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[720 Q49 V40] My Blog: Errors and lessons learned

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[720 Q49 V40] My Blog: Errors and lessons learned

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When I first started, I kept lots of statistics on the problem types that I got wrong; this is what many people have recommended on this site. That just left me with a lot of stats, but I wanted something that would clearly articulate my errors and what I could do to address them.

My original idea was just to use the stats and just study a particular topic to address my weakest links. But my issue with this is that I have a lot of material to cover and sticking with one particular topic for an extended period time meant I had less time to spend on other equally important areas. For example, one weakness of mine is geometry. So I could study geometry for several days/weeks or move on to studying SC or CR, which I have just recently begun studying in-depth. My argument is that geometry is one small portion of the test while SC and CR are much larger topics.

My second idea was to keep an error log that copies out every problem I've gotten wrong, what the correct answer was, and how to answer the problem correctly. This became unwieldy for certain types of problems like reading comprehension.

My last and my current method is to keep 5 different lessons learned logs - one for each topic. For every problem I get wrong, I write down the underlying lesson for that problem. In particular, I write down what to look out for, what NOT to do, and/or what to do next time. I have found this to be more helpful because instead of spending time copying down questions/answers or studying general topics, I can focus on that exact lesson.

My current study plan covers one topic each day of the week (M-F) so every night, I bring out the lessons learned log for that topic and take notes while I'm working the problems and also when I read the solutions.

Just an idea for others who are struggling to learn from their mistakes...



Last edited by mayonnai5e on Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:31 pm; edited 3 times in total

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SC Lessons learned (8/22/07):

* Read the entire sentence beginning to end even if the underlined portion comes in the middle or beginning. This provides clues for verb tense, agreement, context, etc. Do not stop reading the sentence once you've reached the underlined portion.

* Extraneous phrase: "There is" --> "that there is a recovery" versus "that a recovery"

* "only" should be placed next to the phrase it limits --> "only surpassed by" is not as good as "surpassed only by"

* Look for pronouns amongst the answer choices. Does the pronoun clearly refer to an antecedent (thing the pronoun refers to). If not, eliminate answer.
"there were 20,736 ministers, almost 9 percent of the clergy, twice as much as 1977"
c) double what it was in 1977 --> "it" refers to what exactly?

* "Which" introduces nonrestrictive clause --> can be removed from sentence
"he walked home, which is 5 miles away" --> 5 miles away can be removed without affecting "home."

* "That" introduces a restrictive clause that defines --> cannot be removed
"she gave him the card that she bought him for his birthday" --> "that she bought him for this birthday" defines the card and cannot be removed

* "When" indicates a period of time. "If" indicates a condition

* While reading, look for different verbs. Verify each for verb tense and agreement[/i]

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CR Lessons 8/25/07:

* REMEMBER - read question stem for specific keywords. Look for those keywords in the answer choices. Correct answers often repeat keywords from the question stem and from the stimulus. On the flip side, answer choices that include keywords not included in the stimulus are often incorrect because they are out of scope or irrelevant.

* WATCH OUT - for answers that are true and/or make sense, but have no bearing on the conclusion. Do the keywords in the answer choice match the keywords found in the question stem and stimulus?

* Statistics/numbers - on inference problems with statistics/numbers in the stimuli, what can be inferred from the statistics? Answer often has to do with inferring information from the stats

* Cause/effect - note which was the cause. Eliminate answers that switch cause for the effect.



Last edited by mayonnai5e on Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:14 am; edited 1 time in total

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I'm changing this topic to a personal blog to discuss my progress.

9/2/07:

Did 40 RC problems from OG11 (#37-75) - hit rate was 92.5%. This was an increase from last week's RC session (#1-36 from OG11). The hit rate from that session was 89%.

I'm really starting to enjoy RC. Each passage is like a fun little game. The goal is to dissect the passage and win! I especially like getting answer correct on those super scientific and technical passages.

Even though the RC this week is supposed to be harder (because of the difficulty progression in the OG book), it seemed much easier this week. I must have really learned a lot last week or something. Some of the questions that I would have probably gotten wrong just last week were very easy to figure out today.

Will post lessons learned notes from today's RC session later.

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RC lessons 9/2/07:

Read Better - Write down words that signal author's opinions/feelings while reading
--> these often will be asked about as inference questions of the type"the passage suggests the author feels which of the following about X."
--> do this especially when the feeling is embedded mid sentence - something like "the research suggests, with good reason, that blah blah blah" or "the current consensus, unfortunately, is that global warming is not a problem"

Answer faster - If the question refers to a long paragraph that discusses more than one main topic, look at the question stem for extra keywords that may help narrow the focus down to a specific portion of that long paragraph.

If the author notes any challenges or doubts about a particular hypothesis or argument, make a mental note of this since it will probably be asked about.

Inference - These often require you to look at several areas of the passage and sometimes the answer is not in the "obvious" section. For example, the first few sentences of the stimulus mentions some general idea and the last paragraph goes into detail about the general idea. If you cannot find what you're looking for in the "obvious" place, try taking a step back and looking elsewhere.

WATCH OUT - for all encompassing words in the answer choices that subtly change what the passage provides.
--> "courses will be drawn solely from primary sources" ....solely makes it unequivocal even if the passage did mention using some primary source materials this answer is wrong.

Lesson of the day: While reading the passage, imagine what kinds of questions will be asked based on the information you read. I found myself thinking, "oh they're definitely going to ask about this....oh and this too."



Last edited by mayonnai5e on Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:08 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Thanks for these posts mayonnai5e! You're setting a really good example for disciplined self study.

Best of luck!

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beatthegmat wrote:
Thanks for these posts mayonnai5e! You're setting a really good example for disciplined self study.

Best of luck!
Thank you. To be fair, I do have a private tutor and I have access to the Veritas online course. Is that still "self study?"

=).

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After reviewing my recent CAT scores and my hit rates on those CATs as well as the large number of problems I have to guess on, my tutor has suggested a different study plan for this week. Basically, I have the old paper tests and each day of this week, I will do either the Q section or the V section from one of the tests under test conditions.

This will just be practice for working under timed conditions and has the additional benefit of allowing me to get a very rough estimate of a score. These scores are not very accurate predictors at all since the Q and V are taken on different days and since the paper tests contain many OG11 problems.

I just finished one complete test tonight and scored 680 (Q42, V42). This is certainly not impressive, but I like the fact that I'm working under timed conditions. Next week, I intend to start doing all practice timed.

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i'll be adding more lessons learned in the next post...

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SC 8/29/07:

* which is normally preceded by a comma

* STUCK - when stuck between two choices due to a particular error (e.g. can't decide between "which" versus "that"), read of the rest of the two answer choices to search for other (hopefully easier to spot) errors. DO NOT sit and ponder over the same error when there are usually at least 2-3 errors per sentence.

* lists - if there are two lists in the sentence, both must be completed (e.g with an "and..."). compare the items in the list to figure out which ones belong to which list - do they logically make sense together:
"promotions, raises, deaths and other items approved by the board" --> deaths cannot be approved by the board and so should not be in the list.

* WATCH OUT - when there are many verbs in a sentence and a comparison is being made, verify that the correct, parallel verbs are being matched in agreement and tense.

* compound sentences - the subjects for both clauses should be the same:
"To Josephine Bake, Paris was her home......, and she remained..." --> 1st and 2nd clause both make it clear Josephine is the subject

Redundancy:
*Noun with a pronoun repeated in the same clause --> "To Josephine Bake...her home was Paris"
* Recommended and should in the same clause

* CHANGE - subject and objects of complex, long sentences to make them much simpler to understand:
"The SE Act of 1934 requires anyone who buys more than 5% of a company make a public disclosure of the purchase."

--> "This requires anyone make a disclosure." Can you spot the error now?

* Synonyms - for 3/2 pairs, watch out for synonyms that are interchangeable because this makes the 3/2 paradigm obsolete

* "While" - can be a hint at a comparison --> "while all states,..."

* "the only way to X is to Y"

* PREFER - simple words that convey the same idea over many words to convey the same idea --> "Has a disinclination" versus "disinclined"

* lists - some prepositions in lists are understood (not an error) --> "enough to affect X and induce Y" is okay

* WHICH - must have a clear referent to modify --> "X, which doubles to 12" where X is a clear referent

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Timing progress?

I've mentioned in many threads on this forum that my main problem is being stubborn about finding the answer to a problem no matter how long it takes. I've been doing timed practice off the old paper exams this past week, and I find myself letting go of some problems that I know for sure I will not be able to figure out. Those are definitely areas where I need to focus my efforts. There were at least two Q problems where I simply had no clue how to solve it and just guessed randomly. There were also two or three problems where I realized I could figure it out eventually, but it would take another 2-3 minutes time to figure it out. I just guessed on those too. What I noticed is that usually after those problems, I could get the next few right anyways so the hit is not that bad compared to taking 3 extra minutes and then getting 3 wrong later. Good advice from people on this forum especially Stacy who has really hammered in some good ideas into my head concerning timing.

I did notice some particular areas where timing was still problem: RC (guessed on last 4), SC (guessed on last 5) and DS (panicked at the end and got last 6 all wrong!).

Timed practice really does help once you've learned the fundamentals because even if you know how to solve a problem your method may not be fast enough to get it right in the alloted time, which is something that happened on at least two Q sections.

Lesson of the day: Do all practice timed to really discover where your weaknesses are.

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I'm interested in ideas on how to get my Q score to the next level (currently hovering in the low to mid 40s). I've added a post in the math section:

http://www.beatthegmat.com/viewtopic.php?t=5051

Please respond there if you have any tips. Thanks!

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this is great...thanks

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gowani wrote:
this is great...thanks
Thanks for the compliment! Good to know someone's getting something out of these posts.

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I've been doing some serious rethinking of my study plans and progress since I have only a month left before my exam. Here is my current study plan and what I intend to do to push my scores to the next level:

Current plan:
* Study each topic every week - 1 topic per day (Mondays - CR, Tuesday - PS, etc)
* For each topic, do 40 problem untimed
* Go over solutions for every problem whether I got them wrong or not.
* Do 1 CAT every week

Analysis:
* I think I have the basic fundamentals down, but I need to get used to working under timed conditions with the associated stress and pressure.
* I analyzed my mistakes on the CATs and some of the ones I got wrong were so obviously wrong that it was amazing that I got them wrong. It seems the pressure, stress, and timing throws my thinking off a lot. The endurance probably has something to do with it too.

New plan:
* I noticed that I have specific areas that need work. My old plan was very general - do so many problems of each type - but it did not target my weaknesses. Sure it allowed me to identify my weaknesses, but didn't really do much in the way of addressing them. My new plan is more dynamic and will include extra things to do to help address each topical area
* Each day, before starting the problem sets, I will go over the lessons learned for that topic
SC - My timing is way off here. I can do the problems just fine in untimed practice (85-90% hit rates), but during the exam my mind just seems to go blank when I look at an SC problem. I can usually get the answer, but it takes too much time. On the old paper tests, which are divided into topical areas, SC is where I had the most guessed answers. I intend to do 2 practice sets on SC night, both timed. That's 2 sets of 40 problems each done in 80 minutes. I'll be getting the MGMAT SC book in the mail soon so I'll go through that book also.
CR - CR is my strongest Verbal topic and I am just going to do the normal 40 problems timed each night. The extra time will be spent reviewing solutions.
RC - Another show stopper in terms of timing. I think I spending far too much time taking notes. The way I take notes really help me answer the RC questions very high hit rates, but this simply takes too much time. I will stop taking notes and start doing timed practice without any note taking. The timing for this is a bit harder to quantify, but I think the general rule is 3 minutes per passage and 1 minute per question so I'll go off that. I'm shooting for two sessions of 40 minutes each - the number of passages I'll read will depend on the passage + number of problems.
PS - My weakness isn't timing per se here, but there are certain types of problems that I get bogged down on (can't seem to get that "engineering math" mentality out of the way). On certain problems, I immediately go with the tried and true solve the manual slow way. I need to use backsolving and plugging in more. I'll do timed practiced and see where the slowest areas are and go from there. Also, I lack advanced knowledge on some areas (inequalities, number properties, geometry, perm/comb, and sequences). Since these areas are the upper bins, I think this knowledge gap is preventing me from getting the highest Q scores. I'll pick one topic to study each week and do extra problems for that topic in addition to the normal 40 problems timed. This week is combinations and permutations.
DS - This is where my timing is off in Q. I need to practice more advanced problems so I can learn the tricks to answer the hard ones faster. I'll do 40 problems timed, but I have no idea where I can find DS problems matching specific problem types.

*Collect stats on this new timed work as I suspect my hit rates will plummet. This will provide more data on my weaknesses.

* This plan may be too aggressive for someone with a full-time job. The nights with 2 problem sets involves 2 hours and 40 minutes of timed practice. This may be too much - I'll play it by ear and see how it works out the first week.

So that's it. Anyone have any suggestions and/or ideas? Feel free to comment!

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