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Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’

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Joined: 27 Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Location: India
Concentration: Operations, Marketing
Schools: Darden '21 (WA)
GMAT 1: 740 Q51 V39
GPA: 4
WE: Engineering (Manufacturing)
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Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 11 Mar 2018, 02:17
Hi.. I am Murali Krishna an engineer and an MBA aspirant. Recently I have taken my GMAT and scored 740 (Q51, V38). Believe me it’s an indescribable feeling. I have read many GMAT debriefs and I see many struggles, lot of hard work and many hurdles test-takers got through to crack GMAT with a decent score. I do not know about others, but let me tell you something that I identified. “It’s not as hard as you think it is”. There is a high probability that you are surprised from such a statement or the title of this post in the first place. But in my journey to 740, this is what I have identified. Read along to understand why I think so and hopefully you’ll feel the same way by the time you finish reading this post. If you want to know my strategies and tips instead of reading the whole story, you can scroll down.

About me:

Let me give you a small introduction of myself. I am an Indian mechanical Engineer (Yes, not all engineers work in IT). I am 24 years old and have a work experience of about 2.5 years when I am writing this post. I am planning to apply for fall 2019 intake. I am single and have no other commitments other than my career (I saw many debriefs which said bad relationships screwed up GMAT scores).

Resources used for preparation:

1. GMAT official guide
2. e-GMAT online course + e-gmat scholoranium
3. Manhattan prep – Sentence Correction (only for reference and advanced topics)
4. Aristotle prep – Read Comprehension grail (for practise)
5. GMAT club tests (free with e-gmat membership)
6. 800 score tests (free with e-gmat membership)
7. GMATPREP tests

The idea of an MBA [2014]:

The idea of studying in a b-school occurred to be about 4 years ago. It was my final year of college and I realised I’d need an MBA to achieve my long term goals. That was when I came to know I need to give a test called GMAT to qualify for an MBA admission outside India. Given that I was not earning and the economic status of my parents is not so good that I can ask them to sponsor my gmat preparation, I decided to prepare on my own using GMAT OG and Manhattan SC guide (Someone on the internet wrote that these two books are enough for GMAT prep). Back then I did very little research. I thought a GMAT 700 is the everest and reaching it would make me the king of the world (OK, I am exaggerating, but you get what I want to say). I studied for probably a month from the GMAT OG and then I got a job (although both of them are not related). You understand how it is when you start your career. The first few months go in understanding the organisation, product, corporate culture, etc and you’d put a lot of effort to start your career in the best possible way. Hence, I couldn’t concentrate on my GMAT prep.

My first attempt [2016]:

After 8 months into my job, I’ve realised that I was settled in the position and I can now concentrate on my GMAT prep again. I opened the Official guide and started solving the questions. Yes, I jumped right into solving questions without any prep. I assumed the the things tested on GMAT are those which you have inside and not those which you can develop via training. However, I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing. I was making many mistakes while solving OG questions and I didn’t think that would help in scoring good on the GMAT and frankly speaking, I didn’t even know what a good GMAT score is for my career aspirations. Yes, you might be a good student in your school or college, you might be used to studying on your own rather than being lectured, but sometimes you have to accept the fact that you need someone to coach you the right ways and so is the case of GMAT. I realised that self-prep might not be sufficient. I did some more research.I went to a couple of MBA fairs by QS top MBA, talked to some admissions directors and read many reports on the internet about GMAT and MBA admissions. Your job changes the way you think ; it actually makes you more practical, focused and particular about the career paths you chose. After all the research, I identified that a GMAT 700 for an Indian male engineer is not as exceptional as I thought it to be and also my target schools have above 700 GMAT averages. Given all the concerns, I didn’t want to take a risk on my GMAT prep and decided to join in a GMAT prep course.

E-GMAT - One of the best choices I made
There are many offline options available in India for GMAT prep such as jamboree. However, I was used to online education and online education seemed more flexible and earily tailorable to my study needs. Hence, I was exploring options in online prep courses, which is when I came across e-gmat. I took a free webminar from e-gmat and have identified that the study methodology resonates with my personality and study pattern and that the course is really flexible. Moreover, the course is economically reachable for me since I was also getting a subscription to GMAT club tests and 800 score tests with it. I decided to go with e-gmat online course for quant and verbal and this is probably one of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life.

The preparation phase
Although I paid for the course, I didn’t use it properly for first 2-2.5 months. It may be lack of push, or my work. I have realised I need a proper motivation and push to open the course and study for the test. Hence, I have booked a test appointment in 2 months. This actually worked, the fear and anxiety of the GMAT test actually helped me focus more and spend proper time on the GMAT prep. I studied for about 3-4 hours on weekdays and 8 hours on the weekends. I completed all the modules in the e-gmat course and started my proper full length test practise sessions 3 weeks before my test day. I have taken a week off and stayed with my parents to concentrate completely on the test. I worked blindly on all the GMAT club tests and 800 score tests without a proper strategy in test taking. I was scoring around 680-720 in the mock tests and somehow I was yet confident of scoring a 730+ on my test day, probably assuming that the GMAT is easier than mock tests I was taking. I voluntarily or involuntarily chose to ignore the fact that the scoring algorithm of the mock tests I was taking may be far different from that of the actual GMAT.

The day I kicked myself
The night before the test, I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning on my bed til 2 am. I went to the test in the morning all tensed and with full of anxiety. I know I’ve prepared well. But yet, I was taking a lot of pressure although none is actually present. In the test center I was told I made a very big mistake. When I was registering for my GMAT, I mistakenly wrote only my first and middle names and missed the last name. I was so much worrying about the test that I didn’t even consider checking the name on my passport and my appointment. I was not allowed to write the test that day. It was a huge mental and emotional set back. I went back home all furious on myself. But what has happened has happened. I registered for the test again in 5 days.

The D-day
This time I slept well. I was not as tensed as I was before but yet had a bit of anxiety. I went for the test and the facilities in the test center were horrible. Back then there was no choice for section ordering. So I started with AWA, I did very well in it. The IR also went great. An hour passed and I was already feeling some sort of mental fatigue starting. I took probably only 4 minutes break and went back in to continue with Quant. The test center had no binded erasable scratch pads but very few individual scratch sheets. The test admin gave only 2 sheets for the test and asked me to raise my hand if I need an additional sheet. You can understand how you can work on 2 sheets for an entire quant section. Moreover, I usually write big letters so I don’t get confused while doing math. I had to raise my hand almost 5 times during the test and also a couple of times the test admin didn’t notice me for almost 2-3 minutes with my hand raised. Although I missed about 5-6 minutes in the process, I managed to finish my quant 5 minutes early. Yes, the stereotype is true, Engineers are good at quant. In my break I realised the mental fatigue has gone up. I never sat continuously for 4 hours for a test. I took a 3-4 minutes break and went back in for Verbal. I started the section and about 10 minutes into the test , the devil in the head started to come out. The fatigue has risen to high levels and I was not able to concentrate. I was guessing some questions and something in my head kept telling me “forget this, let’s go home. A 650 is enough for us. We don’t need all this pain”. I finished the test and the score popped up. I was actually expecting a 650, but to my surprise I got a 700 (Q50,V34, IR7).

Is that a good score ??
I came out of the test center with an emotionless face. My parents asked me how did you do the test. I didn’t understand what to answer. Did I do good? Or did I do bad? Then I realised I was capable of doing better if I could just concentrate on the test. So I’ve decided to take another test and I got another job offer at a better company. I know, this is’t relevant either. But it’s funny how one part of my career always puts a halt on the other one.

My second attempt [2018]:

Ya, that’s right almost an year and half. It’s more than an year in my new organisation. I settled down well here, got good collegues, did some amazing research and so on. What better a time I would get to keep this part of the career stable and concentrate on my GMAT again. I have decided to take the test. But this time I have no resources with me except the old OG ’14 and the notes from the e-gmat modules I have taken. But I didn’t have any resources to practise. I always liked the e-gmat scholoranium. It is one of the perfect resources for GMAT practise. I have decided to take only the GMAT verbal online course which comes with the scholoranium and also the GMAT club and 800 score tests. The e-gmat team has been considerate to give me a 30% discount on the verbal online course since I was an old student. And I started my prep again.

Your ability stays with you!!
Before going into the preparation I wanted to see where I was standing at that point of time. I tool a GMAP prep test and surprisingly I got a 700 again altough I didn’t work on GMAT style questions for more than an year. This is when I realised, it is very rare to go down in GMAT score because GMAT tests your ability and not your accuracy. Ability never goes lower, you have earned it and it will stay with you. You can only improve it by training yourself more.

Prepatation returns
I started my preparation with e-gmat SC and have revised all the learning modules again practising regularly. Simultaneously, I was spending about 1 hour each day to solve 700+ level questions that I found from GMAT CLUB forum. I finished my SC modules and I am 1 month away from my actual test. I gave a CR ability test in e-gmat and scored a 100%. I was doubtful of the part of luck in that test and gave another ability test and scored a 100% again. I came to a conclusion that I was good at CR and I don’t need to revise the modules again. This saved about a week of my preparation. Same was with RC. I was also practicing the RC passages from Aristotle RC grail and verbal questions from veritas prep free question bank. I was left with 3 weeks till my test and I exhausted almost 75% of all my resources. That’s right I was continuously practising without breaks. I want to train my mind to not go into fatigue this time. I was solving about 50 quant question and about 100-150 verbal questions a day on weekdays. And multiple that number by 8 in the weekends.

Identifying the score plateau (vs) exhausting resources
I was scoring a 720-730 continuously on GMAT club tests and I was worried if I will be too late to identify if I reached the score plateau and if I will exhaust all my resources by then. I talked to e-gmat team and they advised me to take up a module in the e-gmat course which helps me define my study plan when I am probably reaching my score pateau. I have revised my plan and within a week I found the results. Forget about the score, but I started gaining confidence while marking an answer which I lacked in RC and SC.

CONFUSION - It can be won easily
2 weeks to my test and I facing an amazingly weird situation. My verbal score was fluctuating with a huge deviation in GMAT CLUB tests. One test I get a V42, the next V45, the next a V34 and the next a V39. I am confused about what was happening. There was no difference in my mental, emotional or physical status while I was taking any of those tests and yet the score is volatile. I started worrying a lot.
1 week to my test and I went to my parent’s place again, to study peacefully for a week before the test. I was a scoring a Q51 on GMAT CLUB tests continuously and I was confident on quant. I took a GMATPREP test 6 days before the test and scored a Q50. The same result when I took 3 800score tests. I was suddenly worried, if my Quant score will saturate at Q50. After analysing my mistakes I realised that I am commiting silly mistakes which actually affect the score. Moreover in every quant test I was always left with 10-15 minutes of additional time. Therefore, I have decided to use that time. I began rechecking every answer before I mark. Then came another devil, the RC comprehension in verbal. I donot know what happened suddenly, I started scoring low on verbal because of silly mistakes in RC. This has in turn built up anxiety in me, so whenever I see an RC passage I feel tensed and lose time and concentration. I decided to revise my e-gmat RC modules again. I have gone through a few of them and started applying the basics again. Prethinking, writing down passage summaries time to time etc. And it worked. Surprisingly by the day of the exam I was more confident on RC than on Quant.

The D-day returns
It’s the test day again and my hands and legs were shivering. But this time, I knew this anxiety was a good one. This time I am definiely sure I have done my best and I am at the best possible level I could be. I have been scoring from 720-760 in my mock tests and I am confident I could replicate the same in my GMAT test. The test centre has dramatically changed. The rooms have been renovated. There were no booklets still, but this time the admin gave me 6 sheets which are sufficient for quant. I had a small problem using the mouse, which was not functioning properly, but it was ok. There was also a technical glitch in the server in midst of the test but fortunately I was in my 8 min break then, so I was not affected by it.
I chose the section order Verbal, Quant, IR and AWA. I wanted to Verbal first and get it over with, then go for quant which will soothen my mind since I am confident in it and then IR and AWA should be easy. My planning turned out to be perfect. I never felt stressed. I never felt any mental or physical fatigue. I gave my test in peace. Surprisingly, I managed the time in Verbal section perfectly. I was actually left with a minute in the verbal section. More surprisingly, I was only left with 1 minute at the end of my quant section. I rechecked every answer in the quant section before marking.

Your work always pays off!!
It was time to click the finish test button and my heart started pounding. 740 it is !!! A Q51 and V38. The happiness I felt is not due to the good score, but it was due to the satisfaction that your strategies actually worked. The decision I have taken to recheck the quant section, the decision to apply the basics to RC and the strategy I followed paid off. The stategies as written below.

Post-test thoughts !!
I came home with a huge smile on my face. Took a couple of days to re socialise with the world. Went out with my family for a movie, dinner and made sure I get everything, that I sacrificed in the last 2 months for this score.
But thinking about it , there was not much struggle. There was only planned execution, understaning my weaknessness, analysing my mistakes from time to time and taking proper decisions. The GMAT prep is easier than we think , given we go with a right strategy and have the right people/material to guide us, who in my case is e-gmat. And given that, eventually when you get used to the GMAT style questions you may feel that many questions or topics that you face in the test or during your practise are very easy for you. But believe me their level is harder than you feel. It’s just your ability that has developed that makes you feel comfortable around hard questions. There you go, I gave a justification for the title.

Learnings, Tips and sugesstions:


1. First things first, always make sure you fill up the requirements in your application correctly. It was a huge blow for me the first time I sent back home because of a small mistake I have done while filling the appointment details.
2. Practise, Practise and Practise wisely. Strategic practise improves your confidence and your ability to handle tough questions.
3. Always log your errors. I kept a note in which, after every mock test or practise, I note down the mistakes I have commited, why I commited those mistakes? And learnings from my errors. I go through those learnings every day for 15 minutes before I go to sleep and 30 minutes before I take a test. These will keep you reminded of the mistakes you make and subconsciously trigger your brain to avoid them in the test.
4. DONOT worry about timing during the initial stages of your preparation. It will come eventually anyway, the following is the timing strategy I used for my test. You can tailor it according to your strategy.

0 75
5 66
10 56
15 45
20 35
25 25
30 15
35 5
37 0

0 75
5 67
10 58
15 49
20 39
25 30
30 21
35 12
40 3
41 0


For Quant the only strategy I recommend is to practise and practise. GMAT club, egmat and any other quant prep courses have questions that are way high in level than the actual GMAT. So there is high chance that you make silly mistakes in the final test and lose important points. So make sure you are clear with all the math concepts in Quant and practise regularly.
If Quant is your weakness, it is the best thing to work on and improve your score. Trust me, how so ever weak you are in quant, your ability can be improved. I reiterate my point. It is easier than you think it is. You just have to find the right strategy.
Donot switch problem solving strategies in middle of your preparation. There are lots of different strategies available on the internet to solve a same question, especially in word problems. Donot explore all of them. Find one strategy which you understand and implement it in your preparation. Again, DONOT deviate from it although you see an easier one or one which you feel might be faster.
You need not solve the problem in DS questions. Sometimes, 700+ level DS questions can be answered as quickly as 20-40s without even placing the pen on the paper. More practise makes you understand what are those questions.
If you are aiming for a Q51, make sure you are very clear with all the types of questions that have the slightest chance to appear in the test. 2-3 weeks before my test, as soon as I see a quant question I immedietly understand where the test admin is trying to test me on and I immedietely identify the traps that were laid in the question. When you come to this place, you are sure to get a Q51 as it saves you a lot of time and eliminates the trap choices in the first glance.
Take your time with the questions. You have a lot of time. Donot worry about the clock. Take your time in solving the questions. Remember, if you feel that a question is hard and you might need a minute more to do it, that is a good sign. It means you are at the Q49-Q51 level and you can invest that extra minute. However, be careful and avoid investing even a minute more than the extra one.


SC is not all about grammar. SC is also understand the sentence. Especially when you are dealing with verb sequences or advanced topics.
Donot worry about mugging up idioms in SC. It will do no good but waste your preparation time. You cannot mug up all of them and there are high chances you may face only one question or questions in the topic which you have studied.
You are not a native speaker, not so good at oratory english skills, CHILL it’s ok. You can still mark all the answers in SC right even if you are not as good in english as you expect you to be to crack SC. I might have made hundreds of grammatical mistakes in this debrief, yet I am confident I do well in SC. In SC, you’ll only have to deal with one sentence. That sentence is all that matters.
Identify the mistakes in the sentence before looking at the options. Initially, when I was too tired or confused to find the mistakes in the sentence I used to skip to the options to find out the potential mistakes in the question stem. I think many of us do that. Please avoid it. Try to find the mistakes in the sentence from all aspects of english grammer when you see the sentence itself and then go for the options. Although it seems to take more time, it will actually save time. Trust me.
Read all the options till the end placing them in the sentence before confirming your answer and read the non-underlined portion also. There were days when I made very silly mistakes because of overlooking the non-underlined portion.


The one rule to follow in RC, which every test prep company suggests and unfortunately many test takers ignore is to write down paragraph summaries on the scratch pad. I know it seems to consume time. But trust me it is a very big time saver.
Do not ever look at the clock while you are reading an RC passage. Read, understand and write down the summary of the first sentence of the passage. Even if it take 30s to understand the first sentence itself. It’s ok. It is worth spending. This improves your concentration on the subject. You start living inside the passage and you start to read and understand between the lines. Spend time comprehending the passage. It is more important that the questions. Once you are clear with the passage each question takes not more than 30 seconds to answer.
Donot pay attention to details. For example, a line in the passage says, “ Scientist X in his laboratory, located in y place in z country, performed experiments proving that the boiling temperature of liquid L is D degrees celsius.” Your summary should be, “X performed an experiment on some liquid and proved something”. Now you know where the information is and if there is a detail question you can come back to it.
Practise as much as possible. When you practise more and more and you get used to the GMAT style questions. You will easily identify out of scope, partial scope and trap answer choices in RC. This will speed up your process of elimination.
Prethink the answers. As you see think question think for the right answer before exploring the options. This will save a lot of time in eliminating wrong answers. The more practise you have the easier you prethink answers in RC.
Think in the perspective of the author. This will improve your concentration, your intrest in the subject and your comprehension of the passage.


PRETHINK, the biggest suggestion from my side. CR is my strongest topic in verbal. This is because as soon as I see an argument, the first thing I do is question it. Why? How? This will help you understand the assumptions that the author has taken and the weakeners and strengtheners for that particular argument. It will also help you in your AWA.
Spend time in identifying the conclusion. Identifying proper conclusion in the argument is really important especially in higher level CR questions. The more comfortable you get in identifying the conclusion the less time you’ll take to find out the answers.
Read the question stem properly. There were countless questions in my error log saying the same thing, “ see EXCEPT”. Missing the word except has wasted a lot of time in many mock tests. Fortunately I didn’t miss any except in the actual test. Read the question stem clearly.
Eliminate the answers using one face in bold face questions. In bold face questions, it is easy to identify the role of at least one bolded portion and eliminate the answers accordingly. Moreover, a boldface question in many ways is similar to a Data Sufficiency question. Sometimes, you need not even understand the argument to answer such questions.
Practise, practise and practise wisely. As you go to the higher levels of CR questions the only raise in difficulty is through trap answers. You can only identify the trap answers by practising more and more.


Practise meditation. Take deep breathes for 2-3 minutes during your scheduled breaks. It will actually help you a lot.
Make sure you get proper reviews about the test center before booking an appointment. There are so many unworthy test centers in India.
Exercise regularly. A healthy heart rate helps you keep your cool during the test and helps you recover faster in the scheduled breaks.
Practise section order and find out the most suited one through GMAT PREP tests or exam packs.
Take one step at a time. Donot expect to learn everything on the first go. Every test taker has a different story and different learnings.

Finally, this is my story. No cinematic fights, struggles, twists, hurdles or hinderences. It is as smooth as it can get or at least I feel that it was smooth. It is only hard when you feel it is hard and believe me a 740 in GMAT is not hard. No matter what your current ability is, YOU CAN DO IT. It all depends on finding the proper strategy that works for you and you also have enough time, resources and people to help you figure out that one strategy. Staying positive and having clear focus is all that you need to crack the score that you aspire. I reiterate, “It’s easier than you think, It’s harder than you feel”.
All the best to all my fellow test-takers. I hope you will have a peaceful journey and a wonderful story for the rest of us.
PS : I wrote what all I remember. If I recollect something else that I feel might me useful, I will update the post.

Originally posted by krish7 on 08 Mar 2018, 12:44.
Last edited by krish7 on 11 Mar 2018, 02:17, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Mar 2018, 14:59
Quite a debrief it is :thumbup:

Sure the strategies you've mentioned and your persistence paid off well.

Congratulations and best of luck for your applications :grin: :thumbup:
The few, the fearless !

Thanks :-)
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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Mar 2018, 21:57
Before going into the preparation I wanted to see where I was standing at that point of time. I tool a GMAP prep test and surprisingly I got a 700 again altough I didn’t work on GMAT style questions for more than an year. This is when I realised, it is very rare to go down in GMAT score because GMAT tests your ability and not your accuracy. Ability never goes lower, you have earned it and it will stay with you. You can only improve it by training yourself more.

Murali – thank you for taking the time out to write down your experience. Your experience shows that you don’t forget things if you learn the right way. That is why you were able to score 700 when you resumed your preparation for the latest attempt despite not having studied for the test for one year.

I also applaud your effort work on scoring a Q51. Most people would have been satisfied with Q50, but you set your sight on achieving the maximum possible in Quant and worked towards it. This trait would serve you well in your post MBA life.

Congratulations once again and good luck for your application!!

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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Mar 2018, 22:04
Congrats on 740!!! Good brief :-)

All the best for your application.
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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Mar 2018, 23:58
Dear Friend,

Thank you for your review, it is so precious for us future test takes!
Good luck with your application and have career of your dreams!

Best Regards, Gaukhar
My SC approach flowchart

(no one is ideal, please correct if you see any mistakes or gaps in my explanation, it will be helpful for both of us, thank you)

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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Mar 2018, 01:24
Hey Murali

Congratulations on cracking the GMAT with a 740 score! Very helpful debrief. Thanks!

Best of luck for the applications!
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GMAT 1: 710 Q47 V41
GMAT 2: 770 Q49 V47
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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’  [#permalink]

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New post 15 Mar 2018, 09:06
krish7 wrote:
My verbal score was fluctuating with a huge deviation in GMAT CLUB tests. One test I get a V42, the next V45, the next a V34 and the next a V39. I am confused about what was happening. There was no difference in my mental, emotional or physical status while I was taking any of those tests and yet the score is volatile

IMO, the quality of the verbal questions of GMAT Club tests, especially the hard questions, is very variable. I also noticed a lot of inconsistencies in my scoring - I'd do sets of 10 and get only 4 correct, then sets with all 10 correct. V47 in the actual exam

There isn't really any one decent comprehensive and accurate source of 700 level verbal questions

Congrats on the 740!
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Re: Road to a GMAT 740 – ‘Easier than you think! Harder than you feel!’   [#permalink] 15 Mar 2018, 09:06
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