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Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations

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Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Jan 2019, 10:37
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First of all, I want to thank everyone at GMATClub for the incredible amount of content and detail archived on these forums. Many hours were spent reading question explanations and general strategies, so I thought I would give back a little to possibly help others.

A bit of a background on me:
  • USA born and raised, native English speaker
  • Attended a top 50 public university majoring in Economics
  • Work in a relatively quantitative field, though was definitely different than the GMAT Quant section
  • Plan on applying to business schools in three years, but wanted to get the GMAT out of the way as soon as possible

Resources Used:
  • Official Guide 2019
  • Manhattan GMAT Topic Books
  • Bunuel Math Guide
  • Various adhoc guides found on GMATClub
  • Manhattan GMAT practice CATs
  • GMATPrep Official CATs (all 6)

Studying process:
I kept meticulous detail of my studying, partly so I knew what I had already covered and partly because I knew GMATClub might be interested. Overall, I studied exactly 150 hours from first browsing this forum to the night before my exam. This studying was done over 8 weeks and I spent close to 3 hours a day studying GMAT topics. These 150 hours are best thought of in three parts, each consisting of 50 hours.

1) First 50 hours was spent reviewing topics, concepts, format of exam, etc. I primarily used the Manhattan GMAT guide, as well as a number of ad-hoc guides found here on GMATClub (shoutout to Bunuel, Walker, Shrouded1, and BB for their Quant guide). I found the MGMAT resources pretty detailed and relatively well suited to learning the concepts. I spent a good amount of time working through the various math guides, as well as the sentence correction and critical reasoning guides. I would definitely say these provided me a good foundation, even if I didn't use all the techniques and suggestions presented.

2) Second 50 hours was spent working through practice problems from the 2019 Official Guide I purchased. I used the registration key to get the questions online, which I thought was a better simulation of the exam. I worked through over 1000 questions, reviewing my answers and seeking to understand where I went wrong. I particularly was focused on finding my weak spots. I soon discovered that critical reasoning was a strength, as was reading comprehension, but sentence correction needed some improvement. On the Quant side, I really disliked the data sufficiency problems (I still do) but made sure to work through as many as I could. I would always time myself when doing these questions. When seeking explanations for problems I would copy and paste the answer into google and find a relevant thread here on GMAT club in order to understand where I went wrong, which was quite useful.

3) Third 50 hours was spent doing practice exams. I started off with Manhattan GMAT but soon realized two things: the math section was far more difficult than I expected and the verbal wasn't an accurate representation of the actual questions. From this I modified my strategy to use an entire MGMAT CAT just for the math section, then would blaze through the verbal, IR, and essay guessing random answers. This allowed me to focus on the math section. After I used a few MGMAT CATs, I moved on to the official GMAT Prep CATs. My practice exam scores are as follows (only the ones I tried fully on each section):

#1: MGMAT CAT - 680 (Q40 V42)
#2: MGMAT CAT - 690 (Q46 V38)
#3: MGMAT CAT - 690 (Q46 V38)
#4: GMATPREP CAT - 750 (Q48 V44)
#5: GMATPREP CAT - 730 (Q48 V41)
#6: GMATPREP CAT - 760 (Q49 V47)
#7: GMATPREP CAT - 770 (Q50 V47)
#8: GMATPREP CAT - 740 (Q49 V42)
#9: GMATPREP CAT - 770 (Q48 V51)
Official Exam: 750 (Q49 V44)

As you can see, the Quant section on MGMAT is more difficult than the GMATPREP exams, and it appears the Verbal is as well, though I would say the main reason I didn't do so well on the MGMAT was that the questions were written differently and can't be considered as accurate as the official exams. I would highly recommend people only to use official guide resources when preparing for Verbal.

I would consistently get 7 or 8 on the IR section, and wasn't concerned with writing a fully developed argumentative essay, so I would just jot down 300 words in 15 minutes then submit. I will say I can't yet say how my essay strategy worked because I haven't received results yet.

Exam Day:
I took the exam on the 28th at 2:15 in the afternoon, which allowed me to relax in the morning, fully wake up, and eat a nice hearty meal beforehand. I worked out a little in the morning, just enough to get my blood pumping, then drove about 45 minutes to the testing center. I arrived about 20 minutes early but they allowed me to start the exam right away, which was nice. The center itself was pretty cool, lot's of people testing, and they provided me with headphones to cancel out any noise. I elected to take the exam in the order as follows: Verbal, Quant, IR, Essay.

My heart was pounding quite a bit during the Verbal section, and I noticed the questions were definitely slightly harder than the practice exam. Looking at my detailed score report, it appears I missed four questions overall, and my final score of 44 is pretty consistent with how I was testing on the practice exams. I would've liked to have done better on this section, but will take a 44 as it is still 98th percentile.

The quant section was off to a decent start, and I worked my way through a number of the problems accurately, answering with what I thought was good conviction. The difficulty of the actual exam was in-between the MGMAT (harder) and the GMATPREP (easier) practice exams. I wished I had spent more time reviewing difficult Quant topics but oh well. A problem began to arise near the end of the exam as I watched the timer slowly tick down, my mind doing quick mental math to determine how much time I would have per question. I ended up rushing the 4th and 3rd to last questions, and straight up guessing on the last two questions. My enhanced score report shows I missed 50% of questions on the last quartile of the exam, and that likely harmed my score, dropping it to the 49 which was what I received. I really wish I had left enough time to accurately answer the last few questions, which I imagine would have helped me get a 50 and possibly 760 overall, though that is water under the bridge.
Integrated reasoning was fine, and I received a score of 7. Nothing crazy to report here and the exam was almost identical to what I had seen on practice exams.
Essay I spent the full 30 minutes on and was able to write what I think was a well thought-out, though perhaps scattered, essay.
When I saw the final 750 I was happy, though not ecstatic, but relieved it was over. The proctor who printed my unofficial score remarked, "This is a very impressive score, we don't get many of those around here."

Final Thoughts:
At first I considered retaking the exam to boost my quant score (and hopefully overall score), but after reading business school forums elsewhere, realized the addition to my application by having a 760 as compared to a 750 is nil and my time would better be spent dedicating my time to extracurriculars, etc.

I'm happy to answer any questions the community might have.
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Re: Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Jan 2019, 19:47
Congratulations on a great score! You definitely don't need to retake! When approaching quantitative questions did you use any special techniques (Test Cases, Plug In, etc)? I seem to be too caught up in doing every calculation... and there are definitely ways that I can solve problems faster.
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Re: Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jan 2019, 10:04
almazovniko wrote:
When approaching quantitative questions did you use any special techniques (Test Cases, Plug In, etc)? I seem to be too caught up in doing every calculation... and there are definitely ways that I can solve problems faster.


That was my biggest weakness I think. I spent the majority of my Quant prep time learning problems inside and out so I could solve them faster, and ended up getting stuck in the rut of always trying to solve DS problems when many cases I might not have needed to. I would test cases when I was stuck on where to start, and used plug in a few times to double check an answer or brute force the problem if I was really stuck. The only issue I found with these two techniques is they can take time.
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Re: Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jan 2019, 21:42
Awesome debrief and an amazing score!
Thank you for so great insight.

I was just curious about the practice CATs.

According to you, are MGMAT CATs a true representation but, harder than the Quant section on the Official Exam? (by "true representation" I mean that the question formation is similar to the Official Exam)

And is the Verbal section easier on the GMATPrep CATs than the Official Exam?

Also, what is your advice for future GMAT Test takers on Practice CATs (like MGMAT and GMATPrep) and how to get the most out of them so that one can get an accurate picture of his ability to perform on the real test?
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Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Jan 2019, 09:08
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j.shivank

I would say this: I think the MGMAT CAT Quant questions focus slightly more on "abstract" questions than the actual exam. By this I mean questions such as the following:

Is the positive integer N a perfect square?

(1) The number of distinct factors of N is even.
(2) The sum of all distinct factors of N is even.


Questions like these, which are less problem solving focused and more abstract, appear slightly more often on the MGMAT CATs than the actual exam or on GMATPREP CATs. That being said, if you can do really well on the MGMAT CAT Quant section, you will likely be fine on the actual exam. Other than that I would say they are pretty similar.

MGMAT Verbal is pretty rough and I wouldn't use it to prep for the official exam.

For the GMATPREP CAT Verbal section, the questions are indeed a little easier, though this is limited I felt to the SC and CR components. Clearly I was able to still do pretty well but there were a number of questions I spent a good amount of time on.

To use practice CATs fully, find three and a half hours uninterrupted to fully work through the exam as if it were the real thing. This is really helpful to get the pacing accurate and develop your brain stamina. I found in the first few CATs I was pretty wiped out after the Verbal and Quant section, and pretty much didn't focus on the IR and Essay. Over time I was able to have more and more energy after finishing the main two sections and was able to then focus on IR. I would also use your incorrect answers to focus your studying, and would go through all the questions again just to fully understand why the answer you chose was either right or wrong. Finally, I would suggest using a wet erase marker on laminated paper to get used to writing with that, as that is what you will have on the real exam.

My final score was the average of all my GMATPrep CATs, and I would imagine this might be an accurate indicator of how you will score, on average. Maybe knock down 10 points or so due to added difficulty on the verbal section.

Happy prepping!
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Debrief - 750 (Q49 V44) Study Strategy and Observations &nbs [#permalink] 04 Jan 2019, 09:08
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