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A non-native's journey through 610-570-710

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A non-native's journey through 610-570-710  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jan 2015, 12:04
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Hello,

This forum has been an incredible help in showing me light in my dark GMAT days. So I promised myself that I would share my experience when I get a decent score.

Brief Background: I am an Indian male with a computer science masters and working in a bulge bracket financial firm. I have cleared all levels of CFA as well. I am not trying to list my accomplishments but trying to highlight the nature of this exam. This is the first time in life I got knocked down twice and could not figure out what was wrong even after putting hundreds of hours. I write my experience with the hope that if it can help any one person the way so many of the articles in this forum have done for me. Some of the points mentioned below are obvious so please feel free to skip over. I still wanted to mention those for people like me who understands things in a specific way.

Took all the six MGMAT CAT’s and two GMAT-prep Free exams before my first attempt. In last three MGMAT CAT’s I averaged around 680

Official GMAT First attempt – 610 – Q49/V24 – Jan 10th 2014

(Study Gap)
MGMAT CAT 1A (Retake) – 660 – Q45/V35 – May 3rd 2014
MGMAT CAT 2A (Retake) – 640 – Q44/V34 – May 31st 2014
MGMAT CAT 3A (Retake) – 640 - Q44/V33 – June 15th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 3– 690 - Q49/V34 – July 6th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 4– 710 - Q46/V38 – July 13th 2014
MGMAT CAT 4A (Retake) – 630 - Q46/V31 – July 17th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 1 (Retake)– 750 – Q50/V40 – July 20th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 2 (Retake)– 720 – Q51/V35 – July 27th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 3 (Retake) – 740 – Q50/V39 – July 30th 2014
GMAT Prep Exam 4 (Retake)– 770 – Q50/V47 – Aug 2nd 2014

Official GMAT second attempt– 570 – Q49/V17 – Aug 9th 2014

Veritas CAT 1 - 680 - Q49/V35 - Sept 13th
Veritas CAT 2 - 680 - Q48/V36 - Oct 18th
Veritas CAT 3 - 680 - Q49/V34 - Nov 1st
Veritas CAT 4 - 710 - Q49/V39 - Dec 7th
Veritas CAT 5 - 710 - Q50/V38 - Dec 21st
Veritas CAT 6 - 710 - Q50/V37 - Jan 4th
Veritas CAT 7 - 720 - Q49/V35 - Jan 14th
GMAT Prep Exam 2 (Retake) - 760 - Q50/V42 - Jan 21st 2015

Official GMAT Third attempt – 710 – Q50/V35 – Jan 26th 2014


1st attempt Jan 10th 2014: -

In June 2013 I decided to take the GMAT. I used the below resources --

1. OG 12, OG 13 and OG VR - Not need to mention that it is THE Bible of GMAT exam.
2. I enrolled for Manhattan GMAT classroom session.
3. Manhattan strategy guides.
4. E-GMAT SC
5. PDF's of GMAT-Prep questions from an instructor who mentioned quantity over quality is the key for this exam
6. GMAT Club Tests for Quant - Great source


Mistakes: -

1. I did all the OG problems but I did not do them the way it should be done. Explained later
2. In hindsight enrolling for Manhattan GMAT classroom session was a mistake specifically for me. This is primarily because classroom sessions focus on both the sections but generally almost everyone has one weakness either verbal or quant. For me it was verbal and sadly the classroom session focused on 60% of the time on quant. However, we had a good instructor.
3. I read Manhattan strategy guides just as I read concepts the night before my engineering exams. I mean I read all the theory and knew all the theory but one big problem was this exam is not about theory but about APPLICATION. To explain it better - In that about 90 seconds you will get in the exam to solve a SC problem, you just do not have any time to recall the theories from Manhattan strategy guides and apply them. It should come to you almost intuitively. By this I don't mean using your ears. This intuition comes from hours and hours of practice of the lessons you get from OG and GMAT Prep problems.
4. I bought E-GMAT SC but did not allocate much time to focus on that. Big mistake. Single best SC course out there for non-natives.
5. While doing those PDF's of GMAT-Prep questions I focused on quantity over quality. As you might have noticed this myth mentioned in many places, I trusted someone who told me to do about 500-700 SC and them every other SC would be easy for me. A big piece of the puzzle is missing here. While I agree that repetition can help, I do not think that brute force repetition helps. One might go for the repetition after first learning each and every pattern of SC tricks from OG and GMAT prep questions and doing courses such as e-gmat to reinforce those concepts.
6. I did not make full use of the great resources we have in GMAT Club, BTG, MGMAT Blog (Stacey Koprince's articles) etc.

May 1st 2014 I started studying for my second attempt: -

1. All OG and OG VR questions
2. I enrolled for E-gmat VLP course
3. Covered the entire powerscore SC twice
4. Did E-gmat SC in and out
5. Did short set of RC and CR gmat prep questions frequently after coming from work (25 questions)
6. Made flash cards for every pattern, grammar rules or quant tricks that GMAT uses to fool us.
7. Made error logs for every problem I got wrong
8. Took one 1-1 session with Ron Purewal from MGMAT

What I did differently?

1. I did E-gmat SC and VLP thoroughly and then practice the concepts over OG problems. I started to notice the pattern. SC almost started to come naturally to me.
2. However I did power score CR twice, In my opinion it was just the concepts and it did not capture the very classic tricks GMAT CR uses.
3. Did a lot of RC practice as well but not quite the right way


Official GMAT second attempt – 570 – Q49/V17 – Aug 9th 2014: -

At this point I was really disheartened. I did not know what went wrong. My last GMAT Prep exam 4 (Retake) was 770. All I know that the verbal section went too fast for me and every question seemed very new.

What went wrong?

1. I deviated from my plan. My Takt Time (As e-gmat says) for SC 100 seconds, CR 250 seconds and RC 250 seconds. With this timing I had to guess at least five questions in verbal. I did not do that. I took too much time in the first twenty questions and I tried to attempt every question afterwards. This resulted less time in the last 11 questions (about 9 minutes). So of course I probably had a chain of wrong answers at the end.
2. Also, I followed the clock too much. Now, this might seem not consistent with point number 1. To explain this fully, when I had a session with Ron Purewal, he mentioned that its ok to look at the clock every five questions or 10 minutes. However, if one thinks of the clock ticking too much in that case he/she is not fully immersed in the problem in front and might overlook key tricks of the problem. That is what happened with me. This is also an effect of point number 1 as I had very less time to do last 11 questions.
3. My RC was still weak and my reading was not correct. I was taking too much time in the first read so did not have much time to go back to the passage for inference/specific detail questions. Going back to the passage for inference/specific detail questions is an absolute MUST. You will know why this is the case when you reveal the patterns of tough questions of GMAT Prep and OG
4. I needed to relax my nerves and put things in perspective. My heart was beating at 2X rate for the last 11 questions in verbal. I needed to address this.

What I did do to fix this?

1. I took few one-one sessions with Mitch Hunt (A private GMAT tutor). We went through all my past Gmat prep mistakes. Also, he was a great help is showing me how to read the RC passage and how to break down a CR argument. The sessions have been a great help for me.
2. I did about 40 timed sessions for 25 CR and RC Gmat prep questions from the giant gmat prep question collection found in the gmat club. The only difference was this time that I knew what I am looking for before reading the question. In short I was applying the process and looking for the pattern.
3. As Ron mentioned in the session that it’s a good idea go through all the OG correct answers for SC just to have an idea what kind of sentence structure the GMAT likes in general. I did that. However, one thing to be aware of is that for difficult SC questions one trick they apply is that in the last two answer choice the wrong answer is very attractive but with an unacceptable error and the right answer looks bit weird but no errors in it. That’s why elimination is the key for tougher verbal problems.
4. I practiced meditation and hypnosis between my second and third attempt. This has been a great help for me specially. Relaxed last 2-3 days before the exam. Took a deep tissue massage the day before the exam. I slept as a baby does the night before the exam.
5. I made a plan for the verbal section and followed it till the end --
    a. I knew I would be about 4 minutes behind on 20th question as I tried to get as many correct in the first 20 as possible. This time 4 minutes meant 4 minutes not 6,8 or 10 minutes. As per the plan I tried to guess from between question 18-21st and 28th- 31st and one in the last 11 questions. However, VERY important I just did not guess randomly in those question range. I waited until I got a question that is too hard for me to solve given the time crunch.
    b. I had sort of developed an intuition to tell if the question is too hard for me to solve in a time crunch in the first 40 sends or so. I used that to find my guess candidates. (This article helped me a lot to understand this - https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/2013/06/03/what-the-gmat-really-tests/)
    c. I told myself repeatedly that around 25% of the exam questions are experimental where I would be used as a guinea pig. So in case I miss a question that I just realize was easy and I should not have missed it, I will tell myself that it was an experimental question. The same this happed to me on the real exam. I got a tough RC in question 7-8 and I felt that I might have got it wrong and could have got it correct if I read the passage once more. I reminded myself of the guinea pig ☺ and moved on. I got two BF questions one on 18th and one on 38th. I also got four RC passages.
    d. I did not think of the clock all the time and tried myself to get immersed in the problem in front. By this I not mean to spend 4 or 5 minutes on a problem. Just the right amount of time without distractions.
    e. I felt that hot blood right at the back of my brain during verbal section as I expected. So I kept taking long breadth and looking up for 2-3 seconds in between as planned.

Few things I would like to mention that I feel have been crucial for me: -

1. This exam is about APPLICATION. Knowing the theories and rules from strategy guides will not help to solve the questions in 120 seconds under a very adverse condition. One needs to apply the concepts continuously using official questions to build that habit.
2. This exam is about PATTERN also. GMAT tests you in a very SPECIFIC ways. It is very important to know the pattern GMAT uses for different categories of questions before reading the question and look for those patterns while solving the question. You should have those patterns written on index cards and review it every day. For instance, for higher-level SC problems to come to a decision point on a pronoun issue for the last two and answer choice left, look at the non-underlined part. This is just one of them.
3. Expect to see everything new on the exam. You will see questions that you have never seen before even if you solve 5000 SCs before you enter the exam. The things that will be similar are the patterns.
4. As you have heard in many places, PROCESS is the key. Constantly remind yourself that are you applying the process while practicing? Does not matter if you got the question right.
5. Specifically for SC VERY IMPORTANT, Google each and every problem from OG, OG VR and GMAT Prep and see what experts such as Ron Purewal in MGMAT Forum had said about it. Read ONLY the experts reply. There are also few experts such as Mitch Hunt in BTG forum who explained some problems really well. Make index cards on everything you learn from these experts. This will be a time consuming process. Initially it would take about 10-15 minutes to do each SC following this way but trust me its worth spending that time and it will get easier and faster the more you do it.
6. If your weakness is verbal then take it easy on the first three sections on the exam day. I mean try to save your brain energy as much s possible for the last.
7. The eight minutes break on the real exam goes as a blink so plan well to spend that time.
8. Keeping your nerves calm is a key. Do whatever works for you to achieve this. For me meditation, hypnosis, good diet and workout helped.


Q49 to Q50 Jump: -

The only thing I did differently in my last attempt is not constantly thinking of the clock. Constantly in every problem look for the pattern of tricks that I learned in the practice sessions especially in DS. Finally whenever I got a weird looking geometry problem that I know would be too hard for me to solve I made an educated guess as soon as possible.


I spent about nineteen months on and off in this battle along with some personal health issues. It has been dark, brutal and unbearable at times. I am thankful for the people in my life who believed in me more than I did and stood by me. One might argue (probably a McKinsey consultant ☺) that if it’s really worth it to spend this much of time on an exam. I agree that the things that I learnt from this experience could have been learnt faster and for me one of the most important learning from this experience is how to learn faster. However, This experience does reinforce the idea I live by – “Everything is possible”. This experience gives me confidence to face even tougher future challenges I will probably come across in life and to hold that light of hope in dark days.

Lastly, I want to quote a good friend of mine who once told me this – “Always remember there is a pair of eyes watching you. Every effort you put in is counted somewhere”

Cheers,
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Re: A non-native's journey through 610-570-710  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Feb 2015, 09:24
Great job Abhijit. Improving from V17 to V35. It takes a lot of nerves to get back and think about a third attempt. You may be able to make it a talking point in your interviews.

Quote:
However, This experience does reinforce the idea I live by – “Everything is possible”. This experience gives me confidence to face even tougher future challenges I will probably come across in life and to hold that light of hope in dark days.


Very true. Many students who dont do well on the GMAT come to us asking for help. A good number of them are on the verge of giving up. What they dont realize is that GMAT is a much easier challenge when compared to challenges they will face in their post MBA life. However, the leanings that they will have from acing the GMAT will help them face these more difficult challenges.

Your comment about constantly applying the process is spot on. Good job and very well written debrief
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Re: A non-native's journey through 610-570-710  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Feb 2015, 23:42
hustler222 wrote:
Hello,



Official GMAT second attempt – 570 – Q49/V17 – Aug 9th 2014: -

At this point I was really disheartened. I did not know what went wrong. My last GMAT Prep exam 4 (Retake) was 770. All I know that the verbal section went too fast for me and every question seemed very new.


This time 4 minutes meant 4 minutes not 6,8 or 10 minutes. As per the plan I tried to guess from between question 18-21st and 28th- 31st and one in the last 11 questions. However, VERY important I just did not guess randomly in those question range. I waited until I got a question that is too hard for me to solve given the time crunch.

c. I told myself repeatedly that around 25% of the exam questions are experimental where I would be used as a guinea pig. So in case I miss a question that I just realize was easy and I should not have missed it, I will tell myself that it was an experimental question. The same this happed to me on the real exam. I got a tough RC in question 7-8 and I felt that I might have got it wrong and could have got it correct if I read the passage once more. I reminded myself of the guinea pig ☺ and moved on. I got two BF questions one on 18th and one on 38th. I also got four RC passages.

e. I felt that hot blood right at the back of my brain during verbal section as I expected. So I kept taking long breadth and looking up for 2-3 seconds in between as planned.


2. This exam is about PATTERN also. GMAT tests you in a very SPECIFIC ways. It is very important to know the pattern GMAT uses for different categories of questions before reading the question and look for those patterns while solving the question. You should have those patterns written on index cards and review it every day. For instance, for higher-level SC problems to come to a decision point on a pronoun issue for the last two and answer choice left, look at the non-underlined part. This is just one of them.
3. Expect to see everything new on the exam. You will see questions that you have never seen before even if you solve 5000 SCs before you enter the exam. The things that will be similar are the patterns.

5. Specifically for SC VERY IMPORTANT, Google each and every problem from OG, OG VR and GMAT Prep and see what experts such as Ron Purewal in MGMAT Forum had said about it. Read ONLY the experts reply. There are also few experts such as Mitch Hunt in BTG forum who explained some problems really well. Make index cards on everything you learn from these experts. This will be a time consuming process. Initially it would take about 10-15 minutes to do each SC following this way but trust me its worth spending that time and it will get easier and faster the more you do it.


I spent about nineteen months on and off in this battle along with some personal health issues. It has been dark, brutal and unbearable at times. I am thankful for the people in my life who believed in me more than I did and stood by me. One might argue (probably a McKinsey consultant ☺) that if it’s really worth it to spend this much of time on an exam. I agree that the things that I learnt from this experience could have been learnt faster and for me one of the most important learning from this experience is how to learn faster. However, This experience does reinforce the idea I live by – “Everything is possible”. This experience gives me confidence to face even tougher future challenges I will probably come across in life and to hold that light of hope in dark days.

Lastly, I want to quote a good friend of mine who once told me this – “Always remember there is a pair of eyes watching you. Every effort you put in is counted somewhere”

Cheers,


Congrats! I know how hard it is to give the exam again after a disappointing score. Perhaps, you know more. I scored 660 in my first attempt, and 680 in my second attempt. Both the times, during practice, I scored around 740 on an average in my mock (770 being the highest, 720 being the lowest)

When I go for the exam, I don't know what happens to me. I don't get nervous as usually people do: No faster heart-beats, no sweaty palms or timing problem (I usually have 2-3 minutes left in the end, during actual exam as well as mock). But I know that I get nervous in a very peculiar way. As during my latest attempt. I realized the mistake which I made in the very first question of the verbal section, just as I left the center.

I couldn't think of that mistake during the exam, but as soon as I held my score report, I could think of that question, and within seconds I knew what was wrong.
In the exam, I couldn't think about the question the way I did outside the testing area. Out of 5, I came down to 2 options, and then I just couldn't decide (the way I did outside). During that time, I felt both options look similar (only one word separated both), and I won't be able to find out which one is better.

Not sure how can I improve now. Although, I wouldn't say I'm weak at verbal (I peaked at V50 in one of my Veritas Mock, and have consistently score above V38 in my last 7 if not 10 mocks), I'm unable to score during exam only in the verbal section.

I think spending 19 months is completely okay with the exam. I used to feel the same as I have already spent 12 months giving GMAT. But I feel I have learnt a lot, not only about theory (quants, verbal, strategy, etc) but also about myself. Had I not spent 12 months for this exam, I would have been a completely different person

Anyways, Congratulations bro! Good luck with your applications.
GMAT Club Bot
Re: A non-native's journey through 610-570-710 &nbs [#permalink] 11 Feb 2015, 23:42
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