
c. Revision #6 of MGMAT SC guide with a different style i.e. read a chapter first, simpler exercises at chapter end and then do relevant problems from OG13 and Offical verbal guide 2nd ed as referenced at the end of SC guide. in my previous 5 revisions I just read the guide. I had done OG13 and verbal guide earlier as well.
d. 2nd read of Powerscore CR bible and chapter problems.
e. Quick review of Gmat club Quant guide.

Finally, I tried to relax on the day before exam. I saw in my mocks, whenever I stressed about scores I did pretty bad. I said to myself, I will study all I can and give it my best shot no matter where I land. So, going into the exam, tried to avoid any stress. I even picked randomly chosen 5 B-schools for score reporting before actual GMAT as I simply did not want to feel pressured that I would be using this score to apply to my real target schools (not sure if anyone else actually did that but this $28/school strategy does relieve me of some stress) . For me relieving my stress was crucial and thankfully I was very relaxed in my last two days. During my exam I went with clean slate and had no distracting thoughts while answering each question(final score, work, family, future, importance of MBA). Still, I am a human, not 100% automaton (would be better this way for GMAT purposes), I remember only two brief instances of distraction:a. Thinking if my response to last question on IR was right during break before quant (BAD) b. feeling slightly elated during entire Verbal after seeing boldface on #7 (bad or good dunno but somehow it lingered in my mind).
Re: Thank God, done in 1st attempt, 740 (Q 50, V40, IR 7, AWA 6)   [#permalink] 24 Sep 2013, 22:45
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