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From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)

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Joined: 24 Jan 2017
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From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 14 Aug 2017, 05:44
Hi everyone! I just took the GMAT yesterday and finished with a jaw-dropping (exceeded my expectations) 760 (Q51, V41, IR7, AWA6). This forum has been very helpful in my 5-month journey and I want to share to GMATClub members my strategies and hope they could be of help to you too!

Materials used:
GMAT OG 2015
• GMAT OG 2016
GMAT OG 2017 – new questions only
• GMAT OG 2018 – new questions only
• CR Bible (very helpful)
Manhattan GMAT Prep RC, SC, CR
Manhattan GMAT Prep Official guide Problem List (2015 and 2016)
e-GMAT (all free videos, SC was very helpful)
• GMAT CLUB Forum for specific questions and strategies

Practice exams:
• Official GMAT Prep
Veritas Prep – I purchased 7 mock exams for $19. Quant questions are a bit harder than the official ones in my opinion.
• GMAT KMF –Questions are all official questions. The website is in Chinese, but you can use google translate to make an account and navigate around the site.
• Experts’ Global – they offered 15 free mock exams. I like how the software highlights the topics you’re weak at, but I think the questions are not at par with the official ones (especially SC questions). Also, I think the scoring system skewed towards higher scores.
• GMAT Prep OLD software – you can download a copy online

I started my journey in January 2017 by taking an official GMAT PREP exam just to see how I fare without studying. I did not finish any of the sets and ended with a 490 (Q32, V26). In hindsight, I should have just saved the official mock exams for the last stretch of my studies. I prematurely lost 1 precious mock exam! However, getting a low score in the mock exam sent me a clear message – I needed to review my fundamentals to score higher in the exam.

I downloaded all free resources my eyes laid on and started brushing up RC, CR and SC with Manhattan GMAT Prep books. I studied SC, CR and RC for 2 weeks each in that order. I dedicated 2-3 hours almost every night on weekdays and around 5 hours on the weekends. After studying a specific topic, I followed the Manhattan GMAT Prep Official guide Problem List (for OG 2015 and 2016) in which official questions are grouped by topic/difficulty for you to assess which topics you need to work harder on. Similarly, the e-GMAT Scholaranium also provides more than 100 free questions to practice. It also shows your weakest spots and I recommend that you do not stop reviewing for a certain topic until you reach 80% accuracy. Speaking of e-GMAT, I think it has the best lessons about noun/verb modifiers.

Next, for quant, I had a pretty solid background in Math when I was younger so refreshing my HS algebra, geometry and arithmetic came easy. I highly recommend Bunuel’s Math compilation as it covers almost all topics that would be asked in GMAT Quant. I also diligently practiced the Quant sections of OG 2015 and 2016 almost 2x. I did this for 2-3 weeks.

Next came IR and AWA. IR would come natural after studying for Verbal and Quant. It’s just a matter of understanding how the test works and what questions are asked. For AWA, I used the template of chineseburnt. I used the free website gmatawa to evaluate my essays. I consistently scored 5.5-6 using the template of myohmy.

After practicing all sections of the exam, I tried Veritas Prep Exam 1 in late March. I was expecting to get at least a 720, but I disappointingly got a 680. Well, it pushed me to work harder and study more! However, changes in my work responsibilities (got transferred to a different department) and already planned overseas trip for the spring holiday (Golden week in Japan) temporarily halted my GMAT preparations in April and May. I tried to study when I had the time, but it wasn’t as focused as before.
By late May, I restarted my GMAT preparations by getting a copy of the CR Bible. All I could say is that this book is really a bible. My CR accuracy improved to 90-95% after diligently studying this book.

I also started taking mock exams every week and reviewed every mistake I committed. While I did not keep an error log, I made a mental note which topics I need to brush up on. For instance, I was weak on Probability so I dedicated one study day to practice various types of probability questions. (The “GMAT CLUB view forum tags” was a great tool for this ).

By early July, the OG 2018 was out so I answered all new questions in this set (everything is in the forums!). Similarly, I tried to answer all official questions I could get from the forums (check tags on GMAT EP1, EP2, QP1). The last 2 weeks of my studies, I focused on the GMATPREP comprehensive compilation of all Verbal questions from all GMATPREP software. Seriously, these files are heaven-sent!

A few days before my exam, I memorized all prime numbers less than 140, all squares until 25^2, and the most common Pythagorean triplets. (I realized it’s better to look at this cheat sheet during the exam than rack them out of your brain when related questions pop up. The stress might make you forgot such precious information.) Furthermore, I’m not usually an anal person, but for this specific exam, I made a very detailed schedule of what I will do the day before the exam and the day of the exam. I even prepared a warm-up exercise before the exam.

Day Before the exam:
I relaxed in the morning by watching a movie and started studying around 12:30PM (same time of my exam->I only studied official questions).I stopped studying at 6PM to have dinner and prepare my food for the BIG DAY. Also, I prepared a Spotify playlist to listen before the exam. This really helped me! Here are some of the songs:
1. Power by Kanye West
2. You’re the best (Karate Kid)
3. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
4. Lose Yourself by Eminem
5. Eye of the Tiger
6. Walking on Sunshine
7. Bang Bang
8. Let’s Get it Started
9. Viva la vida
Finally I slept 1 hour earlier than usual to have a good night sleep.

I was so excited that I woke up very early. I planned to wake up at 9AM, but my adrenaline-rich body woke me up at 5AM. I stayed in bed until 7AM, watched some youtube videos and listened to my pump up playlist until 8AM. I did yoga and Zumba for 45 minutes just to warm-up my senses and had a healthy veggie/protein-rich breakfast. Then, I went first to the Starbucks just across the PEARSON VUE testing center in Tokyo and answered my warm-up questions. 30 minutes before exam, I walked to the testing center while listening to Power by Kanye and thinking of positive things (the mind is really powerful).

I went through the usual procedures of the exam and I was escorted at my testing booth. I made sure that the screen was of perfect contrast and that the height of the chair was comfortable for me. You can ask the GMAT staff for help. Ask now or forever hold your peace.

First part of the exam was inputting the schools you want to send your scores to. There’s more than enough time for this so I tried to write my cheat sheet (Quant prime numbers, squares etc) during this time. The proctor reprimanded me though that I couldn’t write during this time.

Next you will be asked the order of the exam, I chose V-Q-IR-AWA. In hindsight, I would have chosen Q-V-IR-AWA instead because I was so nervous the first 30 minutes of the verbal exam. If my first exam were Quant, I would have been relaxed because Math is my strong point. In any case, I never practiced for Q-V-IR-AWA order, so I can’t really evaluate which order would have been better for me. In the last 5 questions of Verbal, I noticed the questions were 700+ level questions, yet I only had around 5 minutes left. I panicked and tried to answer as swift as I could. I had 1.5minutes remaining in the last question, a 600-700 level question which I was able to answer in 30s. In the end, I had 1 minute of extra time for Verbal.

Next part was quant, and it was a lot easier than I expected. I did not even use any information from my cheat sheet! I finished with 5 minutes extra.
IR and AWA, I was already mentally tired so I just answered as accurately as my mind could handle.

After all parts, here’s the moment of truth…

I got a 760 with Q51, V41, IR7.

I was definitely in awe because I was just aiming for 750 (so that I could safely get a 730).

1. Read this amazing analysis of the importance of the first 10 questions. I certainly believe that this technique helped me get a high score.
2. Be consistent with your studies. You might lose track even with just 1 day of not studying.
3. Practice as many official guide questions as you can.
4. Schedule your exam only when you’re ready. I was aiming for end of July/early August to take my exam, but I didn’t schedule it until I was sure that I would reach my goal score of 750. I scheduled my Aug.6 exam on July 30. I notice that a lot of people cancel their schedules a week before the exam so you can take opportunity of this. (This might change depending on your testing center though).
5. Aim higher! You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try. I never imagined I could get a 760. Believe me, I was only aiming for 700 but when I heard about an acquaintance scoring a 750, I pushed myself to get the same score.

Here's the record of my mock exams, FYI.
Test Date TOTAL Q V IR
GMATprep 1 Jan 7 490 32 26
Veritas Prep 1 Mar 25 680 49 34 5
Veritas Prep 2 Jun 6 690 48 37 6
GMATPrep2 June 14 720 49 39
Veritas Prep 3 June 21 790 51 48
Veritas Prep 4 Jun 30 730 51 39 7
KMF 1 Jul 6 760 49 49
GMATprep OLD Jul 9 760 49 45
Veritas Prep 5 Jul 12 710 50 38 6
Experts Global 1 mid-July 720 50 37 8
Veritas Prep 6 Jul 20 750 51 41
Experts Global2 July 27 750
GMATprep 1 RETAKE July 29 780 51 47
Veritas Prep 7 Jul 30 700 48 38 6
ACTUAL GMAT August 6 760 51 41 7

That’s the end of my debrief. I wish everyone good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

File comment: GMAT notes - A bit confusing but pages 10-11 might be helpful to you.
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File comment: Exam day practice
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Originally posted by crza on 07 Aug 2017, 03:27.
Last edited by crza on 14 Aug 2017, 05:44, edited 1 time in total.
Current Student
Joined: 04 Jan 2016
Posts: 166
Location: United States (NY)
GMAT 1: 620 Q44 V32
GMAT 2: 600 Q48 V25
GMAT 3: 660 Q42 V39
GPA: 3.48
GMAT ToolKit User
Re: From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Aug 2017, 16:25
Fantastic Score and fantastic focus.
Thanks for sharing all the great information and your debrief.
I wish you all the best and hope you get the university you want.
Considering your first mock test, 490 and your final score 760, it is a great improvement.

All the best with application season.
Joined: 05 Oct 2014
Posts: 24
Concentration: Finance, Entrepreneurship
GMAT ToolKit User
Re: From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Aug 2017, 10:40
Congrats for your great score and thanks for writing detailed debrief!
The documents which you have shared are best as compared to other materials. Thanks a ton for sharing them.
Current Student
User avatar
Joined: 12 Oct 2015
Posts: 218
Location: Canada
Concentration: Leadership, Accounting
GMAT 1: 700 Q47 V39
GPA: 3
WE: Accounting (Accounting)
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Re: From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)  [#permalink]

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New post 14 Aug 2017, 10:41
That is an excellent excellent improvement. Wish you all the best in your future. Very impressive given only free resources used.
Winners dont make excuses.

350--> 700
Joined: 25 Dec 2018
Posts: 1
Re: From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Dec 2018, 00:46
I gotta tell you guys. KMF is THE GOAT! including 40+ mocks and all for free!
GMAT Club Bot
Re: From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)   [#permalink] 28 Dec 2018, 00:46
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From 490 to 760 in 5 months (Self-study using free resources)

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