GMAT Killer: 490 to 770 in 3 months

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GMAT Killer: 490 to 770 in 3 months

by joshcollins » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:43 am
Hi everyone,

When I used to lurk on this site before becoming a member, I liked reading about how people had done well on the GMAT and I'm happy to say that I can add my story to that list of GMAT killers!

The Basics:

Timeframe:
3 months (late May to late August)

Books/Programs Used:
OG 13th edition Book
Manhattan GMAT SC Book
Kaplan Premier Book
Empowergmat Course
2 CATs and questions from mba.com
CATs from ManhattanGMAT
Free Videos and articles on Youtube, GMATPrepNow, etc.
Beat The GMAT Forum

Studying:
Usually 2-3 hours on weekdays, but I always took one day off/week
Usually 4-5 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Usually 1 CAT on the weekend with review (weekend usually included going back to redo old questions, even questions I got right before)

CAT Scores:
GMATPrep1: 490
MGMAT1: 540
MGMAT2: 550
MGMAT3: 630
MGMAT4: 680
MGMAT5: 680
GMATPrep2: 730
Test Day: 770 (Q50, V45)

Total Money Spent: $351 + $250 for the GMAT (no way to avoid that!)

Advice:
1) The books were pretty good, but there's a lot of advice that conflicts from book to book, so it takes a little while to figure out what's true and what's not. The OG 13th edition is a MUST HAVE.
2) Find an expert to work with. Use a course or a tutor, but spending the money is worth it. I'm looking at some potentially big scholarship money because I killed the GMAT. That's worth the extra few hundred bucks I spent. For me, Empowergmat made all the difference. On Test Day, I felt like Neo in The Matrix. I was ready for everything. The EMPOWER guys know their stuff.
3) There's a lot of bad advice out there about pacing, representative questions, etc. (and the problem is a lot of it's free). Be suspicious. If you practice something for a full month and it doesn't work, then it's not going to help you hit your goal. Be prepared to learn some new things.
4) Stay calm and write everything down. GMAT questions are actually pretty straight forward if you just stay organized. Don't EVER do anything in your head (thanks for that one, Rich!)
5) The Quant section is NOT a math test and the Verbal section is NOT a vocabulary test, so don't treat them like they are.
6) Learn which questions to avoid. I dumped 4 questions (2 in the Quant and 2 in the Verbal) because I was told to dump them. I can't argue with the advice or the results.
7) Take the 2 breaks, no matter how good you feel. Have a snack, a drink and run to the bathroom.

Now, I'm reading through the Veritas MBA Essential Guides and getting really excited by my prospects.

If I can do it, then anyone can do it. I was really unsure of everything when I started, but I learned the right way to look at this whole process and it made all the difference. To everyone who's helped me on this journey, I say thanks!

Josh

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by red217 » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:06 pm
Hi there!!!

Congratssss!!! this is great score!!!..i started off wid the same score and i got so demotivated.

I would like you to give me more feedback about the empower course.
i ve been looking into options but they all seem promising

thanks

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by Troika » Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:33 pm
Congrats Josh! This is a huge achievement; earning a 770 is no mean feat! Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

GMAT/MBA Expert

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by [email protected] » Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:35 pm
Hi Josh,

Congratulations on your success; you worked hard and clearly earned that killer score. Regardless of how much the EMPOWERgmat program contributed to your success, I think that if you bring the same attitude and level of commitment to the other parts of your application, then everything will turn out well (and you'll have plenty of options when it comes to choosing which school to attend).

Congrats again. Another GMAT assassin has been MADE!
Rich
Contact Rich at [email protected]
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by fourteenstix » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:16 pm
joshcollins wrote:
CAT Scores:
GMATPrep1: 490
MGMAT1: 540
MGMAT2: 550
MGMAT3: 630
MGMAT4: 680
MGMAT5: 680
GMATPrep2: 730
Test Day: 770 (Q50, V45)
Josh,

First, congrats! Tremendous score!

Second, can you provide dates for the CATs above and the date of your exam? I'm curious how much progress you made over the last 4-6 weeks along the way.

Thanks!

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by ani781 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:40 pm
Hi Josh, many congrats ! I have a request. Can you pls tell me which course did you find to be helpful in the empower GMAT... I would also like to know how did you stress on internalizing the concepts maintaining work study balance. All the best with your apps.

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by ani781 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:42 pm
Hi Josh, many congrats ! I have a request. Can you pls tell me which course did you find to be helpful in the empower GMAT... I would also like to know how did you stress on internalizing the concepts maintaining work study balance. All the best with your apps.

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by ganeshrkamath » Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:54 pm
Wow! Respect.

That's an incredible mountain you've climbed. I hope you get into the school of your choice.

Congratulations.
Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.

Kelley School of Business (Class of 2016)
GMAT Score: 750 V40 Q51 AWA 5 IR 8
https://www.beatthegmat.com/first-attemp ... tml#688494

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by paromaroy » Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:07 pm
Many congratulations on the superb achievement :)
I am also on my way to re-write the GMAT after an epic downfall last July

Keep at it and I hope you get into your B-school of choice

All the best

Cheers!!

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by johnperregaux » Wed Sep 04, 2013 6:13 am
This is insane. Unreal. Unbelievable. Wow. Under average to super elite GMAT ninja pro in 3 months.

Let me ask you, why did you pass on the Manhattan guides? Did you already have a super strong Quant background? Take advanced math classes in the past??

Do you think it was a lack of knowledge the first CAT you took or was it more you needed to get properly acclimated to the GMAT trickery??

I started at a 550 one month ago and now am sitting at 660, hoping to break the 730 level.

You have given me some super-fine inspiration sir.

+1

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by salochi » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:32 am
HI Josh u have done an amazing job. I got 450 in my first CAT and then I quit studying Gmat. Your debrief give me new courage and I have started studying fm Manhattans series. How did u prepared ur quant Can u pls explain a little more in detail and do write about ur verbal experiances too.

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by joshcollins » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:21 pm
Everyone,

Thanks for all the kind words; it's a bit overwhelming. I'll try my best to answer all of your questions.

Red217 - I used the entire Empowergmat course. A friend of mine had mentioned it to me as a great investment (he got 750 on his GMAT, he's a friend of mine, but he's not someone I'd consider really smart, so the course obviously helped him). I took 3 months to prep, which is another thing I was told to do. Part of the practice was just to accept what I was taught and go with it. Part of it was memorizing formulas and grammar. I did practice a lot but when I was taking the GMAT, all that training kicked in and everything felt easy. My pacing was good (dumping a few questions helped - but I learned how to do from the course too).

Troika, Ganeshrkamath, Paromaroy - Thanks for the thanks! If I can do, you can do it too.

Rich - This might seem like a joke, but on certain questions it was like I could hear your voice in my head. EVERYTHING ON THE PAD EVERY TIME!!!

Fourteenstix - Here are my approximate test dates for each of the CATs and the real GMAT. I had some off weekends when I couldn't find the necessary block of time to take a CAT, so I did smaller practice blocks, reviewing old CATs, timing exercises, etc.

5/14: 490
5/19: 540
5/26: 550
6/2: 630
6/16: 680
7/7: 680
Big lag here; work got crazy and I had a couple of weddings to go to in there
8/12: 730
8/26: 770
8/12: 730

Ani781 - From a training standpoint, I think every Module mattered and I never got the sense that there was filler. The early Quant Tactics and Data Sufficiency Modules were SUPER helpful. The CR Box made doing those questions really easy. The Triage Module turned hard questions into more of a game. All the Tactical Modules helped me to change my perspective on what I thought about the GMAT.

Johnperregaux - I did use the ManhattanGMAT SC book, so I didn't pass on the set entirely. And no, I don't have a super strong Quant background, but I didn't think that the books meshed with the other things I was learning. Most of the math on the GMAT was stuff I learned in 9th grade or earlier, so I did some review and refamiliarized myself with it all.

On my first CAT, my big problems were pacing and not knowing how to handle DS questions. Many of the things that I learned in the Empower course were about how to view the questions and my own work, the fastest way to answer questions, etc. You can absolutely pick up another 70 points but you might need to learn some new things.

Salochi - For the verbal, I practiced the tactics that I was taught (taking notes and understanding what the wrong answers look like definitely helped). I didn't worry about understanding every word in a CR or RC passage (sometimes I just shot past big words, science words, names, etc.), but I did focus on the words that I DID know. For SC, I had to learn a bunch of grammar rules, but grammar is mostly a "matching game" (Max taught me that one), so I treated SCs like little mysteries - where are the clues, what has to match up, what's wrong with this sentence, etc.

I hope I answered everyone's questions. Thanks again for the kind words. If you have any other questions, then fire away and I'll do my best to answer them.

Josh

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by ses4db » Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:20 am
Josh,

You said you dumped 2 Quant and 2 Verbal questions. How did you choose which ones to dump? What were your reasons? Were there certain question types you knew you would automatically skip?

I'm 11 days from my scheduled GMAT! I'm feeling both confident and nervous: I've been consistently scoring well on the CAT's, but you never know what you'll get on test day. I'm just trying to spend these last few days sharpening things up.

Really appreciate it! Thanks for the inspiration!

Sammy Stalcup

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by joshcollins » Sat Sep 07, 2013 1:17 pm
Sammy,

It's easy to say that I "chose" to dump those questions but the truth is that I was "advised" to dump them and I just followed instructions. It's something I learned in the Empowergmat Course. I think that the number and type of questions to dump varies a little from person to person (and how well that person's doing in the section), but after studying for a few months I knew what to look for and how to do it.

Go crush the GMAT!

Josh

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by Busytrying » Sun Sep 08, 2013 3:30 pm
Amazing achievement - thank you for sharing and many congratulations!