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From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)

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From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 07 Sep 2018, 22:10
Went from a 710 (46Q/42V/8 IR/6 AWA) when I took the GMAT in August (accepted), to a 690 (45Q/40V/8 IR) in early September, which was promptly cancelled at the exam centre. Now feeling discouraged, but also motivated to hit my target score of 750+. I also have specific questions near the bottom of the post. Here's the story so far...

Profile


Fresh out of business undergrad, I decided to take the GMAT before starting full-time at an MBB firm in September. I am a North American Asian female, although I'm not sure whether that positively or negatively impacts how my score is viewed. I plan to start applying to schools in 2-4 years' time, so no significant time pressure. I have my sights set on top schools — HSW and INSEAD in particular, as I am already working at a "top" consulting firm and primarily want an MBA for the network it will provide. With that in mind, I set my target score at 750+, but have my minimum threshold for "not retaking the GMAT again" at 730+ (current median at these schools).

My 1st GMAT Attempt


I prepped for 1.5 months before taking the GMAT for the first time, using exclusively free self-study materials. I achieved a score of 710 (46Q, 42V, 8 IR, 6 AWA). While quite happy with this score, I felt worried about the 46Q score, which is in the 58th percentile. Furthermore, I was extremely nervous before taking the exam — getting too far into my head the night before, not being able to sleep (and therefore feeling tired on the day of the exam), and frantically learning about "c-trap" and other questions from the GMATClub Q49 - 51 guide within 24-hours of the actual test. Thus, I was certain that I could do better, especially since I've heard that almost everyone improves on their second try. Confident that I could improve my score within just a short time, I promptly booked my second GMAT exam for early September.

How I prepped for the 1st exam


My prep was mostly unstructured for the first exam, and I mainly focused on filling "gaps" that I'd forgotten from school.
  • Economist GMAT tutor free trial — exclusively focused on quant
  • MathRevolution diagnostic — told to expect Q50, and felt very excited as this was at the beginning of my prep
  • Read a bit of OG quant and did the first 109 PS problems in the 2018 quant guide... stopped since I found them "too easy", although I have heard they get progressively harder
  • Magoosh math flash card app
  • Ready4 GMAT Prep app (free trial only)
  • Note that I did pretty much no verbal prep, as I am a native English speaker and found quant as the bigger "problem area" in my prep

I also did the following free practice tests:
  • 07/23/18: GMAT Prep CAT 1 (yes, I burned this! Had no idea from GMATClub that you should save these for last...) - 660, 43Q/38V/7IR
  • 07/30/18: Economist GMAT Tutor Free CAT - 680, 44Q/40V/7 IR
  • 08/07/18: Manhattan prep free CAT - 680, 46Q/37V/8 IR
  • 08/13/18: Veritas 1st free CAT - 650, 40Q/39V/5 IR
  • 08/14/18: GMATClub free CAT - 710, 49Q/38V
  • 08/15/18: Kaplan free CAT - 720, 47Q/42V/7 IR
  • 08/16/18: GMAT Prep CAT 2 - 730, 48Q/42V/5 IR


After each CAT, I reviewed both the questions I got wrong and the questions I got right but felt unsure about, paying particular attention to Bunuel's solutions on GMATClub. At this point, getting a 710 was in line with my performance. I left the test centre KNOWING I could do better, especially with more focused quant prep. That brings us to...

My 2nd GMAT Attempt


I detoxed my intense GMAT sprint (see: that one week of taking practice CATs every day) with a week-long vacation with friends. As someone used to cramming at school (resulting in a 3.98 undergrad GPA), I got back from the vacation and went back to prepping every day for another 1.5 weeks. This time, I decided to read the GMAT Club math book in full, and discovered several time-saving tricks I didn't know about before. Furthermore, I decided to stop being a cheapskate and invested in the remaining official GMAC CAT exam packs (3-6). My scores kept trending higher and higher, and I was confident things would turn out better this time!

I got a good night of sleep the night before the exam, cleared my mind the night before by reading for pleasure, and went into the exam feeling energetic and confident. At this point, I already had a pretty good "baseline" score, so the pressure wasn't on — I'd accept if the score was higher or the same but higher in quant, and decline otherwise. I ultimately felt like this exam was "harder," which made me believe that I was doing better than last time (hah!). My time management was a little off though — I definitely spent too long on one quant question, and had two minutes to spare for the last two questions. Likewise, since I always had ~20 mins to spare on verbal, I decided to take my time and had to finish the last 6 questions (including a RC passage) with 4 minutes left.

Still, despite these timing issues, I was VERY surprised once the score popped up: 45Q/40V/8 IR, for a total score of... 690. This was 40-60 points behind my official GMAC GMATPrep CAT scores (see below), and a notable decrease in both quant AND verbal.

How I prepped for the 2nd exam


  • Read GMAT Club Math Book v3
  • Reviewed a couple GMATClub resources on CR, SC, and RC just to make sure I'm maximizing my already-high verbal, which seemed to plateau at 42

These were my CAT scores during the week leading up to my 2nd GMAT exam:
  • Veritas free CAT #2, aka my only remaining "free" CAT - 680, 43Q/41V/7 IR — I brushed this aside since Veritas was also my worst score from the first prep period
  • GMAT Prep CAT #3 - 730, 48Q/42V/8 IR
  • GMAT Prep CAT #4 - 740, 49Q/41V/5 IR
  • GMAT Prep CAT #5 - 750, 48Q/44V/8 IR (FINALLY! And while not my highest quant, finally got over the 42V plateau that I'd been stuck at even from the prior prep period)
  • GMAT Prep CAT #6 - 730, 48Q/42V/7 IR

I went into the exam significantly more confident. I expected 48Q/42V at the minimum (730 overall), and was hoping for 750-760 (49Q/44V, my highest CAT results in each category to date). When I saw 690 pop up, I was visibly shaken. This was not in line with my practice tests, especially after feeling like I was starting to recognize the "pattern" of typical GMAT questions. I hadn't scored <41V since eight CATs prior, and I had only scored <46Q (my 1st quant score) on my first two CATs ever and the two Veritas CATs. I'd been treating the GMAT like my full-time job for the past two months, and it felt like all my effort was in vain.

The situation now


At this point, I've now burned through ALL the official GMAT Prep CATs available, as well as every "recommended" free CAT from GMATClub. Moreover, I am now starting full-time work in a high-pressure industry, meaning I no longer have the luxury of studying every day for several hours a day. In fact, I know I will be expected to work 12-hour weekdays, unpredictable weekends, and fly out to client sites on Sundays. My current thoughts:

  • Considering taking an in-person course, but would love recommendations. Self-studying seemed to be ineffective. Firm will reimburse costs, but if I go this route, I want to make sure that my next GMAT score is 750+ (or 760+ ideally, for that 99th percentile stat). Are any classes focused on this high-calibre of scoring? Initial research makes it seem like most are targeted at people who want to be 700+ scorers. I prefer an in-person class/tutor, but availability is likely restricted to Saturdays only.
  • Should I complete all OG questions? I have OG 2018 and OG quant + OG verbal books accessible to me. Is it worthwhile to do all of these questions before my next retake? Should I just focus on "hard" questions" on the GMAT Club OG guides?
  • Based on my profile and target schools above, do you think 750+ is an unnecessary goal? Consensus from my colleagues is that 700+ is the magic number for us to get into any bschool we want, but I am unconvinced because of the 46Q score, and because it seems GMAT scores are only going up in the next few years before I apply. Also not sure if the Asian-American demographic is more competitive at these schools. I think the other aspects of my application will be pretty strong, and will be cognizant about improving/maintaining them over the next few years before applying. I don't want my 710 GMAT score to cast any doubt on my competitiveness for these programs.
  • Current plan is to retake in December. Was definitely feeling a little frustrated and GMAT-ed out by the end of this week, and even more discouraged after receiving the lower second score (which I couldn't decline fast enough!). I think it's time to take a step back from this test and focus on the start of my career, but I really don't want this nagging GMAT-cloud over my head for an indefinite amount of time. I also don't want to wait so long that I have to "start from scratch" so to speak when I'm thinking more seriously about MBA programs.
  • Seems like pacing is one of my biggest issues during the actual exam. Any tips to maintain a better pace during the actual exam, since I tend to have ~2-3 mins extra on quant and 10-20 mins extra on verbal during practices CATs but scramble for time on the real deal?

Parting information


I have an ESR from the 1st GMAT exam, but seems like I cannot include it as this is my first post on the forum. If there's a way I can PM it to you, please let me know.

Key insights:

Verbal


Performance by fundamental skills:
  • CR: 75% analysis/critique + 100% construction/plan
  • RC: 75% identify inferred idea + 83% identify stated idea
  • SC: 100% grammar + 57% communication (what is "communication" and how can I improve it?)

  • Percent correct by quarter of exam: 88% / 86% / 71% / 75%
  • Average time per response by quarter of exam: 2:04 /2:28 / 1:13 / 0:53

Quant


Performance by fundamental skills:
  • Geometry: 66%
  • Rates/ratio/percent: 71%
  • Value/order/factors: 77%
  • Equal/inequal/algebra: 66%
  • Counting/sets/series: 83%

  • 60th percentile on PS and 52nd percentile on DS
  • Percent correct by quarter of exam: 71% / 71% / 71% / 86%
  • Average time per response by quarter of exam: 1:58 / 1:44 / 2:09 / 1:39

Thank you so much for reading such a long debrief, and any advice you can provide is highly appreciated!

Originally posted by PinkEraser on 07 Sep 2018, 18:44.
Last edited by PinkEraser on 07 Sep 2018, 22:10, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Sep 2018, 19:39
1
Well clearly quant is the area of concern. If I were you, I wouldn't bother about verbal and put all my energy into quant.
It is difficult to say whether an in-person class would surely help. I would say contact a few of the institutes, discuss about your specific needs and how they can help.
Solving OG is definitely recommended. Including quant and verbal review.
For your profile 750 might not be absolutely necessary, but a higher quant is definitely desirable to be safe. I'd say at least Q47-48.
Good luck!
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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Sep 2018, 20:04
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Hi PinkEraser,

To start, a 710/Q46 is an outstanding score, so you can comfortably apply to any Business Schools that interest you - even if you're not planning to apply for another few years. While there's certainly no harm in retaking the GMAT, a retest is probably not necessary. GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Your 2 Official score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 700 +/- a few points). Your Scores are so similar that you clearly handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. To lock in a 760+ though, you're going to have to make some adjustments to how you 'see' (and respond to) the Test.

While the ESR doesn't provide a lot of information, there are usually a few data points that we can use to define what went wrong (and what you should work on to score higher). You can feel free to email me your ESR and I'll be happy to analyze it for you. If you're a flexible-enough thinker to learn and practice the proper Tactics, then you could potentially retest in a few weeks and hit your Score Goal. It's worth noting that NO Course can "guarantee" you a 760+ result though; the GMAT will give you the Score that you EARN - and a big part of scoring at a higher level is in properly training to earn those points.

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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 Sep 2018, 09:09
EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi PinkEraser,

To start, a 710/Q46 is an outstanding score, so you can comfortably apply to any Business Schools that interest you - even if you're not planning to apply for another few years. While there's certainly no harm in retaking the GMAT, a retest is probably not necessary. GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Your 2 Official score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 700 +/- a few points). Your Scores are so similar that you clearly handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. To lock in a 760+ though, you're going to have to make some adjustments to how you 'see' (and respond to) the Test.

While the ESR doesn't provide a lot of information, there are usually a few data points that we can use to define what went wrong (and what you should work on to score higher). You can feel free to email me your ESR and I'll be happy to analyze it for you. If you're a flexible-enough thinker to learn and practice the proper Tactics, then you could potentially retest in a few weeks and hit your Score Goal. It's worth noting that NO Course can "guarantee" you a 760+ result though; the GMAT will give you the Score that you EARN - and a big part of scoring at a higher level is in properly training to earn those points.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Thanks Rich. I sent you an email with the ESR a couple days ago. Hopefully it has all the "useful" data points.
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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 09 Sep 2018, 18:36
Hi PinkEraser,

My apologies for the delay. I just found your ESR (it was in my spam folder) and have sent you an email with some notes/suggestions. There actually are a number of interesting data points in your ESR - so you can use that analysis to decide how you want to proceed.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Sep 2018, 02:03
Hi PinkEraser,

Congratulations for your scores! 710/690 are good scores even if not in line with your expectations and improving from here on will be matter of Fine Tuning your prep. I am sharing an example of students who went on to score higher scores from already high scores as I think these stories will motivate you further to chase your dream score and guide you in achieving it.
    • Learn how Leonardo (from Brazil) improved his Quant score from a Q46 to Q49 and went on to score an amazing 750. He "identified and practiced specific sections" in Quant by leveraging Quant Live Prep to achieve this feat. Click here to watch his video debrief. He recently secured an admit from Wharton, Booth and Tepper.

I see that you are looking at courses that deliver even for high-caliber students. Since you are already very comfortable with Verbal I would recommend the Quant Live Prep course for you. It comes with a minimum of 3 points score improvement guarantee in Quant for you.

Coming to your next question about OG, it is always advisable to solve OG as that gives you a good practice on official questions and an insight in the kind of questions you are likely to see in the actual test.

Your pacing issue may be due to pressure of performing well in the exam however this is just one of the many possible reasons. It would be a good idea to look at the ESR to figure out where you are actually spending time in the actual test. We can help you analyze the ESR, if you send it to us on support@e-gmat.com.

Hope this helps!

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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+)  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Sep 2018, 17:27
Hi PinkEraser,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. Believe it or not, there is some good news here. Despite following a fairly random study routine, you were able to achieve two solid GMAT scores of 710 and 690. That being said, to take your score to a higher level, your preparation is going to have to be more complete; you have to go through GMAT quant and verbal carefully to find your exact weaknesses, fill gaps in your knowledge, and strengthen your skills. The overall process will be to learn all about how to answer question types with which you currently aren't very comfortable and do dozens of practice questions category by category, basically driving up your score point by point. When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better.

For example, if you find that you are not strong in answering Number Properties questions, then carefully review the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions and practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties: LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, remainders, etc. When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type. As you do such practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

Each time you strengthen your understanding of a topic and your skill in answering questions of a particular type, you increase your odds of hitting your score goal. You know that there are types of questions that you are happy to see and types that you would rather not see, and types of questions that you take a long time to answer correctly. Learn to more effectively answer the types of questions that you would rather not see, and make them into your favorite types. Learn to correctly answer in two minutes or less questions that you currently take five minutes to answer. By finding, say, a dozen weaker quant areas and turning them into strong areas, you will make great progress toward hitting your quant score goal. If a dozen areas turn out not to be enough, strengthen some more areas.

You can work on verbal in a similar manner. Let’s say you are reviewing Critical Reasoning. Be sure that you practice a large number of Critical Reasoning questions: Strengthen and Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, find the Conclusion, Must be True, etc. As you go through the questions, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get correct. If you missed a weaken question, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize what the question was asking? Did you skip over a key detail in an answer choice? Getting GMAT verbal questions right is a matter of what you know, what you see, and what you do. So, any time that you don't get one right, you can seek to identify what you would have had to know in order to get the right answer, what you had to see that you didn't see, and what you could have done differently to arrive at the correct answer.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

In order to follow the path described above, you may need some new verbal and quant materials, so take a look at the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant and verbal courses.

You also may find my article with more information regarding
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT helpful.

Feel free to reach out with further questions.

Good luck!
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Re: From 710 (1st attempt) to 690 (2nd attempt) & need advice (Goal: 750+) &nbs [#permalink] 11 Sep 2018, 17:27
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