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Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy?

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Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 09 Apr 2010, 04:51
Hi everyone,

First, as this is my first post, many thanks to everyone at GMAT Club for their tremendous helpfulness. This is a fantastic site with invaluable resources and a very supportive community. Although I've been lurking for a while, this forum has been tremendously helpful in trudging through studying.

I'm hoping to get some advice on strategies for retaking (and perhaps whether I should retake) the GMAT. I took my first stab at the exam this past Sunday and although my overall score was over that magical 700 mark, my relatively low quant score (44) is below that even more magical 80% mark. I'll be applying to Wharton, HBS, MIT and the like for matriculation in 2011. I know conventional wisdom says that unless I had an uncharacteristically poor performance on test day, I should focus my efforts on other parts of the application. But since that's relatively far away, I don't know if I can sit tight for so long wondering if I could make a more convincing quant score.

I studied intensively for about three months using primarily MGMAT, the official guides and GMAT Prep versions one and two. Except for about 5 days of verbal, I studied exclusively quant since this was my weakness from the beginning. My score history is below. My strategy was to do practice problems and extensively review mistakes, guesses and slow work. In general, I seem to have issues over-complicating problems, making basic calculation errors, and missing the point of the question.

It's easy for me to spend 7 minutes on a problem (which I of course wouldn't do in a real test), write a page of calculations and come up with an answer that's not one of the choices! I've tried working very slowly through problems using a detailed plan of attack, making my scratch work beautiful, conceptualizing before diving into details, working under timed conditions, and many other strategies. But I just can't seem to find what my problem is.

Score history:

    GMATPrep V2, Test #1, Try #1: Q43, V42, Overall 690
    Kaplan CAT #1: Q39, V37, Overall 630
    GMATPrep V1, Test #1, Try #1: Q?, V?, Overall 710
    Kaplan CAT #2: Q35
    Kaplan CAT #4: Q47
    MGMAT #1: Q40
    MGMAT #2: Q41, V40
    MGMAT #3: Q46
    MGMAT #4: Q42, V40, Overall 680
    GMAT Prep V1, Test #2, Try #1: Q42, V37, Overall 650
    MGMAT #5: Q43, V45, Overall 720
    GMATPrep V2, Test #1, Try #2: Q48, V44, Overall 750
    GMATPrep V1, Test #1, Try #2: Q50, V?, Overall 760
    GMATPrep V2, Test #1, Try #1: Q48, V40, Overall 720
    GMATPrep V1, Test #2, Try #2: Q47, V48, Overall 760
    REAL DEAL: Q44, V45, Overall 720

Looking through my scores, I wish I had seen coming my disappointment with my quant score, since my final score was inside my typical range. Oh well. I want to figure out why my three months of studying apparently yielded only a 1 point boost from my diagnostic test at Q43 and real test at Q44. My goal would be to get my quant score to a 49.

A little background on me: I graduated from a top liberal arts college in the US with a BA in Computer Science and International Relations. I did fine in college math classes (A in Calc III, B in Linear Algebra, B in Math Structures) and normally math has been my strong suit. After graduating I worked in quant-heavy product management at a software company for 2 years and for the past 1.5 years have worked at a university in long range planning and budgeting. I think my work experience should be very strong and I could get recommenders to focus on my quantitative skills.

My (evolving, hypothetical) Retake Plan
Based on the fantastic post by hobbit "improving your quant from 44-46 to 50+"
    - Sign up with a private tutor who can personally analyze my situation. (I considered a Knewton class, but don't want to invest so much time in basics and in verbal)
    - Focus on repetition of basic skills by practicing easier problems
    - Review every official problem where I was slow or wrong and find similar simpler problems to build the underlying concepts
    - Use the GMATClub tests as my primary base of new difficult practice questions
    - Make more extensive use of Kaplan book to build basic skills
    - (Perhaps) purchase a book like Jeff Sackmann's Total GMAT Math

Questions for the ever-patient and benevolent GMATClub community:
    1) Is retaking with the ambition of going from a Q44 to a Q49 unrealistic given my fairly consistent score history?
    2) Any suggestions on how I might fundamentally change my approach such that I actually see improvement? Suggested materials? Thoughts on the strategy above or using a private tutor as opposed to online classes?
    3) If I didn't retake, how suspiciously will the schools I'm looking at view my low quant score in the context of a math-ish background? Am I crazy for thinking about retaking?

Many thanks in advance for your comments!
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 11 Apr 2010, 11:22
Hi , 720 is indeed a very good score. However, you can also think of retaking the test if you want to increase your quants score. I guess if you retake the exam you will have nothing to loose. Even if you score less than 720 in the second time, Schools take the best of the scores. All the best.
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 11 Apr 2010, 12:59
Msand, thanks for your reply and thoughts. Any ideas on how to change my strategy to bump up the quant score? Somehow all that studying I did didn't get me any improvement from my baseline :?
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 27 May 2010, 03:39
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I just thought I'd update everyone on my retake experience, which has been a long journey starting back in December. I finally retook the GMAT yesterday, and although I only scored ten points higher than my first score, I met my goal of raising my quant score nine percentile points to a 47. My score in the end was a 730/Q47/V45, which I'm happy with. It's finally over!

My strategy was mostly what I described below, starting with signing up for a private tutor to personally analyze my situation. I carefully considered those from the big test companies, but decided it would be better to try out someone independent who didn't have to push certain materials. I tried a few different unimpressive tutors but was firmly convinced by Charles Biblios, aka GMAT Ninja (http://gmatninja.com/). He took a personal interest in my overall goals and was critical to developing a strategy to improving my math performance. Charles is a fun-loving GMAT genius and crackerjack pedagogue. His lighthearted intensity makes boosting your score seem a matter of snapping together legos.

Over the course of several sessions with Charles, he quickly developed a sense of my individual strengths, weaknesses and peculiarities when facing the GMAT. We focused on building basic math skills rather than practicing super difficult problems. I went back to the beginning of the official guides and really took my time to systematically improve my understanding of basic techniques. I caught myself making all kinds of regular calculation mistakes and feeling stumped on things I should have memorized.

I think the critical component was Charles' advice on accuracy and timing. I really had to learn how to pick my battles and skip problems that I know I could solve with more time. Apart from that, I had to treat the problems that I did chose to tackle as a matter of life and death, even checking each step of my work after finishing the problem. This really taught me to be a lot more precise and focus on winning the battles I could in a short period of time.

So, for anyone with a quant score in the mid-forties looking to move closer to that 80 percentile mark, I highly recommend returning to the basics and focusing on refining strategy rather than on mastering difficult problems. Also, especially since studying for the GMAT can seem like such a solitary journey, I highly recommend finding a tutor who can personalize the experience and take an interest in your success. I recommend Charles, the GMAT Ninja, but anyone who can give you expert advice can make a big difference!
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 28 May 2010, 02:43
trimetrus, could you please be more specific on how you overcame making silly mistakes and how you improved your timing? That would help.

Thanks and congratulations on your effort and your perseverance.
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 28 May 2010, 06:36
Congrats and great job
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jun 2010, 03:42
I think the key for me on getting rid of silly mistakes was, as my GMAT tutor said, "treat each problem as a matter of life and death" and checking problems after I finished them (while practicing).

For the first, treating each problem as a matter of life and death, my issue was that I thought going through simple calculations faster was going to save me valuable time. For example, if I had a fraction of 192 divided by 16, I would try and take the smart route of recognizing that this divides evenly in one step instead of just dividing the fraction by two a bunch of times until it got to an easy-to-reduce fraction. I felt afraid of the latter "stupid" approach thinking it would take too long.

For the second, checking problems, I would simply check my work before selecting my answer. It seems simple enough, but I assumed this was another technique that I shouldn't invest in. I did this most intensively while practicing, and just checking taught me to do more careful work because I got to know my errors. For most of the time I only spent time checking while I was doing practice problems. But then I found that the value I got from checking was greater than the time lost, so I incorporated this into my strategy while taking timed tests as well.

Lastly, I really focused on getting right the problems that I could and cutting my losses on the ones I was less likely to get. I had heard this strategy a hundred times, but still assumed that I should only be skipping problems that were very, very difficult. To the contrary, I decided to skip problems I knew I could do but would involve calculations I often mess up. You can get a lot of questions wrong and still get a decent quant score. With that in mind I tried to aim for less and feel comfortable skipping problems I was sure I could do under different circumstances. Learning to invest more time in problems I could do precisely and skipping the ones I couldn't hugely helped my timing strategy.

Hope this helps,
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jun 2010, 07:52
Taylor, thanks a lot for answering my question. It was very useful.
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jun 2010, 00:11
Taylor, you took those private tutoring online?
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Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy? [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jun 2010, 01:08
Yes, we used Skype. He had a camera and a white board so we could work through problems together. Even with the distance between Egypt and New York, it worked perfectly.
Re: Fork in the road: Lopsided 720 (Q44, V45). Retake strategy?   [#permalink] 30 Jun 2010, 01:08
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