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660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight

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Current Student
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Joined: 13 Jan 2014
Posts: 50
Concentration: Strategy, General Management
Schools: Tuck '19 (M$)
GMAT 1: 660 Q44 V37
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
GPA: 3.2
WE: Engineering (Manufacturing)
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660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2016, 17:08
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Well, the official score came in Tuesday, so I figured it was time to share this with you guys :-D

Background:
I’m an engineer in the US. Born and raised on the east coast, I now live in the midwest and work for a Fortune 100 manufacturing company. Like many other engineers (current and former) on this thread, I love tinkering with anything mechanical and also learning about business. So I decided I’d pursue an MBA. The GMAT scared me. Remember those people in high school who would quickly flip through a test prep book the night the SAT and get a near perfect score? I have never been one of those people. I’ve never been good at standardized testing...so imagine how I felt upon learning the GMAT is adaptive. It’s like a test that fights back...like if Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang joined forces in test form. Never one to back down from a challenge, I dove in.

Studying:

Round 1: Never underestimate your opponent
My studies began in October of 2014. I signed up for a Kaplan class in hopes of keeping me on a set schedule. I enjoyed the class and the focus sessions, however I quickly realized that the strategies were not as complex or detailed as some of what I was reading on this forum. Nonetheless, I continued with the Kaplan course and the OG. My first Kaplan benchmark test was a 600. I took most of the Kaplan CATs and couldn’t seem to break past the 650-680 mark. Being overly confident, I went ahead and took the test in January and scored a 660 (Q44 V37, IR 3, AWA 5). I was a little disappointed, but not entirely surprised. This seemed to be in line with what I was getting on the CATs, but I knew it wouldn’t put me in a top program. I had to take it again. However, right around the same time, I took a new position at work and was really starting to get into it by February or so. Because of this, my studies fell by the wayside.

Round 2: The Real Deal
Fast forward to October 2015. My lack of follow through was starting to get to me. I had spent the spring and summer killing it at work getting more great experience to add to my application, but I knew my 660 would haunt me unless I did something about it. Like Rocky going to Siberia to train before fighting Ivan Drago, I changed things up as well. These are the resources I used in order of importance:

Magoosh- I bought their $99 premium membership and loved it from the start. They do an exceptional job of breaking down and explaining the concepts that will be tested in their videos. Their problems (and the video explanations that accompany them) are great for figuring out where you went wrong. I learned a lot from these guys and I’m grateful for it!
MGMAT Books- These, coupled with the Magoosh videos will allow you to build a great foundation. I don’t think the advanced quant is necessary, but everything else is great for giving you strategies to apply for various types of problems.
GMAT Club Tests- Being an engineer, I thought I was good at quant, but nonetheless I struggled. As many have pointed out, these questions are not hard, but tricky. These quant tests were great at helping me move beyond basic problem solving to attacking problems with logic and finesse.
MGMAT Tests- Great for building endurance. They’re tougher than whatever you’ll face on the real GMAT
GMAT Club AWA Template- I’m an engineer, not a writer after all. This is a shameless plug for a great template for the AWA ( http://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html )

Practice (cue training montage)
My weekly routine was pretty straightforward:
Mon-Thurs: Learn content/do problems/review answers/learn from mistakes for about 2 hours per night after work four days a week
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Take a CAT precisely at noon (DO THE AWA AND IR SECTIONS EACH TIME!!)
Sunday: Review CAT answers

During the first month or so of my studying, I would spend more time watching Magoosh videos and reading the MGMAT books and less time doing problems during the week. Once I was done learning content and applying it in basic forms, I transitioned my studying to focus more on solving more difficult problems and refining my timing. That brings me to one of my major points: TIME YOURSELF WHEN YOU DO PRACTICE PROBLEMS! Set aside 37 quant questions and give yourself 75 minutes. No more. This is the only way you will train yourself to function under pressure and eliminate the silly mistakes. Now for a slightly more detailed version of each section.

Quant
Problem Solving: This section I was fairly good with concept-wise but where I struggled was finding the most efficient way to solve the problem. Magoosh helped me out a lot with this. Their videos show many shortcuts that make seemingly difficult problems much easier to handle. Once I started getting good at 600-700 level questions, I turned to the GMAT quant tests. In the 2 or 3 weeks leading up to the test (with the exception of the week of) I would take and review a quant test each night. The more exposure and experience you have with grueling, tricky questions, the better you get at solving them and the more confident you get when they show up.
Data Sufficiency: Even though I’m an engineer and come from a quant-focused background, DS was tricky. The important thing for me was to remember that you don’t have to solve the problem outright- just know whether you can. The other side of this coin is that to disprove a statement, all it takes is one or two counter examples.

Verbal
Sentence Correction: My strategy for SC was to read the sentence first with the intent to understand the meaning. Once I knew what it was trying to say, I could scan for grammatical errors and opportunities for concision. For more difficult questions I relied more on ruling out answer choices than just finding the one that worked best.
Critical Reasoning: I used a simplistic version of pre-thinking that seemed to work well. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking what the perfect strengthener or weakener is. Just understand the how the logic in the argument is constructed and how the answers relate to it. That being said, I am a firm believer in negating for assumption questions. That works well
Reading Comprehension: I ordered my enhanced score report and RC was my worst breakdown of all of them. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt I guess? I’m a fan of writing 2-3 bullet points per paragraph to summarize and keep things straight. I found it also helps me understand what’s going on if I’m forced to re-phrase it succinctly.

Test Day
I woke up around 8:30 or so and made myself a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and blueberries and did 4-5 easy GMATPrep questions to warm my brain up. I got to the test center at about 11:30 and fortunately for me I was able to be seated immediately. No time for anxiety to set in. I was really happy with the AWA and IR. I felt like I could really dissect the prompt and craft a thorough critique. All in all I think I finished in about ~22 mins. In my experience with my practice CATs, I found I usually took too long with IR. Seldom would I be able to finish 10 or 11 questions in the 30 mins. Today was different. Everything just seemed to come together. I was feeling really good during my first break. I had a lot of confidence going into quant. I was able to get into a groove within the first 5-7 questions and over the course of the section found that there were only 3-4 that I didn’t feel 100% on. Verbal was pretty similar. I felt a little more shaky with some of the CR and RC questions (mostly stuck between two seemingly viable answers), but nothing felt too difficult. SC was actually pretty easy compared to most of the questions that I had studied with. Overall, I felt much better than the first time around. I finished the 41st question with about 30 seconds left. I was very pleased with my timing in that I never felt rushed during the section. Once I completed the section the computer took what seemed like an eternity to calculate my score. I could feel my heart falling into my stomach. Was the battle won or lost? Then I finally saw that glorious 740 flash on the screen. “GMAT KO’d. We’re done here” I thought to myself. I was so ecstatic that as I walked out of the testing room I dropped my ID because my hands were shaking. It was a great feeling. The GMAT seems difficult at first. It’s (probably) not like any test you’ve taken before, but it’s very beatable with some hard work and resources. Make sure you understand the fundamentals inside and out. That, in my opinion, is the key. The application will be slightly different each time but it will come more naturally with practice. As you progress, you’ll be able to more easily spot the tricks and potential pitfalls for each type of question. Don’t just memorize a formulaic approach for problem type X and try to make it work. To ace this test you’ll need to be more agile than that. I genuinely believe that anyone who is passionate enough to be on this forum can score above 700. YOU CAN DO IT! Like anything else, you get out what you put in.


My CAT scores are chronicled below:

GMAT Prep 1: 680 (Q49 V34)
GMAT Prep 2: 700 (Q47 V38)
MGMAT 1: 700 (Q46 V40)
MGMAT 2: 700 (Q45 V40) (why aren’t I getting better?)
MGMAT 3: 690 (Q45 V38) (ugh)
GMAT Prep 3: 740 (Q49 V41)
GMAT Prep 4: 760 (Q47 V45)
Test Day: 740 (Q49 V41, IR 7, AWA 5.5)
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Re: 660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2016, 23:46
Congratulations :)
Current Student
User avatar
Joined: 13 Jan 2014
Posts: 50
Concentration: Strategy, General Management
Schools: Tuck '19 (M$)
GMAT 1: 660 Q44 V37
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
GPA: 3.2
WE: Engineering (Manufacturing)
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Re: 660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Feb 2016, 07:02
Thanks Anusha! Best of luck with your studies!
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Re: 660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Feb 2016, 08:24
:)
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Re: 660 to 740: Keep Fighting the Good Fight   [#permalink] 05 Feb 2016, 08:24
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