660 to 710 [92% (Q44, V42)] mixed feelings...mostly happy!

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So I took the GMAT today and got a 710. First I felt relief: I crossed 700! Then I I felt joy: I was in the 92%ile. Then I felt a little dissapointment with the splits coz I was hoping for a quant 47 and a verbal 45. But all in all, I'll take my 710 (a jump of 50 points!) and barring an exponential improvement in my mathematical knowledge in the next 4 months, my GMAT journey is over. Will have a longer debrief in the coming days!

BTW: Verbal kicked my ass.... VERY suprising...

SEE FULL DEBRIEF BELOW!!!
Last edited by zuleron on Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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by dmateer25 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:03 am
Congrats, Zuleron!

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by zuleron » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:00 am
Thanks! I have to say the experience the 2nd time round was much more fun. I actually enjoyed the quant but must have had a string of wrong answers due to poor time management coz there wasn't anything that I couldn't handle... i just had to rush more than I wanted.

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by crackgmat007 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:05 am
Congrats.

What was your verbal score in the first attempt & how did you improve - if you did? Tx.

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by abhasjha » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:09 am
awaiting the second part of your debreif . Would like to hear whether solving such a large part of the GMAT prep - quants question bank was helpful .

Yes zuleron you got it right - here i am talking about the 199 +99 questions of gprep - quant section.

In case it was helpful - i would like to hear in detail in what ways . I can get some sense beacuse you mentioned in your last post that "solving quant was fun - and there was not anything which you could not handle"....

waiting to hear more on this .....

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by zuleron » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:34 pm
FULL DEBRIEF

710 (Q44, V42)

Good score but not elite.

Background
Native speaking lawyer. Last math class before my first attempt in April 2009 was in 1994.


Prep.
July 2009: Intense and dedicated use of MGMAT quant books for 1 month where I focused on learning content. I made notes and flash cards. and did all the 'in action' problems. In retrospect this is where I learned the most.

August 2009: Ignored GMAT prep for 1 month coz of family and professional reasons. Also, I think I burned myself out by doing too much in July.

Sept 2009 and Oct 2009: Feeling that I had improved my content knowledge I started practice in a haphazard fashion because I was working full time and doing a Calculus class as well as a Discrete Math class so time for GMAT practice was limited. However, doing Calculus and Discrete Math certainly didn't hurt... (more on this later).

October 31, 2009(one week before G-day): I did GMAT Prep II and got 710 (Q44, V42). So GMAT Prep is SUPER accurate. The biggest issue was in quant where I got questions 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 all wrong (YES, 5 IN A ROW) because I was rushing...(More on this later)


Exam day
Test is at noon. Woke up early. Went to the gym and did a light workout. Relaxed in the sauna. Had a huge breakfast and took a 20 min nap. Did 5 easy problems. Went to "Trader Joes" to get some trail mix... this stuff is amazing for energy. Get to the test center at 11:30. Total confidence. Much better prepared than I was the first time. Had to wait coz there were 10 people doing the GMAT as well. The guy at the center processed two people before me even though they had arrived after me but I said to him "Not a problem. I'm ready for the test so it doesn't really matter." Confidence. I get processed and begin exam.

AWA
Analysis of Argument is pretty easy. I'm not sure how much I can reveal here but basically the argument was about the relationship between revenues and prices?
Analysis of an Issue was more difficult coz there was so much you could say and so organization was key. Again, without revealing too much the questions was about pros and cons of computers in our lives.

Took 4 minute break. Splashed water on my face. Ate two mouthfuls of trail mix and headed back for quant.

Quant:
The first question stumped me!! Question about how many roots a polynomial that looked pretty intimidating... tons of terms and tons of exponents. Panic for about a second. But calmed down and realized that you just needed to factor it out a couple of times. After that initial hiccup, things went well and the test seemed pretty fair coz I was solving the questions quite fast and after 12 questions I was ahead of the pace by 2 mins. But then the questions got tougher and tougher and I lost the two min advantage pretty quickly and fell behind which caused me to begin to rush, and I even flat out guessed on one question not because I didn't know how to solve it but rather because it was one of those time-consuming ones where you have to test +ve and -ve integers as well as +ve and -ve fractions. I may have rushed too much in this middle section though coz when I began question 28 I had 24 mins left -- I was up by 4mins! Anyway, I worked very carefully through these questions and they were all challenging/trap questions that required me to reconsider my initial answer choice because of some insight I had right before confirming my answer. I finished with 30 seconds to spare. It seemed like there were a TON of data sufficiency... but ironically, I have come to prefer DS over PS. I also felt that there were a ton of inequality questions with variables as exponents i.e. is x^2y > y^(2x +1) type questions All in all I felt pretty good about the quant because the questions were challenging. Some were computation intensive others were classic GMAT trap questions but there wasn't a question that I looked at and completely drew a blank. I always had an idea on how to proceed but I always seemed to take too long so I'd rush my answer choices.

Took 6 min break. Splashed water on my face. Ate two mouthfuls of trail mix and headed back for verbal.

Verbal
I am a native speaking lawyer so verbal is where I make my money! I began well but around question 15, I hit a wall. I found it hard to focus and I think I spent 5 mins on one SC (my weakness) which I probably got wrong anyway. I think I ran out of energy. And after that it was a battle to concentrate and I moved really really slowly. I had two science passages one of which was five paragraphs long, one complicated economics passage, one anthropology passage and then I had a random passage that only asked one question!!! WTF??? This was really strange. It was around question 35 and I had already seen 4 passages so I thought I was done with RC but then I saw a fifth passage and I freaked out coz I only had about 7 mins left for 7 questions. But thankfully the test only asked 1 question based on that passage so that was a relief but that was SUPER strange.

Scores
I chose to report the score and closed my eyes while it calculated the score. When I opened them I saw 710. Q44 V42. Felt relief, then joy then disappointment. But as I left the test center, admin folks were all excited and congratulated me but didn't congratulate the other kids waiting around. I guess the other kids who did the GMAT that day didn't score as well I did so I left the test center happy.




Thoughts

1.The GMAT is a bottom-up exam. By bottom-up I mean it designed to exposes weakness not highlight strengths. So your approach to preparing should be to discover what specific areas you are weak in and fix them. Think of it like a brick wall in the shape of a pyramid. The base has to be solid for the top tiers to be able to stand. One or two bricks missing in the façade won't bring the whole wall down but too many missing bricks will cause it to crumble.

2.Easier questions are more valuable than hard questions. Easier questions are more valuable than difficult ones. In my normal calculus exams some questions are worth 3 points and others are worth 15. Clearly the ones worth 15 are more important because they give me more points and so it makes sense to spend more time on them. However, GMAT questions are worth the same amount in that you have 2 mins for each quant problem. So a very hard question is worth 2 mins just like a very easy one. So relatively speaking easier questions are worth more. Second, the penalty for getting a difficult question in the GMAT is not harsh. If you get a 770 question wrong, at worst you'll end up with a 760... (some punishment eh?). But the penalty for getting an easy question wrong is VERY harsh. On my calculus exam, if I get all the 3 point questions wrong I can still ace the exam if I get all the 15 point questions correct. Third, on the GMAT you will never see a hard question without first seeing easy ones. You have to go through the easy/intermediate problems to get to the hard ones. So your focus should be on making sure you don't get easy/intermediate questions wrong.

3.Time management is critical. On one practice test I scored a 47 in quant but I had 15 incorrect answers. On the second practice test, I scored a 44 but only had 12 incorrect answers. What gives? The only difference was that in test one I only had one instance where I had back to back errors, whereas in test two 5 of the 12 errors were consecutive (28 - 32). When I looked at hose five, none of them were beyond me and were incorrect due to careless mistakes. Getting 5 errors in a row wrong means you are rushing. For me this tends to happen towards the end of the test from around question 27. This time I tried to compensate for that by rushing in the middle... but a string of wrong answers anywhere is a huge problem indicative of poor time management and is punished harshly.

4.Your attitude towards the exam should be positive and confident. No fear. If you have prepared well, you should just go in there and do battle. A boxer going int ot a fight thinking he will lose WILL lose. I relied on my preparation which was as good as I could have made it and that's why I was able to have fun in the quant. I took a great deal of pleasure in solving questions that had me confused or in discovering the sneaky traps they laid for me. And when I recognized the problem was not worth the effort because it would require too much time, I let it go and didn't think about it. 2).

5.Learning and internalizing concepts is key. In quant it is one thing to be able to calculate the mean and median of 3,4,5,6, 7 and realize that they are both 5. It is quite another to internalize a generalized form of that rule, that evenly spaced integers have the same mean and median. E.g. what is the mean of (n+2), (n+4), (n+6) ... (n+52)? If you can understand and internalize key mathematical concepts rather than memorizing formulae it will make you more flexible in your approach to problems which, in turn, will allow you to tackle any question thrown at you.

6.Stamina: You MUST build stamina. I got every single OG RC and CR question correct and was up to 85% correct on SC. But that was under normal conditions. Under GMAT conditions after 3+ hours, you hit a wall and words start melting into one another and it gets difficult to differentiate one premise from another. And your error rate increases.


Post-mortem
1. My preparation was thorough but very disjointed and haphazard.

2.Doing calculus and Discrete math classes concurrent with GMAT prep reduced the amount of time I had to practice GMAT but these math courses certainly helped: Calculus with algebra and Discrete math with number theory and set theory. More generally, my fear of mathematics vanished. I used to hate questions that involved variables instead of numbers because they are more abstract. Doing calculus and discrete math changed that. I certainly recommend you take a discrete math class before doing the GMAT.

3. When a person is under pressure they are forced to go to what is second nature to them. They go back to what they know best. You may memorize a cool formula for finding the nth term of a geometric progression the day before the test, but if you have 1.5 mins to figure out the answer and you have not internalized the concepts behind the formula, then the formula is useless. They key is to internalize concepts. And this takes time. For me my 44 in quant means that I knew the concepts but had not internalized them well enough to solve problems in <2mins so that when the pressure was on, I took too long to mobilize them. If I had 2.5 mins per question, I am sure I could get a 50 in quant. But as the saying goes, if you can't solve it in 2 mins then you really don't know it well enough.


4. If I were to take the exam again
I would a) spend the last week redoing the "in-action" problems from MGMAT's quant books, just to reinforce the conceptual knowledge to the point that I can call it up in an instant without having to think too much about them. You need to be on auto-pilot on many concepts so that you can spend your brain power figuring out the little trips and traps.
b) I would also do the MGMAT CAT's coz they push your knowledge of concepts to the breaking point.
c) I would do a full GMAT a bunch of times to build stamina because I totally ran out of gas during verbal. I would also practice verbal at 11pm at night when I am most tired to mimic the exhaustion in the final 45 mins of the real exam.

5. Given my sparse background in math prior to taking the test, I am quite happy with my 44. Especially coz I know that in about 6 months (after finishing 3 more math classes: Linear Algebra, &Differential equations) the number of things in mathematics that will be 2nd nature to me will probably guarantee me a 48 in quant. So, there is a chance I will retake the GMAT in the future. But for now, I am the proud owner of a 710 GMAT score.


Thank yous!
1) Stacey Koprince. You are all around AWESOME!
2) Ian Stewart. Smartest Math guy out there.
3) VP_Jim. (but he has been MIA recently)
4) DanaJ. (your posts are very encouraging!)
Last edited by zuleron on Tue Nov 24, 2009 5:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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by zuleron » Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:53 am
crackgmat007 wrote:Congrats.

What was your verbal score in the first attempt & how did you improve - if you did? Tx.
Thanks!

my verbal score the first time was 40 (89%ile) so I improved 6%ile points with virtually no verbal study. The only thing I changed was I began to use process of elimination for SC rather than trying to find the correct answer. I think if I were to retake I'd really study for verbal too.

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by zuleron » Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:01 am
abhasjha wrote:awaiting the second part of your debreif . Would like to hear whether solving such a large part of the GMAT prep - quants question bank was helpful .

Yes zuleron you got it right - here i am talking about the 199 +99 questions of gprep - quant section.

In case it was helpful - i would like to hear in detail in what ways . I can get some sense beacuse you mentioned in your last post that "solving quant was fun - and there was not anything which you could not handle"....

waiting to hear more on this .....

Solving tons of GMAT Prep questions was helpful in this sense: You see many many different types of questions. So you are less likely to be surprised by any question you see. For instance I saw three types of Std Dev questions that taught me cool things I didn't know e.g. If you want the std dev of a set of data point to decrease you simply add data points that are equal to the mean (think about it). Now, of course you can figure it out with brute force but that will take more than 2 mins. If you have done enough std dev questions, this is something you would probably know.

Also, you become very wary of questions that seem too easy coz they are some of the most sinister traps.

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by DanaJ » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:05 am
What a debrief! Written by a true lawyer-turning-into-a-mathematician, I might add... Congratulations for the great score - you've been a wonderful contributor to our forum and we've all learned a lot from you. The community is truly grateful for all your advice and the GMATprep problem sets that you've kindly compiled.

Oh and BTW: any school that rejects you on the basis of your score is not worth your time. If you feel you want to retake go for it (I myself would retake the GMAT any day just because I fell in love with the test - as you've said, no fear or hate, just love), but don't worry even for a split second that your score is not "wow".

All the best and I can't wait to see a review in the Application Success Stories section with your name on it!

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by zuleron » Mon Nov 09, 2009 2:20 pm
Thanks DanaJ!!!!!

The GMAT has showed me how beautiful and perfect mathematics can be.

I KNOW I have a 49/50 in me... it's just a matter of time... time to internalize a bunch of concepts that I STILL have to think thru.... AUTOPILOT is what I need...

some of the proofs we have to do in my Discrete Math class are CRAZY... but doing it really improves one's ability to use and understand mathematical abstractions... e.g. which is more exciting? manipulating y^x or y^4? I choose y^x...

Bottom line is Math makes sense!!! And I have to thank the GMAT for making me realize that.

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by Stacey Koprince » Mon Nov 16, 2009 11:52 am
Good score but not elite.
Uh, I disagree. I'd call the 92nd percentile pretty elite. :)

I know you're probably not as thrilled about the quant side, but give yourself some credit for what you've accomplished - a 710 is a great score! (And, assuming you're getting good grades in the math classes you're taking right now, the schools will add that to the "plus" side on your app, too!)

I'm reading through your post and see that you mention some details of actual questions you saw. Please go back and delete all of that material immediately. You signed a legal document when you took the test that you would not disclose any of that info - you don't want them coming after you. I know you don't say all that much, but don't even take a chance.

One of the things that's jumping out on your quant description is your timing - you were up, then down, then up. That indicates that you were mismanaging your time a bit, and (if you take it again) the thing I really want to caution you about is that, when people mismanage time, they tend to spend too much time on questions they're not getting right anyway, and then they choose to make up that time on questions that they do know how to do and, as a result, they make more careless mistakes... and that's where it can really hurt your score. A harder question is NEVER worth getting an easier question wrong.

Case in point:
I think I spent 5 mins on one SC (my weakness) which I probably got wrong anyway.
Remember that for next time. :)

That RC thing is weird. Something experimental going on, I'd guess. Was the passage pretty short?

Love your "thoughts" section. Completely agree with what you wrote!
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by zuleron » Tue Nov 24, 2009 5:59 pm
Thank you Stacey!

I took your advice and deleted any references (no matter how oblique) to what I saw on the test... I tried to be discrete but you can't be too careful.

I think you are exactly right! time managment is my problem. Part of it has to do with not having internalized some concepts thoroughly enough to answer tougher questions in less than 2 mins, and part of it is strategy. Either way, when I do take it again, (Yes, I have decided to retake it some time next year... no rush... I am applying to top 10 schools with my 710 but I am learning so much more math that I know in a few months I will be able to hit 48/49 in quant) time management won't be an issue.

Thanks again for all your help! I will keep you posted on my apps and progress!

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by zuleron » Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:15 pm
Oh, I got a 5.5 in AWA with no prep. I know my Analysis of an argument was superior coz I went over it again and again. I think I lost points on the Analysis of an issue coz there was so much I had to say and I felt that I didn't organize it as well as the Analysis of an argument. But 5.5 is still pretty good.