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

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by mayonnai5e » Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:21 am
No comments? Oh well.


Anyways, I took another PR CAT today and scored much higher than my past PR CATs. However, it's still quite a bit below my target score. Here are my CATs:

PR 1 - 550
PowerPrep1 - 560
GMATPrep1 - 650
PR 2 - 570
PowerPrep 2 - 540
PR 3 - 660

Comparing just the PR CATs for the sake of keeping a consistent baseline:

PR1 -550 Q32 V34
PR2 - 570 Q36 V33
PR3 - 660 Q42 V40

Definitely an improvement. The biggest change? I've been doing timed GMAT paper tests this week and on this PR CAT I was much more relaxed and aware of time. There were certain Q problems that I just could not answer in time (Probability and Permutation problems). I've already identified these are major weaknesses that prevent me from reaching the upper echelons of math. I will be focusing on that topic this week for math. Verbal was not too bad except for the first RC passage - that one got me real good. Also, I did all RC passages without taking any notes, which is completely not what I have done up until now. Perhaps as I practice more RC without note taking I'll do even better in V. From what I've read in these forums, a 40 in V is respectable though.

Lesson of the day: Do timed practice - ALWAYS! (unless you don't have the fundamentals down yet)

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by beatthegmat » Sun Sep 09, 2007 6:05 pm
mayonnai5e wrote: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!
I like how you've adjusted your study plan--you're a good example of how it's important to be flexible during your GMAT prep.

Timing, as you mentioned, seems to be your biggest problem on the test. It seems like you're otherwise strong with the subject matter on the GMAT (fantastic!). Your plan to attack your timing sounds good to me, but be careful of burning out. If you feel absolutely sick of your prep schedule, don't hesitate to take a one-day vacation from studies...

Good luck!
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by mayonnai5e » Mon Sep 10, 2007 2:31 am
Eric,

Thanks for the support! I actually completed my last CAT (PR3) on time! I had a chance to see every single problem and answer as best as I could on each (I finished Verbal with 1 second on the clock). That, for me, was a huge improvement. What's more is that I didn't feel the immense time burden hanging on my shoulders - I was fairly relaxed on this CAT unlike the first few CATs.

I am a bit worried about the sheer volume of problems I am planning to do. In particular, the quantity may affect the time I have to evaluate my mistakes and go over the solutions for each time (quality) so I may cut back on the quantity because quality is more important than quantity.

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by Stacey Koprince » Mon Sep 10, 2007 12:36 pm
Definitely - quality is MUCH more important than quantity. (Within reason, of course - you don't want to spend three hours doing one problem :)).

But just doing lots of problems in a row without really studying them and thinking about what you can learn from each one - that will only provide marginal improvement. Think of your study as an analysis task - you are analyzing the questions, not just doing them.

Agree with Eric - I like that you are being thoughtful about how to study and really making sure to identify and tackle your weaknesses rather than just doing lots of problems.
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by beatthegmat » Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:54 pm
Just echoing Stacey's comments--DEFINITELY prioritize quality over quantity!
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by mayonnai5e » Mon Sep 10, 2007 4:43 pm
Quality, quality, quality! Indeed.

Tonight's attempt at studying was a big failure. Only did 20 CR problems timed because I was way too tired from work. Did them in two sets of 10 since I knew my stamina wouldn't hold up on a Monday night. Hit rate was 85%, but my timing was faster than it needed to be - finished each set of 10 with 3 minutes left. I imagine that had I worked slower and spread out those extra 6 minutes, I would have done gotten at least one of the 3 right.

I'll be posting some Q lessons learned soon.

Also, I noticed on these harder CR there are some really sly and tricky things the GMAT does to throw you off track - I'll be posting some lessons learned on those later. A quick summary:
* hard questions throw assumptions, premises and/or inferences into the answer choices
* they make the question stem really long
* the stimulus is sometimes convoluted and hard to follow (sentences can sometimes feel like SC questions)
* two or more answer choices seem really relevant to the question, but only 1 "best" answers the question

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by mayonnai5e » Tue Sep 11, 2007 2:53 pm
While at work today, I browsed through some of the CR questions on this forum and ran into a difficult CR that was of the "weaken/mimic the reasoning" type. I read this CR several times and actually selected the wrong answer. When I saw the OA and looked at the stimulus and question type again, an "AH HA!" went off in my head. And that was a lessoned learned for today. The link is here:

https://www.beatthegmat.com/viewtopic.php?t=5077

Basically, for mimic the reasoning question types, REMEMBER to mimic the logic. If there is a flaw in the reasoning, find the flaw then look through the answer choices for a similar flaw. If there is no flaw, then the correct answer choice must not have a flaw either. In the question cited in the link, only one answer choice had a true flaw and what do you know, the flaw matched the one in the stimulus. That question is a toughy though - I doubt I would get it correct on the CAT right now, but if I studied those types of questions extensively then maybe.

On another note, I skipped some of the easier Q questions in the OG11 and moved up to questions 156-195. I did these in a timed environment broken into two sets of 20 - the time between the two sets was spent verifying which ones I got right and wrong. Completed them all on time and with a 97.5% hit rate. These questions for the most part were easy, but I identified about 5 questions that took an overly large amount of time to complete.

I've been feeling good about my studies lately - my timing has improved, I finished both sections of a CAT exam for the first time this Sunday and my most recent CAT score is the highest I've received (660).

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by mayonnai5e » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:30 pm
I was going to post some Q lessons learned, but wanted to finish adding my V lessons learned instead.

SC 9/8/07:

* DO NOT - reread eliminated answer choices; go with your gut...rereading is one of the biggest time wasters --> you'll rarely uneliminate an answer.

* Agreement - use non-underlined portion of the sentence to find plurality and agreement clues; this is even more important when the sentence is long and convoluated.

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by mayonnai5e » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:53 pm
CR Lessons 8/27/07:

* FOCUS - on conclusion on weaken/strengthen questions; in particular, focus on the specifics: "Therefore, these programs benefit the company as well as the employee."

* OG11 - Situation overview in the explanations is what you should do after you've read the stimulus....paraphrase the stimulus and identify what the main point is as well as the premises. Doing so will help remove some of the details that get in the way of clear thinking.

* assumptions cannot concern extraneous information - they must support the conclusion and fit within the scope

STUCK - when debating between two or three choices, look for words that are too strong that make an answer choice less likely to be correct (e.g. the only way, every, could only have been..)

WATCH OUT - for other logical components that may be used in the answer choices, but is not the correct thing to look for; for example, the question is asking for an inference and among the answer choices there is an assumption or a premise --> this is done to throw you off track (you may answer the wrong question)

dates - make sure answer choice is consistent with dates specified in the stimulus (e.g. stimulus talks about the economy between 1970 and 1980, but an answer choice says "blah blah the economy was blah blah in the period leading up to 1970"

REMEMBER - premises are always true (unless it's a weaken question in which case an answer may weaken a premise) --> "due to a major earthquake known to have occurred in AD 365" is a premise (hint: "due to") and must be assumed to be true. Answer choice may incorrectly attack premise.

Mentally picture graphs, charts, line bars to organize CRs that contain stats and numbers. Write them down if necessary.

STUCK - reread stimulus for more clues unless you have already taken too much time, then guess and move on
Last edited by mayonnai5e on Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Hard CR

by mayonnai5e » Fri Sep 14, 2007 6:37 am
I answered a hard CR question in the Verbal section. The text is quoted here:
The function of government is to satisfy the genuine wants of the masses, and government cannot satisfy those wants unless it is informed about what those wants are. Freedom of speech ensures that such information will reach the ears of government officials. Therefore, freedom of speech is indispensable for a healthy state.
Which one of the following, if true, would NOT undermine the conclusion of the argument?
(A) People most often do not know what they genuinely want.
(B) Freedom of speech tends ultimately to undermine social order, and social order is a prerequisite for satisfying the wants of the masses.
(C) The proper function of government is not to satisfy wants, but to provide equality of opportunity.
(D) Freedom of speech is not sufficient for satisfying the wants of the masses: social order is necessary as well.
(E) Rulers already know what the people want.


I think it's D. But I'm not 100% sure - it came down to B or D. In any case, here's my logic....

Break down the statement:

Premise 1: The function of government is to satisfy the genuine wants of the masses
Premise 2: government cannot satisfy those wants unless it is informed about what those wants are
Premise 3: Freedom of speech ensures that such information will reach the ears of government officials
Conclusion: Therefore, freedom of speech is indispensable for a healthy state.

Which one of the following, if true, would NOT undermine the conclusion of the argument?
--> This is not a weaken question; you need to find the answer choice that either strengthens the argument or does absolutely nothing for the argument

(A) People most often do not know what they genuinely want
--> Weakens P2 and P3; people have no idea what they want so govt cannot find out and freedom of speech will be useless

(B) Freedom of speech tends ultimately to undermine social order, and social order is a prerequisite for satisfying the wants of the masses.
--> Weakens conclusion; Introduces new premise (social order satisfies wants)
--> if freedom of speech undermines social order and social order is required for satisfying the masses then freedom of speech undermines the goal of satisfying the masses, which is the goal of the state.

(C) The proper function of government is not to satisfy wants, but to provide equality of opportunity.
--> Weakens; counters P1, which is the crux of the argument because each subsequent premise works off P1. If P1 is countered, then the rest of the argument falls apart.

(D) Freedom of speech is not sufficient for satisfying the wants of the masses: social order is necessary as well.
--> Correct. Does not undermine the conclusion because the conclusion does not state that freedom of speech is sufficient.
--> The conclusion states, "Therefore, freedom of speech is indispensable for a healthy state." Reading carefully, the word "indispensable" means that freedom of speech is necessary (does not have to be sufficient). Introducing a new premise that is necessary does not undermine the conclusion.
--> Think of it this way: "hey having a wrench is great for fixing my car ...oh and having a car jack is also great for fixing my car" --> having another tool does not mean my wrench is not great.

(E) Rulers already know what the people want.
--> Weakens; if rulers know what people want then P3 is weaken:
Premise 3: Freedom of speech ensures that such information will reach the ears of government officials

What is the OA?
OA is D.

Lessons:
* Organize premises and conclusion mentally when many premises are involved.
* If you are weaking the conclusion, you can attack any of the premises if they are dependent on one another (as this argument is).
* Note the difference between "sufficient" and "necessary"
--> sufficient means the result is guaranteed if the premise is true.
--> necessary means the premise is required but does not guarantee the result.
--> this problem would have been harder if you did not understand the distinction between the two.

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by beatthegmat » Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:28 pm
Really good thoughts around CR--thanks for sharing!
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by mayonnai5e » Fri Sep 14, 2007 3:00 pm
beatthegmat wrote:Really good thoughts around CR--thanks for sharing!
Thanks Eric!

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by mayonnai5e » Fri Sep 14, 2007 3:03 pm
My general CR strategy:

I read the stimulus the first time around fairly quickly then summarize the stimulus in my mind and look at the answers. I eliminate the obvious incorrect choices and if there are 2 or more choices left, I go back to the stimulus and reread again, paying particular attention to small details like adjectives and other "qualifying" words.

For some easier CR questions, the answer will leap out at you so don't waste time super analyzing the stimulus before reading answer choices. Get a general idea then try to find the answer. This saves time in the long run. If, however, the answer is not immediately apparent, go back and look for the tiniest details because the subtle details often are the key to eliminating the remaining incorrect answer choices.

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by mayonnai5e » Fri Sep 14, 2007 4:59 pm
Man, doing 30 timed, CRs in a row is exhausting. It doesn't help that it's 2:30 AM here in Paris either. But at least I've completed the CR section of the OG11 book. For the entire section, my hit rate was 89%. That's not as good as I had hoped, but I have to keep in mind that most of my progress made in CR actually came from doing these problems.

Anyways, one of the last problems in the book illustrates one of the lessons learned I mentioned earlier in this blog. The lesson I'm referring to suggests paying attention to premises and conclusions and clearly distinguishing between the two because some answer choices will discuss the premises instead of the conclusion. The idea is that the test taker will see a topic discussed in the stimulus and select that answer choice. The question I am referring to is #121 in OG11 page 503:
Northern Air has dozens of flights daily into and out of Belleville Airport, which is highly congested. Northern Air depends for its success on economy and quick turnaround and consequently is planning to replace its large planes with Skybuses, the novel aerodynamic design of which is extremely fuel efficient. The Skybus' fuel efficiency results in both lower fuel costs and reduced time spent on refueling.

Which of the following, if true, could present the most serious disadvantage for Northern Air in replacing its large planes with Skybuses?

(A) The skybus would enable Northern Air to schedule direct flights to destinations that currently require stops for refueling.
(B) Aviation fuel is projected to decline in price over the next several years.
(C) The fuel efficiency of the Skybus would enable Northern Air to eliminate refueling at some of its destinations, but several mechanics would lose their jobs.
(D) None of Northern Air's competitors that use Belleville Airport are considering buying Skybuses.
(E) The aerodynamic design of the Skybus causes turbulence behind it when taking off that forces other planes on the runway to delay their takeoffs.
Several of the answer choices relate to fuel; in particular, A and C provide extra information about the new plane would affect fuel usage. Unwary test takers may see the abundance of answer choices regarding fueling and think one of those choices must be the answer. In addition, notice how fuel is the last thing discussed in the passage. But what is the purpose of the discussion of fuel? It is a premise!

"...is planning to replace its large planes with Skybuses, the novel aerodynamic design of which is extremely fuel efficient. The Skybus' fuel efficiency results in both lower fuel costs and reduced time spent on refueling."

The fuel efficiency and refueling time properties of the Skybus are part of the premises and must be true. The question asks you to present the most serious disadvantage. In order to do this, we need to find out what is crucial to the success of the company and that is mentioned just briefly:

"Northern Air depends for its success on economy and quick turnaround"

Some people would probably read this part quickly and not really absorb it's significance. Then, seeing how the rest of the stimulus focuses on the fuel aspects, would focus on the fuel related answer choices.

A and C both provide an advantage for the airline while D is irrelevant. The remaining choices are B and E. My initial guess was B since a decline in fuel price would appear to minimize one potential benefit of the Skybus: lower fuel costs. But after thinking it through, the sentence about the fuel cost benefits was a premise and must be assumed true so choice B cannot be the correct answer - there's no reason to weaken a premise. So the only choice left is E, which discusses how the new plane can slow other planes down including some of Northern Airs'.

You can refer to the OG explanation for another explanation, but this is how I approached the problem.

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by aim-wsc » Fri Sep 14, 2007 7:38 pm
Great thread!
:thumbsup:

'blogging' is lonely very lonely, at least at the starting phase... guess you have come out of that phase now...

You have more readers now.. ;)