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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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02 Dec 2018, 13:32
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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02 Dec 2018, 15:58
1
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
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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02 Dec 2018, 18:06
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,

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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02 Dec 2018, 21:54
1
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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03 Dec 2018, 07:36
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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03 Dec 2018, 20:01
1
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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04 Dec 2018, 19:56
1
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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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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17 Dec 2018, 01:16
1
Hi, forrestplump

1. Firstly, it is important to analyze your previous scores. You should check the causes and problems of score fluctuations. Especially your quant core is shaky right now compared to the verbal score. After reflecting on the test result, you’d better set a strategy of improving on. To hit the score 650, you should get 78-79 (total sum of quant and verbal). There are a lot of ways to reach 650, but I recommend you to focus on quant to get solid Q49-50, which means that you can reduce the burden of getting high score on verbal part. (Q49-50 + V30 is enough to get 650)

2. You need to put more effort on learning the basic concepts and theories of math. As a beginner, I used the principle of "Slow, Hand, Detail"​. Solve "slowly " when studying and practicing. ​Solve the problems by "hand " as a rule. (Solve them on paper yourself.) Because understanding how the problems are solved in videos or by tutors was very different from when I solved them by myself. ​When you solve them, you’d better write a "detailed " calculation process without skipping any steps. With this principle, I could establish a solid base that is really important to get the score over Q49.

3. As for quant, it is better to focus on 5 key topics (Integer, Statistics, Inequality, Probability, and Absolute Value) that account for 80% of the GMAT exam. Among them, there could be the weakest part and I recommend you to put more effort on studying that part. You don't have to waste time on the other things that you are good at.

4. To improve on your quant score, at least 2-3 hours studying quant everyday are inevitable, Slow and Steady is the most important things to reach your goal.

As our company is specialized in Quant part and it is much easier to improve quant score , I just want to give you some advice about Quant. First off, focus on 5 key topics (Integer, Statistics, Inequality, Probability, and Absolute Value) that account for 80% of the GMAT exam. Don’t waste your time on the other minor subjects. Then, focus on DS first. There are patterns and logic to GMAT quant problems and you can save a lot of time especially in DS questions. With Math Revolution’s ’Variable Approach’ for DS questions, you can minimize time spent on each question while improving accuracy (solving a question in + having a checking time = 2 minute) On average, our students have about 10 minutes to spare before the exam ends. To briefly explain our ’variable approach’, we apply ’variables–equations matching system’ to the DS questions and work out an answer with high probability. After solidifying your DS base, we teach you IVY approach for PS. Our IVY approach for PS can give you lots of tips and techniques to find the answer quickly and easily. You can quickly solve the questions and have 10 minutes to spare. (More information about our approach: https://www.mathrevolution.com/gmat/vs)

Please let us know if you have further questions.
You can reach us at info@mathrevolution.com

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

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Updated on: 22 Dec 2018, 08:17
Hi ScottTargetTestPrep and EMPOWERgmatRichC,

Thanks a lot for taking your time to help out. Sorry about the delayed response on my end, been super busy with final exams at my university. I have been trying to incorporate your advice into my preparations, but as I've been busy with school, I haven't had as much time as I would have wanted. Anyway, I am now plowing through TTP problems and trying to solve OG questions by categories/topics, in order to try to really get the concepts into my head.

Also, I did my fourth mock test overall today, MGMAT, and scored 620 (Q40, V35), IR 5.9 (looks strange but I assume somewhere between 5 and 6. However, I understand that non-official mocks should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, the Q40 was probably a bit inflated as I got a couple of questions right just by guessing. I'm reviewing every question at the moment so I can spot some particularly weak areas.

I have barely put any time into verbal since my first post in this thread, other than maybe 40 OG questions (CR and SC), and some MGMAT reading (CR and SC). My verbal is on average on a score of 33 over my four mocks (V35, V32, V31, V35), and the lack of improvement makes perfect sense as I have barely put any time into it, but I realize I have to allocate more time to it from now on.

Originally posted by forrestplump on 22 Dec 2018, 07:43.
Last edited by forrestplump on 22 Dec 2018, 08:17, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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22 Dec 2018, 07:47
Hi MathRevolution

Many great tips, thanks a lot. I've seen some of your posts on different GMAT forums - I'll make sure to check it out further. Thank you!
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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650  [#permalink]

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22 Dec 2018, 07:53
Hi EMPOWERgmatRichC, ScottTargetTestPrep and MathRevolution,

I had to pass the 5-posts requirement before being allowed to upload images or links, but here's the MGMAT summary from today's mock.

Not sure if it will tell you anything in particular, but if it gives you any ideas, I'd be happy to know.

Thanks again and enjoy your holidays!
Attachments

MGMAT - Summary.png [ 206.02 KiB | Viewed 495 times ]

MGMAT - Verbal Overview.png [ 154.35 KiB | Viewed 495 times ]

MGMAT - Quant Overview.png [ 141.86 KiB | Viewed 492 times ]

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

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26 Dec 2018, 07:10
Update: Just finished my third official GMAT Prep mock and got a 650 (Q41, V38; IR7). Much higher than expected, but then again I had a couple of correct guesses on quant that probably inflated my score a bit. Still need to brush up on a few important topics. Took your advice about verbal ScottTargetTestPrep and tried to work on some CR and SC on the side of my quant preparations, and also tried to incorporate the other advice that I received by you guys in the thread. I'll post a more thorough post after my official GMAT with some sort of summary of what helped me the most, in case there are others who are in a similar situation.

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

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26 Dec 2018, 18:00
Hi forrestplump,

Unfortunately, because a practice exam is such a small sample size of questions, there is not a huge takeaway from that data. At this stage, your best bet is to continue working through the TTP course until completion, and as mentioned before, put a lot of time into your verbal prep.

I know we have been speaking over PM, so if you have any further questions, feel free to reach out.

Let’s do this!!
_________________

# Scott Woodbury-Stewart

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Scott@TargetTestPrep.com
122 Reviews

5-star rated online GMAT quant
self study course

See why Target Test Prep is the top rated GMAT quant course on GMAT Club. Read Our Reviews

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Re: What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650   [#permalink] 26 Dec 2018, 18:00
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# What am I doing wrong? 540 after two months of prep - need 650

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