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Luke.Doolittle Rising GMAT Star
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770 (50Q, 46V): Its all about your process Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:34 pm
I scored a 770 today (50Q, 46V) and I am quite happy about it. I am a very process driven person and I wanted to share a bit with you about the process / methodology I used to get here. By the way, the first diagnostic test I took was an MGMAT and I scored a 580 just as a reference point; I am not someone who is naturally good at taking standardized tests.

I want to preface this with the fact that I think EVERYONE should go out and buy the MGMAT Advanced Quant book. It’s great on a lot of levels. Some of the concepts that I mention here are covered in the book and some in more detail. I try to present a broader framework here.

When I first started studying I combed over posts in the experience section as if they were case studies. I looked for people who succeeded and tried to model my study practice after theirs. I always wanted to know the sources of their problems, how much time they spent on each section, etc. While this isn’t a bad practice in general (heck it’s the whole basis for what Tony Robbins teaches), what I am here to tell you is DON’T DO THAT. Do something much simpler: be agile.

The strategy framework I used for scheduling my time is something you will see in everything from problem solving to lean process:
Understand
Plan
Execute
Analyze

You need to understand the problem to be solved (what don’t I know about the GMAT, what areas am I weak in, etc). Then you need to plan a way to get from the current state to some slightly improved, intermediate state (something like complete 5 rate/work problems a day with a well defined process and after each problem determine at least 2 other ways you could have solved the problem). Next you need to execute your plan. And finally you need to analyze the results and determine if you reached your goal state and if not, why.

Most people tend to do the middle two, and usually it goes something like “copy a plan of someone who scored well and do the same problems that they did.” Again, what I am saying is DON’T DO THAT. Everyone is different. You not only need to understand what you need to do to get to your goal state, but also need to periodically analyze if what you are doing is working. Skipping the first and last steps would be like asking the question “how do I get to Chicago?” and then getting an answer like “drive 2 and a half hours south.” That works if your starting point is here in Madison but not anywhere else. Not analyzing would be like not looking at the road signs and the clock to determine if you are going to make it to your destination on time. It’s POSSIBLE to work without doing these things but not OPTIMAL.

So what does this mean in terms of your planning?

Don’t create a grandiose initial schedule. For those of you familiar with Scrum you’ll note that this is similar. You have 2 week “sprints” in which your workload and prioritization are fixed. During this time you simply “play”. At the end of the two week sprint you look back at what you did, pick an improved, intermediate goal state and then decide what you want to try in order to get there. You are flexible and near sighted. It is true you do have an overall goal in mind (usually something like “score a 730” or some such) but there is NO WAY anyone can say what specific steps are needed to get from their current state to the goal state in a complex game such as this.

Get an initial score before you start studying. Read an overall description of the GMAT, such as the one in the OG, and then take a practice test. If you don’t do this there is no way you can understand the problem that you have and thus no way you can move into the first plan phase. It doesn’t have to be a GMAT prep (some advocate saving authentic problems for close to the exam which is fine) but it has to be something that will give you an idea of your current state (Kaplan’s test was fairly accurate for me).

Don’t schedule your exam until you have some idea where your velocity intersects with your goal state. That is to say based on how fast you are currently increasing your score, when will you be where you want to be? You can only determine that after you start studying and tracking your progress.

When taken this way planning and studying for the GMAT (and really the GMAT itself) is actually quite simple. It boils down to using the above process to iterate over study sprints and learn from your mistakes.

But while it is simple, it’s not easy! You’ll have to put in a bit of time and quite a bit of critical thinking. And you’ll fail. A lot. And you’ll struggle to overcome those failures. However at some point this process will allow you will learn to stop thinking about success and failure and to simply acknowledge each event as a lesson learned. After that your ideal score is simply a function of time.

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kevincanspain GMAT Instructor
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Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:26 pm
Thanks for such an valuable post!

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hoji Really wants to Beat The GMAT!
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Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:30 pm
WOW, Great Score, Congratulations!

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Quant ----> 51
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GMAT ----> 750+

Luke.Doolittle Rising GMAT Star
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Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:56 pm
Oh, and THANK YOU to all the users of this board for all the insightful posts and great (and sometimes weird) questions. Everyone here is so friendly!

And a special thank you to Eric for creating this wonderful board. Your work and vision has helped so many reach their goal.

Last edited by Luke.Doolittle on Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:13 am; edited 1 time in total

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AbhiJ GMAT Destroyer!
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:26 am
Double Post

Last edited by AbhiJ on Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:34 am; edited 1 time in total

AbhiJ GMAT Destroyer!
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:27 am
Congratulations Luke,

Awesome score.

You have mentioned that you referred to Doing Grammar and it helped in explining the embedding concept. Do you remember the chapter/topic where it is mentioned ?

immaculatesahai Rising GMAT Star
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:14 am
Woah dude.. Respect !!!

Luke.Doolittle Rising GMAT Star
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:55 am
AbhiJ wrote:
Congratulations Luke,

Awesome score.

You have mentioned that you referred to Doing Grammar and it helped in explining the embedding concept. Do you remember the chapter/topic where it is mentioned ?
Hey AbhiJ,
Its actually most of the book (chapters 6-9 all talk about embedding / modifiers). I think the topic of "modifiers" is probably the one people struggle with the most. Doing Grammar just has a great way of presenting it.

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krishnakumar.ks Rising GMAT Star
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:20 am

And, Thank You for such a valuable post...

sonuk Just gettin' started!
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Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:12 pm
Hi Luke,
Congratulations on great score.
Did you timed your MGMAT test? If yes, how was your performance on math section (number of right/wrong questions)?

Luke.Doolittle Rising GMAT Star
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Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:46 am
sonuk wrote:
Hi Luke,
Congratulations on great score.
Did you timed your MGMAT test? If yes, how was your performance on math section (number of right/wrong questions)?
Hey Sonuk,

I did time my MGMAT test and my timing was so off that I didn't finish the section by 2 questions! I'm not sure of my correct/incorrect number. My quant was better than my verbal though.

iwillsurvive101 Rising GMAT Star
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Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:46 pm
Congratulations on your achievement! 770 is an awesome score.

Few questions on your preparation. Btw, I have similar score on the practice test and I need to raise my level.

-- How many months did you put in.
-- Did you straight jump into the OG after finishing all MGMAT books?
-- What book did you refer to for Verbal, anything else apart from MGMAT?
-- Lastly, can you please share some details on how you approach Verbal Prep. How did you practice verbal on a day to day basis?

Thanks

avanika Just gettin' started!
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Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:12 am
I liked the "Scrum" method that you suggested here in your post. It certainly is going to be helpful

Luke.Doolittle Rising GMAT Star
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Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:36 pm
iwillsurvive101 wrote:
Congratulations on your achievement! 770 is an awesome score.

Few questions on your preparation. Btw, I have similar score on the practice test and I need to raise my level.

-- How many months did you put in.
-- Did you straight jump into the OG after finishing all MGMAT books?
-- What book did you refer to for Verbal, anything else apart from MGMAT?
-- Lastly, can you please share some details on how you approach Verbal Prep. How did you practice verbal on a day to day basis?

Thanks
Time is dependent on your velocity. If you score a 580 on your first diagnostic test, as I did, you then determine your weaknesses, study against them and take another test 2 weeks later and score a 620, you have a velocity of 20 points / week. Divide your goal increase (if you want a 740 that’s 160) by the velocity and you get 8 weeks for your study time. Easy. But velocity can vary from week to week so avoid scheduling out your exam until the last minute. If you can, schedule your exam a week to two out on the day you take a practice exam and hit your goal score. Spend that week or two solidifying the concepts you already know.

There are two ways to think about when to do OG / GMATPrep problems: save them until the end because you should be practicing problems that are closest to the real thing at test time, and start doing them right away because you may run out of prep time and not get through the OG or do all the GMAT Prep problems. I think a hybrid approach works best: start with the OG so that you get the feel for what “real” GMAT problems are like. Then sprinkle in some MGMAT problems, some GMATClub problems, etc for the challenge and different ways of thinking. Each non official problem source has their own bias that makes them non-GMAT like (MGMAT tends to have too many simple arithmetic operations in quant, LSAT tends to have too much formal reasoning in CR, etc) but those biases can actually be helpful in practicing for the real thing.

Although I didn’t intend it initially as such, this post below kind of became a what’s what as far as material goes. That information is based off of posts both here and on GMATClub

http://www.beatthegmat.com/choosing-books-and-strategy-t88551.html#426775

I don’t think practicing verbal is any different than practicing quant (for me at least). Take a diagnostic exam, figure out where you are weak, pick an intermediate goal, determine what you need to do to get there and then practice on a day-to-day basis.

ketavgupte Just gettin' started!
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Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:48 pm
Thanks for this. Short and succint

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