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2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+

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Joined: 13 Jun 2016
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Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Nonprofit
GMAT 1: 720 Q47 V41
2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 14 Oct 2018, 21:13
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[DAMN LONG REVIEW, READ AT OWN COST]

Believe me when I said this, I have waited all these years to pen the note for every single hopeful out there who thought they could not do and break the 700 barrier. I myself took 2 years and 4 attempts to finally earn myself a 720 (Q47, V41) GMAT score, a score decent enough to allow me to apply to top business schools in the world.

Attempt #1: Sep 26th, 2016
Result: 570 (Q43, V25)

I started thinking about MBA many years ago and thought a lot more right after I passed my CFA exam in Aug 2016. A few months earlier I already started understanding and studying for GMAT test. I registered and was supposed to sit for my exam sometimes in Apr 2016 but I had delayed it for how ever many times I could ever remember. I had online chats with someone I knew during my employment time who was studying MBA at MIT Sloan and suggested me Magoosh, so I bought access for Magoosh that she used to get a GMAT score of 710 in first attempt. I also got access to the Official Guide (OG) and all Manhattan Books.

After studying for sometime, I knew I was not ready at all to achieve 700+ and was hoping to just hit 650 as a starter. I decided to take the test anyway and sat for it and scored a miserable 570 (Q43, V25). I was expecting a low score, but I had never expected score that low. I experienced the first defeat in my life.

Attempt #2: Aug 03th, 2017
Result: 650 (Q46, V34) AWA 6 IR 7

I really took sometime to recover. After a few months, the new dawn came with a new year. I initially was not active on Gmatclub but decided to be more active on Gmatclub website. I checked on a few quantitative questions on the website and started attempting beyond OG. I continued to practice on Magoosh because I thought it was enough to get me the magic 700. I also bought e-gmat because I heard it was very good for verbal, I did not believe the review in the first place but hell yeah, I was damn wrong.

Along the process I also picked up Veritas Prep because I heard it was good and it was cheap. I got the full set at discount around USD49. I started to take full length (without IR and AWA) and seeing my score improving, I was extremely delighted. The moment I hit internal score of 700 - 710, I was damn excited I really thought I was ready and was thinking that for the worst case scenario, I would have got 680 given 30 - 40 points margin that people used to claim on the test.

This time I felt like I had prepared well. I attempted the IR and wrote AWA using a template by Chineseburned. While I know quantitative part was not my strong suit, I never expected that verbal would be way harder than the internal tests I attempted. I really bombed the test as I struggled to finish the test till the last minute, spending too much time on SC and CR (as there were more convoluted than I remembered attempting during practice test), and I could not properly complete my last RC passage and a few SC and RC questions right after. I made all the random guesses and when the test ended, I saw a score of 650 (Q46, V34). At that point, I was extremely devastated. It was already Aug 2017 and I had the biggest nightmare that I would once again miss the application deadline.

Attempt #3: June 20th, 2018
Result: 610 (Q41, V33)

I got more involved with Gmatclub and along the process made good friends including one that I ended up studying virtually together with. He taught me a lot of things about quantitative including topics that I naturally struggled with such as Geometry, Algebra, Combination and Probabilities. I spent my time studying and thought I started to pick up pace. I started to prepare more on verbal including signing up for e-gmat on CR and RC as it really helped me with SC (as you could see on my ESR test for attempt #2). I spent more time taking full length tests to boost my confidence and consistently scored above 700 across many practice tests from GMATPrep and Veritas. I stopped attempting Manhattan as I felt the quantitative part was too hard for me. I was ready to land 700+ with around Q48, V38 given my internal performance.

I was very comfortable with my internal scores but could not help but to really cram things the night before the exam. For this test, I already took a week off (unlike previous tests where I did not take any off at all from office) and really checked on all the mistakes I continuously did from my basic error log excel. By this time, I already remembered all the areas I was going to fall for in the real test including SC topics such as comparison and advanced level of parallelism. I also re-attempted OG for the verbal and quantitative sections and started to master different techniques to strategically answer CR for various sub-questions including Strengthen, Weaken, Assumption and Evaluate. I checked every single type of question more thoroughly including causal type of questions and arguments on data sample vs population. I also started to read journals and articles including from Scientific America just because I was naturally not good in science passages and that was what screwed me during my RC session in the last attempt.

As usual I took the 10.30 am slot and brought food I really was comfortable with (some sugary drinks, tuna bread and some snacks – I did bring too much) during the exam day. But, little did I know I really wanted to break that 700+ barrier that I became too anxious and repeatedly look at the timing. It was the biggest mistake ever as I never came into the exam with timing strategy and the exam rule just changed when GMAC reduced number of questions and cut the total time for the test. As per last test, I decided to do Verbal first as I thought I would do better than Quantitative section. I screwed the entire thing because RC just got harder from my point of view and I struggled a lot with SC and CR in the first half of the Verbal section. As I went through 2nd half I already was running out of time. I forgot that they would have been 4 RC passages instead of 3, by the time I got to my last 10 questions I only had around 6 minutes including time to read a dense science passage again. I screwed up big time and just guessed the last 4 questions. I took the break feeling very shattered. I thought that was it, but worst case scenario happened when I also screwed my quantitative section as I overthought every single question (me wasting time on questions I could not solve) and ended up not completing the Quantitative section, I guessed 2 questions towards the end and could not even attempt the last question, heavily penalised for not completing the test. I really almost did not want to go through IR and AWA. But I still did, I thought I could land on a minimum 650, worst case scenario, but I ended with 610 (Q41, V33). At that point in time, I really lost my whole confidence I ever had left in myself. I cancelled the score and just stayed in my car for a while. I literally cried my heart out and thought I was never a good material for a top business school. I lost trust in myself while in fact all these years since the day I was born I have been a smart student, top in class, straight A students with full government scholarship for my oversea degree. I even passed all CFA exams in one attempt, one of the most brutal exams in the entire world. To conclude, I was really shattered.

Attempt #4: Aug 16th, 2018
Result: 720 (Q47, V41) AWA 5.5 IR 6

It took me a long time to admit that I might not be able to pull off GMAT and go to business school as this would have been my 4th attempt. Imagine how freaked out I was as I already spent 2 years and 4 attempts, and would only have remaining 4 attempts before I officially would have been unable to take the test. That feeling really was horrible but blessing in disguise, as I had sunken that low, I decided not to make it bother me anymore. Who said you could not get into a good school with 680 – 690? That was what I was saying to myself, I started imagining myself getting into INSEAD with that score range or even attending a business school in Europe that would be more forgiving about GMAT than business schools in the US do.

I really took my time to calm down and really treated this next attempt as a practice. I did not bother to do another full length practice because I damn knew the reason why I could not do well was because of my anxiousness. So I took a clean slate and looked back at my past ESR for the past 3 attempts and found out a few things.

1. Quantitative
- Problems with certain topics I identified earlier including Geometry, Algebra, Combinations and Probabilities
- Did not have strong fundamentals on tricky number properties and tricks such as number testing
- Struggled with problem solving (PS) type of questions and spent too much time on hard questions and did not let the question go until too late (3 min+)


Approach:
(i) Re-inforced fundamental concepts
Started by really attempting 700+ questions on Gmatclub and really looked at those questions EVERY SINGLE day. I wish I had done this earlier as I realised I had had the same concepts wrong over and over again. For example: I always screwed applications on speed-distance and overlapping sets when in fact those questions tested very straight forward concept and would have been relatively easy. Whole this time, Gmatclub quan math book had always been me on my phone and I used it rigorously until the point I mastered the key essence of each concept in the book.

(ii) Established clear error log
I started to get really serious with error log, something I partially did earlier. To be honest, I secretly disliked quantitative because I could not do well, but as I started to drill down on concepts I really was not mastering (as basic as applications on standard deviation, e.g. additions of same number set will change mean but will not change standard deviation). My error log ended up just some notes I typed on my phone by topics, notes I looked again and again to remember all the key concepts to hit at least Q47 in real exam.

(iii) Apply a 30 sec rule
Went through each question with a clean slate in mind and figured out the best way to answer each question by brainstorming the concept within 30 second. If nothing came out within 30 second, that means either I forgot the concept or I completely had no idea because I never attempted such questions during my practice. Either way I would try to save my 2 – 3 mins and just skipped the question.

2. Verbal
- I should have fundamentally got decent baseline for SC and RC given 80th percentile in prior tests
- I needed to focus on CR on key questions Weaken, Strengthen, Assumption and Evaluate
- I would have noticed the pattern of the test (SC/CR, 2 sets of RC, back to SC/CR, medium RC, and very complex RC in the end, then remaining 5 – 6 on SC/CR)
- Should have improved time on SC (1.30 mins) and CR (1.30 mins), more time for RC (2.00 mins)
- Focus on RC section I really struggled with especially science topics including big bang galactic theory, geology such as volcano phenomenon and microbiology

Approach:
(i) Focus on quick fix on CR
I knew I needed to get around Q48, V38 to get to 700. To achieve V38, I had to make sure my CR was right on the chart at least at 80th percentile (previous scores were V23, V24 and V31 respectively).

I went through all the materials on the internet and went back from scratch. I found Souvik’s note on CR and also all CR notes from e-gmat which I had not copied earlier. I attempted every typed of CR questions that I struggled with – Weaken, Strengthen, Assumption and Evaluate. For weaken and strengthen, I went back to basics and made effort to understand argument-conclusion structure using techniques from Thursday with Ron Video. He did teach about really focusing on conclusion to strengthen and weaken arguments. I also re-looked into negation technique for assumptions and practice more questions on evaluate. I really remembered every single way of arguments to be rebutted on different types of questions including data sample vs population kind of reasoning and cause-effect reasoning. I re-looked quickly into Powerscore and really tried to get full grasp on CR just enough to hit V38.

(ii) Re-inforce strong fundamentals on SC and RC
I opened back Manhattan SC and really focused on areas I was weak at. I focused rigorously on a meaning based approach as per outlined by e-gmat and found tricks to eliminate wrong parallelism, comparison and modifiers. I also read on Magoosh Idiom book to supplement my gap in some of basic idioms that I struggled with at times (I know some people do not have problems with idioms to have survived SC, but I seemed to get trapped into it at times. e.g. ‘usher in’ or ‘usher into’ is the right thing and not ‘usher in… into’).

I did not really focus on RC for this round as I had done a lot of 700+ level passages on Gmatclub. I only re-looked into main point notes from e-gmat and re-read hard science passages such as on the big bang galaxy, volcano geology phenomenon and microbiology (such as those **** toad and insect articles). Surprisingly, the more you are familiar with the topics, the faster you will read and digest the information as technically GMAT did not really simply create articles out of nowhere, those had been taken from real journals and articles, which mean the topics and the language used are real because there is only one big bang, black hole, meteor movement or a ring Saturn in this world.

(iii) Fix timing structure on Verbal
I made every effort to optimise my timing on SC and CR so that I would have more time on RC. At the back of my mind, around 1.00 min on SC, 1.45 min on CR and 2.00 min on RC. The night before the exam, I also checked on tips on Verbal Timing and found a guideline for it, approximately 48 mins for remaining 27 questions, 32 mins for remaining 18 questions, and 16 minutes for the remaining 9 questions.

I also was paying more attention on timing for CR. I realised that if I went through the whole answer choices one time, and went through again the second time without having an answer, I surely would have wasted 2 – 3 minutes and still got the answer wrong. This time around I vowed to really focus on the argument-conclusion and pre-think my answer. For assumption question, I was solid ready with my negation technique.

I went to sleep that night not thinking a lot about the exam. Not that I was giving up, but more of not putting a lot of pressure on myself. The best thing I did was not telling anyone I took another GMAT during the day because I could not think of the possibility that I would have screwed up again one more time and I had to break the news to anyone else.

I also did not pay much attention on IR and AWA. In previous tests I went quite thorough in memorising the template from Chineseburned and also some point analyses from an article written on AWA by Magoosh. Indeed, I did not mind getting a 5.5 on AWA while giving whole lot of my attention on the count that matter on Quantitative and Verbal.

I went out home around 9 am, usually took me an hour to reach the center, little that I realised I would have a problem with the parking lot. By the time I reach it was already around 10.15 am and I only had another 15 mins to be at the center, so I gambled and parked my car illegally under a flyover bridge. I was telling myself, if God wanted my car to still be there by the time I came back, it would still be there.

I walked to the center and reached around 10.20 am, I realised at the registration counter there was already another person waiting. Obviously the counter person knew me and said the other guy was taking GMAT too. In fact in the past 3 attempts I always became the only one in the exam center. Kinda felt unpleasant having a company but screw it, I said to myself. lol.

I took it cool and started with Verbal. A few SC questions and CR questions popper out. I just focused on the questions and chose an answer for each question without looking at the time. I only looked at the timing during the pulse check around remaining question 27, 18 and 9 as per timing outline I wrote earlier. These also indicated the moment Verbal section turned from first, second, third and last block of questions.

As expected I got two fairly straight forward RC after multiple questions on SC and CR. I did as much as I could until I reached 2nd half of the section. I started to get some hard SC and CR questions. I started to focus on meanings for SC as things got harder but I struggled with CR to some extent. Nevertheless, I really did not let it got into me pondering whether I got them wrong or right until the last 9 questions where I only had around 12 minutes. I went berserk as I got a convoluted history social science RC passage. I knew I would get 4 crazy questions on this passage so I quickly looked for the main point of the passage and key bullet for each paragraph. I literally just tried to understand the skeleton of the passage without going into details. Then I quickly attempted the first RC question and got some of my time back. I continued to attempt the next 3 questions on the RC eventually trying to find some details within the middle of the passages. I was not letting myself panic and straight away went to SC and CR questions right after and completed the section. I felt like I bombed it. I went out of the room and took my break. This time I only bought some almond nuts and sugary drinks, no fancy things. After 3 minutes I walked back into the exam room.

I was trying not to let the whole moment impacted me, at least I did complete the verbal section. I still had 680 – 690 in my mind, having to pull off at least Q47 so I had to continue fighting. Quantitative was easier than the previous 3 attempts, so I thought, likely because I changed the way I approached the questions. 30 sec rules in place and I was more than happy to skip 1 – 2 questions along the process if I knew it was too time consuming or that I would have not got it correct at the first place. I completed quantitative section with 45 sec remaining.

I took another break and told myself it was over. After around 4 minutes I walked in and completed my IR and AWA. At this point in time, I really did not give a lot of attentions to these 2 sections (I felt that this was one of the best strategies as this time, I focused fully on Quantitative and Verbal components) and I was glad I did not lose focus on the sections that mattered most. I was extremely nervous and the moment I clicked finish, 720 (Q47, V41) popped up on the screen. I looked at it with disbelieve as it was better than I expected, was in shocked for a while before I quickly remembered that I had to accept the score. I walked out of the room feeling extremely happy and the counter person said it was a good score. 2 years and 4 attempts. I literally cried inside. It is over now.

Materials used: OG, Magoosh, Manhattan, Veritas, Powerscore, Thursday by Ron, e-gmat, gmatclub

Useful links:
Quantitative –
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-math-book-87417.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-ps-ques ... 27957.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/ds-question- ... 28728.html

Verbal –
(i) Sentence Correction (SC)
https://gmatclub.com/forum/e-gmat-s-all ... 50535.html
https://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/gmat-idiom-ebook/
https://gmatclub.com/forum/sentence-cor ... 29750.html
(for link above, please filter and ONLY use OG materials for verbal section – esp 700+ question)

(ii) Critical Reasoning (CR)
https://gmatclub.com/forum/e-gmat-s-all ... 68945.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/new-critical ... 43917.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/critical-rea ... l#p1163900
(this is the specific link on article by souvik which I referred to 2 weeks before my final)

https://gmatclub.com/forum/critical-rea ... 28861.html
(from link above, please filter and ONLY use OG materials for verbal section – esp 700+ question)

(iii) Reading Comprehension (RC)
https://gmatclub.com/forum/paragraph-su ... 34468.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBQovNZISbc

That is all for now, and thanks Gmatclub and all for all these years!
GMAT, I damn beat you.

p/s: Attached my ESR and practice results for those who are interested to check in details. Buzz me if there are any question. More than happy to contribute back to the community.

Originally posted by izulman on 20 Aug 2018, 06:05.
Last edited by bb on 14 Oct 2018, 21:13, edited 15 times in total.
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Aug 2018, 22:42
2
Amazing post! Very inspiring story! I have been through the same, finally going to appear for my 5th GMAT attempt in September. Reading this makes me believe in myself and you did not give up, that is exactly what mattered!
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Aug 2018, 02:59
yashpopat wrote:
Amazing post! Very inspiring story! I have been through the same, finally going to appear for my 5th GMAT attempt in September. Reading this makes me believe in myself and you did not give up, that is exactly what mattered!


hei thanks for the response. Nothing is impossible and I surely believe you can do it. I am more than happy to help if required. Keep me posted. All the best.

Posted from my mobile device
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Aug 2018, 08:31
2
You missed telling us the most important thing - what happened to your car?

Jokes apart, great post and congratulations. Which schools are you applying to finally?
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Joined: 11 Jan 2018
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GMAT 1: 620 Q46 V30
GMAT 2: 640 Q48 V30
GMAT 3: 690 Q48 V36
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Aug 2018, 10:56
1
I love stories like these more than I got a 720 at my first attempt after two weeks of studying story. Your persistence will carry you far in life, regardless of what you do. I respect you and thank you for sharing the story.
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Aug 2018, 00:11
hanamana wrote:
I love stories like these more than I got a 720 at my first attempt after two weeks of studying story. Your persistence will carry you far in life, regardless of what you do. I respect you and thank you for sharing the story.


Hi thanks for the warm note. Yeah, some people got it easy, while some others worked incredibly hard to be on par. Thanks again for dropping by.
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Aug 2018, 00:19
55555Raj wrote:
You missed telling us the most important thing - what happened to your car?

Jokes apart, great post and congratulations. Which schools are you applying to finally?


hahahaha. thanks mate. I was damn nervous and yeh I did take a photo and it was still there the time I finished my exam happily holding that one result paper!

Honestly I am damn happy coz I no longer have restrictions (kind of) on schools I could safely apply to, but yeah I am thinking between playing safe and going crazy for my long term goal. I have had Yale SOM, Dartmouth Tuck, uPenn Wharton and Berkeley Haas in mind. 2 schools on a traditional long term goal and another 2 for a crazy one. Doing a bit more soul searching now on which path to pursue and will apply accordingly.
Attachments

File comment: picture of my car under the flyover bridge!
7D1F6012-40E3-4BF9-A1DB-29AA221945A4.JPG
7D1F6012-40E3-4BF9-A1DB-29AA221945A4.JPG [ 2.14 MiB | Viewed 2639 times ]

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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Sep 2018, 18:22
2
Sopata wrote:
Hi
Can you please provide the attachementts?
They seem to be missing.

Thanks

Posted from my mobile device


Hi yeh, I reckoned sometimes it went missing. let me know if you can see now. It has one word file that highlights my progression for the internal tests I took over the 2 years and also my ESR documents.
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Sep 2018, 18:52
1
izulman

Congrats for your amazing score.

Your story is inspirational for someone like me who is yet to appear for GMAT even after preparing for a while.

I will take a leaf out of your mindset for my exam.

All the best for your applications.

Regards
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Sep 2018, 09:26
Thank you for your story. In many ways, my story is similar to yours. In my first three attempts, I scored 620 (Q47, V29), 670 (Q47, V35), and 640 (Q46, V33). I lost all of my confidence after the third attempt last month. I even doubted myself that I might not have "it" for the best B-schools. After reading your story, I wanted to give it one last try. I did it this morning and I scored a 720 (Q49, V40). Thank you for being part of my GMAT journey!
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Sep 2018, 01:29
Overwithgmat wrote:
Thank you for your story. In many ways, my story is similar to yours. In my first three attempts, I scored 620 (Q47, V29), 670 (Q47, V35), and 640 (Q46, V33). I lost all of my confidence after the third attempt last month. I even doubted myself that I might not have "it" for the best B-schools. After reading your story, I wanted to give it one last try. I did it this morning and I scored a 720 (Q49, V40). Thank you for being part of my GMAT journey!


Amazing score! and I am so glad that I could be of any help to you and I am sure you will go do wonders in life. Let me know if you would like to connect further for R2 MBA applications. Could use more brains for the applications ;)
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Re: 2 years and 4 attempts later. From 570 to 720. How to achieve 700+ &nbs [#permalink] 20 Sep 2018, 01:29
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