Hello All, Scored 710 today. Though happy about the score, some things were totally disappointing. Will post the debrief soon. Tired with a terrible headache. Finally I can rest!!.
Thanks All. I am back for the debrief.Background:
Non-native speaker. Has been in US for the last 10 years.
First attempt: 650 (Q49, V27)
Current attempt: 710 (Q46, V41).
Am I happy with the score - kind of, but I am very, very, very disappointed with my Quant score. Not even in my worst day have I scored anything below 46 for quant, and I was way overconfident about quant. I guess this caused me the few extra points. I wanted 50 on quant, and I am confident (yes, still) that I could do so. Details will be followed.
Last year, I applied to only one school and was rejected. Feedback provided by the school mentioned score as one reason. So I decided to give another shot.
From the previous GMAT, I thought my reason for low score on verbal was mainly SC. At that time, I found SC’s to be real hard or questions were really weird in the real exam. I remember spending time on SC’s and this caused me to get stressed on time, resulting in screw up of RC and CR. When I took last time, I thought my RC and CR skill wasn’t too bad, but I guess I was wrong. Though a non-native speaker, I consider myself to be good in English, since I have been an avid reader from school years. But, as somebody mentioned GMAT grammar needs a different skill, though I now believe it’s not that hard to develop (will discuss this later).
I will discuss how I targeted each section, and I am hopeful that this may help someone later on.Materials Used
, OG 12Verbal OG
– New and OldQuant OG
old oneMGMAT GuidesPowerScore CR
Grammar books I have mentionedKaplan
Jeff Sackmann’s some of the question banks.Sentence Correction
As I mentioned previously, during my first attempt, I found SC to be hard because I really could not apply the spilt/resplit during the exam. I found some questions to be way too confusing to understand and get some flow out of it, though I have worked heavily on SC. I realized that I am not able to differentiate between verb-past participle-present participle. I believe this is a very common issue as I can see this from different forum questions people post. I did not like this and wanted to master the sentence formation. So I spent some time understanding the differences between various sentence components and figuring out how they are glued together to form lengthy sentences.
From my local library, I picked up a book called “Handbook for Writers” – Published by Simon and Schuster and written by Lynn Quitman Troyka. I really liked this book and liked the way exercises were provided in this book. If you are deciding on this one, try to get the Teachers Edition as it contains the solutions to the exercises. Word of caution: there is nothing magical in this book that will help you score big on verbal, but will surely help you get a good understanding of sentence formations. I also used another grammar book called “A grammar book for you and me” by Edward Good. This is also a good one to work on to get a good grip on sentence structures. You might be able to know what is an adjective etc, but these books can firm up your fundamentals, at least these books did it for me. I thoroughly went through all the OG SCs.
As previous posters have mentioned, OGs have some gems hidden in it. I noticed that even after going through these several times, I still could find something new each time I review these books. Then, I collected many GMATPrep questions floating around various forums, including MGMAT forum. One thing I liked about MGMAT forums was the explanations provided by Ron, Stacey and other instructors were phenomenal. Ron Purewal is amazing. His explanations are excellent and sometimes so funny that you will never forget those examples. I went through these questions several times and copied all the questions that I thought were out of ordinary or the concepts were tricky. Also, for the ones that I repeatedly made mistakes, I wrote my own questions testing that concept to thoroughly understand the tricks and traps.
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH: Reviewing and dissecting the question is the most important thing you need to do to get the fundamentals right. After all, there is only so much concepts that GMAC can test, but can do so in a billion ways. That is why it is so important to understand the fundamentals than the question itself. This is applicable to all GMAT topics, be it DS, PS, or CR.
During the final month of prep, I happened to pick Max Morenbergs “Doing Grammar” from the library. I finished studying that in 2 days or so, though I will advise more time if you happened to go over it. I believe this is a good book to go over after you have understood basic grammar fundamentals. The book is not easy read, but I found it interesting. I was parsing a few GMAT questions after going over this book so that I could delineate needed words/phrases from modifiers, and an absolute phrase (very tricky ones). When I say modifiers, I meant prepositional phrases, adjectives/adverbs, restrictive and non-restrictive participial phrases/clauses etc. Basically, when reading through SC questions, you should be able to do this distinction and trim the sentence down to S-V-O form. Some of the long sentences need practice, but it is very doable and extremely helpful. I also picked up some good books from library that had GMAT like writing.
During the final few weeks, I went over most of the GMATprep SC without looking at the options at all. I was trying to identify errors and correcting them in a GMAT way. I could parse I noticed that I was able to replicate what GMAT wanted in SCs without looking at the options. Bottom line: I was able to think almost like the question makers in correcting the SCs, though I still had hiccups at times. I would suggest go over the collections floating around and go over it many, many times, each time do with a fine-tooth comb. Write your own funny sentences. You will notice that there are some definite patters that GMAC keeps on testing. But, GMAC does it in such a way that you can easily miss even the simple ones unless you are thoroughly looking for it. Solution for this => Practice, practice, practice. I used to miss more X than Y idiom several times in some questions, though this probably was the simplest one to remember. As it has been said time and time again, SC is one section in which you can make drastic improvements with proper studying. Critical reasoning
You may want to start getting the fundamentals right with the CR Bible, though don’t die on it. One through read and then a quick review should be enough. But the most important thing is to apply those rules to questions. Initially, I was picking choices which I thought felt right. Though, nothing is wrong with this approach, I think a solid concept approach is necessary on some questions. CR also, you need to dissect the question to death. When you do so, you will find several patterns repeated in most of the questions. So, ultimately the important thing is to read critically and find the logic behind the question/choice pattern. It might take some effort, but absolutely worth it. For CR also, I just made up some my own silly questions to ingrain the concept in to the brain.Reading Comprehension
Probably this is one of the most important and difficult part we all struggle with, but I think by practice anybody can master it. Different people use different strategies for RC, and one size may not fit all. So pick which one works for you or combine several strategies. My strategy was to read the passage not so fast and not so slow, but in such a way that I understand all items in it. I noticed that when I skip one sentence that I could not understand and moved on, I ended up in trouble because sometimes the rest depends on the previous one. Also, NEVER answer an RC question without going back to the passage and making sure you got it right. Initially, I used to pick answers from memory. I have found that brain has the tendency to keep various words/sentences in mind, but may be from different parts of the passage mingled together. So the best way is to make sure by going back to the passage. Also, you need to read the passage within time frame. For me, I could read short passages in under 2 minutes or so, medium ones, 2-3 minutes, and long ones less than 4 minutes. Also, I notice that, on average, my time in answering the qn was around 1 to 1 min and 15 seconds, unless the choice is way too complicated for which I might have taken 2 minutes. I think reading a lot will help, especially noticing the flow of the passage and remembering where to look for. Towards the end, my hit rate on RC was close to >95%.
Also, one important thing with RC is, like in CR, when you read choices ask the questions “Is this choice 100% true, is it absolutely true or is it may be true”. There could be just a single word that does not fit in, and that should be good enough to eliminate the choice. Anyway, use caution when you do so. D-Day
I booked an early slot since I am an early person. I reached at the centre around 7.15 or so, and started the exam by 7.40. I started by writing the AWA template (thanks to Chinese Burned). I think that template is the best and to the point. Also, I wrote Quant timings that I wanted to achieve. I used MGMAT timing.
5th Qn > 66 minutes
15th > 46, and so on. I think it is a good idea to write this on all booklet pages or at least on alternative pages because I wrote only on first two pages and had to look back and forth when I was on later pages. This was annoying, and could make you more stressful.
Took a break after AWA: used the restroom, took couple of gulps from my energy drink (Acai energy booster, works good for me without having any crash). Started on Quant. First question was lengthy, but a simple one. Though the questions were not harder than previous, some are slightly different than usual patterns. Round question 25 or so, I noticed that I am somehow behind my timing, though I do not remember getting stuck with any questions. I started to increase the pace, but somehow my brain acted strange. I wasn’t able to think properly on questions I knew were easy. I ended up skipping ( blindly picking a choice) easy ones. At the same time, I was able to crack the ones that I thought were kind of hard and intuitive. But along the way, I knew I was not doing up to my mark, because last time I had really hard questions and it just got harder and harder each time. But I didn’t really see that this time. I got 4 or 5 Geometry questions. One was time consuming though a simple one. But I had to skip since time was running out. I also got 3 or 4 P&C and probability qns. I don’t think those were too hard, but one P&C qn, I know I screwed it up. As somebody previously mentioned, some of the questions are slightly different, but not HARDER than before (at least I thought so). I think they are mostly GMATprep like.
For quant, you need to get the fundamentals straight. Try not to use much of easy derived formulae than the approach (for example for work done together 2xy/xy etc). It is better to know how this is derived so that when a twisted qn comes you can get it from scratch. And an important thing about quant, you need to practice a lot, as MGMAT says as if peeling the onion, you need to peel the question to see what fundamental concept is tested. Try to come up with your own questions from the pattern. For example. If qn says, X is 3, Y is 4, What is Z, which is X+Y. Do not just stop right there when solving this question. Think what if A is given, which is C+D, and X is A*Y, etc. What I meant is explore and see what all ways GMAC can ask the same question in various formats. Some of the questions I saw on real exam were not usual qns that we see, but could be expanded from the usual pattern. Speed is the key with quant. As I mentioned earlier, I am totally devastated with my quant score. I never scored less than 46 in any prep exam. One big mistake I did was I did not practice quant this time, until 10 days before the exam. And 2 days before the exam, I kind of had a lost feeling with quant because I could not revise the tricks and traps that I had it on my notes. But still I thought, I will get 48 or so because I am usually good in quant, though I was aiming for 50 this time than the previous 49. Boy, I was wrong => My bad judgment screwed me up. So the point is make sure you practice with good questions. I bought some Jeff Sackmann’s qn banks, which I think are exact replica of GMATprep qns. If you want more questions of same pattern, go for it, but I would say stick with OG 12
Anyways, I finished quant on time, but knew I didn’t do well. Took a break again, had my drink and was really pumped up for Verbal. Though, I know verbal is my nemesis, I was confident. I felt that even if I screw up on SC, I can kill CR and RC. So, I started by writing down the timings on scratch book let. For verbal also, I followed MGMAT timing. This time I wrote it on various pages of booklet. First 2 questions were SC and were easy. At the 12th questions, I looked at the time, and saw that I had 63 minutes left. Felt happy coz I did 11 questions in appx. a minute or so, and was fully confident that I got all correct. As I moved on I felt that either I am screwing up or doing well. I thought the questions were simple, especially the SCs. I had 2 big passages, 4 or 5 long paragraphs, and one was on geology/geography. It was mind twisting. It went on like “The area is south of northwestern peninsula of easterly north winds and west of east-westerly latitudes, bound by northward dip and inclined 100 feet apart from the southern hemisphere (I made this up, but was kind of like this). I kept my cool and read the screwy sentences twice. I knew I had plenty of time and did not want to take a chance. Except for couple of CRs later on, I thought GMAC was making fun of me by giving these questions. I believe I might have got all SCs correct. At around 30th question, I had 32 minutes or so. I started to slow down to make sure, I get it all right. Finally, I finished the verbal with around 11 minutes remaining.
I started filling in the stupid survey (most were there from my previous) when my heart was pounding hard. Because of quant screw up, all I wanted a score above my previous 650. Finally when I clicked score, I saw a 7xx. Though was elated to see the 41 in verbal (92%), was shocked to see 46 in quant. But I am relieved that its over. Thanks for all you folks, though I utilized GMATclub in a different waythan everybody else (mostly to check answers and of course read Share your GMAT for motivation, though some time back I used to answer to posts and participate).
• Do not go on collecting all the books you can. I did it the first time and ended up using only a few, thus wasting my time and energy.
• Extremely important, keep an error log
and see the ones that you repeatedly make the mistake
• Study thoroughly and make sure you revise all your notes and the ones you got wrong. Understand the logic behind the question rather than the question itself. For quant see how you can do it in a easier way. It is important to train in any new method that you adopt so that during exam you do not need to think to do the questions, but the method is implemented automatically
• If you think you will figure a method to attack a question type during exam, you could be wrong. Exam is probably not the best place to figure it out because you are on a time crunch. It should be more automatic just as you’re driving a car without much thinking.
• For SC, read first to understand the meaning, since higher level questions are usually more about meaning than about strict grammar rules. On second read identify the errors. But you should be the one picking the strategy during the exam day, so you don’t need to follow this. Then practice, practice, practice.
• For CR, understand thoroughly the patterns, and read critically and carefully. Think as if you have been given a Analysis of Argument qn, and find flaws or questions for each sentence you read.
• For RC, make sure a choice is 100% correct, no ifs and buts. Always go back to the passage to select an answer choice. Do not reply on your memory
• Make sure you give plenty of time to revise and do not try to cram more towards the end. You will not be able to go thoroughly over the mistakes if you do so and whatever you learned will be of no use.
• Be confident and stay calm (yes easy to say, but critical). For verbal, I was very calm and it worked for me.
• For DS questions, do not solve the questions. Sometime absentmindedly you may do so. Avoid this and save some previous time. Read what the question is asking for carefully. Write it down on your note pad. You can do this for PS also and that way you avoid misreading the question.
• As has been mentioned everywhere, go for quality and not quantity, though qualitative quantity work is good.
Please feel free to ask any questions or PM me if needed. Thanks again GMATCLUB.