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From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.

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Current Student
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Joined: 26 Aug 2015
Posts: 32
Concentration: Strategy, Economics
GMAT 1: 570 Q40 V28
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Jan 2017, 14:17
9
13
Hello,


Below I will share with you my journey from a disappointingly low score to a 700+ one, hoping to inspire you, future test takers and re-takers, to believe in yourselves. I also intend to warn you that the road ahead will not be an easy one, it will require that you really immerse yourselves into the journey and polish every aspect of your routine if you are targeting for an elite score (I suppose that if you are reading this it means you are aiming high because, come on, who would get into the gmat journey just to get a mediocre score?).


Profile:

27 year old male with 5+ yrs work experience in education and finance.
GMAT : 740 Q: 49, V: 41, AWA: 6, IR: 6.
Target schools: Tuck, Kellogg, HBS, Booth, SGSB and Wharton.

The beginning: I wish someone had warned me.

The GMAT is no joke, it is an extremely demanding exam that requires you to rewire your thought processes and even to forget some of your previous knowledge up to the point to even question the way you write and speak English. That being said, it can be done with disciplined action and smart practice.

When I started thinking of getting an MBA I saw the gmat as a mere transaction given that I considered myself a strong test taker. I signed up to a 5 week, 2 day/week private course (30 hrs total) with a guy who had worked for several years at the Princeton Review (or so he said). The course was very basic and focused on gmat tips and tricks, we barely even touched the fundamentals of math or grammar necessary to aspire to surpass 600. During the course I did 1 untimed complete prep test (Princeton review at the beginning of my studies, 500) and 2 incomplete timed ones (1 Princeton review without AWA nor IR, 660 and GMATPREP 1 without AWA nor IR, 640). I practiced with the OG and with the online bank it comes with. I asked for vacations at work 2 weeks before the exam to practice full time, I mainly focused on doing as many practice problems as I could. I thought that I was well prepared because I was already in mid 600’s and with the extra 2 weeks I would surely get a higher score.

The test day I finished both sections (Q and V) almost 5 minutes early and did not feel the need to rush or guess at any time. Overall, I felt very confident. Naturally, I was confused as to how could I have felt so calm and thriving during the test and still get such a mediocre score. As you have probably concluded by now, the study process I set up for myself was terribly wrong. I guess that it does not come as a surprise for you, the reader (believe me, I was very shocked and sad when I saw the 570 at the real test), that I did very poorly on the test.

Summary of prep mistakes:
* Underestimating the depth of understanding required by the exam. The concepts tested are basic but test writers can get very creative!
* Focusing on solving many problems, thinking that the more I did the better I got.
* Not doing enough prep tests under test-like conditions and failing to really learn from the ones I did.
* Not doing an error log of my practice.
* Not preparing correctly for test day (snacks, water, sleep, breakfast, etc).
* Failing to prepare myself physically and mentally for the exam fatigue.

After the exam I immediately started preparing for my revenge, I lost a battle but I was determined to win the war. I read a bunch of success stories like this one and figured out all the mistakes I mentioned above. I resolved to study this time on my own and set proper conditions to maximize my study effectiveness. I subscribed to magoosh (which I really recommend to everyone in order to have a 600 plateau on which to build on), bought the 3 OG books and a couple more that are recommended on the 3 month study schedule for advanced students by magoosh and started exercising and meditating. At that time I was Administrative Director at a local company and work was booming, fortunately for me I had plenty of responsibility but that meant however a lot of commitment. 1 month down the road I found myself frustrated for not keeping pace with the study guide (even when I was investing 3 hrs daily), exhausted and stressed. I was not enjoying the ride at all so I decided to postpone the MBA for 1 year and to stop studying for some time to heal my wounds, adjusting my expectations (I was thinking on settling for a 650 and getting into a respectable school) in the process.

Soon after I quit studying for the gmat, however, I found myself thinking I was not good enough to tackle the exam and doubting myself in other aspects of life that didn't relate to the MBA. The gmat failure had really gotten me to a near-depression state and I was afraid to start studying again. If you ever find yourselves at a similar point, set a weekend or at least a day off to do some soul-searching and define the real reasons behind doing an MBA. It will give you the necessary strength and drive to make the adequate and sometimes painful adjustments to do well in the exam. I did that and got to a binary decision: I would either completely forget about the MBA and focus on the career path I had in front of me or I would target for an elite score and for a top MBA program, nothing less. I chose the later. That meant that some tough decisions and changes should be done, it was an all in. I told my boss I was stepping aside from the company 6 months in advance and prepared myself financially to withstand a 6-8 month 0 income period in my life. I would use that time to define my long term goals, study, apply and ideally get into business school.

My study process: All in for the score.

I empirically (because it was not conscious) divided my study into two sections: 1) fundamentals and 2) gmat skill and advanced knowledge. I dedicated a total 2 months to each section, studying full time.

Section 1: Fundamentals (Jun-July 2016).

For this part I had a overall good experience with magoosh because their videos are very comprehensive of the basic knowledge required for each section of the gmat. I watched all of their lessons and frequently sent them questions if I didn't understand something. I also prepared flashcards for every new concept I learned and took notes on it as well, much like studying for a final exam. During this time I was obtaining about 80% accuracy on OG exercises but merely a 64% on magoosh and 50% on Gmat club ones (this right here is the importance of having a good error log) so naturally I was getting anxious. I still made several careless mistakes but I did notice fewer foundation holes. During this time I meditated daily (highly recommended, 10 minutes a day have a huge impact down the road on anxiety control and focus during the exam) and started practicing yoga; I also tried to have a balanced diet and to sleep 8 hrs per day. All of those good habits did help with my mental speed and my memory retention capabilities (night and day difference, believe me). I used the Pomodoro technique for my study time to avoid burnouts and to maximize my focused study time and also started to write a study journal in order to determine why some days where good study days or bad study days. All of that is what I would call Disciplined action.

At the end of this period, I did my first prep test -GMAT PREP 1- in over a year (considering the time I quit studying) no AWA or IR and got a 710. A score I was very careful with because: 1) I did not do AWA nor IR, 2) I saw some familiar questions and 3) I rested for a little more time in one of the breaks.

Section 2: Gmat skill and advanced knowledge (Oct-Nov 2016*).
*The gap in my studying was because I applied to (and got into) consulting during Aug-Sep, which incidentally had a boosting effect in my energy and resolution to get a good score before I started working again.

This section starts right after I did the GMAT PREP 1 because it was when I learned the importance of dissecting every problem, spending at least 15 minutes understanding the traps and ways it could have gone wrong or right and studying from there if I found a foundation hole. That dramatically decreased my careless mistakes and helped me to develop an effective educated guessing capability. Manhattan gmat has some great articles on how to analyze a prep test (https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... ts-part-1/ and https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... ts-part-2/ for example). During this time I did 5 prep tests:

1) GMAT PREP 1, 750 (q. 49, v. 45; many familiar questions)
2) Mgmat 2, 660 (44,36; no AWA, rushed verbal)
3) Mgmat 3, 650 (40, 39; rushed math) … here I read about the art of letting go and also about getting the questions wrong quicker. The main idea is that the gmat is not as other exams you have done before in which you are expected to complete every question and get most of them right. Here you have to choose your battles and manage your time.
4) Mgmat 4, 680 (44, 38)
5) Mgmat 5, 720 (47, 42)

A few notes about the prep tests:
* It is true that, at least according to the question difficulty shown in gmatclub, mgmat exams are more difficult than the real exam.
* I did one every 1 and a half weeks.
* Some of the toughest questions I saw came from the prep tests, analyzing them sometimes lead to huge foundation holes I had.
* To get a complete picture of a question I found that reading 2 or more different ways of solving a problem is required. It is more likely that out of those you will find a process familiar to your prior knowledge and therefore render it easier for you to understand the new concepts.
* I spent in average 5 days analyzing a prep test because I dissected question by question, specially the careless mistakes and the foundation holes. I saw the most improvement when I started doing that. Once you have the foundations alright, the only way to improve is being diligent and polishing every detail of your test taking abilities.
* I found that writing by hand the explanations of the questions I got wrong is way more effective for memory retention purposes than typing on the computer, that's why I complemented my error log with an error notebook. In that notebook I wrote the question and the 2 or 3 different solution processes I could find, as well as my thought processes that led me to choose the incorrect option. That is what I call smart practice.

1 week after the last exam I did the official exam and, to my absolute joy, got a 740 (49,41).

Notes about test day:
* Choose the time and day wisely; detect at what time of the day are you most productive and schedule your exam accordingly (this is why the journal is important)
* DO NOT STUDY THE DAY OF THE EXAM.
* Be sure to monitor your breathing during the exam, your brain needs oxygen.
* Bring a couple of energy bars or a bag of nuts to eat during the breaks, you need to maintain maximum focus and mental stamina until the end.
* Drink enough water.
* Go to the bathroom in the breaks to avoid needing to go during the exam.
* Do some breathing exercises before starting the exam to get rid of nervousness and settle in the moment.

I really hope that this will inspire some of you to achieve your target score. Below I attach some screenshots of my error log so you get an idea of how it looked.

I am very grateful to all the gmatclub community because I am certain that I could not have done it without it.

Greetings,
Ivan.
Attachments

File comment: My error log.
IMG_0094.PNG
IMG_0094.PNG [ 521.65 KiB | Viewed 10057 times ]

File comment: How I dissected each prep test. I measured time, question difficulty, question level, whether the time was appropriate for the question lvl, type of question and skipped/guessed questions.
IMG_0095.PNG
IMG_0095.PNG [ 789.41 KiB | Viewed 10055 times ]

Current Student
User avatar
S
Joined: 08 Jun 2015
Posts: 405
Location: India
GMAT 1: 640 Q48 V29
GMAT 2: 700 Q48 V38
GPA: 3.33
Reviews Badge
Re: From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 03 Jan 2017, 08:36
Ilomelin wrote:
Hello,


Below I will share with you my journey from a disappointingly low score to a 700+ one, hoping to inspire you, future test takers and re-takers, to believe in yourselves. I also intend to warn you that the road ahead will not be an easy one, it will require that you really immerse yourselves into the journey and polish every aspect of your routine if you are targeting for an elite score (I suppose that if you are reading this it means you are aiming high because, come on, who would get into the gmat journey just to get a mediocre score?).


Profile:

27 year old male with 5+ yrs work experience in education and finance.
GMAT : 740 Q: 49, V: 41, AWA: 6, IR: 6.
Target schools: Tuck, Kellogg, HBS, Booth, SGSB and Wharton.

The beginning: I wish someone had warned me.

The GMAT is no joke, it is an extremely demanding exam that requires you to rewire your thought processes and even to forget some of your previous knowledge up to the point to even question the way you write and speak English. That being said, it can be done with disciplined action and smart practice.

When I started thinking of getting an MBA I saw the gmat as a mere transaction given that I considered myself a strong test taker. I signed up to a 5 week, 2 day/week private course (30 hrs total) with a guy who had worked for several years at the Princeton Review (or so he said). The course was very basic and focused on gmat tips and tricks, we barely even touched the fundamentals of math or grammar necessary to aspire to surpass 600. During the course I did 1 untimed complete prep test (Princeton review at the beginning of my studies, 500) and 2 incomplete timed ones (1 Princeton review without AWA nor IR, 660 and GMATPREP 1 without AWA nor IR, 640). I practiced with the OG and with the online bank it comes with. I asked for vacations at work 2 weeks before the exam to practice full time, I mainly focused on doing as many practice problems as I could. I thought that I was well prepared because I was already in mid 600’s and with the extra 2 weeks I would surely get a higher score.

The test day I finished both sections (Q and V) almost 5 minutes early and did not feel the need to rush or guess at any time. Overall, I felt very confident. Naturally, I was confused as to how could I have felt so calm and thriving during the test and still get such a mediocre score. As you have probably concluded by now, the study process I set up for myself was terribly wrong. I guess that it does not come as a surprise for you, the reader (believe me, I was very shocked and sad when I saw the 570 at the real test), that I did very poorly on the test.

Summary of prep mistakes:
* Underestimating the depth of understanding required by the exam. The concepts tested are basic but test writers can get very creative!
* Focusing on solving many problems, thinking that the more I did the better I got.
* Not doing enough prep tests under test-like conditions and failing to really learn from the ones I did.
* Not doing an error log of my practice.
* Not preparing correctly for test day (snacks, water, sleep, breakfast, etc).
* Failing to prepare myself physically and mentally for the exam fatigue.

After the exam I immediately started preparing for my revenge, I lost a battle but I was determined to win the war. I read a bunch of success stories like this one and figured out all the mistakes I mentioned above. I resolved to study this time on my own and set proper conditions to maximize my study effectiveness. I subscribed to magoosh (which I really recommend to everyone in order to have a 600 plateau on which to build on), bought the 3 OG books and a couple more that are recommended on the 3 month study schedule for advanced students by magoosh and started exercising and meditating. At that time I was Administrative Director at a local company and work was booming, fortunately for me I had plenty of responsibility but that meant however a lot of commitment. 1 month down the road I found myself frustrated for not keeping pace with the study guide (even when I was investing 3 hrs daily), exhausted and stressed. I was not enjoying the ride at all so I decided to postpone the MBA for 1 year and to stop studying for some time to heal my wounds, adjusting my expectations (I was thinking on settling for a 650 and getting into a respectable school) in the process.

Soon after I quit studying for the gmat, however, I found myself thinking I was not good enough to tackle the exam and doubting myself in other aspects of life that didn't relate to the MBA. The gmat failure had really gotten me to a near-depression state and I was afraid to start studying again. If you ever find yourselves at a similar point, set a weekend or at least a day off to do some soul-searching and define the real reasons behind doing an MBA. It will give you the necessary strength and drive to make the adequate and sometimes painful adjustments to do well in the exam. I did that and got to a binary decision: I would either completely forget about the MBA and focus on the career path I had in front of me or I would target for an elite score and for a top MBA program, nothing less. I chose the later. That meant that some tough decisions and changes should be done, it was an all in. I told my boss I was stepping aside from the company 6 months in advance and prepared myself financially to withstand a 6-8 month 0 income period in my life. I would use that time to define my long term goals, study, apply and ideally get into business school.

My study process: All in for the score.

I empirically (because it was not conscious) divided my study into two sections: 1) fundamentals and 2) gmat skill and advanced knowledge. I dedicated a total 2 months to each section, studying full time.

Section 1: Fundamentals (Jun-July 2016).

For this part I had a overall good experience with magoosh because their videos are very comprehensive of the basic knowledge required for each section of the gmat. I watched all of their lessons and frequently sent them questions if I didn't understand something. I also prepared flashcards for every new concept I learned and took notes on it as well, much like studying for a final exam. During this time I was obtaining about 80% accuracy on OG exercises but merely a 64% on magoosh and 50% on Gmat club ones (this right here is the importance of having a good error log) so naturally I was getting anxious. I still made several careless mistakes but I did notice fewer foundation holes. During this time I meditated daily (highly recommended, 10 minutes a day have a huge impact down the road on anxiety control and focus during the exam) and started practicing yoga; I also tried to have a balanced diet and to sleep 8 hrs per day. All of those good habits did help with my mental speed and my memory retention capabilities (night and day difference, believe me). I used the Pomodoro technique for my study time to avoid burnouts and to maximize my focused study time and also started to write a study journal in order to determine why some days where good study days or bad study days. All of that is what I would call Disciplined action.

At the end of this period, I did my first prep test -GMAT PREP 1- in over a year (considering the time I quit studying) no AWA or IR and got a 710. A score I was very careful with because: 1) I did not do AWA nor IR, 2) I saw some familiar questions and 3) I rested for a little more time in one of the breaks.

Section 2: Gmat skill and advanced knowledge (Oct-Nov 2016*).
*The gap in my studying was because I applied to (and got into) consulting during Aug-Sep, which incidentally had a boosting effect in my energy and resolution to get a good score before I started working again.

This section starts right after I did the GMAT PREP 1 because it was when I learned the importance of dissecting every problem, spending at least 15 minutes understanding the traps and ways it could have gone wrong or right and studying from there if I found a foundation hole. That dramatically decreased my careless mistakes and helped me to develop an effective educated guessing capability. Manhattan gmat has some great articles on how to analyze a prep test (https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... ts-part-1/ and https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... ts-part-2/ for example). During this time I did 5 prep tests:

1) GMAT PREP 1, 750 (q. 49, v. 45; many familiar questions)
2) Mgmat 2, 660 (44,36; no AWA, rushed verbal)
3) Mgmat 3, 650 (40, 39; rushed math) … here I read about the art of letting go and also about getting the questions wrong quicker. The main idea is that the gmat is not as other exams you have done before in which you are expected to complete every question and get most of them right. Here you have to choose your battles and manage your time.
4) Mgmat 4, 680 (44, 38)
5) Mgmat 5, 720 (47, 42)

A few notes about the prep tests:
* It is true that, at least according to the question difficulty shown in gmatclub, mgmat exams are more difficult than the real exam.
* I did one every 1 and a half weeks.
* Some of the toughest questions I saw came from the prep tests, analyzing them sometimes lead to huge foundation holes I had.
* To get a complete picture of a question I found that reading 2 or more different ways of solving a problem is required. It is more likely that out of those you will find a process familiar to your prior knowledge and therefore render it easier for you to understand the new concepts.
* I spent in average 5 days analyzing a prep test because I dissected question by question, specially the careless mistakes and the foundation holes. I saw the most improvement when I started doing that. Once you have the foundations alright, the only way to improve is being diligent and polishing every detail of your test taking abilities.
* I found that writing by hand the explanations of the questions I got wrong is way more effective for memory retention purposes than typing on the computer, that's why I complemented my error log with an error notebook. In that notebook I wrote the question and the 2 or 3 different solution processes I could find, as well as my thought processes that led me to choose the incorrect option. That is what I call smart practice.

1 week after the last exam I did the official exam and, to my absolute joy, got a 740 (49,41).

Notes about test day:
* Choose the time and day wisely; detect at what time of the day are you most productive and schedule your exam accordingly (this is why the journal is important)
* DO NOT STUDY THE DAY OF THE EXAM.
* Be sure to monitor your breathing during the exam, your brain needs oxygen.
* Bring a couple of energy bars or a bag of nuts to eat during the breaks, you need to maintain maximum focus and mental stamina until the end.
* Drink enough water.
* Go to the bathroom in the breaks to avoid needing to go during the exam.
* Do some breathing exercises before starting the exam to get rid of nervousness and settle in the moment.

I really hope that this will inspire some of you to achieve your target score. Below I attach some screenshots of my error log so you get an idea of how it looked.

I am very grateful to all the gmatclub community because I am certain that I could not have done it without it.

Greetings,
Ivan.


Congrats Ivan :) Can you please guide me on the following ?

1) How did you prepare for RCs ? Did you do a lot a extra reading outside GMAT material ?
2) Did you do anything other than OGs and Magoosh Question bank (for Question practice)?
3) Can you please explain as to how you used Pomodoro technique ?
4) Does sleeping for 8 hours actually help ? I am perpetually sleep deprived :(

Thanks in advance and good luck with your application :)
_________________
" The few , the fearless "
Current Student
User avatar
B
Joined: 26 Aug 2015
Posts: 32
Concentration: Strategy, Economics
GMAT 1: 570 Q40 V28
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
Re: From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jan 2017, 10:59
1
spetznaz wrote:

Congrats Ivan :) Can you please guide me on the following ?

1) How did you prepare for RCs ? Did you do a lot a extra reading outside GMAT material ?
2) Did you do anything other than OGs and Magoosh Question bank (for Question practice)?
3) Can you please explain as to how you used Pomodoro technique ?
4) Does sleeping for 8 hours actually help ? I am perpetually sleep deprived :(

Thanks in advance and good luck with your application :)


Sure,

1) I did read frequently Mckinsey and hbr articles, trying to detect changes in tone, contrasts and intentions as well as some Scientific American ones. I found, however, that there was a correlation for me between CR and RC, the better I did on CR, the better my RC was as well. I decided that I would rather spend enough time reading the passage and answering quickly than Reading quickly and having to go back. That being said, RC was certainly my second weakest question type (DS was the weakest).

2) I read a couple of chapters of the manhattan advance quant book and also of the sentence correction one. I bought them very late in my studies. Mainly og, og quant and og verbal in conjunction with magoosh. Keep in mind that 4 Manhattan GMAT preps have a lot of questions (148 math and 164 verbal) and dissecting each one of them fully takes a lot of time.

3) The technique consists of 25 minutes of focused activity and a 5 minute break. I did that, during the brakes I went to the bathroom, drank water, ate snacks and moved a little (push ups and sit ups mainly).

4) I targeted for 8 hrs everyday but I usually only managed to sleep 7 however, the main thing is that you go to bed early and rest as much as you can. Remove electronics from near your bead and set up for a proper sleep.


Hope this is helpful.

Cheers,
Iván.

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Re: From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Jan 2017, 04:13
Congratulations Ilomelin for your wonderful score.

170 point improvement is no small feat. :woohoo
All the best for you applications. :gl
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Re: From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Feb 2017, 08:53
Congratulations Ilomelin for your wonderful score !!!
I use pomodoro technique too ! I also found Pomodorium, it's kind of RPG game based on pomodoro technique. and because I like online games that fits perfectly :D
GMAT Club Bot
Re: From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.   [#permalink] 22 Feb 2017, 08:53

From 570 to 740; how I achieved a 170 point improvement.

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