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My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)

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My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 15 Jul 2017, 21:20
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I took the GMAT on June 1st, 2017 and hadn’t been able to post a full debrief since then, but I’m feeling inspired today since I just took the TOEFL iBT and consider myself done with the tests (I hope to get a high score on TOEFL and not have to retake it).

Before you continue reading, you should consider that most debriefs on Gmatclub come from successful test takers. It is rare to find a story about failure on the GMAT (probably wouldn’t make much sense to spend time on it), and therefore a lot of people tend to think that GMAT is something easy (especially people who never took a mock test). It is not. GMAT is a tough standardized test and you should approach it accordingly.

On a short note, I have to thank Gmatclub for being a perfect study resource for anyone preparing for the test.

Background

Latin American male, 27 years old, BSc in Economics and MSc in Operations Research, with 1 year of work experience in consulting and 3 years of investment banking work experience. No experience with standardized tests whatsoever.

I don’t consider myself to be neither extremely smart nor organized. I’m just a regular guy with average IQ who is committed to pursue his dream of getting an MBA degree.

Practice Scores

12-Mar-17 | GMATPrep Exam 1 | 570 Q44 V25
23-Apr-17 | GMATPrep Exam 1 R | 710 Q49 V38
30-Apr-17 | Veritas Prep Practice Test 1 | 650 Q46 V33
7-May-17 | Veritas Prep Practice Test 2 | 670 Q45 V37
10-May-17 | Veritas Prep Practice Test 3 | 670 Q46 V36
13-May-17 | Veritas Prep Practice Test 4 | 680 Q48 V35
18-May-17 | Veritas Prep Practice Test 5 | 680 Q48 V35
21-May-17 | GMATPrep Exam 2 | 680 Q47 V36
25-May-17 | GMATPrep Exam 5 | 730 Q49 V41
28-May-17 | GMATPrep Exam 6 | 730 Q48 V42
1-Jun-17 | GMAT Official | 720 Q49 V40

Study Materials I Used

I was lucky enough to receive the full Manhattan Prep guides, the OG 12, the CR Bible and almost all the Veritas Prep books from a friend who took the GMAT in 2015. I only spent $49 on the seven Veritas Prep mock tests and $50 on GMATPrep Exam Pack 2. So, considering the score I got, I believe I used my money wisely.

I also downloaded the free Veritas Prep videos (I think they’re called the “iPad videos” or something like that).

The Wrong Approach

I first began studying for the GMAT around mid-September of 2016. I followed the 9-weeks Manhattan Prep study strategy plan. I had to pause it around the sixth week because I had an important project at work and couldn’t resume it until December. By the end of January 2017, I was done with the program and started doing a lot of exercises, focusing most of my efforts on the Quant part. I also didn’t take time too seriously, since I thought this wouldn’t be a major concern for me (I felt really confident about my average timing in Quant exercises). BIG MISTAKE. By the time I took my first GMATPrep Exam 1, I learned a lot of (not-to-do) things.

First, being biased towards one of the sections of the exam (in my case, to Quant) is not a good strategy. I was completely lost during the Verbal section, since I had done too few Verbal exercises in the previous two months. Believe me, this feeling of desperation while I was taking the exam was an eye-opener for me.

Secondly, I learned that Manhattan Prep guides were not made for me. I don’t mean this debrief to be a marketing thing favoring one company over another, so I’ll try to make this point very clear. I think Manhattan Prep has very thorough and complete guides, but their approach is not useful for a disorganized person like me. On the quant part, there are just too many tricks. On the verbal part, I believe their guides are focused on native speakers and their approach requires you to learn a lot of things by heart. If you have always been an organized person in school, take many notes in class, have an excellent memory to learn tricks and strategies and are open to learn new strategies to do things you already know how to do, then Manhattan Prep guides might be perfect for you.

The Approach that worked for me

After that disappointing score in my first mock test, I decided some things had to change. I gave Veritas Prep guides a chance. Before making up my mind regarding which materials should I use, I seriously considered enrolling in the e-GMAT course. I read too many positive reviews about the course, especially from non-native speakers. However, most of these reviews were made by Indian people, and I strongly believe Indian people’s intelligence is way above my level. So perhaps those opinions were biased, or maybe the course was particularly designed to suit Indian students’ needs. Anyways, I decided to use Veritas Prep materials for the Verbal section and use every material I had to improve on the Quant section. This was a game changer.

Verbal section approach

I decided to tackle my weakest area first, in this case, CR. Here, I can only thank Brian Galvin (and the beautiful Lissette Padilla) from Veritas Prep for the amazing free videos (if you Google “Veritas Prep GMAT iPad App Videos” you can find them). My approach was to first read the Veritas Prep CR guide and then watch the videos. In the videos, Brian basically discusses the same examples that you read in the book. It might sound stupid because there is nothing mysterious or difficult about CR, and I think the videos try to be very emphatic on this. Veritas Prep SWIM method for CR is very easy to learn and remember, and it is very useful. I saw my accuracy rate increase from 60% to 80% on CR questions after reading this material. Weeks before the official test, I read the CR Bible (highly recommended), and this allowed me to increase my accuracy to 90%. If you’ve read this guide and other materials, you will find that most companies’ approach to CR is just a soft copy of the CR Bible. I also practiced with LSAT LR questions, and I encourage you to do so.

Since I was amazed by my improvement in CR, I followed the same approach for SC. It worked great! This is totally different from what I had read on Manhattan Prep SC guide, which I found really long and boring (it has 13 chapters). Veritas Prep logical meaning approach to SC is amazing. You can answer most questions correctly just by finding mistakes in the meaning, don’t need to remember difficult grammar rules (there are some cases in which you need to learn those). Weeks before the official test, I found a Gmatclub post named “e-GMAT's ALL SC topics-Consolidated” and read all the links. I really encourage you to do this, those posts are very helpful. Probably it’s a good example of what e-GMAT can provide. As I said, I never paid for that course, but read very good reviews, and this little contact I had with the company’s materials prove those reviews right.

For RC, I honestly didn’t follow an improvement strategy. As amazing as it may sound, in the four GMATPrep Exams I took I had the very same accuracy rate in RC (76.92%). Same number of correct answers over total RC questions in the four tests. I believe there’s not much you can do with this type of question. For the last three weeks before the official exam, I didn’t practice RC questions (besides those on the mock tests).

Quant section approach

The Q44 score on my first GMATPrep mock test was very disappointing to me. I felt I could score higher, and my approach was to re-study the topics I had more problems with and do A LOT of exercises. I found that keeping a detailed error log is the best thing you can do in order to improve your performance. I’m attaching my error log file in case it’s helpful to anybody.

I believe Quant section depends on you. If you’re a mathematically oriented person as me, you will want so solve every question following an algebraic approach. I really didn’t use any of the tricks (picking numbers, etc.) most books suggest. But if they work for you, then you should rely on them. The bottom line is that you should find which strategy works best for you. Try to do as many practice questions as possible, as you will learn the different ways the test maker can try to fool you.

There’s no magic about the Quant section. Most of it consists of fairly easy questions and just a few hard/time consuming questions. You have to learn to let go a question when it consumes too much of your time.

Test Day

I scheduled the test two weeks in advance and decided to take it in the morning. The night before was a NIGHTMARE. The test started at 9:00 a.m. and I couldn’t fall asleep until 4:30 a.m. because of my nerves and anxiety. I took everything I could (valerian, tea, relaxation pills, etc.). Nothing worked. Human mind is really powerful. I was scared because I had to wake up at 7:00 a.m. and thought that being tired was really going to affect my performance during the test. I was trembling when I entered the test center. Somehow, 5 minutes before the test I started to feel positive and very confident. I don’t know why.

The essay was about a managerial decision and the IR section was a little bit tougher than the ones I had done in the mock tests. After my first break, I felt really tired but wouldn’t give up to my dreams.

The Quant section was unexpected. I honestly think it was very easy, compared to every mock test I had taken. I think the key here is to focus on the first 10-15 questions. After those, the difficulty level won’t rise too much. I remember I finished this section with a 7-minute surplus. I still don’t understand why it was a 49 and not a 50. There was only one question in which I didn’t know what to do. The “adaptive” nature of the test is way overestimated. It is an adaptive test, for sure you can tell that, but it’s not like the level variation is going to be very noticeable.

During the second break I was very confident. Tired, but confident. In the first two questions of the Verbal section, my eyes started to close, but I resisted the temptation. In general, I would say the Verbal section was tougher than what I saw on the mock tests. Even SC were difficult (after learning the Veritas Prep approach, I felt confident with SC questions). By question 30, I started to feel nervous because I was behind the scheduled time and I thought my performance wasn’t very good. Anyway, I kept on giving my best until the end of the exam.

When I saw my score, I was pleased. Four hours before, I thought the lack of sleep and rest would influence my performance a lot, but hopefully it didn’t. I believe my potential was between a 700 and a 740, and maybe on a really good day up to 750. I thought a 720 was good enough to avoid going through the same nightmare again.

Some extras:

-If you’re an average test taker as I am, you have to know that GMAT requires full immersion. That means studying every day, avoid going out too much, dreaming with GMAT, almost becoming obsessed with it. If you’re a very smart person, then you don’t need this.
-If your approach is not working, change it!
-Do timed questions always!
-Even if you’re much better on one section, don’t quit practicing the other. Unlearning exists and is harmful.
-Veritas Prep adaptive algorithm for practice tests is really bad. Difficulty level increases too fast. Although most of the questions practically require you to use “tricks” (I believe this is part of their strategy to make you think you need to buy their materials), they tend to give the algebraic approach in their solutions. Verbal section is good, and in general their feedback and performance analysis tools are helpful.
-Do never quit. Pursue your goals.
Attachments

File comment: This is my error log. I hope you can find it useful and helps you build your own.
Error log.xlsx [56.7 KiB]
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 15 Jul 2017, 23:35
Congrats on a great score.
Your hard work really paid off.

You have mentioned that SC was tougher in the real test. How was it different from the mocks you took?
How was the CR?
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Joined: 27 May 2015
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Location: Venezuela
GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V40
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Jul 2017, 07:40
Hey, thanks Shiv2016!

I wouldn't say the questions were different, it's just that they were tougher. Logical meaning was not so clear, it's hard to explain. It's like most SC questions were 700+ level.

In CR, well, it was similar. A lot of tough Strengthen and Weaken questions.

I'm sorry I can't give you more details. It just felt tougher to me.
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Jul 2017, 23:15
madgabriel wrote:
Hey, thanks Shiv2016!

I wouldn't say the questions were different, it's just that they were tougher. Logical meaning was not so clear, it's hard to explain. It's like most SC questions were 700+ level.

In CR, well, it was similar. A lot of tough Strengthen and Weaken questions.

I'm sorry I can't give you more details. It just felt tougher to me.



No problem. Thanks for replying.

Is it possible if you could answer this. In quant, (according to you ) which topics were most frequently asked?
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2017, 03:10
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Hi,

Congratulations on your success!

Can you please let me know where you found LSAT material for free? I have been looking up for it.

Thanks!
Shinrai
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2017, 03:50
Congratulations madgabriel - ANd thanks for sharing your experience. It really keeps us going!
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"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Best AWA Template: https://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html#p470475
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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2017, 04:24
Hello,
Congrats, really a nice and comprehensive post, but to make more clear for me,, appreciate if you would advise exactly what material i can handle for the verbal section in points, knowing that i rely on the gmat official guide for quantitative section


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Re: My GMAT Debrief – 720 (Q49, V40, IR 6, AWA 6)   [#permalink] 27 Jul 2017, 04:24
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