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Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated

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Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jan 2019, 20:17
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Bitterly disappointing, as I was expecting/hoping not to score less than a 700 and was aiming for a 720. I'm hoping to get admitted to a top 15 school, so needless to say, a 660 won't cut it.

The Q score and V score were tied for the lowest that I had scored across my 3 GMAT Prep mocks for both topic areas, and my overall score was 30 points lower than my worst practice test score (scored a 730, 700, and a 690 on 3 exams, respectively) which was really disheartening. One issue that I had during my mocks was that I was making a lot of careless mistakes on relatively easy calculations. On the actual exam, other than the on last question (when I was completely burned out), I felt that I had really cleaned this up, and I really don't feel that any of the questions I got wrong were due to careless mistakes (and I had 2 weeks of nearly uninterrupted studying where I really focused on timing/accuracy), as much as they were conceptual struggles.

I'm in a situation where I'm working at a job that's a horrible fit for me, and unfortunately this created some extreme and undue stress for me. I really dislike the work that I do, and I often have long hours which makes my time (and more importantly quality of studying) diminish greatly. The first 2 weeks of the month I'm working roughly 12 hour days.

Normally, I'm pretty stressed and high strung as is, but even 8 days prior to my exam I started feeling ill from the pressure/stress. I think for me it was not so much fear of doing poorly on the exam itself, rather than it was knowing that the worse I did on the exam, the less likely my chances of getting out of my current situation would be that caused me to feel this way. I know it took a toll on me well before exam day and was probably a cumulative effect (I actually probably got the best rest I had gotten in those last 2 weeks the night before the exam). Unfortunately, I'm not in a position where I can just quit my job without another one in hand. In an ideal world, I'd have the GMAT completed before focusing all my energy/effort on a job hunt. However, if this keeps on for much longer, I'll have likely revisit this decision and consider focusing on studying full time. Anyways...

Things that took me aback on the actual exam:
-Data sufficiency felt far more conceptual and less concrete than what I was used/was expecting. I'm not sure how much of this was due to the stress/fatigue of test day, and how much of it was really was just generally more abstract questions. I'm guessing it's a bit of both.

-The number of Geometry questions I received. This topic has always my Achille's heel, I had put a lot of work into this subject. I'm honestly not sure how I did here, but I have the feeling I slipped up here and there's a decent chance that I got all of these questions wrong. There were two questions about a concept that I knew, but I feel like they were just out of my reach on test day. I also know that there was one question that I had absolutely zero clue how to solve correctly and was a blind guess. Unfortunately for me, I believe I received five questions in this topic area (I'm certain that it was at least four). A little bit of bad luck, to be sure.

-My pacing felt off from the start. The first question is one I feel that normally I'd solve in about 45 seconds or so, but it took me the full 2 minutes. I normally take all the time to finish Quant, but never really get rushed until the last question or two (if even). On the actual exam, halfway through, I noticed that I was actually a few seconds BEHIND having a 2 minute pace. Similarly, on verbal, I often finish with about 10 minutes remaining, but on the actual exam, similarly needed just about every minute.

-The IR actually felt a little bit easier than the practice questions. I was actually surprised I got a 6 (my IR scores on GMA6T Prep tests were 5/8/4) and thought I might have gotten a seven or eight.

-Sentence correction seemed much harder on the actual exam than questions elsewhere (including GMAT Prep Tests). The splits felt more subtle and the sentence length generally felt longer than what I had felt with my practice exams. I really was quite taken aback by how hard the questions felt, here. I spent the bulk of my verbal practice time prepping for Sentence Correction, as well, which made this result all the more disappointing. Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning felt more or less the same to me difficulty-wise.

Things I wish I did differently:
I spent a lot of time reading the last 2 weeks. I wish I had instead spent more time doing practice questions. Moving forward, since I don't have a hard deadline for a retake, I'll try once again do both, but shortly before I actually take the test again, I'll switch my focus to solely doing questions and reviewing why I'm getting particular questions wrong (rather than comprehensive reading).

I also wish I had faster recall of some rote formulas/concepts. I feel like I had memorized just about all I needed to, but I couldn't apply concepts/recall things as quickly as I needed to (especially for Geometry).

Resources Used:
MGMAT Advanced Quant
Critical Reasoning Bible
Veritas books (only used the quant books)
Magoosh course (mainly used as a QBank and for sentence correction review)
Target Test Prep (last couple of weeks before exam, only)

Plan moving forward:
-Due to work load at work and just general mental fatigue, I've basically taken a month off without any real studying. I've been sleeping a lot more than usual the past few weekends (taking naps on weekend when I usually don't) and been generally exhausted all around. I will likely pick up studying again this coming weekend.

-Trying to stay positive. Simple enough, but easier said than done, but since I don't plan to apply to B-Schools until next year, I still have plenty of time.

-Figuring out a good resource to use for Sentence Correction. I felt that I had a hard time identifying what the problems were testing in many of the sentences due to the subtle splits - something which normally is a strength of mine.

-Reading through the Manhattan Sentence Correction book and re-reading the Critical Reasoning Bible.

-Using Target Test Prep to solve questions for quant. Reviewing/retaking some GMAT Club Quant tests.

-Take the 3 remaining GMAT Prep exams that I have available; perhaps 1 a month moving forward.

If anyone has some good suggestions for sentence correction review, and or general strategies of how to go about consistently scoring a V40, I'd appreciate it (I score a V36/V38/V45 on my 3 GMAT Prep exams for reference). I feel like preparation for Reading Comprehension won't really do me much good, but Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning I can certainly stand to make some marked improvement with practice.
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Re: Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jan 2019, 19:26
Hi cecilpaladin32,

I'm sorry to hear that Test Day did not go as well as hoped. This Official Score is similar to the CAT Scores you reported about 2.5 months ago, so while you may have just had a bit of a 'bad day' on Test Day, it's also possible that you're 'stuck' at this particular 'score level.' I agree that taking some 'time off' from your studies would probably be a good idea; however, quitting your job to study for the GMAT full-time is probably NOT necessary.

You might also choose to purchase the Enhanced Score Report. While the ESR doesn't provide a lot of information, there are usually a few data points that we can use to define what went wrong (and what you should work on to score higher). If you purchase the ESR, then I'll be happy to analyze it for you. When you're ready to get back into a normal study routine again, you should post back here (you can also feel free to PM or email me directly) and we can discuss how best to proceed.

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Re: Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jan 2019, 08:27
cecilpaladin32 wrote:
If anyone has some good suggestions for sentence correction review, and or general strategies of how to go about consistently scoring a V40, I'd appreciate it (I score a V36/V38/V45 on my 3 GMAT Prep exams for reference). I feel like preparation for Reading Comprehension won't really do me much good, but Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning I can certainly stand to make some marked improvement with practice.

Hi cecilpaladin32.

From what I have seen, GMAT Sentence Correction is becoming more subtle, tricky, and logic based. Splits are often false, and the most correct sounding answer is often the wrong one. So, skill in defining exactly what's wrong with the logic of an incorrect choice is paramount.

Accordingly, the most important thing you can do to score higher in Sentence Correction, and in GMAT verbal in general, is to carefully analyze questions and learn to more clearly define why wrong choices are wrong and correct answers are correct. You could use for this purpose even questions that you have already seen, because you won't be merely seeking to determine which answers are correct. You will be going through each choice to determine what exactly about that choice makes it correct or incorrect.

As you do so, keep in mind that the GMAT really doesn't care much about your knowledge. The point is not to "test modifiers," or something along those lines. The GMAT is testing your skill in seeing exactly what is going on.

I see people come through who can get many SC questions correct, but then, when I ask them to define what exactly makes choices correct or incorrect, they have trouble verbalizing it. Then, when they get to the actual test, with SC questions that you can answer only if you can define exactly what's going on, they get smoked.

CR is similar. There are subtly wrong trap answers in CR questions, and in RC questions for that matter. To train to get more of these questions correct, once again, you have to slow down in practice and go way beyond using "irrelevant," "too extreme," or "I don't see how this would affect the argument," to defining with precision why a choice is correct or incorrect. Seek to logically prove wrong answers wrong and right answers right.

At first, it may take twenty minutes per question to do this type of analysis. You'll speed up though.

By the way, whatever you do, unless you are sure that you have gotten every verbal question correct, do not finish the section early. By doing so, you are just leaving points on the table.
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Re: Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jan 2019, 09:12
cecilpaladin32 wrote:
If anyone has some good suggestions for sentence correction review, and or general strategies of how to go about consistently scoring a V40, I'd appreciate it (I score a V36/V38/V45 on my 3 GMAT Prep exams for reference). I feel like preparation for Reading Comprehension won't really do me much good, but Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning I can certainly stand to make some marked improvement with practice.

Also, by the way, get in the habit of looking for a better decision point in Sentence Correction. When you don't see the correct answer to a Sentence Correction question, you might be looking at the wrong decision point. Usually, there is another one, which may be clearer than the one you are going back and forth on.
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Re: Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jan 2019, 10:37
Hi cecilpaladin32,

Thank you for providing such a detailed debrief. Although your actual GMAT score was lower than your last three practice exam scores, 660 is not a total disaster, right? Also, I like your attitude; you have plenty of time to turn the ship around, so there is no reason not to be positive. Given how uneasy you were in the weeks leading up to your actual GMAT, it’s quite possible that nerves, stress, tiredness, or a combination of all three negatively affected your test-day performance. However, it’s also possible that you have some lingering weaknesses that were exposed on test day. So, moving forward, you need to ensure that you are following a clear and thorough study plan to fill gaps in your knowledge and address your quant and verbal weaknesses.

For quant, I’m glad to see that you are using Target Test Prep. My suggestion is to FOLLOW AND COMPLETE the study plan. Don’t skip around and don’t cut corners. If you complete the course, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to hit a 49+ quant score on your GMAT. If you’d like to discuss the TTP course further, feel free to PM me.

For verbal, I’m happy to provide some detailed advice on how to improve your Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction skills. Let’s start with Critical Reasoning. First, you need to master the individual Critical Reasoning topics: Strengthen the Argument, Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, etc. As you learn about each question type, do focused practice so 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.

Another major mistake that people make when training for CR is that they do practice questions too fast. To get Critical Reasoning questions correct, you have to see exactly what's going on in the passages and answer choices, and you likely won't learn to do so by spending a few minutes on each question. At this stage of your training, you may need to spend as many as fifteen minutes on each question, learning to see what there is to see. Here is a way to look at this process: If you get a new job in a field in which you are not experienced, you may not be as fast as the other people working with you, but you know you have a job to do and you make sure you learn all the angles, so that you do the job well, if not as quickly as those around you. Rushing through the job and doing it incorrectly would not make sense. Then, as you gain more experience, you learn to do the same job more quickly. Think of Critical Reasoning questions similarly. Your job is to do what? To get through questions quickly? Not really. Your job is to get correct answers.

So, first you have to learn to get correct answers, generally at least 10 to 15 in a row consistently, and more in a row would be better. That is your job, and if it takes you fifteen minutes per question to get correct answers consistently, then so be it. Only after you have learned to get correct answers consistently can you work on speeding up. Working quickly but not doing your job is useless. Better to work slowly and learn to do your job well. You can be sure that with experience, you will learn to speed up, and then you will still be doing your job well, i.e., getting correct answers consistently.

Finally, a key aspect of getting correct answers to Critical Reasoning questions is noticing the key differences between trap choices and correct answers. Trap choices can sound temptingly correct but don't get the job done. The logic of what a trap choice says simply doesn't fit what the question is asking you to find. So, to get better at your job, learn to see the key differences between trap choices and correct answers.

Regarding Sentence Correction, 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, you likely will have to work on all three of those aspects. Furthermore, the likely reason that your Sentence Correction performance has not improved is that you have not been working 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 just a test of knowledge of grammar rules. The reason for learning 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. 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 logical meanings. 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 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.

I know that I provided a lot of advice, so feel free to reach out with further questions.

Let’s do this!!
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Re: Disappointing 660 (Q45/V36/IR 6)...retake imminent, advice appreciated   [#permalink] 27 Jan 2019, 10:37
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