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The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably)

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The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2011, 20:02
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Oh GMATs - I've dreamed about this day for months. I would like to encourage everyone to study hard, the GMAT is definitely a hard exam but its also manageable with the right amount of dedication. To summarize the GMATs in one line: I seriously think I spent more time studying for this exam than studying in my collective college career.

Also of importance, it's not a factor of intelligence, but hard work in the right direction! At some point in the course of studying for the exam I was convinced that I must be the dumbest person alive for not doing well despite all that work - but it was a matter of doing the right thing for studying and then giving your brain time to absorb. Einstein agrees that its 70% hard work and only 30% smarts.

Here was my game plan to success:
9 months ago I signed for the 10 week MGMAT Online course thinking I would pound out the course (requires 4 hours a day) and then study until I was 'ready'. My goal score? 780 at minimum, though maybe I'd be happy with a 770.. maybe. Little did I know how much I under estimated the GMAT. I took my first practice test before staring the MGMAT online course and gave up part way in. I couldn't even remember how to do long term division and was questionable about my multiplication tables!!!

A little about me:
I graduated from one of the top engineering schools almost 3 years ago - I partied a lot in college and crammed a lot, I never was a great student and I was notorious for pulling all nighters before exams. (I was driven, just in a different last minute type way) Math always came easily to me so I wasn't worried about the math section. I took the GREs 3 years ago without studying and got an 800 on the math section - how hard could the GMAT math be? Perhaps the 3 years of excessive drinking post college had finally killed what remaining brain cells I had (I always joke and seriously think I was smartest in HS before the discovery of booze), but MGMAT math was seriously whopping my *ss. I am currently working in a job that involves travel every week and average at about 60 hours a week - so perhaps 4 hours of daily studying on top of that was a bit unrealistic.

Needless to say, the pacing did not go as well as I hoped. I covered 7 weeks of material in 7 months (mind you, I took a lot of breaks). After realizing it took me that long to get through that little, I finally got my self in gear, buckled down, planned 2 weeks of vacation (over Christmas and New Years), and set the date for the GMATs! It was really important to have this looming date for me as I am a natural procrastinator and not a good studier without motivation =( As I said, I never was a great student in college and I wasn't that motivated, but sometime after college though I woke up and figured out what I wanted from life (har har). Hence, I approached the GMATs with that same drive I had the night before an exam only not the night before. To illustrate this point, I am a complete night owl - I normally sleep in the early AMs but since I could only find an 8AM slot for the GMAT so for the month before the GMATs I trained myself to go to bed at 9PM and wake up at 6AM. An entire month! Whew, I'm glad that is over. I gave up drinking for the month before the exam and studied through Christmas and New Years Eve - luckily my bf, friends, and family were all very supportive - thank you all. But enough about me.. onto the juicy stuff:

My practice test scores:
MGMAT CAT 1 (half way through the online course): 680
MGMAT CAT 2 (end of online course): 720
MGMAT CAT 3 (a month to the exam): 690
GMAC CAT 1 (3 weeks to the exam): 720
MGMAT CAT 4 (2 weeks to the exam): 700
Knewton Test (1.9 weeks to exam): 720
MGMAT CAT 5 (1.5 weeks to the exam): 730
GMAC CAT 2 (5 week to the exam): 760
MGMAT CAT 6 (3 days before the exam): 780

A month before the GMATs I finished my MGMAT course and started practicing with anything I could get my hands on - this was not the best strategy. After I took my 4th MGMAT CAT I was ready to cry - this was no where near the score I wanted and somehow I had back tracked. I was feeling pretty stupid, the MGMAT Math was COMPLETELY kicking my butt - and that was my strongest subject as my verbal was suffering too. A part of me gave up and decided to mentally prepare to get around a 700 - which is a fine score, but most of me refused to go down without a fight - I WANTED that 99th percentile.

What fixed my verbal: I was reading on the MGMAT and GMAT Club forums and found that a lot of instructors were suggesting that instead of practicing everything at random (Brutal SCs, 1000 SCs, outdated 10 year old GMAT exams floating around online that weren't even written by the same company that wrote the CATs, etc), to really go through every verbal question on the OG and read WHY EVERY answer was either right or wrong (you can usually find one or two reasons, but there are a lot more errors to each sentence) - regardless of if you got the question right. I spent 3 days doing this and I believe thats what single handily pulled my 37 verbal score up to the high 40s. In the beginning it was painful, but by the end I was able to figure out almost everything that was wrong and my 10% correct on SC became 10% incorrects. (I never had problems with CR or RC, some practice in it helped me figure out the patterns - but sorry, no advice there)

What fixed my math: MGMAT books & GMAT Club tests. I was cheap and bought the iPhone app for ($25) to get the hardest GMAT Club questions rather than drop $80 for all the tests. No big deal either way, they were way too hard but it was more of just getting used to doing challenging problem after problem + the way they trick you on those problems is good for learning strategy and the common pitfalls (the OG ones were way to easy to be at the 700+ level). The MGMAT math books had great strategy as the biggest challenge in GMAT math was the timing and not the actual problem - though I still hate absolute values and inequalities. I did all my math questions under a 2 minute timer and considered it a failure to not make it in time - but I would always try to figure out the answer before looking at it. Keep an error log!! Mark what you spend too much time on as most likely you approached it with the wrong strategy, regardless of whether it was ultimately correct or not. I also trained myself to slow down in reading the problems and to take a few seconds to think about the question before attacking it. Half the time I was getting incorrect answers because I skipped a word in the question or spent 30 seconds or more launched in the wrong direction because I only reacting to the numbers and not the question.

Stuff I used:
Google,GMATClub Forums,MGMAT forums, Urch forums: First and foremost. If you ever have a question, the answer is probably somewhere out there, just let me google that for you. If not, everyone is so helpful, thank you so much!

MGMAT Online Course: It's okay but I would agree with others that it's tailored mostly for those aiming to get a 600-700 score, not 700+. To do that you definitely need to put in a lot more effort. Otherwise, I liked the teacher's styles and it helped keep me on track - sort of :oops:

MGMAT Books: Sentence Correction was a GOD SEND. The math ones were good too mostly because they taught you fast strategy. I used these along with Slingfox's SC and Math notes and these helped my verbal so much. The RC and CR books were useless in my opinion, but that wasn't a problem area for me either so it's up to you to figure out.

GMAT Club Flashcards - They actually disagree a little with some of the MGMAT SC notes - I found the flash cards to be more correct whenever this happened. I loaded these on my iPhone and went through them each night before bed - very helpful.

GMAT Club iPhone App - This is the $25 one. I found this app to be helpful for a) the idiom flash cards, b) the hard math quant questions - a sneaky way of getting the hardest GMAT Club math tests without paying $80, c) the easy access to forums and success stories whenever I was feeling down.

Official Guide 12th ed + Verbal and Quant: No need to emphasize once again how important these are.

MGMAT CATs: I have mixed about these exams because I feel like they while they were helpful in motivating me to work harder but were not very representative of the exam. The math session was so much harder than the real GMAT that I was trained to rush through math problems which hurt my first GMAC CAT as I finished with 15 minutes left over. I normally am near tears at the end of the MGMAT CAT Math section becaused I both rushed through all of it and had 10 problems left unfinished. The verbal however I felt was pretty good - I hear people think the CR is illogical and at times I agree, but the SC was pretty dead on in my opinion. I feel like they made the last CAT easier to boost up your confidence - but hey, it works :) With a 780 on exams that made want to cry everytime I finished, I was ready to rock the GMATs.

GMAC CATs: No doubt very good and I felt were quite realistic of the exam.

Knewton CAT: The math was way too easy, the verbal was alright but I felt like I had seen several of those questions before I took it - they must have pulled it from the OG or something.

Week before exam:
I took vitamins every day, I ate bananas every day (and I hate bananas - something about the potassium is good for your brain though), I started drinking coffee again, I woke up at 6AM, I spent 4 hours studying each morning continuously to build up endurance, I spent a month sober!, I had a box of four loko waiting for me to be done with the exam, I was doing voodoo dances and other weird superstitious stuff... needless to say I was a ball of stress and not fun to be around. I worked really hard up until this point and about the week before I was nearing burnout - but that 760 and 780 kept me motivated.

Day of exam:
I crammed 3 bananas, a tin of Altoids, a large mug of coffee, Gatorade, and a ton of chocolate into my purse (All these foods serve a purpose - the reasoning is posted somewhere in these forums). I couldn't sleep well the night/week before and arrived at the Pearson center nice and early with my mass of food + drink. I'm sure the proctor thought I was nuts, but she let me in so it's all good. I think I was shaking at some point - I was definitely shaking after the exam, probably from too much caffeine. The breaks were insane - I was too nervous to take my normal morning um.. bathroom break, and the onset came right at the end of the math section - I dashed towards the bathroom. I inhaled a banana during each short 8 minute break, guzzled Gatorade and coffee, chewed my chocolate, and finished with a mint. Watch out, they don't warn you when the time is close and they also cut your break short if you return too early. The AWA was easy, I used Chineseburned's template and cranked it out. In the math section it took me 5 minutes to get through the first problem as I kept freaking out - but then I fell into a grove and finished with 5 extra minutes to spare. I spent it all on the last problem which I'm sure I got right. I was wired and tired by the time I was at the end of the verbal section and kept spacing out - I couldn't even understand one of the RC passages - I took this as a good sign minus my excessive day dreaming about all the drinking I could do after the exam. PS. Use Alt+N for Next and Alt+Y to confirm - it's faster than grabbing the mouse. In the end in the submit score section I was, as I said, shaking. This was the moment of truth, I prepared myself for a 710.. hopefully and not a 600.. but then BAM. I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day. All that hell was worth it - no more studying, selling the books, etc etc. Life is good..

The moral of this story - study and you can do it! There is nothing impossible about the exam. I made a lot of sacrifices for the exam (Christmas, friends, new years, family, sleep hours, booze, food - did I mention I ate a large bag of cheetos and a 2 liter of diet coke a day? I was on a good diet and daily 5 mile run before the GMATs came) - I doubt you'll have to do or should do the same as you have not rendered your brain useless like I have or have as many normal bad habits, but if I can do it, I'm sure anyone can :)

Good luck studying guys and gals! (Sorry for typos - as I said, I'm a bad student and I don't like proofreading :)) I am back to running 5 miles a day, beer, and saying no to the Cheetos ;)
Knewton GMAT Discount CodesKaplan GMAT Prep Discount CodesGMAT Pill GMAT Discount Codes
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2011, 10:03
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Thank you for the great debrief and congratulations for the awesome score!
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2011, 23:57
Hey, congratulations :D

But... I am actually considering getting back to drinking for the coming one month to stay focused!

Booze works in mysterious ways ;)
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From 650 to 710 to 750 - My Tryst With GMAT [Experience Thread]

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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 07 Jan 2011, 00:30
Hey buddy congratulations on your excellent score !!!

So which business schools are you eyeing?

Cheers
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 07 Jan 2011, 01:17
One of the best Gmat debriefs i have read so far!!!
Congratulations to your awesome score :-D
You rock!!!
All the best for your applications!!!
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2011, 06:32
Thanks for the positive feedback everyone! I sent my score to Harvard, Northwestern, UCLA, Michigan, and Stanford. Stanford and Harvard are the dream schools but I still need to do my research on their programs before committing to any school. Need to catch up at work first though *on a roll*

PS. I just got my AWA score back today and Chineseburned was VERY helpful :) I will take a shot for all of y'all
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2011, 07:40
Thanks for the excellent debrief. Which flash cards are you referring to?
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 11 Jan 2011, 07:43
The flashcards were from beatthegmat:

http://www.beatthegmat.com/download-my- ... s-t32.html
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Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably) [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2011, 11:48
Thanks so much! This is very helpful!
Re: The road to 770 (Q50, V46) from a negative score (probably)   [#permalink] 18 Jan 2011, 11:48
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