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GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way

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Joined: 25 Oct 2016
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GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Dec 2016, 09:17
Hello everyone!

I have never been posting much on this forum. However, I was an active reader and definitely benefited much from it and therefore I felt that writing a debrief is the least I could do to give something back to the community. About two weeks ago, I took the GMAT for the very first time and scored a 760 (Q50, V44, IR 8, AWA 5.0). My initial goal was to simpy score in the 700+ range but during my studies I adjusted my goal and my final goal on test day was around 730-740. Considering that I managed to surpass my goal, I am obviously very satisfied with the outcome. During my preparation, I read a lot in this forum and read many of the existing debriefs. While I think that some advices in many of the existing debriefs are definitely worth following, I think some advices only apply to certain types of people. Therefore, I encourage you to take everything you read on here with a grain of salt, just as I did.

General Preparation:

In total, I studied for about four months for the GMAT. However, during these four months I've always been working full-time and thus, I've only been able to do 1-2 hours a day during weekdays. While many people in this forum recommend to study full-time I never saw this as a disadvantage. You just have to put in a certain amount of hours (depending on your individual skill and previous knowledge) but I don't believe that it matters how these hours are distributed. My preparation was mainly based on five books:

Official GMAT Guide 2016
OG Quant Review
OG Verbal Review
Kaplan GMAT Premier 2016
Manhattan GMAT Advanced Quant

I did not choose these books because I think that they are superior to any other study material out there but simply because I got those from a friend and sticking to them was most convenient. If I had to choose new books, I would probably add Manhattan SC since many people recommend it. I recommend to start your preparation with a book that does not only contain questions like the OG material but that also explains the first very basic approaches to the GMAT questions (e.g. the process of elimination for DS questions). Afterwards, you can practice with OG questions and then turn to fine-tuning. For reference, here are also my test results starting from when I was prepping seriously. I did one or two tests before I was actually studying, I don't remember the exact results but they were around 650ish.

GMAT 1: 710 (Q49, V37)
Kaplan 1: 730 (Q49, V41)
MGMAT 1: 730 (Q51 V38)
Kaplan 2: 720 (Q49 V40)
GMAT 2: 770 (Q50, V44)
GMAT 3: 730 (Q50, V39)
Kaplan 3: 730 (Q50, V40)
Kaplan 4: 740 (Q49, V43)
Veritas 1: 700 (Q51, V35)
GMAT 3: 730 (Q50, V39)
Real Test: 760 (Q50, V44)

Just a few remarks on my test results. As you can see, Quant is consistently fluctuating between 49 and 51 and I was fine with that and did not bother to put in disproportional effort to increase it to 51 consistently. Also, I do believe that Kaplan Verbal is consistently scoring at least 2 points harder than the real test, so take your results there with a grain of salt. Also, I took the free Veritas test shortly before my actual appointment and as you can see, it was way off, so I don't recommend them if you want a serious indicator of your performance.


As an economics major, my quantitative background is pretty solid, but maybe not as solid as the background of engineers or other people with more math exposure. I felt that it is pretty easy to climb to Q49 for people with a solid quantitative background. Just learn the basics (e.g. learn triangle ratios, combinatons and permutations formula etc.) and then I never scored below 49 on a single test. However, getting to Q50 or Q51 at least for me meant putting in exponentially more time and effort and therefore I switched to verbal at this point in my preparation. What I still recommend is consistently doing all those new 700+ questions from Bunuel in the math section. These questions would usually take me around 30 minutes a day and they prepare you very well for the questions one has to get right in order to get Q50 or Q51. From then on, my quant score in prep tests usually fluctuated between Q49 and Q51 with Q50 being the result in most cases.


As my quant score was pretty solid early on, I knew that verbal was where my score would be decided. For CR, I did not follow any system or any specific approach, so I did not always wrote down premises, assumptions etc. as sometimes is suggested. However, my accuracy was always pretty high for CR and hence, I did not see the point to adjust my strategy. For people who have problems with CR, these advices might be helpful. RC and SC were much harder for me personally. In my view, RC is mostly about practice. For every RC passage, I read the entire passage carefully once and took notes. In 95% of the cases, I never looked at the notes again but they helped me to read carefully and to remember details I read. Afterwards, RC is mostly about reading the questions carefully and looking up the evidence in the passage. The most critical part for my verbal score was SC. It is easy to improve SC in the early stages of your preparation since understanding parallelism, subject-verb agreement and modifiers can increase your accuracy quickly. However, for the harder SC questions, a basic understanding is not enough. This is the point that the title of my debrief alludes to. For quite some time of my preparation, I was too proud to admit that I was simply not understanding SC at a level deep enough for a high score. I especially felt that explanations for some SC questions did not make sense and that I was somehow smarter than the test makers. The debrief of arpitgard really helped me to adjust my mindset there. Once I understood that getting SC questions wrong is completely my fault and not the testmaker's, I was ready to improve upon it further. I especially learned Idioms and practiced with the hardest SC questions here on the forum. Whenenver I got a question wrong, I would write it down to redo it later on. So my single advice for the verbal part and for SC in particular is: Take Ownership! If you want to get a decent verbal result, you got to improve your weaknesses and do so you have to admit that you have weaknesses in the first place.

Test Day Experience:

My test day experience was quite smooth. There are a lot of recommendations about what to do on test day and I personally didn't follow any of them. I did not eat 10 power bars nor did I drink two energy drinks in each break. Neither did I practice the 8 minute breaks during each of my prep tests and it still worked out just fine for me. So take from it what you will, but I personally don't believe that these kind of preparations are necessary if you don't think that you are the kind of person that will benefit from it.

I started off with AWA which I did not practice at all. I had a quick glance a chineeseburned's template. I didn't really learn it word by word but tried to remember the general structure. Considering that I did not really put in any effort into AWA, I guess the 5.0 result is fine, although it still annoys me a little since I thought I would score better even without preparation.

IR was easy as always. The only practice I did here is doing the IR section on about every second prep test I did and this was enough for me. I think you can get multiple questions wrong and still get the perfect score of 8.

After about an hour in the test, I finally got to the fun part: Quant. This has always been my favorite part as I genuinely enjoyed the questions. For me personally, the quant questions in the real test felt way easier than most of my practice questions, but maybe this resulted from the fact that I mostly prepped with Bunuel's 700+ questions. I blazed through the quant part and had 15 minutes left on the clock afterwards and there was not a single question which gave me a hard time. After I finished Quant, I thought this had to be a clear 51 since I thought I had answered all questions correctly. However, I must have made a few careless mistakes on the way. Looking back, my advice is to people in a similar situation is to maybe take around 10 additional seconds for each question to verify that you really gave the right answer to the right question. Misreading is what might have cost me the Q51 here.
Since I knew that quant went pretty well, verbal was all that stood between me and a good score. During the verbal part, I could not tell whether I was headed towards a V35 or a V45. The questions definitely gave me a hard time and I had to take a few educated guesses. Although guessing does not feel good in the test, it sometimes means that you are getting to the really tough questions and will therefore score high.

Getting to the last questions, I was getting increasingly excited because all those months of preparation were finally coming to an end. I had to click through some kind of survey before my score showed up and then it was finally there: 760! I honestly did not think that I would score that high, I expected something around my initial goal of 730-740 and was all the more surprised about the result.

This debrief got way longer than I expected and not all of this might be useful to everyone. If there is a single thing to take away from it, it is that being too proud to admit my mistakes in the verbal section was what kept me away from a good score. Once I started working on my mistakes, I could improve to V40+, which influenced my score a lot.

Feel free to ask any questions that might come up.
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Re: GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Dec 2016, 13:21
Hey Buzz,

I am writing my GMAT in the next two weeks. My accuracy with RC and CR is 85%+ whereas my accuracy in SC is around the 70% mark.

Do you have any specific ideas on how to improve in SC other than taking ownership about being wrong?

Your help is highly appreciated.

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Joined: 25 Oct 2016
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Re: GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Dec 2016, 03:23
Hey ashish,

considering you have an accuracy of about 70% in SC I guess you have grasped all the basic concepts (e.g. subject-verb agreement, modifiers, parallelism etc.). Whenever I did not know how to improve SC further, I simply did the following: Go to the Sentence Correction subforum and grab one of the various SC question banks there (sadly I can't post links, but they are sticky and easy to find there). Then just do ~100 SC questions in a row, depending on your speed, this might take 2h-3h. This itself will be good practice. However, the important part is to analyse the patterns of your mistakes. Try to assign a category to each of the questions you did wrong that clearly defines your mistakes (e.g. you did not get this question right because you did not know the idiom, you did not place the modifier right or you did not know the tense that has to be used here).

The mistake category that appears most often is likely to be your biggest SC weakness and you should therefore work on understanding the theory behind it. Once you got that, do the next 100 questions and repeat the cycle. This is the strategy that worked for me, but obviously any other strategy that consists of practicing a lot and evaluating your mistakes will work aswell. You can also download one of the error logs here in the forum, I did not use one but I guess they basically do the same job as my strategy.

I hope this helped and I wish you the best for your GMAT.
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Re: GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Feb 2017, 09:44
Great Debrief. Congratulations on a phenomenal score. All the best.

If you liked my post, kindly give me a Kudos. Thanks.

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Re: GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Feb 2017, 15:30
Thanks for you debrief :)
Congratulations you did a really great job
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Re: GMAT Debrief (760 - Q50, V44, IR 8): Don't let pride stand in your way &nbs [#permalink] 24 Feb 2017, 15:30
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