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From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)

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Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 24
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GMAT 1: 630 Q47 V28
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
GPA: 3.7
From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Dec 2016, 18:31
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I know this debrief is long (but hey, it has been a long journey!). If you feel lazy, just read the take-away from every topic. Will do a tl;dr at the end as well!

Firstly, I would like to thank BB for the GMAT club. I know there are other sites out there, but nothing beats the content and community of this forum. This forum has, hands-down been THE most important part of my preparation and this narration is a small token of thanks from my side.
Secondly, Buenel, I’m one of your biggest fans! You are just amazing. I’ve always had a flair for mathematics as well. But the clarity of thoughts that you have is out of this world; couple that with humility while explaining the simplest of things - you are very inspirational.
I would also like to thank Walker, Daagh, ChineseBurned, Ron, Karishma, e-GMAT and all the other contributors whose explanations have stuck with me.

I started thinking about taking the GMAT last year (Jan 2015). I joined a GMAT coaching class in Bangalore to help me with the structure of the exam. The classes continued till March. I wasn't able to pay much attention to it due to work pressures and still had 0 confidence. I gave my first GMAT in August 2015 knowing I had no prep and just to get a feel of the exam. I got a 630. I'm an Indian IT Male, one of, if not the most over represented group in the MBA applications :P I knew I had to retake the exam.

Even though the coaching didn't help me, I would still recommend it, because of 2 reasons

1) It gets you in the flow of taking the GMAT. Involved in our busy lives, sometimes the GMAT becomes a thought in the back of our head for us. Regular classes enforce this thought. Every weekend 8 hours are spent and you realize that it is something you have to work on. If you can keep your focus ignited without the classes- good for you. Else a structured program to start with, is recommended. It sure helped me to see things in perspective. It helped me start the fire for my GMAT!

2) There is just TOO much content out there. It's easy to make a difficult question; but a difficult question that adheres to the GMAT boundaries is another story. My GMAT coaching classes made me realize this. I learnt that I should be selective about the sources I should study from, especially the mocks and the practice questions.

Here is where I can provide the recipe for my success, which is - REPLICATION!!
Everyone says practice, so I wanted to use a different word :P
For me the key has been - CONSISTENT practice with the CORRECT content.

You have got to be consistent. Everyone knows this but still wanders off on it!
Consistency is the single biggest advice I can give you.

Now onto my actual prep. Once I got the 630 last year, I just thought that since the classes obviously failed for me, it is time for me to take up the studies myself. I did not take any course during my prep.
Thankfully I had ordered the Enhanced Score Report (ESR) for this exam. My Quant was not too great at 47, but what took the cake was verbal at 28! Even there my percentile for SC was an abysmal 12th! My subdivision for verbal was SC - 12; CR - 70; RC - 84. And this is where I made a goal for myself. I said to myself, that I'll do the preparation such that RC will be LOWEST across all, without going down on any of these scores; without paying for any more courses! With this audacious promise in my mind, I made the study plan.

Sentence Correction



Well this required SPECIAL attention!
For SC I read the entire OG SC section and for each question, I made notes that what was being asked in that question. The content I used initially was my previous coaching material and OG only, and through them I made about 80 pages of incoherent notes. Random stuff just written here and there, and that is when I realized that what the real problem with SC is - as compared to other Verbal sub topics, there is just too much stuff. And the catch is - there are things that you have to understand (like modifiers and verbs) and there are things that you just have to mug up. With this thought in mind I started making a list of topics first, I did it on a computer so that I could move the topics around. I'm attaching a pic of that list of contents. Believe it or not, just making this list, took me about 2 weeks!!

I took me 7 iterations (2 on paper and 5 on a PC) to make a 29 page notes on SC. Memorizing idioms was huge problem for me; I was able to make a list of 71 idioms that came into the GMAT, but it is difficult to mug them up! So again every time I saw a good idiom question in the official GMAT practice test or here on the club, I used to move that idiom higher in the list and kept doing it for a few months. A month before the GMAT, I just said to myself, memorize the first 20, those are ones most asked, and the rest are kind of optional.

I also practiced the questions by their difficulty level on the GMAT club. I started in the middle difficulty level, and switched to the hard level only after a few months. Whenever SC intimidated me, I just thought - "I'm not trying to score well here. I'm just trying to make my notes better!"

In conclusion for SC, if you are having issues with it keep these two things in mind - Coherence and selective study. If I were to ask you what are the things asked in CR, you can say a few words, same about RC, but that is not the case in SC - there are just so many things!! Make a list of the topics, it will REALLY ease your mind. After making this list of topics, I at least knew, what I had to study. Otherwise you are just studying without boundary. You feel confused if you do not understand the scope itself! Try the notes, it should help.
Secondly, be selective. Fine, you got a list of 100+ idioms, but think about it, are actually all of those 100+ are equally important. Of course not, some of them (e.g. Believe X to be Y) are more important than the others. Be sure that you know which are the important ones and learn those. If you are crunched by time you can keep others optional. Please note, I not asking you to simply leave entire topics, just be selective and prioritize if the situation demands for it. In an ideal world, we would study everything...in an ideal world :)

Please be careful with note making. Do not be too much of a miser and skip the important things, and on the opposite end do not write a thesis! Find the sweet middle ground.

My Take-away


Organize the topics into sub-topics till you feel you understand the scope. Your aim cannot be precise if your target itself is vague.
As-is notes rarely work. Don't be lazy to re iterate over existing notes from others and make them suit you. Your notes should be exactly that, YOUR!
Choose the content wisely and it is okay to be selective. All grammar rules are equal, but some rules are more equal than the others :P

Reading Comprehension & Critical Reasoning



For the rest of my verbal, there weren't any MAJOR problems. I was okay with my RC score, a bit disappointed with my CR. I simply kept practicing for both of these. On the GMAT club I sorted the questions by difficulty level and took on the hardest. So apart from some free e-GMAT webinars (which I loved BTW. Thank you Rajat and team!), my entire RC and CR prep is exclusively from GMAT club. Thank you guys again!

The key to understand CR is to differentiate between opinion and facts. The part of the passage which has any of the "opinion" words, is the author's view. This view is variable and can be contested upon. Everything ELSE is a fact and cannot be challenged. We can only question the opinion.
Once you understand this, CR becomes very easy! You have to just logically support or break the opinion.

I loved one of the statements I heard in a free RC webinar from e-GMAT. A lot of students said that they found the passage really boring and what the instructor said blew me away! Although I do not remember it verbatim, he said something similar to - "Think of the passage as a story a friend is telling. It might be kind of boring, but this story is important. How important? It has the potential to make or break your ~4 questions on the verbal section. If you pay attention to this boring story, you can get 4 questions right!! And that is a substantial point increase on the GMAT". Although what he said was very simple, this thought worked like magic on me! Every time a passage bored me and my attention became divided, I just thought to my self - "All right, wander off. But just know that you already lost like 20 points". This fear was so powerful, it just snapped back me in to concentration!

My Take-away



When you get good at CR, it just feels like math! You can actually see variable and constants which simply need to be put in an equation. With the exception of some truly brilliant (and rare!) CR question, for every other question you logically find only one answer and every other choice seems like a joke. Work on CR till you get this feeling.
RC needs immersion. No two ways about it. When you read a passage then, for the next 10 mins, you are the world's foremost expert on volcanic rock formations or social reforms in 17th century England! Nod to yourself and say "hmmm interesting"! (I know it's not :P). You simply cannot do well in RC by reading superficially.


AWA & IR



I honestly did nothing for IR! In every mock that I solved, I got a 6/7 and I was okay with that. In my 3 successive GMATs I got 8,7, and 6 respectively :P I have no thoughts to share here!

For AWA I improved from 4 to 5.5 in my 3 attempts. I'll attribute it to chineseBurned's template. From what I learnt from note making, I knew one thing - I could not use the template as is. I tried to memorize and write it down multiple times. Every time I would forget something or make something from my own. Then I took out the best and the easiest to remember bits from the original template and added my thoughts and made my own template! That helped me and I was able to finish the essay in <20 mins.
One more thing to consider is spelling mistakes. Please don't practice on MS Word. We have built a habit of writing the wrong spelling, right clicking and fixing it! Write your AWA in a simple editor and copy paste to a full editor to see the mistakes made. For some words that you spell wrong repeatedly, take a second and recheck while writing them. And be sure to spell check your AWA manually before you submit.

My Take-away



Templates help. Find a good template online and like I said in SC, don't be lazy and work on it till it is perfect for you. Then memorize it. In the exam write it down before attempting to add the real answer (question based).
Spelling mistakes are real!


Quant



In quant I followed the process of note making as well, and after about 4 iterations, I was able to note up everything in needed in Quant in 12 pages.
Math is practice. I kept on practicing, but I did a huge mistake that I never strictly timed my Quant mocks. This mistake cost me heavily in my next GMAT. Since I was scared about verbal I was very honest with it. But for Quant, I used to pause it sometimes in between or just check the answer instantly after solving a question. Please don't do this. This will cause false confidence and may(check that, WILL) screw you over on the exam day. My timing in Quant on the actual GMAT was so bad that when the clock showed 5 mins remaining, I still had 9 Questions unanswered. After answering 2 of them, I just randomly clicked on stuff to finish the section. Not only did I just randomly clicked on some of the questions that I could have easily solved, it affected my morale during the verbal. Be very true to your mocks! Moreover, if you are doing something bad in the mocks just know that is going to happen in the exam! Don't have any false hope.

Additionally I purchased the GMAT club tests and the Quant ones are really good. The questions are within boundary and challenging. I'm not a fan of the verbal ones. Quite a bit of the questions in verbal were debated on in forums saying that they could not be a valid GMAT question. But again the Quant ones are fantastic; just don't be a fool like me and use them wisely.

I want to clear another misconception related to Quant, that some of us, especially the ones with engineering background have. Quite a few of my friends have told me - "I've always been good at math. Don't know why I got a bad score". Here is the clichéd catch - GMAT is NOT a math exam. It just has a quant section to test your aptitude. No amount of higher math can save you. I thankfully caught it early on. I saw a question during my prep; 3x^2 + 5X+..... = <something>; What is the max value it can have? The calculus inside me jumped in and I thought well the maxima/minima occurs when the derivative is zero (0 slope), so just differentiate this equation W.R.T x and you'll have your answer. I did that and within seconds I got answer and it was correct. Then I went to the GMAT club for the same question's forum to see if anyone had solved it like this. To my surprise no one had used calculus. Everyone did it using algebra. This is the most basic of calculus, obviously people knew it. Then the real learning came - It was dumb of me to solve it using calculus! Sure it helps for some minor questions like this, but in the long run using advanced math can screw you over. There were times when I thought of using integration to calculate areas, just because I was not seeing any way out or wrote complex summations for some other questions. Here is the thing - you do not need that, as of course ALL the questions can be solved through basic math. Using complex formulas is mostly going to add to your time. So if there is a question that you think cannot be solved or will be extremely difficult without advanced math (I thought the same earlier), 100% you are thinking it wrong!


My Take-away



Make notes if needed.
Be extremely honest with your mocks. It IS going to play with your timing on the real exam if you cheat in the mocks.
Your super awesome math is not going to save you! Just practice the regular way.


Mocks & other content



For mocks, I bought the official mocks from the GMAC. Guys, if there is just one place that you would want to put your money into for prep, this is it. You may have seen some the questions before, but just the sheer realism of the tool is what you need to properly understand where you are. You get 2 mocks free, you can purchase 4 more. Just do that. Like I said, the best monetary investment for my prep. And take them very seriously. Do not waste them.
There are question packs available to purchase as well. These are just old GMAT questions, but you get one question at a time and not in a timed mock format. I found them pretty meh! First off, you'll find the questions on the GMAT club or elsewhere, and the USP - getting as close to the real GMAT as possible is not applicable here. So the question packs are not really needed, but the mocks (I think they are called exam packs) are kind of mandatory!


So here goes the entire content list I used

GMAT Official Exam Prep Material - Like I said, a must have!
ESR - This is needed to bring you out of the dark. Most of the times after a bad exam we ask - "What went wrong". This report tells us what went wrong. Take your time with it and understand where you need to improve.
GMAT Club Tests (Quant Only) - Albeit a bit difficult, as I said the questions are good for Quant. Follow them strictly time bound and you should have a pretty great practice material in quant.
OG and a bit of my classroom course notes.

----------------------------------------

Now that I've covered the "CORRECT content" part of my key, I'll like to re-stress on consistent practice. The easiest and the most accurate way to score well on the exam is to do it 10 times at home and the 11th time at the test centre!

Do your mocks exactly like you would do the real exam. No water breaks. No bathroom breaks. While we are at home, this seems like not a big deal - "I'll pause it for a minute and get some water". Do not do that! Be as close to the exam as possible. You may be wearing comfortable pyjamas at home, which will not be the case at the test centre. I went to my office every weekend and wrote a mock there. I smoke. I had my exam from 9 to 1. For 3 months I made sure not to smoke from 8 AM to 1:15 PM, every day! No coffee breaks. You may not start your day without a coffee at office, but is there a coffee shop just next to your centre, which opens at the time you'll reach? If not, then DO NOT have coffee before your mocks. These might look like a bit of an exaggeration but they will help. At least during your official mocks be as close to the real thing as possible.

----------------------------------------

Now on with my journey. I scheduled my GMAT for the September of this year (2016). Sadly I fell sick 3 days before the GMAT and was not able to sleep properly while running high fever. Since I couldn't sleep at all before my exams, I pulled off a very stupid stunt and drank two cans of red bull in the morning. I thought it would help me compensate for my lack of sleep. To any one wondering, red bull + medicines = strict NO! I was just so jumpy during my exam, tired AND jumpy. It is not a good feeling, even while taking the exam I knew I was doing things wrong. The cheating I did with my Quant mocks showed as well and I was pressed for time in the last few questions. I scored a 690. Though a decent score, I knew that this did not represent me, it should be somewhere between 730 and 760.
So a bit of advice guys, be smart and don't experiment!

After recovering from my guilt trip of the red bulls, I started thinking again. Since I knew my prep was at my best I scheduled the next exam 14 days after the previous one. I also took the difficult decision of not prepping for Quant timing anymore. I had a 49 and I knew with strict practice I could get it to 50, but I made a choice to be sure that my Verbal reaches at least 40 (I scored 35). So I kept on practicing verbal. It was a difficult time and I was feeling quite down having wasted an attempt because of my dumbness. Then the rants on club helped!! I could relate to them. Finally, the D day came and I was able to score a 740 (Q49 V41). My subdivision now for verbal was SC - 91; CR - 94; RC - 85
I was finally able to achieve a score that I thought I should get and kept up the promise I made to myself :-D

Before I finish the debrief, just a side note - be careful about couple of days before the exam. Aside of not pulling a dumb move like me :P, just please stop studying. I know everyone says to relax, but I know it is not easy. Been there done that :) Think about it logically. The probability that you will learn some magic SC rule or a math formula 1 day before the exam is extremely low. On the other hand, the probability that you'll get yourself tensed uselessly is very high. There is a small chance that you will retain anything you learn in the last day or two; remember you are already anxious. If you still want to study (seriously!), do the medium difficulty questions from the GMAT club on the topic of your choice. Just don't give any mocks in the last few days. The aim of a mock is to tell where you stand and how you can improve. The last few days are NOT the time to improve and hence mocks are useless! Use your last few days before the exam to make sure that the hard work you have done in your prep is actually fruitful on the D day.
Also during the exam, do not try to think what "level" question you are getting and where you are currently standing. Just take it one at a time and do you best :)

----------------------------------------

Thank you reading this far. I'll try to do a

tl;dr



1) Classes can really help to put you in the flow of the GMAT. They also help with 2).
2) Get the correct material, don't waste time on the "uselessly tough" questions.
3) Be consistent in your practice and be as true to your mocks as possible.
4) Don't do anything obviously stupid before the exam; your prep is only a portion, how you are physically and mentally at the test center also affects you.
5) Be on the GMAT club :) The questions, the debriefs, the rants; almost everything helped me one way or the other!
6) Only 2 mandatory buys - Official GMAT exam packs and ESR (for re takers).
7) If you think that the notes you have aren't helping, make your own!

Sorry for the long read! Hope it does help you in some way. I wish all of you the very best. I'll be applying R1 next year, wish me luck for that :)
Please post any questions or thoughts that you have. Although I'm stuck with work related travel these days, I'll try to get to them as soon as possible.

Thanks again GMAT Club!
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Dec 2016, 16:09
Great Debrief sagshukl .. I'm also in a similar score bucket you've previously been in. Kind of have similar take aways too.. Gotta gather courage and start taking mocks again.
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Dec 2016, 21:20
Good debrief, congrats on your scoreand best wishes on your applications. Can you please share your notes. It might be helpful for many out here....
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Dec 2016, 21:39
Congratulations! Great debrief. Best of luck on your future endeavors!
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Dec 2016, 01:21
Great Debrief ! Also is it possible for you to share the list of idioms you complied during your preparation.
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Jan 2017, 02:02
Replying for the PMs and the thread replies :

Guys, I do have my SC notes with me, but there is a problem : about 15-20% of my notes are in Hindi (my native language). That's how I wrote them out while being in the flow!!

Most of it is in English, please have a look. I still hope it helps some of you out there.
And as a request, if anyone has time and finds the notes useful, please translate the Hindi parts to English and re-upload.

I'm attaching the MS Word format so that the editing is easy.

Sagar
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jan 2017, 20:49
Hello GMAT warriors... this is my GMAT story which went horror even after a dedicated study and scarifies. I used to score 640 in my mock test and was pretty confident to score at least 600 in the main test but for my surprise i scored 440 and this left me shattered. I even quit my job for this. I used to study for 9 hours a day. I am still not able to recollect what wrong happened that i got such a low score .I really need all your help. I want to try for the last time. Please help me with a proper plan to study. Also let me if you all also feel that over studying was the only reason for the low score . Because my parents even to this day say that it is over studying that caused this disaster. kindly help @souvik101990@Bunuel baptista
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Re: From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)   [#permalink] 23 Jan 2017, 20:49

From 630 to 690 to 740 (89 percentile improvement in SC!)

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