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Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached

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Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 10 Sep 2018, 17:40
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Edit 9/6/18: updated to include my error logs. Will not be checking messages or coming back to the forum again, so I can focus on other things--hope that these attachments are helpful and best wishes to everyone on studying.

Hi all,

I've been studying intensely for the GMAT on a pretty tight timeframe for the past 2 months and finally got my desired 780 this afternoon, just in time for my MBA applications next month. I couldn't be happier and I am very happy with my performance. This has taken a lot of time and focus outside my job, and I wanted to share my thoughts to try and be helpful to others.

Attachments


  • Example of a practice exam log I used to track the types of errors made per exam
  • Example of "cheat sheet" notes for Verbal and Quant I kept for myself to reflect the stuff I personally needed reminding of based on my errors--this won't be the most helpful for everyone but reflects more my personal weak areas
  • Example of error logs for Verbal and Quant in the 2 weeks between my two tests

My Advice


My recommended study plan
CAT practice exams used: GMATClub, GMAT Prep, Manhattan Prep, Veritas
  • What helped me improve my score in a short period of time was consistent, repeat drills; being able to quickly understand and classify the types of errors I made so that I cut down on my error rate quickly[/b]; and recognizing that there is ultimately a limited scope of knowledge that the GMAT covers, and a consistency and logic to the types of questions they ask.
  • The approach which I found most effective for the GMAT was repeated sets of drills of 15-25 questions each, interchanged with error review.
  • Error review took up 50% of my time. It was the most important part of practice because it was the only part that helped me cut down on future errors.
  • The goal in doing drills was to make consistently fewer errors in each set moving forward.
    • If you're still making the same % of errors after 3-4 sets, I'd go back to your error log and re-analyze it. If I was still making the same % of errors I was wasting my time. To me questions were only valuable if they exposed me to new types of questions I hadn't encountered before that were an opportunity to reduce errors.
  • I spent 50% of my time on error review; maybe you'll be faster or slower than that, I don't know.

When I saw consistent improvement over 1-2 days I'd take a CAT exam and the scores tended to get consistently higher as a result of doing drills in between them.

Mindset
  • I thought of studying kind of like having a giant map of a region that's hidden at first. It's your goal to slowly reveal different bits of the map, piece by piece, until it's fully visible. Every test has a limited scope of content. It might be a lot, but it's finite. Your task is to figure out how to tackle that body of content in a structured and efficient way.
  • Score improvement is about focusing on your weakest areas, so you won't be effective if you consistently shrug off practice questions you get wrong by making one of two excuses:
    • "That was too hard. I'm probably not going to see that on the real exam, so I'm just going to ignore it."
    • "That answer/question doesn't make any sense. This exam is unfair. I disagree with the answer given."
    As a general rule, I'd say any question you see on a practice exam from GMAT Prep/Manhattan/Veritas is worth your time to study and understand. It will pay off on exam day. The GMAT is a fair and logically structured exam, covering a limited scope of content. Your score reflects how much of that content you have taken the time to understand. If you accept full responsibility for your mistakes you will be willing to spend the time and effort to correct them instead of blowing the hard ones off. Do not make excuses for your errors.
  • I wouldn't be down on yourself if you don't see steady improvement. Some of the CAT exams are purposely harder than the real thing so you should expect lower scores on those. Despite my high score I was pretty hard on myself about Quant the 2-3 weeks before the exam and kind of thought "maybe I'm just not as good at this as other people." In the end I just kept practicing and proved myself wrong.

General advice, Quant
Study materials used: GMATClub question banks, GMAT Prep question banks, Manhattan Prep question banks
  • GMATClub question banks were excellent and key in increasing my score from 750 to 780.
  • Go through GMATClub's DS and PS question directories by level. I went through all 700-level categories and did 4-5 of the questions that were most bookmarked from each category.
  • Number properties are the most important section to master for quant. After that, statistics/sets, geometry, and algebra/inequalities are probably second most important. I did separate drills for each category on GMATClub.

General advice, Verbal
Study materials used: Manhattan Prep books, PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible (chapter 1 was key in understanding CR), Manhattan Prep
CR:
  • Read PowerScore CR Bible's chapter 1 and skim the rest to understand the basic question types.
    • You should be able to map out every question prompt correctly into premises and conclusions. No matter how simple the prompt, I wrote out by hand an outline summary of every prompt in premises and conclusions.
    • Know the common traps. PowerScore CR Bible does a good explanation of some.
  • In viewing the premises and conclusions, you should be able to identify the key logical factors in the argument: the objects/qualities/actions that lead to certain consequences.
  • Language also matters: pay attention to probability/descriptive words like "most likely", "always", "never", "frequently", "might", etc. On top of the structure of the logical relationship described, these add nuance of the strength of the relationship.
    • E.g. "Snowfall causes traffic jams", "Heavy snowfall always causes traffic jams", "light snowfall may cause traffic jams", etc.
  • In some ways, CR is the most math-like part of Verbal. The logic is not that different from logic in math, so there is no reason why someone who scores high in Quant should be weak in CR given enough practice. Logic in CR is simply expressed in adjectives and words, whereas logic in math is expressed in symbols.
RC:
  • I spent 3-4 min reading each passage before going to each questions.
  • Know the common traps. My most common error was narrowing it down to 2 answer choices, then going for the one that sounded superficially more similar to the text rather than the one that was logically the stronger relationship. Don't be tricked into choosing an answer that is phrased to sound similar to the passage when it logically is not the best answer.
  • A lot of the passages I read were on topics I had no background in (black holes, microbial evolution, etc). That's fine. Jargon does make the reading slower to plod through, but it ultimately should not hinder your understanding of the logical structure of the passage.
  • If a question addresses a specific sentence, always go back to the sentence to re-read the sentences around it and understand the context.
  • Probably more so than CR, language and tone matter in RC. It communicates subtle nuances about the author's attitude and the strength of their attitude. These reading comprehension skills I admit are hard to acquire/improve in a short period of time. All I can recommend on that front is to just keep practicing.
    • I do not recommend spending much time reading The Economist, etc. in that regard. The best practice you can get is from actually doing questions. Doing questions forces you to engage with the text instead whereas much outside reading is done passively. When you practice, you want to be forced to think critically about the passage in a way that is hard to do on your own without structured prompts.


Debrief


  • Started studying: July 2018.
  • 1st exam, Aug 10: 750 (Verbal 46, Quant 48) / AWA 6.0 / IR 8.0
  • 2nd exam, Aug 29: 780 (Verbal 48, Quant 50) / AWA TBD / IR 8.0
  • My experience will be helpful to you primarily if you are already testing in the 630-700+ range on Manhattan / Veritas CATs and in the 700 - 800 range on GMAT Prep.
  • The 30 pts improvement from my already high score in 2.5 weeks was due entirely to targeting my weaker areas in Quant. So my experience will be somewhat more relevant to those people who have already mastered Verbal and looking for tips on closing the final 30-50 point gap based on improved Quant performance.

CAT Exam Results
  • 7/01 - OG Diagnostic Test: 680
  • 7/11 - MGMAT: 670 (40 verbal / 41 quant)
  • 7/23 GMAT Prep: 720 (42 verbal / 47 quant)
  • 7/23 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 49 quant)
  • 7/31 - MGMAT: 44 verbal (no full score; accidentally skipped quant)
  • 8/02 - MGMAT: 650 (40 verbal / 39 quant)
  • 8/03 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 49 quant)
  • 8/06 GMAT Prep: 770 (44 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/07 GMAT Prep: 780 (50 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/08 GMAT Prep: 50 quant (no full score; accidentally skipped verbal)
  • 8/09 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/22 Veritas: 650
  • 8/25 Veritas: 670
  • 8/26 - MGMAT: 650 (36 verbal / 43 quant)
  • 8/27 - MGMAT: 710 (45 verbal / 42 quant)

My background/profile
Coming into the test, I was lucky to already have several advantages:
  • I am a native English speaker.
  • A relatively balanced academic/professional background between math/verbal.
  • Good work hours: despite working in finance, I worked a very manageable 9-to-5 workweek for the entire 2 months I studied. I also always had time to practice questions for 1-2 hours during lunch regularly.
So overall, I expected to start from a high base going into GMAT studying and to spend the bulk of my effort on:
1) fully understanding how the GMAT specifically is structured as a test and how the test-writers think
2) doing drills to push my quant performance up to the highest percentile.
Despite the short timeframe, I made the GMAT my #1 priority for the past 2 months before everything else.[/list]

1st Exam experience, Aug 10
Quant: I was surprised that quant was moderately, but noticeably, harder than any of the 6 GMAT Prep exams. Nonetheless, I focused on staying on time. I was frustrated that I whiffed a good 3-4 questions, including several I was confident I would have gotten had I known to practice them.
Verbal/IR/AWA: I went through the rest of the test normally and encountered no difficulty aside from simply staying focused for the entire 3 hours. Verbal/IR/AWA was in line with my expectations and what I had taken on practice exams.

  • I knew 750 was a very good score.
  • But in my gut I had expected to do better based on my GMAT Prep results of 780. That was the number I had in my head.
  • I felt that I would have attained that 780 had I known to study more of the right content for Quant. The questions I got wrong didn't reflect my actual ability but rather the fact that I had given more weight in studying to the wrong topics.
  • My ESR report made up my mind. In quant, it showed 43% of my answers were wrong in the 3rd set of questions and 57% were wrong in the last set. I got only 33% of geometry questions and 50% of inequality/algebra questions right. I know I can do better than that.
    • As others here have observed, it was clear to me that I spent too much time going through advanced combinatorics/probability drills when the heart of GMAT quant is number properties, geometry, and algebra.

2nd Exam Experience, Aug 29
Before the next exam:
  • Quant drills. Divided my time evenly between GMAT Club question banks and Manhattan, Veritas, and GMAT Club CATs. The purpose was to expose myself to distinctly harder Quant questions than the GMAT Prep tests and the Official Guide Test Bank, and harder questions than what I'd encounter on the GMAT exam itself.
    Drilled these every day, focusing on geometry, number properties, and algebra; and to a lesser degree on sets/statistics.
    Veritas Prep, 650
    MGMAT 8/26 650 (Verbal 36 / Quant 43)
    MGMAT 8/27 710 (Verbal 45 / Quant 42)
  • Spent minimal time on verbal. I was confident I had it down already. Returned to verbal practice once every 3 days to make sure I wasn't backsliding but that was enough.
  • I ignored IR completely which is easy relative to Quant/Verbal. I did make sure to test that my IR ability had not receded with a question set on the Official Guide Test Bank the day before the exam.
  • Aug 29, Exam day. opposite of the first exam experience--after drilling through hundreds of GMAT Club questions, I found Quant noticeably easy compared to my practice experience rather than difficult. Verbal I found as straighforward as before.

Attachments

File comment: Verbal SC error log example.
Errors - Verbal - SC 2018 08.docx [465.46 KiB]
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File comment: Verbal RC error log example.
Errors - Verbal - RC 2018 08.docx [72.14 KiB]
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File comment: Verbal CR error log example.
Errors - Verbal - CR 2018 08 .docx [1.22 MiB]
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File comment: Quant error log I kept before the first exam where I focused on categorizing DS errors separately.
Errors - Quant - DS 2018 08 02 GMAT qbank.docx [1.38 MiB]
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File comment: Quant error log I kept before the first exam where I focused on categorizing PS errors separately.
Errors - Quant - PS 2018 08 02 GMAT qbank.docx [281.52 KiB]
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File comment: My error log for Quant in between the two exams. Not all of this will be legible but you can get a sense for how I was thinking and tracking errors.
Errors - Quant - all 2018 08.docx [2.64 MiB]
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File comment: My cheat sheet notes for stuff I had more difficulty remembering for Verbal. (This won't be helpful for everyone; this more reflects stuff I personally had difficulty with. I recommend updating something like this for yourself based on your own error logs.)
Verbal Notes.docx [21.47 KiB]
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File comment: My cheat sheet notes for stuff I had more difficulty remembering for Quant. (This won't be helpful for everyone; this more reflects stuff I personally had difficulty with. I recommend updating something like this for yourself based on your own error logs.)
Quant notes.docx [384.24 KiB]
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File comment: An excel log I initially used to keep track of my progress over practice exams and the types of errors in each. These were all GMAT Prep CATs--so much easier than Manhattan or Veritas, and much easier than the actual exam.
Example of practice exam analysis.xlsx [80.17 KiB]
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Originally posted by 0000000000 on 29 Aug 2018, 16:40.
Last edited by 0000000000 on 10 Sep 2018, 17:40, edited 52 times in total.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2018, 18:54
bensonhurst wrote:
Hi all,

I've been studying intensely for the GMAT on a pretty tight timeframe for the past 2 months and finally got my desired 780 this afternoon, just in time for my MBA applications next month. I couldn't be happier and I am very happy with my performance. This has taken a lot of time and focus outside my job, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the experience if it's helpful to others.

Summary
Started studying July 2018.
First exam, Aug 10: 750 (Verbal 46, Quant 48) / AWA 6.0 / IR 8.0
Second exam, Aug 29: 780 (Verbal 48, Quant 50) / AWA TBD / IR 8.0

My background/profile
I'm a 26 year old female working in finance in NYC. I've been very comfortable taking tests and studying on my own my entire life--tested 2380 on my SATs, passed all 3 levels of the CFA on the first try.

In general, I'm strong and well balanced on both math/verbal skills. If I had to choose one, I'm better on verbal/writing--I'm not an engineer. But I've always felt highly confident in my math skills.
So, I expected to start from a high base going into GMAT studying but to spend relatively more time on quant.

My timeline & goals
I went into the study process on a tight timeframe. Up until the end of June 2018 I was focusing 100% on the CFA Level 3, which took up all my time outside working hours. I had found the SAT fairly easy as a kid and expected the GMAT to be similar to the SAT and easy compared to the CFA. I therefore felt OK with giving myself 2 months after the CFA exam to study. That gave me only a brief window of time to take the GMAT as I am applying to business school this September. Not ideal, but doable.

I have a 3.7 GPA from a high ranking college. That puts me about in the middle of the target range for my target schools. I can't go back in time and improve my GPA now but it was a priority to me to maximize my GMAT score to myself incrementally more competitive.

My study process
Studying for the GMAT after the CFA was an interesting learning experience. The CFA happens to be an extremely dense exam that tests your memory and knowledge of a massive amount of material. I quickly realized the the GMAT was a totally different animal--it's about time management, your grasp of math/verbal fundamentals, and, at the 700-800 level, your ability to recognize and apply those fundamentals in a variety of different questions.

My process leading up to the first exam, July 1st - Aug 10th:
  • Day 1-3: intro. Reading others' experiences here and online further assured me that a 780-score in ~2 months should be feasible. Based on friends' and online recommendations I bought the full Manhattan GMAT set, the 2018 GMAT OG, and the Critical Reasoning PowerScore Bible.
  • Other materials I bought based on online recommendations but did not use/did not ultimately make sense for my study plan were Aristotle Sentence Correction and Manhattan GMAT Advanced Quant.
  • Week 1: mapping out my starting baseline and weak areas. Scored ~680 on my first diagnostic test. Great--continued confirmation that most of the work would be incremental rather than learning the basics. I expect that most of the work will be practice questions rather than reading the Manhattan books.
  • Week 2: The focus here was to drill through a good several hundred questions on the OG GMAT online question bank and build up a preliminary error log to map out my weak spots. I looked at level 700 questions only. I read through about a half of the Manhattan GMAT books based on this error log (number properties, geometry, algebra, sentence correction) and take notes on the content I've forgotten since high school (exponents, absolute values, combinatorics). The other Manhattan books I skim through and don't read.
  • Week 3: Took 2 Manhattan CATs. First CAT: 670 total (40 verbal / 41 quant). Second CAT: 650 (40 verbal / 39 quant). Third CAT: 44 verbal (accidentally skipped quant)
    I felt discouraged by the low quant score but more importantly was afraid it would be inaccurate to the actual content on the exam. Given the lack of remaining time I stopped using Manhattan entirely and focused my final 2 weeks on doing drills for the OG online qbank and OG tests. The error logs I maintained throughout and continued to review regularly.
  • Week 4-5: Focused 100% on the 6 OG tests. Once I get 5 posts I will attach my own excel file record of mistakes and scores--you will see I scored very high for all of them and therefore felt confident I would score close in the 750-800 range on the actual exam. At this point I was doing very well on both verbal and quant. But areas for further improvement were level 700 CR and RC questions and level 700 quant questions generally.
  • Aug 10, exam day: I got a good night's rest the day before. Contrary to others' suggestions I continued to cram up until the hour before the exam. This is how I've always been and it's never been a problem for me.
    I did not study for AWA until literally the day before the exam. For this I spent ~3 hours total reviewing Chineseburned's AWA guide post, the attached example 6 AWA essays, and doing the 2 practice prompts on GMAT Write.

1st Exam experience: I was surprised to find that the quant section was moderately, but noticeably, harder than any of the 6 OG exams--especially exams 3-5 which seemed almost suspiciously easy. I went through the test normally regardless but definitely noticed that I whiffed a good 3-4 questions on Quant. Verbal seemed in line with expectations and what I had taken on the exam.


Post-exam reflection
750 is an extremely good score but I expected to do better and most importantly I felt strongly that I was capable of doing better, had I studied more of the right content for Quant. I gave it two days' thought, read through several re-take experiences on this forum, and looked at my ESR report. My ESR report made up my mind. It showed I got 43% of the questions wrong in the 3rd set of questions and 57% of the questions wrong in the last set; that I got only 33% of geometry questions and 50% of inequality/algebra questions right. Final score aside I know I'm capable of doing better than that. Here, I felt I could do better in as little as 2 weeks and was willing to put down another $250 to give it a try.

As others on this forum have observed, I spent way too much time going through dozens of advanced combinatorics/probability questions when the heart of GMAT quant is number properties, geometry, and algebra.

2nd exam attempt--2 week process
  • Focused this time on Manhattan, Veritas, and GMAT Club practice exams which had distinctly harder questions than the OG CATs/qbanks. Drilled these every day for the past two weeks, focusing on geometry, number properties, and algebra; and to a lesser degree on sets/statistics. Scored 650-710 on all 4 CAT tests.
  • Spent very little time on verbal because I was confident I'd do well. Returned to verbal practice once every 3 days to make sure I wasn't backsliding but that was enough.
  • Aug 29, Exam day: opposite of the first exam experience--after drilling through hundreds of GMAT Club questions, I found Quant noticeably easy compared to my practice experience rather than difficult. Verbal I found as straighforward as before.

---Tired and will stop here for now. Will update for more practical recommendations and materials on my error logs later tonight.
General thoughts/advice, Quant
To edit later

General thoughts/advice, Verbal
To edit later

Suggested study materials
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Reference materials
To edit later



Congratulations !!!!............... what I have read just now is more than amazing. Thanks for sharing ........ It will motivate many of us .... Thanks again.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2018, 19:41
Thank you very much!!! I really appreciate it. Will continue editing and writing out the post above so there is more detail that can be helpful in terms of what I did to get the improved performance.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2018, 19:59
bensonhurst wrote:
Thank you very much!!! I really appreciate it. Will continue editing and writing out the post above so there is more detail that can be helpful in terms of what I did to get the improved performance.
That's awesome!! Congratulations! My verbal mock score is in the range 35-39.It would be helpful if you can give some suggestions for improving verbal score.


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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2018, 20:02
Thank you very much--will definitely go into detail on Verbal also and I will also attach all of my notes on Verbal errors and traps. I have to get 5 posts in order to add attachments apparently, so I might as well keep posting here as I edit.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Aug 2018, 08:52
Hello bensonhurst

First of all congratulations. You don't see a 780 score every day. A job well done.

One thing i like about your debrief is the notes [like sticky notes] you posted giving information to the user that you will come back and provide necessary information, that's thoughtful.

Can you please let us know some details about how you improved in Algebra and Geometry area's like what materials you used or strategies you used for your prep.

I am looking forward to read your verbal strategies as well.

All the best for your applications.

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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2018, 17:12
Wow, congrats on an amazing score!

Scoring 750 and 780 in one and two months, respectively, is quite a feat. For most test-takers, achieving such high scores takes many, many months of rigorous prep.

Thank you for sharing your story, and good luck with things moving forward.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Sep 2018, 08:45
Hi akadiyan and Scott, thanks for the kind words.

Just came back to update this post to add my suggestions at the top--hope this made it more helpful.

Thanks again and best wishes to others on the exam!
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 15:15
bensonhurst Congrats on the great score and good luck with the decisions. Loved the piece about mindset - having a flexible growth mindset is the only way to succeed in something like this

A few quick questions for you:
  • Would love to take a look at the error log you reference a few times. Sounds like careful use of that proved extremely valuable to you. Could you share this either on this thread of directly?
  • As it relates to "drilling questions" from the OG, were you just creating question sets for yourself from the test bank in the OG online portal? Presumably you were setting the difficulty to "hard" only?
  • When you were drilling your 15-20 question sets initially, were you mixing verbal and quant? Or would you alternate between the two topics for each set?
  • When you talk about "error analysis", how did you think about dissecting your errors? Were you more focused on recognizing a topic that gave you trouble, a strategy that you found useful to solve a specific kind of problem, understanding why the right answer is the right answer, something else? I'm not sure I am as efficient as I could be when it comes to my own error analysis, so trying to understand your approach.
  • As it relates to timing on the actual exam, were you finishing with plenty of time to spare, or were you using the whole time that is allotted?

Thanks again for your help, and congrats on being finished!
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 15:43
PrivateEquiteer wrote:
bensonhurst[/b] Congrats on the great score and good luck with the decisions. Loved the piece about mindset - having a flexible growth mindset is the only way to succeed in something like this

A few quick questions for you:
  • Would love to take a look at the error log you reference a few times. Sounds like careful use of that proved extremely valuable to you. Could you share this either on this thread of directly?
  • As it relates to "drilling questions" from the OG, were you just creating question sets for yourself from the test bank in the OG online portal? Presumably you were setting the difficulty to "hard" only?
  • When you were drilling your 15-20 question sets initially, were you mixing verbal and quant? Or would you alternate between the two topics for each set?
  • When you talk about "error analysis", how did you think about dissecting your errors? Were you more focused on recognizing a topic that gave you trouble, a strategy that you found useful to solve a specific kind of problem, understanding why the right answer is the right answer, something else? I'm not sure I am as efficient as I could be when it comes to my own error analysis, so trying to understand your approach.
  • As it relates to timing on the actual exam, were you finishing with plenty of time to spare, or were you using the whole time that is allotted?

Thanks again for your help, and congrats on being finished!


Hey privateequiteer thanks a lot, really appreciate it! and yeah, I'd be glad to share my error logs--I tried uploading them before but I hadn't hit the 5 post min requirement--think this one should do it, I'll try again. For what I thought was useful in error analysis:

  • As it relates to "drilling questions" from the OG, were you just creating question sets for yourself from the test bank in the OG online portal? Presumably you were setting the difficulty to "hard" only?
    yes, I used the OG online portal set to level 700 only. But I found GMATClub & Manhattan Prep's question banks way better for Quant practice.
  • When you were drilling your 15-20 question sets initially, were you mixing verbal and quant? Or would you alternate between the two topics for each set?
    I always found doing them separately to be better to learn--if I mixed it up it was harder to remember all the errors I was making, so I tried to focus 1 whole day for verbal sets, then 1 whole day for quant, etc.
  • When you talk about "error analysis", how did you think about dissecting your errors? Were you more focused on recognizing a topic that gave you trouble, a strategy that you found useful to solve a specific kind of problem, understanding why the right answer is the right answer, something else? I'm not sure I am as efficient as I could be when it comes to my own error analysis, so trying to understand your approach.
    I really felt like this was the part that helped me get better fastest--I think I was good at correctly classifying and identifying the types of errors I was making.
    For example: at the start it was obvious almost all my errors were just being bad at DS, so I focused on getting over common DS traps first; after that I got past that became clear I was making consistent errors on number properties/algebra/geometry PS questions, so I started classifying errors by those categories next; and finally the last types of errors I kept making had to do with really specific number properties errors (not checking assumptions for even/odd #s, pos/neg #s, not checking of "x=0" was a possible solution, etc). The error analysis really had to adapt over time as I got better to target the incremental errors I was still making at each stage.
  • As it relates to timing on the actual exam, were you finishing with plenty of time to spare, or were you using the whole time that is allotted?
    always had at least 5 min left for Verbal--that was much easier for me. For Quant I never had any time left; always felt like I had to be super focused the whole time to finish all the questions. But that's me--I'm weaker on Quant and had to spend more time on it.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 17:32
bensonhurst wrote:
PrivateEquiteer wrote:
bensonhurst[/b] Congrats on the great score and good luck with the decisions. Loved the piece about mindset - having a flexible growth mindset is the only way to succeed in something like this

A few quick questions for you:
  • Would love to take a look at the error log you reference a few times. Sounds like careful use of that proved extremely valuable to you. Could you share this either on this thread of directly?
  • As it relates to "drilling questions" from the OG, were you just creating question sets for yourself from the test bank in the OG online portal? Presumably you were setting the difficulty to "hard" only?
  • When you were drilling your 15-20 question sets initially, were you mixing verbal and quant? Or would you alternate between the two topics for each set?
  • When you talk about "error analysis", how did you think about dissecting your errors? Were you more focused on recognizing a topic that gave you trouble, a strategy that you found useful to solve a specific kind of problem, understanding why the right answer is the right answer, something else? I'm not sure I am as efficient as I could be when it comes to my own error analysis, so trying to understand your approach.
  • As it relates to timing on the actual exam, were you finishing with plenty of time to spare, or were you using the whole time that is allotted?

Thanks again for your help, and congrats on being finished!


Hey privateequiteer thanks a lot, really appreciate it! and yeah, I'd be glad to share my error logs--I tried uploading them before but I hadn't hit the 5 post min requirement--think this one should do it, I'll try again. For what I thought was useful in error analysis:

  • As it relates to "drilling questions" from the OG, were you just creating question sets for yourself from the test bank in the OG online portal? Presumably you were setting the difficulty to "hard" only?
    yes, I used the OG online portal set to level 700 only. But I found GMATClub & Manhattan Prep's question banks way better for Quant practice.
  • When you were drilling your 15-20 question sets initially, were you mixing verbal and quant? Or would you alternate between the two topics for each set?
    I always found doing them separately to be better to learn--if I mixed it up it was harder to remember all the errors I was making, so I tried to focus 1 whole day for verbal sets, then 1 whole day for quant, etc.
  • When you talk about "error analysis", how did you think about dissecting your errors? Were you more focused on recognizing a topic that gave you trouble, a strategy that you found useful to solve a specific kind of problem, understanding why the right answer is the right answer, something else? I'm not sure I am as efficient as I could be when it comes to my own error analysis, so trying to understand your approach.
    I really felt like this was the part that helped me get better fastest--I think I was good at correctly classifying and identifying the types of errors I was making.
    For example: at the start it was obvious almost all my errors were just being bad at DS, so I focused on getting over common DS traps first; after that I got past that became clear I was making consistent errors on number properties/algebra/geometry PS questions, so I started classifying errors by those categories next; and finally the last types of errors I kept making had to do with really specific number properties errors (not checking assumptions for even/odd #s, pos/neg #s, not checking of "x=0" was a possible solution, etc). The error analysis really had to adapt over time as I got better to target the incremental errors I was still making at each stage.
  • As it relates to timing on the actual exam, were you finishing with plenty of time to spare, or were you using the whole time that is allotted?
    always had at least 5 min left for Verbal--that was much easier for me. For Quant I never had any time left; always felt like I had to be super focused the whole time to finish all the questions. But that's me--I'm weaker on Quant and had to spend more time on it.


Thanks for the reply and for uploading those docs - I found them exceptionally useful.

Two follow ups:
  • What specifically are you referring to when you talk about the Manhattan Prep question banks? As far as I can tell, they have the PDF with problem sets from the OG, and 25 questions per topic in what they call a "Question Bank" section (which I believe are the same questions every time you take it). Are you just referring to one of these, or is there some section of their site I haven't found?
  • How many question sets per day do you estimate you averaged? Saw you mentioned you could do ~1-2 hours at lunch and presumably a few hours after work. By my math a 20 question set would likely take ~40 minutes + 40 minutes for review would put you at ~1.5 hrs per set - would you say you did like 2-3 sets per day?

Thanks again!
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 19:02
PrivateEquiteer wrote:
Thanks for the reply and for uploading those docs - I found them exceptionally useful.

Two follow ups:
  • What specifically are you referring to when you talk about the Manhattan Prep question banks? As far as I can tell, they have the PDF with problem sets from the OG, and 25 questions per topic in what they call a "Question Bank" section (which I believe are the same questions every time you take it). Are you just referring to one of these, or is there some section of their site I haven't found?
  • How many question sets per day do you estimate you averaged? Saw you mentioned you could do ~1-2 hours at lunch and presumably a few hours after work. By my math a 20 question set would likely take ~40 minutes + 40 minutes for review would put you at ~1.5 hrs per set - would you say you did like 2-3 sets per day?

Thanks again!


Awesome--I'm really happy to hear that, I'm glad you found them useful.
1. Sounds like I'm talking about the same Manhattan qbanks you are (below). As you mentioned there's only a limited # but I found these useful for a refresher on quant questions by category (algebra, number properties, etc).
2. Yes exactly, I did about 2-3 quant sets per day, plus 1 cat exam every 2 days. For Verbal I did not do drills at all because I was better at it, so practice exam questions were enough to "map out" my typical verbal errors. But I imagine for someone weak on verbal they would want to do 2-3 verbal drill sets per day also.
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 19:48
bensonhurst wrote:
PrivateEquiteer wrote:
Thanks for the reply and for uploading those docs - I found them exceptionally useful.

Two follow ups:
  • What specifically are you referring to when you talk about the Manhattan Prep question banks? As far as I can tell, they have the PDF with problem sets from the OG, and 25 questions per topic in what they call a "Question Bank" section (which I believe are the same questions every time you take it). Are you just referring to one of these, or is there some section of their site I haven't found?
  • How many question sets per day do you estimate you averaged? Saw you mentioned you could do ~1-2 hours at lunch and presumably a few hours after work. By my math a 20 question set would likely take ~40 minutes + 40 minutes for review would put you at ~1.5 hrs per set - would you say you did like 2-3 sets per day?

Thanks again!


Awesome--I'm really happy to hear that, I'm glad you found them useful.
1. Sounds like I'm talking about the same Manhattan qbanks you are (below). As you mentioned there's only a limited # but I found these useful for a refresher on quant questions by category (algebra, number properties, etc).
2. Yes exactly, I did about 2-3 quant sets per day, plus 1 cat exam every 2 days. For Verbal I did not do drills at all because I was better at it, so practice exam questions were enough to "map out" my typical verbal errors. But I imagine for someone weak on verbal they would want to do 2-3 verbal drill sets per day also.



Perfect - yes, we are talking about the same thing.

Thanks again for all the insight here - really appreciate the thoroughness. Good luck with the decisions!
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Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Sep 2018, 07:24
bensonhurst wrote:
Edit 9/6/18: updated to include my error logs. Will not be checking messages or coming back to the forum again, so I can focus on other things--hope that these attachments are helpful and best wishes to everyone on studying.

Hi all,

I've been studying intensely for the GMAT on a pretty tight timeframe for the past 2 months and finally got my desired 780 this afternoon, just in time for my MBA applications next month. I couldn't be happier and I am very happy with my performance. This has taken a lot of time and focus outside my job, and I wanted to share my thoughts to try and be helpful to others.

Attachments


  • Example of a practice exam log I used to track the types of errors made per exam
  • Example of "cheat sheet" notes for Verbal and Quant I kept for myself to reflect the stuff I personally needed reminding of based on my errors--this won't be the most helpful for everyone but reflects more my personal weak areas
  • Example of error logs for Verbal and Quant in the 2 weeks between my two tests

My Advice


My recommended study plan
CAT practice exams used: GMATClub, GMAT Prep, Manhattan Prep, Veritas
  • What helped me improve my score in a short period of time was consistent, repeat drills; being able to quickly understand and classify the types of errors I made so that I cut down on my error rate quickly[/b]; and recognizing that there is ultimately a limited scope of knowledge that the GMAT covers, and a consistency and logic to the types of questions they ask.
  • The approach which I found most effective for the GMAT was repeated sets of drills of 15-25 questions each, interchanged with error review.
  • Error review took up 50% of my time. It was the most important part of practice because it was the only part that helped me cut down on future errors.
  • The goal in doing drills was to make consistently fewer errors in each set moving forward.
    • If you're still making the same % of errors after 3-4 sets, I'd go back to your error log and re-analyze it. If I was still making the same % of errors I was wasting my time. To me questions were only valuable if they exposed me to new types of questions I hadn't encountered before that were an opportunity to reduce errors.
  • I spent 50% of my time on error review; maybe you'll be faster or slower than that, I don't know.

When I saw consistent improvement over 1-2 days I'd take a CAT exam and the scores tended to get consistently higher as a result of doing drills in between them.

Mindset
  • I thought of studying kind of like having a giant map of a region that's hidden at first. It's your goal to slowly reveal different bits of the map, piece by piece, until it's fully visible. Every test has a limited scope of content. It might be a lot, but it's finite. Your task is to figure out how to tackle that body of content in a structured and efficient way.
  • Score improvement is about focusing on your weakest areas, so you won't be effective if you consistently shrug off practice questions you get wrong by making one of two excuses:
    • "That was too hard. I'm probably not going to see that on the real exam, so I'm just going to ignore it."
    • "That answer/question doesn't make any sense. This exam is unfair. I disagree with the answer given."
    As a general rule, I'd say any question you see on a practice exam from GMAT Prep/Manhattan/Veritas is worth your time to study and understand. It will pay off on exam day. The GMAT is a fair and logically structured exam, covering a limited scope of content. Your score reflects how much of that content you have taken the time to understand. If you accept full responsibility for your mistakes you will be willing to spend the time and effort to correct them instead of blowing the hard ones off. Do not make excuses for your errors.
  • I wouldn't be down on yourself if you don't see steady improvement. Some of the CAT exams are purposely harder than the real thing so you should expect lower scores on those. Despite my high score I was pretty hard on myself about Quant the 2-3 weeks before the exam and kind of thought "maybe I'm just not as good at this as other people." In the end I just kept practicing and proved myself wrong.

General advice, Quant
Study materials used: GMATClub question banks, GMAT Prep question banks, Manhattan Prep question banks
  • GMATClub question banks were excellent and key in increasing my score from 750 to 780.
  • Go through GMATClub's DS and PS question directories by level. I went through all 700-level categories and did 4-5 of the questions that were most bookmarked from each category.
  • Number properties are the most important section to master for quant. After that, statistics/sets, geometry, and algebra/inequalities are probably second most important. I did separate drills for each category on GMATClub.

General advice, Verbal
Study materials used: Manhattan Prep books, PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible (chapter 1 was key in understanding CR), Manhattan Prep
CR:
  • Read PowerScore CR Bible's chapter 1 and skim the rest to understand the basic question types.
    • You should be able to map out every question prompt correctly into premises and conclusions. No matter how simple the prompt, I wrote out by hand an outline summary of every prompt in premises and conclusions.
    • Know the common traps. PowerScore CR Bible does a good explanation of some.
  • In viewing the premises and conclusions, you should be able to identify the key logical factors in the argument: the objects/qualities/actions that lead to certain consequences.
  • Language also matters: pay attention to probability/descriptive words like "most likely", "always", "never", "frequently", "might", etc. On top of the structure of the logical relationship described, these add nuance of the strength of the relationship.
    • E.g. "Snowfall causes traffic jams", "Heavy snowfall always causes traffic jams", "light snowfall may cause traffic jams", etc.
  • In some ways, CR is the most math-like part of Verbal. The logic is not that different from logic in math, so there is no reason why someone who scores high in Quant should be weak in CR given enough practice. Logic in CR is simply expressed in adjectives and words, whereas logic in math is expressed in symbols.
RC:
  • I spent 3-4 min reading each passage before going to each questions.
  • Know the common traps. My most common error was narrowing it down to 2 answer choices, then going for the one that sounded superficially more similar to the text rather than the one that was logically the stronger relationship. Don't be tricked into choosing an answer that is phrased to sound similar to the passage when it logically is not the best answer.
  • A lot of the passages I read were on topics I had no background in (black holes, microbial evolution, etc). That's fine. Jargon does make the reading slower to plod through, but it ultimately should not hinder your understanding of the logical structure of the passage.
  • If a question addresses a specific sentence, always go back to the sentence to re-read the sentences around it and understand the context.
  • Probably more so than CR, language and tone matter in RC. It communicates subtle nuances about the author's attitude and the strength of their attitude. These reading comprehension skills I admit are hard to acquire/improve in a short period of time. All I can recommend on that front is to just keep practicing.
    • I do not recommend spending much time reading The Economist, etc. in that regard. The best practice you can get is from actually doing questions. Doing questions forces you to engage with the text instead whereas much outside reading is done passively. When you practice, you want to be forced to think critically about the passage in a way that is hard to do on your own without structured prompts.


Debrief


  • Started studying: July 2018.
  • 1st exam, Aug 10: 750 (Verbal 46, Quant 48) / AWA 6.0 / IR 8.0
  • 2nd exam, Aug 29: 780 (Verbal 48, Quant 50) / AWA TBD / IR 8.0
  • My experience will be helpful to you primarily if you are already testing in the 630-700+ range on Manhattan / Veritas CATs and in the 700 - 800 range on GMAT Prep.
  • The 30 pts improvement from my already high score in 2.5 weeks was due entirely to targeting my weaker areas in Quant. So my experience will be somewhat more relevant to those people who have already mastered Verbal and looking for tips on closing the final 30-50 point gap based on improved Quant performance.

CAT Exam Results
  • 7/01 - OG Diagnostic Test: 680
  • 7/11 - MGMAT: 670 (40 verbal / 41 quant)
  • 7/23 GMAT Prep: 720 (42 verbal / 47 quant)
  • 7/23 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 49 quant)
  • 7/31 - MGMAT: 44 verbal (no full score; accidentally skipped quant)
  • 8/02 - MGMAT: 650 (40 verbal / 39 quant)
  • 8/03 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 49 quant)
  • 8/06 GMAT Prep: 770 (44 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/07 GMAT Prep: 780 (50 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/08 GMAT Prep: 50 quant (no full score; accidentally skipped verbal)
  • 8/09 GMAT Prep: 770 (47 verbal / 50 quant)
  • 8/22 Veritas: 650
  • 8/25 Veritas: 670
  • 8/26 - MGMAT: 650 (36 verbal / 43 quant)
  • 8/27 - MGMAT: 710 (45 verbal / 42 quant)

My background/profile
I'm a 26 year old female working in finance in NYC. Coming into the test, I was lucky to already have several advantages:
  • I am a native English speaker.
  • A relatively balanced academic/professional background between math/verbal.
  • Good work hours: despite working in finance, I worked a very manageable 9-to-5 workweek for the entire 2 months I studied. I also always had time to practice questions for 1-2 hours during lunch regularly.
  • A good study environment: I live in NYC, which is full of good cafes to study in. For the past two months, I worked in a dedicated co-working space in the neighborhood to ensure 0 distractions.
So overall, I expected to start from a high base going into GMAT studying and to spend the bulk of my effort on:
1) fully understanding how the GMAT specifically is structured as a test and how the test-writers think
2) doing drills to push my quant performance up to the highest percentile.
Despite the short timeframe, I made the GMAT my #1 priority for the past 2 months before everything else.[/list]

1st Exam experience, Aug 10
Quant: I was surprised that quant was moderately, but noticeably, harder than any of the 6 GMAT Prep exams. Nonetheless, I focused on staying on time. I was frustrated that I whiffed a good 3-4 questions, including several I was confident I would have gotten had I known to practice them.
Verbal/IR/AWA: I went through the rest of the test normally and encountered no difficulty aside from simply staying focused for the entire 3 hours. Verbal/IR/AWA was in line with my expectations and what I had taken on practice exams.

  • I knew 750 was a very good score.
  • But in my gut I had expected to do better based on my GMAT Prep results of 780. That was the number I had in my head.
  • I felt that I would have attained that 780 had I known to study more of the right content for Quant. The questions I got wrong didn't reflect my actual ability but rather the fact that I had given more weight in studying to the wrong topics.
  • My ESR report made up my mind. In quant, it showed 43% of my answers were wrong in the 3rd set of questions and 57% were wrong in the last set. I got only 33% of geometry questions and 50% of inequality/algebra questions right. I know I can do better than that.
    • As others here have observed, it was clear to me that I spent too much time going through advanced combinatorics/probability drills when the heart of GMAT quant is number properties, geometry, and algebra.

2nd Exam Experience, Aug 29
Before the next exam:
  • Quant drills. Divided my time evenly between GMAT Club question banks and Manhattan, Veritas, and GMAT Club CATs. The purpose was to expose myself to distinctly harder Quant questions than the GMAT Prep tests and the Official Guide Test Bank, and harder questions than what I'd encounter on the GMAT exam itself.
    Drilled these every day, focusing on geometry, number properties, and algebra; and to a lesser degree on sets/statistics.
    Veritas Prep, 650
    MGMAT 8/26 650 (Verbal 36 / Quant 43)
    MGMAT 8/27 710 (Verbal 45 / Quant 42)
  • Spent minimal time on verbal. I was confident I had it down already. Returned to verbal practice once every 3 days to make sure I wasn't backsliding but that was enough.
  • I ignored IR completely which is easy relative to Quant/Verbal. I did make sure to test that my IR ability had not receded with a question set on the Official Guide Test Bank the day before the exam.
  • Aug 29, Exam day. opposite of the first exam experience--after drilling through hundreds of GMAT Club questions, I found Quant noticeably easy compared to my practice experience rather than difficult. Verbal I found as straighforward as before.


Hi! Congratulations! Really impressive!

Would you mind talking on Skype? I have a test scheduled for September 20th and I really could use some advice, especially on the Verbal section. I'll sent you my Skype username via PM.

Also, how can I improve on time management?

Tks a lot!!!
Re: Debrief: 750 in 1 month-->780 1 month later. Error analyses attached &nbs [#permalink] 07 Sep 2018, 07:24
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