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Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+

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Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Jan 2019, 15:02
Hi all,

I would appreciate any advice or feedback on how I should approach studying for the GMAT, as I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by everything out there. Some background:

    -I took one of the GMATPrep practice CATs cold with no prep to get a baseline and scored a 730 (Verbal 40, Quant 49, IR 8). I also took the Official Guide 2019 Diagnostic test which didn't give an exact score but scaled to a 720 using a guide I found online (the results were Excellent in Problem Solving, Data Sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction, and Above Average in Reading Comprehension). I feel like I struggled to finish the Quant section in the allotted time- I guessed on 3 questions near the end because I only had 8 minutes left for 5 questions and panicked, so any advice targeting how to speed up would be welcome.

    -I plan to sit the exam during the second to last week of March, which leaves me about 9 weeks of study time. I can dedicate 3 hours of studying a day on weekdays, and 1 longer 4-5 hour chunk on one day of the weekend.

    -The schools I'm looking at are Booth, Kellogg, Harvard, Sloan, Wharton, Stanford, etc. Would aiming for a 750+ be sufficient for these schools in a few years time, or do I need to go higher? Note that I will not be applying for at least 3 years since I am currently a senior in undergrad and will need to work for at least 3 years before my post-grad company will sponsor my MBA.

    -I purchased the Official Guide 2019 bundle (OG, Verbal, Quant), and I have access to online versions of all the Manhattan strategy guides (a mix of 5th and 6th editions). I may also purchase the additional 6 CATs from Manhattan if those are recommended. Is this enough material to study with?

Lastly, how should I go about structuring my time? I've read that marginal gains near the top of the score range are the hardest to achieve, so I'm not sure if I should read all the Manhattan guides, focus on the OG questions, just take a bunch of practice tests, or some combination of everything.

If you've read this far, thank you! Any advice would be welcome.
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Jan 2019, 21:21
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Hi lavacat,

Welcome to gmatclub!

MGMAT guides are perfect. You can read more about the best math and verbal books here:

https://gmatclub.com/forum/best-gmat-ma ... ml?fl=menu
https://gmatclub.com/forum/best-gmat-ve ... ml?fl=menu

You'll need a study plan:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-study-p ... ml?fl=menu
https://gmatclub.com/forum/ultimate-gma ... 44512.html

Many people share their experiences here, including those who were already scoring well.

Do not underestimate the test. Scoring well in your prep doesn't mean you'l score well on the real one.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2019, 04:57
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lavacat wrote:
Hi all,

I would appreciate any advice or feedback on how I should approach studying for the GMAT, as I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by everything out there. Some background:

    -I took one of the GMATPrep practice CATs cold with no prep to get a baseline and scored a 730 (Verbal 40, Quant 49, IR 8). I also took the Official Guide 2019 Diagnostic test which didn't give an exact score but scaled to a 720 using a guide I found online (the results were Excellent in Problem Solving, Data Sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction, and Above Average in Reading Comprehension). I feel like I struggled to finish the Quant section in the allotted time- I guessed on 3 questions near the end because I only had 8 minutes left for 5 questions and panicked, so any advice targeting how to speed up would be welcome.

    -I plan to sit the exam during the second to last week of March, which leaves me about 9 weeks of study time. I can dedicate 3 hours of studying a day on weekdays, and 1 longer 4-5 hour chunk on one day of the weekend.

    -The schools I'm looking at are Booth, Kellogg, Harvard, Sloan, Wharton, Stanford, etc. Would aiming for a 750+ be sufficient for these schools in a few years time, or do I need to go higher? Note that I will not be applying for at least 3 years since I am currently a senior in undergrad and will need to work for at least 3 years before my post-grad company will sponsor my MBA.

    -I purchased the Official Guide 2019 bundle (OG, Verbal, Quant), and I have access to online versions of all the Manhattan strategy guides (a mix of 5th and 6th editions). I may also purchase the additional 6 CATs from Manhattan if those are recommended. Is this enough material to study with?

Lastly, how should I go about structuring my time? I've read that marginal gains near the top of the score range are the hardest to achieve, so I'm not sure if I should read all the Manhattan guides, focus on the OG questions, just take a bunch of practice tests, or some combination of everything.

If you've read this far, thank you! Any advice would be welcome.


Hi lavacat,

Welcome to GMATCLUB! Firstly congratulations on a great starting score. You can certainly achieve your dream score in around 2 months. Taking multiple mocks might help. Apart from the GMATPREP, Manhattan GMAT tests and Veritas Prep Tests in my experience have good verbal and Quant section and will certainly help you point out and improve your weak areas.

Further another advantage of taking many mocks is to build up your stamina. Apart from the GMATPREP tests, taking practise tests of any major GMATPREP company ought to do that.

I must add that if you are particularly looking to discover and improve on your weak areas in Quant; a subscription to GMATCLUB tests is the best way to do that. They are indeed phenomenal and will not only pinpoint your weak areas but also help you improve on them.

I would also encourage you to purchase GMATPREP QP 1 for some great additional practice.

Hope this helps. All the best!
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2019, 06:05
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lavacat wrote:
Lastly, how should I go about structuring my time? I've read that marginal gains near the top of the score range are the hardest to achieve, so I'm not sure if I should read all the Manhattan guides, focus on the OG questions, just take a bunch of practice tests, or some combination of everything.
That's when a test taker has already prepared for the exam. With a zero-prep 730, you are in an excellent position to get that 750+ score you mentioned. Work on your weaknesses, and keep taking tests regularly.
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2019, 09:31
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lavacat wrote:
I purchased the Official Guide 2019 bundle (OG, Verbal, Quant), and I have access to online versions of all the Manhattan strategy guides (a mix of 5th and 6th editions). I may also purchase the additional 6 CATs from Manhattan if those are recommended. Is this enough material to study with?[/list] Lastly, how should I go about structuring my time? I've read that marginal gains near the top of the score range are the hardest to achieve, so I'm not sure if I should read all the Manhattan guides, focus on the OG questions, just take a bunch of practice tests, or some combination of everything.

If you've read this far, thank you! Any advice would be welcome.


I've gone through all the Manhattan guides and they're excellent for learning all the Quant concepts tested on the GMAT. But the problem sets are very limited and mostly belong to the easy/medium level. Most of the questions in the OG also belong in the easy/medium level. If you're looking for a 750+ then, IMO, you will definitely need additional material.
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2019, 10:52
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Hi lavacat,

To start, a 730 initial Score is an outstanding performance (the average Score on the Official GMAT hovers around 550 most years), so you're clearly a strong critical thinker. Focusing on the GMAT now - years before you will actually need your Score - is also a smart choice.

Since there's no way to properly 'forecast' what the application 'market' will look like in 3-4 years, there's no way to define the exact Score that you might need to get into any of those Schools. We can look at historical data though - and with a 700+ Score (and a strong Quant Scaled Score in the high Q40s or Q50s), you could comfortably apply to all of those Schools. With highly-competitive Programs, you will need a strong OVERALL profile and you will need to properly 'market yourself' to each individual Program that you apply to - but all of those issues are things you'll work on in the future.

Based on your current plan, I suggest that you study as you choose for the next 2-3 weeks, then take a new FULL-LENGTH CAT in a realistic fashion (take the FULL CAT - with the Essay and IR sections, take it away from your home, at the same time of day as when you'll take the Official GMAT, etc.). Once you have that score, you should report back here and we can discuss the results and any adjustments you might make to your study routine.

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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Jan 2019, 18:54
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Hi lavacat,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First off, 730 cold is awesome, so nice work! Now, let’s address your issues with timing. The first thing to understand is that timing on the GMAT, as in life, improves as your knowledge, understanding, and skill improve. Timing does not improve simply by “trying to go faster.” In fact, when people try to force speed before they’re ready to go faster, they tend to end up making a significant number of preventable mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes badly erode people’s test scores. In addition, when people rush learning -- a common pathology of those trying to force speed -- they actually never end up developing the speed they seek. One of the great paradoxes of learning is that to develop speed, a student must slow down to ensure that he or she masters the material. Consider the following examples, which hopefully will bring you some more clarity:

Imagine your goal were to run a mile in four minutes, a difficult feat even for professional athletes. So, you get yourself a running coach. You show up on the field and ask, “Coach, how do I get faster?” The coach responds, “Well, just run faster.” So, you try your best to “run faster,” but you can't; you’re running a 12-minute mile. Out of breath, you come back to the coach and say, “Coach, I stink. How do I get faster?” Again, he says, “Just run faster.” So, you try again, but this time you fall and skin your knees. You keep trying to run faster. On the tenth attempt, you pull your hamstring, falling to the ground in pain. Over your next four months of recovery, you ponder why you couldn't run faster.

That situation would be insane, right? No qualified running coach would ever provide you with that advice, because the coach would understand that no one gets faster merely by trying to run faster. Instead, the coach would set you up on a linear, comprehensive plan to make you a BETTER runner. He may have you run progressively longer distances at relatively slow speeds. He may have you run up and down the stairs at the football stadium. He may have you run up and down hills. He even may have you engage in strength training, yoga, or Pilates to make you a more fit athlete. After all of that training, he finally would bring you back on the field and time you running the mile. At that point, he’d coach you on how to push yourself through the pain of sprinting and help you to understand what a four-minute-mile pace feels like. He now could help you with those things because you would be in the necessary shape to be receptive to them. So, you begin your run, and BOOM! You run a 6-minute mile. What happened? Well, you became a better runner. You became a fitter athlete. You became stronger. Although you’re not yet at the four-minute-mile mark, your training has yielded considerable improvements.

Now imagine your goal were to play a complicated song on the piano. The tempo at which a pianist plays greatly impacts the way a song sounds. To make songs sound the way they should, often a pianist must play at a fast pace. But your experience with the piano is limited. Can you imagine trying to play the complicated song at full speed right at the outset? Doing so wouldn't be possible. Instead, you first need to master many aspects of the piano -- without really trying to get faster. In fact, you need to proceed slowly at first, sometimes very slowly. As you master the piano, you find that you’re able to play your song at progressively faster tempos. With time and dedicated, proper practice, you’re able to recreate the sound you seek. If in the early days of practicing you had tried to force speed instead of mastering your technique, you never would have become truly accomplished at playing the song.

The process of getting faster at solving GMAT questions is quite analogous to the process of improving one’s running speed or ability to play the piano at the proper tempo! To get faster, you must get better. As you further develop your GMAT skills, you will get faster at a) recognizing what a problem is asking and b) executing the necessary steps to quickly attack the problem.

The key takeaway is that once your GMAT knowledge improves, better timing will follow. In fact, a great way to know how well you have a mastered a particular topic is to be cognizant of your reaction time when seeing a particular question. For example, consider the following simple question with which many students who are beginning their prep struggle:

14! is equal to which of the following?

(A) 87,178,291,200
(B) 88,180,293,207
(C) 89,181,294,209
(D) 90,000,000,003
(E) 91,114,114,114

Upon seeing this question, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Grabbing a calculator to add up the values in the expression? Or are you able to quickly recognize that using the “5 x 2 pair rule” will allow you to efficiently attack the problem? (See the solution below.)

Solution:

14! = 14 × 13 × 12 × 11 × 10 × 9 × 8 × 7 × 6 × 5 × 4 × 3 × 2 × 1.

Notice that there is at least one (5 × 2) pair contained in the product of these numbers. It follows that the units digit must be a zero. The only number with zero as the units digit is 87,178,291,200.

Answer: A

Although this is just one example of many, you see that you must have many tools in your toolbox to efficiently attack each GMAT question that comes your way. As you gain these skills, you will get faster.

Regarding your prep materials, it’s difficult to say whether your current prep materials/study plan will be enough for you to hit your 750+ score goal (especially in only 3 months). Thus, the best thing you can do is objectively evaluate your progress so that, in the event that the prep books aren’t meeting your needs, you don’t end up overinvesting time in a resource that isn’t working for you. Give yourself about 6 weeks to see whether you’re improving. If not, consider changing up your study materials. If you do decide to make a change, check out the course reviews here on GMAT Club.

Regardless of what materials you use, to improve your quant and verbal skills, you need to ensure that you 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.

If you’d like more specific advice regarding how to improve your GMAT quant and verbal skills, feel free to reach back out. Also, you may find it helpful to read the following article about how to score a 700+ on the GMAT.

Good luck!
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Re: Guidance on a study plan to go from 730 to 750+ &nbs [#permalink] 13 Jan 2019, 18:54
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