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5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760

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5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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5 key take-aways : errors I made, things I wish I knew

TAKE-AWAY 1 : Gmat is not really adaptative. Or only 'slightly'

I read a lot that Gmat is adaptatitve. If your answer is not correct, you get easier question. If your answers are correct 5 times in a row, you'll get harder questions, it’s not true, or only partly. This is based on several observations. When I was retaking the Gmatprep CAT and scoring Q50 or Q51, I was answering most questions correctly and expected a strong increase in difficulty that didn’t occur. Getting Q51 is mainly solving a mix of 500, 600 and 700 level questions.
When scoring Q51, I analyzed the level of questions I had after having correctly answered the first 15 questions. The level was the following : level 600, then level 500, then 600, 600, one 700, again 600, 600, 500, 700, 700, 600, 600, 600… although I had all of them correct ! With the several Gmat prep software retake where I score Q50, it was always like that.
On the actual gmattest, it was also the same. The first 15 questions were mainly 600 level questions, some 600+, 1 or 2 were 700. Some could say that this feeling may be an imprsesion due to my training : I would view 700 questions as easy, but that is not the case. I know how a 700 question looks like and I would spend 3-4 minutes on several 700 questions of gmatclub tests but for the real gmat, most of them could be done in 1mn 2mn max.
 Q51 is not about solving 700 questions, it’s about solving questions from ALL LEVEL, from the first to the last question. Sorry to disappoint all the people who truly think the test is heavily adaptative.
In total for the actual test, I think I received a 700 level question (bit more tricky) EVERY 5-6 questions maybe. I was really surprised. I had heard all this time that GMAT is adaptative and gets really tough. I think it’s not the case. I think GMAT will ‘slightly’ adapt the level of questions. That is if you fail a lot of the first 10 questions, of course they will give you easier questions. But overall, it is not a huge impact. In my opinion, they give to ‘everyone’ a mix of questions from all level, you have to answer it.
When you think of it, what is GMAT looking for ? People who can answer a wide array of questions of varying difficulties. Gmat is interested if you can answer hard questions, but the software also wants to make sure you can answer easy questions. Because if you fail an easy question, Gmat can strongly decrease your score. Therefore, even for a quant genius, Gmat will throw 500 and 600 level questions all the way until question 37.

A final illustration of this are the Gmatclub prep tests, which are in my view the closest to test experience. Even if you get 10 times correct in a row, you’ll receive level 500, then level 600, 600, 600 700 and then again 600, 600…
In comparison, Manhattan GMAT CAT thow only 700 level questions once you answer correctly. I don’t think MGMAT closely represents how the algorithm works.

What are the impacts from that ?
1. Take Gmatclub tests, whatever may be your initial level, you’ll work on a mix of questions from all levels that will best prepare you for the real test
2. It is more important to finish the test than to answer all of them correctly. It's like in high school, the teacher will give points to questions you answer. During several weeks, I would usually run out of time around the question 30 (verbal and quant), then I had to click any answer in the last 30 seconds. Many people say it but if you get stuck in a question, skip it, you’ll have 500 or 600 level question along the way and solving them can still allow you to score high in quant.
3. Don’t fear the level of question. To score Q51, you only need to answer correctly 6-7 tricky questions they will throw at you. For me it was the big take-away / surprise of these past weeks, confirmed by my test experience today.
4. To get Q51, don’t target to train only on 700 questions. It’s in my view more useful to work on all levels of questions and solve 500-600 level questions in 1 minute. As easy questions will constitute 80% of the questions. Once in a while, you get a tough question, then you can spend 4mn on it. Scoring high in quant doesn't mean solving so many 700 questions. I learnt this along the way.

Take-away 2: if you want to ‘secure’ a high score and start at ~500-600 level (like a lot of people) plan to study for 4-5 months or 250-300 hours (basic 3 months is in my view not relevant anymore to score high)

In my opinion, the study plan for people who want to have a good score is 4-5 months or 250-300 hours. It’s something I wish I knew when I started. I read on this forum or in a lot of other forums that 3 months is a good time period. I think this is not relevant anymore, the norm will increasingly be 4-5 months for more and more people. 1 month Quant, 1 month Verbal, 1 month CAT = 3 months or 12 weeks x 15h / week = 180 hours. With less than 200 hours, you’ll have a good improvement (let’s say 50-70 points or from 620 to 680…), but not enough to score high.
- Genius and extremely brilliant people will of course succeed in 1 months or 2 (some in a few weeks) but this is a matter of probability.
- I read a lot of GMAT debriefs from the forum, I think a lot of people now study for 4-5 months rather than 3, and that the standard study plan suggested by Gmatclub on the forum (3 months) may be outdated. A lot of debriefs end of December talk about people that began to work during the summer, not in October. 80% of people with high score study more than 3 months, more like 4-5 months.
- Some debrief on the forum like ‘I am on Cloud 9; why you may ask; 760 - Q51, V41’ explain the person scored 760 with only 2 months preparation, but that was 2 months full time. Most people cannot afford that and do this in parallel of work. 2 months full time is maybe ~250-300 hours, which can only be achieved in 5 months if you work in parallel. Some debrief explain they scored 750 after a few weeks of work but this is for people who usually score above 650 in their diagnostic test.
- The Gmat added the Integrated Reasoning section. Although it’s not a huge load of work, it adds maybe 1-2 weeks (if you want let’s say to read a book on this, practice a bit).
- The level of GMAT has increased. I believe GMAC talked about it, and the percentile have evolved. In the past, you could study for 1-2 or 3 months and get a high score. I think it’s harder today. Study books have improved. At the time, you had only one book like Princeton review and you could land a 730. Now, Manhattan Gmat only is 10 books. The average GMAT score for most programs has increased (sometimes +20-25 points since 2009).
=> Standard Gmat study plan is for me : 4-5 months

You find below a standard study plan I would recommend (to adapt depending on your strengths and weaknesses). This is a study plan for
- non US/UK test-takers (which means you have to work on Verbal) - if you grew up in US or UK, you may need less time for verbal
- people who have worked a few years (so maths and grammar skills are rusty and you need to go back to books and spend time learning content)
- people who are not particularly strong in quant (people with strong quant skills or engineers may take less time)

At the start, you may spend one week to understand the format and do your first practice CAT, you can :
- read the Math, Verbal and IR section of the official guide and do a few questions (15 PS, 15 DS, 10 RC, 10 SC, 10 CR...) in order to get a feel for the test
- do a first practice CAT that will allow you to see your starting point but also your strengths and weaknesses (you may adapt the timeline below based on these). If you are already strong in quant, you may only need 2 weeks of training instead of 1,5 months..

I. QUANT : 1,5 months
1. THE CORE (reach Q40-47) – 4 weeks
a. Learning the content (2 weeks) – for instance read the 4-5 MGMAT books on Quant, or the Quant section of any book + exercises associated
b. Do the Official guide Quant questions (2 weeks) – 400 questions on quant : maybe 10-15 hours to do the exercise, so double this time to do the correction, let’s say 2 weeks

2. AIM TOWARD Q47-51 – gmatclub tests – 2 weeks
Do 10-15 GMat club tests (1h study + 1h30 review), that’s around 2 weeks.

II. VERBAL –-2 months
1. THE CORE (reach V30-37)
a. Learning the content (3 weeks), for instance 1 week on each book of MGMAT (SC, CR, RC)
b. Practice Official guide questions – 400 questions, let’s say around 2-3 weeks

2. AIM TOWARD V38-45 – e-gmat
Personally, I would recommend replacing the books with e-gmat (100 hours for SC + CR : ~ 5 weeks + practice e-gmat questions in scholaranium : ~2 weeks)
So in total 5-7 weeks of E-gmat + OG questions (2 weeks), it’s around 7 to 9 weeks or ~2 months

III. BUILDING STAMINA 1,5 months
Finally, the key is to regularly do practice tests. Most study plan integrate around 1 months of training.
I would say 5-6 CAT may be enough if you already see a good score, but 10-12 CAT may be preferrable if you want to ‘secure’ a good score. One test is ~3h + 3h review or ~6 hours so that is ~60 hours or ~4 weeks.
Let’s keep a buffer of 2 weeks where you will retake some practice tests, review your error log, or because you'll need more time than planned in a specific section. That means around 1,5 months of training.

In total, with this 5 months study plan (15 hours / week), I think the odds of landing a 700+ score are good.


Take-away 3 : use e-gmat for verbal and gmatclub tests for quant
> E-gmat is extremely useful and provides the base to aim toward 38-45
> Gmatclub provides the necessary training to score toward 49-51. I took 15 gmatclub tests. Gmat is not about being clever, it’s about practice, the more you practice, the more it becomes second nature. Some people already have a quant mindset (or work with figures at work), others don’t and need time to train this quant skill. When you do a gmatclub test every day (or every other day), it becomes just routine, just normal exercise, second nature.


Take-away 4 : for CAT Training, do GMAT prep TWICE
I had read several debrief of people scoring 750-760, a common pattern was that several advised to take Gmatprep CAT twice. I did this and it really helped me a lot visualize what it meant to score 750-760. I mainly built confidence, which is key for test day. When you arrive at test day and have already scored 700+ on gmat prep several times, it brings a lot of confidence, which is key to succeed.


Take-away 5 : do not spend too long learning content, heavy practice is more important + review of error log
I spent too long on MGMAT books, reading carefully, making long notes, flash-cards on the concepts, on the OG questions... In the end, of course it is key to write down the main concepts and formulas in the beginning, and do the Official Guide. But the key is to practice. Clarity of concepts will only come through heavy practice. Before, I would spend a lot of time making flash-cards on specific concepts. With hindsight, the best thing was just to do 15 gmatclub tests in a row so 450 quant questions, then concept clarity gradually came.
Before, I would maintain an error log without reviewing it a lot. On my road to Q51, I spent a whole afternoon reviewing my mystakes, writing how I could avoid them, how I would save time : I would recommend
1. An ‘error log’ (paper-based in my case) : I didn’t keep an excel spreadsheet but wrote on paper I find it more convenient to review, add notes… When you’ll review something like 50-60 mystakes you did the day before the test, you’ll have in mind all possible mystakes which will considerably increase your accuracy, having all traps / tricks in mind. I found tiring to have to keep track everything on excel but it’s a personal choice
2. A ‘time log’ (paper-based in my case): I also wrote on paper the question which took me more than 3mn. I also redid these questions to achieve less than 1mn30. Sometime, I realized the question could be done in 1mn a certain way, I would write it down

Also, do not hesitate to read debrief of people who scored really high. In the beginning, I was targeting 710-720 and read mainly debriefs of people scoring 700-750. But after several months, I read debriefs of people who scored above 760 or 800. I would recommend to read these debriefs even if you target 650 or 700 since it will give you a sense of the pattern among good scorers, it can give you ideas.

2 improvement ideas for Gmatclub :
1. Have or hire a verbal moderator to do for Verbal what Bunuel did for Quant : a comprehensive explanation for all official Gmat questions

Thanks a lot to the founder of Gmatclub and Bunuel : his answers to official gmat questions are invaluable. When I was looking for explanation in quant, there was always Bunuel answer.
In comparison for Verbal, we have to search for a long time on google or forums to get a good answer and clean approach. Usually, I found a topic with everyone giving its point of view. Sometimes a moderator would contribute, but only to answer a specific question, rarely to provide an exhaustive answer (A – wrong because of … ; B ; wront because of …. ; C – correct because of ….).
Gmatclub took a great decision by hiring Bunuel and I think it would be great if you could do the same for the Verbal questions, that would be a huge improvement for future generations of test-takers.


2. Update of study plan
It may be necessary to udpate the "offline study plan" section of the forum post by founder BB : "GMAT Study Plan - How to Start your GMAT Prep". The 3 months study plan suggested seems to have been written in 2009 (more than 6 years ago) but still provides guidance to a lot of current test-takers.

As explained before, a note could be added at the end of this section to mention that 4-5 months may now be necessary, due to several evolutions: increases in level of gmat test takers over the past years, number of books by prep companies, average gmat required in school, integrated reasoning section added, or observation: a lot of Gmat debriefs with high score mention 4-5 months of study. In my view 3 months study plan may not be relevant anymore for majority of people.

As a side note, this raises the question in my opinion of the amount of work required for the Gmat. I think GMAC should simplify this exam that has become really heavy. Integrated reasoning section should be removed or merged with Quant section. I talked to people who prepared Gmat 10 years ago, you could score 750-770 with only 2 months preparation. Now, it looks like you need 4-6 months to secure such a high score.


Hope this debrief is useful to other people (sorry it is a bit long). Feel free to react to this post if you agree on some points (or not), or to send me a message if you have any question :)
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 12 May 2016, 05:18
First of all I'd like to congratulate you on your exam score and your effort to write this post.

Secondly, this is EXACTLY the sort of information I've been looking for. After a little bit of grammar review, this should feature on a magazine or an important blog of sorts.

Last of all, I believe the profile you listed matches that of the bulk of GMAT takers, me included, which makes your post particularly valuable. I've been saying this from the start, but the replies I always get, if any, are mostly generic and ignore these aspects. We're talking a whole new level of study plan accuracy here once you account for these factors!!

- non US/UK test-takers (which means you have to work on Verbal) - if you grew up in US or UK, you may need less time for verbal
- people who have worked a few years (so maths and grammar skills are rusty and you need to go back to books and spend time learning content)
- people who are not particularly strong in quant (people with strong quant skills or engineers may take less time)


If I may, how exactly would you describe the importance of the first X questions? Do you think it matches the description stated on this forum?
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 12 May 2016, 10:55
Excellent post! As a person who is in the low 600's aiming for the high 600's this is exactly what I needed.
Do you recommend the e-gmat for someone with my verbal score (V27) to try to improve to the mid 30's?
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 12 May 2016, 11:25
Awesome!!! Great Post!!!!
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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Kurai wrote:
Excellent post! As a person who is in the low 600's aiming for the high 600's this is exactly what I needed.
Do you recommend the e-gmat for someone with my verbal score (V27) to try to improve to the mid 30's?

e-gmat is a very good tool for practice if you are able to put enough time on that, otherwise best is to practice as many questions as possible.
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 13 May 2016, 13:27
aishkar wrote:
Kurai wrote:
Excellent post! As a person who is in the low 600's aiming for the high 600's this is exactly what I needed.
Do you recommend the e-gmat for someone with my verbal score (V27) to try to improve to the mid 30's?

e-gmat is a very good tool for practice if you are able to put enough time on that, otherwise best is to practice as many questions as possible.


Hey Aishkar,

Thanks for the input. Because I need a large improvement on my verbal, I think I will give it a try!

Thank You,
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 29 May 2016, 22:54
It just so happened while reading this debrief, I recollected reading a similar debrief earlier written by someone else.

A link to the original post was supposed to be posted here, but apparently as this is my first post I can't post links yet. Anyhow, the post can searched by pasting the following in google - "210980 manman2012"

Turns out, it wasn't just similar, but has been completely copied verbatim from the original post. Now I don't know what do others have to say, but I find this quite strange. :eh:

Is this the same person? Or someone else to market the product? Anyway, I know that e-GMAT Verbal is an excellent course. But still I find this queer.

bb chetan2u - Maybe you find this strange too. Sorry, I didn't know who else to tag as I follow only the two of you along with Bunuel quite religiously.
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 30 May 2016, 03:27
sahilmshah92 wrote:
It just so happened while reading this debrief, I recollected reading a similar debrief earlier written by someone else.

A link to the original post was supposed to be posted here, but apparently as this is my first post I can't post links yet. Anyhow, the post can searched by pasting the following in google - "210980 manman2012"

Turns out, it wasn't just similar, but has been completely copied verbatim from the original post. Now I don't know what do others have to say, but I find this quite strange. :eh:

Is this the same person? Or someone else to market the product? Anyway, I know that e-GMAT Verbal is an excellent course. But still I find this queer.

bb chetan2u - Maybe you find this strange too. Sorry, I didn't know who else to tag as I follow only the two of you along with Bunuel quite religiously.


Hi sahilmshah92,

I think the old post that I found by difficulty was way big so I extracted this part and kept as a new post. Also it is helping people in the community which can be concluded by the number of views. Really sorry if it offends you.

Regards,
aishkar
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760 [#permalink]

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New post 30 May 2016, 04:05
sahilmshah92 wrote:
It just so happened while reading this debrief, I recollected reading a similar debrief earlier written by someone else.

A link to the original post was supposed to be posted here, but apparently as this is my first post I can't post links yet. Anyhow, the post can searched by pasting the following in google - "210980 manman2012"

Turns out, it wasn't just similar, but has been completely copied verbatim from the original post. Now I don't know what do others have to say, but I find this quite strange. :eh:

Is this the same person? Or someone else to market the product? Anyway, I know that e-GMAT Verbal is an excellent course. But still I find this queer.

bb chetan2u - Maybe you find this strange too. Sorry, I didn't know who else to tag as I follow only the two of you along with Bunuel quite religiously.



Hi sahilmshah92,

the individual has been warned on this issue some days back and has refrained from doing that thereafter.
rather I too saw three messages of the member two giving techniques to reach 750 or so and third asking ISB what should he get to target ISB..
He told me that he was actually yet to give GMAT and was just trying to reproduce the earlier posts to help others. He has in all likelihood not reposted others post after that..
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Re: 5 take-aways of GMAT exam reached from 600 to 760   [#permalink] 30 May 2016, 04:05
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