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What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650

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What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2018, 12:32
Hi everyone,

First of all, many thanks to all of you dedicated and helpful users out there helping confused and (sometimes) desperate GMAT candidates like myself. I haven't posted here before, but I've spent quite some time reading questions and answers and it has really helped me a lot.

The problem
My target score is 650. I did an official mock test earlier today and scored 540 (Q 33, V31). This would have felt OK, had it not been for the fact that I already studied intensively for over two months (~ 4-5h/day while mainly being busy with school/work etc). When I started, my quant was basically zero (I really mean zero) and I thought I was the born king of verbal. One month ago, I took my first official mock and scored 500 (Q28, V32). I'm taking the official GMAT in mid-January.

My prep so far
- Quant: I've been using Target Test Prep for the past weeks. I've done most of the theory in the course (taking notes) and I'm now just working on revising and working on problems. I previously worked myself through 70 % of the MGMAT Foundations of Quant, but didn't quite like it as I felt I needed more topic-based exercise following each chapter. I keep an error log since two weeks and I have now started going through the OG questions in a structured way (I had done like 150 of them before, but in a very unstructured fashion - not flagging questions I guessed and got right, not reviewing enough etc).

- Verbal: I have been going through the MGMAT book on SC, and I've also used the MGMAT app to do SC questions while commuting. I'm doing OG SC questions when I'm too tired to work on quant, so I dedicate around 5 % of my study time on SC, but looking at my two verbal scores, I now begin to realize that I am farther away from being "king of verbal" than anyone has ever been from being "king" at anything haha... (I know the adaptive nature of the test makes comparisons like these misleading, but this is how my verbal went in more detaik: RC - got 33 % of the questions wrong, SC - got 31 % of the questions wrong, and CR - got 56 (!) % of the questions wrong).

I'm kind of confused right now as to what I should focus my time on. On the one hand, feel that my quant is still very shaky and I'd therefore like to focus around 80 % of my time on quant, but on the other hand, my verbal scores are far from what I would want them to be.

My questions to you guys
1. What should I do next?
2. How do you balance theory and practice questions? I must admit that it feels great to plow through theory chapters and answer a few basic questions in the end, but then when I get to OG questions, I kind of feel lost. I've seen some people here saying things like "developing an eye for the official problems", which is something I feel that I lack. I guess I just answered my own question in a way, but if there's anyone else who either has been in this situation, or has a word of advice, I'd be really glad to hear it.
3. Having started basically from scratch, there has been a lot to cover in terms of topics. I must say, TTP has been of great help here. But what's your philosophy on focusing on a specific topic vs. alternating between topics? I feel that I do have the resources in terms of theory and practice questions to really focus and to master a specific concept, but then I find that I almost forget it completely a couple of weeks later, or at least it feels somewhat forced.
4. Any overall comments on my approach?

Sorry about the long text - if you have any tips or advice, I'd be very grateful!

Cheers
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2018, 14:58
Hi forrestplump,

To start, GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, these 2 CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 520 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. Raising a 520 to a 650+ will likely require at least another 2 months of consistent, guided study - and you'll have to make significant improvements to how you handle BOTH the Quant and Verbal sections. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. With a mid-January Test Date, you have about 1.5 months of study time remaining, but you might actually need more time than that to get to the point that you're consisting scoring 650+.

Before I can offer you the specific advice that you’re looking for, it would help if you could provide a bit more information on your timeline and your goals:

1) Are these the only 2 CATs/mocks that you have taken? If you have taken any others, then how did you score on EACH (including the Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores for EACH)?
2) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
3) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2018, 17:06
EMPOWERgmatRichC wrote:
Hi forrestplump,

To start, GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, these 2 CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (about 520 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the GMAT consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. Raising a 520 to a 650+ will likely require at least another 2 months of consistent, guided study - and you'll have to make significant improvements to how you handle BOTH the Quant and Verbal sections. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. With a mid-January Test Date, you have about 1.5 months of study time remaining, but you might actually need more time than that to get to the point that you're consisting scoring 650+.

Before I can offer you the specific advice that you’re looking for, it would help if you could provide a bit more information on your timeline and your goals:

1) Are these the only 2 CATs/mocks that you have taken? If you have taken any others, then how did you score on EACH (including the Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores for EACH)?
2) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
3) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich


Hi Rich,

Many thanks for your reply.

1) Yes, those are the only ones I've taken. I realize now that I forgot to mention an important detail in my first post - the mock I did today was a retake of the first mock - I did not recognize any quant questions but I did recognize one RC text. First time around, I scored a 590 on that mock. So all in all, I have done these prep exams:

- GMAT Prep 1: 590 (Q36, V35) [mid Sep]
- GMAT Prep 2: 500 (Q27, V32) [mid Oct]
- GMAT Prep 1 retake: 540 (Q33, V31) [early Dec]

I know I paused the IR section a few times in my first mock due to lack of time, so I'm not sure how seriously I took the quant part (I don't remember pausing etc, but this deviation does sound a bit strange to me). Either I must have paused the quant section, or I just have severe knowledge gaps in some fundamental topics.

2 & 3) My plan is to apply in January, but either way, I will probably take the GMAT again sometime in the spring, in order to give it one extra try and thereby also giving myself chance to study more methodically and not rushing things forward. As for schools, I'm not completely sure yet, but it will most likely be a school in Europe.

As for mock exams, I have been a bit hesitant towards spending too much on them at this point - the weekends (when I have 2.5 full days of study time) are sort of sacred, just because I can go in with a fresh mind and have lots of energy to learn new concepts, and the weekend is the only time where it would be reasonable for me to do a mock exam and get an accurate result. I heard someone say that you should not take mocks to often, as it takes time and doesn't really teach you any of the fundamentals, but I might need to change my strategy on this point. My gut feeling is telling me to just go for more OG questions.
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2018, 20:54
forrestplump wrote:
My questions to you guys
1. What should I do next?
2. How do you balance theory and practice questions? I must admit that it feels great to plow through theory chapters and answer a few basic questions in the end, but then when I get to OG questions, I kind of feel lost. I've seen some people here saying things like "developing an eye for the official problems", which is something I feel that I lack. I guess I just answered my own question in a way, but if there's anyone else who either has been in this situation, or has a word of advice, I'd be really glad to hear it.
3. Having started basically from scratch, there has been a lot to cover in terms of topics. I must say, TTP has been of great help here. But what's your philosophy on focusing on a specific topic vs. alternating between topics? I feel that I do have the resources in terms of theory and practice questions to really focus and to master a specific concept, but then I find that I almost forget it completely a couple of weeks later, or at least it feels somewhat forced.
4. Any overall comments on my approach?

Sorry about the long text - if you have any tips or advice, I'd be very grateful!
1. Don't make drastic changes. We can't ignore that you got a 590 on your first test. That said, you should think about why your score dropped on the subsequent tests. Are you trying too hard to apply the concepts you've learned?

2. The questions you do immediately after working through a concept are not as important as the ones you work through (let's say) a week later. Those are the ones that will force you to recall what you learned (they actually contribute to improving future recall as well). So doing theory is important, but that theory must be reinforced through regular testing.

Also, there is no real "balance" as such here. Although the amount and focus of your practice can change, that practice must continue until you take the actual exam.

3. I think focusing on one topic can help, but I'd recommend keeping things interesting by bringing in some variation. That will also help you overcome the "blocks" that you will inevitably encounter, because you'll use your time more productively (on something else) and get back to the problem when you are fresh. At the end of the day, however, this will depend on what you feel more comfortable with.

4. If you have good material, stick with it until you break out of this "plateau". Changing your approach now, without good cause, will just set you back a few days/weeks.
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Dec 2018, 06:36
AjiteshArun wrote:
forrestplump wrote:
My questions to you guys
1. What should I do next?
2. How do you balance theory and practice questions? I must admit that it feels great to plow through theory chapters and answer a few basic questions in the end, but then when I get to OG questions, I kind of feel lost. I've seen some people here saying things like "developing an eye for the official problems", which is something I feel that I lack. I guess I just answered my own question in a way, but if there's anyone else who either has been in this situation, or has a word of advice, I'd be really glad to hear it.
3. Having started basically from scratch, there has been a lot to cover in terms of topics. I must say, TTP has been of great help here. But what's your philosophy on focusing on a specific topic vs. alternating between topics? I feel that I do have the resources in terms of theory and practice questions to really focus and to master a specific concept, but then I find that I almost forget it completely a couple of weeks later, or at least it feels somewhat forced.
4. Any overall comments on my approach?

Sorry about the long text - if you have any tips or advice, I'd be very grateful!
1. Don't make drastic changes. We can't ignore that you got a 590 on your first test. That said, you should think about why your score dropped on the subsequent tests. Are you trying too hard to apply the concepts you've learned?

2. The questions you do immediately after working through a concept are not as important as the ones you work through (let's say) a week later. Those are the ones that will force you to recall what you learned (they actually contribute to improving future recall as well). So doing theory is important, but that theory must be reinforced through regular testing.

Also, there is no real "balance" as such here. Although the amount and focus of your practice can change, that practice must continue until you take the actual exam.

3. I think focusing on one topic can help, but I'd recommend keeping things interesting by bringing in some variation. That will also help you overcome the "blocks" that you will inevitably encounter, because you'll use your time more productively (on something else) and get back to the problem when you are fresh. At the end of the day, however, this will depend on what you feel more comfortable with.

4. If you have good material, stick with it until you break out of this "plateau". Changing your approach now, without good cause, will just set you back a few days/weeks.


Thanks Ajitesh. I find your second point especially helpful - when I think about it, the "forced recall" has indeed been very helpful moments in terms of building a solid foundation in certain areas. I'll think about your advice, much appreciated!
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Dec 2018, 19:01
Hi forrestplump,

Since we're getting fairly close to January, to properly plan out this next phase of your studies, you really need to define the 'specifics' of your situation. We need to know the Schools that you plan to apply to (so we can define the type of GMAT Score that you might need to be considered a competitive Applicant) and the specific application deadlines for each Program (so that we know how much potential study time you have). The process of applying to School - and ultimately attending - requires a big investment of time, money and energy on your part, so if you are unsure about which Programs you want to apply to, then you should take the necessary time to research the options. There's no benefit to 'rushing in' an application if it's not going to be competitive-enough to reasonably earn you an invitation to that School.

"Review" is an exceptionally important part of the GMAT training process; your ability to define WHY you're getting questions wrong is essential to defining the areas that you need to work on (and the specific things that you need to 'fix'). As such, I'd like to know a bit more about your last CAT. While a full Mistake Tracker would provide a lot more information, there are some basic questions that you should be able to answer (and the more EXACT you can be with your answers, the better):

After reviewing each section of this recent CAT, how many questions did you get wrong....
1) Because of a silly/little mistake?
2) Because there was some math/verbal that you just could not remember how to do?
3) Because the question was too hard?
4) Because you were low on time and had to guess?
5) How many Verbal questions did you 'narrow down to 2 choices' but still get wrong?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Dec 2018, 18:56
Hi forrestplump,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First off, you must realize that 2 months of prep is not a ton of study time. Many folks need to study for twice as long as that (or longer) to achieve your score goal. So, as long as you are following a sound and thorough study plan, you will continue to improve your GMAT quant and verbal skills.

Regarding your next steps for quant, you need to continue working through the TTP study plan and FINISH the course. Remember, the TTP course has a fine a balance of theory and practice questions. Every time you complete a chapter, we have you practice 100+ questions per chapter so you can ensure mastery of what you have learned. Regarding alternating topics, you see that the study plan has strategic review quizzes and tests so that you can test yourself on previously learned topics to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. In short, if you complete the TTP quant course, you will be a GMAT quant ninja. I’ll DM you as well so we can discuss all this further.

Regarding verbal, I think you may have underestimated the difficulty of that section, so you need to make sure that you are also spending ample time studying for verbal. Take a similar approach to your verbal prep as you do for quant: first learn the foundations of each individual verbal topic, and then practice that topic to ensure mastery. If you’d like more specific advice on how to study verbal, feel free to reach back out.

Good luck!
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