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470 to 740 - Reward of Persistence and Hardwork

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I have seen many students ace the GMAT with ease. I am not one of them and have a learned a lot through this struggle from the people on GMAT Club as well as from my own introspections. Below are a few pointers that helped me. One key take away - you can do quite well on the GMAT even if you have forgotten the basics of english grammar and are confused between an Adverb and an Adjective. If I can improve from 470 (Q50, V17) to 740 (Q50, V40) so can you.

Background

I am your typical non native techie who aims to study at one of the top 20 schools and like pretty much everyone who is from the same background, I need a stellar GMAT score stand out. I started preparing for the test.

First Attempt - 470
Time spent: 2 months, 80% of time on GMAT Verbal.

I started of my preparation with MGMAT books. I got the entire set, started with Sentence Correction and then moved on to CR and RC. It took me 20 days to complete a significant portion of the SC book and while reading the book seems a lot of fun (the book contains a lot of information), at the end I felt that while I knew a lot of stuff I was still not sure about the same. I remember that I created this chart which was filled with grammar terms, many of which are still alien to me.

I then moved on the CR book. The CR book is much easier to comprehend and I was able to complete the same in 10 days. I took a mock test and scored 630 with a V29. Since I still had another month to go, I felt that I was in the right direction.

I then completed the RC book and doing the same was a breeze too. The RC book was more of a refresher. I did not feel that I learned a lot from it. I took a bunch of tests, and since I was scoring around 690 (Q50, V32) and I had read that Manhattan tests are more difficult, I felt that I had a good chance of scoring 700+.

The actual GMAT was very different. The SC, CR questions on the real test seemed somewhat different than those on the Manhattan tests. RC actually seemed easier. Yet, I was expecting a score of around V30 but was devastated to see a V17 on my screen. In fact, I never accepted the V17. The least score that I could live with was V25.


Second attempt - Improving to 740

Time Spent 2 months, 90% of Time on GMAT Verbal. Had the added advantage of vacation days in December.

I frankly did not know what to do. I was very angry with myself to have scored in the low 20 percentiles. I remember keeping to myself for that weekend. The MBA dream seemed to have faded. Then I read a few debriefs on GMAT Club in which students had improved in as little as a month and decided to go for e-GMAT since their courses are built for non-natives. It was one of the best decisions I made. Thank god for it.

e-GMAT completely changed my outlook towards GMAT verbal and made it methodical as Maths. Prior to e-GMAT I never knew that GMAT Sentence Correction could be so simple. Truly, sentence correction is the easiest section to master. The online courses and live sessions are truly amazing. You get to interact with others who are in the same boat. Here are a few tips that I learned that helped me improve:



Sentence Correction


It's important to know your basic rules very clearly - SVs, Modifiers, Comparisons, Lists etc. but beyond these, what matters is meaning. Its very important to spend time on the question stem and comprehend it fully before POE.

Fully underlined Sentences: Its paramount in fully underlined sentences or sentences which have confusing comparisons. Spend more time to understand the meaning for such sentences. Once you get the meaning then POE becomes very simple. If you don’t get the meaning, then simply mark the answer randomly (only in timed test, not in practice) and move on.

For long sentences (and you will see some long sentences) breaking the sentence down to get to its meaning is very important. You should be able to spot errors as you do so and then applying the POE works wonders. If you are unable to spot errors then re-read the sentence and focus on modifiers.

Critical Reasoning


Prethinking or thinking one possible answer before POE helped me do really well in CR. Initially even in my second attempt, I did not practice Prethinking since CR used to be my strength till I reached a score of V32 but could not improve my score beyond the same using traditional POE approach. Learning Prethinking took some time but if you follow the structured approach in which you first spend time to understand the conclusion, then ask the question "what would break the conclusion" or "under what conditions does the conclusion become invalid" then assumptions and weakeners will start to come in your mind. I am not super smart so the first 5 questions took a lot of time. I had to read the argument 3 times to come up with one candidate but once I understood how to read the argument and create the logical structure things became much more easy


Reading Comprehension

RC is something that you can improve in a short amount of time provided you know the basics. The key here is to spend focused effort. There are three challenges that you need to overcome to do well in RC. They are

1. Ideal reading speed: We are all used to reading at a certain speed. Unfortunately that reading speed does not apply to GMAT RC since we need to comprehend while reading. Even in topics where I was more comfortable, I realized that to do well, I needed to recognize where the author was presenting cause and effect reasoning, contrasts and comparisons, drawing conclusions, sequential events etc. I had to slow down a lot more in topics that were more foreign to me. Initially, as I breezed through the passages, I drew a complete blank while attempting the questions and had to go back and refer to the passages. This took more time and I made more mistakes. I recommend using e-GMATs reading strategies while reading the passage. They helped me identify the ideal time to read.

2.Prethink in some Questions
: I found prethinking the answer in Main Point, most inference and most detail questions and most function questions. It is a super time saver and helps boost your accuracy as well.

3. Reading the answer choices in isolation: I initially found answer choices in RC to be very tricky just because the volume of information present in an RC passage would make every choice seem correct, even those that are out of scope for the passage. However I found that eliminating choices became very easy once you read them in isolation (thanks Rajat@egmat for suggesting that in CR) and then ask a question whether the passage talks about it. Similarly it is very important to understand the difference between evaluating, criticizing and contrasting, defining and presenting, author's viewpoint vs someone else's viewpoint etc.


The Mental and the Tactical side of the test


While it's important to master the various sections there a mental and tactical aspect that is truly important and which we need to master. Here are some things that I learned.

1. Leave ego aside: There are things that may come naturally to others which may be very difficult for you. I experienced that during my preparations and during some e-GMAT live sessions in which some students gave excellent explanations in areas where I had doubts. Initially I felt embarrassed but I told myself that I am here to learn. All of us have some super power or the other. For me, I realized that while I took longer than average to understand a concept, once I did the same, I made very few mistakes.

2. Accuracy First, Timing Next: This is a difficult one. I used to fret over timing during my first attempt and it did me no good. Get the method right. You only get marks for answering a question correctly. Another thing that you will notice is that increasing accuracy will sometimes lead to increase in time required as you start getting a greater share of difficult questions. It happened with me. This is a good thing as this means that your score is improving.

3. Its ok to skip some questions: If you cannot get the gist of a question in 1 minute, have the heart to mark it randomly Trust me, it is much better to spend time on questions that you are confident about.

4. Monitor Total Productive Time: This is an e-GMAT term that tracks the percentage of time spent in answering the questions correctly. Make sure that your total productive time for the first half and second half of the test is similar. If this is not the case then you are not attempting the exam as per your ability. Ideally, your total productive time should be better than 60%. My TPM in my first mock was 50% and towards the end was about 75%.

5. Recognize your mental state: As you approach the end of any section, your mind would start to go slow. In my case, I found that relaxing for 5 seconds by closing my eyes paid made me stay alert and commit fewer mistakes towards the end. Also taking more practice tests helps address this issue. In addition, make sure that you make good use of the breaks. Think about a happy memory (Harry Potter fans - cast a PETRONAS to scare away GMAT dementors)

6. Own your Weakness: This is very important. The key to improving is isolating your weakness. Spend time in isolating your weakness and use GMAT Clubs tagging system to solve problems in your weak areas. Focus on official questions and questions from reputed test prep companies such as MGMAT, Veritas, e-GMAT etc.


A list of useful references

I spent a lot of time on this forum both on my Tablet and on my desktop. Here is a list of a few posts that I bookmarked:


1. GMAT Sentence Correction Questions: the-most-comprehensive-collection-of-everything-official-sc-140372.html -
One of the most valuable posts. Thank Souvik.

2. e-GMAT SC all topics consolidated: e-gmat-s-all-sc-topics-consolidated-2nd-edition-168892.html - awesome collection of articles and questions.

3. GMAT Reading Comprehension: The 7 most common passage types gmat-reading-comprehension-7-most-common-passage-types-168362.html . This is a super post that contains tonnes of free content. The content by MGMAT, e-GMAT, Magoosh and Veritas is most relevant.

4. e-GMAT CR all topics e-gmat-s-all-cr-topics-consolidated-168945.html

5. The most comprehensive collection for all things CR: the-most-comprehensive-collection-of-everything-official-cr-140375.html

6. GMAT Scoring: Bunnels analysis: gmat-prep-software-analysis-and-what-if-scenarios-146146.html This is a super mega thread where they prove that the first 10 questions are very important. Bunnel and the GMAT Club team should be awarded the Noble prize for GMAT for this research.

7. e-GMAT Strategy Session: https://e-gmat.wistia.com/medias/07r3z9lsh0 - talks about GMAT timing, Total Productive Time and the importance of first 10 questions. Super informative session.

8. MGMAT article on timing: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... anagement/ another excellent article by Stacey Koprince

9. GMAT 800 debrief: A debrief by a Ukrarian that you should read every so often. Warning, it may pursue you to take the test even when you have a good enough score. long-debrief-800-q51-v51-ir-8-awa-135335.html

10. Another very helpful debrief: never-say-never-gmat-4th-attempt-730-q50-v38-170499-20.html

I have learned a lot from this community and owe my success to you guys. Do let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to answer.

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470 to 740....wow...that's called improvement....Many congratulations. Thanks a ton for the super informative post and taking out time to provide the links of relevant threads....:)

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congrats on your awesome score.
so to me your debrief is all about verbal strategy and E-gmat.
Can you shed some light on your Quant strategy?
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Dear Sunita .. You are right :)). my debrief is all about my Verbal Strategy because I spent 90% of my time on the same. I am not a great reference of quant since I was good in the same to begin with. I scored a Q50 in my first attempt. My quant prep was basically MGMAT mocks and practicing questions on gmatclub. I know that a number of students use mgmat books for quant. They seem to do a very good job and cost about $125. I also know that egmat also offers a quant module for $99 which seems quite reasonable. I have not tried their free trial but I recommend you check the same out. Good luck for your GMAT.

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Hi surenagastya,

So you improved from V17 to V40 in just 2 months?? That´s absolutely impressive. Congrats

Regarding your 3rd tactical point, how many skips (random marks) did you do (approxiamtely) in the real gmat?
I would assume that we are considering the basic best practices such as:
- skipping in your weakest areas
- doing so spread out

Thanks!
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New post 15 Jan 2015, 00:42
thank you .this seems good , but what if you have sever problems in quant section as well as verabal section ??? this concerns me i cant get the trick quickly and stuck long time in the question. Igot the first questions wrong then improved. i still not got deep in verbal section

please any advice for help???

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Q50 and V17 in first attempt should have given you somewhere around 550 total score ??

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My skipping strategy for different. I did not look at whether the question was in an area of my strength or not. I also did not care whether the skips were consecutive (although they were not in practice). My goal was simple - if I cannot get the gist of an SC/CR question in a minute then I would skip it. I simply wanted to spend the maximum amount of time on content that I was confident about. This helped me increase my Total Productive Time, something which I aimed for.Now I did not practice this strategy in Quant because I never felt the timing pressure in Quant.


431506

I am not sure I understand what your question is. If I were to guess, I would say that if you cannot understand a question in 1 minute or 1:15 then you probably need to learn more.

nareshagrawal9

I was very sad when I saw your message. Then I looked at some other scores on the forum and felt much more happy. Here is one..

470 (Q50, V16): from-470-to-720-i-rise-like-a-phoenix-its-all-about-self-belief-190876.html''


I also found some other examples where students scored V25 and Q45 and scored in 500s but I guess I cannot complain with my current score :)

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New post 15 Jan 2015, 08:47
surenagastya wrote:
minwoswoh
My skipping strategy for different. I did not look at whether the question was in an area of my strength or not. I also did not care whether the skips were consecutive (although they were not in practice). My goal was simple - if I cannot get the gist of an SC/CR question in a minute then I would skip it. I simply wanted to spend the maximum amount of time on content that I was confident about. This helped me increase my Total Productive Time, something which I aimed for.Now I did not practice this strategy in Quant because I never felt the timing pressure in Quant.

Gotcha! Would you know how many approximate skips did you make throughout the Verbal section with this strategy?
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New post 15 Jan 2015, 12:13
Hi Surenagastya,
Which e-GMAT course did you take?

Thanks,
Rahul

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Dear Minwoswoh - let me address your original question. Your original question that you posed was to address the scenario in which you are falling behind on time. We recommend skipping questions in that scenario and preferably in the areas that are not your strengths. In this case, you would not spend even 1 minute on the question to evaluate whether you need to skip this question on not; you would blindly skip. This strategy more of a fix you are late and you are trying to catch up. If you view the recording of Strategy Session 2 (also shared by the student in his debrief) you would see the strategy with an example towards the end of the session along with the discussion about Total Productive Time.

The skipping strategy that the student recommended is not a fix but a prevention strategy. By following the student's strategy, you would ensure that you dont fall behind on timing. If you look at the example that I take in Strategy Session 2, you would notice that the test case there spent a bunch of time on questions that he had little clue about and consequently fell behind on timing. Had this test case followed the strategy that Surenagyastya advised, he would not have fallen behind and consequently scored much better.

So both strategies are viable strategies but they are meant for different purposes.

# of questions that can be safely skipped: I would say that this number can be 3-4. Now a lot will depend on how consistent you are otherwise. You can make 10 mistakes and still score 95 percentile on GMAT Verbal provided you make the test throw difficult questions at you. Below is the recording of Strategy Session 2.

https://e-gmat.wistia.com/medias/07r3z9lsh0

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Thank you Surenagastya:)

surenagastya wrote:
Dear Sunita .. You are right :)). my debrief is all about my Verbal Strategy because I spent 90% of my time on the same. I am not a great reference of quant since I was good in the same to begin with. I scored a Q50 in my first attempt. My quant prep was basically MGMAT mocks and practicing questions on gmatclub. I know that a number of students use mgmat books for quant. They seem to do a very good job and cost about $125. I also know that egmat also offers a quant module for $99 which seems quite reasonable. I have not tried their free trial but I recommend you check the same out. Good luck for your GMAT.

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Hi surenagastya,
470 to 740 is an outstanding performance. Congratulations on your awesome score!! Thanks for sharing your GMAT experience and advices.
Best Wishes!
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New post 18 Jan 2015, 08:41
Amazing improvement surenagastya ! Nice debrief too.. Thanks for sharing.

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New post 25 Jan 2015, 23:29
Hi Surenagastya,

Congratulations for your great score!! Thanks for sharing the experience.

If you dont mind, could you please guide me how to get mgmat books? I have tried to access the website, however it does not work since it tells me to put Database Name, Username, Password, Databased Host, etc which I do not understand.

Any others can help me too?

Appreciate for the feedback.


Thanks in advance.

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I dont believe that you can legally get the MGMAT books for free. You can buy the books from Amazon or Flipkart (if you are in India). Try our free trial if you are looking for some free prep material. We have over 200 free questions and a number of free concepts. Also attend our free webinar this weekend. Click on the link below to register.

https://e-gmat.com/sentence-correction/ ... nners&id=3

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New post 18 Feb 2015, 00:18
Congrats Surenagasthya

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Congrats!! Its a great score and thank you for sharing your journey and preparation strategy for the GMAT. My first attempt in GMAT was a score of 490 (V24, Q34). To my disappointment, I couldn't get the courage to prepare for it ever again until now. I am thinking to have a conducive strategy this time for a score of 700+ with more focus on Verbal and without losing the ground in Quant within next 2 months but, I'm currently in a full time job which restricts me on the amount of time that I can invest in everyday study. I would really like to know how much of time you devoted everyday in studying GMAT??

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New post 25 Feb 2015, 17:32
Hi magneto,

It's important to note that what worked for one Test Taker won't necessarily work for all Test Takers. As such, you have to take a good look at your situation, your strengths and weaknesses, etc. and put together the best overall plan for YOU.

To that end, I'd like to know a bit more about how you studied the first time:

1) How long did you study?
2) What resources were you using?

Most Test Takers need 3 months (or more) of consistent study time to hit their "peak" scores; during that time, it's common to spend 10-15 hours per week (or more) on the process. To raise your Official Score to a 700+, you'll need to do some serious work in both the Quant and Verbal sections.

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New post 25 Feb 2015, 20:53
Hi Rich

The last time I gave GMAT was in Sep 2011 and I had prepared for only 1.5 months mainly through self study using MGMAT & OG and with some help from a few friends who had already written GMAT before. I realised that it was very less time and secondly, I hadn't done enough with the official questions and mocks which showed on my score in Quant (in which I am strong) and in Verbal.

This time, however, I have bought the GMATPill and also MGMAT and I am planning to go through all the OG questions thoroughly and taking plenty of tests to assess myself better.

Let me know if you have some suggestions for me to improve. Thanks!

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13 740 in my first attempt - A reward for perseverance and hard work techspartan 8 26 Jul 2017, 11:48
17 EXPERTS_POSTS_IN_THIS_TOPIC A Story of Persistence - 740 (3 Years and 3 Attempts) GShine 8 21 Oct 2014, 02:00
18 EXPERTS_POSTS_IN_THIS_TOPIC 650 to 740...Persistence is the key!!! Rohit6 11 31 May 2017, 12:02
2 EXPERTS_POSTS_IN_THIS_TOPIC 470 to 740 - Reward of Persistence and Hardwork surenagastya 32 11 Sep 2015, 23:10
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