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Disheartened and confused

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New post Updated on: 22 Dec 2018, 18:25
Hi all -- I created a GMAT club account today to dump my woes into the ether with hope of getting some confidence again. I just took my 4th CAT exam with hardly any improvement, and am very worried I have leveled off.

For context, I like to think of myself as a smart girl. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in college and have an above average work ethic (my roommates think I live in the kitchen because they see me studying before they fall asleep and I'm there again bright and early when they wake up). However, I think this is why I am so upset-- the amount of effort I've put into GMAT prep since Sept (now Dec 22) is absurd. I average 15-20 hours per week and have done everything by the books: attend classes, keep an error log, make flashcards, mix targeted topic review with timed sets, etc. but my scores are not increasing.

Practice exam history
Sept 14: CAT 1 - 490 (this one was pre GMAT course; i didntt even remember what integer meant, so lets pretend this doesn't exist)
Oct 28: CAT 2- 550 Q36 V30
Nov 25: CAT 3 - 590 Q38 V33
Dec 22: CAT 4 - 580 Q35 V34 :cry:

My MPrep course was Sept 20 - Nov 15, so I'm glad to see that I improved during that time, but am very very sad to see myself level off this much. Does anyone have any advice or ANY hope to lend? The time I'm putting in cannot be increased further (15-20 hrs per week with a full time job!) but I wonder if it's HOW I'm studying? Just feeling helpless... Also, I am prone to careless mistakes in quant (like not distributing within parentheses or selecting the wrong letter-eeek!), but how can I fix the bigger issues? :/

Perhaps other materials besides MPREP books that you suggest I read?

I scheduled my first real test for Feb 23, thinking my practice test scores would continue to increase about 40 pts per month, but I'm getting nervous now... Of course, my target score is 700 like the rest of the world.

Please help! :(

Originally posted by citygrl on 22 Dec 2018, 13:03.
Last edited by citygrl on 22 Dec 2018, 18:25, edited 1 time in total.
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New post 22 Dec 2018, 17:23
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It is difficult to increase linearly 40 points on the GMAT every month as GMAT scores increase. If it were easy to do that, everyone will be scoring perfect 800. What I mean, is that it may be easy to increase from 400 to 440 to 480 to 520 for the first few months, but increasing from 680 to 720 to 760 to 800 will be almost impossible.

You should buy official GMAT book, and register on mba website to practice the questions in the official GMAT book. You will be able to identify and track your areas of strengths and weaknesses. You can then work on your areas of weaknesses. You can search this website (gmatclub.com) and look for the solutions to the questions you miss. I believe, you should be able to score about 700 with time. It might be difficult scoring 700 on February 23. I believe you would score around 650 on February 23. You can hire a private GMAT tutor, if you can afford it. I wish you success.
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New post 22 Dec 2018, 18:24
Appreciate the response, Houston1980. I'm doing all of those things, and took the 9-week in person MPrep course, so I have the official GMAT book as well as 14 others I've been referencing since Sept 20. One thing I have not done, however, is take any practice exams on the GMAC website, which I hear are "easier" / more accurate than Manhattan prep ones (does anyone else feel this way?), so perhaps I'll try that next time for a boost in confidence.

Also, agree that 650 is probably more realistic for the Feb exam, but really hoping for a 700 at some point. Continuing on with the same stamina is tough without seeing much improvement, but I'm determined to do so...

Has anyone used other books beyond the Mprep ones? I have 14 of them (literally) so it's hard to believe I would need anything else, but at this point, I'm feeling a bit desperate...
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New post 23 Dec 2018, 04:15
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Hey citygrl

Don't be discouraged. I know it's been 3 long months of prep and you'd want to see a lot more improvement.
I strongly believe that it is possible because you have a huge chance to improve with quant.
A few months back I was in exactly the same situation as you are right now. Low improvement even after a lot of effort. I have the mgmat entire set. The books are amazing. No doubt with that. But, for me they just were not enough. I could not really retain the things I learnt from the books. It was just slow and boring for me.
I switched to online prep. For some reason I could concentrate more and Understand easily.
That's when my quant improved. So I suggest u to not loose hope and try another source of prep. @targettestprep was really helpful. They also have a 5 day trail.

So don't hesitate to try new sources. Most of them have free trails. It might actually help you a lot. A fresh start is all you need at times!

Good luck with ur prep! :)

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New post 23 Dec 2018, 06:24
citygrl

for Quant, you can check GMATClub Math book

https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-math-bo ... 30609.html
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New post 23 Dec 2018, 08:57
Thanks both--I agree, I think I need some more guided lessons, considering that's when I improved most (in the thick of things with Manhattan prep). Appreciate the encouragement!!
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New post 23 Dec 2018, 12:17
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Hi citygrl,

GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. The MGMAT CATs are generally regarded as being a bit tougher than the real thing, but they're still a reasonably accurate way to assess your skills (assuming that you use the CATs correctly). Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, your 3 CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 580 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. Many Test Takers who use a 'book heavy' approach tend to get 'stuck' at a particular score level - and it's possible that this has happened to you as well.

Improvement in CAT Scores is rarely linear, so you should not expect to improve by a fixed amount from CAT to CAT. The GMAT is remarkably good at giving each Test Taker the Score that he/she EARNS though, so you have to consider WHY you're getting questions wrong (since there's a big difference between getting a question wrong because of a silly/little mistake and getting one wrong because you don't know how to answer it). Raising a 580 to the point that you can consistently score 700+ will likely require at least another 2-3 months of consistent, guided study - and you'll have to make significant improvements to how you handle BOTH the Quant and Verbal sections. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level.

Before I can offer you the specific advice that you’re looking for, it would help if you could provide a bit more information on your timeline and your goals:

1) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
2) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
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New post 23 Dec 2018, 15:31
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EMPOWERgmatRichC has already mentioned all I would I have added. Many people reported increase in official GMAT scores as compared to Manhattan Prep scores. I personally found Manhattan Prep scoring harsher than official GMAT practice tests.
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New post 23 Dec 2018, 16:44
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citygrl wrote:
Hi all -- I created a GMAT club account today to dump my woes into the ether with hope of getting some confidence again. I just took my 4th CAT exam with hardly any improvement, and am very worried I have leveled off.

For context, I like to think of myself as a smart girl. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in college and have an above average work ethic (my roommates think I live in the kitchen because they see me studying before they fall asleep and I'm there again bright and early when they wake up). However, I think this is why I am so upset-- the amount of effort I've put into GMAT prep since Sept (now Dec 22) is absurd. I average 15-20 hours per week and have done everything by the books: attend classes, keep an error log, make flashcards, mix targeted topic review with timed sets, etc. but my scores are not increasing.

Practice exam history
Sept 14: CAT 1 - 490 (this one was pre GMAT course; i didntt even remember what integer meant, so lets pretend this doesn't exist)
Oct 28: CAT 2- 550 Q36 V30
Nov 25: CAT 3 - 590 Q38 V33
Dec 22: CAT 4 - 580 Q35 V34 :cry:

My MPrep course was Sept 20 - Nov 15, so I'm glad to see that I improved during that time, but am very very sad to see myself level off this much. Does anyone have any advice or ANY hope to lend? The time I'm putting in cannot be increased further (15-20 hrs per week with a full time job!) but I wonder if it's HOW I'm studying? Just feeling helpless... Also, I am prone to careless mistakes in quant (like not distributing within parentheses or selecting the wrong letter-eeek!), but how can I fix the bigger issues? :/

Perhaps other materials besides MPREP books that you suggest I read?

I scheduled my first real test for Feb 23, thinking my practice test scores would continue to increase about 40 pts per month, but I'm getting nervous now... Of course, my target score is 700 like the rest of the world.

Please help! :(
As others have already mentioned, There is an inherent issue with the MGMAT question level and in turn overall scoring.

From my experience, MGMAT quant is super calculation intensive and usually every question requires you to spend more than 3 minutes, while this is not the case with offical GMAT tests. In short, dump those tests for quant. Look only for the verbal part. But even in verbal some of the correct answers are questionable hence I would take everything with a pinch of salt.

Since your confidence is hitting the barrel, I would suggest few things

1. Take a deep breath and tell yourself everything is fine. Actually deep breathing does help in your actual GMAT as well.
2. There is an online edition of OG that you can enable with the code that comes with it . I would use that and select some questions and get the feel of the online version of OG. Even though the level of questions is on lower level but you need to get them right before you start working on higher level questions . You won't get a 700 level question in GMAT if you are struggling with 500 or 600 level questions.
3. Create error log, if not doing so. This will help you understand the pain points. Q32 tells me that you are making lot of mistakes in first 10 questions.
4. If you think your basics are fine start with the GMAT club quant tests. These are amazing set of questions. Even though you may end up scoring lower but use these set to learn the tricks on GMAT.
5. For verbal, I used e-gmat and their tests were very close to the real GMAT. The section and topic wise analytics does help in understanding the weak points.
6. Buy GMAT prep tests. With those test, 180 questions comes free that you can use to understand your level of comfort with actual GMAT questions. GmAT prep test should be used judiciously as they are limited and help you gauge your score in actual GMAT test.

The progress is usually very gradual and will occur when you identify and eliminate your weak points.
As for the CATs , as someone mentioned in gmatclub - " taking next CAT without analyzing previous CAT is like taking a temperature every 5 minutes. Until you change something the temperature reading would remain the same" , hence don't take another CAT before you analyze what is wrong .
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citygrl wrote:
Has anyone used other books beyond the Mprep ones? I have 14 of them (literally) so it's hard to believe I would need anything else, but at this point, I'm feeling a bit desperate...


Since you are well into your prep, I feel this may be a good strategy for you (If you like my point then its ok, otherwise you may ignore the same):-

Official questions are like goldmine!! No matter which all material you choose to use, give first preference to OG questions and if you have sufficient time, then give all the six official mocks!!

Important thing is NOT that you have 14 MGMAT books from which you want to study. Important thing is make a note of takeaways after solving each and every question from OG first and then think about doing questions from other sources. There are some concepts which are tested again and again. When you would solve the entire Official guide (Main+Quant+Verbal) and make a note of learnings; then you should see a pattern emerge in terms of concepts tested. Revise these basic concepts which are tested again and again. You should feel more and more confident about your prep. For touching 700, you don't have to be extraordinary. Just ensure that you get the basics right. I really liked this debrief...I hope you find it useful too!! :-

https://gmatclub.com/forum/550-to-750-h ... 91926.html
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New post 26 Dec 2018, 09:31
Thanks, everyone, for the tips and advice!! Sincerely appreciate it. To answer some questions above:

Rich- 1) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
I'm planning to apply this coming fall (fall 2019) to attend school fall 2020

Rich- 2) What Schools are you planning to apply to?
Think this depends how well I do on my GMAT, but would love to go to either Columbia or Oxford, for a few different reasons

VP GMAT
Thank you for all of this advice. Can't tell you how much I appreciate it. First things first is I need to get better about NOT making stupid careless mistakes. I have actually reviewed each CAT I've taken and do indeed keep an error log, but my problem is that many of my CAT incorrect questions are due to the pressure I feel when rushed, causing very silly mistakes (like choosing the wrong letter on the test when I actually circle the right letter on my scrap pad, or forgetting to distribute through a parentheses--btw does anyone else hate that the test doesn't use letters, just bubbles in a row?!). All said, my fundamental knowledge of 500-600 level quant is there (of course, room for improvement), but am confident that without these silly careless errors, I would at least be at a 650 total score. Maybe breathing and relaxing more will help?? I tend to let test anxiety get the best of me, even on practice exams, when I'm feeling rushed. Finally, THANK YOU for suggesting some of these resources, like e-GMAT. I will definitely take a look.

As far as nexts steps go, my plan is to re-focus on my error log, do timed sets for quant to eliminate/reduce careless mistakes under pressure, do times sets for verbal to answer more in shorter time (feel like my score could easily increase if I didn't need to skip for timing, as I can get most correct when I go back and redo) and try some new problems through some of these suggested resources.

Thanks, all!! Will definitely post back here about my progress. I'm so happy I found this community!
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New post 26 Dec 2018, 10:14
Hi citygrl,

With your current Test Date, you have a little less than 2 months of study time. While you could potentially accomplish a great deal in that time, you will have to be really efficient with your studies going forward to get to the point that you could consistently score at the 700+ level. Based on your CAT Scores, you'll have to make significant improvements to how you handle BOTH the Quant and Verbal sections, but from what you describe, it's not clear what exactly you are planning to do different during this next phase of your studies. If you've truly gotten stuck at this level, then continuing to study in the same ways will likely not lead to a substantially higher series of Scores. This is meant to say that you would likely find it beneficial to invest in some new, non-book study materials that get you focused on the proper Quant and Verbal Tactics.

1) Going forward, how many hours do you think you can consistently study each week?

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New post 26 Dec 2018, 10:17
Hey Rich, thanks for your response. I've been able to study about 15-17 hours per week, and can continue to do so until test date. Any suggestions for supplementary non-book materials?
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New post 27 Dec 2018, 06:48
Hi citygrl,

I see that you have already received a lot of good advice. The only thing I would add is for you to go through this article on How to tackle GMAT Test Anxiety since you have mentioned that could be one of the factors and a frustrating one at that. In addition, I invite you to try our Free Trial to evaluate if our course suits your learning style. Below are some direct links. You can get access to 25+ video lessons and 350+ practice questions by signing up for the free trial.
    • Learn to identify "Verb-ed" forms that don’t act as verbs - Play Video Lesson
    • Learn to understand the "Main Point" or purpose of a RC Paragraph - Play Video Lesson

Please feel free to write to us at support@e-gmat.com for any further queries.

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New post 27 Dec 2018, 10:31
Hi citygrl,

Based on everything that you’ve described, I think that you would find the EMPOWERgmat Total Score Booster to be quite helpful. Most of our clients complete that Study Plan in well under 2 months, so the time commitment wouldn't be that bad. We have a variety of free resources on our site (www.empowergmat.com), so you can 'test out' the Course before setting up an Account.

If you have any additional questions, then you can feel free to contact me directly.

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New post 29 Dec 2018, 17:49
Hi citygrl,

Since your quant and verbal scores have plateaued after MANY hours of prep, you really need to look at HOW you have been preparing and make some changes, right? Since your most recent CAT score is a Q35/V34, it’s clear that you lack some of the fundamental quant and verbal skills necessary for a high score. To gain those skills, consider following a gradual and linear study plan that allows you to learn and practice each topic one by one, starting with the foundations before moving to more advanced concepts. By taking such a structured approach, you will methodically fill in knowledge gaps and ensure that no stone is left unturned. If you can study in such a way, I believe that you will be able to fix the “bigger issue,” which appears to be your lack of content knowledge. Let me expand on this idea further.

Say, for example, 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.

Follow a similar routine for verbal. 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 question type, do focused practice so that you can track your skill in answering each type of question. 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, 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. Keep in mind that GMAT Reading Comprehension passages are not meant to be easy to read. So, to better prepare yourself to analyze 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 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 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. It may take time for you to see what you have to see. 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 skills improve, you will then want to practice with questions that test you on skills from multiple Sentence Correction topics.

Regarding prep courses, in addition to seeking advice in this thread, take a look at the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant and verbal courses, and also read through some GMAT success stories to see what materials have worked well for other test-takers.

Lastly, you may find it helpful to read this article about
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT.

Good luck!
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Re: Disheartened and confused  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Dec 2018, 08:10
Wow, Scott. Thank you SO MUCH for this thorough post and detailed suggestions. Creating a GMAT club account was definitely the best thing I could have done for myself that day after my 3rd CAT attempt--this community is incredible and has helped me come to terms with some hard realizations; and just in time, too.

Re: key takeaways + what I'm going to DO about it:
From what I keep hearing (from you and others) it seems like I definitely need to think about supplementing my Mprep knowledge with a guided online course to fill in content gaps and put this knowledge to practice using GMAT-level questions. Content alone will not help me on the GMAT, nor will questions alone. I need to fix both, together. And while I did go through all of the "content" with Manhattan prep using the many books, I'm beginning to realize that I only learned the topics well "enough" at the time I was reading them to stick in my short term memory. In other words: once the questions are no longer in the form of drills, I get stuck, so I definitely need something to help me reinforce the drills and take the content to the next level in the form of questions so I can recognize and apply these skills. I almost feel as though I'm studying for a cumulative final. Not only do I need to reteach myself the content so it sticks, but I also need to master the content so I can apply it to harder, GMAT level, questions. This is where I think a supplemental online course will help me, so I stay on track.

Right now I am experimenting with a few online course trials to see which I like best, and plan to make a decision by Jan 1 (New Year's Resolution!) and candidly, because e-GMAT has a special NYE promo going on right now, so if I do choose them, I'd like to take advantage of it. So far, I have only tried e-GMAT and am actually surprised by how much I'm learning (new and different from my first course with Mprep--I thought after 9 weeks and 14 textbooks from Mprep I would know it all by now, but I'm sadly realizing that this is NOT the case). The only thing I don't love about e-GMAT so far is the accent of the woman teaching the online classes. The sound quality is not the best (a bit muffled/over exposed), so that, coupled with the thick accent, sometimes makes already challenging content a bit harder for me to understand.

In any event, thank you for sending the link to the best quant and verbal courses, ranked by GMATclub super stars. Unfortunately, since I need to improve both verbal and quant, this may be a difficult decision since it seems like some cater to certain weaknesses over others. Regardless of which course I choose, I will keep this thread updated with my decision and my continued GMAT journey.

Thank you ALL for your inspiration and advice. <3
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Re: Disheartened and confused  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Dec 2018, 18:21
My pleasure! Reach out with any further questions.

Good luck!
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Re: Disheartened and confused &nbs [#permalink] 31 Dec 2018, 18:21
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