November 23, 2019

Joined: Sep 25, 2019

Posts: 1

Kudos: 5

Self-reported Score:
720 Q49 V40

Improvement 70 Points

Course Target Test Prep Dedicated Study

Location Online

My GMAT journey began in May 2019 and, like the majority of students of the GMAT, started with the purchase of the Official Guide, a ‘thorough' review of Quant section of the material and then a dive straight into the Official practice questions. It is worth mentioning that I am a classically trained linguist and have a solid grasp of grammar and reading comprehension so my ability to score highly in the verbal section of the exam was not in question at this early stage. To provide some context as to my revision schedule, I work in banking and have fairly long hours so my studying midweek consisted of an hour and a half before work (5.00-6.30am) and then two hours after work (9.00-11.00pm), with a solid six hours on both Saturday and Sunday.

I was confident that I understood the theory behind all of the maths being tested and my review of the Official Guide material reassuringly felt like a reminder of concepts I had grasped well at school at school at age 16. When it came to tackling the practice questions, however, including the added element of time pressure, my accuracy was hovering around 50% with only marginal gains as a few weeks went by. I am also fairly confident that any improvement I was making was largely a reflection of question recognition and getting to grips with the question types. After a month of aimlessly trawling through the Official Guide question bank in the hope that the sheer quantity of material and hours spent at the computer would somehow translate to an absorption of knowledge, I realised that my study required more focus and I perhaps did not have the deep understanding of the material that I had convinced myself I had.

At this point, I did my research on GMAT Club to read reviews of other peoples’ experiences with revising for the GMAT and was reassured to find that I was not alone in finding myself at a loss as to why the information simply was not ‘going in’ and the hours spent revising were not being converted into any improvement. The name that kept popping up again and again as being the most comprehensive review of the Quant material was Target Test Prep. I tried the demo for $1 and was immediately struck by how slick and user-friendly the interface was (which is not to be underestimated having tried some of its clunky competitors).

I purchased my first full month midway through June and set to work on making my way through the course. Everything about the course resonated with me, especially the strategy guide that goes into great depth about the importance of active learning, rather than hoping to assimilate information from watching Youtube tutorials and practising endless questions. These certainly have a place in learning, and I learnt a great deal from watching hundreds of Youtube videos, but these should be used to supplement rather than replace the note taking and methodical study required to score highly on the GMAT. I found that the odd Youtube tutorial from GMAT Club or a TTP webinar helped to break up the monotony of pure theory-based learning and I cannot overstate the importance of enjoying the learning process for the GMAT. The TTP course certainly helps in this regard and I was thoroughly enjoying the satisfaction of passing from one topic to the next. There were points when I felt that the end of chapter tests ‘dragged’ a bit and in all honesty there were points where I passed over certain module tests to get to the next chapter to feel like I was making progress. In hindsight, the repetition of material is what makes TTP so relentlessly effective as a learning tool and in order to get the most out of the course, as Scott often says, you need to understand everything so well that recognising what each question is asking becomes habitual and instinctive.

After a month and a half or so of studying the course, I found myself becoming too lax on timing and focused on accuracy to the detriment of speed. While the former is more important in the early stages, I had started pausing questions that I did not fully understand and had started to lose the discipline of timing. I also took this approach on my first couple of GMAT Prep CATs, giving myself the false confidence that it was more important to understand how to do each question correctly rather than simulate accurate test taking conditions (the strategy section of TTP has some quality material on how to approach practice tests - I was too stubborn to take full heed of this to begin with!). I was scoring very highly in the Official practice tests (730+) and had convinced myself that I was ready to tackle the real thing. I booked a test for the end of September, after a two week holiday, during which I revised about 2 hours per day to ‘maintain’ my ability, and had not touched the TTP in the month prior to the exam. I didn’t feel like I needed the course anymore and I had got everything out it. I was wrong.

Going into the exam, I was expecting a score of 720+, which is the required average of some of the schools to which I was intending to apply. Despite doing lots of research of the test centre and what to expect, I was incredibly nervous going into the exam and was feeling a significant amount of pressure having spent a solid four months revising in earnest. The real test felt significantly harder than the practice tests and I was feeling the time pressure more than any of my ‘practice’ tests. I was so afraid of running out of time that I found myself bailing on questions too early when a further 20-30 seconds of investment in each question would have enabled me to tackle questions which I really knew should have been getting right. I knew as I was taking the test that it was not going well and was shellshocked to see a score of 650 pop up on my screen at the end. I collected my paper as I left the exam centre to see a Quant score of 45 and a verbal score of 34 - both were incredibly disappointing and unexpected. (Q45, V34, I6, AWA 6)

Fortunately I had booked a second test well in advance to anticipate the upcoming application deadlines so only had to wait 2 weeks before re-attempting. My concern, which was totally valid, was how on earth I was going to improve my score so significantly to over 700+ in such a short period of time. Furthermore, in my mind I had completed the TTP course, finished all of the GMAT Prep practice tests and watched every YouTube video under the sun. I was at a loss as to where to start and became incredible despondent. Nevertheless I sucked it up and now divided my study 50% between verbal and quant because clearly my verbal needed more work that I had arrogantly led myself to believe. On the quant side, I revisited my notes and went straight back into the Official practice tests because it is easier to keep practising questions rather than assess and address your weaknesses. These two weeks were intensive but unfocused and I was confident that my second attempt would benefit from less exam anxiety, given that I knew what to expect, and attributed my poor first result to nerves.

I took my second exam midway through October and, despite being less nervous, scored a 670 (Q44, V39, I5, AWA 6). The exam felt equally difficult to the first and I was again at a loss as to why the additional 50+ hours of work had only translated to an improvement of 20 points. Not only that but despite my verbal score increasing, my quant score had regressed! At this point, I knew something had to change because I couldn’t keep expecting that the same approach to revising would somehow produce a vastly different result, especially given that again I only had a further three weeks until the third test that I had booked in anticipation of a repeat of last time.

I decided to revisit the TTP course to address my weaknesses and contacted Jeff Miller from TTP to discuss a short term study plan to optimise my revision over the three week period. He sent me a very well-thought out study plan (simple but focusing on quality over quantity) and we discussed the possibility of one-to-one tuition. After a week of independent study, I got in touch with Jeff to update on my progress and we booked in a private 1 hour Webex session to start with. We established that I understood the vast majority of the concepts tested very well, it was now a matter of arming me with the confidence to tackle questions under time pressure that I knew I was capable of answering. There was nothing drastic or magic about Jeff’s teaching, or TTP course for that matter, in the same way that there is no secret formula to scoring highly on the GMAT. I was introspective about what I didn’t know as well I should and we addressed each and every one of those topics. In total, I had about 8 hours with Jeff and we covered all of the areas with which I had previously struggled. After each session with him, I continued to practice the concepts we went through and found additional practice questions on GMAT Club to hone these skills. I actually revised less between second and third exam than I had between the first and second and yet something had clicked and I went into the third exam far more confident of my abilities. My mindset was now one of ‘there is no way I can come out of this exam centre without score above 700’.

I took my third test on 1 November and scored a 720 (Q49, V40, I7, AWA 6). I cannot explain the relief as the score flashed up on the screen and my first reaction was to tell Jeff. Despite not having spent a great deal of time studying with him, I felt that he was now an important part of my journey to achieving that score. Without the foundation that the months poured into the TTP had built, I would not have been able to achieve my score improvements between exams. I cannot recommend the TTP course highly enough and I believe that if I had followed the course to the letter and taken my first test shortly after completing the course, I would not have found myself having to take the test three times to achieve the score I did. Furthermore, I genuinely believe that the 8 hours I spent with Jeff took my GMAT study to another level, if not in terms of ability then certainly in terms of confidence and approach to the test. While the virtual nature of the TTP course is incredibly convenient and well thought out, there is something to be said good old fashioned live teaching.

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