Non-native english speaker - 700+ (750) 6 months study plan

Find out how Beat The GMAT members tackled GMAT test prep with positive results. Get tips on GMAT test prep materials, online courses, study tips, and more.
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750, 98% - Q 48 (76%) - V46 (99%) - IR 6 (67%) - AWA 5 - Feb 7 2014
680, 85% - Q 46 (68%) - V37 (85%) - IR 5.5 (50%) - AWA 5 - Dec 9 2013

Let me start by saying that if I could do it, anybody could! It's not about working hard, it's about working strategically and never never losing hope.
I spent hours reading posts on this forum, I hope I can now bring a positive contribution to help fellow GMAT takers overcome the monster.

If you are at the beginning of the process, you might think why is this person rambling about this, no big deal, but the more you dive into GMAT world and you read posts, the more you will feel the pain we all went through :)


My background
I am 28, female, bachelor in industrial engineering, business consultant, 2.7 GPA (from French school)
My mother tongues are French and Arabic, I learned English 4 years ago, I live in Canada.
I studied about 6 months. I left my job and was backpacking around the world while studying, taking spanish classes every day, volunteering and preparing my b-school applications.
I am targeting ivy schools. My first CAT was 520, 4 months after I scored 680 on my first attempt (with which I applied to B-schools) and 2 months later 750. I have interviews lined up at LBS, INSEAD and Oxford.


Suggested study plan - What I would do now that I know (and it is just what I would do, it does not necessary mean it will work for everybody).
First thing first, do a MGMAT CAT or a GMAT Prep CAT just so you can position yourself.

Months 1 and 2 - Knowledge acquisition phase
Get the Manhattan GMAT material (they have ebooks too) and access to their site. Read and summarize every chapter of every single book, do all the 2013 OG problems with OG archer, (good for timing), watch all the labs, attend Thursdays with Ron (if possible).
Get the e-gmat SC. The platform is old school but the approach is top notch. I read the MGMAT SC book 3 times and was doing miserably, got e-gmat and it worked magic.

Months 3 and 4 - Practice phase
Start doing CATs. There is no point on doing CATs before because you probably don't master the material yet. You should have 5 MGMAT CATs lefts by now, I would also suggest you get the free GMAT Prep CATs, they are the more accurate indicators in my opinion, the package has 2 and you can do them twice, so technically you should have 9 CATs. Now, here is how I approach CATs, I will do one in the morning, really take the full 3h30 to do in real exam conditions. Then, I will take up to 9 hours to review every single problem that I had wrong and redo it without looking at the solution, then I will look up the solution and try to understand where I failed. Once I got this I will do 3 things:
1. Create a flashcard.
2. Note in a separate sheet what chapter or part I need to review, for example isosceles rules, terminating decimals, like versus as etc.
3. Create a table with every question numbered, the time I spent, the theme and if I got it right or wrong and then I tried to look for tendencies, for example, 5 out of 10 wrong answers were geometry and rates.
Once I had all my weaknesses and all the points I wanted to revalidate, I will dive into the MGMAT books, reread the chapter and do the exercises. This will take me up to 2 weeks. Once, I felt I tackled most of the things I wanted to work on, I would do another CAT, but not until I felt comfortable. Then, the more CATs I did, the less errors I made, the less review I had to do and the less time between CATs I needed. This was the most time consuming and pain in the butt phase.
At this point, if you are ready to make the financial commitment, get some MGMAT private tutoring. I had 3,5 hours total and it helped wonders. Stacey Koprince looked at everything I did and her and I worked mostly on verbal. I scored 99% and I am a french speaker. I think it is enough said.

Months 5 and 6 - Refining phase
By now, you should know what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses. I got the GMAT Prep Package 1 and did 25 questions everyday (5 SC, 5 RC, 5 CR, 5 DS and 5 PS). I found that consistency helped a lot. I tried to focus on the hardest and medium ones. When I was doing this, I created my cheat-sheet. It was a document that evolved and where I noted everything that I had trouble remembering. Every week I would do a new one, until I got a one pager that I knew by heart (like right triangles 3,4,5-8,12,13, powers of 3 and 7, divisibility rules, modifies rules, a number of, the number etc.). I also had new CATs with this package that I did, just to have an idea of where I was. Finally, I reviewed my flashcards when I didn't have my computer and had spare time.
Final step - give the damn GMAT, beat the hell out of it and celebrate!
Note. Of course this timing information is just a suggestion, you can spend 3 weeks total or 8 months, it's just what I think makes more sense in my case.


Things I used
MGMAT material - loved it, I would recommend it in a heartbeat, except the SC book everybody is raving about (not sure why, I hate that book!). The labs also are very cool.
MGMAT 9 weeks online course - useless, waste of money in my case.
MGMAT Private tutoring - Amazing, I don't think I would of scored this without Stacey Koprince. I took 2 sessions, 2 hours and 1h30.
MGMAT Free Post Assessment GMAT - Also great, I had Emily look at my performance and it was a huge confidence booster. She gave me really good tips. It's an 1 hour session.
MGMAT IR interactive workshops - Loved them, didn't spend much time on IR, those labs were enough, Whitney Garner is great.
MGMAT Advanced quant. Yes, if you want a high score, but this will only work if you master everything easy.
Chinese AWA template. Scored 5, didn't spend a lot of energy on this, just learned the template.
E-gmat SC - You need this. Don't hesitate. I did it all, it took about 10 hours.
E-gmat CR - Didn't like it that much, I had worked a lot of CR with Stacey so the e-gmat was a little redundant with the MGMAT material. I only did 2 or 3 modules, not even 2 hours. The CR MGMAT labs are better in my opinion.
GMAT Prep - The free CATs and the Package 1, I owe my improvement from 680 to 750 to this product I think. I highly recommend it. The questions are the same type and level as in the real exam and the CATs are pretty accurate.
GMAT Club tests - Did not like them, I scored horribly every time and they were way too hard compared to the real thing, it just demotivated me, so I stopped using them after 2 weeks.
Grockit - Useless. Too easy, stopped using it after 2 weeks too.
OG 13. Of course a must. I also used the 2 additional verbal and quant books, I just did the hard problems.
As you can see, I tried a LOT of things, not all were useful and I feel I wasted a lot of money, if only I knew better, this is why I am writing this post. I only suggest:
The MGMAT full membership (guided self study, $599, it includes OG 13, or even just the books package $290)
GMAT Prep Package 1 ($79)
E-gmat SC ($69)
Private tutoring if you can.
All the rest is a waste of money in my opinion.


My lessons learned and tips
Never ever give up. Seriously, it's not even a joke, I scored 520 on my first CAT, I am a non-native english speaker and scored 99% in verbal! I had a heavy schedule and I studied A LOT and was still scoring 650 on my CATs, reading these forums encouraged me to never give up and I ended up scoring 750. This test has nothing to do with intelligence, it pushes you to the edge and it's about how you handle stress, how methodic you are and what's your strategy. I read a million posts on people putting in so many hours without getting the results they wanted. In my opinion, the GMAT is about keeping calm, learning the material, practicing everyday and learning from your mistakes.
The GMAT is NOT about knowing everything, it's about maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. You will have a LOT of wrong answers and can still score 750.
In the first months, I studied a lot and my results were not improving. I told Stacey Koprince, my MGMAT super star instructor that I studied 6 hours per day this week and she kept telling me it was not about quantity, it was about quality. It's not before I shifted my mindset that I started to see improvement. I spent less time and used my study sessions more intelligently. I focused on running often, going to yoga, going out with friends and being happy while tucking an hour here and there, I still had the GMAT on the back of my mind most of the time but I believed it was possible until the end and I did beat it!
The difference between my first attempt and my second was huge. For my first attempt, I had to travel to another city because there was no availability where I was. I took an 8 hours bus, booked a hotel, went to the test centre before but I was SO stressed, I also read so many reviews saying their score was 50 points lower than their practice scores, this dragged me down. Oh and I was in Brazil, so not my natural environment. For my second attempt, I was at home, I knew where the test centre was and I absolutely refused to let myself read negative reviews. I practiced every day, I did several CATs, my scores were not high but I didn't lose hope.
You need to chose things you are ready to give up on. In quant, I knew rates and probabilities were my weaknesses, no matter how many exercises I did, I never knew when the damn 2 trains will meet! So I would just guess and move on. If you understand how the GMAT works, you would see that it's not about how many questions you get wrong but it's about the difficulty of the questions you get wrong and your score is the difficulty level of the LAST question.
Verbal is way more important than quant in calculating the total score. I got 76% in quant, 99% in verbal and 98% overall. Choose your battles.
There is no point on working 4 hours straight. When your brain shuts down, it's over, you will not assimilate anymore. Close everything and start over. I tried many time to read and read and read the explanation to a problem I was not understanding after a 6 hours session. The day after, when I opened my laptop all fresh it took me 3 min.
Consistency is key. Do a little bit everyday is better than doing a lot once or twice a week. I saw a huge improvement on my CAT results when I practiced an hour a day everyday rather than 10 hours over the weekend.
For timing, here is a little trick I came up with that tremendously helped me. For quant, for each question, I will write the question number and the time remaining and every time subtract 2 min. So I wrote Q1 - 75, then Q2 - 73, Q3 - 71 and so on. I knew my benchmarks and every time I just subtract the time on my clock from the remaining time on my sheet, so I knew I was 6 min behind or 3 min ahead. For verbal it was harder because it's not 2 min per question but usually for SC I will subtract a min, CR 2 and RC 3 for the passage and 1 for each question and I knew that around question 25 I need to have about 27 min left (25 min left at question 25 in quant). This was a huge lifesaver as timing was a big issue for me, I needed to cut myself and that developing a minute sense never worked for me.


My scores
As you can see, my practice scores were around 680 so don't give up!
My retake strategy was to do 25 problems a day via GMAT Prep Package 1 and 7 CATs, I studied one hour a day for 80% of the 2 months + all the days where I did the CATs.

MGMAT CAT 1 - 520 Q38 V24 - Aug 13, 2013 (I thought it's gonna be a long road...)
MGMAT CAT 2 - 610 Q45 V30 - Oct 1, 2013 (after finishing the 9 weeks MGMAT course)
MGMAT CAT 3 - 640 Q44 V33 - Oct 31, 2013 (30 points after working super hard for a month)
GMAT Prep 1 - 680 Q47 V35 - Nov 16, 2013 (I started to think, I'm getting there)
MGMAT CAT 4 - 670 Q46 V35 - Nov 23, 2013 (oh no!)
GMAT Prep 2 - 670 Q49 V31 - Nov 29, 2013 (the same score 3 weeks in a row, noooo!)
MGMAT CAT 5 - 720 Q44 V45 - Dec 3, 2013 (Alright! My GMAT was in 6 days I started doing a CAT almost every day)
GMAT Prep 1 Retake - 720 Q50 V38 - Dec 5, 2013 (I was getting more confident)
MGMAT CAT 6 - 680 Q45 V37 - Dec 6, 2013 (What??!! no!!)
GMAT Prep 2 Retake - 690 Q49 V35 - Dec 7, 2013 (no no double no!)
Real GMAT - 1st attempt - 680 Q46 V37 - Dec 9, 2013 (FAIL!)
MGMAT CAT 1 Retake - 710 Q49 V37 - Jan 8, 2014 (well, I had already seen almost all the questions)
MGMAT CAT 2 Retake - 670 Q45 V36 - Jan 9, 2014 (you must be kidding!)
GMAT Prep 3 (Package 1) - 680 Q48 V35 - Jan 22, 2014 (no I don't believe this!)
GMAT Prep 4 (Package 1) - 710 Q50 V36 - Feb 2, 2014 (fiou...finally getting there)
MGMAT CAT 3 Retake - 680 Q46 V37 - Feb 3, 2014 (and no, same score as 3 months ago, all that work for nothing!)
GMAT Prep 3 (Package 1) Retake - 680 Q48 V35 - Feb 3, 2014 (seriously??! at this point I refused to take another CAT, I was getting depressed)
Real GMAT - 2nd attempt - 750 Q48 V46 - Feb 7, 2014 (OH YES!)[b][/b][b][/b]

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by acarbo » Thu Feb 20, 2014 11:47 am
Shen, this is extremely helpful! Thanks so much. Congratulations on your well-deserved 750!

I am in a similar situation, non-native, studying a lot, a lot of work and pressure on the side. It is getting really crazy. I scored a 550 in my first one and I also thought: "man, this is going to be quite a ride".

One question I have is: why did you decide to get private tutoring? What triggered that? What sort of things you discussed? I feel I would see myself not knowing what to discuss.

Thanks!

-A

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by swap-2 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:36 pm
OHH thats great shen; you work hard and long, so you deserved the score. Best of luck for admissions

Thanks for posting

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by sparkles3144 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:37 pm
Inspiring story! Thank you so much for sharing!

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by hamburg1ar » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:23 am
This is by far, one of the best de-briefs I have read. It is very detailed and has strategies to correct oneself. I also can resonate with this post as I am starting with a meagre score of 440 (q36V15). I got 440 on 2 mock exams :(. One knewton and one GMAT prep. The positive is that I have improved my q score from 31 to 36. Its small but decent.

I am going to employ your strategies in helping me hit my target score. I can't wait. Thank you once again for the de-brief and congrats on the fantastic score.

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by clintonlin » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:41 am
can you please post your AWA template :) Thank you Shen.

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by Sky78 » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:56 pm
Congrats on your score!! Nice de-brief!!! Could you please give more information about eGMAT SC course? I have gone thru MGMAT SC books twice and have spent close to 3 months only on improving SC but still not getting the accuracy and speed I need. Thanks!!

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by shen28 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:53 am
Hello,
Thank you all for your messages. I really hope my lessons learned help others achieve outstanding results without wasting fortunes.

For private tutoring, my scores were not picking up and I had no idea what else I could do. Stacey prepared everything, looked at my stats, my timing, strengths, weaknesses and tailored a study plan to improve. All I had to do is listen and answer, it was very nice sessions!

Btw, I started with 520 and ended up at 750, I have a friend who started at 600 (first CAT) and studied sporadically for 6 months to end up at 650, so don't get discouraged, your starting point doesn't mean much, it's the work you put in and learning from your mistakes that makes a difference!


For the template, it's called Chineseburned AWA template, please see below. Don't spend too much time on AWA, INSEAD didn't even ask for my AWA score, all they care about is Quant and Verbal.


Good luck!


AWA GUIDE
by Chineseburned

1. General Structure


Intro - Restate argument, point out flaws or state intention to discuss them below
1st Para - First,...
2nd Para - Second/In addition,...
3rd Para - Third/Finally,...
Conclusion - The argument is flawed/weak/unconvincing because of the above -mentioned...Ultimately, the argument can be strengthened if/by...


2. Structural Word (should be all over the essays)


Supporting examples - for example, to illustrate, for instance, because, specifically
Additional support - furthermore, in addition, similarly, just as, also, as a result, moreover
Importance - surely, truly, undoubtedly, clearly, in fact, most importantly
Contrast - on the contrary, yet, despite, rather, instead, however, although, while
Decide against - one cannot deny that, it could be argued that, granted, admittedly
Ying-yang - on the one hand/on the other hand
Concluding - therefore, in summary, consequently, hence, in conclusion, ultimately, in closing


3. Templates


Intro:
The argument claims that ....(restate)
Stated in this way the argument:
a) manipulates facts and conveys a distorted view of the situation
b) reveals examples of leap of faith, poor reasoning and ill-defined terminology
c) fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated
The conclusion of the argument relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is weak/unconvincing and has several flaws.

1st Para:
First, the argument readily assumes that......
This statement is a stretch....
For example,...
Clearly,...
The argument could have been much clearer if it explicitly stated that...

2nd Para:
Second, the argument claims that....
This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between....and...
To illustrate,...
While,...
However,....indeed....
In fact, it is not at all clear...rather....
If the argument had provided evidence that.....then the argument would have been a lot more convincing.

3rd Para:
Finally,...
(pose some questions for the argument).....Without convincing answers to these questions, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, the argument is flawed for the above-mentioned reasons and is therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts....
In order to assess the merits of a certain situation/decision, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors. In this particular case....
Without this information, the argument remains unsubstantiated and open to debate.

4. Going from the templates to full-fledged essays



ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared in the editorial section of a national news magazine:[/b]

"The rating system for electronic games is similar to the movie rating system in that it provides consumers with a quick reference so that they can determine if the subject matter and contents are appropriate. This electronic game rating system is not working because it is self regulated and the fines for violating the rating system are nominal. As a result an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that knowingly violate the rating system should be prohibited from releasing a game for two years."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. Point out flaws in the argument's logic and analyze the argument's underlying assumptions. In addition, evaluate how supporting evidence is used and what evidence might counter the argument's conclusion. You may also discuss what additional evidence could be used to strengthen the argument or what changes would make the argument more logically sound.

YOUR RESPONSE:
Quote:
The argument claims that the electronic games rating system, although similar to the movie rating system, is not working because it is self regulated and violation fines are nominal, Hence, the gaming rating system should be overseen by an independent body. Stated in this way the argument fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated. The conclusion relies on assumptions, for which there is no clear evidence. Therefore, the argument is rather weak, unconvincing, and has several flaws.

First, the argument readily assumes that because the electronic game rating system is self regulated, it is not working well. This statement is a stretch and not substantiated in any way. There are numerous examples in other areas of business or commerce, where the entities are self regulated and rather successful. For instance, FIA, the Formula1 racing organization is self regulated. Yet, the sport is very popular and successful, drawing millions of spectators around the world each year. Tickets are rather expensive, races are shown on pay-per-view, and nearly all drivers are paid very well. Another example is the paralleled movie rating system that the argument mentions. The author fails to clarify whether it is working well, but it is clear that the movie rating system is pretty well received by people, who often base their decisions to go see a movie with kids or not on the movie rating. It has never been a case when someone would feel cheated by the movie rating and express disappointment afterwards. Since the movie rating system is also self regulated, it follows that this regulatory method is working pretty well and it is not obvious how it can be the reason for the poor electronic game rating system. The argument would have been much clearer if it explicitly gave examples of how the self regulatory system led to bad ratings and customer dissatisfaction.

Second, the argument claims that any violation fees for bad electronic game ratings are nominal. It thus suggests that this is yet another reason for the rating system not working. This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between the monetary amount of the fines and the quality of the electronic game rating system. In fact, the argument does not even draw a parallel with the mentioned movie rating system and its violation fines. If any such correlation had been shown for the movie rating system, which supposedly works well, then the author would have sounded a bit more convincing. In addition, if the argument provided evidence that low violation fines lead to electronic game manufacturers to ignore any regulations with respect to the game rating system, the argument could have been strengthened even further.

Finally, the argument concludes that an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that violate the rating system, should be punished. From this statement again, it is not at all clear how an independent regulatory body can do a better job than a self regulated one. Without supporting evidence and examples from other businesses where independent regulatory bodies have done a great job, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence. As a result, this conclusion has no legs to stand on.

In summary, the argument is flawed and therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts. In order to assess the merits of a certain situation, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors.


5. Final tips


During the tutorial type in a few sentences in the mock essay window to get used to the keyboard.
Again during the tutorial, jot down on your notebook the basic structure of your essays or the opening sentences in case you get too nervous and forget them when the clock starts ticking.
Write as much as you can. Try to write at least 500 words per essay.
Always have the e-rater in mind as your potential reviewer. Remember that the human rater will make every effort to grade just like the e-rater. In that sense, keep your structure and volume in mind over actual quality/content.
Be careful of spelling mistakes. Double check words that you normally know you misspell (e.g. exercise). Try to finish 2-3 minutes before time is up so you can slowly re-read your essay for the purposes of spell checking. Do not reorganize/delete sentences/paragraphs with less than 2 min left.
No matter how great you thought your essays went, try to stay humble and focused - remember this was just a warm-up and the real stuff hasn't started yet!

Good luck!
_________________


Best AWA guide here: how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html

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by shen28 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:56 am
Hello,
Thank you all for your messages. I really hope my lessons learned help others achieve outstanding results without wasting fortunes.

For private tutoring, my scores were not picking up and I had no idea what else I could do. Stacey prepared everything, looked at my stats, my timing, strengths, weaknesses and tailored a study plan to improve. All I had to do is listen and answer, it was very nice sessions!

Btw, I started with 520 and ended up at 750, I have a friend who started at 600 (first CAT) and studied sporadically for 6 months to end up at 650, so don't get discouraged, your starting point doesn't mean much, it's the work you put in and learning from your mistakes that makes a difference!


For the template, it's called Chineseburned AWA template, please see below. Don't spend too much time on AWA, INSEAD didn't even ask for my AWA score, all they care about is Quant and Verbal.


Good luck!


AWA GUIDE
by Chineseburned

1. General Structure


Intro - Restate argument, point out flaws or state intention to discuss them below
1st Para - First,...
2nd Para - Second/In addition,...
3rd Para - Third/Finally,...
Conclusion - The argument is flawed/weak/unconvincing because of the above -mentioned...Ultimately, the argument can be strengthened if/by...


2. Structural Word (should be all over the essays)


Supporting examples - for example, to illustrate, for instance, because, specifically
Additional support - furthermore, in addition, similarly, just as, also, as a result, moreover
Importance - surely, truly, undoubtedly, clearly, in fact, most importantly
Contrast - on the contrary, yet, despite, rather, instead, however, although, while
Decide against - one cannot deny that, it could be argued that, granted, admittedly
Ying-yang - on the one hand/on the other hand
Concluding - therefore, in summary, consequently, hence, in conclusion, ultimately, in closing


3. Templates


Intro:
The argument claims that ....(restate)
Stated in this way the argument:
a) manipulates facts and conveys a distorted view of the situation
b) reveals examples of leap of faith, poor reasoning and ill-defined terminology
c) fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated
The conclusion of the argument relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is weak/unconvincing and has several flaws.

1st Para:
First, the argument readily assumes that......
This statement is a stretch....
For example,...
Clearly,...
The argument could have been much clearer if it explicitly stated that...

2nd Para:
Second, the argument claims that....
This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between....and...
To illustrate,...
While,...
However,....indeed....
In fact, it is not at all clear...rather....
If the argument had provided evidence that.....then the argument would have been a lot more convincing.

3rd Para:
Finally,...
(pose some questions for the argument).....Without convincing answers to these questions, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, the argument is flawed for the above-mentioned reasons and is therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts....
In order to assess the merits of a certain situation/decision, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors. In this particular case....
Without this information, the argument remains unsubstantiated and open to debate.

4. Going from the templates to full-fledged essays



ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared in the editorial section of a national news magazine:[/b]

"The rating system for electronic games is similar to the movie rating system in that it provides consumers with a quick reference so that they can determine if the subject matter and contents are appropriate. This electronic game rating system is not working because it is self regulated and the fines for violating the rating system are nominal. As a result an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that knowingly violate the rating system should be prohibited from releasing a game for two years."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. Point out flaws in the argument's logic and analyze the argument's underlying assumptions. In addition, evaluate how supporting evidence is used and what evidence might counter the argument's conclusion. You may also discuss what additional evidence could be used to strengthen the argument or what changes would make the argument more logically sound.

YOUR RESPONSE:
Quote:
The argument claims that the electronic games rating system, although similar to the movie rating system, is not working because it is self regulated and violation fines are nominal, Hence, the gaming rating system should be overseen by an independent body. Stated in this way the argument fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated. The conclusion relies on assumptions, for which there is no clear evidence. Therefore, the argument is rather weak, unconvincing, and has several flaws.

First, the argument readily assumes that because the electronic game rating system is self regulated, it is not working well. This statement is a stretch and not substantiated in any way. There are numerous examples in other areas of business or commerce, where the entities are self regulated and rather successful. For instance, FIA, the Formula1 racing organization is self regulated. Yet, the sport is very popular and successful, drawing millions of spectators around the world each year. Tickets are rather expensive, races are shown on pay-per-view, and nearly all drivers are paid very well. Another example is the paralleled movie rating system that the argument mentions. The author fails to clarify whether it is working well, but it is clear that the movie rating system is pretty well received by people, who often base their decisions to go see a movie with kids or not on the movie rating. It has never been a case when someone would feel cheated by the movie rating and express disappointment afterwards. Since the movie rating system is also self regulated, it follows that this regulatory method is working pretty well and it is not obvious how it can be the reason for the poor electronic game rating system. The argument would have been much clearer if it explicitly gave examples of how the self regulatory system led to bad ratings and customer dissatisfaction.

Second, the argument claims that any violation fees for bad electronic game ratings are nominal. It thus suggests that this is yet another reason for the rating system not working. This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between the monetary amount of the fines and the quality of the electronic game rating system. In fact, the argument does not even draw a parallel with the mentioned movie rating system and its violation fines. If any such correlation had been shown for the movie rating system, which supposedly works well, then the author would have sounded a bit more convincing. In addition, if the argument provided evidence that low violation fines lead to electronic game manufacturers to ignore any regulations with respect to the game rating system, the argument could have been strengthened even further.

Finally, the argument concludes that an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that violate the rating system, should be punished. From this statement again, it is not at all clear how an independent regulatory body can do a better job than a self regulated one. Without supporting evidence and examples from other businesses where independent regulatory bodies have done a great job, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence. As a result, this conclusion has no legs to stand on.

In summary, the argument is flawed and therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts. In order to assess the merits of a certain situation, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors.


5. Final tips


During the tutorial type in a few sentences in the mock essay window to get used to the keyboard.
Again during the tutorial, jot down on your notebook the basic structure of your essays or the opening sentences in case you get too nervous and forget them when the clock starts ticking.
Write as much as you can. Try to write at least 500 words per essay.
Always have the e-rater in mind as your potential reviewer. Remember that the human rater will make every effort to grade just like the e-rater. In that sense, keep your structure and volume in mind over actual quality/content.
Be careful of spelling mistakes. Double check words that you normally know you misspell (e.g. exercise). Try to finish 2-3 minutes before time is up so you can slowly re-read your essay for the purposes of spell checking. Do not reorganize/delete sentences/paragraphs with less than 2 min left.
No matter how great you thought your essays went, try to stay humble and focused - remember this was just a warm-up and the real stuff hasn't started yet!

Good luck!
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by shen28 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:05 am
Hello,
Thank you all for your messages. I really hope my lessons learned help others achieve outstanding results without wasting fortunes.

For private tutoring, my scores were not picking up and I had no idea what else I could do. Stacey prepared everything, looked at my stats, my timing, strengths, weaknesses and tailored a study plan to improve. All I had to do is listen and answer, it was very nice sessions!

Btw, I started with 520 and ended up at 750, I have a friend who started at 600 (first CAT) and studied sporadically for 6 months to end up at 650, so don't get discouraged, your starting point doesn't mean much, it's the work you put in and learning from your mistakes that makes a difference!


For the template, it's called Chineseburned AWA template, please see below. Don't spend too much time on AWA, INSEAD didn't even ask for my AWA score, all they care about is Quant and Verbal.


Good luck!


AWA GUIDE
by Chineseburned

1. General Structure


Intro - Restate argument, point out flaws or state intention to discuss them below
1st Para - First,...
2nd Para - Second/In addition,...
3rd Para - Third/Finally,...
Conclusion - The argument is flawed/weak/unconvincing because of the above -mentioned...Ultimately, the argument can be strengthened if/by...


2. Structural Word (should be all over the essays)


Supporting examples - for example, to illustrate, for instance, because, specifically
Additional support - furthermore, in addition, similarly, just as, also, as a result, moreover
Importance - surely, truly, undoubtedly, clearly, in fact, most importantly
Contrast - on the contrary, yet, despite, rather, instead, however, although, while
Decide against - one cannot deny that, it could be argued that, granted, admittedly
Ying-yang - on the one hand/on the other hand
Concluding - therefore, in summary, consequently, hence, in conclusion, ultimately, in closing


3. Templates


Intro:
The argument claims that ....(restate)
Stated in this way the argument:
a) manipulates facts and conveys a distorted view of the situation
b) reveals examples of leap of faith, poor reasoning and ill-defined terminology
c) fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated
The conclusion of the argument relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is weak/unconvincing and has several flaws.

1st Para:
First, the argument readily assumes that......
This statement is a stretch....
For example,...
Clearly,...
The argument could have been much clearer if it explicitly stated that...

2nd Para:
Second, the argument claims that....
This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between....and...
To illustrate,...
While,...
However,....indeed....
In fact, it is not at all clear...rather....
If the argument had provided evidence that.....then the argument would have been a lot more convincing.

3rd Para:
Finally,...
(pose some questions for the argument).....Without convincing answers to these questions, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, the argument is flawed for the above-mentioned reasons and is therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts....
In order to assess the merits of a certain situation/decision, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors. In this particular case....
Without this information, the argument remains unsubstantiated and open to debate.

4. Going from the templates to full-fledged essays



ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared in the editorial section of a national news magazine:[/b]

"The rating system for electronic games is similar to the movie rating system in that it provides consumers with a quick reference so that they can determine if the subject matter and contents are appropriate. This electronic game rating system is not working because it is self regulated and the fines for violating the rating system are nominal. As a result an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that knowingly violate the rating system should be prohibited from releasing a game for two years."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. Point out flaws in the argument's logic and analyze the argument's underlying assumptions. In addition, evaluate how supporting evidence is used and what evidence might counter the argument's conclusion. You may also discuss what additional evidence could be used to strengthen the argument or what changes would make the argument more logically sound.

YOUR RESPONSE:
Quote:
The argument claims that the electronic games rating system, although similar to the movie rating system, is not working because it is self regulated and violation fines are nominal, Hence, the gaming rating system should be overseen by an independent body. Stated in this way the argument fails to mention several key factors, on the basis of which it could be evaluated. The conclusion relies on assumptions, for which there is no clear evidence. Therefore, the argument is rather weak, unconvincing, and has several flaws.

First, the argument readily assumes that because the electronic game rating system is self regulated, it is not working well. This statement is a stretch and not substantiated in any way. There are numerous examples in other areas of business or commerce, where the entities are self regulated and rather successful. For instance, FIA, the Formula1 racing organization is self regulated. Yet, the sport is very popular and successful, drawing millions of spectators around the world each year. Tickets are rather expensive, races are shown on pay-per-view, and nearly all drivers are paid very well. Another example is the paralleled movie rating system that the argument mentions. The author fails to clarify whether it is working well, but it is clear that the movie rating system is pretty well received by people, who often base their decisions to go see a movie with kids or not on the movie rating. It has never been a case when someone would feel cheated by the movie rating and express disappointment afterwards. Since the movie rating system is also self regulated, it follows that this regulatory method is working pretty well and it is not obvious how it can be the reason for the poor electronic game rating system. The argument would have been much clearer if it explicitly gave examples of how the self regulatory system led to bad ratings and customer dissatisfaction.

Second, the argument claims that any violation fees for bad electronic game ratings are nominal. It thus suggests that this is yet another reason for the rating system not working. This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument does not demonstrate any correlation between the monetary amount of the fines and the quality of the electronic game rating system. In fact, the argument does not even draw a parallel with the mentioned movie rating system and its violation fines. If any such correlation had been shown for the movie rating system, which supposedly works well, then the author would have sounded a bit more convincing. In addition, if the argument provided evidence that low violation fines lead to electronic game manufacturers to ignore any regulations with respect to the game rating system, the argument could have been strengthened even further.

Finally, the argument concludes that an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that violate the rating system, should be punished. From this statement again, it is not at all clear how an independent regulatory body can do a better job than a self regulated one. Without supporting evidence and examples from other businesses where independent regulatory bodies have done a great job, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking rather than substantive evidence. As a result, this conclusion has no legs to stand on.

In summary, the argument is flawed and therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all the relevant facts. In order to assess the merits of a certain situation, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors.


5. Final tips


During the tutorial type in a few sentences in the mock essay window to get used to the keyboard.
Again during the tutorial, jot down on your notebook the basic structure of your essays or the opening sentences in case you get too nervous and forget them when the clock starts ticking.
Write as much as you can. Try to write at least 500 words per essay.
Always have the e-rater in mind as your potential reviewer. Remember that the human rater will make every effort to grade just like the e-rater. In that sense, keep your structure and volume in mind over actual quality/content.
Be careful of spelling mistakes. Double check words that you normally know you misspell (e.g. exercise). Try to finish 2-3 minutes before time is up so you can slowly re-read your essay for the purposes of spell checking. Do not reorganize/delete sentences/paragraphs with less than 2 min left.
No matter how great you thought your essays went, try to stay humble and focused - remember this was just a warm-up and the real stuff hasn't started yet!

Good luck!
_________________

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Posts: 5
Joined: 02 Mar 2013

by bdrrr » Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:28 am
Shen28,

tres encourageant. Merci beaucoup pour tes notes.

I am in similar situation, french speaker, left my job to pursue some personal projects before applying to a US MBA, I am using some free time to study daily, however I am still struggling with a few things.

I am going to follow many of your good advises. Thanks a lot.

Also, you said you tracked your mistakes etc... did you do that on excel? Could you share the file so we see how you did it? If you did that on a notebook, any chance you could take a picture please?

Best,
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by shen28 » Sun Mar 09, 2014 11:11 am
Hello Bdrrr,
Avec grand plaisir!

I did track my answers, only for CATs, unfortunately, it was on paper and you can guess, the first thing I did when I finished the exam is throw my binder out!!!

It was simple though, I used to divide the page in 2, one for quant, the other for verbal, columns:
Q number
Right of wrong
Time ( too fast, just right, too slow)
Area or chapter
Difficulty
Comment (in this column, I will usually say something like: stupid mistake, no way on earth I would of known that one, selected the wrong answer...etc.)

From this, I would try to find tendencies and tackle them.

Bonne chance!

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by bdrrr » Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:10 pm
shen28 wrote:Hello Bdrrr,
Avec grand plaisir!

I did track my answers, only for CATs, unfortunately, it was on paper and you can guess, the first thing I did when I finished the exam is throw my binder out!!!

It was simple though, I used to divide the page in 2, one for quant, the other for verbal, columns:
Q number
Right of wrong
Time ( too fast, just right, too slow)
Area or chapter
Difficulty
Comment (in this column, I will usually say something like: stupid mistake, no way on earth I would of known that one, selected the wrong answer...etc.)

From this, I would try to find tendencies and tackle them.

Bonne chance!
Shen28,

One last question if you still read all this, not being too busy on applications!

For RC, what did you do? What methodology did you follow?
I am asking as SC is ok on my side, CR I need to enhance a bit but it is OK so far (MGMAT should do), but for RC, as I am a very slow reader in english, I am not sure what methodology to follow - I tend to skip an entire RC passage on test day to keep my timing on 75 mins...!

Many thanks

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by BLACKSTONE1 » Wed Jan 21, 2015 1:24 pm
Hi shen28,

This is the part of the story that I found almost hard to believe:

I got 76% in quant, 99% in verbal and 98% overall. Choose your battles.

How is that possible??? Is that accurate?

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by [email protected] » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:39 pm
Hi BLACKSTONE1,

The data that you're referring to is percentile data, NOT percentage correct. Percentiles are essentially information on how your performance compares to OTHER Test Takers, not how your performance compares to the Test. In this way, percentiles can be somewhat deceiving (and they can change over time). As an example, over the last few years, a Q49 (which is a Quant Score that most Test Takers will never hit in their lives) has dropped from the 85th percentile to about the 80th percentile. This means that a greater percentage of Test Takers are scoring at (or above) that level than in years past. This does NOT mean that the performance is "worse" than it was in the past.

As a real life example, imagine you took a Test in a College Math Class and scored 99% correct - that's a fantastic performance. IF everyone else in the class scored 100% though, then your percentile would be the 1st percentile (the lowest) since your score is lower than everyone else's (even though your score is amazing). As such, you shouldn't get too hung up on percentile data. Instead, you should be looking at your personal performance against the Test - the Scaled Scores point to that.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
Contact Rich at [email protected]
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