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Help with GMAT strategy: Successful summer prep in a little over 2 mon

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New post 29 Apr 2018, 16:55
Hey guys,

Before I start, I want to mention I have been scouring the web for the last 6 months or so trying to devise a strategy to beat the GMAT. Some background - I'm an accounting undergraduate and plan to graduate in December of 2018 and enter into an MFin program in summer of 2019, for which I have to submit my GMAT scores by around October. This leaves me a little over 2 months during the summer to study for this thing full-time and 2 attempts at reaching my target score of 640+. I'm pretty nervous about it because I've looked over some of the quant questions already, which I couldn't solve cold. I am looking for some reassurance, advice, and suggestions about how I should hit the ground running when this current semester ends.

Here are some things I already have/plan to do:

Take a cold diagnostic test to assess my strengths/weaknesses (Manhattan or OG?)

OG Guide

OG Quant guide

OG Verbal guide

chineseburned AWA guide

Wiley online access (from GMAT books mentioned earlier)

Free practice exam from Manhattan GMAT

I'm not sure if I should buy the Manhattan books or if I will even need them, but I have heard they are the best. I don't want to have too much study material to the point where it's overwhelming, but I want to be adequately prepared to reach my target score in at least two attempts.

Any advice on additional materials I need to purchase, strategies for what to do after my diagnostic, and how to alternate between problem difficulty level/types/subject matter would be greatly appreciated.

I have a decent understand of all question types and have reviewed a few questions and read a few pages from the OG quant guide. I feel like I have a better understanding of the test, but I don't feel confident in answering these questions. Should I take a cold diagnostic test or wait a week after studying a bit? I feel like if I take a cold diagnostic, I will feel more confident in where I should start and what areas need the most improvement.

Thanks
Manhattan GMAT Discount Codese-GMAT Discount CodesJamboree Discount Codes
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New post 29 Apr 2018, 20:22
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Hi tripledown,

Since it sounds like you're just beginning your studies, then it would be a good idea to take a FULL-LENGTH practice CAT Test.

Earlier this month, GMAC made a formal announcement defining some changes that will be taking place to the format of the Official GMAT (which began April 16, 2018). These changes primarily impact the overall length of the Exam (meaning the number of questions in the Quant and Verbal sections as well as the amount of time that you’ll have to complete each of those two sections). In theory, a shorter Exam could make it easier for a well-prepared Test Taker to score higher. Unfortunately, Official practice CATs in the new 'format' don't exist yet - but they're supposed to be available this week. Once they become available, you should plan to take one (so that we can get a better sense of how you perform under these new conditions). As an alternative, you could take one of the MGMAT or Veritas practice CATs (since they've been adapted to the new format).

That score will give us a good sense of your natural strengths and weaknesses and will help provide a basis for comparison as you continue to study. A FULL CAT takes about 3.5 hours to complete, so make sure that you've set aside enough time to take it in one sitting. Once you have those scores, you should report back here and we can come up with a study plan. It's worth noting that many Test Takers spend 3 months (or more) of consistent study time before they hit their 'peak' scores, so limiting yourself to just 2 months of study time might limit how high you might score.

I'd like to know a bit more about your timeline and goals:
1) When do you think you will be able to officially start your GMAT studies?
2) Going forward, how many hours do you think you can consistently study each week? How will your schedule change once the semester is over?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 29 Apr 2018, 20:47
Rich,

Thanks for the reply. I have been lurking on a lot of forums etc. so I've heard about the changes. I believe the GMAT Prep software updates tomorrow to reflect the changes.

I will finish my finals May 10th and be ready to hit the library on May 14th.

I will be able to fully devote all of my time to the GMAT from May 14 - August 3 (first anticipated actual GMAT attempt). I am willing to do anything it will take to get a 630+. I start classes for my final semester on August 20, so I'm not sure how my nerves will be on the second anticipated attempt (August 19).

I'm just a little overwhelmed about what to do first, what books to look at, what books/online services I need to subscribe to, because there is an overwhelming amount of information online...

Thanks
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New post 30 Apr 2018, 16:18
Hi tripledown,

You could potentially learn a lot and improve a great deal with the time that you have. Once you're done with your Finals, you should take a day or two 'off' then take that initial Diagnostic CAT. Since we're going to want to be efficient with the time that you have available, we need to make sure that you take your CATs in as realistic a fashion as possible. Thus, you should 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 how best to proceed.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
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New post 30 Apr 2018, 19:38
That sounds like a plan. One thought on taking the diagnostic cold - should I at least work the first ~15 problems of each section in the OG beforehand? I just don't want my confidence to get shot before I even start, and I've heard a cold diagnostic can have that effect.

I greatly appreciate the genuine response. I will report back here with my score around May 13.
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New post 30 Apr 2018, 19:42
Hi tripledown,

If you'd like to work through some sample practice questions before you take that initial CAT, then that's fine. Based on your timeline though, you shouldn't wait too long to take that initial CAT (and a certain percentage of Test Takers end up 'pushing back' their 1st CAT too far - and end up with lower scores because of it).

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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New post 01 May 2018, 15:15
Ok, then I will take a CAT on May 13/14 and report back here. I've been looking at a lot of questions on here and I can solve pretty much all of the sub 600 questions no problem. 700s are a bit over my head right now, especially in ~2 minutes. DS seem easy enough, but can be tricky. I don't know what score level they all were, but they didn't seem too bad...I feel there are a ton of useful tricks to learn (answer choice elimination etc.)

I can see speed being an issue...
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New post 14 May 2018, 12:46
Hey Rich,

I just finished my first cold CAT. Here are the results:

IR: 3
Q: 31
V: 28
Total: 500

I completed every section on the exam. Overall, I was expecting worse - I felt extremely rushed, especially on verbal, but I feel like I can score a lot higher if I study and learn some effective tactics. IR was brutal and I guessed a lot...I now have ~2.5 months to prepare. My plan for tomorrow is to go through the CAT and work through all of the problems. I've also been looking through EMPOWERgmat and am planning to purchase the package and follow the study plan. Let me know what you are thinking.

Thanks

EDIT: Just to add some other info...I have an option of taking the exam around August 2 and then retaking on August 18, a couple of days before classes resume. Would it be better to extend my prep time for a few more weeks and just take the test once at the end of August or should I give myself room for two attempts? IT's going to be difficult to study and take it again while I'm in the middle of a semester. I'm trying to decide whether or not to go with the two month study plan or the three month study plan.
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Re: Help with GMAT strategy: Successful summer prep in a little over 2 mon  [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2018, 11:25
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Hi tripledown,

You would likely have a better chance at hitting your Score Goal if you had 3 months of study time than if you had 2 - 2.5 months of study time, but it's too early in the process to say for sure whether you will actually 'need' that extra time or not.

Your initial CAT Score is decent (the average score on the Official GMAT hovers around 540-550 most years) and the issues that you had with some of the content and pacing should improve with time (as you become more familiar with the content, Tactics and patterns that are built into the GMAT). As you proceed with your studies, it's important to remember that the GMAT is a big 'critical thinking' test - questions are designed so that they can be solved in more than one way, so you have to learn to take advantage of those designs and train to be strategic with how you approach each prompt. I suggest that you start off with the 2-month Study Plan and let's see how well you learn the Stage 1 materials (your goal is NOT to 'rush' through any of those Modules though - it's to develop specifically skills). You've given yourself enough study time that we can adjust the timeline/pace as needed.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 29 May 2018, 13:27
Hey Rich,

I just took my second CAT today and my score was lower than my first CAT. I am very dissapointed. I always seem to have to guess on the verbal section and find it difficult to comprehend all the information under the pressure of the clock.

Here are my results:

Q: 29
V:26
IR: 3
Overall: 470

More detail - the test was taken at the same time and in the same place (library) as my first CAT. It was uncomfortably hot in the library, and I drank more caffeine than normal. Also, the internet cut out multiple times and I had to refresh the page during Q and V. After logging my Quant errors into the Mistake Tracker, I found a lot of the questions to be harder than normal (concepts I had not encountered before). The questions were much more convoluted in wording than my first GMAT Prep test as well. As a result of being caught off guard by these questions, I stumbled on the easier ones.

I realize I'm scoring around my level of ability (+/- 30 pts.), but is it common to have no improvement in the first two weeks of the course? I've heard some students' scores hover for a bit and then shoot up?

Any suggestions would be appreciated as I'm pretty discouraged.
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New post 30 May 2018, 14:11
Hi tripledown,

GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, your 2 CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 490 +/- a few points). You seem to understand this information, but it bears repeating. At this point in your studies, you still 'see' (and respond to) the GMAT in the same ways as you did when you took your first CAT. This is actually quite common in the early phase of one's studies; it takes time to practice/master the proper Tactics AND use those Tactics under realistic, timed conditions. On this CAT, how often did you use the Tactics that you've learned in the Course so far?

"Review" is an exceptionally important part of the GMAT training process; your ability to define WHY you're getting questions wrong is essential to defining the areas that you need to work on (and the specific things that you need to 'fix '). While a full Mistake Tracker would provide a lot more information, there are some basic questions that you should be able to answer (and the more EXACT you can be with your answers, the better):

After reviewing each section of this recent CAT, how many questions did you get wrong....
1) Because of a silly/little mistake?
2) Because there was some math/verbal that you just could not remember how to do?
3) Because the question was too hard?
4) Because you were low on time and had to guess?
5) How many Verbal questions did you 'narrow down to 2 choices' but still get wrong?

Since you're still in the early stage of your studies, you shouldn't worry about any subjects that you have not learned yet. However, there were likely some questions that you COULD have gotten correct (but didn't). Defining why you got THOSE questions wrong - and then working to eliminate those little errors - should help you to quickly pick up some points (and score higher on your next CAT).

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 30 May 2018, 16:10
Rich,


After reviewing each section of this recent CAT, how many questions did you get wrong....

1) Because of a silly/little mistake?

Per my logged mistakes, +/-5 questions were marked under this category in quant.

2) Because there was some math/verbal that you just could not remember how to do?

I have 11 questions logged as "Hard Q/Didn't know the content", 3 marked "Didn't Read Carefully: Missed a Fact", and 2 marked with "Not Taking Notes". I felt I have learned from these questions though, and will review the quant section from this exam again tomorrow to solidify the concepts. Verbal is somewhat of a crapshoot right now as I've only been through the RC modules. I had to skim a longer RC passage towards the end so I could finish the section, causing me to miss ~4 questions on that passage. I am spending excessive time on SC and CR because I have not been through the modules yet. This causes complete mismanagement of the entire section (lots of guessing as well).

3) Because the question was too hard?

See above. There were quite a few on the quant section that were wordy. I misinterpreted the wording and got the questions wrong. When I reviewed, and took my time, I understood completely. I remember seeing exactly 2 questions that were beyond my scope for sure.

4) Because you were low on time and had to guess?

See above. I never have a problem finishing the quant section, however I am making a lot of small math mistakes due to the mental component of being timed. I began rushing and guessing frantically around question 26 of the verbal section.

5) How many Verbal questions did you 'narrow down to 2 choices' but still get wrong?

Surprisingly, I did see some CR I narrowed down to two right answers. I picked the wrong one most of the time. I also remember a couple of RC/SC questions I would have gotten correct had I not felt so pressed for time.

I do remember using the tactics some of the time, but I did not feel they were as applicable this time around. Maybe I'm missing opportunities, but before I started the course, I was already tactically trying to test answers and eliminate answers. I will take a deep look through the quant section tomorrow to reevaluate though.

As I take more CATs, will I begin to not get so caught off guard with the material as I was this time? I mean, I haven't even looked at SC or CR yet...Thanks Rich. Let me know if you need any other info.
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Re: Help with GMAT strategy: Successful summer prep in a little over 2 mon  [#permalink]

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New post 31 May 2018, 20:34
Hi tripledown,

Since you still have so much of the Course to work through, you shouldn't worry too much about any concepts or questions types that you have not learned yet. As you continue to study, you should look for opportunities to continue to use what you have learned so far (all of the Tactics, concepts and patterns that you learned in Stage 1) - and you have to work on the 'precision' in your work. On your next CAT, I wouldn't expect you to be great at CR (since you haven't learned all of the Tactics to deal with that question type yet), but I would expect you to do more precise work and limit the number of silly/little mistakes that you make.

You might also consider coming back to revisit these early CATs later on in the Course (as you learn more about other categories and question types). Revisiting prior questions can help you to spot similar patterns in other questions later on, remember mistakes that you may have made initially (so that you can avoid making similar mistakes in the future) and continue to hone your overall Quant and Verbal skills.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

Re: Help with GMAT strategy: Successful summer prep in a little over 2 mon &nbs [#permalink] 31 May 2018, 20:34
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