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Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month

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Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Nov 2018, 11:36
Hi everyone,
I just took my first GMAT Prep test and got a result that has me feeling both excited and tremendously nervous at the same time. I've basically used a combination of Veritas Prep and Magoosh, along with the MGMAT Advanced Quant book (only MGMAT book that I've used).

GMAT Prep #1: 730 Q45/V45/IR5

The good: First off, I was floored by the verbal score. I never scored above a 41 on Veritas for verbal and never cracked the 700 level (hit 670, 680 and 690 in 3 of the 5 tests I took). Some of the harder questions just seemed to follow rules I knew, here (kudos to both Veritas and Magoosh for calling out some exact concepts that were tested). I had already made improvements in verbal solely by reviewing incorrect sentence correction questions that I got wrong in practice tests (I got a V36 on my very first Veritas test). I honestly thought a V42 was the highest I could get on test day, but now I guess know that I can possibly do even better than that.

The bad: The quant. I'm aiming for a Q49 and I just can't seem to get there on full practice tests. I've hit up to a 49 recently (and have one 50 as my all time high) on GMAT Club tests - Three of my last five GMAT Club tests were 48/48/49, all of these with some mistakes that I knew I could improve upon with additional study (eg known weaknesses, careless mistakes). I've since put in some additional study. Veritas tests and the actual GMAT prep, apparently, I just can't seem to score as well. I struggle with time pressure more with Veritas (and now apparently GMATPrep). The questions on both Veritas and GMATPrep feel a bit longer to me (which is a big issue for me), and some of the GMATPrep exam questions felt quite abstract.

I'm planning on reviewing at least all of the GMAT Club questions that I got incorrect, as well as all of the "Very Hard" questions from Magoosh. Outside of this, I'm flummoxed on what to do next. I feel like I know have a good grasp of the fundamentals, but the timing is starting to become a major impediment. I've done substantial amounts of practice and am honestly starting to feel a bit burned out and defeated, here, as I feel that there's no concept that's out of my range. I actually honestly expected to hit a Q49 on a practice exam far faster

The ugly: IR. Same issue with the math but amplified even further. Some of the questions I feel like I'm still processing and 1:30-2:00 have gone by, and there's only an average of 2:30 a question. I have done very little prep for IR outside of doing the section on the practice tests that I've taken. Any advice here, other than reviewing old tests? I've watched all the Magoosh videos that give an overview of IR, but that's about it.

I'd greatly appreciate any and all advice that I can get, here. My goal is a 720 with no lower than a 48Q. I am really hoping to have the exam completed at last on Dec 21 (the only test date available that I can make work during my vacation). My Magoosh and GMATClub memberships also expire on Dec 23. Also, I am going on vacation beginning on Dec 18, and I will have a few days to do nothing but rest and prepare, if I choose to take the test then (which is why I'm leaning towards it).
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Nov 2018, 17:19
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Hi cecilpaladin32,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First off, nice work with the 730! I realize that your quant is not where you want it to be, but 730 is a fantastic score.

Now, let’s address your quant issues. Clearly, you believe timing is your major issue, right? When it comes to timing on the GMAT, you must understand that as with any activity in life, your GMAT timing 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 quant question that comes your way. As you gain these skills, you will get faster.

The million dollar question is, HOW can you improve your quant skills? To improve from a Q45, you need to go through GMAT quant 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. For example, if you find that you are not strong in answering Number Properties questions, then carefully review the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions and practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties: LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, remainders, etc. When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type. As you practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

Each time you strengthen your understanding of a topic and your skill in answering questions of a particular type, you increase your odds of hitting your score goal. You know that there are types of questions that you are happy to see and types that you would rather not see, and types of questions that you take a long time to answer correctly. Learn to more effectively answer the types of questions that you would rather not see, and make them into your favorite types. Learn to correctly answer in two minutes or less questions that you currently take five minutes to answer. By finding, say, a dozen weaker quant areas and turning them into strong areas, you will make great progress toward hitting your quant score goal. If a dozen areas turn out not to be enough, strengthen some more areas.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

In order to follow the path described above, you may need some new quant materials, so take a look at the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant courses.

You also may find it helpful to read this article about
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT.

Please reach out with any further questions.

Let’s do this!!
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Nov 2018, 18:42
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cecilpaladin32 wrote:
The bad: The quant. I'm aiming for a Q49 and I just can't seem to get there on full practice tests. I've hit up to a 49 recently (and have one 50 as my all time high) on GMAT Club tests - Three of my last five GMAT Club tests were 48/48/49, all of these with some mistakes that I knew I could improve upon with additional study (eg known weaknesses, careless mistakes). I've since put in some additional study. Veritas tests and the actual GMAT prep, apparently, I just can't seem to score as well. I struggle with time pressure more with Veritas (and now apparently GMATPrep). The questions on both Veritas and GMATPrep feel a bit longer to me (which is a big issue for me), and some of the GMATPrep exam questions felt quite abstract.

The ugly: IR. Same issue with the math but amplified even further. Some of the questions I feel like I'm still processing and 1:30-2:00 have gone by, and there's only an average of 2:30 a question. I have done very little prep for IR outside of doing the section on the practice tests that I've taken. Any advice here, other than reviewing old tests? I've watched all the Magoosh videos that give an overview of IR, but that's about it.
The official practice tests are reliable, but I'd wait for at least one more data point if I were you. And maybe 3 more GMATPreps in total before the actual exam (not just non-official practice tests). Once you start taking more of these tests, you'll get a better idea of how much your scores can vary.

As for IR, yes, the 2:30 looks tough, but remember that you don't have to worry about finishing the section, and that it's okay to guess on a tough question so that you have enough time for an easier question.
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Dec 2018, 21:51
Hi Scott and AjiteshArun -
Thank you both for your responses. I just took GMAT Prep #2 earlier today - I think I finally have proof positive that I do actually have a chance to score a 49 in Quant and well in IR with luck of the draw on what types of questions I get asked. By some amazing fluke, I scored an 8 in IR and even had 2 minutes to spare! And pretty ironic that I got the Q49 right after recently stating that I didn't think I could get there. But as I saw with my verbal score , luck can be a double edged sword for me with regard to reading comprehension passages (also, I haven't practiced verbal at all the past 8 days as I shifted my emphasis to solely quant). I've been under a fair amount of stress the last few weeks do to some less than ideal things at work, so the fact that I scored a 730 and a 700 so far is encouraging. Timing was still a major struggle for Quant; I made what I'd call 2 careless errors due to time on this last exam. And the questions continue to feel just a bit more abstract than what I've experienced in my studies thus far. However, even though my overall score went down, including the nose dive in verbal, I definitely found some positives to take out of this test.

GMAT Prep #2 - 700 Q49/V36/IR8

It looks like the test center near where I am taking my vacation just added an additional date of December 27th'; based on all of the CATs I've taken, now including the two tests from GMAT Prep, I'm inclined towards trying my hand on this date as I likely won't get another opportunity for concentrated study like this again any time, soon. This test has been hovering over me like a dark cloud for a long, long, time now and it may finally be time to bite the bullet. I'm the type that never feels prepared for anything, but I feel like this is the closest I'll get in the foreseeable future about feeling "good" to take the exam.

Scott - Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I liked your apt metaphors about practice/training in other fields and I wholeheartedly agree. I know my consistent weaknesses, without question, are visual geometry (and really anything geometry related, as I'm pretty slow at, despite the immense effort I've put into the topic - by far the item I've studied most) distance and speed problems with two moving entities, and two particular types of word problems - anything difficult with VICs and those that require a dummy variable to solve/a non-immediately clear second variable always tend to throw me. The materials I've used thus far have covered these concepts to some degree, but more targeted practice will likely help immensely with these types. I also likely need a refresher on mixture problems, as I'm starting to struggled with them. However, beyond those, it's really hit and miss. On the CAT I just took, for example, I got a prime numbers question and an overlapping sets question wrong, among others, and these are types of questions that I usually get right without issue.

I've just been looking at questions that I've answered incorrectly on GMAT club/very hard questions on Magoosh and trying to learn from the mistakes I've made and seeing why I went wrong where I did. I've read and answered questions on all topics at this point and outside of the areas I've mentioned before, I feel like I have a decent handle on basic fundamental concepts on most things - it's now seeing and recalling the applications, especially the more difficult ones, that I stand to learn from the most. I feel that my ROI on just reviewing older problems ad nauseum is pretty low at this point, and I am starting to feel burned out (also another reason I'd like to take the exam, soon). I'm at the point of final push for the home stretch, or so to speak. I don't think reviewing these topics will lead to much gain - I just got what were two difficult questions (one I might have gotten right with a little more time).

I've seen the phenomenal reviews for TargetTestPrep (congratulations on that!), and I am strongly considering purchasing the product for the next month. I don't know if that'll be enough time for me to be able to utilize the product effectively but perhaps you are right that a change in materials may help. Plus I'll have the luxury of of two weeks of unencumbered study, something I haven't had thus far outside of weekends.

AjiteshArun - I definitely agree and always believe in making the most of the resources available. I've already purchased the other 4 GMAT Prep CATs (and some sort of question bank, I believe). I'm trying to limit taking these CATs to just once a week as they take a pretty big mental toll on me. I'm already pretty drained from my regular workweek as it is. That being said, I do definitely plan on taking at least 3 more. By the way, wow what an incredible GMAT score you achieved. That's incredible!
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2018, 20:07
cecilpaladin32 wrote:
I just took GMAT Prep #2 earlier today - I think I finally have proof positive that I do actually have a chance to score a 49 in Quant and well in IR with luck of the draw on what types of questions I get asked. By some amazing fluke, I scored an 8 in IR and even had 2 minutes to spare! And pretty ironic that I got the Q49 right after recently stating that I didn't think I could get there.
No one scores an 8 on IR "by some amazing fluke" (guessing almost never pays off in IR, so you earned that score) :)

As for your main and quant scores, it'll always be a range that you'll be working with. Your Q49 shows that you are definitely capable of getting a really good quant score.
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Dec 2018, 19:17
AjiteshArun wrote:
cecilpaladin32 wrote:
I just took GMAT Prep #2 earlier today - I think I finally have proof positive that I do actually have a chance to score a 49 in Quant and well in IR with luck of the draw on what types of questions I get asked. By some amazing fluke, I scored an 8 in IR and even had 2 minutes to spare! And pretty ironic that I got the Q49 right after recently stating that I didn't think I could get there.
No one scores an 8 on IR "by some amazing fluke" (guessing almost never pays off in IR, so you earned that score) :)

As for your main and quant scores, it'll always be a range that you'll be working with. Your Q49 shows that you are definitely capable of getting a really good quant score.

Thanks AjiteshArun. The overall range thing is what I am banking on as well. If I can keep (hopefully) keep consistently hitting 700+, that's probably about the best I can do for now. I don't think there's any way I'll consistently hit 720+ by test day with my remaining exams (we'll see, I guess), but I now firmly and truly believe that I actually can get a 720, and believing is a large part of the battle for me (I've always greatly lacked in confidence in life). And honestly, I'm not going to kick myself if I score a 700 or a 710 (though I'll probably think long and hard about a retake). It's nice to finally be seeing a 7 as the first digit of my score rather than the other way around, and on the official GMAT prep tests especially.

I was shocked going through the sentence correction how many careless mistakes I made. Originally I freaked out seeing the V36 on this exam but after a careful breakdown, I believe I got 2 reading comprehension and 2 critical reasoning questions wrong, which is more or less par for the course for how I normally do, but I flubbed several easy sentence correction questions - far more than usual. Given that I hadn't practiced verbal for a week also probably left me a bit rusty, as overall I've put fairly little time into preparing for the verbal section based on how poorly I did on my last quant exam (I'm also naturally not bad at verbal related things - based on all my practice tests a V36 is likely the worst case scenario for me).

I think the thing I'm finding on the GMAT prep for the sentence correctly is the difficulty is very hard to perceive other than for the truly hardest questions (on the V45 exam, I found 4 of the sentence correction questions to be incredibly difficult, and I wound up getting 3 of those 4 wrong). There are some questions here that appear very easy but have just enough of a small "twist" to them that I may easily miss if I'm not fully alert. I already know that combating mental fatigue going into the verbal section (which I will take after the quant) is going to be a massive struggle for me; hopefully I can power through. The most I can do to try and boost my stamina is just taking more tests simulating real test-like conditions (as I've been doing all along). I know I'm certainly putting the time and effort in to be as prepared as I can be come test day (which I have actually gone ahead and scheduled for Dec 27th; here goes nothing!) - I've proven to myself that I have the capability of doing well all sections; now I just have to put it all together and hopefully finally slay this exam.
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Dec 2018, 19:30
Hi cecilpaladin32,

I’m glad I could help! Regarding Target Test Prep, the good news is that the TTP course can be structured around your quant needs, so I think you can make some great strides using the course. Specifically, the course will allow you to engage in focused practice (as I stated in my previous response) so that you can find and fix any remaining quant weaknesses.

I’m happy to chat with you further about how to best use the course, so feel free to reach out to me directly, and we can chat in detail.

Good luck!
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Re: Just took first GMAT Prep Exam...trying to finish prep in one month &nbs [#permalink] 04 Dec 2018, 19:30
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