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HELP! Bombed the GMAT and Need to Retake in 1 month

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armani8 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
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HELP! Bombed the GMAT and Need to Retake in 1 month

Post Sat Oct 31, 2015 4:49 am
I took the GMAT yesterday and totally bombed it. I was averaging high 600 to low 700 on my practice tests at home so I thought the worst I could do was somewhere in the high 600s. I got 580 and both my quant and verbal scores were lower than even my worst practice test.

I haven't decided exactly when to retake the test but it will be sometime in December. So I have about 4 weeks to study. I don't know how to study to retake the test. I don't think it was a matter of not knowing the material so I'm lost on how to study. Anyone have advice on how I should approach this?

Thanks!

Some background info: I took the GMAT 4 years ago right out of college just to have a score just in case I decided to go back to school. I got a 680 then and while it is pretty good, it is not good enough for my dream school. I studied with Princeton Review 4 years ago but this time I decided to self-study since I don't have enough money to afford test prep classes.

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Post Sat Oct 31, 2015 6:59 am
armani8 wrote:
I took the GMAT yesterday and totally bombed it. I was averaging high 600 to low 700 on my practice tests at home so I thought the worst I could do was somewhere in the high 600s. I got 580 and both my quant and verbal scores were lower than even my worst practice test.

I haven't decided exactly when to retake the test but it will be sometime in December. So I have about 4 weeks to study. I don't know how to study to retake the test. I don't think it was a matter of not knowing the material so I'm lost on how to study. Anyone have advice on how I should approach this?

Thanks!

Some background info: I took the GMAT 4 years ago right out of college just to have a score just in case I decided to go back to school. I got a 680 then and while it is pretty good, it is not good enough for my dream school. I studied with Princeton Review 4 years ago but this time I decided to self-study since I don't have enough money to afford test prep classes.
Outliers happen. Spend a little time on the forums here and you'll find plenty of instances of test-takers doing 100 points better or worse than they'd ever done on a practice exam. There's every reason to believe that your score will be more in line with your practice tests scores the next time you sit for the exam. However, it's still worth trying to diagnose what may have gone wrong this past time. Were nerves an issue? Timing?

(If nerves were an issue, I'd suggest incorporating some mindfulness meditation in your routine: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/05/study-meditation-improves-memory-attention/275564/

And if you're looking for some free resources for a bit of additional practice in the coming weeks, check out our question bank: http://www.veritasprep.com/gmat-question-bank/

Last, if you haven't done so yet, it might be worthwhile to pick up the latest exam/practice questions from mba.com: http://www.mba.com/us/store/store-catalog/gmat-preparation/gmatprep-software-study-collection.aspx

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Post Sat Oct 31, 2015 12:56 pm
Hi armani8,

I'm sorry to hear that Test Day didn't go as well as planned. When these types of score drops occur, the two likely "causes" involve either something that was unrealistic during practice or something that was surprising (or not accounted for) on Test Day.

If you can answer a few questions, then we should be able to figure this out:

When you took your CATs:
1) Did you take the ENTIRE CAT (including the Essay and IR sections)?
2) Did you take them at home?
3) Did you take them at the same time of day as your Official GMAT?
4) Did you ever do ANYTHING during your CATs that you couldn't do on Test Day (pause the CAT, skip sections, take longer breaks, etc.)?
5) Did you ever take a CAT more than once?

It's possible that you just had a "bad day"; but if we can figure all of this out quickly, then you shouldn't wait too long to retest.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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armani8 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
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Post Sat Oct 31, 2015 3:07 pm
Hi Rich,

Here are my answers to your questions:

1) Did you take the ENTIRE CAT (including the Essay and IR sections)? - I always took the entire test every time. I wanted to make sure that I had the stamina to make it through the 4 hours on actual test day.
2) Did you take them at home? - Yes
3) Did you take them at the same time of day as your Official GMAT? - Pretty much. I may have taken a test either half an hour before or after the same time but I tried to stick to same day/same time as much as possible.
4) Did you ever do ANYTHING during your CATs that you couldn't do on Test Day (pause the CAT, skip sections, take longer breaks, etc.)? - No. But now that I think about it, I would take approx. 4 minute break and then come back to my computer and sit there for the next 4 minutes until the next section started again. But during the test, the moment I went back into the room, I had one minute to start the next section.
5) Did you ever take a CAT more than once? - The CATs I took were new CATs. I had never taken them before.

The one thing that did happen was I "lost" my ID before the test and I stressed out until I found my ID again. I thought that I calmed down enough to take the test because I felt fine during the essay and IR section. But after the first break, when I saw the first quant question, I had a mental block and could not figure out how to answer the first question. I decided to guess after 4 minutes on the question and try to do better on the next questions. I had one CAT where even though I got the first question wrong, I got the next 10 questions correct and was still able to get a good score on the quant section so I figured I could do the same thing on the real test. But as I got closer to the end of the quant section, I just knew that I had messed up on it. I'm guessing that carried into verbal because when I got my score at the end, I was definitely shocked by how badly I did on the verbal section.

I guess it was a "bad day" but I'm worried about having another "bad day". I'm usually very good when it comes to taking tests. I've never been one to stress or worry about a test but after what happened yesterday, I'm not sure how to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again.

Post Sun Nov 01, 2015 10:38 am
Hi armani8,

From what you described, there are some potential 'red flags' in how you studied and they could very well have influenced your performance on Test Day.

I have a few additional questions about the lead-up to Test Day and Test Day itself:

1) What did you do during the last 3 days before your GMAT?
2) How did you sleep the night before Test Day?
3) How long was the ride to the Test Center from your home?
4) Were there any distractions at the facility or during the Test?
5) What did you do during the two 8-minute breaks?
6) Did you finish any sections early?
7) Did you have to rush to finish any sections (and guess on questions just to finish on time)?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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armani8 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
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Post Sun Nov 01, 2015 5:32 pm
Hi Rich,

Here are my answers to your follow up questions:

1) What did you do during the last 3 days before your GMAT?- I took 1 last practice CAT 3 days before the test and then spent the remaining days reviewing the areas I felt I needed to review the most.

2) How did you sleep the night before Test Day? - The night before the test was actually the best night of sleep I had in the last few weeks leading up to the test.

3) How long was the ride to the Test Center from your home? - About one hour.

4) Were there any distractions at the facility or during the Test? - Other than losing and finding my ID before the test, I did have problems with the palm scanner. Every time I took a break, the palm scanner had trouble reading my hand so I spent a lot of timing having to go through the process of scanning both hands twice before they could manually verify my identity and let back into the room after each break.

5) What did you do during the two 8-minute breaks? - Both breaks, I had a snack and took a bathroom break. But the second break, I spent that time trying to pull myself together because I knew I did bad on quant section and I didn't want to mess up on the verbal section as well.

6) Did you finish any sections early? - I ended up finishing both the quant and verbal sections with 20 minutes to spare. On practice CATs, I typically finish quant with less than a minute to spare and verbal with 20 minutes to spare.

7) Did you have to rush to finish any sections (and guess on questions just to finish on time)? - No.

Thanks!

Marty Murray Legendary Member
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Post Sun Nov 01, 2015 8:29 pm
Quote:
I ended up finishing both the quant and verbal sections with 20 minutes to spare.
HELLOOOO

You could probably solve half of your problem right there.

There is no good reason to finish early unless you somehow feel that you are getting 100% of the questions in a section right even though you are finishing early.

Doing well on verbal is so much about seeing key things. That unused 20 minutes could have been used to spend another two minutes on each of ten questions, looking at details and making sure your answers were correct. Let's say you got ten more verbal questions right. That would drive your verbal score up, roughly, 10 points, which would drive your total score up, rather roughly, 100 points. Bingo, you are in the high 600's.

Now be more careful in quant and get six more right, and you are in the low to mid 700's.

Game. Set. Match.

You have about four weeks? Awesome.

Someone currently working with me had been preparing for 2 years and still was scoring in the low 600's. Like you, he knew much of the GMAT stuff there is to know, but that knowledge was not translating into his goal score. What did he need to do? For one thing when he was doing verbal questions, rather than trying to use gimmicky strategies, he had to be careful to get to really understand what is going on in the questions and answer choices and to use tight logic to find his way to answers. Guess what. After only a few weeks of working on both quant and verbal, using a more careful, logic based approach, he recently took a practice test and scored 730. So overall approach is key.

For this next month of preparation, my recommendation is that you slow down when practicing verbal questions and really seek to see the details and logic of the questions and answer choices. Make everything you do so clear and so tight that whether you are calm or tired, nervous, and stressed you can get right answers to verbal questions close to all of the time. I am SURE that you can achieve this by adjusting how you are handling verbal questions.

Similarly, for quant you probably need to similarly tighten up your overall way of handling the questions. If your ways of handling the test and the questions are tight and solid, you won't see such score swings. For one thing, given that you didn't feel that you were doing well on quant, you should have taken ALL of the time, to get as many right answers as possible, rather than rushing and finishing early.

Overall something about the way you have been handling the test and the questions needs to be more solid and thoughtful.

By the way, did you drink a bunch of coffee on test day? I mean from what you describe, it sounds as if you were on some kind of rush that did not work for you.

Anyway, for quant, keep finding and working on weak areas. The Veritas Question Bank that David mentioned can be pretty good for that, and the question bank at http://bellcurves.com is pretty good too, and can be broken down into lots of categories for targeted practice. You can access the latter by setting up a GMAT practice account.

I think that by basically just tightening up what you are doing and maintaining your cool you can pretty easily hit your score goal.

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armani8 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
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Post Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:15 am
Hi Marty,

I absolutely agree that tightening my approach and keeping my cool are key.

Timing is something I worry about. I worry about getting stuck on even one question and then not having enough time to finish the section. Obviously I have time to spare with verbal and will work on slowing down. I need to find the right balance of working at a good pace on quant and working a little slower on verbal.

On the actual test, I lost focus. I spent over 4 minutes on the first question and I freaked out about not finishing the section and clearly went too fast in hopes of making up for lost time.

I never really thought about the extra time on the verbal section because I have never been good at verbal and so that fact that I was scoring in the mid 30s was good enough for me. I felt I had more control over doing better on quant than verbal and so I focused more of my efforts on quant.

I'm not a coffee drinker at all! I am a person who probably has too much on my plate though so I think my root problem is my fear of not having enough time.

Thank you so much for the tips and advice! I do have one question. Do you think it's just a matter of practicing for verbal or should I be studying more content? I'm confident that slowing down on RC and CR will make a difference but SC is different. It's more rules than logic. I used Manhattan GMAT books for verbal.

Marty Murray Legendary Member
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Post Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:24 am
armani8 wrote:
On the actual test, I lost focus. I spent over 4 minutes on the first question and I freaked out about not finishing the section and clearly went too fast in hopes of making up for lost time.
I have seen high 40's quant scores achieved even with bogging down on certain questions and spending around 7 minutes on one. Your timing position can look terrible, but if you keep your cool and just focus on getting right answers you can still get a high score. I have guessed at the end of a quant section, doing three questions in probably one or two minutes and still scored 49.

Quote:
I never really thought about the extra time on the verbal section because I have never been good at verbal and so that fact that I was scoring in the mid 30s was good enough for me. I felt I had more control over doing better on quant than verbal and so I focused more of my efforts on quant.
From what you are writing here it sounds as if you are ready to score on verbal much higher than mid 30's. Scoring high on the GMAT verbal section is much just about being careful and noticing the logic of what is going on. For CR, for instance, the only rule you need to know is that an inference has to be clearly true given the information provided. Other than that you can get 100% of CR right just by being careful and logical. RC works similarly, and all of GMAT verbal tests skills much like those used to handle the quant questions.

Quote:
I'm not a coffee drinker at all! I am a person who probably has too much on my plate though so I think my root problem is my fear of not having enough time.
Fear is not really a useful thing. Work on being fearless in everything you do. It's one thing to be concerned about not having enough time. It's another freak out over it and thus sabotage your own performance.

Quote:
I do have one question. Do you think it's just a matter of practicing for verbal or should I be studying more content? I'm confident that slowing down on RC and CR will make a difference but SC is different. It's more rules than logic. I used Manhattan GMAT books for verbal.
Most of getting a higher score in verbal is about practicing to get better at seeing what is going on. Even SC is way more hackable than you are perceiving it to be. One guy currently working with me went from scoring V27 to scoring V43, and much of the increase can be attributed to his learning to hack SC questions. For someone who is as familiar with English as you are, there is usually a path one can find to getting to a correct SC answer. There are often multiple decision points, for one thing. So even if you are not sure about one decision point, you can use another to figure out which answer choice is best. That being said, likely there are some key things, concepts and conventions, that you could learn more about to increase your SC score. You may want to go over your practice tests to see exactly what in SC you don't get. Then you could focus on learning about those things.

I have learned more SC rules and concepts lately, long after scoring 51 on verbal, LOL.

I want to reiterate that from your posts, you sound close to scoring significantly above 40 on the GMAT verbal section. Just by being more confident that you can score high in verbal and by using that 20 minutes likely you could score V40, close to it, or even above it. With some preparation you will score even higher. Too funny that your perception of this situation is so different from reality.

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Post Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:45 am
HI armani8,

With all of the information that you've provided, there are a number of different factors that would have impacted your performance on Test Day. Here they are, in the order that you provided the information:

1) Taking the CATs at home, while convenient, is NOT realistic. Beyond the obvious environmental differences, when combined with the 1-HOUR trip to get to the Testing Center, you were simply not properly prepared for your specific Test Day 'event.' The details matter, so you have to account for them during your practice. If you have to travel for an hour before taking your GMAT, then you should consider traveling for an hour before taking your CATs.

2) How you handled your breaks. You're not allowed to just sit at your workstation during your break. While you didn't know that, the fact that you were forced into a shorter break would have impacted your normal 'routine' and mindset.

3) Losing your ID and the hand-scanning issues also would have been distracting.

4) Taking a CAT in the last 3 days before your GMAT was probably not a good idea. Taking a FULL CAT is a tiring experience, so it's possible that you were a little tired before your Official GMAT.

5) Finishing EACH of the Quant and Verbal sections 20 MINUTES EARLY. Those 40 minutes of extra time would have given you more time to take notes, do work, double-check that work, etc. This hints at a lack of overall discipline and a weak sense of 'where you are' during a section; however you practiced, you didn't properly hone those skills.

Thankfully, all of this is 'fixable' - but it implies that the resources/plan you used before didn't properly train you to face these issues.

1) How long have you been studying?
2) What resources did you use during your studies?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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Post Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:33 pm
Rich.C@EMPOWERgmat.com wrote:
Taking the CATs at home, while convenient, is NOT realistic. Beyond the obvious environmental differences, when combined with the 1-HOUR trip to get to the Testing Center, you were simply not properly prepared for your specific Test Day 'event.' The details matter, so you have to account for them during your practice. If you have to travel for an hour before taking your GMAT, then you should consider traveling for an hour before taking your CATs.
I will definitely take that into account for next time.

Rich.C@EMPOWERgmat.com wrote:
Taking a CAT in the last 3 days before your GMAT was probably not a good idea. Taking a FULL CAT is a tiring experience, so it's possible that you were a little tired before your Official GMAT.
I agree I might have pushed myself a bit too much in the last few days before the test.

Rich.C@EMPOWERgmat.com wrote:
Finishing EACH of the Quant and Verbal sections 20 MINUTES EARLY. Those 40 minutes of extra time would have given you more time to take notes, do work, double-check that work, etc. This hints at a lack of overall discipline and a weak sense of 'where you are' during a section; however you practiced, you didn't properly hone those skills.
Both you and Marty have mentioned my timing. What happened on quant was not typical and I know what I need to do to fix what happened on that section so it doesn't happen again. I will definitely work on slowing down on the verbal section.

Rich.C@EMPOWERgmat.com wrote:
1) How long have you been studying?
2) What resources did you use during your studies?
1) I have been studying for 2 months
2) I started off using Kaplan's book to review and the Official Guide for practice questions. Based on how I did with those two, I decided to get Advanced Quant and all 3 verbal books from Manhattan GMAT. I have also been reviewing study guides that people have posted on this site and I used Target Test Prep's trial access for 5 days to get some extra quant practice after reading reviews about them.

Post Tue Nov 03, 2015 9:33 am
Hi armani8,

Many Test Takers spend 3 months (or more) on their studies before they hit their 'peak' scores, so it's likely that you just have not put in enough study time yet. There's also a potential issue with a 'book-heavy' study plan; many Test Takers end up getting 'stuck' at a particular score level when studying with that type of plan, so you might also be inadvertently limiting your improvement. This is all meant to say that you might need to invest in some non-book resources and give yourself enough time to properly train with them.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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armani8 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts
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Post Sat Dec 12, 2015 9:44 pm
Hi everyone!

I just wanted to update you on what happened since this post. I retook the GMAT last week and scored 720 - Q49, V-39! Thank you all for your advice and help!

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Marty Murray Legendary Member
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Post Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:49 am
Nailed it. Boom Exclamation

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Post Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:53 am
Hi armani8,

That's outstanding news about your Official GMAT Score. You clearly made the necessary adjustments to how you were studying and 'responding' to the GMAT and put together a fantastic performance. With a 720/Q49, you're in position to apply to any Business Schools that interest you, so you shouldn't hold back when it comes to your applications.

1) What Schools are you planning to apply to?
2) When are you planning to apply?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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