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7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.

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7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Oct 2018, 18:47
7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.

Hello Everyone,

Just sat for the exam for the second time on Oct 19. I vastly improved over my first exam in July, however I want to do even better. Here I will give a description of my studies and ask advice on what to do next.

Background information
Basics: male, US, native-english, south-asian origin, 31 years old.
Professional: 7 years in non-profit arts administration. I am the full-time director of a youth orchestra program in NYC. It’s a fascinating blend of creative music making, organizational leadership, and music education.
Education: piano performance and music composition
Asterisks: dropped out of HS (ended up returning). Never finished basic HS math. Destroyed by calculus in college. Hadn’t sat for a "math" exam since 2008. My professional role, although creative and demanding, requires little thorough quantitative or critical analysis.

Goal: I want to transition to a leadership position in the for-profit sector and build experience (and money) for at least a decade. Then, I want to return to the non-profit sector and lead a major cultural arts institution in New York City.

Schools: applying R2 to four T15. Not going any lower. Yes, I’m taking a chance!

Journey 440 to 660 and beyond

March 2018 took GMAT Prep 1 (75 question) mock. 5 hours sleep. Cold. No preparation whatsoever. Hadn’t taken a test in 10 years.
440: Q18/V30/IR3/AWA??

Yeah it was bad. A few days later tried a mock GRE exam and scaled it was the same score. Decided I could better prove myself, because of my non-traditional background, with the GMAT. Haha.

April: averaging 8 hrs/week and 6 hours sleep per night. MGMAT Foundations Math book, and Magoosh flashcards. Yep.

May: averaging 16 hrs/week and 6 hours sleep per night. Magoosh question bank and some OG. Really struggled with both. Terrible timing. Did not understand anything not only in quant, but also in verbal.

May 24: sat for MGMAT CAT 1. 540: Q35/V30/IR3/ didn’t finish AWA. Fixed timing and breaks. Intentional morning routine. Even left the house and walked around the block.

Wasn’t really sure where to go from here. A good friend who scored 760 suggested I do CR Bible and focus on Magoosh. I really needed the Magoosh video explanations. OG was too above me.

June: 16 hrs/week studying and 6 hours sleep per night. CR Bible, Magoosh quant, and little bit of verbal here and there. Mid June began working 1x a week with a great tutor from one of the well-known test prep companies.

July 10: sat for MGMAT CAT 2. 540: Q29/V36/IR3/AWA self-scored 5. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine.

Friday July 13: sat for GMAT Prep 2 (web version). 650: Q40/V40/IR4/AWA self-scored 5. This was terribly inflated and a cruel Friday the 13th joke. It had questions from the software version of GMAT Prep 1 I took in March. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine.

July 16: sat for actual exam. 540: Q29/V37/IR2/AWA5. Gross. Just couldn’t do it right.

Then, I started a very detailed error log, and detailed my study habits in a schedule.

mid-July to end of August: averaging 18 hrs/week studying and 6 hours sleep per night. quant did only Magoosh UNTIMED and heavily reflective. Focused on “easy” and did one topic at a time. It would take me up to 8 minutes to do an easy quant problem. But I would understand it. Went through a bunch of Magoosh verbal all difficulties untimed.

end of August: switched to OG2018 online (!!) The online edition is a game-changer. Started on easy untimed. It was freakin hard!!! Worked through easy, and slowly began to incorporate timing.

September: averaging 18 hrs/week studying and 6 hours sleep per night. focused on OG EASY quant untimed and timed. detailed error logging. reviewed mistakes. re-did EASY questions. Verbal OG medium.

Sept 15: GMAT Prep 3 600: Q39/V34/IR4/AWA self-scored 5. I wasn’t too thrilled. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine.

Sept 22: MGMAT CAT 3. 620: Q36/V28/IR4/AWA self-scored 5. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine.

Sept 29: MGMAT CAT 4. 640: Q40/V37/IR3/AWA self-scored 5. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine. Felt confident.

By now I was really sharpening my timing. MGMAT CATS give superior timing analyses and I was using it to my advantage. Saw that I would get sucked into a time-bomb spiral on the first 10 questions. Statistically, If I spent more than 2 minutes on a question, I had less than 10% chance to get it correct.

On quant I was learning to force myself to make smarter decisions faster. I was working through OG medium. Still haven’t touched OG hard!

On verbal I was struggling to increase accuracy while maintaining time on “Hard”. I still struggle with this. I struggle with focus while reading CR. I struggle with understanding hard CR. My Hard SC isn’t that great, either. I think lack of sleep (less than 7.5 hours) really impacted my verbal comprehension.

Final two weeks I was FORCING myself to sleep 7.5 to 9 hours each night. I noticed my focus increase.

Oct 13: GMAT Prep 4. 620: Q39/V36/IR3/AWA self scored 5. Fixed timing and breaks. Morning and evening routine. This impacted my confidence. I felt bad.

Oct 19: actual exam. 660: Q43/V38/IR6/AWA? Overall I was pleased, but disappointed by the Verbal plateau. How do I break out of it? ESR is attached.

Verbal: I really struggle with understanding hard CR questions. Hard SC, too.

Quant: haven’t even touched OG Hard yet. There are still about 40 medium OG questions I’ve got wrong that I need to go back and re-do.

I am sitting for the exam again on December 6. My minimum goal is 710: Q47/V40/IR6/AWA 5.5

I am fairly stubborn and obsessive, and often foolishly ambitious. I know that even with a 710, my be rejected from my four T15 choices. My professional background is compelling. Even after I submit a (fingers crossed) 710 R2, I will likely continue to study and re-take GMAT in March. I believe a 760 is within my grasp, and such as score is useful for recruiting for certain industries, and even applicable to Law or Public Affairs/Policy programs.

I can’t yet attached my ESR (too new). I also have very detailed error logs and study schedules on Google Sheets. Also, shout-out to my tutor. If you’re reading this, you know who you are!

What’s your advice?

Thank you!
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Re: 7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2018, 19:09
Wow … First off, I really admire your perseverance!! Studying for 450 hours is no joke, my friend. Thank you for sharing such a detailed debrief.

The million dollar question is how you break out from a decent GMAT score to a pretty amazing GMAT score, right? The reality is that if after 450 hours of studying you have not hit your score goal, you need to take a hard look at HOW you have been preparing and make some changes. Furthermore, since your quant and verbal are at 43 and 38, respectively, you still have some weaknesses in both topics that are preventing you from increasing your score. Moving forward, you need to spend some more time working through quant and verbal topics to find and fix weaknesses. Of course, this may not be a 6-week process -- after all, you’re ultimate goal is to score 760!! With that in mind, I’m happy to provide some specific advice on how to improve both your quant and verbal skills. Let’s start with quant.

Say you are learning about Number Properties. First, you should develop as much conceptual knowledge about Number Properties as possible. In other words, your goal will be to completely understand properties of factorials, perfect squares, quadratic patterns, LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, and remainders, to name a few concepts. After carefully reviewing the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions, practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties. When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type. As you do such practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills.

Each time you strengthen your understanding of a topic and your skill in answering questions of a particular type, you increase your odds of hitting your score goal. You know that there are types of questions that you are happy to see and types that you would rather not see, and types of questions that you take a long time to answer correctly. Learn to more effectively answer the types of questions that you would rather not see, and make them into your favorite types. Learn to correctly answer in two minutes or less questions that you currently take five minutes to answer. By finding, say, a dozen weaker quant areas and turning them into strong areas, you will make great progress toward hitting your quant score goal. If a dozen areas turn out not to be enough, strengthen some more areas.

You can work on verbal in a similar manner. For example, let’s say you start by learning about Critical Reasoning. Your first goal is to fully master the individual Critical Reasoning topics: Strengthen the Argument, Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, etc. As you learn about each Critical Reasoning question type, do focused practice so that you can track your skill in answering each type. If, for example, you get a weakening question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize the specific question type? Were you doing too much analysis in your head? Did you skip over a keyword in an answer choice? You must thoroughly analyze your mistakes and seek to turn weaknesses into strengths by focusing on the question types you dread seeing and the questions you take a long time to answer correctly.

When practicing Reading Comprehension, you need to develop a reading strategy that is both efficient and thorough. Reading too fast and not understanding what you have read are equally as harmful as reading too slow and using up too much time. When attacking Reading Comprehension passages, you must have one clear goal in mind: to understand the context of what you are reading. However, you must do so efficiently, so you need to avoid getting bogged down in the details of each paragraph and instead focus on understanding the main point of each paragraph. That being said, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can just read the intro and the conclusion and thereby comprehend the main idea of a paragraph. As you read a paragraph, consider how the context of the paragraph relates to previous paragraphs, so you can continue developing your overall understanding of the passage. Furthermore, as you practice Reading Comprehension, focus on the exact types of questions with which you struggle: Find the Main Idea, Inference, Author’s Tone, etc. As with Critical Reasoning, analyze your incorrect Reading Comprehension answers to better determine why you tend to get a particular question type wrong, and then improve upon your weaknesses. You can perfect your reading strategy with a lot of practice, but keep in mind that GMAT Reading Comprehension passages are not meant to be easy to read. So, to better prepare yourself to tackle such passages, read magazines with similar content and style, such as the Economist, Scientific American, and Smithsonian.

Sentence Correction is a bit of a different animal compared to Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. There are three aspects to getting correct answers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions: what you know, such as grammar rules, what you see, such as violations of grammar rules and the logic of sentence structure, and what you do, such as carefully considering each answer choice in the context of the non-underlined portion of the sentence. To drive up your Sentence Correction score, it is likely that you will have to work on all three of those aspects.

Regarding what you know, first and foremost, you MUST know your grammar rules. Let's be clear, though: GMAT Sentence Correction is not really a test of knowledge of grammar rules. The reason for learning the grammar rules is so that you can determine what sentences convey and whether sentences are well-constructed. In fact, in many cases, incorrect answers to Sentence Correction questions are grammatically flawless. Thus, often your task is to use your knowledge of grammar rules to determine which answer choice creates the most logical sentence meaning and structure.

This determination of whether sentences are well-constructed and logical is the second aspect of finding correct answers to Sentence Correction questions, what you see. You have to put work into developing your skill in seeing what is going on in the various versions of the sentence that the answer choices create. To develop this skill, you probably have to slow way down. You won't develop this skill by spending under two minutes per question. For a while, anyway, you have to spend time with each question, maybe even ten or fifteen minutes on one question sometimes, analyzing every answer choice until you see the details that you have to see in order to choose the correct answer. As you go through the answer choices, consider the meaning conveyed by each version of the sentence. Does the meaning make sense? Even if you can tell what the version is SUPPOSED to convey, does the version really convey that meaning? Is there a verb to go with the subject? Do all pronouns clearly refer to nouns? By slowing way down and looking for these details, you learn to see what you have to see in order to clearly understand which answer to a Sentence Correction question is correct.

There is only one correct answer to any Sentence Correction question, there are clear reasons why that choice is correct and the others are not, and those reasons are not that the correct version simply "sounds right." In fact, the correct version often sounds a little off at first. That correct answers may sound a little off is not surprising. If the correct answer were always the one that sounded right, then most people most of the time would get Sentence Correction questions correct, without really knowing why the wrong answers were wrong and the correct answers were correct. So, you have to go beyond choosing what "sounds right" and learn to clearly see the logical reasons why one choice is better than all of the others.

As for the third aspect of getting Sentence Correction questions correct, what you do, the main thing you have to do is be very careful. You have to make sure that you are truly considering the structures of sentences and the meanings conveyed rather than allowing yourself to be tricked into choosing trap answers that sound right but don't convey meanings that make sense. You also have to make sure that you put some real energy into finding the correct answers. Finding the correct answer to a Sentence Correction question may take bouncing from choice to choice repeatedly until you start to see the differences between the choices that make all choices wrong except for one. Often, when you first look at the choices, only one or two seem obviously incorrect. Getting the right answers takes a certain work ethic. You have to be determined to see the differences and to figure out the precise reasons that one choice is correct.

To improve what you do when you answer Sentence Correction questions, seek to become aware of how you are going about answering them. Are you being careful and looking for logic and details, or are you quickly eliminating choices that sound a little off, and then choosing the best of the rest? If you choose an incorrect answer, consider what you did that resulted in your arriving at that answer and what you could do differently in order to arrive at correct answers more consistently. Furthermore, see how many questions you can get correct in a row as you practice. If you break your streak by missing one, consider what you could have done differently to extend your streak.

As with your Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension regimens, after learning a particular Sentence Correction topic, engage in focused practice with 30 questions or more that involve that topic. As your Sentence Correction skills improve, you will then want to practice with questions that test you on skills from multiple Sentence Correction topics.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

In order to follow the path described above, you may need some new verbal and quant materials, so take a look at the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant and verbal courses.

You also may find it helpful to read this article about
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT.

Feel free to reach out with any further questions.

Good luck!

Scott Woodbury-Stewart

Founder and CEO
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Re: 7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.   [#permalink] 24 Oct 2018, 19:09
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7 months and 450 hours: 440 to 660. I want to get to 710+ in 6 weeks.

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