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Last Minute Help Please!

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Last Minute Help Please!  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Sep 2018, 12:50
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I just took the GMAT on Monday and I was very disappointed with my score of 680, Q49 and V34. Especially since I bought the official practice tests 3 and 4, went through them without pausing and trying to mimic the test environment, and scored 750 and 770. I noticed some of the questions repeated between the tests which I think attributed to my false score. I bought all of the 404 official practice questions and went through those. I crammed studied one week with video lessons and some of their questions. I essentially spent two weeks cramming for the test before I wrote it and before that I have been studying on and off with questions of the day from here and a 2014 Kaplan book that my friend gave me. I also went through the everything you need to know for quant that gmat club offers.

I don't know if it was just test day that got to me. Or if I'm really not above the 700 level. I know I have some weak areas in quant that were maybe exposed in the real test. Weak areas such as I may second guess my mental math, some ratio problems I have trouble with, I dislike questions about trips with multiple parts and questions with inequalities, especially when absolute values are mixed in. I don't know how I suffered so much on verbal. I've never been strong on verbal though. An issue I have with verbal is on RC questions I may not understand what the passage is about, the question asked and even the answers. I also don't tend to read very fast. SC questions I find myself second guessing a lot. CR questions sometimes I just find them too difficult.

I did find that on some questions in the quant section that I was second guessing myself, or I didn't know immediately what approach I should take to solve the problem and spent too much time on some questions. I almost didn't finish as I rushed through the last couple of questions. I think I had about 10 seconds for the final question which was disappointing because it looked like a problem that I could have solved very quickly if I had 30 seconds to focus. For verbal, something bad must have happened near the beginning because by the time I was at the last two questions I had over ten minutes left...

I have to master some areas in quant to get up from Q49 to Q50 or Q51 which I think is possible. Seems to me like I will have to just keep practicing. For verbal though I am not even sure where to begin as it just seems like I'm so weak there.

I'm rebooking the test for Oct 12th. Do you have suggestions on what resources I can use? I am looking for free resources as I have mostly exhausted my funds. Are there particularly good gmatclub resources that I haven't discovered? Do you think 2 weeks of cramming could push me at least over 700? I'm currently unemployed which is why I don't have a lot of funds but at least that allows me to devote 8 hours a day or more to studying.

If it helps, some background about me. I am 33, I used to work as a nuclear operator running a power plant from the control room, think Homer Simpson. I was at the job for almost 9 years but left as I wasn't happy there. I have a degree from The University of Western Ontario in Biochemical Engineering. I'm interested in getting an MBA because I want to do something different. I have a passion for travel and I hope that I can combine my future employment with more freedom to allow me to travel. I'd love to be an entrepreneur but feel that I need an MBA to help me succeed. I come from a background where my mom never finished high school and my dad went to a technical college for computer skills back in the day. My parents are split up now and my mom works at a grocery store and my dad as a truck drive. I am the first one in my extended family to have attended university. This has made it difficult to network and find support. I want a high GMAT score so that I am not excluded from the top business schools and to try to get a scholarship. I feel that I am already at a disadvantage because of my age and that I am going to have to explain several months of a gap in my resume since I left my job in January this year.

I would appreciate and suggestions for improvement or links to resources and your advice. Well, if anything, thank you very much for your time.
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New post 26 Sep 2018, 14:04
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personal opinion: don't focus the quant, the quant is fine. Q49-Q50 won't do that much for your GMAT, but if you can get your verbal up, to say. Q38-40 you'll be over 700

also, work out a timing aray ahead of time to match your time during the test to know if you have to speed up, or if you have some margin. trust me it will help.
speeding up a bit on a question is a lot easier than having to do 5 questions in 5 mins at the end, especially if you're doing questions in the 700+ range.

i basically noted the following (cause they are nice round numbers)
when starting on (for quant)
Q7: 50 mins left
Q12: 40 mins left
Q17: 30 mins left
Q22: 20 mins left
Q27: 10 mins left

this is a table you can write down during the "instructional reading", and check off as you go

for verbal: ( bit trickier, i used 1min 45 s per question, but reading comp passages can skew it slightly due to the reading taking 3-4 mins, though the 3-4 followup questions should be answered faster than 1:45, SC questions should be done in 1:15
regardless, 36 questions 65 mins = 1:48 per question, i used 1:45 (giving me margin))
starting on
Q5: 58 mins left
Q9: 51 mins left
Q13: 44 mins left
Q17: 37 mins left
Q21: 30 mins left
Q25: 23 mins left
Q29: 16 mins left
Q33: 9 mins left

as explained above, if you stick to an average of 1:45 per question and you clock 9 mins starting Q33 you actually have a 2 minute margin (cause you should only need 7 minutes to solve them.

i did the time tracking my last attempt and managed to improve from a 700->750
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New post 26 Sep 2018, 14:12
aeon86 wrote:
personal opinion: don't focus the quant, the quant is fine. Q49-Q50 won't do that much for your GMAT, but if you can get your verbal up, to say. Q38-40 you'll be over 700

also, work out a timing aray ahead of time to match your time during the test to know if you have to speed up, or if you have some margin. trust me it will help.
speeding up a bit on a question is a lot easier than having to do 5 questions in 5 mins at the end, especially if you're doing questions in the 700+ range.

i basically noted the following (cause they are nice round numbers)
when starting on (for quant)
Q7: 50 mins left
Q12: 40 mins left
Q17: 30 mins left
Q22: 20 mins left
Q27: 10 mins left

this is a table you can write down during the "instructional reading", and check off as you go

for verbal: ( bit trickier, i used 1min 45 s per question, but reading comp passages can skew it slightly due to the reading taking 3-4 mins, though the 3-4 followup questions should be answered faster than 1:45, SC questions should be done in 1:15
regardless, 36 questions 65 mins = 1:48 per question, i used 1:45 (giving me margin))
starting on
Q5: 58 mins left
Q9: 51 mins left
Q13: 44 mins left
Q17: 37 mins left
Q21: 30 mins left
Q25: 23 mins left
Q29: 16 mins left
Q33: 9 mins left

as explained above, if you stick to an average of 1:45 per question and you clock 9 mins starting Q33 you actually have a 2 minute margin (cause you should only need 7 minutes to solve them.

i did the time tracking my last attempt and managed to improve from a 700->750


Thanks a lot for the advice on timing! I was too rushed in the quant and then somehow got far ahead in verbal as I must have made some mistakes early on then started getting easier questions.

btw congrats on your nice score aeon86!

Should I consider cancelling my current scores? It looks like I have the option to do that still in my profile before they get sent to the schools that I listed. Or does it really not make a difference?

What resources did you use? I feel like I need to go back to some theory and then hit practice questions hard... Not sure where a very good bank of practice questions is...
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New post 26 Sep 2018, 15:13
jcochrane wrote:
aeon86 wrote:
personal opinion: don't focus the quant, the quant is fine. Q49-Q50 won't do that much for your GMAT, but if you can get your verbal up, to say. Q38-40 you'll be over 700

also, work out a timing aray ahead of time to match your time during the test to know if you have to speed up, or if you have some margin. trust me it will help.
speeding up a bit on a question is a lot easier than having to do 5 questions in 5 mins at the end, especially if you're doing questions in the 700+ range.

i basically noted the following (cause they are nice round numbers)
when starting on (for quant)
Q7: 50 mins left
Q12: 40 mins left
Q17: 30 mins left
Q22: 20 mins left
Q27: 10 mins left

this is a table you can write down during the "instructional reading", and check off as you go

for verbal: ( bit trickier, i used 1min 45 s per question, but reading comp passages can skew it slightly due to the reading taking 3-4 mins, though the 3-4 followup questions should be answered faster than 1:45, SC questions should be done in 1:15
regardless, 36 questions 65 mins = 1:48 per question, i used 1:45 (giving me margin))
starting on
Q5: 58 mins left
Q9: 51 mins left
Q13: 44 mins left
Q17: 37 mins left
Q21: 30 mins left
Q25: 23 mins left
Q29: 16 mins left
Q33: 9 mins left

as explained above, if you stick to an average of 1:45 per question and you clock 9 mins starting Q33 you actually have a 2 minute margin (cause you should only need 7 minutes to solve them.

i did the time tracking my last attempt and managed to improve from a 700->750


Thanks a lot for the advice on timing! I was too rushed in the quant and then somehow got far ahead in verbal as I must have made some mistakes early on then started getting easier questions.

btw congrats on your nice score aeon86!

Should I consider cancelling my current scores? It looks like I have the option to do that still in my profile before they get sent to the schools that I listed. Or does it really not make a difference?

What resources did you use? I feel like I need to go back to some theory and then hit practice questions hard... Not sure where a very good bank of practice questions is...


I used GMATclub the 600-700 and 700 questions collections from Bunuel's posts and signature
that and all the tests in GMATprep.
680 is a respectable score, don't cancel it.
i cancelled my 700 after i got it the 2nd time in a row, and when the school then asks me to upload a copy to the application they will see my C's
i can explain them away, but still... unless you did horrendous, it makes no sense cancelling (say you get a 450 next time, that you should cancel)

but seriously, order an ESR if you don't know where you struggled on verbal, and work on verbal.
verbal has the biggest influence on your GMAT score, so if you can get that one up so will your score.
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 00:24
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jcochrane wrote:
Thanks a lot for the advice on timing! I was too rushed in the quant and then somehow got far ahead in verbal as I must have made some mistakes early on then started getting easier questions.

btw congrats on your nice score aeon86!

Should I consider cancelling my current scores? It looks like I have the option to do that still in my profile before they get sent to the schools that I listed. Or does it really not make a difference?

What resources did you use? I feel like I need to go back to some theory and then hit practice questions hard... Not sure where a very good bank of practice questions is...
The option to cancel your score will remain available to you for 72 hours after your exam, after which your score will become "official" (on your record for the next 5 years). But as aeon86 mentioned, don't cancel your 680. There is really no need to.
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 17:37
Thanks for the suggestions guys.

Last night I had to put my cat of 17 years to sleep and that has really been weighing on me.

Will an ESR really be worth the money? I think I need to improve really everywhere in verbal. I don't want my quant to drop below Q49 at a minimum at least so I still feel that each day I should put an hour or so into. And then at least 6 hours a day on verbal, once I find a resource to use.

Given that the official practice tests 3 and 4 seemed to be way off my actual score, should I purchase the official practice tests 5 and 6?
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 19:44
jcochrane wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions guys.

Last night I had to put my cat of 17 years to sleep and that has really been weighing on me.

Will an ESR really be worth the money? I think I need to improve really everywhere in verbal. I don't want my quant to drop below Q49 at a minimum at least so I still feel that each day I should put an hour or so into. And then at least 6 hours a day on verbal, once I find a resource to use.

Given that the official practice tests 3 and 4 seemed to be way off my actual score, should I purchase the official practice tests 5 and 6?
Getting the ESR won't hurt. You'll get some information about your test and your timing on the test, but generally, the higher your score, the less useful an ESR will be. This is because we should not draw conclusions on the basis of a very small number of data points. For example, let's say you got 2 of the (again, let's say) 4 questions based on Geometry wrong. Does that mean you're at a 50% accuracy in Geometry generally? It's hard to say.

As for tests 5 and 6, I think it's a good idea to get them. By the way, did you reset exam pack 1 in between tests 3 and 4 (I ask because you said there were repeat questions from test 3 in test 4)? Either way, one test a week before your next attempt on Oct 12 should be good.

Finally, even if we assume that your 770 was not representative, you still have a 750 on a GMATPrep, which means that you're capable of getting at least that much on the actual GMAT. It's quite likely that your 680 is an outlier, and that your next score will be higher.
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 19:52
AjiteshArun wrote:
jcochrane wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions guys.

Last night I had to put my cat of 17 years to sleep and that has really been weighing on me.

Will an ESR really be worth the money? I think I need to improve really everywhere in verbal. I don't want my quant to drop below Q49 at a minimum at least so I still feel that each day I should put an hour or so into. And then at least 6 hours a day on verbal, once I find a resource to use.

Given that the official practice tests 3 and 4 seemed to be way off my actual score, should I purchase the official practice tests 5 and 6?
Getting the ESR won't hurt. You'll get some information about your test and your timing on the test, but generally, the higher your score, the less useful an ESR will be. This is because we should not draw conclusions on the basis of a very small number of data points. For example, let's say you got 2 of the (again, let's say) 4 questions based on Geometry wrong. Does that mean you're at a 50% accuracy in Geometry generally? It's hard to say.

As for tests 5 and 6, I think it's a good idea to get them. By the way, did you reset exam pack 1 in between tests 3 and 4 (I ask because you said there were repeat questions from test 3 in test 4)? Either way, one test a week before your next attempt on Oct 12 should be good.

Finally, even if we assume that your 770 was not representative, you still have a 750 on a GMATPrep, which means that you're capable of getting at least that much on the actual GMAT. It's quite likely that your 680 is an outlier, and that your next score will be higher.


I just looked at my scores for tests 3 and 4. I did test 3 and scored 720. I then looked up where the questions that I got wrong. The next day I reset the test and did test 3 again and scored 770. Looked up my wrong answers and then the following I did test 4 when I scored 770 on that test... Were these tests essentially linked and drawing from the same question bank? I shouldn't have reset in between the tests it seems...
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 20:25
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jcochrane wrote:
I just looked at my scores for tests 3 and 4. I did test 3 and scored 720. I then looked up where the questions that I got wrong. The next day I reset the test and did test 3 again and scored 770. Looked up my wrong answers and then the following I did test 4 when I scored 770 on that test... Were these tests essentially linked and drawing from the same question bank? I shouldn't have reset in between the tests it seems...
Yes, they draw from the same pool, as do 5 and 6. If you get the remaining 2 tests, don't hit reset :)
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New post 27 Sep 2018, 20:35
AjiteshArun wrote:
jcochrane wrote:
I just looked at my scores for tests 3 and 4. I did test 3 and scored 720. I then looked up where the questions that I got wrong. The next day I reset the test and did test 3 again and scored 770. Looked up my wrong answers and then the following I did test 4 when I scored 770 on that test... Were these tests essentially linked and drawing from the same question bank? I shouldn't have reset in between the tests it seems...
Yes, they draw from the same pool, as do 5 and 6. If you get the remaining 2 tests, don't hit reset :)


Thanks for that information! It looks like my true score may be closer to a 720 then. That still leaves me so much room for improvement in just 2 weeks...

I'm still not sure of a good free verbal resource. Besides the trauma of having to put my cat of 17 years to sleep last night, it was quite expensive. :( :sad:
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New post 28 Sep 2018, 00:55
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I agree you should purchase the 5 & 6

but don't use them until you've studied extra!

1&2 draw from the same pool of questions
3&4 also share question pool
so do 5&6
once you reset them, there's a chance you'll get questions you recognize.
so the 'virgin'/untouched 5-6 are a goldmine for you don't waste them!

that said, yes I believe the ESR would be useful in this case
if nothing else, to put you at ease on the quant part
but also to show you when (first through fourth quarter) you made mistakes, so not only the breakdown by question type.
in addition, the breakdown by question type is useful so you can focus on what will bring you the greatest improvement.

you have a week and a half, not enough to tackle everything, so focus on what matters.
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New post 28 Sep 2018, 11:17
aeon86 wrote:
I agree you should purchase the 5 & 6

but don't use them until you've studied extra!

1&2 draw from the same pool of questions
3&4 also share question pool
so do 5&6
once you reset them, there's a chance you'll get questions you recognize.
so the 'virgin'/untouched 5-6 are a goldmine for you don't waste them!

that said, yes I believe the ESR would be useful in this case
if nothing else, to put you at ease on the quant part
but also to show you when (first through fourth quarter) you made mistakes, so not only the breakdown by question type.
in addition, the breakdown by question type is useful so you can focus on what will bring you the greatest improvement.

you have a week and a half, not enough to tackle everything, so focus on what matters.


Well I took the advice of both you guys and paid the money for the ESR. I am uploading it here. I don't know if it was worth it. It kind of shows me most of what I already knew. That I spent too long in some areas of quant and that I was pretty weak on verbal. Maybe I need to focus more on sentence correction... SC was absolutely horrible and clearly dragged down my verbal score.

I also bought exams 5 and 6. It's a shame that I didn't know about the question pool thing for exams 3 and 4 as I can't retake exam test 4 even though I did it once.

The official score report came back too giving me a 5.0 for the AWA. I suppose that's good since I didn't practice for that aside from doing the essays with the practice exams and just reading a bit about how to format the exam. Any thoughts for improvement to a 6?

Any good resource suggestions? All I really have right now is the free Veritas question bank...

I don't know if there is any other advice that you can give me based on my ESR that I uploaded.
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New post 28 Sep 2018, 11:43
I would say the ESR was very much worth it.

you say it confirmed what you already suspected, but that's just it, you suspected it.
now you know
I agree with the focus in general on verbal, and specifically on the SC questions.

keep in mind to not only practice (and understand!!!!) the 700+ level questions, but also the 600-700 range questions.
if you don't get to 700+ becuase you make mistakes on the 600+ level questions al the practice wouldn't pay off.

I believe practicing the verbal would certainly help you get your other sections up at least 5 percentile points and SC a LOT more.
in addition to that you need to try and get your RC and SC time used down
SC should be 1:15 approx, which is obviously only possible if you feel at ease with the grammar rules and eliminations.
once you get that down, it gives you a bit of breathing room for the other questions.

for RC, focus when you're reading the passage. I don't know about you but i tended to get very easily distracted, leading me to reread several things of the passage multiple times and taking much longer. 1 focussed reading should have you understand the text, allowing you to answer the following questions quickly (you don't need to understand everything 100% on the first read, but you need to know where you can find things in the text, so that you can quickly find and reread it if they ask indepth questions)

once you work on your verbal your error rate on the first and second quarter at least will go down, allowing you to hit higher dificulty questions faster.
if you look at your dificulty progress you'll notice you only went up slightly.

if you read the verbal summary they tell you right there what you have:

critical reasoning at 75 percentile is the equivalent of a V38 (if it was only critical reasoning)
your RC was V39 equiv, though i do believe you can push the inferred idea identification with more practice (66%)
your SC was V27 equiv --> this clearly needs work

for Quant if you want to work on anything work on your problem-solving.
your data sufficiency seems to be alright.
you can probably work on algebra a bit also, since 3 minute averages for those questions means you're calculating and not using shortcuts. (or you don't control the material)
i would say the issue there is your value /order/facotrs, which is lowest at 61%

==> please don't bait yourself into putting too much effort on Quant now: main prio should be Verbal.


with regards to your AWA, a 5.0 is more than fine.
if you are not native english you'll have a toefl or ietls which shows your control of the language.

the system checks out your structure, use of connecting words (and, thus, furthermore, etc.)
you can find plenty of templates, but as long as you make a structured breakdown with examples of the flaws, how to correct them or improve them, etc. you should be good.
again schools don't tend too look at this too hard (unless you would score a 1?), and it doesn't contribute to your total GMAT score, so...
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New post 28 Sep 2018, 12:06
Thanks for that advice.

What shortcuts can I use with my calculations? Sometimes I'm unsure of how to set up the questions from the word problems.

Do you know of a good resource for sentence correction? I'd really like to push that up for sure.

Should I just pound practice questions on veritas prep and read the answer explanations? Or do I need to go over theory, appositive phrases, modifiers, parallelism, all that stuff?

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New post 28 Sep 2018, 14:44
i'd read then practice.
personally in my case it was doing questions that helped me as i have a pretty good gut feeling for what is right and wrong, and doing questions helped me identify the cases i didn't know.

but yes, read up first, then practice.
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New post 28 Sep 2018, 18:45
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jcochrane wrote:
I just took the GMAT on Monday and I was very disappointed with my score of 680, Q49 and V34. Especially since I bought the official practice tests 3 and 4, went through them without pausing and trying to mimic the test environment, and scored 750 and 770. I noticed some of the questions repeated between the tests which I think attributed to my false score. I bought all of the 404 official practice questions and went through those. I crammed studied one week with video lessons and some of their questions. I essentially spent two weeks cramming for the test before I wrote it and before that I have been studying on and off with questions of the day from here and a 2014 Kaplan book that my friend gave me. I also went through the everything you need to know for quant that gmat club offers.

I don't know if it was just test day that got to me. Or if I'm really not above the 700 level. I know I have some weak areas in quant that were maybe exposed in the real test. Weak areas such as I may second guess my mental math, some ratio problems I have trouble with, I dislike questions about trips with multiple parts and questions with inequalities, especially when absolute values are mixed in. I don't know how I suffered so much on verbal. I've never been strong on verbal though. An issue I have with verbal is on RC questions I may not understand what the passage is about, the question asked and even the answers. I also don't tend to read very fast. SC questions I find myself second guessing a lot. CR questions sometimes I just find them too difficult.

I did find that on some questions in the quant section that I was second guessing myself, or I didn't know immediately what approach I should take to solve the problem and spent too much time on some questions. I almost didn't finish as I rushed through the last couple of questions. I think I had about 10 seconds for the final question which was disappointing because it looked like a problem that I could have solved very quickly if I had 30 seconds to focus. For verbal, something bad must have happened near the beginning because by the time I was at the last two questions I had over ten minutes left...

I have to master some areas in quant to get up from Q49 to Q50 or Q51 which I think is possible. Seems to me like I will have to just keep practicing. For verbal though I am not even sure where to begin as it just seems like I'm so weak there.

I'm rebooking the test for Oct 12th. Do you have suggestions on what resources I can use? I am looking for free resources as I have mostly exhausted my funds. Are there particularly good gmatclub resources that I haven't discovered? Do you think 2 weeks of cramming could push me at least over 700? I'm currently unemployed which is why I don't have a lot of funds but at least that allows me to devote 8 hours a day or more to studying.

If it helps, some background about me. I am 33, I used to work as a nuclear operator running a power plant from the control room, think Homer Simpson. I was at the job for almost 9 years but left as I wasn't happy there. I have a degree from The University of Western Ontario in Biochemical Engineering. I'm interested in getting an MBA because I want to do something different. I have a passion for travel and I hope that I can combine my future employment with more freedom to allow me to travel. I'd love to be an entrepreneur but feel that I need an MBA to help me succeed. I come from a background where my mom never finished high school and my dad went to a technical college for computer skills back in the day. My parents are split up now and my mom works at a grocery store and my dad as a truck drive. I am the first one in my extended family to have attended university. This has made it difficult to network and find support. I want a high GMAT score so that I am not excluded from the top business schools and to try to get a scholarship. I feel that I am already at a disadvantage because of my age and that I am going to have to explain several months of a gap in my resume since I left my job in January this year.

I would appreciate and suggestions for improvement or links to resources and your advice. Well, if anything, thank you very much for your time.



680 could be turned into 750 with little effort or it could be turned into 600 with little doubt.
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Re: Last Minute Help Please!  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Sep 2018, 19:18
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jcochrane wrote:
Thanks for that advice.

What shortcuts can I use with my calculations? Sometimes I'm unsure of how to set up the questions from the word problems.

Do you know of a good resource for sentence correction? I'd really like to push that up for sure.

Should I just pound practice questions on veritas prep and read the answer explanations? Or do I need to go over theory, appositive phrases, modifiers, parallelism, all that stuff?
I suggest that you stick to official material this close to the test for practice questions. Also, do you want to consider pushing your test date back a bit? That will give you some time to go over the concepts tested in SC.
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New post 29 Sep 2018, 07:48
alitariquet wrote:

680 could be turned into 750 with little effort or it could be turned into 600 with little doubt.


I look forward to turning it into a 750. Less than 2 weeks now. Going to hit theory hard and drill practice questions and get some official practice tests in there too.

I found a copy of the 2017 OG. So I am hoping that I can practice more with the questions from there.
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Last Minute Help Please!  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Sep 2018, 07:49
AjiteshArun wrote:
I suggest that you stick to official material this close to the test for practice questions. Also, do you want to consider pushing your test date back a bit? That will give you some time to go over the concepts tested in SC.


Unfortunately I can't push it back. Or else I definitely would.

I also found a copy of the 2017 OG to use as practice questions.

For some of the the quant questions, how many people are backsolving? I think the reason my ESR shows that I took too long in algebra parts was partly because it would take me some time to understand what the question wanted me to solve for, then properly set up the equation then solve....
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Re: Last Minute Help Please!  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Sep 2018, 18:27
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Hi jcochrane,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First of all, given that you studied for only a few weeks, 680 with a Q49 is a pretty awesome score. Since you scored a V34, I agree that you should primarily focus your efforts on verbal, with a little quant mixed in. If you can score 38+ on verbal and keep quant at a 49, you will score above 700. That being said, I recommend that you push your exam to a later date, so you have more than two weeks to study.

Regarding how to improve your verbal score, try your best (despite using only free resources) to learn linearly, such that you can slowly build mastery of one GMAT topic prior to moving on to the next. For example, let’s say you start by learning about Critical Reasoning. Your first goal is to fully master the individual Critical Reasoning topics: Strengthen the Argument, Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, etc. As you learn about each Critical Reasoning question type, do focused practice so that you can track your skill in answering each type. If, for example, you get a weakening question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize the specific question type? Were you doing too much analysis in your head? Did you skip over a keyword in an answer choice? You must thoroughly analyze your mistakes and seek to turn weaknesses into strengths by focusing on the question types you dread seeing and the questions you take a long time to answer correctly.

When practicing Reading Comprehension, you need to develop a reading strategy that is both efficient and thorough. Reading too fast and not understanding what you have read are equally as harmful as reading too slow and using up too much time. When attacking Reading Comprehension passages, you must have one clear goal in mind: to understand the context of what you are reading. However, you must do so efficiently, so you need to avoid getting bogged down in the details of each paragraph and instead focus on understanding the main point of each paragraph. That being said, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can just read the intro and the conclusion and thereby comprehend the main idea of a paragraph. As you read a paragraph, consider how the context of the paragraph relates to previous paragraphs, so you can continue developing your overall understanding of the passage. Furthermore, as you practice Reading Comprehension, focus on the exact types of questions with which you struggle: Find the Main Idea, Inference, Author’s Tone, etc. As with Critical Reasoning, analyze your incorrect Reading Comprehension answers to better determine why you tend to get a particular question type wrong, and then improve upon your weaknesses. You can perfect your reading strategy with a lot of practice, but keep in mind that GMAT Reading Comprehension passages are not meant to be easy to read. So, to better prepare yourself to tackle such passages, read magazines with similar content and style, such as the Economist, Scientific American, and Smithsonian.

Sentence Correction is a bit of a different animal compared to Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. There are three aspects to getting correct answers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions: what you know, such as grammar rules, what you see, such as violations of grammar rules and the logic of sentence structure, and what you do, such as carefully considering each answer choice in the context of the non-underlined portion of the sentence. To drive up your Sentence Correction score, it is likely that you will have to work on all three of those aspects, and it is also likely that your Sentence Correction performance has not improved because you have not been working on all three of those aspects.

Regarding what you know, first and foremost, you MUST know your grammar rules. Let's be clear, though: GMAT Sentence Correction is not really a test of knowledge of grammar rules. The reason for learning the grammar rules is so that you can determine what sentences convey and whether sentences are well-constructed. In fact, in many cases, incorrect answers to Sentence Correction questions are grammatically flawless. Thus, often your task is to use your knowledge of grammar rules to determine which answer choice creates the most logical sentence meaning and structure.

This determination of whether sentences are well-constructed and logical is the second aspect of finding correct answers to Sentence Correction questions, what you see. Likely, the main reason that Sentence Correction has not "clicked" for you is that you have not put enough work into developing your skill in seeing what is going on in the various versions of the sentence that the answer choices create. To develop this skill, you probably have to slow way down. You won't develop this skill by spending under two minutes per question. For a while, anyway, you have to spend time with each question, maybe even ten or fifteen minutes on one question sometimes, analyzing every answer choice until you see the details that you have to see in order to choose the correct answer. As you go through the answer choices, consider the meaning conveyed by each version of the sentence. Does the meaning make sense? Even if you can tell what the version is SUPPOSED to convey, does the version really convey that meaning? Is there a verb to go with the subject? Do all pronouns clearly refer to nouns? By slowing way down and looking for these details, you learn to see what you have to see in order to clearly understand which answer to a Sentence Correction question is correct.

There is only one correct answer to any Sentence Correction question, there are clear reasons why that choice is correct and the others are not, and those reasons are not that the correct version simply "sounds right." In fact, the correct version often sounds a little off at first. That correct answers may sound a little off is not surprising. If the correct answer were always the one that sounded right, then most people most of the time would get Sentence Correction questions correct, without really knowing why the wrong answers were wrong and the correct answers were correct. So, you have to go beyond choosing what "sounds right" and learn to clearly see the logical reasons why one choice is better than all of the others.

As for the third aspect of getting Sentence Correction questions correct, what you do, the main thing you have to do is be very careful. You have to make sure that you are truly considering the structures of sentences and the meanings conveyed rather than allowing yourself to be tricked into choosing trap answers that sound right but don't convey meanings that make sense. You also have to make sure that you put some real energy into finding the correct answers. Finding the correct answer to a Sentence Correction question may take bouncing from choice to choice repeatedly until you start to see the differences between the choices that make all choices wrong except for one. Often, when you first look at the choices, only one or two seem obviously incorrect. It may take time for you to see what you have to see. Getting the right answers takes a certain work ethic. You have to be determined to see the differences and to figure out the precise reasons that one choice is correct.

To improve what you do when you answer Sentence Correction questions, seek to become aware of how you are going about answering them. Are you being careful and looking for logic and details, or are you quickly eliminating choices that sound a little off, and then choosing the best of the rest? If you choose an incorrect answer, consider what you did that resulted in your arriving at that answer and what you could do differently in order to arrive at correct answers more consistently. Furthermore, see how many questions you can get correct in a row as you practice. If you break your streak by missing one, consider what you could have done differently to extend your streak.

As with your Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension regimens, after learning a particular Sentence Correction topic, engage in focused practice with 30 questions or more that involve that topic. As your Sentence Correction skills improve, you will then want to practice with questions that test you on skills from multiple Sentence Correction topics.

For quant, you can follow a similar, albeit a bit more streamlined, process (since you are looking to score a Q50+). For example, if you are reviewing Number Properties, be sure that you practice 50 or more questions just from Number Properties: LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, remainders, etc. When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

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 do such 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.

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.

Once again, I realize that you are only able to use free resources, so in addition to practicing quant and verbal questions here on GMAT Club, take advantage of some free or low-cost trials of paid resources.

You also may find my article with more information regarding
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT helpful.

Lastly, thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like you have really come a long way, and I’m pulling for you!

If you need any further advice, feel free to contact me directly.

Let’s do this!!
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