690 (Q46/V39/IR8) to 750 (Q48/V45/IR8/AWA6) with TTP/Magoosh

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Well, I've been waiting all this year to write this blog and I'm grateful to finally get to do so! I am 22 years old, just beginning a career in the oil and gas industry (my second week of work started monday). This December, I began an interest in graduate school and The GMAT, as my senior year at the University of Texas was coming to an end. I took a GMAT in April and scored a 690 (Q46,V39). I was pretty excited about this because I knew that with a little brushing up, I could raise that score above the coveted 700+ level. I studied off-and-on for about some weeks into February and took another practice test, scoring a 690 again with about the same Q/V spread. I was pretty disappointed with the lack of increase in score and decided to table the studying until the summer. I needed a more tactical and focused approach.

I did a good bit of research into the avenues I wanted to use to study. I came away buying three resources:

1. The OG 2016 - Most of you reading this probably know that this is the Official Guide made by the GMAC, the people that make the test. Great for getting real, retired test questions from previous tests.

2. Magoosh! 1 year membership - Great resource if you like learning by video. I found their verbal strategies particularly effective. I was pretty well prepared for SC but the CR strategies that Magoosh offers were INVALUABLE to getting a V45 on my test. I highly recommend magoosh for verbal. The quant is great too, but I didn't really enjoy the video format for quant. It was a bit slow for me.

3. Target Test Prep! - TTP was a massive gift and resource to me for a focused approach to slaying the quant part of the GMAT. While a Q48 isn't extremely impressive, I really had a bad quant day on my test day and was normally scoring at Q49 consistently on all practice tests. I'm telling you, if you are where you want to be on the verbal portion of the GMAT, just get TTP. It is, in my opinion, the top Quant resource available for students. It's pretty cheap too if you're doing a more focused and faster study. They lay out a study schedule for you that you can customize and really give you framework from which you can base your GMAT studying.

What I did over the 6 weeks:

I really just dedicated myself to GMAT study for these past 6 weeks. I know most people on this site cannot afford to do that whether it be because of job, family, etc. Know that it is absolutely possible to score 700+ even if you can't study full time.

I studied for about 6-8 hours a day Monday-Saturday. I spent time at coffee shops and at home to continually mix up my time studying so it didn't get too old. I focused mainly on Target Test Prep Quant and followed the study program they laid out for me. I committed to about a chapter module a day (There are 19) with some intermittent review. I also completed almost all of the hard chapter tests that come along with each module. I did this for about 4 weeks and then began to practice with more verbal thrown in to the mix. Again, verbal was not the focus for me; I felt that I could focus mainly on quant. I would spend 4 hours doing quant on TTP, practice a few CR and RC passages from the OG 2016, and then finish up with more quant. In week 5, I started daily practicing some of Magoosh's hardest math and verbal questions to really test my understanding of concepts. This helped me to brush up on the harder concepts while also keeping my mind fresh.

I took a practice test almost every week. Here is the layout of my practice test scores.

GMAT1 (Default Pack) 690 (Q46/V39/IR8) - 12/24/15
GMAT2 (Default Pack) 690 (Q46/V39/IR8) - 2/6/16
MGMAT1 - 710 (N/A)
GMAT3 (Prep Pack 1) 760 (Q49/V44/IR8) - 7/30/16
GMAT4 (Prep Pack 1) 740 (Q49/V41/IR8) - 8/6/16
GMAT5 (Prep Pack 2) 730 (Q49/V40/IR8) - 8/13/16
REAL GMAT - 750 (Q48/V45/IR8/AWA6) - 8/20/16

Something I noticed, and something that I will speak more about in my closing comments, is that sleep and exercise were extremely important to my success. You can see a decline in my test scores from 760 to 740 to 730. I specifically remember on my 740 and 730 tests that I had a desperately hard time focusing on verbal and had to re-read things a lot. I could not properly reason through arguments. I really tried to figure out what the heck was going on. And after a bit of experimenting, I noticed that with good sleep and a bit of exercise my focus and ability to reason came back just as sharp and fresh as before. DO NOT BELIEVE THE LIE THAT YOU CAN DEAL WITH LOW SLEEP AND LITTLE EXERCISE. I told myself many times "no worries, you will get back into shape and get more sleep when you are done studying, just drink coffee". You can do this for a while but please please please do not do this on your last week before your test. So important.

I was not worried much about IR. I seemed to do alright on most of the IR sections within the practice tests so I decided to not focus on IR.

This was a section I was particularly worried about. I do not find writing particularly difficult but I knew AWA was a section that could derail a test score. A 750 with a 3 or 2 on AWA could be reason for a re-take. I did not want to be that person.

To prepare for AWA I did two things:
1. Read this forum (https://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6- ... 64327.html). It gives a great framework upon which to slay the GMAT AWA. One important nugget of wisdom I received is to pretty much memorize a easy framework for your introduction and conclusion, ESPECIALLY the introduction. You don't want to have to think much about the intro/conclusion or how to write one, when you are stretched for time on the GMAT. You want to focus on picking the argument apart.
2. Practice some essays in real 30-min timed situations. You can probably wait until the last week or two to really dig into AWA. DEFINITELY do the AWA section in every practice test you do. Don't skip it. It's tempting, I know.

Lastly, here are some last tips/nuggets for all you GMAT slayers:
-Get TTP. Just do it. I don't think there is another quant service as focused or as specialized on the interweb. The customer service is incredible. Jeff literally knew my test date and asked me how it went the next day. You don't get that many other places. The program builds on concepts really well. Also, I'm not being paid to say this. I am a true believer.
-Magoosh is GREAT for building concepts especially in verbal. Their videos teach really well. I'm not a big "video" guy but if it's your thing, go for it.
-I can't say how big of a deal this is: eat healthy, sleep well, exercise. It seems menial but it is uniquely important especially in the last week before the test.
-While you study, try not to listen to music (especially not music that has words) as much as you can, unless the place you are studying is really loud. It's better to practice and study in test conditions.
-I've heard if you chew gum while you study and then chew gum while you take your actual GMAT, you may be able to better remember things from your studies. I didn't do this but could be interesting to try.
-Sign up for daily quant/verbal questions to get extra practice.
-I took Sundays off to rest and refocus myself on important things in life. I think a weekly break day is so important to not getting burned out. The GMAT is important but it's not the all in all of life nor is it the reason we live. We all know this but it's easy to be forgotten.

Good luck in your GMAT endeavors! If you have any questions for me, please e-mail me at [email protected].

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him"
Psalm 40:2-3[/u]

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by toby001 » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:41 am
Congrats on your score, and thanks for this great debrief! Very helpful! I'm also using TTP/Magoosh(with OG and MGMAT books; mostly for the tests and the SC)! Can't say enough good things about either one. Definitely the best bang for your buck combo out there!

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by mbsingh » Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:51 am
-Sign up for daily quant/verbal questions to get extra practice.
Where do you sign up for these questions ?

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by mbsingh » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:11 am
thanks bud.