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From 470 to 760 in one month (I did it! yay!)

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From 470 to 760 in one month (I did it! yay!)

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Hi guys,

I am not really an active member of Beat the GMAT but I want to share my experience with my preparation and the actual exam, hoping that this experience could at least inspire the future test takers out there. This is quite a long story and I hope you can learn something from my experience. I took the GMAT last August 1, 2011 and got 760 (Q51 V42). I am very much pleased by the results and I really did not expect it.

Background:

I am 31- year old male from the Philippines but I am residing in Japan. I finished my undergrad in engineering, 10 years ago. Currently, I work as a R&D engineer in a research facility in Japan. Although I always have wanted to switch career from engineering to business, pursuing an MBA was not really a part of my plan. However, I realized that the fastest track to change my career path is to have an MBA. So, to make the long story short, I prepared and took the GMAT.

Beginning:

On April, 2011, I bought a used OG12 and immediately took the diagnostic test without knowing anything about GMAT. My results were horrible. I scored 5 in problem solving, 3 in data sufficiency, 2 in sentence correction, 5 in critical thinking and 5 also in reading comprehension. I was so devastated by my results that I literally threw the OG12 away. I thought that I can nail the quants because I am good at numbers but I was wrong. The diagnostic test sucked all my confidence away and for four weeks, I forgot GMAT and MBA and moved on with my life.

On the first week of May, 2011, we had a week-long holiday, which Japanese call the "golden week". Without anything to do in Japan, I decided to go back to the Philippines and spend my holidays home. On my vacation, I met a friend from high school who just finished her MBA from one of the top 10 business schools in the US. We chatted for hours and she gave me the most valuable advice that I did not understand at first but later helped me with my preparation for GMAT. Her advice, was simple: "Don't just read the problems; understand them". Anyway, my friend's stories in business school inspired me and my desire to take my MBA was awaken again. After the I chatted with my friend, I immediately booked a GMAT appointment on the 1st of August to have enough time to prepare for the exam.

After a week-long vacation, I came back to Japan ready to prepare for the GMAT. I did not expect that I would become busy with my job but projects after projects came. So, I spent the rest of May and June finishing those projects. When I was done, I only had five days before the end of June and that's the time when I started my preparation.

The Preparation:
The first thing I did was search for the OG12 I threw after my first diagnostic test. I found it under my bed. I decided not to take the diagnostic test again unless I already knew everything I need to know about the GMAT. Then, I downloaded the GMATprep software and read and practice the tutorials. After taking the practice exercises from the software, I decided to take the first GMAT prep exam. I thought that the exam was really easy. In fact I finished the quants with more than 11 minutes left on the clock. Verbal was also smooth sailing. I finished 5 minutes before time. The result? TERRIBLE. I got 470 (Q35 V20). I was really shocked and maybe for five minutes or so I stared at the screen of my laptop speechless and mouth-opened. I did not review my exam. Instead, I uninstalled the software.

I thought, that it would be the end but then, I remember what my friend told me-"Don't just read the problems; understand them". That was the time when I finally understood what she was trying to tell me. When I was taking the exam, I was just reading the problems passively. So I decided to change my approach. I told myself that I have to read every problem critically and I must be very sensitive to the details especially small words such as "not", "but", etc. I returned to the diagnostic exam and tried solving the problems again. I was surprised to find out that my hit rate dramatically improved. I did not count my total scores but I am sure that I got more than 60% in each section. Because of that, I started to regain my confidence and decided to take the exam after one month as scheduled.

The next day, I organized my schedule and made a 1-month plan on how to prepare for the exam. Since I was anticipating that July would not be a busy month, I decided to spare at least 3 hours a day on weekdays and 5 hours or more on weekends to study for the GMAT. One problem I had was the studying materials, which unfortunately were not available in amazon japan when I was searching. But then, I remember that I have comprehensive notes in algebra, geometry, statistics and number properties when I was in high school. So, I immediately called my mom and asked her to send those notes to me in Japan. Since, I could read Japanese characters, I also bought a GMAT reviewer written in Japanese. The Japanese GMAT prep book was an excellent material because it taught me a lot short cuts in problem solving and it was really excellent in data sufficiency explanations. But of course, I am not recommending this book for obvious reason.

I spent the first half of July reviewing my high school notes while answering the problems in OG12 and when I finished all the notes, I decided to install again the GMAT prep software and took the first practice exam. I was pleased that my score dramatically improved to 650 (Q49 V30). After the exam I analyzed my weakness and strengths. I found out that I was really weak in sentence correction and data sufficiency. In fact, all mistakes I made in quant were data sufficiency problems and majority of errors I made in verbal was from sentence correction. I was really good in critical reasoning and problem solving though.

For the third week of my preparation I dedicated almost 90% of my time practicing data sufficiency problems. I also downloaded from iTunes a free grammar book and read at least three chapters everyday. That week was really stressful and I was spending almost five hours a day after work just to study for the GMAT. What's worse was starting Thursday until Saturday of that week, I was not able to sleep (I suffer from insomnia when I am overstressed). On Sunday, one week before the actual exam , I took the mock exam again (repeat mock exam). I panicked to see that my scored decreased to 530(Q37 V25). That day, I decided to take a break from studying. I invited my Japanese friend to go to a spa. I relaxed, had a massage and slept for more than 12 hours. The following day, I woke up with a hangover.

Anyway, despite the fact that I did not do well in the last mock, I still decided to take the exam on the 1st of August. So the last week of my preparation was dedicated to review the errors I made during my practice from the OG12. I was amazed that I answered all of the mistakes I made easily. On the last Saturday of July, I took the 2nd GMAT Prep exam and I was very pleased that my score was beyond my expectation. I got 750 (Q50 V42). I was convinced that I am prepared to take the exam the next week

The exam:
My appointment was at 13:00 but I arrived at the testing center at 12:00. I was so nervous that I was shaking all over. At 12:00 there were still people taking the exam so the Japanese personnel asked me to sit and wait for a while. While waiting, I tried to read the sample essays I printed (I forgot the source). It helped me calm down. At around 12:30, the proctor started verifying my documents and my biometric data and at exactly 12:45, I was escorted to my computer. The AWA was quite hard but I did not really care much about it. I know that I am not a good writer but I know that schools do not really check the essays. So, I just tried my best to write whatever I can. After the AWA, I took a break and did breathing exercises, went to the toilet and ate donuts. 2 minutes before the end of the break, I was escorted back to my computer. The quant exam was relatively easy up to problem 9 but on the 10th question, I almost fall from my chair when I saw a combinatorics question. I did not expect that combinatorics problem to come out that early but I relaxed, concentrated and tried to answer the problem. It took me more than 3 minutes. Then, followed a very tough analytic geometry data sufficiency question. That moment, I was almost panicking because it took me more than 3 minutes again to solve the problem. The next questions were all tough that when I reached question 28, I only had 10 minutes left on the clock. Worse, the questions became comparatively easier than the previous ones. It made me think that I blew my quants especially when the last question popped out and it was just a simple fraction addition. I thought from then that I will just retake the exam after another month.

I took a break, ate another donuts and went to the toilet. When I started my verbal, I was already so relaxed. I already had accepted the fact that I have to retake the GMAT. The first verbal question was critical reasoning. It was relatively easy but the second question was sentence correction and it was so long. It took me around 3 minutes to answer. The 7th question was a reading comprehension. It was a short passage but I realized that two of the three questions were really tricky. I did not bother much though. I had a total of 3 short and one long passages. Critical reasoning questions were really tough from the 25th question until the end and sentence correction questions were all tough from the start.

After the verbal, I took the sample exam for the next generation GMAT but I was so tired to answer all of the questions. So, I answered only the first two problems and guessed the rest. Finally, I confirmed all my data. The last page was the most critical page. I almost cancelled my score but I thought that if I cancel it, I will just waste my $262. So I decided to see my score. I did not have any expectation but when a 760 popped out the screen, I almost jumped. The test taker who was setting beside me looked at me. I looked back and gave him a big grin and he turned red.

I will write my strategies soon. Please, stay tuned. Very Happy



Last edited by jimpropheit on Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:12 am; edited 1 time in total

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"I threw the book away and later found it under my bed" and "i just uninstalled the software" just made my laugh out loud right here at my office work station. People might think i've gone craze but i dont care; i just read an amazing debrief. Congratulations !!!!

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Congrats on the Score !!, The first verbal question was critical reasoning ? Never heard of that before. Confused

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Quant 47-Striving for 50
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My gmat journey :
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upz46D7l8fA&list=PLUmBNvYMnppJRMpR9fwfcsTWBZF14TKW_

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congratulations, that's an amazing result! you must be thrilled Smile

i actually had a panic attack last night, i have my exam in just over a month and i've not finished going through quant yet, so i'm freaking out a little bit. but this is certainly inspiring, all the best for your applications Smile

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Hi congo mate....

This is a big and drastic improvement will wait for your strategies and all the resources you used.

Chaw

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Hi,

Congrats on your score..!
Please share your strategies as soon as possible...!
I am giving my exam in 3 weeks. My practise score is 590 and I am shooting for 700+
I am also struggling with Sentence corection and data sufficiency. PLEASE HELP..!

Any tips would be really apreciated.

Thanks and good luck with the rest of the admissions process.

Amol

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Wow!! congrats..!

Is it necessary to get the first question in verbal as a SC problem ??

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I tell you, crazy experiences like this sometimes give me hope

Congrats!! Who says that you can't write. I think this is a pretty good essay

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Congrats!!! What a great story. I too am struggling with DS and SC and sometimes I think its impossible but your success is proof that I am wrong. Do share your strategy.

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I felt the same way during my 1st attempt at the GMAT. I wasn't prepared due to full-time work, my two children, and overtime, but I feel better prepared now. By reading your post it encourages me to not give up. Thanks for sharing.

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Hi,

I am so inspired with your story and would really appreciate if you can share your technique. Im a Filipino too and im taking GMAT 1 month from now.

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Also, please do share your Data Sufficiency learning. I'm having trouble getting more than 1-2 questions right, and it's pulling my score down horribly!

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Great score. Awesome job done! Thanks for the debrief.

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Hi guys,

Thank you all for your posts. I'm speechless and I am overwhelmed.

Anyway, as promised, here's my tips on how to prepare for the GMAT. I am not very good in writing logically and i find it hard to organize my thoughts so please be patient. Very Happy

Maybe you will be a little surprised but I do not really consider my studies as the main reason why I got an unexpected high score on GMAT. I think I could attribute most of my success to my physical and emotional preparations. GMAT is a test of endurance and a test of emotional and mental toughness. Being strong in only one of those three aspects I mentioned is like going to the battle with only 33.33% preparation. So my suggestion is - be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared.

Physical Preparation:
I started going to the gym regularly after I came back from a short vacation back home on May. I started going to the gym not because I was preparing for the GMAT but because the training machines in the gym of our company are new. Then, I noticed that by going to the gym and doing cardio regularly my concentration improved tremendously. So, when I started preparing for the GMAT I was able to focus longer. I avoided sweets too and replaced them by fruits. That was also the time when I realized that eating sweets is one of the causes of my insomnia.

Emotional Preparation:
While preparing for the GMAT I always tried to avoid any negative thoughts to enter my mind. On the first week, I remember I had panic attacks in the middle of the night because I was so scared. Then, I realized that I have nothing to fear if I only believe in myself. I know that nothing is impossible if I just put my mind and my heart to what I truly desire. So from that moment until the last day of my preparation, I kept on telling myself that I can always ace the GMAT and it worked.

Mental Preparation:
General Tips: Read critically regardless of the type of question. Be sensitive even to the slightest change in the flow of the questions. Also, understand your mistakes.

1. Problem solving - Before jumping to OG12, make sure that your foundation in Math is already strong. If you could master the concepts that would be great. Mastering the concepts is better than learning tricks. Obviously, the reason is that tricks can only be applied to certain problems while concept can be applied to all. Then, practice all the problems in OG12. I know that there are many GMAT prep books out there but if you only have a month to prepare, just focus on the OG12. You'll be surprise to see a lot of almost similar problems in the OG12 that would appear during the exam.

2. Data Sufficiency - I struggled to this type of problem at first because most of the time, after I read the problem I jump to the first condition immediately and if it seem that the first condition is insufficient, I proceed to the second condition soon and eventually choose C. The best way to answer the data sufficiency questions is to treat each condition separately. However before you move to the conditions, make sure that you already understand the problem and know exactly what you are looking for. When you move to the first condition, ignore the second condition completely first and do the same for the second condition. When you can't arrive to a conclusive answer, solve the problem applying each condition until you find out if the conditions are sufficient or not.

3. Reading comprehension - By the name itself it is obvious that we have to comprehend what we are reading. DON'T skim the passages. Read them from the first word to the last. Don't rush or speed reading. In my experience, I only had 3 short passages and 1 long passage during the actual exam but in my three mock tests, I had mostly 2 short and 2 long passages. Give yourself 3 to 4 minutes to read a long passage completely and 2 minutes to read the short passages. Then answer each question in 1 minute or less . Be sensitive to the flow of the passage and always know what the author is trying to say. This would help you answer the main idea questions fast and it would help you to locate the answer to specific questions when they become tricky.

4. Critical reasoning - I think that the critical reasoning is the most direct type of question in GMAT. In critical reasoning, be sure that you understand the problem very well before reading the choices. Always know the conclusion and the assumption before choosing your answer. This is important specially in strengthen and weaken type questions.

5. Sentence correction - This really was my biggest problem. The trick here is to understand the sentence first before looking for errors. There are 8 commonly tested errors in GMAT and familiarizing yourself to this error is enough I guess. I personally did not memorize the idioms but luckily I did not encounter much of the idioms during the exam.

These tips may not be new to you but I hope you can still learn something from them. I think you realized by now that even if my result was extraordinary, my preparation was not special at all. The key to your success is not only hard work but also proper mental conditioning. Smile
Anyway, if you have more specific questions, please don't hesitate ask. I can't promise but I will try my best to answer your questions. Thank you all guys for reading and I'm wishing you all good luck. Trust yourself. I know, you can do it too.

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Maybe I should add these weird things I did during my prep:

1. In order to improve my concentration and focus, I posted the Japanese flag on my wall and stared at the red circle in the middle until, I could only see the red circle. I was doing this before sleeping for one month exactly. It improved my focus maybe. Very Happy

2. I had these small index cards where I wrote my error logs and posted them on the wall beside my bed. I read them when I wake up in the morning. After a month, almost 75% of my wall was covered.

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