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My Journey From 540 to 740

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My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 17 Jan 2018, 08:29
3
4
** EDIT: Official Score Report came back. Q47, V46, IR6, AWA6 **

Hi GMAT Club!

I've read a ton of these posts and I got a lot from other people's experiences studying and taking the GMAT. Now, it's my turn to share, and I hope it'll be helpful to folks in similar shoes.

Summary (TL;DR)
It took me almost a full year, 10 Practice CATs, 4 hours of private tutoring, some frustration and a lot of hard work to progress from a 540 on my diagnostic to a 740 on my final GMAT.

Score Progression:
Independent study with empowerGMAT, using mba.com practice CATs
1. 540 (Q31; V36) [Jan 17]
2. 610 (Q33; V41) [Feb 04]
3. 660 (Q39; V41) [Oct 07]
4. 650 (Q42; V37) [Oct 15]
5. 700 (Q43; V42) [Oct 21]
6. 720 (Q47; V42) [Oct 28]
7. 700 (Q43; V42) [Nov 4]
8. 700 (Q45; V41) [Nov 11]
Real GMAT 1: 680 (Q43; V41) [Nov 20] Cancelled

Private Tutoring w/ MPrep [2 sessions]
9. 660 (Q43; V36) [Manhattan CAT]
10. 670 (Q42 ; V39) [Manhattan CAT]
Real GMAT 2: 670 (Q39; V44) [Dec 16] Cancelled

Did almost nothing for a while to decompress
Real GMAT 3: 740 (Q47; V46) [Jan 10] :thumbup:

Background & Context
I went to a top 10 school in the US for undergrad, majored in science, and I'm now working full-time as a consultant. I got a good score on the SAT, but it took me 3 tries and a superscore in my favor - so by no means am I a standardized test natural, and this experience has truly been a humbling one for me. When I was looking to start the process of studying, I knew I'd have a couple challenges, namely that a) I needed to manage enough study time with 60h+ a week of work, which often comes with lots of air travel, and b) that while Verbal was a stronger category for me, I had some work to do in Quant. I also knew that from my SAT studying, test-taking strategies were a HUGE factor in my eventual success, and I wanted to be strategy-driven as much as I was being content-driven. I ended up choosing empowerGMAT because it would allow me to study on-demand, before/after work, wherever I was travelling, and would allow me to focus on my pain points from a content and strategy perspective.

First Exam
I took my first (cold) diagnostic CAT and honestly was shocked at the gap I would have to overcome in order to achieve my goal of ~700-720. I studied on and off for a few weeks, but work ended up getting in the way (hence the big gap between Feb-Oct). I really took the plunge in October - working 6:00am-7:45am then 9-10:30pm during the work week, and then supplementing with longer sessions during the weekend. I wanted to accelerate the recommended 3-mo plan into ~6 weeks. And it looked like my plan had worked! Each exam was a bit of a step up from the next, and I had broken 700 a couple times. The 680 official exam was a little bit of a let-down - the Q43 was on the low end of my range, and V41 was also slightly below.
1. 540 (Q31; V36) [Jan 17]
2. 610 (Q33; V41) [Feb 04]
3. 660 (Q39; V41) [Oct 07]
4. 650 (Q42; V37) [Oct 15]
5. 700 (Q43; V42) [Oct 21]
6. 720 (Q47; V42) [Oct 28]
7. 700 (Q43; V42) [Nov 4]
8. 700 (Q45; V41) [Nov 11]
Real GMAT 1: 680 (Q43; V41) [Nov 20] Cancelled

Second Exam
When I got back from thanksgiving, I took the advice of a friend of mine to reach out to Manhattan GMAT and get a few hours of tutoring. I felt like I understood the content of the exam well, but needed to fine-tune my strategies. In particular, I wanted to focus on a) reducing the range of my Quant sections, and b) "unlocking" my Verbal potential. I spent about 4h face-to-face with a tutor, who gave me some fantastic pointers, and helped me dial in my pacing and confirmed that I was under-performing relative to my abilities - something was up. I took two Manhattan CATs - which were much more challenging in Quant, and slightly more challenging in Verbal than the real thing - and then took another official test. This was a tremendous let-down... I hadn't scored that low in Quant since October, although Verbal was moving in the right direction.
9. 660 (Q43; V36) [Manhattan CAT]
10. 670 (Q42 ; V39) [Manhattan CAT]
Real GMAT 2: 670 (Q39; V44) [Dec 16] Cancelled

Third (and final) Exam
In between my second and third exam, I took some time to reflect on the issues that may have been at play. Ultimately it was a mental game. I had been going into each exam with a negative mindset that put tremendous pressure each time I sat to take the test: "I NEED a 720 to get into my dream school," "this NEEDS to be the last time I take the test," "I wonder if all this work is worth it" etc... During the test, it was a similar train of distracting thought: "you're off your timing target, speed up" or "you need to triage now, why did you spend so much time on the last problem?" All this is obviously not helpful, and all this is also HARD to change, I'll be honest.

I figured I had studied enough. I did the entire 3-mo empowerGMAT course, solved almost every Quant problem in the OG 2017, supplemented by Manhattan GMAT Quant and Verbal problems, and felt a bit saturated with information. I did barely any studying until my test date, and instead focused on reducing stress - working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and then changing my mindset about the exam. When I sat down for the final test, I went in thinking "I'll do my best and forget the rest." Apparently that was what needed to click. 740 (Q47, V46).

Lessons Learned and Advice
a) Pacing is all about confidence. I had no pacing issues in Verbal because my mindset was "I'll be able to catch up later, I know the material," but I had to train myself to do the same in Quant. The strategies at Empower and Manhattan (ex: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/2014/09/23/how-to-set-up-your-gmat-scratch-paper/) definitely help, but for me they were more to train my mind to understand the flow of the test, and how I was doing relative to the clock. On my final exam, I didn't use any formal pacing strategies - just a couple checks of the clock here and there.

b)It's all a mental game. When you look at each problem with a curious mindset rather than fear or frustration, or turn each question into a game, you'll be surprised what you can do. This mindset will reduce silly mistakes and allow you to think on your toes to solve the problems rather than have them feel like a chore. I also found mindfulness practice to be helpful - when distracting thoughts came in my mind during the exam, I acknowledged them without judgement, and then brought my attention back to the moment, and the question at hand. empowerGMAT has a great concept of a 5-second "time-out" to battle frustration - USE IT (once in your first section, twice in your second).

c) Study with a friend. I worked a lot with a friend during this process. Not only did we motivate each other and keep each other accountable, but his strength was Quant and mine was Verbal. this complementary approach really made a difference. Take a Manhattan GMAT CAT untimed - each of you solves each problem independently and then compare the answers. If you got the same answer, enter it and move on. If not, have a discussion and get to an agreed answer.

d) Study with intent. Instead of working on hundreds of problems and trying to absorb material via osmosis, try to solve shorter, timed practice sets with a particular focus in mind. Make this focus precise - "I'll do 10 DS questions without making a transcription error" or "I'll do 10 SC questions without missing a key grammar rule."

e) Content:
For Quant, I really liked Manhattan GRE strategy guides - they broke down concepts more comprehensively in my opinion than the GMAT strategy guides, especially due to the Drill Sets in the end of the chapters. Additionally, I used the following links to help guide my studies:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-ultimate-q51-guide-209801.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/overview-of-gmat-math-question-types-and-patterns-on-the-gmat-211809.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-ps-question-directory-by-topic-difficulty-127957.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/ds-question-directory-by-topic-and-difficulty-128728.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-prep-software-analysis-and-what-if-scenarios-146146.html
https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/

Other than that, I used the wisdom of other debriefs and the whole empowerGMAT crew (shout out to Rich and Stacy!)

Originally posted by sjactel on 10 Jan 2018, 19:24.
Last edited by sjactel on 17 Jan 2018, 08:29, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Jan 2018, 21:47
Hi sjactel,

That's OUTSTANDING news!!! With a 740/Q47, you can comfortably apply to ANY Business Schools that interest you, so you shouldn't hold back when it comes to your applications. This 200-point improvement shows that you have a strong ability to adapt and succeed - and that will serve you well in Business School and beyond!

1) I remember that you once mentioned the possibility of applying for a Dual Program (such as an MBA/MA or MBA/MS). Is that still something you're considering? What Schools are you planning to apply to?
2) When are you planning to apply?

Congratulations on all of your success so far!

Another GMAT Assassin has been made!
Rich
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Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

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Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
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Re: My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2018, 12:35
Hi Rich,
I truly couldn't have done it without empowerGMAT's comprehensive material, and of course you and Stacy's continuous thread of emails! I am hoping to aim relatively high (top 10) schools, and am considering some dual MBA/MA programs in international business possibly. I'll be applying R1, so I'm now shifting my attention to building a solid application package. Any advice from your team or others on the forum would be appreciated!
EMPOWERgmat Instructor
User avatar
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
Affiliations: EMPOWERgmat
Joined: 19 Dec 2014
Posts: 12411
Location: United States (CA)
GMAT 1: 800 Q51 V49
GRE 1: Q170 V170
Re: My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jan 2018, 14:24
Hi sjactel,

I'm glad that you found the overall Course so helpful. I responded to your email with some suggestions about everything going forward. You planned all of this out really well - by giving yourself the 'lead time' to train for the GMAT - and now that you have plenty of time to work on your applications - you're in the perfect position to craft some really fantastic applications. We're excited to hear how all of this ends up and where you choose to go to School.

Another GMAT Assassin has been made!
Rich
_________________

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

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

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

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

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Re: My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jan 2018, 20:23
sjactel wrote:
Hi GMAT Club!

I've read a ton of these posts and I got a lot from other people's experiences studying and taking the GMAT. Now, it's my turn to share, and I hope it'll be helpful to folks in similar shoes.

Summary (TL;DR)
It took me almost a full year, 10 Practice CATs, 4 hours of private tutoring, some frustration and a lot of hard work to progress from a 540 on my diagnostic to a 740 on my final GMAT.

Score Progression:
Independent study with empowerGMAT, using mba.com practice CATs
1. 540 (Q31; V36) [Jan 17]
2. 610 (Q33; V41) [Feb 04]
3. 660 (Q39; V41) [Oct 07]
4. 650 (Q42; V37) [Oct 15]
5. 700 (Q43; V42) [Oct 21]
6. 720 (Q47; V42) [Oct 28]
7. 700 (Q43; V42) [Nov 4]
8. 700 (Q45; V41) [Nov 11]
Real GMAT 1: 680 (Q43; V41) [Nov 20] Cancelled

Private Tutoring w/ MPrep [2 sessions]
9. 660 (Q43; V36) [Manhattan CAT]
10. 670 (Q42 ; V39) [Manhattan CAT]
Real GMAT 2: 670 (Q39; V44) [Dec 16] Cancelled

Did almost nothing for a while to decompress
Real GMAT 3: 740 (Q47; V46) [Jan 10] :thumbup:

Background & Context
I went to a top 10 school in the US for undergrad, majored in science, and I'm now working full-time as a consultant. I got a good score on the SAT, but it took me 3 tries and a superscore in my favor - so by no means am I a standardized test natural, and this experience has truly been a humbling one for me. When I was looking to start the process of studying, I knew I'd have a couple challenges, namely that a) I needed to manage enough study time with 60h+ a week of work, which often comes with lots of air travel, and b) that while Verbal was a stronger category for me, I had some work to do in Quant. I also knew that from my SAT studying, test-taking strategies were a HUGE factor in my eventual success, and I wanted to be strategy-driven as much as I was being content-driven. I ended up choosing empowerGMAT because it would allow me to study on-demand, before/after work, wherever I was travelling, and would allow me to focus on my pain points from a content and strategy perspective.

First Exam
I took my first (cold) diagnostic CAT and honestly was shocked at the gap I would have to overcome in order to achieve my goal of ~700-720. I studied on and off for a few weeks, but work ended up getting in the way (hence the big gap between Feb-Oct). I really took the plunge in October - working 6:00am-7:45am then 9-10:30pm during the work week, and then supplementing with longer sessions during the weekend. I wanted to accelerate the recommended 3-mo plan into ~6 weeks. And it looked like my plan had worked! Each exam was a bit of a step up from the next, and I had broken 700 a couple times. The 680 official exam was a little bit of a let-down - the Q43 was on the low end of my range, and V41 was also slightly below.
1. 540 (Q31; V36) [Jan 17]
2. 610 (Q33; V41) [Feb 04]
3. 660 (Q39; V41) [Oct 07]
4. 650 (Q42; V37) [Oct 15]
5. 700 (Q43; V42) [Oct 21]
6. 720 (Q47; V42) [Oct 28]
7. 700 (Q43; V42) [Nov 4]
8. 700 (Q45; V41) [Nov 11]
Real GMAT 1: 680 (Q43; V41) [Nov 20] Cancelled

Second Exam
When I got back from thanksgiving, I took the advice of a friend of mine to reach out to Manhattan GMAT and get a few hours of tutoring. I felt like I understood the content of the exam well, but needed to fine-tune my strategies. In particular, I wanted to focus on a) reducing the range of my Quant sections, and b) "unlocking" my Verbal potential. I spent about 4h face-to-face with a tutor, who gave me some fantastic pointers, and helped me dial in my pacing and confirmed that I was under-performing relative to my abilities - something was up. I took two Manhattan CATs - which were much more challenging in Quant, and slightly more challenging in Verbal than the real thing - and then took another official test. This was a tremendous let-down... I hadn't scored that low in Quant since October, although Verbal was moving in the right direction.
9. 660 (Q43; V36) [Manhattan CAT]
10. 670 (Q42 ; V39) [Manhattan CAT]
Real GMAT 2: 670 (Q39; V44) [Dec 16] Cancelled

Third (and final) Exam
In between my second and third exam, I took some time to reflect on the issues that may have been at play. Ultimately it was a mental game. I had been going into each exam with a negative mindset that put tremendous pressure each time I sat to take the test: "I NEED a 720 to get into my dream school," "this NEEDS to be the last time I take the test," "I wonder if all this work is worth it" etc... During the test, it was a similar train of distracting thought: "you're off your timing target, speed up" or "you need to triage now, why did you spend so much time on the last problem?" All this is obviously not helpful, and all this is also HARD to change, I'll be honest.

I figured I had studied enough. I did the entire 3-mo empowerGMAT course, solved almost every Quant problem in the OG 2017, supplemented by Manhattan GMAT Quant and Verbal problems, and felt a bit saturated with information. I did barely any studying until my test date, and instead focused on reducing stress - working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and then changing my mindset about the exam. When I sat down for the final test, I went in thinking "I'll do my best and forget the rest." Apparently that was what needed to click. 740 (Q47, V46).

Lessons Learned and Advice
a) Pacing is all about confidence. I had no pacing issues in Verbal because my mindset was "I'll be able to catch up later, I know the material," but I had to train myself to do the same in Quant. The strategies at Empower and Manhattan (ex: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/2014/09/23/how-to-set-up-your-gmat-scratch-paper/) definitely help, but for me they were more to train my mind to understand the flow of the test, and how I was doing relative to the clock. On my final exam, I didn't use any formal pacing strategies - just a couple checks of the clock here and there.

b)It's all a mental game. When you look at each problem with a curious mindset rather than fear or frustration, or turn each question into a game, you'll be surprised what you can do. This mindset will reduce silly mistakes and allow you to think on your toes to solve the problems rather than have them feel like a chore. I also found mindfulness practice to be helpful - when distracting thoughts came in my mind during the exam, I acknowledged them without judgement, and then brought my attention back to the moment, and the question at hand. empowerGMAT has a great concept of a 5-second "time-out" to battle frustration - USE IT (once in your first section, twice in your second).

c) Study with a friend. I worked a lot with a friend during this process. Not only did we motivate each other and keep each other accountable, but his strength was Quant and mine was Verbal. this complementary approach really made a difference. Take a Manhattan GMAT CAT untimed - each of you solves each problem independently and then compare the answers. If you got the same answer, enter it and move on. If not, have a discussion and get to an agreed answer.

d) Study with intent. Instead of working on hundreds of problems and trying to absorb material via osmosis, try to solve shorter, timed practice sets with a particular focus in mind. Make this focus precise - "I'll do 10 DS questions without making a transcription error" or "I'll do 10 SC questions without missing a key grammar rule."

e) Content:
For Quant, I really liked Manhattan GRE strategy guides - they broke down concepts more comprehensively in my opinion than the GMAT strategy guides, especially due to the Drill Sets in the end of the chapters. Additionally, I used the following links to help guide my studies:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-ultimate-q51-guide-209801.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/overview-of-gmat-math-question-types-and-patterns-on-the-gmat-211809.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-ps-question-directory-by-topic-difficulty-127957.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/ds-question-directory-by-topic-and-difficulty-128728.html
https://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-prep-software-analysis-and-what-if-scenarios-146146.html
https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/

Other than that, I used the wisdom of other debriefs and the whole empowerGMAT crew (shout out to Rich and Stacy!)

Congratulations on the score brother! Totally inspiring!
Intern
Intern
avatar
B
Joined: 19 Jan 2017
Posts: 8
Re: My Journey From 540 to 740  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Jan 2018, 09:48
Thanks! It's definitely been a journey but stick with it and you'll surprise yourself! I think I summarized the experience relatively comprehensively, but feel free to DM or post with additional questions - I'd be happy to provide my perspective.
Re: My Journey From 540 to 740 &nbs [#permalink] 16 Jan 2018, 09:48
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