490 to 740, Verbal 45 - The GMAT Crush Fest

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It was nice to finally be able to celebrate a little bit after being done with the GMAT. I'm pumped to officially add my name to the GMAT 700 club. Here's how it all went down.

3.5 Months

The Tools
2015 GMAT Official Guide, Verbal Review and Quant Review
GMAT (3 Months)
CliffsNotes Math Review for Standardized Tests
Old LSAT books for CR and RC (wouldn't have used them, but still had them from when I was thinking about law school)
Veritas Quiz Bank

GMAT Prep (2 free tests)
GMAT Exam Pack 1 (2 paid tests)
Manhattan GMAT Tests (took 4)

Early Phase (disorganized lost puppy)
I underestmated the test at first. I ordered the GMAT Official Guide, and downloaded the official tests, and was foolhardy about how the GMAT was going to play out. I can tell you exactly why I felt that way too. I tried a few questions here and there and I got most of them right, so I naturally tried to extrapolate "I got this!". No, I didn't. I ate it, and wasted about 2 or 3 weeks doing unstructured practice questions out of the Official Guide, and my 2nd practice test score was almost exactly the same (490 and 500). It was so deflating.

Me and The GMAT 2.0
I needed more structure. I signed up for the GMAT and now I want to tell the whole world about it. AWESOME! If you're serious about beating the GMAT then you need to add that program to your arsenal now. My confidence grew right from the start. From the intro all the way up to the last lesson, you feel you've had a team of GMAT ninjas with you the whole way.

TEST DAY: 740 Q47 V45 IR6

General Things That Helped Me Improve On Quant
Quant was by far my biggest concern. I did okay in financial accounting in college, but that's about it for me for the last 5 years. I started out in the low 30s, so I needed a serious upgrade on quant. I followed the GMAT program systematically, so I built up my math background and strategy concurrently. I also spent a lot of time investigating my mistakes and watching the explanation videos religiously. I shed stupid old habits like getting caught up on a question for 7 minutes, and was instead saved by triage. I learned that in many questions, algebra is for suckers and that the test it tactic is so much faster.

General Things That Helped Me Crush Verbal
Here are the things that I worked on methodically to crush GMAT Verbal:
- Not skimming. I've read about some people who advocate reading certain sections of a passage, or getting too hung up on keywords. I think that's dumb. There are way too many questions you just couldn't answer if you skim. I paid crazy attention to everything I read. I pretended that the clock wasn't even running when I read, even during the real test. The surprising thing is that although it felt like I was moving slower, my pacing was actually a little bit better because I was able to cut out a lot of re-reading. Most importantly, the amount of interest that I put into the prompts and passages felt really good. There's a certain sense of comprehension that I know if I can get, I'm going to nail the question and the more I'm interested, the more I feel like I can grasp the material.
- I also think it's important to use all of your time, and resist the urge to try to finish early, and invest it in the right places.
- With RC and CR I had a bit of an odd situation because I prepped a little for the LSAT when I was in college. Since I still had those books, they gave me some extra practice, but LSAT CR and RC are noticeably harder than GMAT CR and RC and there were a lot of things I saw in the LSAT materials that never showed up in my GMAT practice (and not on the GMAT either). I went from 31 to consistently 42 or better consistently on my practice CATs, and even as high as 45 on Exam Pack 1. I'd say that was really due to using the right tactics tough. The CR box, and RC ladder helped to make CR and RC really easy to manage.
- You want to get to a point where you know exactly what each type of CR and RC question wants you to do, and that you know the patterns of the wrong answers. At first it might seem like a blur, but you want to get to a point that you just know what kind of information you're looking for.
- You have to know your SC errors cold and you know how to identify each one from the answers and the original sentence itself.

Other Resources That Helped Me Along The Way
GMAT Official Guides - Having this huge block of questions was essential. I found the explanations to be coy and tedious, but the questions can easily be Googled.
CliffsNotes Math Review for Standardized Tests - Even though this is more of a general book, I actually found it really useful for basic math brush-up (algebra, arithmetic, number rules, etc.).
LSAT Books - I still have my old Test Masters LSAT books but there's really a lot of non-GMAT material in there. The books break down 66 flaws of reasoning, for example. Total overkill for the GMAT.
Veritas Quiz Bank - For a free resource, the Veritas quiz bank is great! One thing I really liked about it is that in question review mode, it shows you the question difficulty percentage so you can compare your performance to other test takers.

Rather than being haphazard about it, having a specific game plan in place, and being methodical about each process was key. I think that anyone can improve with a specific plan, the right tools, and determination to develop the necessary skills.

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by staunchMBAican » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:48 pm
Great summary, and thank you for sharing the resources you used. I was at Barnes and Noble and found the Math Review for Standardized Tests and I see what you mean. I picked it up. There are lots of exercises for things like decimals, fractions, radicals, exponents, algebra, etc. Very useful. I'm checking out all of the other resources you mentioned too. Do you happen to know off hand which LSAT question types that are not GMAT relevant? Thanks for your time and for offering your wisdom.

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by a.reddking » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:53 am
Super helpful post!!

I'm interested in hearing more about how you studied? Can you tell me how many days a week/hrs a day you studied? I have empower, & I have a 3.5 month timeline so I'm interested in how you got through the material.

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Hi staunch,

You're welcome. I actually don't know if I'd recommend using the LSAT material to prep for the GMAT if I were starting out from scratch. I happen to have my Test Masters LSAT books from the course years ago, so using that material wasn't by design.

On the plus side, the questions tend to be tougher which is good to calibrate so that GMAT questions feel easier. On the downside, there are a lot of questions types that are not relevant to the GMAT, such as parallel reasoning, and point at issue. The RC passages are way longer than on the GMAT, and the questions are just different, so I think you'd need an expert to guide you through how to use LSAT material for the GMAT if you were to use it at all. I think you'll be in good hands with all of the other resources.

Hi a.reddking,

That's actually a pretty good question. First, after those initial weeks when I realized how much more seriously I had to take preparing for the GMAT, I realized that I had to make a choice since my 50 hour work week couldn't budge. I either had to cut back on my social life or the GMAT. Take a guess which choice I made? I basically sent out a press release to my friends and family that I was on GMAT lock down. I'd see them for holidays or birthdays. Other than that, don't expect to see me as much. Considering how much impact this test could have on my life, I figured that if these people really cared about me, they'd understand.

Prep Routine I like lists in general because I think that they can be miraculous to increase personal and professional productivity, and make me more accountable for my time. I used lists in 3 ways to make the most out of the GMAT course.
1 I followed the study plan rigorously. I printed out the 3 month study plan and mapped out when I'd do each item, and then proudly checked each item off.
2 I kept a list of insights that resonated with me, content items I needed to spend more time on, and tactics I knew I needed to keep working on.
3 I made heavy use out of my error log spreadsheet. I think that this was key to put the hard truth in front of my face. You may think you know what the problem is, but until you examine the problems you don't ever really know. For example, my error log made the reality that most of my silly mistakes were because I wasn't reading carefully enough. I think that's something I probably would have overlooked had I not been investing time in my error log. I also used my error log for questions in the OG and the Veritas quiz bank.

Weekday routine: If you're curious about the time I spent, I did things like idiom review in the morning during breakfast, or watching explanation videos from the quizzes. In the evening I'd do at least a module and sometimes 2 depending on how long they were and allowing time for my lists/notes

Weekend routine: I'd set aside a few hours to get out of the house and to hang out with my girlfriend, but then spend everything else I could on training. I got a lot done on weekends. Getting through all of the material and other resources wasn't a problem. Some things I did multiple times.

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by rmt99e » Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:42 pm
Thanks for the insight! I too started with practice exams and quickly realized I had to go back to the basics of math and verbal and study the content/methods/rules before going to the next level of test prep. I am using Manhattan Prep's materials - Going through their "fundamentals of math" and "fundamentals of verbal" prior to starting my 10wk live course. I feel like it's a smart way to start.