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How to Increase from 650 to 780!

This topic has 3 expert replies and 3 member replies
maddiggity Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
18 May 2017
Posted:
4 messages

How to Increase from 650 to 780!

Post Thu May 18, 2017 9:18 am
Hi everyone!

I have been stuck at 650 for some time now and would really appreciate some feedback or some ways that I can improve my scores, figure out my weaknesses, and study more strategically.

I know that I can increase my score because once I read the explanations for problems, I understand why I got the problem wrong very easily. I went to UC Berkeley (3.6 GPA, B.S. in business from the Haas School of Business) for undergrad, had a 4.7 GPA in high school, and passed all my AP exams. I also do not start work for another 1.5 months so I have a lot of free time right now (I am allocating this time to study for my GMAT). I am used to normally seeing positive results after putting in effort, but it seems as though my score is stuck beneath a ceiling. Since I have not started work, I am really short on money and already pushed my funds when purchasing the Manhattan Prep Books. I saw some posts with similar stories to mine and they recommended getting a tutor, but honestly, I can not afford that. I am really frustrated and know that I can do better but I am not sure how and would LOVE feedback and support.

I have purchased the Manhattan Prep GMAT Books as well as the Official Guide Books (haven't quite looked at them yet. hehehe) and the Kaplan GMAT Premier 2016. I have taken 6 practice tests so far.

KAPLAN:
CAT 1: 590 IR2 Q41 V30 (April 8) ~~This was kind of my diagnostic test
CAT 2: 650 IR4 Q44 V35 (April 10)

At this point, I purchased the Manhattan Prep Books and went through all of them and the practice problems provided.

KAPLAN:
CAT 3: 640 IR7 Q44 V34 (May 4)
CAT 4: 630 IR3 Q44 V33 (May 8) ~~I was really tired when I took this test and my mom kept interrupting my exam
CAT 5: 660 IR6 Q46 V34 (May 10)

Manhattan Prep:
CAT 1: 650 IR 4.5 Q44 V35 (May 17)

Analytical Section:
I usually finish my essays with ease and have 5 minutes to spare even after checking my essay for errors. I have compared my essays to the ones in the Kaplan book and I think I should be getting 5/6 essays, but am not too sure. Considering paying for the GMAT Write.

IR Section:
When it comes to the IR section, either the questions seem super easy or extremely difficult. On the tests with the low IR scores, I had difficulty in simply trying to figure out what the questions were asking. I also often run out of time before I can finish the questions because I sometimes don't figure out how to answer the question until I have worked out some scenarios, which leads me to realize how to actually answer the question and then I spend time calculating the right answer. The fact is, I know how to answer the questions, but it is just taking me awhile to figure out how to answer them and to figure out what the question is asking.

Quantitative Section:
I almost always finish my quantitative section with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare. I have always been a fast test taker (idk if that's a good or bad thing. ahahahah) and usually finish sections early (did so for almost all standardized tests including SATs, all those random tests they gave us in high school, and even finals in college).

It seems as though I at least one problem wrong in every category type. But I have noticed that I struggle more with Combinatorics, Consecutive Integers, Exponents and Roots, Divisibility and Primes (for Data Sufficiency), Geometry, Inequalities, and Percents. In response, I will review the problem and redo it later on and try to learn from the concept. I have reviewed those sections in the Manhattan Books and the Kaplan Books, but when the next question comes on the next test, I feel like I haven't made much progress. What should I do here?

Sometimes I get questions wrong from simple mistakes but most of the time it's because I am just confused on how to do the problem and when I try to work out different scenarios, I get even more confused. At this point, I just make my best guess (I typically get these questions right) or I randomly select an answer when I really have no idea. When I review my tests, I got through the problem and try to understand the reason why I got it wrong and then I redo the problem later (so that I wouldn't have memorized the answer). When that same or a similar problem comes up on the next test, I can handle it with no problem, but I feel like I need to understand the methods more, but even when I apply the methods learned from the books, I am still confused during the test.

Verbal Section:
I also finish this section about 10-15 minutes early.

For the sentence correction, I have noticed that I get confused with idioms easily. I am a native English speaker, but when I have choose between two phrases, I get confused. I have spent some time reading and memorizing idioms, but I feel like I can't memorize all of them and often forget them. oops! I have also noticed that I will get modifiers confused and add extra modifiers when they are not necessary.

For Critical Reasoning, I often get half of them wrong (Razz). I normally get stuck between the out-of-scope answer that is meant to throw you off and the actual answer. It's so frustraatttiinnggg!!! Okay, calming down now. Anyway, I also feel like for half of questions that I get wrong, I really have no idea what the author is saying. I separate the premises from the conclusion and try to look at only what is provided in the blurb but I feel like I often don't know where the author is going with something.

For Reading Comprehension, I will get like one passage all correct and then like half or more wrong on the other passages. I know that you are supposed to separate your own knowledge from what is provided, but there are some passages that I really don't understand and get bored while reading. I try to tell myself to just read the passage and act as if I am going to explain it to someone later, but then I get confused on words and jargon. There are times when a detail question will ask me a question and it is based upon a word that I don't know. Even when reading the sentences around it and trying to pay attention to the tone and words used, I struggle with trying to figure out what the author is trying to convey. When I read the passages, I typically feel like I have a good grasp of what's going on. I create passage maps and write down topics, scope, and purpose on my scratch paper. I typically get main idea questions right but get confused on specific detail (I have difficulty finding all the details of the passage, especially if I can't understand what's going on, unless I paraphrase like each sentence and write it down [I find that when I do this, I have enough time to finish and actually do a bit better, but sometimes I still get the questions wrong bc I get confused]).

I also get confused on inference questions for both RC and CR. I am not sure why, maybe because I am having difficulty finding the argument and trying to see what the author is assuming? I am not sure.

I am planning on taking the test on June 24th and am pretty much free every weekday and when I am not busy serving at church, so any advice or tactics on how to improve my score are greatly appreciated! This is my first time posting and I have never really done this before, so please go all out with what you think is wrong with how I am studying, how I can improve, or any questions you may have. thanks so much!



Last edited by maddiggity on Tue May 30, 2017 6:32 pm; edited 1 time in total

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maddiggity Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
18 May 2017
Posted:
4 messages
Post Tue May 30, 2017 6:20 pm
Hi everyone. Today I took another Manhattan Prep and scored 620 (IR 3 Q42 V33). I was unable to study for a week or so. I am wondering if maybe that contributed to my lower score.

I tried a different tactic of paying more attention to the questions and working on solutions a bit more and actually finished my quantitative section right on time instead of way ahead.

I did, however, finish my verbal section 24 minutes early, even though I spent a lot more time outlining the passages and reading the questions. For the Critical Reasoning questions, I have been able to narrow down the answer choices to two potential answers, but on the ones that I got wrong, it was because I chose the wrong answer of the two potential answers. I feel stuck and frustrated. Please help!

Post Wed May 31, 2017 6:42 am
maddiggity wrote:
Hi everyone. Today I took another Manhattan Prep and scored 620 (IR 3 Q42 V33). I was unable to study for a week or so. I am wondering if maybe that contributed to my lower score.

I tried a different tactic of paying more attention to the questions and working on solutions a bit more and actually finished my quantitative section right on time instead of way ahead.

I did, however, finish my verbal section 24 minutes early, even though I spent a lot more time outlining the passages and reading the questions. For the Critical Reasoning questions, I have been able to narrow down the answer choices to two potential answers, but on the ones that I got wrong, it was because I chose the wrong answer of the two potential answers. I feel stuck and frustrated. Please help!
There's no magic formula, but here's what I suggest: give yourself a little time before you take your next exam. You've taken 5 this month. That's not unreasonable, but when you're not seeing a positive trajectory, it's helpful to take a step back and see if you can tweak your approach. First, review the 7 tests you've taken again. Boil down the issues into 4-5 concrete strategic adjustments you can make before the next test. Maybe you can be better at picking easy numbers for tough algebra problems. Maybe you need to drill away on exponent problems, etc.

Next, try to adjust your mindset. Once you get caught in the cycle of "I need to improve, why am I not improving, oh no, it's getting worse!" the struggles can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Take the emotion out of it. This is a game that you're attempting to master, and, so long as you keep calmly assessing problem areas and addressing them, in time you'll get where you need to be. Don't read too much into each practice exam score. See it as an opportunity to see what's working and what isn't. If you find the frustration difficult to shake, try working in some mindfulness meditation, which research has shown to be beneficial for test-takers: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/05/study-meditation-improves-memory-attention/275564/

Once you've broken down the old tests, done some drilling, and practiced a bit of mindfulness, take an official test. Repeat the process. Then check back in and let us know where you are.

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Post Sat Jun 03, 2017 10:41 am
Hi maddiggity,

Based on everything that you've written, there are a variety of different issues to discuss:

1) You've been studying for about 2 months. Many Test Takers spend 3 months (or more) of consistent study time before they hit their 'peak' scores, so it's likely that you just have not put in enough time and effort yet to have scored higher. In that same way, you might naturally improve with time. However...
2) Many Test Takers who use a 'book heavy' study approach end up getting 'stuck' at a particular score level - and that appears to have happened to you as well. GMAC has publicly stated that the Official Score that you earn on Test Day is within +/- 30 points of actual ability. Assuming a similar 'swing' in how your CATs function, your 5 recent CAT score results show that you essentially performed the same each time (640 +/- a few points). You handle certain aspects of the Test consistently well, but you also make certain consistent mistakes. You appear to have 'self-taught' your way to this score level, but "your way" of approaching the GMAT is potentially keeping you from scoring any higher than that.
3) A 780+ is a score that over 99% of Test Takers will never hit, regardless of the number of time that they take the Official GMAT. As such, that goal isn't particularly realistic. Thankfully, no Business School actually requires applicants to score that high - so it's important to remember that the score that you "want" and the score that you "need" (to get into your first choice Business School) are NOT the same thing.
4) Finishing the Quant or Verbal sections early is NOT a good thing - it almost always means that you've 'rushed' through certain questions (and gotten them wrong) when you could have slowed down, taken more notes, done more work (or double-checked the work that you did do) and picked up some points.
5) Your CAT scores that you're a strong critical thinker, but you haven't focused enough on learning/practicing Tactics and learning the various built-in patterns that occur on the GMAT. All of that knowledge/activity will likely require that you invest in some new, non-book study resources.
6) You don't want to spend much money on the process. While that's a perfectly fine sentiment, you might look at all of this as more of an investment in your future. A few hundred dollars spent in the near term could potentially be worth millions of extra dollars to you later on.

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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Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

maddiggity Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
18 May 2017
Posted:
4 messages
Post Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:02 am
Thanks for the advice everyone. I took a couple days off of studying and just took some time to relax and take a break. I plan to take the test on June 24, so about a week and a half from now. In the meantime, I have been reviewing old tests and I went through all of the practice questions in the Official GMAT Guides for Quantitative and Verbal Review 2017. I am planning on taking a official practice test either this weekend or next week and will let you know about how it goes.

In terms of schools, I think that 720 is a bit more realistic at this point. I want to go to USC, but am also considering UCI, UCLA, Claremont, UC Berkeley, and Harvard.

maddiggity Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
18 May 2017
Posted:
4 messages
Post Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:03 am
I am also planning to apply in a couple of years, but I wanted to get my GMAT out of the way so that I don't have to worry about studying for it while I am working.

Post Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:28 am
Hi maddiggity,

GMAC has just announced that - starting July 11th - Test Takers can choose which the order in which they take the sections of the GMAT (from among 3 options). This could be significantly advantageous, especially for those Test Takers who tend to get too tired to perform at a high level later on in the Exam. As such, you might want to consider rescheduling your GMAT until later, so that you can have that option too. The extra study time might also be helpful for your preparations.

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

_________________
Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

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