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770 (Q49, V48) with 30-40 hours of prep (humanities student)

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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I'm afraid I only started to get serious about applying to business school in mid-November. I'm not going to lie, when I started reading on this forum about the more diligent approaches taken by others, I really did start to worry. Worse still, I was a pure humanities student at college and hadn't studied maths since high school. It wasn't an ideal situation to be in, that's for sure, and my wife moved into full-time reassurance mode to keep my spirits up, bless her.

Happily, last week I scored 770 in the GMAT (Q49, V48) and thought I'd share my experiences to give comfort to the last-minuters amongst you.

How I beat the GMAT

The only resources I used to prepare for the test were the gmathacks blog, the Total GMAT Math ebook and an Excel spreadsheet that I cobbled together. I have to say that thanks to these resources I feel like I'm not only better at maths, but more focused and better at studying and preparation in general. Part of me wishes I could still justify the time doing GMAT practice problems to stay sharp!

Probably the most influential takeaway from gmathacks was to make sure I was excellent at the basics. That really struck a chord with me, since there are so many fields where excellence at the basics is the key to success. So I set up an Excel spreadsheet to drill speed and accuracy in the basic elements of mathematical manipulation (ie multiplication, division, factorising, tests for divisibility, recognising primes et al). For about two or three weeks I spent 5-10 minutes drilling that spreadsheet before and after work each day, and saw my average time shrink from 5 seconds per problem to less than 1 second while my accuracy climbed from 97-98% up to a consistent 100%. This was pretty much all I did during that time, as work was extremely busy.

It was at that point that I did my first practice tests, scoring 740 and 750. Thanks to the drills in mental math, I was able to finish both practice tests around 15-20 minutes early.

I'll admit that I eased off a bit after that confidence injection, but still got through the lion's share of the Total GMAT Math book before test day. For each section I would read the chapter, make notes in the margins, do the problems and the next day review the ones I had gotten wrong, done clumsily, or taken too long on. Importantly, I'd also review those problems again a couple of days later, and a few days after that as well. I wanted to make sure that I not only recognised what I had done wrong but that I had also practised doing it right.

I can't emphasise how important that last point was. Because of it, I had to make peace with the fact that there was quite a lot of content that I wouldn't have time to get through. On the other hand, everything that I did practice I mastered, and I think that in the end that stood me in good stead come test day. Note that my "silly mistakes" came in for the same treatment, on the grounds that it is easier to boost your score by eliminating mistakes than by learning more advanced concepts. For example, I must have spent twenty minutes practising writing my "zs" differently from my "2s", after getting a basic question wrong when I confused the two.

Effort? Duration? I probably spent 10-15 hours drilling the basics in those first 2-3 weeks and perhaps 20-25 hours on the rest of the book in the week that followed. It was actually a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and come test day I felt quite well prepared, although I never found the time to go through the word problems, sets and number properties sections of the Total GMAT Maths book. Of course I knew on the day that I could have done more, but I also had the feeling that I'd gotten a huge amount out of the time that I had spent preparing, and that there hadn't been any sort of a diminishing returns phase.

My focus on the basics was instantly rewarded as I blazed through many of the early questions in 30-60 seconds, and by the time I arrived at the last question I still had fifteen minutes left on the clock. That last question was a real humdinger of a geometry problem, though, and it wasn't until I gave up with 30 seconds left that I finally saw a way of solving it. Heartbreakingly, it was a six or seven step geometry/algebra solution, and there was no way I was going to get through it in time on scratch paper. Enter those mental math techniques again, stage left. Running through an approximate solution in my head, I realised there was a clearly right answer from the choices available and confirmed it as my selection with two seconds remaining.

The verbal section of the test followed, and after the rush of the quant section I really had to discipline myself to pay attention and carefully scrutinise which answers I was selecting. I finished 15 minutes early on this section of the test as well, and suspect that if I had spent some of my preparation time on the Total GMAT Verbal ebook, I'd perhaps have had the techniques to end up with a better mark here as well.

In any case, thanks to all of you who've posted on this forum, as well as to Jeff Sackmann over at gmathacks. I've recommended both his books and this forum to all of my GMAT-taking colleagues, and wish you all the very best of luck.

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by DanaJ » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:03 pm
Congrats, Mr Twisties! Smashing verbal score! :)

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by chieftang » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:18 pm
Hey, big time congratulations!! Great story.

Would you care to share the Excel spreadsheet you used for the mental math drills?

Thanks!!

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by ariz » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:44 am
I completely agree with your take on eliminating silly mistakes by mastering the basic stuff rather than learning new and more difficult concepts. There are so many questions I know I would have been able to answer correctly if I am better at the fundamentals.

Congrats on the great score!

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by SharmashD » Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:12 pm
Congrats, Mr Twisties! Mind blowing :shock: verbal score. Haven't seen such score earlier :)

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by Arcane66 » Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:15 pm
crazy stuff...the schools will be all over you and you definitely deserve it. good luck in the future.

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by Mr Twisties » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:42 pm
Thanks for the kind words, guys. I'll try and tidy up the Excel spreadsheet and share it after this round of applications has been submitted.

Just got my report and can confirm the AWA was 6.0 (thank goodness!). Looking at that report brings up a perhaps trivial question - when I did the GMAT, I guessed my undergraduate record probably equated to about a 3.80 GPA. I've since had it assessed by WES, and it actually comes out at 3.95 - but the 3.80 is what was listed on the GMAT report that was distributed to the schools.

Do you guys think it's worth calling GMAC and getting my scores re-issued with the correct GPA? Or am I just splitting hairs here?

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by DanaJ » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:04 am
I think you have nothing to worry about, Mr Twisties! Just finish up those apps :)

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by ariz » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:27 am
I honestly cannot see any school rejecting you becasue you have a 3.80 GPA rather than a 3.95 :)

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by beatgmat2011 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:07 pm
Great debrief! Lessons - Get your basics right :) All the best :)

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by sammy123 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:36 pm
This sounds more like advertisement for GMAT hacks :D Just joking, I bought most of Jeff's materials and it is great. How did you approach your english section. I mean most peope even those who stuied English find SC hard. Any tips would be great.

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by Troika » Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:31 pm
Mr. Twisties, that is an awesome score! I've gone through some of the quant material in Total GMAT Math and quite like it.

I'm curious to know about your verbal preparation was, if any. Thanks.

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by shongwef » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:49 am
Congratulations Mr Twisties

All the best going forward. Looking forward to your Excel spreadsheet.

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by columbiabs » Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:38 am
Hello Mr Twisties,

Just wanted to congratulate you on achieving such a tremendous score on a short span of time!

Your debrief was an inspiration for future test-takers like me. Thanks for posting it.

Mr Twisties, would it be possible for you to send me the pdf version of "Total GMAT Math" book which has helped you to crack the quant part?!

As I am weak on quant, I think this book would extremely be helpful to me.

My e-mail address: intizam14@yahoo.com

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards,
Intizam

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by dinaker » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:30 am
Great score! Congrats! Can you please share the spreadsheets you prepared?