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People who wait months to take a CAT - why?

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People who wait months to take a CAT - why?  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Mar 2018, 20:39
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Every now and then I see a post from someone (on here and on other forums) which goes like...

"Today I took my first mock exam after 3/4/6 months of study. Only scored a 560. Am devastated after spending 100/120/150 hours studying diligently. Is there any hope?? Aiming for Round 1..."

Is there some source out there telling people not to take CATs until the last minute or something? If you did this... why?

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New post 17 Mar 2018, 23:29
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Hey tightrope ,

I have to say this is a very bad strategy.

One should start the preparation with a mock test to determine the weak areas.

Once done, work on your weak areas and at the same time test your level of knowledge after every 2 or 3 weeks.

If you see you are improving continue the process else revisit and determine the reason you are making the same mistakes.

Post completion of the entire topics that you determined as your weaknesses, start giving mocks every twice a week and drill down every other wrong question.

All the best :)
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 00:38
Oh I didn't do this. Just curious about why someone would think it was a good idea. Fear of seeing a bad "cold" score or something?
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 00:50
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tightrope wrote:
Oh I didn't do this. Just curious about why someone would think it was a good idea. Fear of seeing a bad "cold" score or something?


Yeah, probably that could be the idea or maybe people don't know the right approach. :)
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 06:58
I took my first CAT after about 5 weeks of study...and then...
I took my first exam 10 days later

Why didn't I take a diagnostic CAT? Because I knew before starting my study just from looking through the books that I was weak in ALL areas of the quant and strong in ALL areas of the verbal, and I didn't need a CAT to tell me that - I had better things to do with those three hours. Besides, at the beginning I was rusty with maths that I would be been so far off with the timing that a CAT wouldn't necessarily have highlighted all the weak/strong areas because I wouldn't have been able to get through more than half the questions.

Having said that, I did do my first CAT too late. After I got 720 in the CAT, I realised it would be a tough ask to score my goal of 740 in the exam, but I'd already booked and paid for it, so I went ahead and did the exam. However, having done the exam once made the second time a lot less stressful, and I don't think I would have got the score I did the second time (770, 15 days after first exam) if I'd sat the exam on the same date but for the first time. I guess the adcoms will see both my scores but hey, it shows perseverance.

Anyway, I don't think you necessarily need to do a diagnostic CAT to assess your weak areas, but you do need to keep a good error log. The most crucial thing that the CAT tells you is how you are with the timing.
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 08:33
tinyinthedesert wrote:
I took my first CAT after about 5 weeks of study...and then...
I took my first exam 10 days later

Why didn't I take a diagnostic CAT? Because I knew before starting my study just from looking through the books that I was weak in ALL areas of the quant and strong in ALL areas of the verbal, and I didn't need a CAT to tell me that - I had better things to do with those three hours. Besides, at the beginning I was rusty with maths that I would be been so far off with the timing that a CAT wouldn't necessarily have highlighted all the weak/strong areas because I wouldn't have been able to get through more than half the questions.

Having said that, I did do my first CAT too late. After I got 720 in the CAT, I realised it would be a tough ask to score my goal of 740 in the exam, but I'd already booked and paid for it, so I went ahead and did the exam. However, having done the exam once made the second time a lot less stressful, and I don't think I would have got the score I did the second time (770, 15 days after first exam) if I'd sat the exam on the same date but for the first time. I guess the adcoms will see both my scores but hey, it shows perseverance.

Anyway, I don't think you necessarily need to do a diagnostic CAT to assess your weak areas, but you do need to keep a good error log. The most crucial thing that the CAT tells you is how you are with the timing.


Hello, Can you please share how did you improve your score in Quants? (Quants is very tough for me.)
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 11:03
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Priyansha7 wrote:

Hello, Can you please share how did you improve your score in Quants? (Quants is very tough for me.)


I just put in the hours. Probably over 150hrs study on quant I don't really think there are any shortcuts, you just have to be familiar enough with the concepts tested to be able to tackle unfamiliar questions. You also need to find techniques that work for you - for example, I find testing answer choices in PS to be very time consuming and as I struggled with timing in the quant section, I didn't use this technique very often. If I really don't know how to answer a question, I tend to just guess and move on rather than waste time. I had to do this several times on my first exam (q47) but only once on my second (q49) when I had done a lot of additional 700 level questions from GmatClub and had more fluidity and speed.

I used OG guide 2018, Manhattan GMAT advanced Quant, Veritas and GMATclub math questions. It is very important to keep error logs and know where you're going wrong - genuine unfamiliarity with the topic or careless mistake (eg forgetting the 4 horsemen of unknown DS variables - could be negative, could be zero, could be the same, could be non-integer. These 4 must be considered for EVERY DS question involving unknown variables).

Quant is a mix of maths and critical thinking, for me the issue was more lack of familiarity with the math, because I'm 31 and it was either stuff I'd never done, or stuff I'd done 15 years ago. My critical thinking was actually decent from the get go. Either can be improved but you need to know what your issue is.

You can actually boost your overall point score more by boosting verbal, and for me that look way less effort/time. People tend to over-focus on quant IMO. How's your SC?

I've written two fairly lengthy posts in the debrief section
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 12:18
Thanks tinyinthedesert for the interesting perspective!

Agree strongly with the "people over-focus on quant" thing btw. Verbal increases are magic for overall score.
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 12:39
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tinyinthedesert wrote:
I guess the adcoms will see both my scores but hey, it shows perseverance.



there is an option to cancel the score if you dont like it. From what i remember you have a few days to decide and there is a penalty of some dollars. Just that :)
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New post 18 Mar 2018, 13:24
AweG wrote:
tinyinthedesert wrote:
I guess the adcoms will see both my scores but hey, it shows perseverance.



there is an option to cancel the score if you dont like it. From what i remember you have a few days to decide and there is a penalty of some dollars. Just that :)
I think it's too late now... Did the exam on the 26th of feb and can't see any option online to cancel it now!

Anyway I'm not too bothered by it. They're not going to ding me cos my first gmat was 710 when I got a 770 two weeks later...I have wayyyyyy bigger issues in my profile than that

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New post 19 Mar 2018, 06:08
I am also in the same boat. Planning to start my prep, but really can't think of giving a mock test right now, for the fear that the score might demotivate me.

I have been reading expert post and also solutions. That has only confirmed my impression that some serious preparation is required.
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New post 19 Mar 2018, 06:30
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RohanBasawkar wrote:
I am also in the same boat. Planning to start my prep, but really can't think of giving a mock test right now, for the fear that the score might demotivate me.

I have been reading expert post and also solutions. That has only confirmed my impression that some serious preparation is required.


well i was thinking the same thing but trust me there are plenty of free tests around to take. The thing is that gmat is a mental process s well cause its better to score low in the first test than after a month of preperation.
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New post 19 Mar 2018, 08:28
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RohanBasawkar wrote:
I am also in the same boat. Planning to start my prep, but really can't think of giving a mock test right now, for the fear that the score might demotivate me.

I have been reading expert post and also solutions. That has only confirmed my impression that some serious preparation is required.


Serious preparation is required for almost everyone. The older you are, the more you need. It's normal. Unless you're a 22 year old Engineering/Maths/physics grad and native English speaker who does a lot of reading, you're going to have to put some work in. OK, I got to my score in 9 weeks, but I was working part time and put in at least 180 study hours

Veritas have a diagnostic test that's shorter than an actual mock, but it did overscore me by 2 points on quant, and underscore on verbal, however, I think it's decent and reasonably accurate

CAT or no CAT, what's important is to know your weak areas. You can determine this with an organised error log. You need to note for every wrong questions 1) the difficulty 2) the topic/type and 3)the reason why you got it wrong

If a low starting score demotivates you, are you really in the right mind to study for the test? If I'd had done a CAT before any study I'm sure the result would have been shocking, probably 400s. I was way, way, way off on quant. Reading university websites, which make it sound like only the creme de la creme of career gods will ever get in to the school, demotivates me 1000 times more than the GMAT ever did

For Quant, I did like the Maths Revolution approach to DS, and wish I'd seen it at the start of my study to get me into good habits right from the get go. I do think the MR questions posted on the forum are easier than their stated level though, as I can solve most of them in my head quickly with no issues and I am not a Q51 student. The GMATclub math Qs are great and well-organised

For verbal, get a subscription to the WSJ or Economist. Read it daily.

To be honest, the GMAT is a cake walk compared to the actual application, because you can improve your GMAT but there's precious little you can do about the weak points in your CV
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New post 19 Mar 2018, 22:19
Thanks tinyinthedesert. I am still not able to convince myself of starting my prep with a mock.

Also, I am thinking of a classroom coaching, since I feel that live interaction and other students will keep me motivated more.
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New post 20 Mar 2018, 03:10
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RohanBasawkar wrote:
Thanks tinyinthedesert. I am still not able to convince myself of starting my prep with a mock.

Also, I am thinking of a classroom coaching, since I feel that live interaction and other students will keep me motivated more.


Whatever works for you...I find self-study to be more time efficient

Don't start your study with a mock, just keep a good error long, and don't do what I did and sit your first mock after you've booked your exam!
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New post 20 Mar 2018, 13:41
Honestly, it is because I know I am weak in every area. It doesn't make sense for me to waste a CAT just to show me what I already know. Hence, I would like to put in my 100 hours, take the CAT, and then find out my TRUE weak areas.

That is my approach. It is time-consuming, but if you want something, you will work for it.
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New post 20 Mar 2018, 21:25
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RohanBasawkar wrote:
Thanks tinyinthedesert. I am still not able to convince myself of starting my prep with a mock.

Also, I am thinking of a classroom coaching, since I feel that live interaction and other students will keep me motivated more.
A practice test doesn't have to be the very first thing you do. However, once you take a practice test, you will be in a better position to focus your efforts on those areas that you really need to work on.
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New post 24 Mar 2018, 13:21
21savage21 wrote:
Honestly, it is because I know I am weak in every area. It doesn't make sense for me to waste a CAT just to show me what I already know. Hence, I would like to put in my 100 hours, take the CAT, and then find out my TRUE weak areas.

That is my approach. It is time-consuming, but if you want something, you will work for it.
You'll be losing out on a lot of the value of mocks, which is to see that you're on the right track as you study. Maybe you'll put in 100 hours studying advanced combinatorics questions, then realise that's only a tiny part of the GMAT. Or you study really hard for verbal, but if you'd done a mock you'd have realised that actually your verbal is better than you thought and you didn't need to waste the time.

If you've already done 100 hours and you take your first CAT and it's really bad, that's going to feel REALLY demoralising :)

There are also a lot of timing, pacing etc aspects to the test which you need to practice. The thing that surprised me was how important what I ate for breakfast was! You need to be practicing those things as well as you go, to build up your stamina.

Especially for you as someone who seems quite nervous for the test, I think you should study for a few weeks then jump into a test, expecting a bad score. That's fine! And then get into a cycle of doing them every few weeks (not sure what your timeline is). I promise you, it will really help with nerves if you do it like that. It won't seem like this big huge scary thing, it will be just that thing you do on weekends sometimes.
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New post 25 Mar 2018, 12:33
RohanBasawkar wrote:
Thanks tinyinthedesert. I am still not able to convince myself of starting my prep with a mock.

Also, I am thinking of a classroom coaching, since I feel that live interaction and other students will keep me motivated more.


Just do it! If you take a good course, you'll be asked to do a practice test very early on anyways. I always have my students do one within the first two weeks of the class starting. The point isn't to try to get a good score, or even to 'establish a baseline' (although taking an early practice test can give you a very, very rough sense of how far you have to go.) It's more because the class runs more smoothly, and everyone learns more, if everyone in the room already knows exactly how the GMAT looks and feels - and the only way to really learn that is to try it yourself. :)
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New post 01 Apr 2018, 05:29
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Always take a practice test first thing in your GMAT studies.

If not first thing - then at least sometime during the first 10-15% of time that you allocate for GMAT studying.

So if you allocate 3 months, then you should take a practice test sometime in the first week or two.

We recommend going to mba.com to get the practice GMAT test there for that first test - and you can take another one from there 1 week before your real test.

Between those 2 times, you can use supplemental practice tests, such as this one:

http://www.gmatpill.com/gmat-practice-t ... ctice-test

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That saves the highest quality practice tests for the beginning and end of your studies while still allowing you to practice with other sources in the middle and get good practice.

Never wait til the last minute for a surprise! Especially after studying so hard but realizing that you didn't actually make progress!

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