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Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years

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Intern
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Joined: 14 May 2017
Posts: 7
GMAT 1: 680 Q48 V36
GMAT 2: 720 Q48 V41
GMAT 3: 720 Q48 V40
GMAT 4: 740 Q50 V41
Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Aug 2018, 12:31
Hi Everyone!

I have been a lurker on gmatclub for some time and this is my first post here. I wanted to share my (long) journey to a 740 on the GMAT, and hopefully provide some pointers to aspiring GMAT applicants.

My past attempts: I have taken the GMAT four times, starting July 2014. The first time I took a mock GMAT, I got a 650, and the first time I took the actual exam, I got a 680 (Q48, V36). Disappointed with my verbal score, I took the exam again in a month's time and got a 720 (Q48, V41). I tried improving my score in 2017, but ended up getting 720 again (Q48, V40). Believing that I had plateaued, I was on the verge of giving up, when I decided to attempt the exam again in August 2018.
Unlike a lot of engineers attempting the GMAT, I had issues with GMAT Quant. On the actual tests, I got a score of 48, thrice! I have always been pretty good at verbal though, and apart from my first ever GMAT attempt, I got scores equal to, or above 40. On the mock tests as well, I maintained a score of ~40 on Verbal. Thus, getting a good GMAT score depended on my Quant score as I was confident of getting 40 or more on the Verbal section.

2018 Exam Preparation: I decided to not opt for classroom sessions, relying on self-study instead. For preparation, I bought all the GMATPrep exams, GMAT Quant diagnostic tests, the GMAT Official Guide 2017 (along with the books for Quant and Verbal) and the Manhattan Prep Advanced Quant book. Plus, I had one Manhattan Prep exam left over from last year.
I started my GMAT preparation in mid-June 2018, with an exam date of early August. This time around, I focused on breaking through my quant plateau, and was aiming for a Q50. I was reasonably confident of my verbal skills, and expected to score above V40, even though I hadn't started my verbal preparation by July. My math concepts were sound, but I was struggling with finding the right approach for a given problem within 2 minutes (especiall with DS questions). With this in mind, I started my preparation by completing the Manhattan Prep advanced quant book. It took around 2.5 weeks to go through the concepts, guessing tactics and end-of-section problem sets in the book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone aiming to get a Q48 or above. However, do begin this book once your Math concepts are strong.

After finishing the conceptual part of the book, I started taking mock exams, starting with the free GMAT exams. On the first exam, I got a 680, with a Q45, V38. While I got a lower than expected score on quant, I was more confident approaching each question. I faced connectivity issues because of which my exam experience was sub-optimal, and five questions went unanswered. I was still unhappy with the timing of my quant section, and I was unable to finish my questions on time, falling back on guesswork for the last 2-5 questions. Timing on Verbal was not an issue for me, but I was not happy at the V38.
Around this time, I built up a ritual of waking up every morning and doing 1 workout set from the Manhattan Prep book. Workout sets contain 10 questions of varying (or same) problem type present toward the end of the book. I would initially struggle to finish 5-6 questions in 20 minutes and still get one wrong. After completing each set, I would spend 30-40 minutes after that reviewing the problems, and solving the questions I couldn't attempt. This way, although I would spend more than 60 minutes on 10 questions, I learned to solve the questions in multiple ways. I adopted the same strategy after the GMAT Prep exams as well and spent 1-2 hours after each exam going through all the questions and re-attempting the questions I got wrong. Gmatclub was infinitely helpful here - if I got stuck while reviewing any question, I would just paste the question into Google, and the first search result would be the solution and explanation from gmatclub. Again, I focused on learning how to solve questions in as many ways as possible.

For Verbal, I did some digging around on gmatclub and found rave reviews for Ron Purewal's verbal videos. The videos on parallelism sentence correction and the critical reasoning "strengthen/weaken" were quite helpful and resulted in a 1 point verbal score increase almost instantaneously. The "penny drop moment" happened for me in Quant when I came across One Percent GMAT's 2.5 hour video related to solving some difficult quant questions. I realized that I was obsessing over DS questions and was either getting stuck in a rut thinking about questions in one way or I wasn't looking for the right constraints. I watched the entire 2 hour 50 minute video to get a sense of how to approach tricky DS problems and it helped me a lot!

After watching this video, my quant solving speed improved drastically. I started solving my workout set problems in 16 minutes, with the same accuracy (1-2 wrong out of 10). It helped that I obsessed over solving the problems in time, and dropped notions of solving questions "properly". I learned to guess when I needed to and also learned to stop on DS questions once I had what I needed. Close to my exam date, I started averaging 720-730 on the GMAT prep exams.

Exam Day: I booked my exam slot at 2 PM (I am not a morning person). The day before the exam was laidback, and while I did save up my last GMAT mock exam till the last day, I was quite relaxed while taking the test (got a 720 on that). I did have a few fleeting moments of panic where I thought that I would get 720 (and Q48) again, but thought "que sera sera" to myself and got a good night's rest before the exam. I woke up fresh, and had a bowl of oats with nuts and black coffee for breakfast. I did a quant workout set and revised @Chineseburned's AWA template. I packed up a couple of bananas and filled a flask with two shots of black coffee which I carried with me to the exam center. I started the exam around 20 minutes early and selected the order as Quant, Verbal, IR and AWA.

Quant was a blur, and I don't remember any of the questions from the exam. I deliberatly practiced not thinking about the level of questions during my Mock GMATs, so I didn't waste any time thinking about the difficulty level of the questions. I tried solving each question as quickly and as thoroughly as I could, and I remember guessing on 2-3 questions during the tests (calculated guesses for problems where I wasn't able to come up with a clear approach quickly). By the time the last question was displayed, I had around 90 seconds left, and I solved it with ~25 seconds remaining. I was satisfied with my performance, and didn't think about the score I would get. During the break, I had a banana and 4-5 sips of my beloved black coffee. After some light stretching, I was ready for verbal. This section started off without incident, and again, I don't remember any question being memorable early on. However, around the 20th question, I got a 5 paragraph passage about mesoamerican sculptures which was really dense content-wise. I think mental tiredness finally caught up with me and I remember staring blankly at the screen for about 3 minutes, reading the words but not understanding anything! After 3 minutes, I snapped out of my daze and gave the passage a once-over and started solving the questions (the questions were, again, neither easy nor difficult). The rest of the section was uneventful, and I finished with around 3 minutes to spare.

During my break, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knowing that I would get a GMAT score now, irrespective of my performance in the next two sections. I think that sense of overwhelming relief carried over into IR, and I was not focused on the problems at all. I guessed the first 3 questions and barely managed to finish the section on time. I knew that I had bombed - but it was okay.
AWA has always been a fun section for me and I finished my essay with around 5 minutes to spare. In AWA, structuring the argument is important; content is secondary. I don't have anything to offer which hasn't already been covered in ChineseBurned's AWA masterclass.
As my score showed on screen, I breathed another sigh of relief when I saw a 740 show up, with a 50 in Quant. The score split of Q50, V41 is what I had in mind before the exam and I achieved it. However, the total score of 740 pinched me a bit because a Q50, V41 was a 760 less than 10 months back! People around the world are really stepping up their GMAT game and the percentiles are coming down by the day.

Anyway, I am happy with my score, and I doubt that I will be taking this exam anytime in the future. Now I am looking forward to months of application work and polishing up my essays. Here's hoping for a few admits this year!

Here's a list of resources I used and how it helped me:
[*] Official GMAT Prep Free Exams - No Brainer. I took the first test before setting up an exam date
[*] Official GMAT Prep Exams 3&4 and 5&6 - To me, nothing else comes close to the actual test day experience. I did face some issues with connectivity and I was forced to take my last mock exam just one day before the GMAT as the site was under maintenance two days before exam day.
[*] GMATPrep Quant diagnostic test pack - I took this hoping to highlight areas of weakness in quant and get some timed exam experience, but this test pack is not useful for an advanced test taker. I would recommend this only to first timers and to test takers from a non-quant education background.
[*] 1 Manhattan Prep exam from last year - Try to take Manhattan tests well before the actual exam date. Taking these tests close to the actual exam destroyed my confidence last year
[*] GMAT Official Guide 2017 - Going through the problems in this book is an absolute must before anything else.
[*] GMAT OG Verbal 2017 - This will be a must for most test takers looking to improve their verbal
[*] GMAT OG Quant 2017 - This is not necessary if you're already good with quant. Buy this if only you're looking for more official questions than the ones in the combined OG
[*] Manhattan Prep Advanced Quant - This book helped me break my Q48 barrier and I would recommend this as the go-to book once you've finished OG Quant prep
[*] Thursdays with Ron Purewal - I found the videos related to sentence correction and critical reasoning useful. Definitely worth viewing during Verbal Prep
[*] OnePercentGMAT Video - This video is of the from the first class that OnePercentGMAT offers. The audio quality isn't good, but this video shaped the way in which I was approaching certain problems, especially Data Sufficiency
[*] gmatclub - As always, gmatclub remains the best place to get all your GMAT and MBA related questions answered, and I found a lot of material related to specific questions I was getting stuck on. Also, I got a lot of great advice from other GMAT debriefs here.

I also have a list of "Offbeat" suggestions which might help in one's GMAT journey. I will write about those in another post soon.
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Joined: 18 Jun 2018
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Concentration: Finance, Healthcare
Re: Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Aug 2018, 14:03
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Wow. Congratulations chakraaayan. Your hard work and resiliency paid off. I also have the MGMAT advance quant book and will follow your suggestion.

Congrats again, and best wishes for your applications.

Cheers!
Intern
Intern
avatar
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Joined: 14 May 2017
Posts: 7
GMAT 1: 680 Q48 V36
GMAT 2: 720 Q48 V41
GMAT 3: 720 Q48 V40
GMAT 4: 740 Q50 V41
Re: Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Aug 2018, 22:26
Thanks funsogu! I have sent you the youtube link over DM (Not able to post links here yet). The "hack" of setting the playback speed to 2x should help you get through the video.
Just remember to not be hell bent on solving the problems along with the class in the video. For me, the purpose of the video was to learn to look at problems differently and be on the lookout for additional constraints in DS problems which I was struggling with earlier.

Cheers!
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Re: Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Aug 2018, 10:02
1
Congratulations!! Seems like a long hard fought battle you had there, the Victory is that much more sweeter!!

All the best for your applications!
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New to GMAT Club - https://gmatclub.com/forum/new-to-gmat-club-need-help-271131.html#p2098335

Re: Lessons Learned on the way to 740 over 4 years &nbs [#permalink] 22 Aug 2018, 10:02
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