from 610 to 750!! What worked, what didn't + tools for you

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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Hi guys,

First I'd like to thank the founders and supporters of this forum and others like it. This is a great community where everyone helps everyone else. I've been a passive surfer for months, looking up techniques, following advice, etc

The first time I took my test, I had a 610. Thanks to all those who contributed, I was able to refine my GMAT prep; I retook the test 3 months later and scored a 750! Yeah I know, lucky dog. Since the forum has been so helpful, I decided to share what I did right, and what I did wrong.

THINGS I DID WRONG (leading up to my 610 score)
- Procrastination: I have the tendency to always find an excuse for why I can't do what I should when I should. I was supposed to take the GMAT 6 months ago to meet my deadlines, but I would study hard for a week, then not do much for another. This definitely delayed my progress.

- Study the same lesson from different books: Ok, pretty much all decent gmat books have a lesson on geometry, a lesson on fractions & percentages, a lesson on grammar: I can only speak for myself but I have to say that learning the same technique by different names from different books was probably counter productive. I ended up slightly confused. I found that I felt a lot better working from the best book for a given topic.

- Too little review: When I did practice exercises and tests, I didn't spend as much time as I should have going over the content. We all know that the Official Guide is great for practice but a bit skimpy on explanations. You must go over EVERY SINGLE answer/explanation available to you.

- Schedule the test in the morning: I'm not a morning person, so scheduling the test in the morning was never a good idea for me. That morning I had to rush to the test center; I was tired, groggy and stressed all at once. No fun and my score was a reflection of that.

THINGS I DID RIGHT (leading up to my 750 score)
- Devise a plan of study: Studying for the GMAT is essentially like going on a diet. The first week, you're gung-ho and ready to go. You have new books, big ideas and all the enthusiasm in the world. You want to do everything. By the 4th week, it's a different story. After my first test, I knew that I would take the exam again, so I decided to write up a plan of study. The key is that it had to be a realistic plan. Don't start off at a rhythm that you cannot maintain. I divided the GMAT content into its topics. My plan was divided into two-week cycles as such:

oReview and practice 3 topics a day spending 45 minutes on each topic and taking 10 minutes break between topics (which topic you do on which day doesn't really matter as long as you do them all)
oAfter 2 weeks, all topics are covered. Take a full length practice test in one sitting (besides the two 10minute breaks) in a quiet environment.
oGo over the exam to figure out what you got wrong, try to find out why, and establish specific goals for improving over the next 2 weeks. Goals typically fell in one of three areas: pacing, mastery of content, or minimizing careless errors

- I divided the GMAT into the topics below:
o17 QUANT topics: Number Properties, Fractions-Decimals-Percents, Ratios-Proportions, Exponents-Roots, Statistics-Data Interpretation, Sets, Combinatorics-Probability, Linear Equations, Non-Linear Equations, Inequalities-Absolute Values, Rate-Work, Functions-Sequences, Lines-Angles, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Circles, 3-d Geometry and Coordinate Geometry.
o14 VERBAL topics: Verb tense, Pronouns, Idioms, Modifiers, Parallel Structures, Subject-Verb Agreement, RC-Science, RC-Social Science, RC-Economics, CR-Weaken, CR-Strengthen, CR-Evaluate, CR-Inference, and CR-Resolve-Explain

- Spend time to go over your work!! I attribute most of my improvement to my dedication to review my work and really delve into why I missed each question and how I could have worked more efficiently even on those questions I got right. We know that the Official Guide is pretty much the bible of GMAT prep. Unfortunately it seems the solutions were written by people who would rather be doing something else. They're a bit skimpy. There is a great book I would recommend called The Official Guide Companion. It breaks down every quant question in the official guide to the minutest of details, and shows different approaches and guessing strategies for each question. I didn't find it too helpful for the easier questions, but it was an invaluable resource for the high-medium and hard questions.

- GmatPrep Test often: Unfortunately the GMATprep software has only 2 tests, but the last few weeks before my exam, I kept deleting and retaking the tests simply because they're the best available. Some people don't like that because they will see some of the same questions (true) but I felt the upside was too good to pass. After taking the test 4-5 times, it's true that your score will be inflated by the questions you're familiar with, but you will still see many new questions and ultimately I think GMATPrep is the only test that actually has the authentic content that you will face on game day. 4 weeks and earlier before your exam, you can take other tests, but I think from the 4 week mark in, you should take only GMATPrep. Ignore the score, focus on the content. Even if you see a question you know, hold yourself accountable for solving it rather than just picking the answer. I just told myself that I wanted to consistently score 40-50 points above my target score, so I kept taking GMATPrep and mastering its questions. I had a 770 my last GMATPrep and a 750 on the actual GMAT.

THE RESOURCES I USED (for my higher score, rated with the most important first)
' Official Guides (no point preparing for the GMAT without this)

- GMATFix's The Official Guide Companion (you can see the book at gmatfix.com --> ScoreBoost Tools on menubar or just download the free preview that I attached :-)

- Flashcards (I studied flashcards just about every day. There are many good sets out there. I used the cards available on BeatTheGMAT and the set from the gmatfix website -- note that the full set is not free, but there is a healthy free set that you can add to your flashcards.

- Forums. Use them. There is always someone who has gone through your situation and who is willing to lend a hand.

Best of luck and don't give up!! :-)
Attachments
og_companion.pdf
A freely available sample of the OG Companion. The book is designed to complement and enhance the Official Guide.
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by logitech » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:37 pm
Great debrief. Thanks.
LGTCH
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by sudi760mba » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:05 pm
Great Score! congratulations. When you divided the GMAT into specifc topics, what practice material did you apply it to? Just the OG?

Thanks

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I used Gmatfix, Mgmat and OG

by TedCornell » Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:14 am
Logitech, you're welcome :-)

Sudi760mba, to get topic specific practice, I used 3 resources:

for Verbal Topics, I went through a 3 step process:

1. I went through the lesson in Manhattan GMAT guides.

2. GMATFix.com has lots and lots of topic specific flashcards. I like those cards because unlike regular flashcards, each card also had a lesson attached, so I used those over and over.

3. The back of the Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction guide had a specific breakdown of where within the Official Guide you could find specific questions. After mastering the flashcards, I would dive into the OG questions


for Math Topics:

1. I would go through the Manhattan GMAT guides

2. GMATFix's The Official Guide Companion has a very detailed reference section . It tells you which topic each question tests, how difficult each question is (200-400, 400-500, 500-600, 600-700 or 700+), and where you can find similar questions. Based on this data, I would go though the OG questions for the topic I had on my schedule that day.

3. Once I felt that I could handle just about anything in the OG, I would go back to GMATFix's The Official Guide Companion for advanced practice. The Companioni includes advanced speed drills and using the reference section I did just the topic I wanted.

Needless to say that I went through all the explanations (Companion often gives 2 or 3 different ways to solve) everytime. This may have been the toughest thing because after spending 2hrs completing my exercises, I often just wanted to move on.

Sudi did you get 760? nice!!!

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by iamcste » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:53 am
amazing debrief !! well done

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by TedCornell » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:06 am

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by Courtney » Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:57 pm
Congrats TedCornell and thanks for the detailed debrief. I hope that I can do as well as you have!

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by aj5105 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:47 am
awesome score. Congratulations.

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by cramya » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:20 am
Ted,

I dont want to be left out so many congratulations on a great score. A 610-750 just goes on to show your determination, dedication and hardwork.

Best of luck for the rest of the process and what can I say an "excellent debrief".

Regards,
CR

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by carllecat » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:35 am
Have you guys ever heard about this GMATFix book Ted is refering to?
Is so, please advise.

Thanks.

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by kanha81 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:39 am
Excellent Debrief mate! Congratulations and Wish you All the Best for Applications.

Best regards.
Want to Beat GMAT.
Always do what you're afraid to do. Whoooop GMAT

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Swimming in congratulations

by TedCornell » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:18 pm
Thank you all for your words of kindness. I have to say this forum and a couple of others have been fantastic. For months I had read posts and taken advice. After my results though, I thought the least I could do was post what worked for me, and give a little since I've taken so much :-)

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by Jack-L » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:50 pm
wow that sounds great...congrats on the 750, I also just scored a 610 today and I really need to improve... I'd love to buy that Companion book. Where can I find it?

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by Jack-L » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:04 pm
Ok just saw that this is an E-book. Very bad, as I don't use Paypal...

I thought they send you the book!

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by TedCornell » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:17 pm
Hey Jack, i don't think you need a paypal account to use paypal. At least i remember before i had an acount i could still pay witn my bank card. Maybe Paypal changed that?