740 (Q44, V47): TOTALLY beat the GMAT!

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740 (Q44, V47): TOTALLY beat the GMAT!

by erdehoff » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:23 pm
I am completely walking on air right now. After months of studying (mostly quant), I finally took the test today, and I did better than I ever dreamed. Here's my story.

I'm 31/F, liberal arts degree from fairly well-respected state university, 8 years of journalism experience. I had never considered business school until April, when I took a "finance for non-finance professionals" seminar offered by one of my trade association clients. That was my "aha!" moment: I'd been told all through school that I was no good at math, so I'd avoided anything that had to do with it ever since. Long story short, that seminar showed me otherwise. It made me realize that business school might be a good option for me.

When I first started looking into it, I thought, "Maybe I can get into the part-time program at [low-ranked local university]." My original plan was to go part time, so that was where I looked first. I bought several GMAT books (mainly Kaplan Premier and OGMAT). It quickly became apparent that I needed a LOT of work on quant (reality check: I had not done long division by hand in so long that I actually had to Google "how to do long division"), while my verbal skills, with a little brushing up, were in good shape. My job for the past 8 years has basically entailed reading comprehension, sentence correction and critical reasoning, so I didn't focus much on that until the end.

Quant was a long, hard slog. I spent at least an hour a day reading study materials and doing practice questions; the results of the practice quizzes made me want to cry more than once, but I kept at it, day after day. Finally, in August, I signed up for two related Foundations of Math online seminars through Manhattan GMAT. They came with MGMAT's Foundations of Math book, which was a GODSEND. I cannot recommend it highly enough. While the OG and Kaplan books often assumed I knew things I didn't know, MGMAT's Foundations of Math walked me through the basics in ways I could almost always understand easily. It really made the difference for me. After I mastered that book, I was able to circle back to the Kaplan and OG books and tackle the material that had previously been beyond me. The Web seminars themselves were somewhat helpful, but the book was invaluable.

I took four of the six Manhattan GMAT practice tests that came with the seminars and scored 690, 700, 690 and 730. I spent a lot of time studying the explanations for the problems I got wrong (and the ones I got right!), and I liked the assessment tools that allowed me to compare all the tests at once and see at a glance which areas of math were my greatest weaknesses. This tool also helped me shore up my weaknesses on the verbal section.

The day before the test, I got a mani-pedi and went to see "Secretariat" (fluffy, no strenuous thinking required), then went home to wait for bedtime. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin, I was so nervous. I barely slept. I got to the testing center so early that I had to wait downstairs for half an hour before I could go up. I thought I was going to be sick!

OK, so, the test itself. I'm pretty sure I messed up the Analysis of an Issue essay (my outline wasn't very good), but I feel good about the Analysis of an Argument essay. We'll see in a few weeks. The math was ... oh, man. I thought for sure I was bombing it. I encountered several questions I hadn't seen in all my months of prep and no questions on a few topics at which I'd worked very, very hard, but that's the luck of the draw. (Lesson: Study as many question types as you can! Don't get hung up on any one topic!) By the time I got to the verbal section, my head was spinning. As the final question approached, my apprehension mounted -- I was incredibly nervous about my score. I clicked through all the demographic questions and finally got to the score page.

740. SERIOUSLY? WHAT?? Um... I may have done some silent fist-pumps. ;)

I had hoped to get at least 700. 740 was beyond my wildest expectations. 68th percentile math -- considering I probably started at the 10th percentile and relied entirely on self-study, I'm thrilled with that number. 99th percentile on verbal; I made some adjustments after a few practice tests that put me in the 93rd percentile, and apparently it worked. Again, Manhattan GMAT's extensive practice test analysis was very helpful in preparing for the verbal section (to be fair, I did not take any other company's practice tests).

Overall: 97th percentile. I will be on Cloud Nine for at least a week.

I have a lot of work to do in the application process, but this score opens the door to a lot of possibilities. Needless to say, I'm now planning to go full time next fall (a conclusion I came to over several months of research -- as a career changer, it seems like the wisest choice). I can't wait to see what the future holds! In the meantime, I'll be bolstering my quant skills with an accounting or statistics course this spring through the USDA grad school.

Best of luck to everyone who has yet to take the test!

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by rajeshsources » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:51 pm
Congratulations erdehoff !

All the best for your apps.
Rajesh

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by uwhusky » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:04 pm
Congratulation! If I hit 740, there would be no "silent" fist pumps!

Good luck on your applications!
Yep.

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by sorter » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:16 pm
Congratulations! I hope you're setting your sights on a top school now! Coincidentally, I decided this week that I'm going to take the MGMAT Foundations I & II courses next month. I'm pretty sure I'm going to take follow up courses after New Years (when I'll have time) either the online MGMAT or Knewton. Was there a particular reason why you didn't take the full course? I ask because the MGMAT material says it's a foundation for the actual course, but it sounds like you used it in place of the course. Anyway, like I said - congrats, you earned it!

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by milanproda » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:14 am
Congratulations!

In my limited experience on this website, most posters score much higher on their quant than on the verbal section. Personally, I struggle with math more than I do with verbal. This has really lifted my spirits. I plan on purchasing the Math Foundations workbook and improving my math score.

Thank for the post and good luck with schools, I doubt you will have a problem getting in anywhere.
Milan Prodanovic
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by amir_hatef » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:43 am
Hi,

So awesome score, Congratzzz!! I wish you all the very best with your application.

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by erdehoff » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:32 am
sorter wrote:Congratulations! I hope you're setting your sights on a top school now! Coincidentally, I decided this week that I'm going to take the MGMAT Foundations I & II courses next month. I'm pretty sure I'm going to take follow up courses after New Years (when I'll have time) either the online MGMAT or Knewton. Was there a particular reason why you didn't take the full course? I ask because the MGMAT material says it's a foundation for the actual course, but it sounds like you used it in place of the course. Anyway, like I said - congrats, you earned it!
Thanks! Part of the reason is that I didn't want to spend the money on a full course that included verbal, since I did not need instruction in that area; mostly, I didn't have time. If I'd had an extra month to study, I would have considered taking the advanced math seminars through Manhattan GMAT or even just working through the rest of their math books, but I decided the wisest investment of my time would be to focus on mastering the basics so I could do well on the 500-600 and 600-700-level questions. I did not think the return on investment would be very good for the most difficult subjects. If I were to do it all over again, I would do the Manhattan GMAT Foundations book right from the start and then perhaps take their more difficult math seminars, but this seemed to work for me!

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by erdehoff » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:43 am
milanproda wrote:Congratulations!

In my limited experience on this website, most posters score much higher on their quant than on the verbal section. Personally, I struggle with math more than I do with verbal. This has really lifted my spirits. I plan on purchasing the Math Foundations workbook and improving my math score.

Thank for the post and good luck with schools, I doubt you will have a problem getting in anywhere.
Thank you! I noticed the same thing about this site and the others I went to. I don't know if that means these sites naturally attract people who do better on quant or if that's reflective of GMAT test-takers as a whole.

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by [email protected] » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:10 pm
Great job on the verbal section! What materials did you use? How much did you improve on the verbal section from when you started studying?
If my post helped you- let me know by pushing the thanks button ;)

I'm a private tutor in Paris, I provide online and in person consulting for the GMAT and MBA application essays.
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by erdehoff » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:34 pm
Daniel Heart wrote:Great job on the verbal section! What materials did you use? How much did you improve on the verbal section from when you started studying?
Daniel --

I spent a few days going through the verbal section of the Official Guide -- enough to get a sense of what was expected in each of the question categories and do a few dozen practice questions for each category. Then I focused almost exclusively on quant for the next few months. I don't recommend this strategy for most people! My job for the past eight years has tested me daily in all of the skills the GMAT verbal section evaluates (I guess the equivalent for quant would be a high school math teacher). Toward the end, I took four Manhattan GMAT practice tests; my scores were Q39/V45, Q44/V41, Q42/V41 and Q45/V45. In the final week before the real test, I spent a lot of time poring over ALL of my results from all four tests, including the verbal questions I got right. I focused on the explanations for each of the verbal answers (and the explanations for each of the incorrect options) so I could get a better sense of how to approach the questions with the skills I already had. I was very happy with my verbal score, but I was thrilled that I did so well on quant considering where I'd started!

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by erdehoff » Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:47 am
Just got my official score report. By some miracle I managed a 6.0 on the AWA! I thought for sure I'd messed up the Analysis of an Issue essay (I really didn't plan it out very well and changed my mind about what to focus on halfway through writing it), but apparently it was good enough. I did not spend a lot of time preparing for the AWA. I think I wrote one practice essay during my prep and read a lot of past AWA questions and sample essays, but all told I spent maybe three hours on that section. Again, not a strategy I would recommend to someone who doesn't already spend 50 hours a week writing and editing!

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by siddaggarwal » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:32 am
Congrats...I got a 620 in July and retook it in October and got a measly 600..your words are inspiring.....I got a weaker Quant background just like you....My quants were 41 and 39 respectively and 35 and 34 respectively on the Verbal....your one of the few non-Indian/non-foreigner people on here with a great score recently with also a huge Math strategy to follow....What do you think I may doing wrong in my Quant? My background is I graduated in 2008 with a Biology BA and Business minor.....My quant skills improved after my first GMAT because I bought 3 of the 5 Manhattan books that relate to the topics I am weakest in...Word Translation, Number Properties, and Equations, Inequalities, VICs...

I studied all the topics with diligence...my Manhattan Practice CATs ranged from 590 to 680 and my Kaplan CATS were around 600......any suggestion!? I want to take it ONE LAST TIME b/c I want a score b/w 660 and 690...where do I begin with my "weak" math base?

anyway congrats again!!!

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by erdehoff » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:37 pm
I started with the most basic stuff -- I truly think MGMAT's Foundations of Math was what turned things around for me, because until I started that book, I had been really discouraged. Getting a handle on those basic concepts and problems helped build my confidence as well -- and confidence is absolutely key to doing well on the test, because you need to know that you can face a problem that looks too difficult to solve at first, take a deep breath and look at different ways to approach it rather than panicking.

You said you took several Manhattan practice CATs -- if you haven't already, make full use of their analysis tools and examine the right and wrong answer explanations for every question you faced. That was extremely helpful for me in the week leading up to the test.

Good luck!

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by siddaggarwal » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:06 pm
hey erdehoff

i already spent close to 60 bucks on 3 of 5 Manhattan Quant books...this is just a basics book nothing more..which I have already reviewed...do u think maybe a high school algebra 1 and a bit of geometry/stats books from high school would be fine?

I'm a high school science teacher so these things are easily accessible to me

thanks

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by erdehoff » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:58 pm
siddaggarwal wrote:hey erdehoff

i already spent close to 60 bucks on 3 of 5 Manhattan Quant books...this is just a basics book nothing more..which I have already reviewed...do u think maybe a high school algebra 1 and a bit of geometry/stats books from high school would be fine?

I'm a high school science teacher so these things are easily accessible to me

thanks
It sounds like basic math is not your problem, then! Yes, I think high school algebra I and geometry/stats from high school would be fine (though admittedly it has been quite a while since I saw those books myself!). I would have a hard time diagnosing your specific issues with the quant section without seeing which questions you're struggling with; I can only tell you what helped me, and I was having problems with the basics, since I hadn't thought about them in quite some time. What are the results of your practice tests telling you? Where are you having the most trouble? I wish I could help more!