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Cracked the GMAT - 700! Updated: Full Debrief

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.
This topic has expert replies
Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts
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GMAT Score:700
Well, I wish I could say that I stomped it, but I cracked it I guess. My goal was to score a 700 or better, so I guess I'm done, but I strongly feel that I could have performed better. The Quant section felt much harder than usual overall. I will give a nice, long debrief later.

Final score breakdown:
700 - 92%
Q - 42 - 66%
V - 44 - 97%

Edit: The full debrief.

Hello everyone, here is my test and study recap. It’s going to be super long and detailed, because I always found the long debriefs to be the best. So, I’m going to do my best to provide as much useful information as possible. Also, I’d be happy to answer any additional questions that anyone has.

My Profile
I am a 23-year old American. I graduated in December 2006 from a second-tier university with a Finance degree and a 3.65 GPA. I immediately had a job with a prestigious credit training program for commercial banking in Chicago and moved into my role as a real estate analyst after training. About 2-months after leaving credit training, my bank was bought by Bank of America, who wanted to transfer me immediately back to Texas. I was enjoying Chicago, so I quit and found another job with another publicly traded commercial bank in Chicago where I still work today. I moved out of real estate and into middle market lending. I have also become involved in a Young Professional Development Board for a non-profit organization and have contributed to the planning process of several fundraisers so far.

In college, I had a vast amount of leadership experience from organizations in the business. Additionally, I was in sales during my summers, and managed my own sales team that was recognized as a top-50 team (out of about 1000 teams in the company). I used the capital I made through this to begin my own t-shirt company with a friend. We printed vintage-style t-shirts that were custom-designed for various campus organizations community businesses. We also printed original designs that we sold online. All in all, it was a successful college career, but I pursued a job in banking so I could understand in depth how to value and gain exposure to lots of companies in many different industries and markets.

My ultimate MBA goal is to attend a top school for Entrepreneurship to gain a deeper understanding of the process of raising capital and how to capitalize on opportunities. Also, it will help me establish a fantastic network of motivated and like-minded people.

Practice tests:
1. GMAT Prep 1: 620 (Q-39, V-35) – End of January
a. I took this test without ever looking at a GMAT problem on the first day of my GMAT class.
2. GMAT Prep 1: 590 (Q-41, V31) – Beginning of March
a. Obviously, I was pretty pissed about this one. After a little over a month of studying my score actually decreased. My time management was terrible on this test and I was forced to guess on the last questions of both sections. I was not practicing timed at this point, so I was trying too hard to apply concepts I’d learned so far.
3. GMAT Prep 2: 690 (Q-44, V-41) – End of March
a. I felt good after this test. I took this on the last day of my GMAT class. I decided that after a couple more months of studying, I would be able to be confident I would score in the 700’s. I decided to purchase some third party practice tests and take the real thing at the end of May, which obviously didn’t happen in the end.
4. PR Test 1: 580 (Q-39, V-31)
a. Again, another large setback that just fueled me to study harder.
5. PR Test 2: 700 (Q-44. V-43) – 4/27/08
a. First time to break 700. Admittedly, I was stoked, but definitely still felt that I had plenty of room to improve.
6. PR Test 3: 640 (Q-37, V-41) – 5/11/08
a. Another setback. I started studying Quant really hard after this one. I was very frustrated with my Quant scores and how much they fluctuated at this point.
7. PR Test 4: 740 (Q-50, V-43) – 5/18/08
a. Felt fantastic after this one. My Quant was much improved. Work was getting crazy busy at this point, so I moved my test date back to June 16, which was subsequently postponed again due to work.
8. MGMAT 1: 630 (Q-36, V-41) – 6/7/08
a. I could barely focus on this test, and ended up taking a nap in between the sections. I knew the MGMAT Quant was supposed to be generally harder, but I felt like this was ridiculous. I reviewed this test hard to make sure I understood all of the concepts they were trying to test.
9. MGMAT 2: 700 (Q-43, V-41) – 6/14/08
a. I felt raped by the Quant, but obviously my score improved. Still, the heavily fluctuating Quant score was frustrating me. With only a little over a week to go before my test, I wanted to make sure that this score was going to stick.
10. MGMAT 3: 730 (Q-45, V-45) – 6/15/08
a. I was feeling better about the quant after this one. Still, in the last week I decided that I was going to solely focus on Quant.
11. MGMAT 4: 710 (Q-43, V-44) – 6/19/08
a. The MGMAT Quant sections were still frustrating me, but the score was remaining fairly consistent, and I thought that this section was supposed to be harder than on the real thing, so I felt okay about it.
12. MGMAT 5: 700 (Q-47, V39) – 6/20/08
a. I felt great about the Quant and considered the Verbal to be an anomaly.
13. GMAT Prep 2: 760 (Q-49, V-44) – 6/21/08
a. At the advice of netigen, I decided to forego the last MGMAT test in favor of taking the GMAT Prep test a day early. I didn’t remember any of the questions since it had been so long since I’d taken it, so I felt really good about the score. I was definitely thinking I should be in the 720 range at the very least.
14. REAL GMAT: 700 (Q-42, V-44)
a. I’ll do a full debrief on the test experience below, but for now, suffice it to say that the Quant section was full of questions formatted in a way I’d never seen. I was unsure about whether I was doing really well because I was getting ridiculous questions or the real GMAT Quant section was just harder.

In the end, it turns out that, for me, the MGMAT Quant section test results were pretty accurate indicators of my actual score. While I think that some of the questions on MGMAT were a bit out of scope compared to the real GMAT, the strength was that it presented concepts in different ways not presented in the OG material.

My Test Prep Materials:
GMAT Prep Course through UIC:
I knew I wanted to take the GMAT some time this year, and in January, a friend from work suggested we take a practice course through UIC (University of Illinois Chicago). The course was only $400 and included the OG books, 10-weeks of instruction, and the Lighthouse Review Ultimate Math Refresher.

I started out doing the minimum homework assignments out of the OG, but didn’t really have the time or focus to really dig into the material. Still, I stayed up on the coursework and found it helpful to get back into the high school math way of thinking.

I felt that the class was not directed at students with my level of ambition, but it was still helpful overall. I still had a lot of concepts to solidify when the class culminated at the end of March.

The Ultimate Math Refresher by Lighthouse Review
This book was assigned by the UIC course. It was generally helpful in getting me back into math, but not very advanced.

OG11
The bible of the GMAT. This book is essential. By this book and do every problem. I created a spreadsheet to track problems I had trouble with, which I would revisit every couple weeks to ensure I was making progress on the concepts.

GMAT – Quantitative and Verbal Review Books
Again, absolutely necessary to proper studying for this test. You can’t do anything better than understand actual GMAT problems.

Princeton Review – Cracking the GMAT
Honestly, I bought this book almost exclusively for the 4 practice tests. The book was generally useless, and I think the Joe Bloggs method is retarded and completely unhelpful. Also, the DVD that came with the book is even more useless than the rest of the book. The practice tests were pretty good, but didn’t increase in difficulty quickly enough. It was good timed practice though.

Sentence Correction Bible – Powerscore
I bought this before I discovered the forums online where everyone and their cousin and their cousin’s dog recommend the MGMAT SC book. However, I found this book extremely helpful and it helped me improve my accuracy in SC immensely. It focuses on the concepts actually presented on the GMAT and not tips and tricks to “beat” the test. This book was very helpful.

Number Properties Workshop – www.scorechase.com
Guardian, who is one of the Mods on Scorechase, was fantastically helpful and informative in this Saturday morning seminar. It was only $7 and definitely helped me solidify my number properties concepts. This was one of the hardest concepts for me, because I found it to be very broad and the DS questions always seemed to have so many testable scenarios. I wish I had signed up for the second workshop in May, but I was working that day.

Combinatorics Workshop – www.scorechase.com
I was not able to attend this one live. I think it occurred before I was really involved in the forum. Anyway, perhaps because I didn’t attend it live, I didn’t find this very helpful. The practice questions you have access to after signing up to have access to this recorded seminar were very difficult and not all of the answers were broken out.

Project GMAT – Statistics, Permutations & Combinations, and Probability – Veritas Prep
This book was awesome. I found the explanations extremely helpful. My only regret with this book is that I received it less than a month before my exam and only had time to review it once. I still found myself struggling on these problems during my actual GMAT test, but I think, due primarily to this book, I was able to get at least 2/4 of the problems of this type I received on the test. 1 of the problems on the actual test seemed completely out of scope and I had no idea how to do it. The other one, I should have known how to do.

Manhattan GMAT – Number Properties
In an attempt to further solidify my number properties concepts and gain access to the challenging MGMAT practice exams, I bought this book. I found it to be somewhat helpful, but not nearly as helpful as the workshop I mentioned above. The biggest problem I had with the book was that the practice problems were not difficult enough.

So, that is a review of all of my GMAT prep materials. What it really comes down to is knowing your weaknesses and focusing on those areas for improvement. Keep an error log of the OG problems and pay close attention to your worst areas in the MGMAT practice test assessments. These tools are very helpful.

Also, definitely get involved in the online forum communities. I was more heavily involved in Scorechase, but was also a lurker and occasional commenter here on www.beatthegmat.com, which has more members. I found the scorechase community to be extremely helpful and supportive. Thanks to everyone who ever responded to my comments here. I had lots and lots of incorrect and dumb responses, but that’s the way you improve.

Verbal Strategy
At the request of several of the people here, I am disclosing my Verbal strategy. I was fortunate to be raised with English as my native language. Also, I read… a lot. I really enjoy reading complicated financial and economic books, so it follows that I am able to decipher my way to the author’s main point in boring passages. Also, I naturally question what I read, which I think helped me in my ability to analyze arguments. Still, I developed a strategy and, with the assistance of the GMAT class I took, it helped me further improve my verbal strategies.

Reading Comprehension
In the beginning, I began by taking notes on these passages. I didn’t take notes on the actual content of the passages, but what purpose each paragraph played in the passage. Also, I wrote down words or phrases that I thought might be tested so easy reference. After you do a ton of these, you start to get a feel for what is likely to be tested. After a while, I found that I was able to understand what I was reading without taking the notes, but I think the notes were good practice in the beginning. Also, don’t read the passage word-for-word the first read through. Get a concept of the general outline and tone of the passage, but you can afford to gloss over the minute details until you receive a question regarding a specific topic in the passage. Then, go back and read the paragraph corresponding to the specific question. You will save time by not reading for detail twice.

Critical Reasoning
I had a great strategy for this section. On these, I started by reading the question so I knew what I was looking for before I read the argument. Like RC, I started out by breaking these down into notes.

Is the question is an assumption/strengthen/weaken/inference question do this:
Write CPA in a vertical line on the paper. This stands for Conclusion, Proof, and Assumption. Write down the final conclusion of the passage next to the C, what evidence is provided to support the conclusion next to the P, and then think about what must be true to make this conclusion true. You will very often find your answer here. If the question is a strengthen or weaken question, find something that will make the assumption true or untrue.

Here is an example:
It is better for the environment if as much of all packaging as possible is made from materials that are biodegradable in landfills. Therefore, it is always a change for the worse to replace packaging made from paper or cardboard with packaging made from plastics that are not biodegradable in landfills.

Which of the following, if true, constitutes the strongest objection to the argument above?

(A) The paper and cardboard used in packaging are usually not biodegradable in landfills.
(B) Some plastic used in packaging is biodegradable in landfills.
(C) In many landfills, a significant proportion of space is taken up by materials other than discarded packaging materials.
(D) It is impossible to avoid entirely the use of packaging materials that are not biodegradable in landfills.
(E) Sometimes, in packaging an item, plastics that are not biodegradable in landfills are combined with cardboard.

We can see from the question that this question is a weaken question. So write this:
C:
P:
A:

Now, read the argument. We can see that the conclusion is: Switching from paper or cardboard packaging to something that is not biodegradable is always worse for the environment. I would probably write: Switching always worse.

What evidence is presented to support this claim? I would say this: as many biodegradable materials a possible create a healthier environment.

So now we have this:
C: Switching always worse (if the new product is not biodegradable)
P: The more biodegradable materials in the landfills, the better.
A:

So, what must be true to make the conclusion true? That will be the assumption. There are often a couple of assumptions you can come up with, but the one most apparent to me is that the paper and cardboard must be more biodegradable than the plastic materials to make the switch worse. So now we have:
C: Switching always worse (if the new product is not biodegradable)
P: The more biodegradable materials in the landfills, the better.
A: Paper better for environment than plastic.

Since this is a weaken argument, we know that if we find something that makes our assumption untrue it will probably be a good answer.

Upon reviewing the answer choices, we can see that A) makes our assumption insufficient to support the argument. None of the other choices necessarily weakens our assumption, so A) must be the correct answer.

For other types of problems, such as boldface problems or problems requiring you to mimic an argument, it’s helpful write down what parts you think the boldface parts play or a diagram of the argument before reading the answer choices.

Sentence Correction
Buy the MGMAT SC book or the Powerscore SC bible and read it over and over. Practice, practice, practice. Then, practice some more. Understand why each answer choice is wrong or right. That’s it.

My Test Experience
So I had my exam at 8am this morning. The essays were easy and went well. I practiced these twice in my GMAT class and never scored below a 4. I had a friend accepted to a great school that literally didn’t even complete the essays, so I was not worried about them at all.

The Quant Section was ridiculous. I saw 4 combinations and permutations problems, including one that couldn’t be solved so it requested the formula as the answer choice. I knew the factorial to use, but was unsure about whether it should be multiplied by another factorial, or 1/another factorial. I really had no idea. There were a few other questions that were completely new to me, too. I thought maybe I was doing really well since my questions were so hard, but was unsure. In the end, I finished on time, but did not enjoy the section at all. I just hoped for the best. Obviously, I experienced my age old problem of varying quant scores. Luckily, I had studied enough that even in a very bad showing, I could still manage an overall score of 700. I strongly feel I was very unlucky with the problems I received in my quant.

The Verbal section was fine. A couple boldface problems. One long RC, and one really short one. Nothing unexpected.

I was not nervous at all during the test, but began to feel excited in the last 4 questions since I was so near the end. All of this hard work was about to come to an end. What would it be? 700. My heart dropped. I was extremely disappointed and made a hasty decision to retake the test. However, as I walked around downtown Chicago for about 30 minutes and decompressed, I realized that this was the score I had originally set out to score and I had hit my goal. A 92nd percentile score is fantastic overall, and it’s the average at the universities I wish to attend. Hopefully my profile will be strong enough to shine against the strong applicant pool.

My target schools are NYU, Columbia, and Harvard. I’m also going to apply to Northwestern. For now though, I am going to take the summer off and enjoy it.

Thanks again to everyone that believed in me along the way, and please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. Also, if you would like to give me advice about how to differentiate myself in the application process, by all means, please help me!

This has been a long, drawn out process, but in the end it all comes down to confidence in your own abilities and how well prepared you are for the exam. I literally went in knowing that the circumstances would have to be very bad for me to score below a 700. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to hit my goal. If I got a 690, I was going to retake it and hit my goal, regardless. This took the pressure off of this particular exam. I knew that I was either going to hit 700 today or in the future. Also, I have no doubt that on another day, I would be able to score at least a 730 or better. Anyway, I’m ecstatic that I hit my goal!

Thanks to everyone on this forum, you have all been very helpful and supportive. You guys rock!
Last edited by chipjet on Mon Jun 23, 2008 7:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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by osamakhan » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:06 am
congrats...awesome score...waiting for debrief.....i think your overall score is good enough so quant score won't hurt. Wch school are you aiming for?

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by D Terman » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:06 am
Congratulations! As many people will tell you, your GMAT score is great and the low quant score may be a factor only depending on your academic background... If you did well in Quant classes in college I would not worry at all. Also, if your job is Quant based then you would also not need to worry too much.

Congratulations Again and all the best with your apps!

D Terman

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by chipjet » Mon Jun 23, 2008 7:50 pm
Updated. Try not to fall asleep. Hopefully its helpful!

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by osamakhan » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:49 am
Excellent debrief man. I am taking GMAT on August 1st and my weakness is verbal critical reasoing. I really liked your CPA strategy and planned to buy Powerscore book. I am aiming for a 650+ bacuase i m going for a part time MBA at Virginia Tech/Georgetown/UMD.

Best of luck with your MBA journey.

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by niraj_a » Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:06 am
congrats buddy! you sure did crack it!

could you tell if the CR process you undertook took a lot of time? it seems a little time consuming, or maybe i need a little more practice

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by mbadrew » Tue Jun 24, 2008 12:57 pm
Ass Kicking score!
Do I see an application on Kellog School of Business in the future?

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by chipjet » Wed Jun 25, 2008 6:59 am
Thanks everyone!

My Verbal strategy definitely does take longer at first, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to fly through the questions because you'll know immediately what they're looking for. I finished my verbal section plenty of extra time on the last questions.

And yes, you will see me applying for Kellogg in the fall!

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by niraj_a » Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:16 am
Super idea chipjet!

Last questions -

1. Did you feel the math was harder than GMATPrep?
2. Did you see the Math focus to be on number properties rather than topics like absolute values and combinatorics?

I take it on Saturday, hoping to get as close to 700 as possible.

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by chipjet » Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:24 am
niraj_a wrote:Super idea chipjet!

Last questions -

1. Did you feel the math was harder than GMATPrep?
2. Did you see the Math focus to be on number properties rather than topics like absolute values and combinatorics?

I take it on Saturday, hoping to get as close to 700 as possible.
Niraj -
1.) I definitely felt that the GMAT Prep was much easier than the Quant on my actual exam.
2.) There was at least one DS absolute value question on my test, and there were 4 combination and permutation problems. I was hoping, after reading a lot of others' experiences on here, that these would be much less prevalent as others' had found, but it was not the case for me.

The least prevalent question for me, actually, was work problems. I don't even think I saw a work problem on the actual exam. Lots of combinatorics and no work problems.

Of course, everyone has a different experience and it's kind of "luck of the draw" since the question database is so huge. I think it's just luck whether you receive questions you're good at or not.

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by niraj_a » Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:52 am
oh boy, im scared now...good to have the info though...thanks a bunch!

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by drizzle » Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:55 pm
hi, that's a great debrief...congrats for hitting your goal !!...
can you give some highlight on your study plan..you used to study for a stretch or did the prepartion in gaps...??. and also let us know, what time gap you gave between each mock tests you took and any suggestion on the same...??

thanks..n again congrats n ATB for your apps

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by chipjet » Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:02 am
There were some gaps in my studies, mostly due to work. I would go entire weeks without picking up a book. I don't recommend this, if you can help it, because I usually backslid a bit before getting back into things.

Just received my AWA score: 6.0