From 540 to 700 in 3 months – Debrief for full-time workers
I didn’t think I was going to write my debrief a month ago but, because so many debriefs inspired me and gave me that extra motivation to continue with my study plan, I feel I owe the forum my debrief because it might give an extra push to someone as well, especially for those with kids, full time workers without possibilities to take some days off. I will try, though, to write it as short as possible my first and only attempt in GMAT.Background:
Portuguese, engineer, 6years work experience in Construction, married, 1y old son, full-time worker during all my preparation. Although non-native, I felt my general English was surely above average and I had some quant knowledge.Preparation resources used during 3 months and brief thoughts: Manhattan GMAT
full collection + 6 CAT’s, OG’13, Verbal 2nd R, Quant 2nd R, GMATPrep Question Pack + 2 free GMAT Prep CAT’s, GMAT Club free tests.MGMAT:
SC book is a must have and it’s good along all the way - I feel all the theory is there but for+700 questions you need to apply several rules in one sentence. OG Archer video explanations for SC, especially from instructor Tim, are very pragmatic and fun, yet complete approaches to questions. In CR they literally guide you on how to think and approach each question type at first. Then, read forums threads to have more insights and practice official questions because they tend to be very similar in format after some point. Skimmed the RC book, because I felt that with practice and review you understand that the most important thing is to know how to relate the several paragraphs as a whole and to know what the author thinks about them. Try to pick a good reading pace. For Quant, I think the most important thing is to recognize what type of problem it is and what approach is best. The MGMAT books
address each of the topics but you have to do a lot more practice afterwards.Official stuff:
must have and must practice as much as you can. These are insanely similar to the ones you end up having on the test – I had up to 5 similar questions on the test that I reviewed in the final week - they just changed the numbers I guess, and so I gained a lot with familiarizing with the questions that really matters on the D day; however, some official explanations are not the most direct approach and you have to Google to find better ones; also, reviewing Official CATs was the worst because you have to Google each one of the questions you want. Forums:
Great to look for different approaches, to practice some extra questions from that particular type you want and to read some debriefs now and then. In the last month I also had the daily question from 2 forums and, as they tend to be from 600 to +700 sections, you practice some more while in work just in 10-15 minutes
Also, try to look at some “Thursdays with Ron” – in the areas you think you need the most. The top takeways I can give to someone taking the GMAT:1 -Create an Error Log from the beginning!
I reviewed the error log
now and then and practiced some wrong exercises, but in the final week I only did exercises from the Error Log
along with wrong/bookmarked exercises from the Quest Pack and CAT’S taken and boy, if this paid off!! Also, create your own flash cards with theory you don’t feel comfortable and that you may need to revisit, and some others with important exercises that marked you or that you consistently miss. In my case, half the flashcards I had were from Divisibility and Primes! I feel I should have had the time to revisit the Error Log
more often than I did because I would get the chance to be exposed to more difficult questions in the Adaptative tests.2 – Have some quality theory books
to revisit for those times when you feel you miss consistently one section or you need to refresh some concepts. I had to revisit my Manhattan GMAT
shelf – especially SC, CR and Number Properties, but I did revisit almost every book to see that particular section I wanted... 3 – Take full CATs to build mental and physical stamina
from the beginning. I took about 10 CAT’s in 3 months. I only did 2 CAT’s for week maximum because: 1st, I didn’t have the time to review them properly and so I ended doing the test in one day and reviewing it in the afternoon or in the next day; 2nd, I needed to rest mentally from a CAT as it’s very demanding (~ 4h) and if you want to recover for your next one you need not only to review the test properly (and maybe some weaknesses), but actually you also need to absorb that information and apply it, so it’s good to do some new exercises in the middle. All in all, in my test day, I ended my morning official test as fresh as a lettuce simply because I took all my prep CAT’s in the morning as well and I think that strategy enabled me to stay focus even during the last Verbal section – not easy to stay sharp while reading a tedious RC passage after 3hours. In my opinion, I don’t think taking a CAT each day for 2 weeks will improve your overall score as much as having one every two/three days because either you don’t review the test properly or you don’t practice your weaknesses as you should. You only get a high score with a good overall performance. I also took some multivitamins supplement during the all 3months because it was a very demanding time and I managed to wake up every day feeling recovered. 4 – Time yourself in every exercise
. I did this since the beginning with my Iphone whether I was doing one question or a set of 20 questions. This allows the development of a time awareness that will help you during the tests. I knew exactly what was a 2:00m problem, a 1:30m sentence correction or my average 3:30m reading RC, and therefore, could manage some time during tests.5 – Create a study plan and stick to it
. I pushed myself to study roughly about 15h/week during 2 months, then about 30h/week in the final month. Now, in my case - and I believe it happens with many of you, you think you don’t have that time. But you have! You have to be creative, you have to skip some fun (not all) and you have to be rigorous with yourself. If I intended to study 5 hours in a work day, then, I would wake up early and study 1 hour from 6.00-7.00h, another 1hour at lunch time, and another 2 hours in the night. This was my preferred schedule because my house was so more quiet at those hours and, most importantly, I was able to dinner every night with my wife, to play with my son and to have some family moments that give you strength to study again. I did some minor adaptations to the plan just to make sure I covered all the particular sections I was weak at. But you have to carry with you some book or flashcards because you never know when you get an extra hour - waiting for the doctor appointment for example...6 – Address your weaknesses
but do not spend 3 weeks only on that. If you know your Verbal is bad improve it while doing Quant as well, maybe in a 3-1 hour ratio! If you have difficult times with Geometry, try a full 2hours study from that section and then do some other Quant/Verb exercises as well later in that day. Not only you focus on your weaknesses but you also revisit other sections and stay sharp – especially important for Quant section in the latter part of preparation. 7 – Have some fun moments
. If you are travelling from London to Rome by car, you may want to stop and visit Paris and Milano along the way. With the GMAT it’s the same: take some time during your journey to be with your friends and family, go to your friends’ anniversaries, go to the gym 2 times/week. You won’t think about the GMAT during these moments and that’s important.8 – In the last two days, do not study hard and try to get some quality sleep.9 – Even if you don’t feel confident to have your dream score, you might get it anyway
. From my previous scores I didn’t feel like I was going to pass the 660 mark but my last 2weeks were very productive and, even after a disappointing 610 GMAT Prep score one week before exam, I knew I was doing everything I had defined before as the maximum effort I could invest in my preparation. I think because of that low score, I relaxed myself and in the last week I was studying and thinking not to go and have a great score but to have the best score I could get and, being relaxed, I was able to be more focused on each question, even during study.10 – Study for IR
. I didn’t study anything besides doing the IR on each CAT and my results ranged from 1 – 7,5. On the real GMAT I had 3 (~27%), a very low score but now I have to face it and try to overcome it somehow for admissions. So, as an advice, try to practice as there are a lot of problems out there. Time management on this section was the hardest for me.TESTS---------------DAY-----SCORE----QUANT.----VERB.
GMAT_TEST------------30.11-----700--------47---------39--------IR 3.0--------AWA 6.0
I hope this debrief helps someone on his halfway journey.