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My Rather Unconventional Approach to GMAT preparation

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Kudos [?]: 74 [0], given: 3

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My Rather Unconventional Approach to GMAT preparation [#permalink]

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 11:22
Hello,

I am a recently registered member of GMATclub, and as I was looking over everyone elses strategies on mastering the GMAT, I decided I would share my own rather unconventional strategy to increase your GMAT score to everyone else.
I am currently 20 yrs and 4 mths old (probably the youngest of the members here) and I decided about three and a half months ago that I was going to take the GMAT during my undergrad so I can have a solid score before my senior year. This was so I could go straight into business school from undergrad, an uncommon practice that I think will better prepare me for my life goals. I am going into my junior year at Salisbury University (not as prestigious as some colleges, but is ranked in the top 150 undergrad business schools, and extremely cheap for MD residents) with a 4.0 GPA, and I work full time as a journey licensed plumber/ gasfitter. I have found time very short in supply and, taking my test 3 months after registering, I found study time in very short supply. I plan on taking it again, and am hoping to get enough kudos to take GMATclub practice tests for free (being that I am trying to pay my college tuition as I go, working full-time and going to class full-time during most of the year, so cheap is good for me). So, I developed a strategy that has helped me find success with the GMAT, and I hope it will help you too.

First of all, I consider taking 1000 questions in a certain area very unhelpful, as I did try these with Kaplan premier, and I found that anyone can answer a bunch of questions that have the same essential setup, this will most likely not help you prepare for a test. The GMAT test itself consists of two essays, one Verbal section and one Quantitative section, so that’s what I prepared for. I consider the test as, more than anything else, an endurance test. I find that writing two essays and then answering a whole lot of multiple choice questions is the best way to prepare for the GMAT.
The three months I had to prepare seemed sufficient as I was only taking one summer class, so all I had on my plate was a 40-yr work week for half the summer, only 3 more hours a week on top for the other half, this was the most free time I’ve had in two years (taking 12 credits last summer). I had increasingly more amounts of fun with my GF as well, so that took away from study time. My philosophy on taking any standardized test, GMAT especially, is practice makes perfect. When I was going into Pearson Vue, I wanted sitting down for 3 ½ hours at a computer screen answering CAT questions to be second nature, and that’s how I came up with my method.


MY METHOD CONSISTS OF 4 STAGES.

The first stage is reading an entire prep book (I did Kaplan for mine, but have since read Princeton Review and recommend it instead, use both for better results), in order to familiarize yourself with question types and methods to answer them. Make sure you get one with CD practice tests. Some areas you will do better in than others, and you need to focus on the areas that you are bad in. I liked the way Kaplan split up where you made your wrong answers so you could analyze how to improve your score. After you feel confident on the question types and such, go to the specialized practice tests, which is split up into the 5 groups of questions (i.e. SC, CR, RC, DS, and PS). This stage should take a month, and set reasonable periods of studying (like 5 hrs a week).

The second stage consists of simply taking practice tests. At first, start taking one a week, using different prep books each time. I found Kaplan 2008, Princeton Review 2007, and Arco 2006 at amazon.com for a total of like $20, all with 4 CD practice tests. I also had the GMATprep software from where I registered. I made a booklet of laminated pages put together with a key-ring, which best simulates the materials you have in the test room. I also recommend you take the test in a library or somewhere other than your home, to decrease familiarity and increase pressure. Seeing the breakdown, if there are any obvious weaknesses, study for like 20 additional mins on that particular area. I took one a week for like a
month and then went to the third stage

The third stage was where I switched to the double wammy approach, back-to-back GMAT practice tests. These will give you a headache….usually before you even get to the Q section on the second test. This is where you really see the significance of mental endurance preparation, because you will see a drop of 70-100 points between your first and second test, simply due to mental stress and that you’re burnt out. I did this to better prepare my mind for the rigors of the GMAT, and I believe it helped a lot. After doing this 3 weekends in a row (7 hrs is not hard to find in a weekend, do it like Fri night before you go out, or even Sun night, but make sure not to skip bc it makes it harder later on), then I went to stage four.

The fourth stage is just to simply perfect your skills. By then, I was a pretty experienced GMATer, even though I hadn’t actually taken the test. I didn’t buy any more software or anything, but I did the specialized tests I had and tried to pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses. I tried NOT to overexert my mind in any way for the two days previous, and ate a lot of food and exercised frequently. This stage should last the week before you take the test.

On August 9, 2008, I RECEIVED A 700 (45Q 41V) and a 5.5 AWA, even with limited preparation and being as young as I am. I am now trying to find new sources of practice tests and I do a double wammy every weekend (I am thinking of attempting a triple wammy). My test scores increase practically every time I take a practice test and I bought Kaplan 800, which I have found very useful for increasing a high score.

I hope my experience has helped you in some way.

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 12:03
Thanks for sharing as it's a well-thought out strategy. Although, I don't think it is far enough to say it's "unconventional". You're emphasizing mental endurance, which I think a few others do to. I think you have a lot of potential to do well.

However, from what I can see in your strategy, I believe that you may eventually hit a plateau in your preparation. Doing more tests, I found, was actually not helpful because many of the questions are below-700 level and therefore wasted a lot of time. Focusing on tough questions and on your weak areas will break that plateau.

Also, hopefully you have read about the Harvard 2+2 MBA program for undergrads. Definitely a popular program.

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 12:14
no I haven't, but I will look into it. yeah it makes sense that I am going to hit a plateau sooner or later, it was more a strategy to give short term test takers (like myself) a good guide to be in and out on the GMAT. Yes, I am starting to look at the benefits of focusing in and increasing my score bit by bit (over 700 any ten could mean in or out for top schools), I have purchased Kaplan 800, which has helped, would anyone suggest any other strategies on this?

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Re: My Rather Unconventional Approach to GMAT preparation [#permalink]

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 12:24
Please read this profile of smkrn

24-t68347

He has a 740, high GPA, spent 2 years as a missionary internationally and was rejected for the 2+2 program. It surprised me, but evidently Harvard has its reasons. It doesn't appear to be an easy program to get into. I think they might be taking 50 or so students for it. If you consider how many will certainly be applying for it, the acceptance % for the 2+2 could very easily be less than the regular HBS MBA program.

Also, if you don't get into school right after undergrad, you'll need to get adequate full-time work experience. While being a plumber is not easy, and is full-time work experience, I think many b-schools are looking for other types of experience. This is certainly going to be great stuff for your essays though! If you don't get accepted due to lack of work experience, or whatever reason, how old will your GMAT score be at that time? It's good for 5 years, but you must also consider how GMAT scores are trending upwards. A 750 used to be 99%, now 99% is 760 and above. My Q47 used to be 81% now it's 79%. This just happened in the past few months or a year. Looking at historical numbers for GMAT, a 720 used to be an outstanding score, and 30 or so points higher than most top school's average GMAT scores. If you apply for b-school with a GMAT score that is 740 now, it will still be a 740, but what will the percentile score be? I think by the time I graduate (assuming I get accepted somewhere) 3 years from now, my 720 will be BELOW average for most top b-schools. Additionally, if you get rejected, make sure you start doing things to add leadership to your resume and be thinking of how you're going to answer the "What have you done to better your application since the last time you applied unsuccessfully?"
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Kudos [?]: 74 [0], given: 3

Schools: Harvard, Penn, Maryland
Re: My Rather Unconventional Approach to GMAT preparation [#permalink]

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 12:38
yeah definitely understood, the average work experience for Harvard is 5-6 years, but they do accept a couple just out of school each year. the fact that I am a white american probably will not help me in that area, but I do believe 4 years as full time plumbing (it is more managing as I run jobs using mexicans for a small contracting firm in MD, which I'm sure I can get them to put in their evaluation) might be sufficient. I do plan on taking the GMAT at least a few more times to get my score as high as possible before my senior year applications go out. If I dont get into Harvard, or any top 5 schools for that matter, I would most likely be happy with University of Maryland (currently ranked 39th), whose instate tuition is low as crap (like 7500 a year) where a 700 is like 80th percentile in their 2008 class (Median 660), who do have a 4+1 program.
but yes work experience is extremely important, and I wholeheartedly thank you for your input and suggestions

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 12:40
dk94588 wrote:
no I haven't, but I will look into it. yeah it makes sense that I am going to hit a plateau sooner or later, it was more a strategy to give short term test takers (like myself) a good guide to be in and out on the GMAT. Yes, I am starting to look at the benefits of focusing in and increasing my score bit by bit (over 700 any ten could mean in or out for top schools), I have purchased Kaplan 800, which has helped, would anyone suggest any other strategies on this?


I would suggest taking GMAT Challenges to boost up your math score. For verbal, I would blast through the SC1000, CR1000 questions and Brutal 70 SC questions (Verbal forum).

Which schools are you planning to apply to? Read jallenmorris's post carefully. You need a really high GMAT score to be competitive. For example, it's hard to justify taking an undergrad over an experienced worker with the same GMAT score because b-schools would want to throw in somebody who would add a new dimension to the class. For an undergrad to get in, Adcom needs to see huge potential in that student.

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 13:04
yes very good point. I am currently preparing to take the test again in december on my winter break, and I am seeking to get the highest GMAT possible. I wouldnt be surprised if I could get another 50 or 60 in the next two years. I am probably going to apply to a lot of schools and see what happens, Harvard and UPENN will be on the list, probably UMD, like a #20 school in the northeast, and a second-tier school. see where I get in and play it by ear. I would like to take the challenges, but I am kind of trying to get enough posts and kudos to get into it for free (I'd rather not spend money if I don't have to). I am kind of hoping the construction background and the goal of being an entrepreneur will give me that bit to add to the class, if not it is what it is, but yes, a high GMAT and work experience is necessary to get into a top 5 school, and the higher the GPA and GMAT score, the better your chances are, that much is very clear.
thank you for your suggestions, and where can i find the 1000 questions and the brutal 70 SC?
Also, my Q score was only like 45 (like 17 percentile under my total score), so I feel like I really need to prep for Q, do you have any other suggestions outside of the challenges?

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 13:26
Sorry, i didn't realize you already wrote the exam (i thought your score was from the Prep software). For the GMAT re-write, i would make it the last attempt as writing it 3x brings into question of why you have to write it so many times. 2x is okay, but getting it right your first time would have been ideal situation.

The SC1000 can be found by googling it or googling for GMATTER software (free). The brutal 70 are posted in the verbal forum.

I think if you can go through the challenges, it will be sufficient. There are 25 math tests, and believe me, you'll be fully utilizing the time to complete them.

For more practice tests, I would buy a Manhattan book so that you can get access to all their 6 CATs online.

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 21:48
really? i heard that most big schools do not consider multiple times, even though they are able to see them, they only use the highest.

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New post 19 Aug 2008, 22:46
Where did you hear that? I know that they consider the best score, but if you take it more than twice, not sure what you're trying to show - that you can spend a lot of time practicing for a test?

Anyways, I don't believe it by the simple fact that if you look at the application forms from the top schools, it blatantly asks: "How many times have you taken the GMAT?" (try creating an account and see for yourself)

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New post 20 Aug 2008, 14:21
I mean do you think it would say more to take it twice if i could do significantly better, or only once and try to use the 700 score I got?
but you think it would almost certainly be better to take it once or twice, not three times even if I could get like a 790-800?
I mean everyone knows that anyone can study a year for a test and get a good score, and almost everyone in this forum has or currently is, but they're not stupid, not everyone can do that stellar. I mean I think if i go in, say i took it three times, and that my highest score was significantly above your median and that my first score was like say 60-70 points under my final score, which shows improvement, i dont see how that could hurt me in the long run.It would be different if i took it six times with my first being under 500. what would ur advice be?

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New post 21 Aug 2008, 00:33
I don't think 700 is sufficient to be competitive to get into some of the schools you're considering (i.e. Harvard). You're applying as a young applicant and it is almost expected that you score high because you're still in school, focusing on academics. Somebody out of school for 10 years will be weighted more towards work experience than expected to have superior GMAT scores. Your competitors (i.e. juniors/seniors in college) are definitely going to be scoring high.

So I suggest you retake it, but go at it as if it were your last chance to score well. I kinda understand your reasoning that if you go from 700 -> 790 on the third try, it shows 'progress'. But from an Adcom's point of view, why couldn't you score the 790 on the first try? A third take indicates that either you didn't prepare enough the first two times or that you're scoring higher simply because you're learning to adapt to a standardized test.

Look at it another way, say you score 750 on the second try and 790 on the third try. You technically go from 98th percentile to 99th percentile. I'm not sure how much more value add that third attempt would be. Plus you run the risk of getting a lower score, which then really looks bad.

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New post 21 Aug 2008, 16:14
yeah i think thats probably my best bet, study my ass off, or at least steady, for a year or so and pop in just before my senior year for a second try. I actually spoke with some other people i know who are going to law school and said it does look bad if you take the lsat more than twice. Its kind of like they give you one try where you may not have been prepared and then you take it again. But i do believe GMAT related cutoffs for applications only consider your highest score. Thank you.

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Re: My Rather Unconventional Approach to GMAT preparation   [#permalink] 21 Aug 2008, 16:14
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