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Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4

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Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Nov 2015, 17:52
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To all GMATClubbers who are still fighting, this debrief is long. It´s intended to show the pain I had while trying to beat the GMAT. Let me tell you in advance that this journey won´t be a piece of cake, even though many success stories depict it as walk in the park.
Before going on and reading this debrief, scroll down and take a look at the pictures I attached for a moment. Ok. I assume you looked at the notebooks and empty pens. I attached those so you can have an idea of what took me to beat the GMAT - if you are struggling to get beyond the 700´s, you are not alone. I personally thought that these pens never ran out of ink, but I was wrong (3 times) :think:
If you asked me how many CATs I´ve taken or how many hours I´ve spent studying, I won´t be able to tell you. If you also asked me how many times I threw a pen against the wall, angry for missing out on questions because of careless mistakes, I also won´t be able to tell you. To be honest with you, I wasn´t completely sure I was ever going to make it, so yeah, you are not alone. But I pulled a 720 and so will you, if you are persistent enough to keep getting back on your feet every time you are beaten up.

Now I will tell you about myself and if this debrief ends up helping any individual in any way, I will have reached my goal. I am from Brazil, and I left high school without knowing how to square a number, how to calculate interest rates or what the word remainder meant. Because I didn´t have a proper high-school education, I always carved for the best education I could get in the future. Thus, I established for myself that I was going to put whatever effort was needed to get accepted into a top school. Now, imagine the gaps I had back then and compare them to these schools standards and try to imagine what was going to take me to actually get there. It took me 2 years - 1 year before undergraduate college (which was done in the US) and 1 after graduation, while preparing for the GMAT. So believe me when I say that if I can do it, you can do it.

The beginning:
Once I decided to take the GMAT I started to research about everything and quickly stumbled into GMAT Club. Thank you, Founders, for creating this forum. I wouldn´t have done it without you. From here I went straight to the course evaluations and saw Magoosh´s high rating and affordable subscription ($99) for 1 year. Singed up for that and started to try their questions. Big mistake - I just couldn´t get any question correct, did not understand the correct answers and felt this wasn´t for me. After a while, I was compelled to keep on browsing the GMATClub website until I found the "Success Stories" section. Bingo! I should have tried that before purchasing anything, but what was done was done. After reading so many success stories, I learned that OG was the key here (OG = Official Guide, I had to google that because all those terms - OG, SC, RC, CR, PS, DS, IR, AWA - were alien to me). I got the OG13 and started to tackle its questions. Slowly I was able to solve question by question and finally started to regain my confidence. I finished the OG and went for my first CAT. Then reality kicked in - the OG wasn´t compiled to make everyone score 700 so it´s no surprise that most of the GMATPrep CAT questions were 10x harder than OG. My score was so bad that I´m ashamed of sharing it with you.
That´s when I realized that I had to change my game plan. I can go on and on with all the details of my preparation and all the materials I used, but I´d rather provide you with a feedback on what you should do, so you don´t fall into the same problems and traps that I fell when I was studying, and hopefully you will be able to improve your learning time.

What worked for me and I would recommend:
MATH-----------------------------------------------------
-purplemath.com - This website is very good to build on fundamentals (besides, it is free).
-Magoosh Videos - Very good to build some fundamentals and learn shortcuts for mental calculations.
-GMATClub Math book - You can find it online on this forum, it´s the next step on building fundamentals. Do not memorize the whole book but make sure nothing is strange to you.
-GMAT Club CATs - Their scoring was not realistic for me (actually no prep company´s scoring was similar to the real thing for me, so don´t ever feel down because of these scores. For instance I got several Q50~Q51 on GMAT Club but on GMATPreps I got Q44. On the other hand, Magoosh gave me Q42 but on the test I got Q50) but their questions are clever and somewhat similar to GMAT. Make sure to go over every single CAT you take so you can learn from your mistakes.
-Error log and Concept file - Build a spreadsheet and keep track of the questions you fell for, the reason you fell for it, and the concepts you needed to know in order to tackle it. Use this spreadsheet on the go so you can quickly glance and remember everything. I went over it every week, and the thinkg just kept on growing and growing.
-OG 13 - A must but after you´ve done all of the above. I got 3 questions on my official GMAT that were printed in older OGs. So you will need it. Also get the OG Quant Review.
-IAN STEWART- The turning point for me. This guy deserves it all. If the following will sound like an advertisement, wonder no more! It is indeed an advertisement that I´m not getting paid for and that I´m glad to write :-D
Jokes apart, Ian is a forum moderator, a genius in math and very human towards his students. If you ever take a session with him, you will see how he makes up real questions on the go in 5 seconds. It´s impressive! And honestly, he was the main reason I scored Q50 on the actual GMAT. He has been working with GMAT students for over 10 years, so he really knows his stuff and the common pitfalls the test will have. In times in which I needed a lift, he was also there to show me the path. I recommend that you get his books at least, if you can´t afford the sessions with him. Ian, once again, thank you so much!
-GMATPrep - To be used in the last part of your preparation. If you don´t get a 700 in it, you have a 1% chance of getting such score in the real test. If you take it multiple times, you will inflate the score. Once you get a 700+ on it, you are good to go.
-GMAT Extra Pack - Never purchased it, but heard wonderful things about it. Probably a great investment (with the extra CATs).

VERBAL-----------------------------------------------------

OG 13 and Verbal Review - A must. Be advised that other sources should be used with great caution, if ever used. I personally think that nothing else should be used as the GMAT has specific ways to test concepts and most prep companies just don´t get it.

:::CR:::
-Powerscore - The only thing (besides the OG) I used. I found it to be very reliable.
-Ron Purewal´s videos - His CR videos are great, but his methods are not the only ones that can be used.
https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/thursdays-with-ron/

:::SC::: This was the hardest section to master
-Grail - Necessary to build on fundamentals.
-MGMAT SC - Really hard material, but absolutely necessary.
-e-GMAT - Never signed up for their course but heard great things about their SC course, especially if English is not your first language
-100 SC file - Good to practice (see the last link below, for additional resources to practice official SC)

:::RC::: hard to improve. You´ll need to figure out what works for you and what doesn´t
-Ron Purewal´s videos - Very good, but I couldn´t apply his methodology.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Be aware that I tried several other products from several prep companies. But I do not have the intention to harm anyone, so I won´t post anything about the products or services that did not work for me. I´d rather tell you what did work for me.

Motivation:
Toughest part for me. Try to find a friend, a wife, a girl/boyfriend to be with you. I "lost" a girlfriend in the middle of the preparation because she didn´t see the value in my nights staying awake. My new girlfriend, in turn, is the most supportive person I´ve met. If you feel like sharing your story, send me an inbox. I´ll try to reply, but can´t promise wonders ;)

Watch the following videos when you are feeling blue:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmVOuLgFB0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36m1o-tM05g

Or just read a debrief on the "Success Stories" on GMAT Club forum. (Many of them are from prep companies, so be suspicious about everything you read!)
Here are my favorites:
http://gmatclub.com/forum/760-q49-v44-ir8-third-time-s-a-charm-202379.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/590-to-720-happy-ending-202872.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/480-to-720-emotional-debrief-203615.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/740-q50-v40-awa-4-5-ir3-anti-debrief-203593.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/650-to-750-a-10-month-journey-to-the-score-203190.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/500-700-in-45-days-average-student-s-guide-to-success-106524.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/510-to-770-49q-46v-7ir-what-worked-for-me-2-years-176580.html (This one has a file named "GPSC" that seems really good. I didn´t use it, but seems very reliable to practice SC)

My 2 cents:
-After 1 year of study I am able to kill a question in 30 seconds just by seeing what is being tested and what were the possible traps behind it. You will get there too if you do your diligence.
In my first GMAT attempt I got 660 Q48 V31. On my second attempt I got 720 Q50 V37 and here are my findings:

-You have a calculator on the IR section. Use it. In my first attempt, I made the stupid mistake of forgetting this fact, and I ended up calculating everything on the scratch paper. This in turn cooked my brain before it was supposed to.

-Build your stamina. Even if you are a runner or a professional swimmer, you will be out of mental juice by the time you reach the Verbal section. Make sure you prepare properly for this situation before you reach that point on your actual test.

-You don´t need to get everything right to get a great score. In my Q50 attempt I guessed on 3~5 questions that were daunting. I would advise you not to do badly on the first questions, but if you do, you can still pick up. Do not fall for the saying that "if you don´t get the first 10 questions right, you are doomed to failure!". That´s not true. Make sure you don´t make silly mistakes and that you can tackle the easy questions quickly.

-For the AWA I didn´t use Chinese template. Big mistake. I got a 4/6 but a 21% percentile. Now I´m wondering if I have to retake the test again just because of this poor outcome. :cry: Memorize this template and use it on your test. The more you write the better you are.

-Do not focus on the 700 level questions. You will need to solve some but not all of them.

-On the real test, the RC and SC sections were significantly different from anything I had seen (and I´ve seen tons of official questions). Probably they are changing how they test students and most prep companies still need to adapt to that. I may be wrong though...

That´s it. I will do my best to answer questions or provide feedback/advice for those who seek (if anyone can provide some feedback towards my AWA concern, I´d be very grateful)
Last but not least, excuse any misspelling (it´s really late over here).
:done:

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New post 19 Nov 2015, 03:19
Great Post!

I am in the same situation...quite good at Verbal, but miserable in Quant....

What have been your steps to improve your quant?

Above all, once you covered all the quant arguments and built a solid base, how did you go through your CAT? I am realizing that analyzing CAT is the only way to improve, but I would liek to know if there is a specific approach or not..


THanks a lot!
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 04:10
pepo, hi.

For fundamentals, Magoosh´s videos (not the exercises) were very helpful along with the GMAT Club Math book. Every time I faced a new concept, for example how to solve |x+2|>3, I´d go to purplemath.com and search it there to see if I could find anything.
But to be honest with you, the main difference for me, once the basics were through, was GMAT Club CAT (not GMATPrep CAT, as these should be saved for your last weeks of preparation). Do not even check the scores (in my first GC CAT I got Q25) but do go over every single question regardless whether you got that right or wrong (you will take at least 1 hour to go over the entire test) and make an Excel spreadsheet with everything new to you so you can take it with you (on your mobile) and go over it every week (it wasn´t easy for me, I got to tell you that - my spreadhseet had 200 lines, but that´s because I had a lot of gaps).

GMATClub CATs tests several concepts in different question formats so it was easier for me to remember. Do you know what sort of questions are the toughest for you? In my case, I couldn´t solve any of the distance, rate (job),mixture, overlap or weighted average questions - I then searched the forum to understand the idea (not how to solve the problem, but what is really behind the question) and solved enough questions until I was no longer afraid of them (really, afraid!). If you have to contact people over here to understand a specific concept, don´t be shy.

In my case (may not be yours though) even after solving 30 GMAT Club CATs I was getting 44~45 on GMATPrep CAT. That´s when I decided to contact a tutor (Ian Stewart) and only then I was able to push my scores to Q47 then to Q49 and finally to Q50 on the real test.

Let me know if you need anything else.
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Re: Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2015, 06:41
michaelyb thanks a lot for the speedy reply.

So, resuming, after I take a CAT I go over the wrong questions and identify the subject tested. After that, I try to solve as much as questions as possibile in order to familiarize with the topic. Is that right?

Here comes another question: What do I do if my biggest problem is pacing? I am pretty much able to solve every kind of question (from 500 to 700 level), but when I take the CAT I can barely solve just basic questions....


Thanks again for your patience!
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 06:50
pepo

Can you elaborate a bit more? What do you mean by pacing problem? You know your stuff but take longer than 2 min? Or make careless mistakes? Maybe you have a hard time focusing? Can you share a couple of examples from questions in OG or from questions posted in this forum, so I can have a better idea? (If you have an example from OG, just tell me the number of the question so you don´t have any copyright issues, I can check the question in my book).

Let me give you an example: How many distinct positive divisors does 441 have? How would you proceed to answer this question? (don´t just answer it, but try to explain your thought process, if possible)

Best,
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:11
michaelyb wrote:
pepo

Can you elaborate a bit more? What do you mean by pacing problem? You know your stuff but take longer than 2 min? Or make careless mistakes? Maybe you have a hard time focusing? Can you share a couple of examples from questions in OG or from questions posted in this forum, so I can have a better idea? (If you have an example from OG, just tell me the number of the question so you don´t have any copyright issues, I can check the question in my book).

Let me give you an example: How many distinct positive divisors does 441 have? How would you proceed to answer this question? (don´t just answer it, but try to explain your thought process, if possible)

Best,


Ok, I answer your questions:
1) I have a problem with time when I take CAT. I can respond correct the first 8-10 questions, but then, I have to rush because I spend too much time on the first questions.
For this reason I try to go fast from question 1 in order to finish the CAT on time. I tired once to respond questions taking my time and guessing the questions left before time was over but I got a miserable score.

2) About the excercise, I would proceed in the following way: a) Factor 441; b) the factors are: 1, 3, 7, 9, 147, 63, 59; c) the answer is 7.

regardless if the quetion is right or not, this is the way how I work. Hope can give you some helps :)

Thanks again!
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:22
pepo

How about 21? Or 441 itself? You forgot to consider them...
The way to solve this question (which is relatively easy) is as follows:
1) Prime factorize it into: 7^2 * 3^2
2) Take the powers of each prime and add one. So on top of 7 we have the power of 2, which becomes 3. The power on top of 3 is also 2 (coincidently though), which also becomes 3.
3) Multiply altogether: 3x3=9. That´s the solution.

I think you need to learn the techniques that GMAT requires you to know. Otherwise you will indeed run out of time. The concept above is both on the GMATClub Math book (page 4) and in several GMAT Club CATs. And it is tested on GMAT. I think you understand the questions but you may have some work to do to get to the next level.
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:29
michaelyb wrote:
pepo

How about 21? Or 441 itself? You forgot to consider them...
The way to solve this question (which is relatively easy) is as follows:
1) Prime factorize it into: 7^2 * 3^2
2) Take the powers of each prime and add one. So on top of 7 we have the power of 2, which becomes 3. The power on top of 3 is also 2 (coincidently though), which also becomes 3.
3) Multiply altogether: 3x3=9. That´s the solution.

I think you need to learn the techniques that GMAT requires you to know. Otherwise you will indeed run out of time. The concept above is both on the GMATClub Math book (page 4) and in several GMAT Club CATs. And it is tested on GMAT. I think you understand the questions but you may have some work to do to get to the next level.



Ok, assuming that I find this question on CAT and I get it wrong, is right if I write it on the excel spreadsheet and then I cover the argument in order to improve my knowledge of the topic?
after having done this, do I take another CAT, right?

Thanks a million!
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:35
pepo

In your particular case, I think GMAT Club CATs will help you the most. Your action of creating an error log with the concepts and techniques is correct. But you should not take any Official CAT before you are sure all concepts and techniques have been covered and are quickly accessible in your memory. I strongly suggest getting the GC CATs and keep on going every question again and again and again. Once you are able to score Q48~Q50 on them, you can try a GMATPrep CAT and see where you are at. Otherwise you will just waste valuable resources without getting all the return you could get.

Hope it helps!
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:44
michaelyb thanks a lot for your advice! I will do it for sure and will increase my score! thanks!!!! ;)
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New post 19 Nov 2015, 07:47
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pepo

Absolutely! Keep me posted and let me know if you need anything else.

Good luck!
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Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Nov 2015, 21:07
Hey, great post. Kudos to your determination and unremitting search to advance your knowledge and career. I read your advice to pepo and thought I should chime in with my 2 cents. While GMAT club CATs are most definitely excellent study sources, they may not be the most ideal for pepo at this stage. For my first GMAT take, I made the mistake of assuming that my advanced Quant background justified a quick skim of the basics and straight on to the advanced questions on GMAT club. Not recommended, since the outcome for me was - great at the hard questions but shaky on the easy to medium level questions. Magoosh really helped to drive in those basic skills such as the 'exponents of the prime factors' strategy which you just explained. And quite frankly, that's the best prep in order to take on the more advanced GMAT prep questions. Pepo should focus on the basics before diving into the GMAT club CATs... And I highly recommended Magoosh.
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Re: Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Nov 2015, 14:19
Every set-back, is a set-up, for a comeback. It's great to see that all your hard work and determination paid off in the end. Wish you all the best on your future endeavors!
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Re: Underdog comeback - 720 - Q50/V37/IR 5/AWA 4   [#permalink] 26 Nov 2015, 14:19
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