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A Story of Motivation: 650 to 680 to 730

This topic has 4 member replies
marcav Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
09 Aug 2016
2 messages
2 times

A Story of Motivation: 650 to 680 to 730

Post Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:10 am
Hey guys, thought I would share my story with all of you.

I originally set out on this GMAT journey early in 2015 - after finally resolving to attend Bschool. Never having been a strong standardized test taker, I was especially concerned with how I might do (got a 28 ACT and a 1790 SAT). Despite my low-ish scores, I would end up going to a top 15 university (in large part due to family/personal connections, strong grades, and decent essays) Also, as a history major and having almost no true math courses for quite some time (high school), I was especially intimidated by the quant section, knowing I would be competing against true math whizzes and engineers.

I signed up for Manhattan Prep GMAT and took an initial diagnostic exam - I got a 620 (38Q, 36V). I was pleased at my verbal score, but knew the quant would be a real challenge. I studied, was diligent, and took the full online course. Toward the end, I retook the exam with Manhattan and got a 600 (39Q, 34V, IR 4). I was pretty bummed out, and frankly, very demotivated. I felt as if I worked hard and had little to show for it. Frankly taking more practice tests seemed like the most unappetizing thing in the world to pursue, and without the structure of the course to guide me my studying took a nose dive and I quickly lost focus.

After being side tracked with some unfortunate personal things the rest of the year, I had a new year's resolution to turn things around a little bit. I figured I would give Veritas Prep a chance - and see where that led me. I went full bore with Veritas - and went into the mode of taking a practice test every week. These were my results:

Veritas 1 - 620 (42Q, 33V, IR 4)
Veritas 2 -590 (Q37, V35, IR 4)
GMAC 1 - 580 (32Q, 38V, IR 8)
Veritas 3 - 510 (32Q, 33V, IR 5)

After that last Veritas test I pretty much felt awful and totally demotivated - once again. I took a few weeks off in some soul searching - am I really cut out for this? Maybe I'm just not good at standardized testing? Maybe I'm not a quant person and have no business studying business?

Sometime along the way I decided to cut the crap. I got a tutor with Veritas and narrowed my focus to ONLY official GMAT practice questions (I had pretty much taken two full courses at this point!)

I utilized this handy error log (http://www.beatthegmat.com/mba/gmat-error-log) which I can almost single handily point to as my motivator that kept me on track towards the end. After a solid month or so of studying, re-studying, and redoing OG GMAT practice questions, I took another practice test:

GMAC 2 - 670 (44Q, 38V, 8 IR)

After this score, frankly, I was elated. This was the first bit of positive feedback I had since beginning to study at the start of 2015! I took the real thing two weeks later (May 2016) and got:

650 (39Q, 41V, 4.5 AWA, 7 IR)

I felt okay after taking it. Was very surprised at the high verbal score - little disappointed in the low quant score - and super disappointed in the essay! I gave myself two more months to take it again, and this time I went guns ablazing - bought the Extra Practice questions from GMAC, bought the GMAC Quant Review book, and got to work.

I answered EVERY single question in both the OG and the Quant review - and did a deep dive on every question I missed (and I do mean every question) and fundamentally understand what I got wrong, and how to approach it differently.

This is where things began to change a little for me. Instead of dreading the GMAT, looking at these silly math problems as an obstacle, I took it as a challenge and a personal hobby for two months. I would drill on OG problems and review whenever I got the chance - breaks at work, home, random other moments during the day.

At this point, I pretty much resolved to stop taking practice tests (probably wouldn't recommend this for most). I found there was too much variation and frankly it was too demotivating when I performed poorly. I took the real thing once more in mid-July. I got:

680 (45Q, 38V, 6 IR, 6AWA)

Once again, I felt awesome. I could visibly see my quant study work pay off, with a slight ding on the verbal. After the test, and reviewing my scores, I determined that a 45Q and 41V would get me a 700 - the almighty number everyone wants to be at or above. So I said - 'screw it, why not?!' and registered for a mere three weeks later (this past saturday) - all the while keeping my studying routine the same, but mixing more verbal in (I bought the Verbal OG guide and then started to use the extra GMATPrep exam questions in earnest)

I took it again and got my unofficial score report:

730 (48Q, 44V, 6 IR)

To me - this was unbelievable. I was happier than I had been in a really long time. Frankly, I'm still a little bit in disbelief. I'm still anxiously awaiting my official report - just to make it real!!

My key take aways:

- The importance of your own psychology here - and the supporting motivational and behavioral factors. Just studying, doing prep company homework, etc, is not really enough. You have to kind of LIVE the exam for a little while.
- Take the exam not as a matter of your intelligence and self-worth, but as a game that can be mastered.
- A good tutor can be quite helpful - especially in tailoring your study to the questions you get wrong in the OG and how to approach differently.
- Too many practice tests can actually be a really bad thing - especially if you feed too much off of potential negative feedback. I probably wouldn't recommend my approach of ditching the practice exams to everyone though!!
- OG Study Materials and an Error Log. These two things, more than anything, helped me to stay on focus and study the right material. Understanding just about each and every question (on a deeply conceptual level) I think was the number one factor contributing to my improvement.

Glad to be done!

Thanked by: prata
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diegocml Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
15 Mar 2016
67 messages
7 times
Test Date:
Target GMAT Score:
GMAT Score:
Post Wed Aug 10, 2016 4:23 am
Hi marcav,

Congratulations and thank you for sharing your debrief.

All your hard work, dedication and perseverance definitely paid off!


1st GMAT attemp: 410 (Q18 V27)
2nd GMAT attemp: 490 (Q35 V23)

ckking328 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
19 Jun 2016
1 messages
Post Wed Aug 17, 2016 5:27 am
Congratulations! That is awesome! I am currently working on Veritas to get my score up.

Random question - how many hours per weeknight did you study?

I find this to be the most challenging aspect of studying. After a full workday and dreadful commute home sometimes I only feel like I really have an hour or hour and a half to study. I definitely take advantage of that time, but I feel like I should be doing more.

Do you have any thoughts on this or advice?

I appreciate your feedback!


marcav Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
09 Aug 2016
2 messages
2 times
Post Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:02 am
Hey ckking,

I honestly do not know how many hours I studied - I know it was a lot. I think for me personally, it was less about setting aside time to study - GMAT became my mission in life for a little while! Something I really wanted to excel at.

I think it's ultimately a behavioral and psychological change that needs to occur to raise your score - I eventually got to the point where I'd be dreaming about GMAT problems! To some extent, it needs to become an obsession - even if you have limited time I think it's really internalizing the key concepts, recognizing the patterns and even sort of 'daydreaming' about it at work or while driving (although obviously don't do this if it compromises job performance or your safety!!!).

I would find Official Guide problems that look insanely difficult (stuff where GMAT uses massive/super awkward numbers or super tricky assumption or SC) and find the more elegant, instinctive solutions, and really internalize it.

Best of luck my friend!!

Thanked by: ckking328
john80rivera Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
04 Aug 2016
1 messages
Post Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:33 am
Thanks for sharing! I have also started looking at the GMAT Practice Questions as a challenging game and it has raised my motivation towards studying. Best of luck in b-school!

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