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530 to 700 in 3 months- possible? best strategy/study plan?

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530 to 700 in 3 months- possible? best strategy/study plan?

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Hi all,

Just wanted to ask if it's possible to get an increase from a 530 to 700 in 3 months? Here is the background story:

Current materials:
- Kaplan 2019
- Manhattan Review books

1. Took the Kaplan CAT Practice Test first week of January cold. I got a score of 520

2. Went through the Kaplan 2019 book and did all the quant and verbal practice questions. Took another Kaplan CAT practice test and got a 530


That's when I realized that maybe I'm not studying the right way? I took note of my weak areas based on the practice tests but I'm lost on what's the best way to tackle this. Do I go through one problem area until I get a good enough score before moving to the next? Or will that take too long?

I also decided to buy the Manhattan book set as the forums have been recommending them and I am considering on signing up with EmpowerGMAT as well. I'm also considering that should I not get my goal score on exam day to take it again.[/list]

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GMAT/MBA Expert

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Hi mgec0424,

To start, a 520 is a decent initial CAT Score (the average Score on the Official GMAT hovers around 550 most years). Scoring 530 on your second CAT isn't necessary a 'bad' thing either - since it takes time to properly use what you've learn and adapt your approach to the overall Exam. Many Test Takers spend 3 months (or more) of consistent study time before they hit their 'peak' scores, so now we should be looking to make this next phase of your studies as efficient as possible.

Before I can offer you the specific advice that you’re looking for, it would help if you could provide a bit more information on how you've been studying and your goals:

Studies:
1) What type of study schedule have you been following? How many hours do you typically study each week?
2) What were the Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores for your 2 CATs?

Goals:
3) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
4) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

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

_________________
Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

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Hi mgec0424,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. To answer your first question, NO, it will not take too long to individually learn each quant and verbal topic. In fact, rather than relying on the data from a practice exam (a very small sample size), the best way to improve your quant and verbal skills is to follow a study plan that allows you to individually learn each topic, starting with the foundations before moving to more advanced concepts. By following such an approach, you can ensure that you methodically improve your GMAT quant and verbal skills and leave no stone unturned. I realize that you want to be done with the GMAT in 3 months; however, keep in mind that you could need more time. In that case, would you be able to take the GMAT at a later date? In any case, here is some specific advice you can follow to improve your quant and verbal skills.

Say, for example, you are learning about Number Properties. First, you should develop as much conceptual knowledge about Number Properties as possible. In other words, your goal will be to completely understand properties of factorials, perfect squares, quadratic patterns, LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, and remainders, to name a few concepts. After carefully reviewing the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions, practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties. When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type. As you do such practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills.

Each time you strengthen your understanding of a topic and your skill in answering questions of a particular type, you increase your odds of hitting your score goal. You know that there are types of questions that you are happy to see and types that you would rather not see, and types of questions that you take a long time to answer correctly. Learn to more effectively answer the types of questions that you would rather not see, and make them into your favorite types. Learn to correctly answer in two minutes or less questions that you currently take five minutes to answer. By finding, say, a dozen weaker quant areas and turning them into strong areas, you will make great progress toward hitting your quant score goal. If a dozen areas turn out not to be enough, strengthen some more areas.

You can work on verbal in a similar manner. For example, let’s say you start by learning about Critical Reasoning. Your first goal is to fully master the individual topics: Strengthen the Argument, Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, etc. As you learn about each question type, do focused practice so that you can track your skill in answering each type. If, for example, you get a weakening question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize the specific question type? Were you doing too much analysis in your head? Did you skip over a keyword in an answer choice? You must thoroughly analyze your mistakes and seek to turn weaknesses into strengths by focusing on the question types you dread seeing and the questions you take a long time to answer correctly.

When practicing Reading Comprehension, you need to develop a reading strategy that is both efficient and thorough. Reading too fast and not understanding what you have read are equally as harmful as reading too slow and using up too much time. When attacking Reading Comprehension passages, you must have one clear goal in mind: to understand the context of what you are reading. However, you must do so efficiently, so you need to avoid getting bogged down in the details of each paragraph and instead focus on understanding the main point of each paragraph. That being said, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can just read the intro and the conclusion and thereby comprehend the main idea of a paragraph. As you read a paragraph, consider how the context of the paragraph relates to previous paragraphs, so you can continue developing your overall understanding of the passage. Furthermore, as you practice, focus on the exact types of questions with which you struggle: Find the Main Idea, Inference, Author’s Tone, etc. As with Critical Reasoning, analyze your incorrect Reading Comprehension answers to better determine why you tend to get a particular question type wrong, and then improve upon your weaknesses. You can perfect your reading strategy with a lot of practice, but keep in mind that GMAT Reading Comprehension passages are not meant to be easy to read. So, to better prepare yourself to tackle such passages, begin reading magazines with similar content and style, such as the Economist, Scientific American, and Smithsonian.

Sentence Correction is a bit of a different animal compared to Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. There are three aspects to getting correct answers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions: what you know, such as grammar rules, what you see, such as violations of grammar rules and the logic of sentence structure, and what you do, such as carefully considering each answer choice in the context of the non-underlined portion of the sentence. To drive up your Sentence Correction score, it is likely that you will have to work on all three of those aspects.

Regarding what you know, first and foremost, you MUST know your grammar rules. Let's be clear, though: GMAT Sentence Correction is not really a test of knowledge of grammar rules. The reason for learning the grammar rules is so that you can determine what sentences convey and whether sentences are well-constructed. In fact, in many cases, incorrect answers to Sentence Correction questions are grammatically flawless. Thus, often your task is to use your knowledge of grammar rules to determine which answer choice creates the most logical sentence meaning and structure.

This determination of whether sentences are well-constructed and logical is the second aspect of finding correct answers to Sentence Correction questions, what you see. You must develop your skill in seeing what is going on in the various versions of the sentence that the answer choices create. To develop this skill, you probably have to slow way down. You won't develop this skill by spending under two minutes per question. For a while, anyway, you have to spend time with each question, maybe even ten or fifteen minutes on one question sometimes, analyzing every answer choice until you see the details that you have to see in order to choose the correct answer. As you go through the answer choices, consider the meaning conveyed by each version of the sentence. Does the meaning make sense? Even if you can tell what the version is SUPPOSED to convey, does the version really convey that meaning? Is there a verb to go with the subject? Do all pronouns clearly refer to nouns? By slowing way down and looking for these details, you learn to see what you have to see in order to clearly understand which answer to a Sentence Correction question is correct.

There is only one correct answer to any Sentence Correction question, there are clear reasons why that choice is correct and the others are not, and those reasons are not that the correct version simply "sounds right." In fact, the correct version often sounds a little off at first. That correct answers may sound a little off is not surprising. If the correct answer were always the one that sounded right, then most people most of the time would get Sentence Correction questions correct, without really knowing why the wrong answers were wrong and the correct answers were correct. So, you have to go beyond choosing what "sounds right" and learn to clearly see the logical reasons why one choice is better than all of the others.

As for the third aspect of getting Sentence Correction questions correct, what you do, the main thing you have to do is be very careful. You have to make sure that you are truly considering the structures of sentences and the meanings conveyed rather than allowing yourself to be tricked into choosing trap answers that sound right but don't convey meanings that make sense. You also have to make sure that you put some real energy into finding the correct answers. Finding the correct answer to a Sentence Correction question may take bouncing from choice to choice repeatedly until you start to see the differences between the choices that make all choices wrong except for one. Often, when you first look at the choices, only one or two seem obviously incorrect. It may take time for you to see what you have to see. Getting the right answers takes a certain work ethic. You have to be determined to see the differences and to figure out the precise reasons that one choice is correct.

To improve what you do when you answer Sentence Correction questions, seek to become aware of how you are going about answering them. Are you being careful and looking for logic and details, or are you quickly eliminating choices that sound a little off, and then choosing the best of the rest? If you choose an incorrect answer, consider what you did that resulted in your arriving at that answer and what you could do differently in order to arrive at correct answers more consistently. Furthermore, see how many questions you can get correct in a row as you practice. If you break your streak by missing one, consider what you could have done differently to extend your streak.

As with your Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension regimens, after learning a particular Sentence Correction topic, engage in focused practice with 30 questions or more that involve that topic. As your skills improve, you will then want to practice with questions that test you on skills from multiple Sentence Correction topics.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

In order to follow the path described above, you may consider using an online self-study course. To see what is available, check out the course reviews here on GMAT Club .

You also may find my article with more information regarding
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT helpful.

Feel free to reach out with further questions.

Good luck!

_________________

Scott Woodbury-Stewart
Founder and CEO
scott@targettestprep.com



See why Target Test Prep is rated 5 out of 5 stars on BEAT the GMAT. Read our reviews

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