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Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days!

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Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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620 on GMAT Prep (Q39, V36) to 720 (Q49, V39) on the actual GMAT in 25 days, self-study with $0 spent!

Hey all!

I was doubting for a while whether my GMAT experience was any different for it to be shared with the members of the GMAT Club community. But since I have experiened a significant score improvement in the last month of my studying and spent literally $0 dollars on the prep, I decided to share my GMAT journey with you. I hope that some of you will find it useful! Also, if there is anything you will read in this post, please read the section below! :)

Key takeaways:

1. Have a timing strategy. Without a timing strategy, I used to guess from 3 to 8 questions during almost every practice test that I took. I would get too attached to a question and while trying to solve it, loose a lot of precious time. After realising this, I learnt by heart this Manhattan time strategy for quant. I would write down my time frame (eg. 60min 7-8, 45min 14-15) on appropriate sheets of the simulation booklet.
Also, I used to always have 10-15min of spare time when doing the verbal section. With time, I learnt to sort of use up that time by slowly thinking through the last 10 questions of this section. For that reason, I never used any timing frame for my verbal practice. As a result, during my actual GMAT I started running out of time and had to rush through last 10 verbal questions like crazy. Also, I was always used to having some easy, less time-consuming SC questions at the end, whereas during the actual GMAT, they kept giving me long CR questions and even one RC passage! Moral: please have a timing strategy memorised. It will guide you through the test and ensure that you do not have to rush through the final questions. If you see, that you are behind the set timeframe, let go of a question you cannot solve. Also, have a timing strategy for AWA to make sure you have enough time to review (because I didn't!).

2. Keep notes of small things you learn when reviewing the practice tests and get back to that list to revise. I seemed to have several knowledge gaps in quant, which I started noticing when doing practice tests. In response to that I started noting down certain facts and solving nuances that I should remember on the test day (e.g. Always check if it is stated that the number is an integer, check for a 0 but also both negative & positive numbers, 0 is even, check for 2 when dealing with primes, etc). The printed version of this list and several flashcards with formulas were the only study materials I glanced through before the test.

3. Focus on your weaknesses. I know you must have heard this a lot. But it truly helps! I kept failing various ‘must be/could be true’ and overlapping sets questions during my practice tests (I used GMAT Club analytics to determine my weakest areas). Also, I was terrible at solving various probability and combinatorics questions (and, unfortunately, I still am!). In order to improve, I revised the materials for those topics and then used GMAT Club forum to search for topic-specific questions. I did around 40-60 exercises for every topic to familiarise myself with the general question patterns and improve. I believe this fine-tuning process contributed a lot to the final improvement in my quant score. Note, it is not so important that you master all 700+ level questions. Luckily, I realised in time that I do not improve as much when trying to solve the questions that are not at my level. Instead, I aimed to solve most of 600-700 level questions and regularly attempted 700+ ones.

4. Have a strategy for various verbal questions. I actually, up until my last week, kept failing at various hypothesis and assumption questions. To improve, I went on GMAT Club forum and other online resources available to search for the best strategies on how to tackle those questions. I read a few articles provided on Magoosh GMAT Blog. It significantly improved my performance on verbal questions.

Hypothesis questions: Write down the hypothesis and search for the test that, depending on the answer, would actually prove or disprove that exact hypothesis.
Assumption questions: Note down the structure of the argument. Negate all the answers and look for the answer choice, whose negation makes the conclusion invalid.
Boldface: Note down the structure of the argument and search for the answer choice that matches your notes. It is useful to know who is making the argument and what is the opposing opinion.

5. Don’t worry about IR. I received 2/8 points during my first practice test and stayed in the range of 5-7 until the final day. I was pretty worried since I did not do any IR practice besides the practice tests. Only during the last practice test (IR7) and actual GMAT (IR8) did I realise that one actually builds up one’s IR skills by practicing for quant and verbal sections of the GMAT. During the real test, IR questions seemed so easy and straightforward whereas during the first few practice tests, they seemed simply impossible to complete on time. Note: It is however useful to be aware of all the types of the IR questions that you will encounter and also have a timing strategy (I simply aimed to be done with approximately 6 questions in the first 15 min).

6. Don’t worry about the scores you get on the practice tests. Truly, not until the final prep test, which I took 2 days before the actual GMAT, did I know that I am aiming for 700+. My score on GMAT Club tests kept changing but always stayed between 510-610 if I remember correctly. It, of course, could be attributed to the fact that I did many of those practice tests in not so “real” testing conditionds: usually after a long day at uni or work. Shortly, don’t be discouraged and try to rely the most on the results of your official GMAT Prep test taken in the most realistic conditions possible. Stay humble, work hard and be surprised by the results!

7. Take all the extra advice seriously. What I mean is – you should use this list and also any other advice on how to maximise your chances of getting a high score without actually studying and solving any exercises. There were people in my test center, who did not take any breaks, drank energy drinks and even smoked! Also, one person, apparently, woke up at 5AM in the morning (our GMAT was scheduled at 8AM) to take the final practice test! How do you think did those people do during their actual GMAT? Although different things suit different people, I would advice you to do some sports all throughout your GMAT journey, eat healthy food and rest well. All of those rules also apply for the G-Day.

8. Mini tips: 8. When you feel tired during the test, close your eyes for 5 sec to recalibrate. 9. Read all the rules before the actual prep (during GMAT Prep practice tests) and use the minute you are given for reading during the actual test to prepare your scratchbook (I used to divide every page into two and write down about ten to fifteen ABCDE for the verbal part). It saves time! 10. Use earplugs and don’t take them out during the breaks. 11. Flashcards can help you to memorise a lot of various formulas and even solution methods for certain questions (I had over 200 flashcards and I actually knew most of them). 12. Relax on the last day before the test (max 3 hours of studying). Do some sports to tire your body – it will make you fall asleep easier and sleep better. 13. Post solutions to questions on this forum. It takes time, seems useless, but it actually helps a lot. You will memorise many important solution methods and understand the concepts much better. 14. Error log doesn't work for all. I had some kin of an error log, but never really used it. I trust all those people who claim that it is a source of improvement for many, but it did not work that well for me. 15. Solve questions using the timer provided. You can find most of the questions on this forum, solve them using the timer and even bookmark them for future revisions. 16. Check for a quicker solving method, especially in the times when you go over 2 min. 17. I read it somewhere on this forum - try typing a few sentences during the introduction into the AWA section to get used to the keyboard. 18. Summarise RC passage paragraph by paragraph, it save your time when answering the associated questions. 19. Determine your biggest strenght in verbal and make sure to nail it 100% on the test day. It will lift your overall score (e-GMAT advice) 20. Also, the more "real" your practice experience is (time, breaks, the environment), the more confident you will be during the test day.


My background:

Briefly: Without a strong quant background, non-native English speaker, actually learnt English a little more than 4 years ago, limited prep budget

I am an undergrad in IR and Econs, which means I am average when it comes to both qualitative and quantitative tasks. I learnt English a little more than 4 years ago. I have multiple times been restricted from various amazing career opportunities because of my 'not so impressive' alma mater, and so I decided to apply for a master’s degree in Business or Finance in a more prestigious European university (ESADE, HEC Paris). This is basically, how my GMAT Journey began. Knowing my weaknesses when it comes to quant and English in general, I was terrified to begin my GMAT prep and postponed it for about 5 months.

My GMAT prep: (began after 5 months of postponing :))

Briefly: 620 to 720 in 25 days, self-study, $0 spent (besides $250 for the test), overall 3-month journey

Image

The materials I used:

Quant revision: I revised all content using the GMAT Math Book provided for free by GMAT Club (thanks for that!) & made about 250 paper flashcards with various concepts, rules, shortcuts & formulas that I used every day when taking the train. Also, I did lots and lots of questions on this forum + some questions offered in the OG2015 book and online.

Verbal revision: Frankly, I never actually studied for the verbal section. I tried to watch some videos from e-GMAT (and really liked them!), read some useful posts about various verbal sections on this forum (more about that in the tips above), and mostly used Manhattan Prep GMAT app (which I got for free by filling out the survey) to practice various verbal questions before sleep.

Tests: As previously mentioned, I was not able to spend much money on my prep, and thus, I relied on various free practice tests available out there. More specifically, I did free Kaplan, the Economist, Manhattan & GMAT Club tests + 2 free GMAT Prep Tests.

Actual prep:

Briefly: 1 month prep, 1,5 month constantly receiving around 620, last 0.5 months drilled GMAT Club tests and received 720!

Image

My initial prep was very slow. I was going through some Manhattan guides (they were available for free at my exchange uni) on quant to brush up on my math skills about 5 months before I started the actual prep. I finished high school a little less than 2 years ago so, as you can imagine, it wasn’t as hard for me as it might be for some of you, who left the school 10 or 20 years ago!

The actual studying started much later, after I booked my appointment to take the test. I would suggest everyone, who lacks motivation to start without the real feeling that one day they will have to sit this test, to do the same! So after I booked the test day, for about a month, I slowly read through the entire GMAT Math book that I downloaded on GMAT Club. As I mentioned previously, I started making flashcards with the concepts that I had to memorise and practicing them almost every day when commuting. Afraid to see the diagnostic score, I took my first practice test (Free Practice Test by Kaplan) 1-month into the prep (with 2 months left before the G-Day) and received 620 (Q40, V35, IR2).

Following the revision I started doing OG2015 math questions using an e-book provided by my uni and took a few practice tests in between (see the results above). I got 650 once, which I believe wasn’t really reflective of my actual ability, but generally remained in the range of 600-650 for the entire time. While doing some practice tests and exercises from the Official Guide the second month of my GMAT prep passed. I was far from being close to the set 700+ score. I decided not to panic, work hard to achieve a better score but also planned to retake the test.

At the beginning of the last month I was lucky enough to receive a free 2-week access to GMAT Club tests. I took the first one and received something around 500+ (Q32 V31). Just imagine my reaction! I was embracing my 620 score just to realise that I perhaps, was going to receive a much lower score. I only had about 30 days left to improve! After taking a few GMAT Club quant tests and reviewing them, I decided to take my first GMAT Prep test and received a discouraging 620 (Q39, V36, IR5) with 25 days before my test. Afraid to never achieve a higher score, I did as many GMAT Club tests as possible, focusing mostly on quant. I reviewed every single test and tried to understand why I missed certain questions and which concepts I did not learn thoroughly. After a few practice tests, my score on GMAT Club went to 39-41 for a few times, then once to 43, just to drop to 29 one day before my subscription expired (about 1 week before my G-Day).

After my subscription expired, and even a little before that, I noted down all the areas in quant, where I wouldn't score well. GMAT Club provides great analytics showing %-wise which topics you constantly score the least when taking tests. I used GMAT Club forum to search for the questions on such topics and did tons and tons of them to improve. I tried both 600-700 and 700+ levels, but usually tried not to get discouraged if I could not get 700+ ones right, I knew I wasn’t at that level just yet. This is basically how I spent the last 1.5 weeks before my test day, improving my weakest areas. As for verbal, I realised that I would get many assumption & hypothesis questions wrong, so I used GMAT Club to search for some useful strategies on how to tackle those questions and continued doing some verbal exercises from Manhattan GMAT Prep app before sleep.

2 days before my actual test, I decided to take my second GMAT Prep test. I used all the tactics that I learnt on the forum and tried to stay calm. When the test results came on the screen I was shocked! I received a 720 score (Q47, V41, IR7)!!! Given all my previous results, I honestly thought it was just an accident. I was happy to know that I have the potential to perform well (700+) on this test, but also told myself to be ready for a lower score on the actual test day.

Test day:

Briefly:
I almost fanatically followed all the advice on how to maximise my chances to perform well on the test day


I spent the day before my test relaxing with the family. Although I really wanted to brush up my skills in probability and combinatorics, I forced myself to let go. I also went to train a little just to keep my body alive and get physically tired. Although I never visited the actual test centre before the test day, I took a walk there just to see how long it will take me to get to the place and avoid being stressed because of not knowing the way.

The test seemed to go very well. I was very satisfied with my IR results (I started with a score of 2!). I doubt my AWA went particularly well (I got AWA 5), since I never thoroughly practiced for that part (I took 3 full length tests overall). But also, I did not really like the passage and ended up missing time to proofread the last 2 paragraphs. During the break I ate a banana, did some sit-ups in the bathroom and washed my face with cold water. I used almost all of my break to relax and get ready for the next session. My quant seemed to go very well as well. There were a few questions I did not know how to do, but I was ready to let them go. Also, sometime in the midst of my prep, I realised I was ahead of my usual time, which made me scared a bit. I was afraid I was making careless mistakes and getting easy 600 level questions. Having noticed my time advantage, I actually spent more time on a few questions, where I sort of knew how to solve them, but certainly could not think of a shortcut to fit it into 2 minutes. I guess that eventually helped me to raise my quant score quite a bit! During the next break I repeated the same ritual mentioned before and tried to use all the time to relax my brain. During the verbal part I got quite stressed. During ALL of my practice tests I always finished the verbal part with 5-10 minutes left. I usually dragged and checked all the last answers trying to drag the time. But during the actual test, sometime in the middle I realised that I was way behind the time. Hoping that my last questions with be SC I sort of kept the same pace. Unfortunately, the final questions I received were all CR and even one RC passage, which I had to rush through due to the lack of time. I am certain I could have performed better if I had a timing strategy for the verbal part. I was so tired that I didn’t even noticed how I clicked through the background questions and saw the same old 720 on the screen! So happy I didn’t even look at the breakdown of my score as I rushed to accept it :D I received 720 (Q49, V39) IR8 & AWA 5. Looking back, I am not too satisfied with the gap in my Q and V, I bet it would have looked much nicer if my V score would have been over 40. Also, my AWA could have been improved.

Also, I am not yet sure, but it seems that my GMAT journey is not over just yet. I will be taking a short break and, most probably, commencing practice again in pursuit of a higher score. :wink:

I hope some of you will find it helpful! I would be happy to answer any questions. :)
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My debrief: Self-study: How to improve from 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days!


Last edited by fantaisie on 28 Sep 2016, 13:23, edited 8 times in total.

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 14 Jun 2016, 21:49
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Thank you so much for a detailed look :D You gave me hope ^^! I learned a lot :D BIG KUDOS TO YOU!

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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The amount of English you've learned in the last 4 years is incredible. You earned the score, completely! :-D

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jun 2016, 23:16
Hi fantaisie,

I've more or less your same profile!! Actually I took the gmat yesterday and scored 710 q50 v37..

Can you expand more n your background??? Where are you from? And where are you applying??

I also feel the same way with that alma matter issue that you've got! It's like death weight i've got to drag everywhere i go!

Posted from my mobile device

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Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jun 2016, 09:44
Hi ngbpy! Congrats on an impressive GMAT score! :) I am eyeing schools in France (HEC Paris), UK (LSE, Cass), and maybe the Netherlands (Rotterdam School of Management). How about you?

I wonder if the non-target ghost will follow us into the graduate careers...
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My debrief: Self-study: How to improve from 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days!


Last edited by fantaisie on 28 Sep 2016, 13:23, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jun 2016, 16:08
fantaisie that's great! I'm also applying to HEC. Are you applying to their MBA or to their specialized Masters?? I'm having a hard time deciding what should I do. The average age for the MBA is 30, and for the Msc is 23/24. I'll be 26 when starting the program, so I'm right in the middle.

I'm also applying to other schools in the USA but age averages for programs there is around 27/28.

Nut, what's definitely bothering me the most is that I don't know how are they going to evaluate me! I have pretty good gpa from the best university in my country (Paraguay) but the university is nowhere near close to any of the top 100 universities in Europe and North America. I think I will have to retake the gmat to give my application a couple extra points.

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 25 Jun 2016, 05:55
Fantastic Score. Congratulations fantaisie

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 21 Aug 2016, 02:54
congratulations..great debrief
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New post 23 Jan 2017, 08:10
Congrats and best wishes :)
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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jan 2017, 21:36
That's a great debrief! How did you manage increase in Verbal area?

My weak areas are CR and RC in Verbal.
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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days! [#permalink]

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New post 25 Mar 2017, 15:07
Hi there!

this is AMAZING, thanks for the debrief!

I just posted a similar question, and seem to have hit exactly the same score you did (620 with your Q/V split).

For me, Quant is definitely a weakness, but one where I'm sure I can get a few more "low hanging fruit" correct by studying basics.

With Verbal, I'm struggling a lot, as it is a strength for me (AMAZING, again, to you for tackling this as a non-native speaker) - what specific strategies did you use to improve Verbal? Did you try any Manhattan prep tests? Or, if there were specific Verbal higher level question sets that helped you, I'd love to be pointed in the right direction.

Thanks!!

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Re: Self-study: How to improve - 620(Q39,V36) to 720(Q49,V39) in 25 days!   [#permalink] 25 Mar 2017, 15:07
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