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GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6

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Concentration: Marketing
GMAT 1: 610 Q47 V27
GMAT 2: 710 Q50 V37
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GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6 [#permalink]

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New post 29 Mar 2017, 15:03
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Table of Contents
1. Background
2. Resources
3. Baseline Practice Tests/First Attempt
4. General Strategy
5. The Journey
6. Test Day
7. Retake
8. Material Review
9. General Advice
10. Conclusion


1. Background
I started researching business schools during my last year of undergraduate studies. I knew from the beginning that if I was going to pursue a MBA someday, I should finish the GMAT as soon as possible while I was still fresh out of school and had more time to spare. As an average Joe my entire life when it came to Education, I set a realistic goal for myself of 650 on the GMAT. This was the average score of my top choice program at the time. During my first round of studying, I would have been very much content with a 650.


2. Resources

1. E-Gmat Verbal Online (See my Review Here http://gmatclub.com/reviews/comments/e- ... -345352544)
2. Math Revolution (See my Review Here http://gmatclub.com/reviews/comments/ma ... -345352545)
3. Princeton Review GMAT Ultimate 27-hour Course
4. OG 2015/2016
5. OG Verbal Review 2016
6. GMAT Club Grammar Book
7. Veritas Prep Practice Exams
8. GMAT Prep Question Pack 1
9. GMAT Prep Free, Exam Pack 1 and 2
10. MGMAT Sentence Correction
11. MGMAT Foundations of Verbal
12. Manhattan GMAT Test Simulation Booklet with Marker
13. GMAT Club Forums!!!


3. Baseline Practice Tests/First Attempt

I started off my GMAT studies by signing up for the Princeton Review GMAT Ultimate 27-hour Course. Just like most people, I took my first practice exam (GMAT Prep 1) as a reference for a baseline score. I believe I scored a 540 (Q40 V24) without any prior studying. At the time, I was happy with the initial score and saw it as a good start because I felt as though getting to 650 would be an easy task from there on. With this mind, I went ahead and completed the Princeton Review Course between June 2015 to August 2015. I wrote my first GMAT exam in September 2015 and scored a 610 (Q47 V27). I ended up feeling like I never really put in my full effort into studying and even then I felt burned out. I decided I was done studying and left the GMAT alone for a while. That was until I found GMATClub and caught myself constantly browsing these forums…


4. General Strategy

The first thing I did after deciding to retake the GMAT was to take a practice exam. I scored a 590 (Q47 V25), 8 months after I wrote my first GMAT.
With the baseline score established, I did some research on developing my strategy plan. Thanks to the fantastic resources available on GMATClub, my general strategy was simple; Work on my fundamentals first and then work on practice questions and practice tests. To go more into detail, my strategy was to work on SC (by far my weakest section) first, then work on the rest of Verbal. After being content with Verbal, I was going to review Quant then start practicing problems and taking practice tests on a weekly basis. The idea was the work on my weakness extensively while touching up on my strength (Quant) until I was comfortable and scoring consistently on both sections.

As for the study time frame, I gave myself a better part of 3 months to study before I took the GMAT again. I set my goal for the score between 670 and 680 (Q49, V32-34). I ended up studying for 14 weeks between my first study session and writing for the GMAT the second time around. I believe that having a concrete study plan before my first study session was vital in not only sticking with my schedule, but also staying motivated.


5. The Journey

Verbal

Following my study plan, I first enrolled in the E-Gmat Vebral Online course specifically to work on the fundamentals and learn the grammar rules that I clearly lacked. I went through this course swiftly learning the basics and following their outline they have organized for all subscribers of their course. After going through SC, I went through some of the OG 2016 SC questions until I moved onto the E-Gmat CR. Again, I stuck with my schedule and quickly went through the entire section. I decided to skip the RC course all together because I felt like it wouldn’t be very useful and I could get better ROI switching over to Quant at this point. I ended up spending a little over a month and 100 hours on the course.

Quant

At this point I already felt like I was burning out and switching to Quant was exactly what I needed. For the Quantitative section, I was already pretty comfortable and confident in scoring around a Q47 before any studying. I believe there are three clear tiers when it comes to scoring on Quant. There is the Q44-47 tier, the Q48/49 tier and the Q50/51 tier. I believe going from one tier to the next takes a large commitment and additional layer of expertise and practice. At the beginning, I was in the Q44-47 tier and I wanted to get to a point in which I could score Q49 consistently.
I ultimately decided to sign up for the MathRevolution course. Just like in SC, I used this course to review all the fundamental topics I have forgotten from my High School and Undergraduate math courses. It was eye-opening to see how much I did not know even though I was able to score a Q47 at the beginning. I went through the full course and eventually went through every DS and PS problem in OG2016. After a month, I had a much better grasp of each topic in Quant especially for the topics that are tested the most (Integers, Statistics, Inequality, Probability, and Absolute Values).

I took several practice tests (mostly by Veritas Prep) to supplement my Quantitative study while I was taking the MathRevolution course. I did only the Quant section because I only wanted to work with Official Questions for Verbal. This practice test was very helpful in reviewing topics and getting myself prepared for the actual 4 hour long practice tests. It was also nice to see “progress” in which I can see an actual Quant score. I saw my score slowly go up which was a huge confidence boost and an indication (at least to myself) that my hard work was paying off.

Back to Verbal

After I saw my Quant score go up and stay consistent, I decided to spend the remaining of my time reviewing verbal fundamentals and taking full Practice Tests. I focused mainly on just becoming more comfortable with doing SC questions and working on my stamina with the big day coming up. In hindsight, I was way too focused on the Grammar rules for SC and was not looking at the meaning of the sentences at all. This is a very important concept and realization that I did not realize until after I had written the exam. Regardless, going through tons of questions, mostly through practice test (then reviewing the tests), was very helpful in getting myself comfortable for the exam.

Practice Tests

GMAT Prep 1: 590 (Q47 V25) - Original CAT before any studying
GMAT Prep 2: 600 (Q47 V26)
GMAT Prep 3: 640 (Q49 V29) - 3 weeks before exam. Right after finishing Math review
GMAT Prep 4: 680 (Q49 V34) - After a week of verbal review
GMAT Prep 5: 640 (Q48 V29) - 1 week before exam
GMAT Prep 6: 650 (Q48 V31) - Day before exam)

I also took just the Quantitative portion for Veritas Prep Test while I was going through Math Revolution
Veritas Prep 1: Q46
Veritas Prep 2: Q47
Veritas Prep 3: Q49
Veritas Prep 4: Q48
Veritas Prep 5: Q50

The biggest takeaway from practice tests is that first, it is beneficial to take a good number of tests until you are comfortable with the format, timing, concepts and ultimately gain stamina for a 4 hour test. I cannot stress enough how important practicing is. After taking enough exams, I got to the point where I just didn’t feel stressed taking a long exam and was sharp even at the end of the exam. This all comes with practice and I personally do not feel like there is any way around it.

Second point is to make sure you practice in test like situation which includes timing, breaks, and location. If you know what time of day your exam is going to be, take it as close to that time as possible. Trying to replicate the test day circumstances as closely as possible will make a difference and may be the difference between your goal score and having to retake another test. I will admit I found myself sometimes not wanting to do the 30min AWA section so I instead would find myself doing extra Quant/Verbal problems for 30min while I was supposed to be doing the essay. I do not recommend this approach, but it is certainly a possibility.

Finally, review, review, review. This arguably is the most important part of taking a practice exam. There is so much to learn from reviewing a practice exam. I highly recommend reviewing right after the test itself when the problems are still fresh in your head. I simply went through every problem again, one by one, whether I got the questions right or wrong. You will start to notice patterns in your test taking habits, especially your mistakes. Are you making silly mistakes? Try to figure out why you made that mistake on a particular problem and try to figure out how you can avoid it in the future. Little improvements like this will make a huge difference on your score. After all, missing an easy question will hurt you the most on your journey to your dream score.


6. Test Day

I knew I was not an early bird and performed best around noon so I signed up for a 12:15pm test time for October 2016. I woke up around 9:00am and had a simple breakfast. I was paranoid about having to go to the restroom during my test so I made sure to pay attention to how much water I was drinking. Before I left, I made a mini warm-up practice quiz with the GMATPrep Quest Pack questions of 5SC, 3DS, and 2PS questions. I did them stress-free just to get my brain warmed up. I highly recommend this sort of warm-up drill. Feel free to make your own variation, but this is what I felt worked best for me.

I arrived at the test center about 30min early, so I reviewed some Quant formulas real quickly for about 5min before I went in. The test center was not busy so I was able to start as soon as I went inside. I do not remember all the details of my exam, but I do remember AWA, IR and Quant going smoothly while Verbal was pretty disastrous. I had timed the section badly and was spending way too much time on SC. I ended up having to pick up the pace for the last 10-15 questions and pretty much guess the last 3-4 questions. After time had run out, I saw my score. I scored a 620 (Q49 V26), IR: 5, AWA: 6.

Although I was not optimistic about hitting my goal score of 670-680 this time around, I was extremely disappointed with my score. I had scored higher in all of my GMATPrep exams and was expecting around a 650 score. A higher score would have definitely boosted my confidence. My thought process was that with a 650 baseline score out of the way, I could go into my third exam more stress free. Unfortunately, I did not perform as well as I would have hoped and this led me to a 10 day break from GMAT to get my thoughts back together.


7. Retake

A retake at this point was inevitable as I was simply not going to give up until I hit my score. During my 10 day break, I took a lot of time to reflect on what I did wrong and what I could have done better. I sought out for advice on this forum and read many debriefs on other people’s experiences. After thinking what had happened through, I decided to make 2 major changes to my studying and testing approach.

The first was to approach SC, again my weakest section, through meaning instead of heavily grammar which is what I have been doing. I realized that my mistake on relying too heavily on grammar rules came from my lack of confidence when I started studying for SC. I had thought and continued to think that knowing all the grammar rules will be the key to succeeding in SC. Although it is absolutely important and necessary to know the grammar rules, I would argue knowing the meaning of a sentence is even more important in solving problems quickly and efficiently.
The second was to simply tone down the number of hours I was studying. I can say for certain that outside maybe a week or two, I studied a minimum of 20 hours a week on the GMAT before the exam and that was definitely leading to burnout and unneeded stress. I decided to study less and try to stress less about the exam which made all the difference in the final exam.
Finally, for my previous exam, I decided to take a practice exam 2 days before and the day before my actual exam. My reason for this was I had always performed well on school exams cramming right before to have my momentum going and material still fresh in my mind. I can safely say this was a mistake and I decided to not take practice exams before this retake but instead review for no more than an hour.

With this new studying approach, I decided to keep my test day approach exactly the same. I scheduled my retake exam for late November 2017 around the same time. I had a simple breakfast and did my warmup pre-exam. I ended up scoring a 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6. When I saw the score, I did a triple take since I was in utter disbelief. I tried my best to hide my happiness and gratification from all the hard work I had put in the past 5 months. I had made a 170 point leap through planning, studying, hard work, and never giving up.


8. Material Review

1. E-Gmat Verbal Online
http://gmatclub.com/reviews/comments/e- ... -345352544

2. Math Revolution
http://gmatclub.com/reviews/comments/ma ... -345352545

3. Princeton Review GMAT Ultimate 27-hour Course
• Highly recommended for those who have trouble sticking to your own study plans even through online courses. Although this course was important for me to initially get a feel for the exam, I ultimately did not feel like the ROI was worth the cost and time commitment. If you are motivated enough, there are much better resources for a fraction of the cost.

4. OG 2015/2016
• I know everyone says this is the single most important study guide tool for GMAT preparation, but I still believe the OG is underrated. I firmly believe this book ALONE is enough to score a 700 on the exam. Achieving a 700 on the exam is not about mastering the hard problems, but getting most of the easy and medium level questions correctly. For that, there is an abundant number of incredible questions in this book. Do not waste these questions and go through the book thoroughly.

5. OG Verbal Review 2016
•I used this book to supplement the OG guide for extra SC and CR questions. The questions are mostly easy/medium questions which were perfect for me for practice. Overall, another book made by GMAC and great resource for extra practice.

6. GMAT Club Grammar Book
•Fantastic (Free!!) resource offered by GMAT Club. I love how the book has a simple format and very easy to read. It is also divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections. I focused primarily on the first two sections. There are also many example problems to supplement the section you just studied (sort of like the MGMAT books).
• Here is the link for those who are interested: https://gmatclub.com/forum/ultimate-gma ... 33952.html

7. Veritas Prep Practice Exams
• As I stated earlier, I took just the Quantitative portion of this exam while I was studying for Quant. It is a great resource and has solutions after taking the exam. These exams can be purchased, or can be accessed with the purchase of GMAT Club premium membership.

8. GMAT Prep Question Pack 1
• This is a large bank of online questions which again is an excellent resource provided by GMAC. I highly recommend you go through as many of them as possible. Compared to the OG book and Verbal/Quant Review, having an online format gets you accustomed to the test taking environment. The solutions are also given to you after each section which can be useful depending on how you like to practice.

9. GMAT Prep Free, Exam Pack 1 and 2
• Simply the best practice exams hands down. As stated everywhere on GMAT Club, this is an extremely useful resource and should not be taken for granted. Like the OG study guides, do not waste these exams because you can only take a “pure” practice exam up to 6 times if you purchase the exam packs. I highly recommend purchasing the exam packs even at their steep price and retake them if time permits. I found myself retaking these exams at least once just for practice and seeing new official questions.

10. MGMAT Foundations of Verbal
• This is a fantastic book I used to study the fundamentals of the Verbal section. I only bought this book (along with the MGMAT SC) after my second exam and I wish I had gone through this book from the very beginning. Highly recommended for beginners and people just starting out their Verbal studies.

11. MGMAT Sentence Correction
• Another incredible book for the basics of SC. Takes you down to the fundamentals, but is still thoroughly with each rule. The book contains practice examples to supplement the previous lesson. A must have for those who struggle with SC like I did from the start.

12. Manhattan GMAT Test Simulation Booklet with Marker
• Please please please invest in this booklet! You do get a piece of paper or a notebook for the exam! Practicing on this booklet ahead of time will take away one dimension of uncertainty you do not want on exam day.

13. GMAT Club Forums!!!
• What can I say about this forum? I would not have even attempted a retake without all the fantastic members and content available on this website. I used this website as a source for pretty much everything from study guides, exam approach, materials, exam review, test questions, and anything else I might have missed. After I took a GMAT Prep Practice Exam, I would search each question up on GMATClub to see what members had to say about the problem. Believe it or not, the approach that people take on problems such as in SC are completely different and can be extremely beneficial to read and learn from. Take advantage of the resources available on this great website.


9. General Advice

Here are a couple of advice I have for people who are looking to start studying for the GMAT are already in the middle of the battle for their score. Most of these have been mentioned earlier in the previous sections.

• Set up a plan! It is much easier to reach your goal when you have a plan set up that you can follow along throughout your GMAT journey. My basic plan was simple in which at first I worked on all my basic fundamentals such as grammar rules, relearning equations, and learning how to think more critically and efficiently. After I covered those topics, I moved onto test taking strategy by practicing on the booklet, working on official OG problems, and taking practice tests. I knew from the very start what I had to cover and what steps I was going to take. Of course the minor details change as you actually go through them, but the basic plan never changed.

• Going off the above point, consistency is absolutely key in your study plan. From my personal experience, even taking a few days off affected me greatly and I started to lose my touch. Don’t stress yourself out too much by studying too many hours, but try and at least study for a short amount of time if possible throughout your study period.

• Make the GMAT as fun as possible. I know right how is that possible? I thought the same thing reading this tip from other GMAT Clubbers, but I hit a point where I began looking forward to studying after work and on the weekends. I believe it is all in your mindset and when you begin to actually understand what you’re studying and see progress, that can be very rewarding and fun to experience. Try your best to change your mindset from something you HAVE to do to something you WANT to do.

• Links I found extremely useful:

1. How I got a 6 on AWA: https://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6 ... 64327.html
2. The Best debrief I’ve read to date: https://gmatclub.com/forum/770-q50-v45- ... 55273.html

I HIGHLY recommend the way this debrief shows how to setup a scratch pad for the verbal section. You can set up the entire section in one page in a very efficient and easy to use way. I made my scratchpad during the 1 min screen section I had before you have to start the Verbal section

10. Conclusion

I’ll try to keep this section short because my debrief is already probably the longest debrief ever! The biggest thing to remember is that in the end of the day, this is just a stupid test that does not indicate any sort of intelligence of a person. I am a firm believer that ANYONE can achieve a 700+ score with determination and hard work. Don’t get me wrong it is a very hard test, and there will road bumps in your studies, but don’t let that discourage you from reaching the score you set out to achieve. As I have stated at the very beginning, I am as average as a person can get when it comes to educational background. I believe if I can do it, anyone can do it!

Kudos [?]: 25 [2] , given: 306

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Manager
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Status: Gmat journey
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Concentration: Finance, Strategy
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WE: Corporate Finance (Energy and Utilities)
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Re: GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6 [#permalink]

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New post 29 Mar 2017, 19:16
Congratulations, you did a great job with your score. Thanks for sharing you experience, it is detailed and I got a lot of information from it.
Good luck :D

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Re: GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6 [#permalink]

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New post 01 Apr 2017, 09:56
First things first......What a detailed and well arranged debrief.
Now congrats on a great score and thanks for sharing your experience and strategies.
_________________

Help me make my explanation better by providing a logical feedback.

If you liked the post, HIT KUDOS !!

Don't quit.............Do it.

Kudos [?]: 45 [0], given: 237

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Joined: 18 Apr 2016
Posts: 74

Kudos [?]: 25 [0], given: 306

Concentration: Marketing
GMAT 1: 610 Q47 V27
GMAT 2: 710 Q50 V37
WE: Other (Aerospace and Defense)
Premium Member Reviews Badge
Re: GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6 [#permalink]

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New post 04 Apr 2017, 15:39
cesarucv wrote:
Congratulations, you did a great job with your score. Thanks for sharing you experience, it is detailed and I got a lot of information from it.
Good luck :D


Thank you!! I am glad you found value in my debrief. Best of luck on your GMAT!

Shiv2016 wrote:
First things first......What a detailed and well arranged debrief.
Now congrats on a great score and thanks for sharing your experience and strategies.


Thank you for the compliment! I tried my best to get all the details into one post.
I hope you were able to find some useful tips from my journey.

Kudos [?]: 25 [0], given: 306

Re: GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6   [#permalink] 04 Apr 2017, 15:39
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GMAT Journey of an Average Joe: 540 to 710 (Q50, V37), IR: 8, AWA: 6

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