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Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)

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GMAT 1: 730 Q50 V39
Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 10 May 2020, 02:30
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First of all, it has been a great fortune to happen to know about gmatclub. If I had not known this great forum, I would not have gotten this score, at least at this point of time. The forum helped me a lot in my GMAT preparation.
I took my first GMAT yesterday. Although I actually set my target score at 730, I thought it would be a big surprise if I see this score at the end of the exam. And, I was really surprised.
I have not actively participated in the forum, something I regard as a shame, but I know a debrief could at least help someone in a similar situation. So, I would like to share my experiences below:

Background
As a South Korean, 35-year old male, I think I'm probably in a unique demographic at least in the forum. I began studying abroad as a sophomore in a U.S. high school and ended up going one of Ivy League schools. But, I didn't get a decent SAT score: perfect score in math but sub-par score in verbal (I'm sure this verbal score was much lower than my school's average). After graduating as an Economics major with Math minor, I have worked in a family business ever since then.

GMAT Preparation
I started my preparation around Feb. 20th by searching through websites and blogs and reviewing what other people have done. Fortunately, someone mentioned about gmatclub, which made my preparation journey much easier. If you have no idea about how to start your study, go through this link, and you will get a sense of what's out there.

1) Study Materials

- Official Guide 2020: This is no brainer, and everyone must get one official guide. Any other recent editions will be fine. OG 2021 is also available online.
- Manhattan Prep 6th edition: There are other options, but I believe Manhattan Prep books, as they are recommended the most in the forum, are the most comprehensive and the best option if you have more than 2 months to study.
- Math Revolution (Short-cut 51): They have 5 different offers, and I chose the least expensive one, which is $79 for one-month access. But, I wouldn't recommend it highly as their approach is too much different from conventional. I decided not to use their approach since the conventional approach is more intuitive for me, and if I had to start all over, I would just read Manhattan quant books and do gmatclub's practice tests.
- GMAT™ Official Practice Questions + Exams 3 to 6
- GMAT™ Official Advanced Questions
- GMATNinja's posts on verbal and all of youtube videos (links to them: posts and videos): They are all worth reading and watching if you have time. He is super famous for his verbal expertise, but I found his quant videos were nice, too. Also, whenever I needed explanations to the verbal problems posted in the forum, I first looked for his explanation as his was the most comprehensive. GMATNinja Thank you so much.
- GMAT Club's youtube channel: This isn't exactly a study material, but I think everyone should subscribe this channel to support them. They also occasionally feature GMAT lessons and has many MBA-related videos, and I have enjoyed watching them during my commute.

2) Study Timeline

Week 1-3: I started with the diagnostic test in OG, un-timed, and missed 8 out of 48 quant questions and 15 out of 52 verbal quesitions. But, especially for verbal section, I probably spent 1.5~2 times more time than I was supposed to. I decided to begin with quant as I was way more comfortable in quant than in verbal and wanted to get passed with one of two sections as soon as possible. At this point, I had only bought an OG and nothing else and was still searching for which prep books I should get. I happen to notice that one quant instructor is famous in Korea and have online lessons available. These lessons were given in Korean, which I feel definitely more comfortable than English, but since I had my high school and college education in the U.S., explaining math using terms like variables in Korean is ironically less comfortable. Coincidentally, I noticed that Math Revolution happens to be created by this same Korean instructor, so I just went for one-month offer and finished it in about 3 weeks.

Week 4-5: While studying for quant with Math Revolution, I received all Manhattan Prep books 6th edition books from a friend, who had bought them a year earlier but happened to just leave them on his bookshelves untouched. Because I was already in quant with other material, I decided to read just the three verbal books. Going through these three books doesn't take much time, but I think the Sentence Correction book is worth read twice preferably. As already verified by many people in the forum, Manhattan SC is really good for building a solid base, which I think is especially crucial in SC. Regarding RC and CR books, I'm not sure how much they actually helped, but you should read them if you are already with this package as RC and CR books are relatively short. CR and RC books teach you how to take notes, and I tried, but note-taking in verbal just didn't work out for me since I lose focus while taking notes, not to mention that it takes more time. So, I think note-taking is not something absolutely necessary, depending on what type of person you are. Because of Covid-19, I could spare more time at work, so this is when I started spending 4-5 hours a day to study.

Week 6-9: I started solving OG 2020 problems and tried to solve problems from each of the five sections (2 in quant+3 in verbal) everyday. I also tried to keep the time for each problem in mind as spending a reasonable amount of time is important. But, thinking back, I feel that I shouldn't have cared about time at least for the first half of problem solving period. For one reason, by not thinking about timing, one can have more focus on actually solving and understanding each problem, so at first, I recommend solving problems un-timed. If timing is always in the back of your head, it will be not only distracting but also stressful. For another reason, we can gain a sense of timing later when we are more familiar with each question types and with anything else in general. I also used the error log provided by bb (Thank you / link) to keep track of missed problems and the level of difficulty. Before the actual exam, I re-solved the missed ones.
I also bought GMAT Official Practice Questions and GMAT Official Advanced Questions from mba.com. As OG is considered to be easier on average than the actual exam, these two sources have many more problems of high levels of difficulty. I wanted to concentrate on official questions especially for verbal, so I recommend these question packs if you want to do the same.

Week 10-11: With two weeks left until the actual exam, I started taking practice test. Again, I only took GMAT Official practice tests although I had access to six Manhattan Prep tests. One interesting thing to note happened as below:

GMAT Prep #1: 690 (Q50, V32, IR7) - April 25th
GMAT Prep #2: 710 (Q49, V38, IR8) - April 26th
GMAT Prep #3: 740 (Q50, V40, IR7) - May 2nd
GMAT Prep #4: 590 (Q50, V21, IR4) - May 5th (no typos for scores here)

For #1, even though it was just a practice test taken at home, I felt a little nervous because I was worried about getting a low score, which would make me lose confidence. Getting 690 was a relief considering that it was the first try, as I was aiming for 700+ and set a realistic target at 730. Nervousness and timing issue actually cost me a lot in verbal, so I was confident that there was much to improve quickly on that part. On the next day, I took #2 and immediately improved 6 points in verbal. I felt good about my progress so far and kept working on solving problems in the question banks of gmatclub forum (again, only official ones). I think I retired almost all the official SC/CR questions. A few days later, I took practice test #3 and got 740, which made me excited. With 6 days left for the actual test, it seemed I was ready. All I should care about for the next 6 days were to keep my mental and physical condition at best and to solve and review some problems for the sake of maintenance. Then, I decided to take another practice test. As you already noticed, I scored 590. My excuse is that I completely lost composure during verbal section. I don't exactly now why, but for the previous three tests, I saw a few of SC and CR questions first, followed by RC. But, in test#4, the first one was CR, and the next were two consecutive RC passages, which means 7-8 RC problems. It somehow made me uncomfortable and hard to concentrate, plus overall level of difficulty seemed higher. One takeaway I got from this experience was that I should be prepared for anything unusual and that maintaining composure is the most important thing on the test day.

Test Day (May 8th)
Fortunately, the test centers are open in my country with limited seats for each day. My test was at 12:30 pm in Seoul. I woke up at 7 am and read some articles. I solved about 10 questions from each of SC and CR, and that was it. It took about an hour to get to the nearest subway station to the test center, and I arrived an hour and a half earlier. I ate a sandwich for lunch and bought a gatorade and a couple of energy bars. (There's a story about gatorade, which is told by slingfox in his debrief). I still had about 30 minutes left and decided to wait at the test center, but as I entered into the center, they immediately started the procedures. I read some instructions about Covid-19 and the test, and signed the agreements. Then, they took my photo and scanned both of my palms. I put all my belongings in the locker except my passport and was guided to the test room. In front of the test room, I was asked to flip all my pockets and to scan myself as it is done in airport security. One of my palms was scanned again, and I was escorted to my seat. Because of Covid-19, they maintain 3-4 empty seats between every two test takers, which was good for test-taking experience.
Okay, enough about every little details and to the main point. Pre-exam instructions on computer was basically the same as the practice tests except that I actually had to choose up to five school to send score reports. Then, I chose to do in the order of Quant - Verbal - IR - AWA. I was thinking about doing verbal first, but as I was starting to feel nervous at the time, I decided to take quant first to get me focused and lose some of that nervousness. Also, I experienced how much detrimental it could be in verbal when I get nervous. Overall, the level of difficulty was not very different from the practice tests, but I still felt the actual test was little bit trickier and with three problems and three minutes left, I had to almost guess them. After the quant section, I took the optional 8-minute break. I wasn't very confident about the quant, and my guess was maybe 49. Anyway, what's done is done, I had some gatorade, gave my body some stretches, and went back in after about 5 minutes.
One thing to note is that once you are out of the testing room, you need to perform the pre-entering procedures again, which wasn't that much bothering, but I heard it could be an issue when there are many people taking tests. So, I started verbal section and after maybe 5-6 problems, I began feeling nervous again. During 65 minutes of verbal, I was on the verge of falling into panic mode twice and thought that this GMAT thing is not working for me because there were just many doubts in my answers. At each time of feeling seriously nervous, I tried to breathe and maintain composure. I'm sure someone in the forum also talked about breathing in his debrief. Somehow, I was able to finish all problems on time, with 1-2 questions guessed towards the end.
I decided not to take the break this time and went straight into IR. There's no surprises here, and my strategy with IR is that I just guess one CR-like problem, which I hate the most and has the least chance of getting correct. Then, I get 30 minutes for the rest 11 problems, and it was enough time for me. If you run short of time, taking hard guesses on 1-2 problems you hate might be a good strategy. For AWA, I just followed the famous template in this forum and will update my post after receiving the official score report.
Right after AWA, the scores came out, and I was shockingly surprised. During the exam, I thought to myself this one is over and will be nowhere close to 700. 730 was my exact target, and I couldn't have asked for any more points on this one.

This briefing took much more time than I thought and is maybe too gibberish, and anyhow I'd like to close it now. For last words, I would recommend learning to keep composure if you easily get nervous like me and don't give up during the test no matter how much you feel bad about it. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them as reply.


* I have another test registered on May 26th because I signed up for two tests well in advance. If I choose to cancel the remaining one now, I only get $75 refund, so I'm thinking to just go ahead and take it, and see if I improve. If anybody has opinions about retaking, considering the fact that I'm a very old candidate aiming top 10-15 with 730 GMAT, please give me some comments.

Originally posted by kimchuri on 09 May 2020, 04:09.
Last edited by kimchuri on 10 May 2020, 02:30, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 07:53
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Thanks for your comprehensive debrief. Congratulations on hitting your goal on your first attempt! Your objective review of prep materials is particularly helpful for future test takers.

If you do decide to take another test scheduled on May 26th, do let us know about your score. Certainly it can go either slightly higher or lower. With 730 secured, you shall feel relaxed on May 26th. Since you aim for higher score, I would recommend that you take a somewhat different (i.e. more risky) strategy just for 5/26. For example, maybe you should speed up a little bit for easy questions. Higher risk may result in better score. Just enjoy the GMAT challenge one more time. Good luck!
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 08:40
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One thing i'm sure about is that i get improved only after i changed my approach. Retake you GMATprep exam with different strategy since with V39 you are a done with concepts. I think if you deep dive in strategy part in these retakes, you may get what you are looking for. Who knows..

I wish i had that score. :)
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 08:52
Oh boy ! Congratulations. Thank you for the detailed debrief.
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 14:33
Congratulations. Welcome to 730 club. Are you applying for this 2020 intake and which MBA programs are you targeting?

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GMAT 1: 730 Q50 V39
Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 16:05
zhanbo wrote:
Thanks for your comprehensive debrief. Congratulations on hitting your goal on your first attempt! Your objective review of prep materials is particularly helpful for future test takers.

If you do decide to take another test scheduled on May 26th, do let us know about your score. Certainly it can go either slightly higher or lower. With 730 secured, you shall feel relaxed on May 26th. Since you aim for higher score, I would recommend that you take a somewhat different (i.e. more risky) strategy just for 5/26. For example, maybe you should speed up a little bit for easy questions. Higher risk may result in better score. Just enjoy the GMAT challenge one more time. Good luck!


Sure, I will post about the second try afterwards. It makes total sense to take a more risky strategy on the next one, and I will try it and let you know. Thank you for the advice.
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 16:06
lnm87 wrote:
One thing i'm sure about is that i get improved only after i changed my approach. Retake you GMATprep exam with different strategy since with V39 you are a done with concepts. I think if you deep dive in strategy part in these retakes, you may get what you are looking for. Who knows..

I wish i had that score. :)


Thanks, I will definitely try a different strategy on the next one. Let's see how it goes.
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2020, 16:11
chondro48 wrote:
Congratulations. Welcome to 730 club. Are you applying for this 2020 intake and which MBA programs are you targeting?

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Thank you. I am applying for the next one, 2021 intake, for many reasons. I'm targeting Wharton, CBS, Haas, NYU. I know they are long shots, and I'm still undecided with safer ones.
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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 May 2020, 06:54
Hi kumchuri,

Many many congratulations on a great score in your first attempt.

I have two little questions' for you.

1. So did you take the 2nd exam on yesterday,26th ?

2. How will you rate real GMAT's verbal difficulty level with that of Gmatprep Mocks ?
Is SC similar or harder in real thing ?

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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 May 2020, 23:55
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Hi Shivam1809,

Thank you for the kind words, and answers to your questions are:

1. Yes, I took the second test, but unfortunately, I scored lower, so just canceled it. Little disappointed but I will leave GMAT behind now and focus on other parts of the applications.

2. Although this is just my feeling, I think real GMAT seems harder. But, the scores from GMAT PREP do show good indications of the real one. I don't think SC alone is any different in terms of difficulty level, and overall difficulty of verbal feels harder.

Hope this helped.

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New post 28 May 2020, 00:08
Thank you for your insights.
Best wishes for the next phase.
Keep it the good work.

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Re: Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)   [#permalink] 28 May 2020, 00:08

Debrief - 730 (Q50, V39, IR8)

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