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730 (Q49 V40) - Voila!


iisan
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Just got back from the test center. I am in a state of trance: one that is not so much from the score, but from the four-hour grueling ordeal. With this four-hour climax, thank goodness my six-week-long trial by multiple-choices is finally over!

 

I am a tad, just a tad, disappointed with my quant score for I spent 80% of my prep time toward math, but my verbal score, right on target, greatly helps in overcoming that disappointment.

 

Thanks to Erin for founding and maintaining this wonderful forum, to my fellow TestMagicians for their virtual, yet symbiotic, relationship with me, and, most of all, to my wife for putting up with my complete neglect of her in the past few weeks leading to the exam and for tolerating my occasional mood-swings.

 

I will post a debrief, for whatever its worth, perhaps over the weekend. Now it's time to just chill with Mr. Black Label and some real food. :D

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iisan, i got a taste of math skills on this site, but i never knew you were that good in verbal too!!! but man your score was not a surprise for me, i knew it was coming. mate congrats for the score, and a humorous foreward prior to the de-brief, have any tips on quant for me, as you can judge from my name i am really scared, if my quant goes well in the test i will just blast the verbal section, i haven taken a date for april and am looking at a score upwards of 700. Do keep me posted on where did you get through finally.

The material that i have for Quant is as follows OG 10, OG 11 and few other sets. After your experience of the test what do you suggest for the quant section, keep in mind that i am below avg. in maths. Need your advice.

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Thanks for your wishes, mathphobia.

 

I am probably not the best person to give you tips on how to improve math, because if I were to choose a different handle than my current one, I would choose mathphilia:-). And, since I couldn't improve my quant score much between the diagnostic test that I gave six weeks ago and the real one, you are probably be better off getting tips from someone who did significantly improve by following certain strategies.

 

Having said that, thanks to my prep, I did feel a lot more confident going into the real exam than I did during the diagnostic test.

 

If I were you, since you have sufficient time to the D-Day, I would focus on learning the fundamentals behind the problems that I am getting wrong. For example, if a question tests me on y-intercept of a line, in addition to just understanding how to solve that particular problem, I would refer to a high school mathbook or a trusted internet site to understand other properties of a line, say, x-intercept, slope, how to get an equation of a line with one point and slope, two points,... etc., and do a lot of problems to test the concepts.

 

And make your learning fun. There are websites that make it fun. Use them to find problems that are fun to solve.

 

Good luck!

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Thank you all for the wishes.

 

Sorry about the delay in writing the debrief. Since the test, I have been vacationing in a place with poor internet connection.

 

Anyway, here goes for whatever it is worth.

 

Background:

 

Non-native, Engineer with a Masters, 35

 

This is my second attempt. I took the GMAT once before in 2001 and scored a 680 (Q48 V35). Although I thought the score was a bit low, I decided not to retake since my engineering grades are good. (I remember feeling for blood in my nostrils after the test and swearing that never will I put myself through this crap again… So much for that!)

 

Because of various reasons, I couldn’t apply seriously to b-schools during the past six years. When all the stars aligned finally, my scores had expired, forcing me to retake.

 

This time around, I started my prep with the GMATPrep mock test (Test1) on 11/18 and scored a 690 (Q49 V35). As I was confident that by clearing the cerebral cobwebs and improving my stamina I can bump my score up by a few points, I scheduled the real test for 12/26. I figured the weekend and Christmas should be helpful, just in case I needed to crunch material at the 11th hour.

 

Materials Used:

 

Following are what I used for my 6 week prep:

 

Official Stuff:

 

-OG11

-OGQR (not needed if you are scoring 45+)

-OGVR (additional practice)

Other Stuff:

 

-MGMT SC Guide

o I believe this covers about 70% of the SC concepts. But if want to cover the rest, you need to scour the GMAT related web-sites

 

-PowerScore Logical Reasoning Bible

o I got this book because I thought that the method the book employs – translating the CR verbiage to logic equations – would be helpful. But after 100 pages I realized that I first need to unlearn my natural way of solving before I can learn the techniques the book teaches. As I didn’t have the time, I stopped

o Buy it if you have enough time and money ($$$) to spare

 

-The latest LSAT test sets

o Solved only a few questions as I didn’t have time.

 

Quant Preparation:

 

Most of my quant prep was through this site. I am grateful to the contributing members for that. I came across this site in the summer of 2006 and have been solving problems on-and-off ever since.

 

My weak areas are circle geometry and number theory. With circle geometry, I guess I didn’t learn as well I thought I did during my school years, and with number theory, I didn’t have any formal course to fall back on. For both these subjects, I just picked bits and pieces as I solved the many problems that came my way. And I relied heavily on the math sites in the web (wiki, mathworld, mathref,.. etc.,)

 

In parallel, I solved all the problems in OGQR and about 50 problems each of DS and PS in OG11. Except for a few, I found most of the problems were below 45-46 difficulty range. But I went through them anyway to refresh the known concepts.

 

By the way, when I was learning new concepts, often times I would delve much deeper than is necessary for GMAT. Even though this might have hurt me from a time view-point, learning incremental, new stuff helped me keep my energy level and motivation up. If you feel that your energy level is sagging, I strongly recommend that you keep giving yourself a continuous dose of problems that you find exciting.

 

And also, if you are learning any new concept, please solve as many related problems as possible. If you hope to solve such problems in the real test, you have to make the concept second thing to nature. Just knowing the principles without much practice will not help you.

 

Verbal Preparation:

 

In a way, I started my verbal prep right after my first GMAT attempt. English, being my second language, was never my forte. The GMAT score only underlined that fact. Since I felt I needed to improve my English anyway, soon after the test, I bought a few books (“Elements of Style” by Strunk & White and “The New York Public Library’s Guide for Usage and Style”) and subscribed to a couple of magazines (The New Yorker and The Economist). It turns out that Strunk & White will be the best $7.95 that I’ll ever spend and The New Yorker will be the best magazine I’ll ever read!

 

In the six weeks leading up to GMAT, I finished all the SCs, about 100 CRs, and about 50 RCs from OG11 and OGVR. Before working with the OGs, I also finished the MGMT SC Guide. I reviewed a couple of notes out there (Spidey’s and Sahil’s), but didn’t spend too much time on these. I knew my verbal fundamentals were fragile, and felt that the last thing I needed was some erroneous information messing them up. So I stuck with established material.

 

For SC, the most useful concept – apart from the standard MGMT ones – that I learned during my prep was the placement of modifier words or phrases. I feel that the questions in the 35 to 40 range are predominantly those that test this concept. I did not learn any new formal grammar rules during this time, as I couldn’t find a reliable, comprehensive guide that covered all the usage and exceptions. I decided that no knowledge of such concepts was better than half of it. With my luck, I was sure I would be tested on the half that I didn’t learn!

 

For CR, as I mentioned before, I dabbled with the PowerScore book, but didn’t finish. My approach to the CR problems was to read the stimulus, identify the logical fallacy, if there is one, or the argument type, read the question stem, and pre-phrase the answer before going through the answer choices. It worked for most questions.

 

For RC, I didn’t use any prep material. But it is where I improved the most, and a bulk of the improvement came during the last week. Initially, I used to read the passage carefully once, gathering as much as I can, and then answer the questions. With this method, I was getting quite a few questions wrong. Later, I tried improving my hit rate by coming back to the passage more often. Still, no luck. Finally, I decided to screw the time constraints and understand the passage as thoroughly as I can. This time around, as I read the passage, I talked to myself, asking what the author is trying to argue for, what is his or her tone, how the paragraphs are connected etc.,. Once I finished the passage, I took a deep breath, quickly reviewed the passage for about 10 to 20 seconds before moving on to the questions. This time, my hit rate improved significantly.

 

When my RC hit rate improved, I observed something interesting: the software started throwing at me harder CR and SC questions, many of which I could solve, thus giving me a better chance at a higher verbal score. Even though this is obvious on hindsight, I didn’t realize this early on and, therefore, didn’t pay much attention to increasing all three areas of verbal concurrently.

 

D-Day:

 

Contrary to the popular advice, I did three GMAT Prep tests (Test 2 and two re-installs) in the last three days leading to the exam. The last few days were when I spent the most number of hours per day toward GMAT. This is what I have always done for any test and decided to do the same for GMAT as well.

 

My slot was for 2:15. I showed up with a few cookies, chocolate, and a flask full of coffee. After the initial formalities, I was checked in.

 

My center did not have a noise-cancelling headphone. It did, however, have a regular headphone and a pair of ear plugs. Since I have never used those ear-plugs, I stuck with the headphones initially. But later, when I was in my verbal, the noise was too much to bear, so I switched to the ear-plugs. I was uncomfortable for a few minutes, but the stress of the exam took over and I became oblivious to the discomfort. I suggest you do your practice exams with the ear-plugs.

 

The erasable pad and the marker were ok. You should be fine as long as you don’t use subscripts or superscripts in your algebraic equations. If you are someone who chooses variables with subscripts, drop the habit and choose different characters instead of subscripts.

 

The analysis of argument went well. I should have got the maximum. The analysis of issue was ok. I rambled on a couple of paragraphs with a couple of examples. I am not good at writing comments on random topics; my scope is either too wide or too narrow. (My scores should have arrived. I hope it is above 5.)

 

During the break, I had my dose of chocolate, caffeine, and nicotine. For quant, I told myself that I’ll not spend more than three minutes on any question, come what may. The first few questions were straightforward. Then it started getting tougher. I do not like back-solving. I never solved any that way during practice. But I felt there were a couple of problems – with multiple possible answers – that had to be back-solved. I hated it. As if the computer understood my emotions, it started throwing more and more of such problems. Since I had a mental block against back-solving, I couldn’t focus even when I tried doing so. So I guessed and moved on. And there was one question that I swear had complex and imaginary roots in its path to the answer. This took me by surprise. I again guessed and moved on.

 

As I was going through the test, it was clear that the test was having a very difficult time in predicting my ability. In the practice tests, when I hit 50 or 51 – usually when I hit 51 – the difficulty level drop significantly as if the computer just wanted to get the section over with. But when I hovered around 48 or 49, the difficulty level usually keep oscillating between tough and medium.

 

Anyway, when I reached the final question I had 10 minutes on the clock. I felt slightly bad that I had guessed a few questions along the way. But my brain was such a mush by then, I told myself to screw the past and move ahead. On the whole, I got a couple of geometry (medium difficulty), one probability (easy), a few power and series (medium), and a bunch of algebra (easy to hard). I don’t remember seeing any divisibility or hard number properties questions. I would say that the questions posted in this forum (including the easy ones) represent the difficulty you would see in the test. In fact, the questions posted in this forum are more difficult than the actual test. This is to be expected, I suppose.

 

I went through the same routine during the second break, only increasing the quantities of consumption of each item. Perhaps because of the time spent on this increased consumption, I ended up starting my verbal a whole three minutes late. There were signs on the doors in my test center that said that the test time will not start till the proctor logs-in the computer. Since that is what my proctor did during the first break, I had assumed the 10 min break rule was test-center specific. Stupid me. Anyway, since verbal is not my forte, I told myself that the lost three minutes would not really impact the final verbal score that much and moved on.

 

I seriously think the test-makers have a team of people who scour the preparation sites and forums to collect the general myths about GMAT and then debunk them. There were a few questions, particularly in the beginning, that tested these myths (use of “being”, for example). SC in general had a slight off-beat flavor to what is typically seen in OG or MGMT. But CR and RC were similar to OG. I was behind time throughout (duh!) and had about 10 minutes for the last 10 questions. And this is when I got a very simple, yet devious RC. One of the sentences in the passage just didn’t fit with the rest. I would have re-read the passage, which thankfully was short, at least four times; it still didn’t make any sense. I cursed at the screen and proceeded with the questions. I think I got at least one question wrong here... The last four questions were blind guesses as I was racing to finish before the time ran out.

 

After all the god-knows-what survey pages, 730 popped up. I felt for blood in my nostrils and swore that never will I put myself through this crap again, and left the building.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

I strongly believe that there are no shortcuts to a dream score. The test-makers try very hard to accurately estimate your quant and verbal ability. To reach their goal, they make sure that they put you in a spot of intense stress with various camouflages in the answer choices so that, at least most of the time, only the person with true ability can pick the right choice. Compounding the test-makers tactics are the baggage and clutter – nervousness, not refreshing the known concepts enough, less stamina, less focus… – the test-takers bring to the table. I feel that most of the people who improve their scores dramatically in a short period of time do so by addressing their own baggage and clutter. So my advice to the aspirants is to focus hard on what you can control.

 

In my case, just before leaving for the test I had told a little prayer that let my true ability be judged. I was not greedy and felt 720 is my potential. And I am glad that the test score reflected my ability.

 

PS: GMAT is a test administered by an American organization for admission into, for most part, American universities. Just as you familiarize yourself with American idioms, if you have time, familiarize yourself with American history as well. This will greatly help you in RC. (For example, I remember having great difficulty – with an OG’s RC passage – in figuring out whether Jim Crow was a good or bad person, only to find out later that it is in fact a fictional character that stereotyped blacks in the 19th and early 20th century. This knowledge, which probably most folks put through American educational system have a decent idea of, would have immensely helped me with that passage.)

 

PPS: Please excuse the length and errors, particularly the ones of interest in GMAT land. I am woefully short on time to proof-read.

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  • 3 years later...

needless to say, GMAC, ETS all these are not non-profit organization. Their target groups are those students who are nervous , less confident and those who will eventually retake the exams. GMAC spends millions of dollars for these test. The have to make up that money somehow.

 

Some of the craps that GMAC throws to make a candidate nervous are:

 

1) unfriendly proctor ( like the police at immigration and custom who never smiles )

2) finger prints and all those mumbo jumbo. Either it goes to FBI or Home Land security or to garbage.

3) GMAT is 60% preparation + 40% mumbo jumbo + 0% luck.

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  • 1 year later...

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