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From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score

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From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 08 May 2016, 06:49
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Hi, Wifey and I both took the GMAT recently and scored 730(Q-51,V36,IR-8) and 740(Q-49,V-41,IR-7) respectively. This was not our first attempt I wanted to share our story with you. I will try to outline the things that worked for both of us or at least for me. Both of us have a full-time job and we are Ph.D. applicants. Yes, you heard me right- not an MBA but a Ph.D. I am an arts graduate and have an MBA from a mid-ranked school in the US. My wife is an engineer from DCE and thus, has excellent quantitative skills. I have been in research for some time now and have been thinking of a Ph.D. for a couple of years. I tried to motivate my wife to also consider a Ph.D. but failed to get much headway. Then last year, around January, I decided to take the lead and commit to applying.

First Attempt


My last GMAT was a long time ago (2006-7-700, I don't remember the split) and thus, I started researching on the study material and make a study plan. Almost all the test prep material companies that are popular were not around when I took the GMAT except, maybe these forums, which I vaguely remember visiting for odd questions. Although like MBA, Ph.D. applications are also dependent on other factors such as grades and research potential but the cohort size is extremely small and thus, a good GMAT score is quite common amongst successful candidates. So I knew I had to do well on GMAT to be in the competitive pool of candidates along with working on other aspects of my application. The good thing was I had time. Or so I thought.

I became a member here and downloaded the GMAT club book for Maths and remember being overwhelmed by it. So I got Manhattan Book series and started working my way through them. I found them quite helpful and they made me confident of taking the GMAT prep exam 1. I scored a 700 and congratulated myself that with more effort my score will only go north. I learned that the improvement in Verbal will affect my score more favorably than improvement in Quant section. So, after reading through the reviews of the material available, I bought the e-GMAT membership. Once I finished the Manhattan Quant books I felt I had run out of good questions to practice. So I bought the 1500 question bank access to GMATClub. With a good amount of material at hand, I dove into it head on.

I started having my lunch at my desk, and I squeezed whatever minutes I could squeeze out of my work day. I stopped socializing at the office and started getting restless in meetings. Fortunately, the culture at research institutions is not very obtrusive, and the bosses let you be till you are delivering. Still, a few of my colleagues were suspicious of my activities, and I had to take a couple of them into confidence, almost unwillingly. At home, I started to spend as much time as I could with the preparatory material. My wife was quite supportive, and she gave me enough time away from our naughty 3-year-old. My parents, however, were not very happy with my decision to prepare, and my mother left no chance to point out the uselessness of the whole application exercise.
After spending some months with the material, I took my second GMAT prep exam hoping to score much higher but scored only a 710. I was dejected since I thought I had put in a lot of work especially in Verbal with all the e-GMAT material but had failed to improve in it. That was also the time, I started to apply at other places since the current job was becoming unbearable with office politics after our old boss was given a pink slip. With a new head around, the nincompoops of the place started playing their dirty games to save their asses from getting fired. Hey, it's the same everywhere, right? Earlier I had planned to take the GMAT in July but with job interviews, I decided to postpone it as much as I can since at the new place I would take some time to settle down. I also went back to the drawing board and found that the time pressure is making me commit silly mistakes. To counter it I started taking the timed tests. This was also the time, I got my wife interested in the preparation. I started to mark all the difficult problems and brought them home to her to solve together. This piqued her interest. She too was a 700 scorer and had scored 98.5 percentile in CAT (conducted by IIMs). Some of her methods are better than what I found on the forums and thus, to me she was a genius. Meanwhile, I started the Manhattan 6 test series that came with books. A real confidence breaker. The tests I found were too difficult in Quant and relatively easier in Verbal. Probably that's how the score comes out balanced and is considered close to the real GMAT score. However, scoring 44-45 in Quant just isn't cool when GMAT prep scores you around 48-49.

I tried to console myself with the argument that the Manhattan Tests (in which I was scoring around 670-680) are not reflective of the true test. Little did I know that I would end up scoring exactly that on my first GMAT attempt. On seeing 670 I was very disappointed with myself, however, very soon the disappointment turned into denial. I was not ready to accept 34 in Verbal and even 48 in Quant. I came home, couldn't rest, started working on the Economist GMAT free 7-day trial, and ended up booking the GMAT date again in three weeks. I did some soul searching and realized that I should start taking notes in CR where I could have made silly mistakes. For Quant, there was no way out but more practice.

I didn't feel like picking up Manhattan books or e-GMAT material, which specifically I didn't find much helpful. For a couple of days, I feverishly worked through the 25% free material on Economist GMAT. I also took the 5 dollars subscription to EmpowerGmat for three days and went through most of its prep material. Then I chanced upon GMATPrepNow, an excellent free resource on GMAT. It was like finding a treasure. The material is super and the links to questions are also mostly from GMAT. Since I had retaken my GMAT prep exams a couple of times and was getting inflated scores with repeated questions, I bought the exam pack for two more tests.

Second Attempt


I took the test and got comfortable once again when I score 50 in Quant and 38-39 in Verbal. I was gunning for a 720 (Q-49,50/V-38,39) in my second attempt. However, during the second attempt, I got bogged down in scratch work for CR and had to rush through the last few questions. I ended up with a 710(Q-49/V-38). I knew I could do better but compared to 670, it was looking ok and I decided to start my application process. During the process, I and my wife met an Indian-Canadian Professor whom I have turned many times in the past for advice. God bless him! When I told him that I am applying to the Ph.D. programs and my wife will probably apply next year to the one I get in, he convinced us to apply to the same schools together.

My wife bravely took up the challenge of writing the GMAT within a month. I showed her the GmatPrepNow material and was quite sure that she will score well. Again, I was proved wrong by GMAT. She scored a mere 650 and canceled her score since her 700 was still valid. She thought of applying with her old score but it took a lot of convincing and a couple quarrel to retake her date in 4 weeks. Now we really cutting it close. She found top 1 percentile videos on Youtube and also liked to work her way through Official GMAT questions online on Wiley website. I found that to be an excellent way to do GMAT questions and ended up doing those before my third attempt.

I also read a preview of Aristotle Sentence correction book and decided to buy that. Their office happens to be in the same city so I went there after office and picked it up. On the night before the second attempt, we had a chat and thought that she should be able to score around 700 (Q-50/V-35,36) although I thought that only a perfect score in Quant justifies her quant skills. When I heard her voice on the phone after her GMAT, I could sense the excitement. And we were excited with her 730(Q-51,V-36,IR-8) Both of us applied to the programs that had an early deadline but I kept feeling that I could have done better with my score. When a school called her and not me for an interview, I decided enough is enough and booked another date. This time, I worked with Wiley online and discovered another great resource while browsing through free courses on Udemy - DontMemorise. This is another excellent free resource for Quant Preparation. For Verbal, I only stuck with AristotlePrep books and GMATPrepNow. I had gotten comfortable in Quant and was scoring 50, committing mostly silly mistakes. Verbal was consistent around 39-40 but SC was still a trouble area. All in all, I felt I could match my wifey's score with my third attempt.

Third Attempt


In my third attempt, I felt I did well in IR. This was because I had undertaken a couple of Data Analytics courses on EdX during the time away from GMAT preparation. The math section was easy. I finished 3 minutes early and thought I that I should be at the 50 level during the break. With Verbal, my timing was going well till about the last 6-7 questions when I got a long RC passage. As a result, I had to rush through the last 2 questions. The last question I barely had time to click, which I did, since I know there is a penalty for unanswered questions from experience. What I don't know is whether the penalty applies if one clicks on the answer and doesn't click on next button for the last question. I think in Manhattan Tests, the algo counted the half attempt as unanswered so I blindly clicked on the original SC stem and clicked next. 740(Q-49,V-41,IR-7). Still I think I should be scoring 50 in Q and was hoping for that. However, there was no time left for the current application season. Also, although I had scored 41,42 in some GMAT Prep repeats, I was only about confident till 40. So I will settle for 740 for now. If you are still reading this post, I think you should be rewarded for your motivation to prepare for GMAT. I tried almost all the material available and have posted my favorites here. Still if you want to know anything more, let me know.
If you are just reading this last paragraph after looking at the post length (and understandably so!) here is one major takeaway - Do everything in your reach to stay inspired. You will score well on GMAT. One last takeaway, I promise! Do spend some time away from GMAT prep as well. I think the break I took from GMAT preparation helped me.

Also, I got too busy in it at the cost of exercise and healthy lifestyle in general. After my second attempt, I started exercising and changed certain things in my diet, both of which I think made a huge difference.
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 00:05
Hey congrats for awesome score.

What was your timing strategy in verbal - section wise if possible? What was the most important change you made in order to improve on verbal? Were the online courses any help? Also, let me know which all practice tests you tried in closing stages.

Too many queries to ask but would appreciate your tips.

All the Best!

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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 00:27
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I used a basic timing strategy of spending roughly 9 minutes for 5 questions. So at the beginning, I would write down a table that would look like
5 - 66 mins left
10-57 mins
15-48 mins
20-39 mins
...
you get the drift. An RC passage in the middle might screw up one 5 question milestone but if I am behind after another set of 5 questions, I will try to hurry and probably guess a difficult question. This strategy worked for me since I didn't have to look after every question how much time I have left.
The most important change I made in verbal was taking visual notes on CR that only I could understand. I found that I was wasting time in taking notes in CR and thus I switched to arrows, Venn diagrams, and pics that I could comprehend and were quick to draw.
The online courses certainly helped. I would recommend GmatPrepNow highly. And it's free! e-GMAT I found not that much helpful. However, your learning style may be different than mine so take trials and read reviews before buying.
For the last days, I stuck with GMATPrep exams, practice questions and Official Quantitive and Verbal Guides on Wiley online as tests.
I hope that helps a bit. Let me know if you have any more questions.
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 07:16
Indeed, helpful.

Your 5-set timing strategy just made me more curious about how did you approach RC in particular. This section is little unpredictable as the topic may occur outside one's strong areas. Did you stick to any particular strategy/sources? I screw up my timings on verbal mostly because of RC.

Cheers!
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 09:03
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For RC, I found that slowing down when reading complicated passages and personalizing some of the material worked. For example, I struggled with some of the biology passages where bacteria with complicated names would enter the body and cause different organs to trigger different antibodies, one of which the bacteria would ride and stick to the membrane of the Intestine and grow from there, I would almost always screw up on such passages. So I started to give nicknames to all the scientific names and get a mental picture of it as if I was a camera inside the body. For it, I had to slow down since I was getting into details but I found out that it improved my overall comprehension of the passage even if there was no direct detail question on the biological process.
Another approach is to reflect on the paragraph after reading and anticipate the next one. Once finished reading all the paragraphs, just reflect for a few moments on the purpose of the author before even looking at questions.
The technique of saying to yourself that you are interested in the passage and you want to learn more of the topic works as well.
Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. Glad to help.
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 09:40
Hi sumeetprof,

Congrats for your awesome Score!! :) Good luck for your applications :)
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I need to work on timing badly!!

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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 18:07
sumeetprof wrote:
For RC, I found that slowing down when reading complicated passages and personalizing some of the material worked. For example, I struggled with some of the biology passages where bacteria with complicated names would enter the body and cause different organs to trigger different antibodies, one of which the bacteria would ride and stick to the membrane of the Intestine and grow from there, I would almost always screw up on such passages. So I started to give nicknames to all the scientific names and get a mental picture of it as if I was a camera inside the body. For it, I had to slow down since I was getting into details but I found out that it improved my overall comprehension of the passage even if there was no direct detail question on the biological process.
Another approach is to reflect on the paragraph after reading and anticipate the next one. Once finished reading all the paragraphs, just reflect for a few moments on the purpose of the author before even looking at questions.
The technique of saying to yourself that you are interested in the passage and you want to learn more of the topic works as well.
Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. Glad to help.


Thanks mate!
All the Best for application process.
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 19:38
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' For example, I struggled with some of the biology passages where bacteria with complicated names would enter the body...'

Look at me still making grammatical errors :) But GMAT preparation does help in daily verbal communication.

A small point that my debrief didn't emphasize is the power of study partner. Try to pair up with a study partner locally if you can. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who is undertaking a similar prep journey like yours. I was lucky enough in that regard. We had healthy competition amongst us. For my final GMAT attempt, my wife said," If you can score in the GMAT prep exam more than 720, I will pay for your fees." A challenge she lost willingly. Of course, I ended up paying more for miscellaneous celebratory expenses but that's a story for another time.
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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score  [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2016, 22:09
Haha that was hilarious.

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Re: From 650 and 670 to 730 and 740 - A couple's quest to good score &nbs [#permalink] 09 May 2016, 22:09
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