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700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS

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700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2017, 06:43
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Let me tell you a little about myself. I'm 36 years old and I began this journey cocksure and overconfident. Despite not having done math in 15 years (yes, you read that right), I was arrogant. When I was younger, I would score among the highest in national standardised exams consistently. I was certain I would beat the GMAT into submission with one hand tied behind my back.

And eventually, I did. But this isn't a 750/770 miracle tale. Mine is a story of a hard-fought battle against myself and my own limitations (this is also quant-focused because I really didn't study for Verbal). I soon realised that at an international level, my quant skills (which I had always believed to be superior) are above average at best. But more than that, as time wore on, this nagging, insidious doubt started to creep in. Maybe it was me. Maybe this was the best I could ever be. Maybe, I was truly just mediocre.

NOW STOP RIGHT THERE IF YOU EVER FIND YOUR THOUGHTS TURNING IN THAT DIRECTION. I can well and truly tell you that you're wrong. Mediocrity isn't something that happens to you against your will, it's something you accept.

My preparation is littered with rookie mistakes. I began by slowly going through the MGMAT books, reading the theory and halfheartedly answering some of the problems. I would do it in bed, a few pages at a time and would skip sections that I thought too basic. (Fun fact: nothing is too basic.) I also did this over an extended period of time thinking I had all the time in the world because I had started early. This resulted in me forgetting everything I had learned almost as soon as I finished a section. I didn't take notes and everytime I finished a chapter, I proceeded on the assumption that I had "covered" that topic sufficiently. I assumed that reading all the books meant I would be done with the review.

Ah the ignorance of a GMAT newbie.

My first MGMAT practice test results (which I took while I was midway through the MGMAT quant books): 540 (Q33, V32)

I then started taking it more seriously and started studying 2x a week. Uh huh.

I took my second MGMAT a month later for the hell of it: 590 (Q37,V34)

Then my third after a 4-month break from studying and two months of continuing to read the MGMAT quant series sporadically: 530 (Q32,V31)

I was horrified. I truly believed that reading those books completed my review and I couldn't understand why I was scoring so abysmally low. I had never spoken to anyone who had taken the GMAT before, all I knew was that this was a requirement for business school that I needed to tick off. I started googling feverishly and the picture came together. I came across gmatclub and I mark it as the beginning of my REAL studying. This was in February 2017. I read about the free GMATPREP practice tests in a forum and in passing, saw people refer to POE ("process of elimination") as a Verbal technique. This is the single most important thing I learned and the sole reason for my Verbal success. As soon as I started crossing out options on paper, instead of comparing them all in my head, I started consistently scoring extremely well in Verbal. My next practice test, I got a V44. Every practice test that followed, I never scored below a V40. I hadn't started reviewing Verbal just yet and I made the decision to ignore it completely. Quant required my full attention.

I started doing practice questions on gmatclub and timing myself. I was practising haphazardly and didn't realise it at the time. I thought that since I had already covered the basics by reading the MGMAT books, the next step would be to practice and practice until I could answer every question that was thrown my way. I was learning theory with every question that I answered and every Bunuel explanation that I saw but I wasn't improving. At this stage, I was scoring in the Q36-Q39 level. I had started visiting gmatclub on an almost daily basis and I had bought access to gmatclub tests. Timing was an issue and everytime I took a Quant practice test I would end up rushing the last 6-10 questions. I was getting tearful and desperate. While I had improved significantly since I started frequenting gmatclub forums, I was also plateauing at a level lower than my aspirations. I needed to score at least a Q45 to even be considered at the schools I wanted to apply to and I was 6 points away! Scoring at the 700 level was secondary to me. I knew that no matter how high my Verbal score, a contrasting poor Quant score, would not reflect well on me and my abilities.

I scoured forums for tips and finally, I put together a formula that today, I discovered, worked for me. I could go on and on about everything I've been through but as I write this to be helpful (and not to be autobiographical), I synthesize below what I believe worked for me:

(1) I went back to basics. I went through the MGMAT books again and this time I solved problems as I studied the theory. I worked on my arithmetic and algebra, eliminating sloppy habits that resulted in careless errors. I didn't skip the "extra" sections while making empty promises to go back to them after I had finished the whole set. I plodded through everything, even the ones that made my head ache. I approached everything with humility and the knowledge that I was starting from scratch. I knew nothing. I was Jon Snow, except I knew even less because I actually had to re-learn long division.
(2) I stopped looking at 700-level questions while I was working on the basics. I needed to build my foundation from the ground up.
(3) Every day was GMAT day (except for the one day a week I allowed myself to rest). I made sure to solve a few problems a day and only skipped when I was ill or too tired from work it would have been counterproductive.
(4) I joined a whatsapp quant review group (which I discovered on one of the forums) full of the most amazing, helpful, inspiring people. It helped to no longer feel so alone in my struggle. The group was so active that I would wake up to hundreds of messages every day. I couldn't solve all the questions that came my way but every time I was free, I would go through past messages and try to solve problems or identify weak spots in my theoretical knowledge. But mostly, the incessant barrage of messages was a constant reminder of how hard everyone else was working -- I couldn't allow myself to be complacent.
(5) I stopped timing myself. I focused on solving problems and really understanding. I would let myself take as long as I need to get to my AHA! moment, and once I did, solutions to similar problems came more easily to me. And with this easy familiarity came speed. I had been hampering my own growth by rushing through problems and guessing within two minutes. The goal is to solve the problem. Speed happens naturally when you're in control because you fully grasp the problem.
(6) I stopped seeing practice tests as a learning tool and learned to only view it as a measure of how far I've come. In fact, the past two-three months, I've only taken a single full practice test. And this I did 2 weeks ago. I scored a 700 (Q42,V42, IR8). I decided it was good enough and that I couldn't afford to put it off any longer since the 2nd round application deadlines are fast approaching. I scheduled my test for today.

10 days ago, I fell ill. I battled the flu and suffered through a persistent cough and cold that I feared would never leave me. I couldn't study at all and it took all my strength to wake up each day and go to work. When I was finally well enough to at least sit and read at the end of a work day, I could only go through my notes. Every problem took me an excruciatingly long time to absorb and I had to stop at 2 or 3 problems. Finally, last Saturday I was able to sit down and study. I focused on OG problems and did as many as I could. I was supposed to do the same yesterday but then I had an accident. My knife slipped and I cut my hand badly enough that I had to rush to the ER. I was bleeding profusely and I ended up with a bandaged writing hand. I had to beg the doctor to ensure the bandage allowed for flexibility (I had to be able to write!) and to give me medicine that wouldn't make me groggy.

I took the test without painkillers and hardly any sleep. I thought I bombed Quant because I was so dizzy the first question took me 5 minutes to get through and I ended up guessing anyway. For the first quarter of the test I was behind by 10 minutes. I whittled it down to 5 minutes or so until miraculously, I managed to get to the last question. Verbal was hard to get through. I had to read and re-read so many prompts because the coffee was barely combatting the lack of sleep. I powered through because I knew I needed to do well to salvage what I thought was a spectacular Quant failure. By the time I got to IR, I was running on fumes. I had performed consistently well (without prep) in IR in the past and i may have slipped into complacency. I ran out of time and failed to answer the last question.

When I clicked the button and saw my scores, I blinked at the 46 in Quant and cried. I had been bracing myself for failure and somehow, I had done it. It wasn't the 750 of my dreams but it was real and it was mine. Now I know I can do it. And nobody can ever take thatt away from me.

Objectively, can I do better? Yes. I honestly believe more targeted practice and continued good habits would yield a higher score. If I actually studied for Verbal, I know I would score even higher.
But will I take it again? I think not. I don't have much time and what I have left of it is better spent elsewhere. A 700 is enough to be considered. How well I do in the GMAT is an indicator of what I'm capable of but it's not all of who I am. I've woven that part of my story -- it's now time to show AdComms the rest.

I wish you all the best on your MBA application journey. Wherever this road leads us, we're better people for it. My deepest, most heartfelt thanks to the people responsible for gmatclub.

Last edited by Push2018 on 20 Nov 2017, 07:51, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2017, 07:25
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Congratulations to you Push2018! Good to see that I am the first one to comment. Very inspiring, detailed, and well written. Thanks a ton for sharing your experience. :-)
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700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS [#permalink]

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Thanks for the detailed write-up, you have made us think how important is it not to stop when we are just about to lose our battle. Hats off to you lady, you mentioned: "I am 36 years old and haven't touched quant for past 15 years" is so much appreciable.Would exhaust appreciating you ;) ;), congratulations on your grand success!! the journey awaits :)

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Re: 700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS [#permalink]

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Congratulations Push2018 for the score!

Amazed to see the improvement in the Qaunt and I can understand studying after 15 years can be really challenging.

Very motivational write-up and a great story of dedication. I hope you get into your dream school.
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"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

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Re: 700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS [#permalink]

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New post 21 Nov 2017, 08:33
Congrats on the great score, and thanks for an inspiring story!

I'm in the same boat. My verbal is strong while my quant is week. My last attempt yielded a 660 (39Q V40) and I'm looking to cross that 700 barrier 3 weeks from now.

Once again, thanks for the story. It gave me hope, but plenty of good advice too (I've been spamming gmatclub forum sums and trying to 'learn' from them, but have only just realized, that I need to go back to the basics).

Cheers!

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Re: 700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS   [#permalink] 21 Nov 2017, 08:33
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700: Q46, V40, IR 6 from 540 (Q33,V32) -- TIPS

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