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630 to 660 then 650?? :(

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Hi everybody,

Welcome to my first Gmatclub post. As I rode the bus to my third official GMAT exam earlier today, I thought about how amazing it will be when I finally get to go home and write my success story after slaying this exam. Four hours later, I'm here, I've taken my exam, I'm ready to write my post as I had planned... but I don't have a triumphant story to share... yet. I am desperately asking the many experts on here what I should do next so please.... HELP!!

A quick rundown of my study history...

To kick off my studying, I signed up for a ManhattanPrep (MGMAT) in-person class, which ran from April - June of this year. The class was helpful in motivating me to get serious but I didn't feel like I really absorbed the material from the in-person classes. It seemed to me that the course was geared towards students who were just beginning their GMAT journey and needed a lot of general guidance to just get to the 600 mark. I felt like I had an OK understanding of most topics so I lacked direction on where I needed to honed in on for extra practice. I, however, did the homework diligently and did a practice test every week to build up my stamina. Below were my CAT scores:
13 May - 590 (Q38, V33) MGMAT
3 Jun - 650 (Q48, V31) GMATPrep free test
10 Jun - 610 (Q38, V35) MGMAT
11 Jun - 620 (Q39, V35) MGMAT -- I had refused to believe that I scored a 610 on the test from the day before... so against all advice I took another test instead of spending time analysing what went wrong
17 Jun - 580 (Q38, V31) MGMAT
18 Jun - 640 (Q44, V33) GMATPrep free test

I took the official GMAT on 20 Jun and got a 630 (Q44, V33). I was obviously disappointed, but judging from my practice tests, it seemed like a likely outcome.

I then switched over to focus on Magoosh as I found reading some of the MGMAT explanations to be too lengthy and unnecessarily confusing. I liked Magoosh's video teaching style better - it was much more concise and straightforward. I found that I absorbed the material much quicker watching/listening to the videos, and since I was understanding the material better, I found studying a lot more enjoyable... fun, even! I was doing Magoosh practice problems everyday for about 2-3 hours on weekdays and 4-6 hours on one weekend, along with one practice test on the other weekend day. I spent about 80% of my study time doing Verbal prep and 20% doing Quant prep since I knew that small improvements in the Verbal section could mean bigger improvements in my overall score. I continued to wrack up the practice tests...
8 Jul - 620 (Q39, V36) MGMAT
15 Jul - 650 (Q44, V36) GMATPrep Pack 1
23 Jul - 690 (Q44, V40) GMATPrep Pack 1

And then on my second official GMAT attempt on 27 Jul, I got a 660 (Q47, V34).

After getting a 690 on my last practice test, I felt like I definitely had potential to hit 690+, so getting to 690 became my goal. I continued to study hard and daily, with the exception of 1.5 weeks off in the beginning of Sep due to work commitments. Once work died down again, I got right back to daily studying. I continued with Magoosh's videos, but also started doing more questions from the OG. I would sit down every day for 2-3 hours on weekdays or 4-6 hours on weekends and just pound out sets of 10 questions, either from the OG (using their Wiley online programme) or from Magoosh's Practice feature. I tried using PrepScholar but didn't enjoy their material - there were too many technical errors in their programme that frustrated me, or the lessons didn't adequately prepare me for any of the quizzes, causing me to stay stuck on certain courses with no progress. I also purchased e-Gmat's Verbal pack as I heard that they're a good resource for Verbal improvement, but as I was enjoying Magoosh so much that e-Gmat kind of faded into the background.

I got right back into taking regular practice tests so that I didn't lose stamina...
9 Jul - 670 (Q44, V37) MGMAT redo - at this point, I had run out of MGMAT tests so I had to reset the tests to redo them. I didn't notice any repeat questions, or at least remember any of the questions that I might have encountered before, so I figured this was still a very accurate test
30 Sep - 690 (Q47, V38) GMATPrep Pack 2
8 Oct - 640 (Q44, V34) GMATPrep Pack 2 - I screwed up timing for both sections on this practice test and fell into quite a few silly mistake traps... I really dug deep when reviewing this exam to hopefully safeguard myself from any future mistakes
15 Oct - 670 (Q43, V38) MGMAT redo
22 Oct - 690 (Q47, V38) GMATPrep free test redo - I ran out of GMATPrep tests but I had read on several forums that resetting and retaking the GMATPrep programme generally wasn't a problem since the question bank was so large. I didn't recognise any repeat questions, thus felt that this was a pretty good indicator.
25 Oct - 740 (Q47, V44) GMATPrep free test redo - this stunned me. I went back into the test and reviewed each problem to see if there were any repeat questions that might've given me a leg up. I only recognised one question in Quant, and even then I went through the entire process step by step as if I hadn't seen it before, so I felt that my Q score was quite accurate. When I went through the Verbal, I realised that I had recognised 1 of the RC passages, 1 SC question, and 1 CR question, which could have inflated my score. I chalked this one up to be an inflated score, but still felt confident that I was probably at a 690 Q47 V 38, given I had scored this on the other GMATPrep exams.

I bought the GMATPrep Question Pack 1 because I felt like I was starting to see repeats from the OG Wiley. I was practicing every day for 3-4 hours, again with the breakdown of 80% Verbal and 20% Quant. I was getting all the Medium questions and about 80% of the Hard questions right, so I was feeling really quite confident at this point.

5 days since my last practice test and I am off to sit my third official attempt... the sections zip by as my stamina has really built up at this point from the 17 tests I had now taken since April (this includes the 2 official tests). I felt good and was even quite enjoying myself when I got to the IR section (I've been choosing the following order for all my practice and official tests: Verbal, Quant, IR, AWA). Then boom. The score screen. 650 Q44 V35. :sad: :sad: :sad: I was in shock. I didn't know if I should punch the screen or start sobbing. I hastily cancelled my score without even reading the screen and rushed out of the centre.

And now I'm here. I feel so defeated, I don't even think I have the tears to cry. I definitely know I'm going to have to resit the exam because I don't think 660 is good enough for the schools I'm considering, but I don't know where to turn now. Are my CAT scores inflated because of all the repeat exams? Maybe even though I don't consciously remember many of the repeat questions, could there be something subconsciously giving me an unfair advantage during my practice tests? Should I stop using GMATPrep tests and use another programme? If so, what would you recommend?? Furthermore, should I look to other practice programmes outside of Magoosh, OG, and GMATPrep? I really like the video lesson formats of Magoosh, which e-GMAT has as well, so I think I might tap into that resource a little more.

Any tips and guidance is greatly appreciated at this point... I know I'm not the best standardised test taker, but I definitely don't think a 660 is an accurate reflection of my capabilities!

Many thanks in advance... hopefully I'll soon be able to update this post with a happier ending.

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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New post 30 Oct 2017, 12:34
Well, practice makes perfect. Studying is not fun! Maybe you missed a lot from the more complicated explanations to problems. You see, it is very important to try to understand the structure of some problems since even though you will find different questions on the real GMAT, there are some patterns that you need to recognize in order to consistently answer questions correctly. You need to tackle your weaknesses -whichever they are- by practicing a lot! Keep redoing problems until you get them right within less than 2 minutes (but more importantly until you understand the problem and the solution 100%) - and let me tell you that this is not fun at all. It sucks but that's how it is. You're score is high enough already to demonstrate that you can do much better. Practice and practice more; don't just do a lot of problems and exams but also study them in great detail. Also, progress steadily - master easy questions first and then proceed to medium level questions and so on; otherwise, you may miss easy or middle questions that will harm your score a lot!

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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New post 30 Oct 2017, 13:41
Hi plasticplastic,

I'm sorry to hear that Test Day didn't go as well as planned. When these types of score drops occur, the two likely "causes" involve either something that was unrealistic during practice or something that was surprising (or not accounted for) on Test Day.

GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Your 3 Official Score results are remarkably similar to one another - and they show that you essentially performed the same way all 3 times you took the GMAT (about 650 +/- a few points). Thus, you clearly handle certain aspects of the consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes.

You seem to understand that retaking CATs that you've already taken usually leads to unrealistic, inflated scores. Most of the CATs that you've taken over the last month were 'retakes', so we have to ignore those score results. Beyond that issue though, I have a few questions about how you took those CATs:

1) Did you take the ENTIRE CAT each time (including the Essay and IR sections)?
2) Did you take them at home?
3) Did you take them at the same time of day as when you took your Official GMAT?
4) Did you ever do ANYTHING during your CATs that you couldn't do on Test Day (pause the CAT, skip sections, take longer breaks, etc.)?

Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. If your score goal is 690, then you're closer to that goal than you probably realize - but there are clearly some changes that will have to be made to how you 'see' (and respond to) this Exam before you'll be able to hit that goal.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi plasticplastic,

I'm sorry to hear that Test Day didn't go as well as planned. When these types of score drops occur, the two likely "causes" involve either something that was unrealistic during practice or something that was surprising (or not accounted for) on Test Day.

GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Your 3 Official Score results are remarkably similar to one another - and they show that you essentially performed the same way all 3 times you took the GMAT (about 650 +/- a few points). Thus, you clearly handle certain aspects of the consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes.

You seem to understand that retaking CATs that you've already taken usually leads to unrealistic, inflated scores. Most of the CATs that you've taken over the last month were 'retakes', so we have to ignore those score results. Beyond that issue though, I have a few questions about how you took those CATs:

1) Did you take the ENTIRE CAT each time (including the Essay and IR sections)?
2) Did you take them at home?
3) Did you take them at the same time of day as when you took your Official GMAT?
4) Did you ever do ANYTHING during your CATs that you couldn't do on Test Day (pause the CAT, skip sections, take longer breaks, etc.)?

Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. If your score goal is 690, then you're closer to that goal than you probably realize - but there are clearly some changes that will have to be made to how you 'see' (and respond to) this Exam before you'll be able to hit that goal.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Hey Rich,

Thanks so much for responding - I really appreciate how active you are on the forum, giving students individualised attention!

Your observations about my performance being within the +/- 30 pts are really opening my eyes up to reality... especially the part that I should discount my most recent CAT scores considering they are retakes. I think I fooled myself into thinking that there was progress to be celebrated since I kept reading that in theory, retaking the exam shouldn't cause too much of a problem!

To answer your questions:
1) Did you take the ENTIRE CAT each time (including the Essay and IR sections)? Yes and every time. I have also been selecting the same order since the option for order selection became available in July - 1. Verbal, 2. Quant, 3. IR + AWA.
2) Did you take them at home? No - I always did the exams outside of my home as I have a really small living space and loud flatmates! I've taken almost all my exams at the office (it's deserted on the weekends because who wants to go into the office on a weekend???) with the exception of 3 exams - 2 of which I took at my sister's house, locked in a private room with earplugs in, and 1 at my boyfriend's in similar conditions.
3) Did you take them at the same time of day as when you took your Official GMAT? All exams were taken +/- 30 minutes of my actual exam time (12PM). I actually got to the exam location early because I was worried about traffic, so they let me start a bit early. Thus on the exam day I started at around 11:30AM.
4) Did you ever do ANYTHING during your CATs that you couldn't do on Test Day (pause the CAT, skip sections, take longer breaks, etc.)? In general, no. There was 1 or 2 times in which I paused the exam to go to the toilet when I had poorly managed my bathroom breaks - if you catch my drift - but those instances were early in my practice and did not occur in my last 3 CATs.

I think the most disheartening possibility is that my ability level really hasn't increased despite all the study time in the last few months - it could be possible that I've always been at around 650 and the CATs were just reflecting a distorted reality. In that case, I am a bit lost as to how to change my study habits or my approach to ensure that I make some kind of progress!

This is asking a lot, but any suggestions is very much appreciated. :(

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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New post 31 Oct 2017, 22:26
Hi plasticplastic,

A 660/Q47 is a strong score (it's a bit above the 80th percentile overall), so it could be enough to get you into your first-choice School. As such, a retest might not be necessary. While it's understandable that you would want to score higher (a certain percentage of Test Takers who score in the 700s "want" to score higher too), it's not clear whether that's needed or not.

1) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
2) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi plasticplastic,

A 660/Q47 is a strong score (it's a bit above the 80th percentile overall), so it could be enough to get you into your first-choice School. As such, a retest might not be necessary. While it's understandable that you would want to score higher (a certain percentage of Test Takers who score in the 700s "want" to score higher too), it's not clear whether that's needed or not.

1) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
2) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Hi Rich,

I had a look on my GMAT official report, and the percentile breakdown is - V34 / 71%tile, Q47 / 63%tile, Total 660 / 78%tile, so not quite 80%tile, otherwise I'd feel a little more proud of myself! :(

To answer your questions,
1) When are you planning to apply to Business School? I had planned to apply for R2 this year for the 2018 fall intake, but as I now think I need to retake my exam, I may have to defer to R3... or even next year. Yesterday, I scheduled for my fourth GMAT attempt to be on 7th Dec, so if all goes well, I may be able to squeeze out one or two applications for R2 and the rest for R3.
2) What Schools are you planning to apply to? I am planning on applying to LBS, HKUST, USC, NYU, Georgetown, and U Toronto. An admissions rep at U Toronto has said based on my profile, so long as I get a 660 (which I already have), it's pretty much a sure in. But to be honest, my heart is set on LBS... and since their GMAT average is currently a 708, I don't feel safe with my current standing!

I know I shouldn't be so dogmatic, but if I'm not good enough for LBS, I almost think the whole process isn't worth it and I might as well keep chipping away at my GMAT until next year! (Although, ideally, I wouldn't because I'm keen to get on the business school ladder ASAP!)

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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New post 01 Nov 2017, 18:43
Hi plasticplastic,

With a December 7th Test Date, you have about 5 weeks of study time. While you could potentially make some significant improvements during that time, you'll have to make some significant improvements to how you 'see' (and respond to) the Exam. To that end, now that you've taken the Official GMAT 3 times, you have to try to make your practice CATs 'match up' a bit better with how you take the Official GMAT (for example, you don't take your GMAT in a quiet, empty room, so you shouldn't take your CATs that way).

1) What is your exact Score goal?
2) Going forward, how many hours do you think you can consistently study each week?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi plasticplastic,

With a December 7th Test Date, you have about 5 weeks of study time. While you could potentially make some significant improvements during that time, you'll have to make some significant improvements to how you 'see' (and respond to) the Exam. To that end, now that you've taken the Official GMAT 3 times, you have to try to make your practice CATs 'match up' a bit better with how you take the Official GMAT (for example, you don't take your GMAT in a quiet, empty room, so you shouldn't take your CATs that way).

1) What is your exact Score goal?
2) Going forward, how many hours do you think you can consistently study each week?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Hey Rich!

I'll definitely take in your advice about ensuring that my practice exams are taken in more similar conditions as the actual exam... have been trying to get more used to wearing those earplugs that they give you as the sensation of them was quite distracting during the exam!

To answer your follow up questions:


1) What is your exact Score goal? - I'm hoping to get a 690 total; I think it'll be possible for me to get a Q47 again and hopefully push up my V score to a 37 or 38
2) Going forward, how many hours do you think you can consistently study each week? I think i'm managing about 24-26 hours a week of study until Dec 6 (my exam is Dec 7)... that'll be about another 90 hours of studying from today until my exam... I hope it's enough.

My strategy right now is to go back to the basics with CR and SC. I've redone the Manhattan Prep guides for both and have relearned a lot of rules and skills that I think have become rusty with time. For practice Qs, I've been doing a lot of questions on gmatclub.com and forcing myself to try and explain my rationale in responses on the forum.

With Quant I have been focusing on just ironing out the silly mistakes by drilling down on Algebra and Arithmetic - I want to make sure that I am not missing any problems that deal with these two fundamentals. I just downloaded my ESR and there was a big difference between my PS and DS scores, so I have focusing all my energy on PS questions. I have attempted a few questions on gmatclub.com but am having trouble navigating the Q pool to pull out relevant questions, so I've gone back to Magoosh to seek out relevant tutorials and practice questions.

Any other suggestions on how I can make these last few weeks count would be greatly appreciated!

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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New post 11 Nov 2017, 18:17
Hi plasticplastic,

You're closer to a 690+ than you probably realize, but you'll still need to make some fundamental changes to how you answer GMAT questions to pick up those missing points. From what you describe, it's not clear what exactly (if anything) you're doing differently right now. If you're simply going through the same materials that you used before and answering questions in the exact same ways that you did before, then you'll almost certainly continue to score in the mid-600s.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi plasticplastic,

You're closer to a 690+ than you probably realize, but you'll still need to make some fundamental changes to how you answer GMAT questions to pick up those missing points. From what you describe, it's not clear what exactly (if anything) you're doing differently right now. If you're simply going through the same materials that you used before and answering questions in the exact same ways that you did before, then you'll almost certainly continue to score in the mid-600s.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Hmm, thanks for the analyses, Rich! You're probably right as I just a Veritas CAT exam (I've never used any of their content before, so all the questions were completely new to me) and I scored a 660 (Q46 V35). This just confirms that my previous CAT exams were inflated by being familiar with the content.

Do you have any suggestions on what kinds of fundamental changes I need to make when answering GMAT questions? I understand I need to fundamentally shift the way I approach/see problems, but I'm unsure where to start... or how to start, especially when it comes to Quant. My progress in Quant for quite a few months now!

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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :( [#permalink]

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plasticplastic, sorry that I'm late to the party! You've been writing a lot of good stuff in the verbal forums lately, so I suspect pretty strongly that you've already read most of my garbage. But just in case, here's an article that discusses reasons why your GMAT score might not match your actual score: https://gmatclub.com/forum/experts-topi ... 46658.html. Hopefully, some of it might ring a bell, especially the stuff about consistency.

And maybe check out those beginners' guides to SC, RC, & CR -- probably too basic for you at this stage, but might give you a sense of the big-picture thinking that could help you on that side of things.

I'll look forward to a happier debrief next time around!
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Re: 630 to 660 then 650?? :(   [#permalink] 20 Nov 2017, 20:24
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