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My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8)

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Joined: 21 Apr 2014
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GMAT 1: 680 Q49 V34
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8) [#permalink]

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New post 14 Oct 2017, 13:24
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I have always been inspired by the debriefs by gmatclub members, but never thought about writing my own until few days before my exam. I actually read a lot of debriefs to motivate myself to finish the last lap of my preparation. Admittedly, I learned the rules of this game, called gmat, much slower than I had anticipated. Nonetheless, there has been significant learning on my side, learning that will serve me in the long run. I shall summarize the stupid mistakes I made in my previous attempts and explain how I remedied them.

Attempt #1

In 2014, after starting my career at a major tech company in the US, I decided to pursue this goal of mine. I read up about gmat on various websites, bought OGs, Kaplan guides and manhattan guides. Studied very hard using all these materials for 3 months and took the exam. Scoring 680 in my first attempt shouldn’t have been a surprise as I had never improved during my preparation and I was dumb to ignore that. So I was disappointed and wanted to get back at this test. I had taken GRE in the past and had scored really well in that test in the first attempt, so I thought that GMAT wouldn’t be too different. Of course I was bound to fail. But … hindsight is always 20/20.

Mistakes I made in the first attempt:
Over studying without improving, not paying attention to the details of strategies, not building strategies of my own in the first place, relying on what works for other people and forcing myself to implement it. None of this worked. Lesson : Don’t do donkey work, you are a human ! It’s easy to ignore this lesson during rigorous prep mode, but please don’t. Always take a step back and evaluate what you’ve learnt so far.

So, 2 months after the exam I decided to take the test again and started studying in February 2015. Worked again for 4 months and scored 700 - better but meh. What I did differently in this attempt was paying attention to verbal - made SC better but everything else was pretty much the same. Also this time around, it was harder to gauge my progress as I knew most of the material. I had realized this issue early on, but there was no way to fix it. Anyway, I thought I had gotten better (again! Didn’t use the clues that my preparation was pointing to), but I wasn’t really.

I was obviously really disappointed and wanted to do something to fix this. But because of a lot of things happening in my personal life, I basically took a break from gmat. Quite a few things including my job changed over the period of next 2 years, but this bad feeling I had about my score stayed. This break allowed me to think about my previous attempts and what I should do to fix all that. I had to redeem myself. I knew I was better than that, I just had to prove it.

Attempt #2

July 2017, I started from scratch. Saw each and every one of Ron’s videos on mgmat strategies to refresh my mind. I can’t stress enough the importance of these videos. Ron is an awesome instructor and he clarifies each concept really well. After getting comfortable with dos and don’t of gmat again, I started working on the OG. I had pondered on my stupid mistakes for the last 2 years and one of the things I had realized in that period was that making an error log is critical. Therefore, this time around, I made a log that had the number and the reason for incorrect answers/guessed answers. This log helped me understand my weak areas. The next step was to understand how to fix them, and I did so the following way :

SC - every single problem teaches you new rules. Write them down and revise them. Go through MGMAT SC guide until every rule comes to you naturally. That’s the strategy I used for SC. On top of that, as Ron says, don’t look at the choices until you identify errors in the original sentence. Implementing this strategy may take some time. But that’s worth it, because you start to visualize the correct answer when you identify errors. I saw my accuracy in SC increase to more than 90% because of this.

RC - The strategy of just skimming through the passage never worked for me, so I read the whole passage carefully and understood it well. From 2014 to 2017, I had gotten into a habit of reading books on such complicated topics as economics, so my RC understanding was getting better. But that only put me at around 90% accuracy for easy ones and 50-75% for the hard ones. I still couldn’t understand what the heck was I going wrong. That’s when bb’s awesome post struck me (Thanks bb !). ASK QUESTIONS. And I did, and it worked like a charm! Soon I started exaggerating the tone to fully understand it. And seriously, I learned to talk to the passage. It may sound funny and strange but I don’t give a damn because it boosted my accuracy to >95% even for hard ones - because nothing was hard anymore !!! I literally used to say “oh man why would the author think that, but let’s see what he/she has to say now”, then after reading the author’s explanation I would go “ that makes sense dude. I get it.” Whenever the author started with “ the conventional wisdom is that blah blah blah but blah blah”, I’d say “ these historians don’t know anything, the author’s smart because he/she think this”. Basically just ask questions or comment on what the author is saying. This is the armour I used against every single passage. I am very sure that my accuracy on RC in the actual exam was higher than it was on CR because of this. IMO this is what determined by verbal score. In other words, I personalized every passage to the extent that I was part of the conversation with the author. Desperate times desperate measures ! By the way, this strategy will slow you down until you get used to it. Later on, I started finishing the hard short passages with 3Qs in 5-7 mins and the hard long passage with 4Qs in 7-9mins.

CR - This is fun because I had never improved in CR despite reading through most of the guides. One of my mistakes was that I always thought that powerscore is overrated so never bought it. But for this attempt I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned so I bought it. I read through it in 4 days and side by side kept working my line of attack. Turns out, all I needed was to organize my thoughts in a way that the right answer choice comes out to me. I used to look for the right choice before, now I started thinking about the right choice, not looking for it. When you think about the answer, you actually get that Aha! feeling after reading the right choice. I started solving the CR’s that’d take me 2.30 mins previously within 2min. Where powerscore helped me was in identifying cause-effect relationship. After reading the book, I started looking for cause and effect in my real life. I used argue with my friends like “just because 2 things happen together doesn’t mean that one cause the other”. And following is the line of attack that I built eventually.

Read Question → read the argument → clarify this to yourself "what's the conclusion again?" → is there a pattern ? (Maybe cause-effect ?) → think about what the answer should look like → look at choices.
It took me 7 days to master this technique. Also swapping the first two doesn’t matter, do whatever you are comfortable with. I tried both.

PS/DS : For this just open up bb’s post about quant questions sorted by directories and get to solving at least 20 questions of the each category no matter how easy the category is for you. Look at the amazing explanations from Bunuel. I was always at 49-50 in Quant so I just wanted to stay there.

In terms of material, I relied heavily on mgmat for SC, gmat and powerscore for CR, everything else is just analyzing and learning from your mistakes in OG. I did not like Kaplan at all, and found their questions to be not gmat-like (just my opinion).

I took 6 gmatprep practice tests and scored about 700-730 in the first 4. So I understood that my preparation was going in the right direction. However, this didn't mean that I'd conquer the actual test, because the real gmat tests stamina, which means that I had to be able to implement my strategies in sets!

Solving 10 CRs at a stretch is one thing, but it’s a different to do 3 CRs, 3SCs and a long passage under time pressure. Hence, I shifted my focus from practicing each type to solving sets for the last 15 days. I bought the gmatprep QP1 and MGMAT CATs, which you can practice in sets and which give you about 10-12 sets. Another important thing: don’t look at the score in your tests, look at accuracy! Using this technique, I never cared about the algorithm of testing. I only cared about whether I was getting better in each test- did I make fewer silly mistakes ? Was I able to implement my strategies as I intended ? Did my strategies work ? You need to separate silly mistakes from real mistakes (strategy related errors), and consider the guessed answers wrong. Write all this in your log. In the last 2 weeks, once I started solving, I would always solve at least 40 verbal and 40 quant, each in random order, with 8 minutes break in between. In my opinion this is how you build the muscle needed for this marathon. And I saw the results… My last 2 practice tests were 760 and 740, without learning any new strategies and simply refining my own strategies for sets.

3 days before the exam:
Review all the mistakes you made in the official material (You should have done this at least once already) and make sure that you know how you’d solve such a question in the exam and spend the next 2 days just revising rules, practicing hardly 10-20 problems to keep your mind fresh.

D-day:
I was going to take the test in this order : verbal - quant - IR - awa. I had practiced for that. So I wanted to brush up a little in the morning before going for the test in the afternoon. I solved hardly 5-10 questions including all sections. In the actual exam, because of my chronic habit of getting tensed on D-days, I did mess up a few questions between Q10 and Q20 in verbal on the real exam. I felt hazy, not completely focused, and found myself worrying about future. But I somehow managed to get back on track. This was too important to miss. I had to get this done my way. That’s why my verbal on the exam is 41, not 44-45 as it was during practice tests. I hope none of you go through this. No matter what you do just be fresh, don’t be tensed and trust that your brain is already capable of nailing this test. Worrying will only hurt your score.

Thanks all the members of this forum souvik101990, carcass and many others for helpful posts and explanations.
Feel free to pm me for any questions about preparation or reply to this thread.

All the best and don’t forget that the fight isn’t over until you win !
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Last edited by pathomkar on 31 Oct 2017, 17:20, edited 3 times in total.

Kudos [?]: 7 [4], given: 4

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GMAT 1: 620 Q44 V32
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GPA: 3.48
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Re: My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8) [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 19:08
Congratulation.
Though your first try wasn't a bad score at all.
Now, you can think of your schools and applications and keep dreaming.

I've had a couple of exams and none of which has been my desired score.
I've given it a break and hope that soon I break to the 90 percentile and make my dream come through.

I hope best of the luck with your business school application and thank you very much for sharing your story. I intentionally keep reading these stories to boost my confidence and give the GMAT another try.

Kudos [?]: 73 [0], given: 419

Intern
Intern
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Joined: 21 Apr 2014
Posts: 9

Kudos [?]: 7 [0], given: 4

GMAT 1: 680 Q49 V34
GMAT 2: 740 Q49 V41
Re: My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8) [#permalink]

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New post 31 Oct 2017, 17:24
Heseraj wrote:
Congratulation.
Though your first try wasn't a bad score at all.
Now, you can think of your schools and applications and keep dreaming.

I've had a couple of exams and none of which has been my desired score.
I've given it a break and hope that soon I break to the 90 percentile and make my dream come through.

I hope best of the luck with your business school application and thank you very much for sharing your story. I intentionally keep reading these stories to boost my confidence and give the GMAT another try.



It's great that you are not giving up! Continue to motivate yourself and all the best !

Kudos [?]: 7 [0], given: 4

Re: My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8)   [#permalink] 31 Oct 2017, 17:24
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My journey from 680 to 740 (V41, Q49, IR8)

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