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# 550 to 750 - How YOU can be just as successful

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27 Mar 2010, 16:14
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I just finished taking the exam for the 2nd time. Proud to report that I scored a 750 (49Q, 44V). It was not an easy journey. On my first diagnostic, which was taken after my first month of study, I had scored a 550 using the GMATPrep software. I thought that I would at least score in the 600s, and thinking this was surely a mistake, I retook it again for a similar score. I knew I was in no shape for the exam and studied hard for a good 6 months before taking the exam last month to get a 690 (47Q, 38V). I was disappointed since I was aiming for 700+ (but probably in the low 700s). I knew that this should be a realistic goal because in practice tests my verbal score would usually be around 41, whereas on the actual exam I got a 38. My goal for the 2nd retake was to just hit 700, since I was sooo close the first time.

I haven't been that great at taking standardized exams in the past. When doing practice tests, as well as on the actual exam, I have never finished the exam before time ran out. I am a slow test taker and require a lot of time on exams, or I don't finish. The GMAT is one of those tests that I really had to rush on and still not be able to complete on time. I had to randomly guess on 2 or 3 questions at the end of the exam. Therefore when I saw my score, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite my shortcomings, I will say that I am tenacious and hard working. I studied 5 hours a day after work for 6 months straight. After getting a 690 the first time, I doubled my efforts for the month before the retaking. When I took my 2 week (and expensive) vacation, I spent at least 3/4 the time in a coffee shop studying. Given that I was in a resort town the locals, hotel staff, everyone thought I was insane to waste my hard earned money spending the days studying in the hotel restaurant instead of tanning on the beach. I am a firm believer in hard work, and I know that if I can get a decent score, then almost anyone can do it. I am not a genius or anything by any stretch of the imagination, but I have always squeaked by the finish line with work ethic. So for those of you who are not hitting your desired scores, or feel like giving up, just keep at it, and you WILL get a score you are satisfied with.

Since some of you asked, I wanted to share my feedback with you on the exam.

Books used:
- Manhattan GMAT Series - ALL you need to get a grasp of the fundamentals. As many have mentioned, the Number Properties and Sentence Correction books are especially valuable.
- Official Guide 12 - Very valuable, since these are the actual past GMAT questions. Once you have the foundation from the Manhattan GMAT material, the best way to prepare is to do problems that are similar to the ones written by the test writers.
- Official Guide 11 - The more actual GMAT questions the better! If you can get a copy of Official Guide 11 (it can be purchased cheap or found at the library), it will have some additional questions that aren't inOG12. The Manhattan GMAT website shows the difference between the two: http://www.manhattangmat.com/official-guide-12.cfm. One can use the site to determine where the overlap occurs and work on the questions that aren't repeats for OG12.
- Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review - Again, I advocate doing as many official questions as you can get your hands on.
- Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review - Again, I advocate doing as many official questions as you can get your hands on.
- Princeton Review Crack the GMAT - Worthless. Do not buy.

Practice tests used
- GMATPrep - This is an extremely valuable resource that can be obtained for free. There are 2 exams, but since the exam generates random questions, I was able to take maybe 5-10 tests and still see new questions each time. The software is also computer adaptive so should give you the most reliable indicator of where you stand. Anyway, enough has been said about the GMATPrep software by other forum members, so I won't talk about it in depth. I scored a 550 the first time I took it, after 1 month of study. Subsequently I scored 590, 640, and 720. Note that each additional time you take the test your score will probably be inflated because you are bound to see some repeat questions from the last couple times you took the tests. However, as I mentioned, you will still see plenty of new questions as well, so it is good to keep taking the GMATPrep in order to exhaust the questions.
- Manhattan GMAT - If you buy any of the MGMAT book, you get 7 practice tests for free. These are good, but much harder than the actual exam. I could honestly never even finish half the quant section before time ran out. Eventually I stopped practicing with the timer on. Instead I took the tests at a leisurely pace just to see if I knew my fundamentals. Note that some of the questions are very tough and test concepts that are not frequently tested on the real exam (see my section below on tough or out of the ordinary questions). Therefore, I wouldn't sweat these exams too much, but just use them as an additional resource for practice. I took the 7 exams throughout my study (with the timer off) and scored the following: 610, 690, 670, 710, 690, 700, and 720.

For fundamentals all you need is Manhattan GMAT

Focus on Official Questions
I would not bother as much with questions outside of the official questions, such as those from other websites, or designed by test makers/individuals outside of GMAC. The reason is twofold: First, within the Official questions, there should be enough material to keep you busy and develop a good foundation for your test. 2nd, there are often minor, although important, differences between official questions those designed by non-official sources. I'm not saying to not do any questions at all outside of official questions... I'm just saying that it is unnecessary to achieve a 700+ score, and the subtle differences may throw you off from what an actual question should look like. I personally found this especially to be true of the sentence correction questions on various websites. Do as many official problems as you can get your hands on. The same question types tested in the official questions are frequently tested on the actual exam; the test writers are lazy or lack the desire to make significant changes to the problems.

Don't focus on extremely tough or out of the ordinary questions
Yes, it is good to gain an understanding of every question type if you have the time and capability to do so. However, I found it unnecessary if your goal is to simply achieve a score of 700+ (as opposed to 770). Like some have mentioned, it is best to focus on the MAJOR fundamentals and questions where you are required to apply these fundamentals. The most important questions to know are the ones where you see the concepts repeatedly in many other OFFICIAL questions. Example would be just know how to do the most extreme basic of combination or permutation questions, not all the various more complicated variations. Any question that you come across that is testing some obscure concept that you never seen tested in any other question is probably not worth your time getting more than a basic understanding of. Again, the bare fundamentals, the concepts that are repeatedly being tested, and the most common methods that they like to use to trick test takers, are the most important areas to focus on. Unique question types or one-off tricks are a waste of your time and it will be a rare chance if you actually get tested on it during the real test. I guess this is my only gripe with the MGMAT books. Sometimes they cover certain areas in depth even though the chances of occurrence on the actual exam are slim. I guess they just want to have all their bases covered in case some guy wants to score a 780. One offender that I can think of right off the top of my head is the MGMAT chapter on combinations. Waaay too much detail and 75% of it is too complex for the real GMAT. I could explain everything about combinations/permutations required for the GMAT in maybe 5 sentences and 2 or 3 sample question types. It was really unnecessary for them to go into the whole anagram method and such. You cannot possibly prepare for every question type that the exam makers will throw at you. Better to spend most your time studying the most tested concepts or question types rather than spend 80% studying questions that have a 2% chance of occurring.

Hardest Challenges, Brutal Questions, etc
To drill the above point into your heads, I also ask you guys not to waste time on those brutal questions, hardest impossible challenges, or whatever else they manifest themselves as if you want to study efficiently (unless you are a nerd genius who won't settle for any less than a 770+). One perfect example is the Brutal SC questions, which I have seen making its rounds through this forum. This is the biggest waste of time imaginable. At best it will waste a few hours of your valuable study time. At worse, it could be detrimental to your score, as you will be carefully studying questions that are not even from official GMAC sources and may be questionably written. I didn't go through all of the Brutal SC questions as I quickly identified this as non-value added study time, but for the questions I did do, I probably scored no more than 20%, and I did these Brutal SCs just 1 week before my actual test. In other words, I would score just as well if I just randomly picked "C" for all my answers. Keep in mind that I was able to score 97% in verbal on the actual exam.

Identifying odd or overly difficult questions

You do not need to get every question correct to get a good score, not even close
This point kind of follows my point above that one should not focus on studying really tough or out of the ordinary questions. If you see a question on the test that you simply don't know how to do or never seen before, don't bother wasting time spinning your head on it. Chances are likely that you will waste a considerable amount of time thinking about it or freaking out about it, and then end up guessing or working it through just to get it wrong anyway. Better to just skip the question and save the time for something you CAN do. I had skipped about 3 or 4 questions in quant knowing that I didn't have a chance of figuring it out, and still didn't finish the exam on time. I also know that I didn't answer every other question correctly, as I had to do plenty of guessing on other questions as well. I still got a 49 in quant, which I think is pretty decent, and a 750 overall. Proof that you can afford to skip questions and still get a 700+ on the exam. NEVER EVER waste time on questions you don't know how to tackle. Try to eliminate some of the choices is possible, and then take an educated guess, and move on.

Error Log was a waste of time (but maybe not for you)
This is going to sound like blasphemy to a lot of people because so many successful GMAT scorers attribute their success to using an error log, however I found it to be an absolute waste of time. I guess everyone has their own study methods. I did start using one initially as well, hearing how critical it is to one's success, but stopped after a while. I found that I spent too much time inputting questions and all the other info (e.g. source, question type, topic tested, etc) into the error log when I could have been using that time to actually do questions. That is not to say I didn't have a way to keep track of problem areas or questions. What I found most useful for myself was to simply circle questions that I missed in the official guide, so that I could review them later. I would circle the question, and assign a 1, 2, or 3 to it depending on difficulty, with 1 essentially meaning I just wanted to review the question later to make sure the fundamental concept was still in my head later (I forget stuff over time), and a 3 meaning that I didn't know how to do the problem at all the first time through. This was much quicker than inputting a bunch of information into an excel spreadsheet. I also kept in a word file the areas that I was having problems with where I needed to review the problems (e.g. triangles, combinations, etc). Then I would simply go back to the MGMAT books or other sources to solidify my understanding of the fundamentals. Ultimately my point is that I agree that tracking mistakes and going back to certain questions is a key for success. However, using one of the pre-made error logs on this or other sites may not be most efficient for everyone.

If you are a native English speaker, don't waste a lot of time with idioms
I did not bother studying idioms at all and near the end of my test prep I was scoring in the 99 percentile on verbal consistently. There are just too many idioms to bother memorizing them all. Like I said, my verbal skills are not excellent, but it was NOT required to mention all the idiom listings. If anything, there are many 3-5 idioms that are more commonly tested than others, which might be worth knowing, but you will come across these in the official guide questions anyway. Again, your yardstick for determining whether or not something is worth memorizing is whether you see the specific concept (or idiom) being tested more than once in official questions. Some important ones I can think of off the top of my head are "because of" vs. "due to" or "if" vs. "whether".

Exam anxiety
For those who have it, this can affect your performance on test day if you let it. Just take some deep slow breathes prior to the exam. Sometimes I'll do a few jumping jacks or pushups to let out some stress. Either way, you need to make sure you're in the right state of mind PRIOR to the exam. Be confident and tell yourself that it's just a test; it's really not the end of the world. Retakes are always available if needed. If stuck on a question, don't panic. As I've mentioned above, you do not even need to get close to getting every question right to get a decent score. Just skip the question and move on unless you think you will able to figure it out.

From 690 to 750
As I've said, I was able to raise my score from 690 to 750 in one month. Some have asked for exactly what I did during the one month to achieve the increase. To be honest, I didn't really do anything significantly different from my 690 to 750. My 690 on the first exam consisted of 47Q and 38V. The 47Q was about on par with what I was getting on my practice tests, so I was satisfied with that score. However, on most of my practice tests I was starting to see that my verbal score was more in the vicinity of 40 or 41. As such, I knew off the bat that I had underperformed the first time I took the test and I should probably have been in the low 700 range. Since my verbal score was lower than expected, I decided to dedicate some more time to sentence correction, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning. I knew I wouldn't be able to raise my quantitative score significantly since I had already put in a ton of study there, and felt I had just about reached my limit. That is not to say I ignored quantitative during my one month study. I simply continued to do the same thing, more in order to prevent myself from forgetting concepts and strategies than anything. I did the same questions over again, and re-reviewed the MGMAT books. On test day, my verbal improved from 38 to 44 and even my quantitative went up from 47 to 49 points, I guess from the additional month of study.

I hope this is helpful to at least some people out there. If anyone has any other questions, ask, and I will be more than happy to provide my feedback.

I will also attempt to update this initial post based on what kind of questions I receive.

Last edited by risys82 on 25 Feb 2017, 22:19, edited 40 times in total.
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27 Mar 2010, 17:16
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Great score. Congrats
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28 Mar 2010, 03:11
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congratz. Awesome score
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29 Mar 2010, 13:59
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Congrats! Quite the accomplishment. Thanks for a most inspiring post!
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Last edited by anstance5 on 29 Apr 2011, 12:06, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 550 to 750 - How YOU can be just as successful [#permalink]

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29 Mar 2010, 14:14
commendable job friend..
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29 Mar 2010, 15:00
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risys82 wrote:
I just finished taking the exam for the 2nd time. Proud to report that I scored a 750 (49Q, 44V). Last month I took it to get a 690 (47Q, 38V). My goal for the 2nd retake was to just hit 700 since I was sooo close.

I'll be honest, a 750 was more than I could have ever hoped for in a million years. I have always been mediocre at taking standardized exams, both my math and verbal skills are mediocre at best. When doing practice tests, as well as on the actual exam, I have never finished the exam completely. I am a slow thinker, and require a lot of time on exams, or I don't finish. Therefore when I saw my score, I was a little bit in shock. I guess I got lucky.

I did not do any additional preparation from my first exam and second exam, so if anything, I was afraid that I would get a worse score, since my GMAT knowledge and test taking skills would have stagnated within a month's time. I did do a little prayer before the second exam, so that might have helped a little bit.

May be you are just being too humble and modest. Slow thinker, mediocre math and verbal skills, definitely aren't your trait with the kind of scores you have accomplished. If you know the secret of your performance, kindly let us know. Poor souls like me are getting even more pathetic losing concentration and confidence day-after-day upon practising mock tests after tests.

Certain question types for which, when I just don't recollect the approach to solving for an answer, I get stuck, panic sets in, and I still don't know what else to do. This had happened the first time I gave the test, and is just repeating once in a while on mock tests.

Anyways, congratulations on your fabulous score.
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30 Mar 2010, 09:54
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I've updated my original post with my test tips. If I can score a 700+, then anyone can.

Last edited by risys82 on 30 Mar 2010, 12:52, edited 1 time in total.
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30 Mar 2010, 12:41
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risys82 wrote:
I've updated my original post with my test tips. If anyone I can score a 700+, then anyone can.

Tremendous improvement, you have really motivated me. +1 for you and good luck with your application. Do keep us updated.
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30 Mar 2010, 14:40
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Congrats, You really deserve it and I thank you for your great post. Tells me that I am on the right way, which in my opinion is really important to be sure of once a while.
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30 Mar 2010, 17:42
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I have been follow this earnestly. Congratz on your development, man. I wish I can follow suit.

All in all, you deserved the great score.
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30 Mar 2010, 17:58
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Congrats! man. Hard work does payoff and good luck for your application process especially essays . And yea do keep us updated with your application process. Are you international candidate? if yes from where? And yea, your debrief added to my collection of good & motivational debriefs.

Cheers
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30 Mar 2010, 19:08
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This is the best post I could have seen on the eve of my test day. Really. I had a horrific final practice test on Monday that shook my confidence after I started panicking over questions I didnt know, etc, and lost the confidence that had when I scored my highest practice test (680). Thankfully Ive leveled in the last day and am happily reviewing tonight and actually looking forward to the test tomorrow but wow- I really appreciate your advice!
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31 Mar 2010, 08:12
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Congrats !

What made the difference between the 690 and 750 scores ? What did you do during this month between both tests ? Thanks
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31 Mar 2010, 08:43
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chouky wrote:
Congrats !

What made the difference between the 690 and 750 scores ? What did you do during this month between both tests ? Thanks

To be honest, I didn't really do anything different from my 690 to 750. My 690 on the first exam consisted of 47Q and 38V. The 47Q was about on par with what I was getting on my practice tests, so I was satisfied with that score. However, on most of my practice tests I was starting to see that my verbal score was more in the vicinity of 40 or 41. As such, I knew off the bat that I had underperformed the first time I took the test and I should probably have been in the low 700 range. Since, my verbal score was lower than expected, I decided to dedicate some more time to sentence correction, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning. I knew I wouldn't be able to raise my quantitative score significantly since I had already put in a ton of study there, and felt I had just about reached my limit. That is not to say I ignored quantitative during my one month study. I simply continued to do the same thing, more in order to prevent myself from forgetting concepts and strategies than anything. I did the same questions over again, and rereviewed the MGMAT books. On test day, my verbal improved from 38 to 44 and even my quantitative went up from 47 to 49 points, I guess from the additional month of study.

Last edited by risys82 on 06 Apr 2010, 12:08, edited 2 times in total.
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31 Mar 2010, 09:04
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31 Mar 2010, 09:20
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risys82 wrote:
chouky wrote:
Congrats !

What made the difference between the 690 and 750 scores ? What did you do during this month between both tests ? Thanks

I didn't really do anything different from my 690 to 750. My 690 on the first exam consisted of 47Q and 38V. The 47Q was about on par with what I was getting on my practice tests, so I was satisfied with that score. However, on most of my practice tests I was starting to see that my verbal score was more in the vicinity of 40 or 41. As such, I knew off the bat that I had underperformed the first time I took the test and I should be in the low 700 range. Therefore, I didn't really change anything in my strategy for the one month up to my 750. I simply continued to do the same thing, more in order to prevent myself from forgetting concepts and strategies than anything. I did the same questions over again, and rereviewed the MGMAT books. No real changes to my strategy.

Ok, Thanks !
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31 Mar 2010, 09:22
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Excellent debrief.

I can vouch for the accuracy of nearly all your major takeaways:

-MGMAT is the the best source for building foundational concepts, bar none.
-MGMAT CATs are useful, but hard subtle differences that make them unreflective of OG material.
-OG is thee source for questions and calibrating your pacing/identifying weak spots.
-Error logs = overrated.
-recognize questions that are too difficult for you and quickly make an educated guess. Do not let the fact that you had to guess rattle you moving forward.
-Have a strategy to manage test anxiety

There are more tips I agree with here, but these are the ones off the top of my head.

An outstanding review, easily the most useful one I've seen since joining. Great work.

I can relate to not being super gifted with natural smarts but making up for it in other ways like hard work and tenacity. I think many other on here could as well and this post could be very a good motivating lift for them. You are proof that if you want it bad enough you can work to get it. A 690 is a great score that many would be happy with but you took it to another level because you believed in yourself. Phenonemal stuff.

Congrats!
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31 Mar 2010, 13:09
Quote:
The same question types tested in the official questions are frequently tested on the actual exam, the the test writers are lazy or lack the desire to make significant changes to the problems.

are you saying memorize the og questions?
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02 Apr 2010, 03:45
Great post. I read this when I begin to get frustrated with my studies. Thanks
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02 Apr 2010, 07:34
How did you work? Did you just allocate 1 week to problem solving, then 1 week to DS, etc. Or did you work a little bit of everything every day?

Concerning the error log, you maybe wrote too much info into it, and it was killing your pace. I keep one, but only write the mistakes I made, it also helps me identify recurring questions that show up and which I do not have the knowledge to solve, therefore I have been putting more focus on these weak points.

Regards, and thanks for your feedback.
Re: 550 to 750 - How YOU can be just as successful   [#permalink] 02 Apr 2010, 07:34

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