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GMAT Debrief 590 to 720

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GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V38
GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 01:55
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Hey guys,
So I've been meaning to write this up for a little while given that I took my GMAT in August 2019, over a year after my prev. attempt in Feb of 2018.
My Background
I am Indian, mostly grew up in India but have done parts of my schooling in London and Singapore. I went to the US for College and have a BSc in Economics.
That being said, I am a terrible test taker, whether it be standardized tests or classroom style tests/exams, I tend to overthink and eventually mess up the tests I take (SAT was a 1990/2400 :| ) I did eventually manage to do fairly well on the GMAT after coming off with a pretty terrible initial score and I thought i'd share my experience and point out the mistakes I made as well as the changes that I made that lifted my score up the 720 I currently have.
Do enjoy!

Initial Attempt
When i first started GMAT prep, I went to 2 tutors (one for quant AND one for verbal) to learn strategies for English, namely CR and SC. while I did find these helpful it was essentially the same stuff I could've taught myself had I spent more time reading the posts on GMAT Club. For Math however, it was a game changer, I learned a lot of quick tips and strategies on how to identify potential trap answers and figure out what the question was looking for. Again, once I started exploring GMAT club, most of what I was taught can be found on the Math Flashcards forum and Manhattan's Quant prep material.

Materials Used
To practice mocks I used Princeton, Kaplan, Manhattan and Official GMAT CATs as a way to test how my prep was going. I was more concerned with the no. of incorrect questions and the placement of these questions rather than worry about my score as these algorithms so differ from the actual GMAT's. Prep time in total here was about 3-3.5 months, with 1-2 hours of study everyday with 2 CATS on the weekends. I finished up my prep internally with the Official GMAT CAT's and did not get below a 720 in any of them. In the last few days leading up to my exam I was doing 1 CAT/day. I did take the last day very lightly and was just brushing up on certain math formulae that I was weak in (Triangles P&C lol). All in all, I had attempted around 15 full CATs before my first attempt.

Test Day Attempt #1
So I get to the test center will in time (a little over an hour my actual exam) and hang out outside the test center as we aren't allowed to go in until around 30 min before. Once in, we are all informed that there is a technical issue and that our test is delayed by little over an hour. We had the option of waiting it out and do the test or reschedule to two weeks later. Now given that I has done fairly well in Official GMAT CATs I was determined to wait this issue out and do the exam that day, so I got a coffee and opened my notes (shouldn't have), I shall elaborate on why shortly. I eventually get into the exam room, and was somewhat unprepared with the environment. I did not know about the 'sketchpad' or marker. I knew about the noise cancelling headphones but was thrown off overall by the setting. This is where the issues start. As I progress throughout the exam, I keep forgetting to recap my marker and it keeps drying up, leaving me marker less for a few seconds while I raised my hand to ask for another. This start stop ended up breaking my flow and ultimately wasted minutes that could be used solving the questions presented to me. At the end of this exam, I hit the view unofficial score and it showed me the Q38, V28, AWA 5, IR 7 590.
Needless to say, I cancelled my score straight away and left the test center devastated.

Reflections on Test Attempt #1
I had a while to think about what went wrong with my test.
1) Prep itself --> I never used an error log, not once. This led to me constantly getting the same questions wrong repeatedly, I don't know why I didn't use it, but this is mistake #1.
2) Exam simulation --> I didn't really know what to expect going into the exam room which was also foolish. I could've easily done some exam simulation tests at home to get used to environment.
3) External Factors --> Showing up and having to sit through a delay is obviously a mental factor when coming to an exam such as the GMAT for the first time. Added pressure and having to sit and think about an exam that already is difficult and adds so much pressure makes the likelihood of nonperformance high.
4) Variety in Prep --> I could've done more in my prep to get a feel of a larger variety of questions. Believe I didn't do enough here.
5) Wasting too much time on questions --> Had a hard time letting questions go, cause me to waste too much time on questions that probably were not worth too much.

Second Attempt
After my horrible first attempt, I took over a year off before I restarted prep, also probably a dumb idea because I had to relearn pretty much everything. Nonetheless, I did restart, this time much harder than before. I re-visited my math tutor for a few sessions, just to get a recap of a few topics, but after that, solved all the questions from the Quant Guide, a lot from Manhattan and then Kaplan Quant quizzes + other math questions on GMAT Club. My math was improving in speed and accuracy, i'd be able to finish a Quant section with at least 3-4 minutes to spare, so I figured I could spend a little more time during the exam. For Verbal, I re-taught myself everything, I practiced RC's at least 2-3/day, I hated CR and SC, so admittedly didn't put as much time in as RCs, but still worked on them a significant amount.

Materials Used
This time, I did expand on my mistakes from last time and used a larger variety of materials. I did reuse newer versions of Kaplan and Princeton CATs, but also included Manhattan tests (didn't care about the score), the Official GMAT CATs, Veritas and the Economist. I think the biggest booster here was the Veritas tests. I found them challenging and this time, I used an error log for every questions I go wrong. I analysed the topic, figured out why I got it wrong, taught myself the topic and re-solved the question. This made a huge difference, not only in my understanding but also in figuring out common trap answers the GMAT will use [especially the temptation to combine I and II (Answer choice C) in DS]. Additionally, I found Veritas Verbal extremely challenging and credit solving all 8 CATs to boosting my V score. This time, I prepped for 4 months, of which the latter 2 were pretty serious. I was doing around 3 CATs/ week and corrections of those CATs in between attempts + reinforcing weak topics in both Quant and Verbal. In total I did around 30-32 CATs before this attempt. Another change I made was to order the exact pad used in the exam with the marker and simulate the exam conditions on every test. I put headphones on, wore something I would to the exam and conducted myself exactly the way I would in the exam. This was also a huge help.

Test Attempt #2
Going into this exam, I must say I approached this attempt with the mentality of a practice exam. I wore what I would at home and did not feel any pressure as I knew what to expect. Moreover I knew that last minute revision in the days leading up to the exam were somewhat pointless as I had taught myself whatever I could've in the time frame and like the previous time didn't want to confuse myself or stumble upon a topic i'm weak in and internally freak out about it. This attempt to me was just 'lets see how I do this time', I am not applying to B-Schools for at least 2 more years so there is no other immediate pressure. This entire exercise is just to be done with the GMAT (which i highly recommend). This time during the exam, I was not pressed for time, I remembered to cap the marker (lol) and I let go of questions which I knew would either take up to much time or leave me stuck for more than 3 minutes. I did however, spend extra time in the front half of the exam. I was extremely cautious in the first 10/12 questions. I know there have been a variety of posts testing this, but I do believe it matter and i'd rather not risk anything. The exam went along exactly as it would've at home, my break involved a single bite of a snickers bar and some water before I went onto Quant (I attempted V then Q in both attempts). At the end I clicked that same dreaded button and saw Q49, V38, IR 7, 720. To be honest, I was in shock, cause this exam didn't feel THAT hard, probably because of the reduction in nerves. But still I think I did get lucky to some extent. There were a couple of Quant questions which I re thought through and ended up changing answers at the last second cause I found my initial mistake so I guess being a little more of a stickler did help in some way. I immediately printed out my score and left.

Tips and general advice
1) Keep an error log!!
2) Don't be afraid to let go of questions (there are more that need solving so you need to move on and spend time where you can!)
3) Use Veritas CATs towards the end of your prep. (my actual GMAT score and difficulty was closes imo to Veritas' CATs)
4) 100% recommend simulating the exam before you actually go for the real thing
5) Try and go with a practice exam mindset, as weird as this sounds, this is what ultimately calmed my nerves about the exam this time around.
6) If you get a bad score, so what? Get back and hit it harder, luck favors the hard working.

Good luck to all who have their GMAT coming up and Congrats to everyone who is done with it!
I personally plan to doing it one last time to see if I can get any higher so hopefully, you all will see a second positive debrief from me soon!

Cheers!
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 02:59
Hi karank21234 .. Congratulations for a great score and debrief. I am sure, many applicants will find it useful in preparing a similar strategy like yours for the exam. All the best for your future applications :)
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 07:22
Congratulations for the great 720! and yes All the best for next attempt!
there are lot of people like me who get motivated from such debriefs esp. those who have had bad previous attempts.
Thanks!
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 07:51
karank21234
Congrats on the success!!
It is a true inspiration for many of us who are struggling to find the right path..
Kudos & all the best for future endeavors.
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 08:20
He is telling he cancelled his first score..then how he knows his AWA score : Q38, V28, AWA 5, IR 7 590 ---his first attempt.. ????????????
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GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V38
Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 21:19
SirDonaldTrump yes I did cancel my score, I do have a fair idea on how to estimate AWA's, so I'm just assuming I would've got a 5, and not a 6 on my first AWA, don't think it would have been a 4, sorry, should've clarified this
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New post 19 Nov 2019, 22:03
Awesome news!! Congrats on the hard work!!

If you have the ESR would you mind posting it? :P
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 22:50
karank21234 wrote:
Hey guys,
So I've been meaning to write this up for a little while given that I took my GMAT in August 2019, over a year after my prev. attempt in Feb of 2018.
My Background
I am Indian, mostly grew up in India but have done parts of my schooling in London and Singapore. I went to the US for College and have a BSc in Economics.
That being said, I am a terrible test taker, whether it be standardized tests or classroom style tests/exams, I tend to overthink and eventually mess up the tests I take (SAT was a 1990/2400 :| ) I did eventually manage to do fairly well on the GMAT after coming off with a pretty terrible initial score and I thought i'd share my experience and point out the mistakes I made as well as the changes that I made that lifted my score up the 720 I currently have.
Do enjoy!

Initial Attempt
When i first started GMAT prep, I went to 2 tutors (one for quant AND one for verbal) to learn strategies for English, namely CR and SC. while I did find these helpful it was essentially the same stuff I could've taught myself had I spent more time reading the posts on GMAT Club. For Math however, it was a game changer, I learned a lot of quick tips and strategies on how to identify potential trap answers and figure out what the question was looking for. Again, once I started exploring GMAT club, most of what I was taught can be found on the Math Flashcards forum and Manhattan's Quant prep material.

Materials Used
To practice mocks I used Princeton, Kaplan, Manhattan and Official GMAT CATs as a way to test how my prep was going. I was more concerned with the no. of incorrect questions and the placement of these questions rather than worry about my score as these algorithms so differ from the actual GMAT's. Prep time in total here was about 3-3.5 months, with 1-2 hours of study everyday with 2 CATS on the weekends. I finished up my prep internally with the Official GMAT CAT's and did not get below a 720 in any of them. In the last few days leading up to my exam I was doing 1 CAT/day. I did take the last day very lightly and was just brushing up on certain math formulae that I was weak in (Triangles P&C lol). All in all, I had attempted around 15 full CATs before my first attempt.

Test Day Attempt #1
So I get to the test center will in time (a little over an hour my actual exam) and hang out outside the test center as we aren't allowed to go in until around 30 min before. Once in, we are all informed that there is a technical issue and that our test is delayed by little over an hour. We had the option of waiting it out and do the test or reschedule to two weeks later. Now given that I has done fairly well in Official GMAT CATs I was determined to wait this issue out and do the exam that day, so I got a coffee and opened my notes (shouldn't have), I shall elaborate on why shortly. I eventually get into the exam room, and was somewhat unprepared with the environment. I did not know about the 'sketchpad' or marker. I knew about the noise cancelling headphones but was thrown off overall by the setting. This is where the issues start. As I progress throughout the exam, I keep forgetting to recap my marker and it keeps drying up, leaving me marker less for a few seconds while I raised my hand to ask for another. This start stop ended up breaking my flow and ultimately wasted minutes that could be used solving the questions presented to me. At the end of this exam, I hit the view unofficial score and it showed me the Q38, V28, AWA 5, IR 7 590.
Needless to say, I cancelled my score straight away and left the test center devastated.

Reflections on Test Attempt #1
I had a while to think about what went wrong with my test.
1) Prep itself --> I never used an error log, not once. This led to me constantly getting the same questions wrong repeatedly, I don't know why I didn't use it, but this is mistake #1.
2) Exam simulation --> I didn't really know what to expect going into the exam room which was also foolish. I could've easily done some exam simulation tests at home to get used to environment.
3) External Factors --> Showing up and having to sit through a delay is obviously a mental factor when coming to an exam such as the GMAT for the first time. Added pressure and having to sit and think about an exam that already is difficult and adds so much pressure makes the likelihood of nonperformance high.
4) Variety in Prep --> I could've done more in my prep to get a feel of a larger variety of questions. Believe I didn't do enough here.
5) Wasting too much time on questions --> Had a hard time letting questions go, cause me to waste too much time on questions that probably were not worth too much.

Second Attempt
After my horrible first attempt, I took over a year off before I restarted prep, also probably a dumb idea because I had to relearn pretty much everything. Nonetheless, I did restart, this time much harder than before. I re-visited my math tutor for a few sessions, just to get a recap of a few topics, but after that, solved all the questions from the Quant Guide, a lot from Manhattan and then Kaplan Quant quizzes + other math questions on GMAT Club. My math was improving in speed and accuracy, i'd be able to finish a Quant section with at least 3-4 minutes to spare, so I figured I could spend a little more time during the exam. For Verbal, I re-taught myself everything, I practiced RC's at least 2-3/day, I hated CR and SC, so admittedly didn't put as much time in as RCs, but still worked on them a significant amount.

Materials Used
This time, I did expand on my mistakes from last time and used a larger variety of materials. I did reuse newer versions of Kaplan and Princeton CATs, but also included Manhattan tests (didn't care about the score), the Official GMAT CATs, Veritas and the Economist. I think the biggest booster here was the Veritas tests. I found them challenging and this time, I used an error log for every questions I go wrong. I analysed the topic, figured out why I got it wrong, taught myself the topic and re-solved the question. This made a huge difference, not only in my understanding but also in figuring out common trap answers the GMAT will use [especially the temptation to combine I and II (Answer choice C) in DS]. Additionally, I found Veritas Verbal extremely challenging and credit solving all 8 CATs to boosting my V score. This time, I prepped for 4 months, of which the latter 2 were pretty serious. I was doing around 3 CATs/ week and corrections of those CATs in between attempts + reinforcing weak topics in both Quant and Verbal. In total I did around 30-32 CATs before this attempt. Another change I made was to order the exact pad used in the exam with the marker and simulate the exam conditions on every test. I put headphones on, wore something I would to the exam and conducted myself exactly the way I would in the exam. This was also a huge help.

Test Attempt #2
Going into this exam, I must say I approached this attempt with the mentality of a practice exam. I wore what I would at home and did not feel any pressure as I knew what to expect. Moreover I knew that last minute revision in the days leading up to the exam were somewhat pointless as I had taught myself whatever I could've in the time frame and like the previous time didn't want to confuse myself or stumble upon a topic i'm weak in and internally freak out about it. This attempt to me was just 'lets see how I do this time', I am not applying to B-Schools for at least 2 more years so there is no other immediate pressure. This entire exercise is just to be done with the GMAT (which i highly recommend). This time during the exam, I was not pressed for time, I remembered to cap the marker (lol) and I let go of questions which I knew would either take up to much time or leave me stuck for more than 3 minutes. I did however, spend extra time in the front half of the exam. I was extremely cautious in the first 10/12 questions. I know there have been a variety of posts testing this, but I do believe it matter and i'd rather not risk anything. The exam went along exactly as it would've at home, my break involved a single bite of a snickers bar and some water before I went onto Quant (I attempted V then Q in both attempts). At the end I clicked that same dreaded button and saw Q49, V38, IR 7, 720. To be honest, I was in shock, cause this exam didn't feel THAT hard, probably because of the reduction in nerves. But still I think I did get lucky to some extent. There were a couple of Quant questions which I re thought through and ended up changing answers at the last second cause I found my initial mistake so I guess being a little more of a stickler did help in some way. I immediately printed out my score and left.

Tips and general advice
1) Keep an error log!!
2) Don't be afraid to let go of questions (there are more that need solving so you need to move on and spend time where you can!)
3) Use Veritas CATs towards the end of your prep. (my actual GMAT score and difficulty was closes imo to Veritas' CATs)
4) 100% recommend simulating the exam before you actually go for the real thing
5) Try and go with a practice exam mindset, as weird as this sounds, this is what ultimately calmed my nerves about the exam this time around.
6) If you get a bad score, so what? Get back and hit it harder, luck favors the hard working.

Good luck to all who have their GMAT coming up and Congrats to everyone who is done with it!
I personally plan to doing it one last time to see if I can get any higher so hopefully, you all will see a second positive debrief from me soon!

Cheers!
congrats it's sure inspirational ...

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Joined: 14 Dec 2017
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GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V38
Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2019, 01:17
jsound996 sorry, didn't get the ESR
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Re: GMAT Debrief 590 to 720   [#permalink] 20 Nov 2019, 01:17
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