Scored 780 thanks to Ian Stewart

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Scored 780 thanks to Ian Stewart

by manuka » Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:22 am
I took the gmat two days ago and scored 780, q50, v47. I spent the last 4 months putting myself through a pretty rigorous regime that involved preparing for a couple of hours every day, allowing myself 2-3 days off in total during that period. In my opinion, succeeding with gmat is all about determination and using good materials.

I started out with Kaplan and Gmathacks, revised for a few weeks, took gmat focus, and scored 44-49. Having scored in the 98th percentile for the gmat about 9 years ago (back then I was doing mba, now doing phd and old results no longer count), I knew I could improve. I looked around this site and read a great post by a guy who had scored 770. Much of what follows is based on his approach.

Quantitative
-I used all MGMAT math books as starting point. It's way better than any other prep companies in my view and particularly good on number props, geometry, and prob/comb, although I think it over-emphasizes the importance of the latter. I would not use any other non-official material than this except for that of Ian Stewart (more below).
-OG 12 questions, but use them after you have got the basics.
-Gmat Focus. Similar to real thing. I got 44-49 (a couple of weeks in), 46-50 (a couple of months in), 48-51 (2 weeks before test).
-Mathematician and private tutor Ian Stewart provided me with his own proprietary and customized questions which can be as hard as you ask him to make them. If you can get him, you will have the pleasure of working with someone who is truly gifted and mindblowingly fast, with a great sense of how to teach.

Verbal
A lot of people say work on your weakness or work on your strength. I think to get a really high overall score, work on verbal. It's rarer to have high verbal than high quant, so you get more bang for the buck when you combine them. If English is your mother tongue, there is no reason you cannot get 51 on this section with some serious practice.
-Reading Comp: LSAT actual past questions. You can get them on Amazon. They are harder than the hardest GMAT I saw, but very similar in nature. For structure, I used Powerscore, which was excellent. And OG 12 of course for question practice.
-Sentence Correction: Doing Grammar, by Max Morenberg, and MGMAT. I could not have used one without the other. The first one taught me grammar like nothing I have seen before, the second how to apply that knowledge on the gmat. Using only MGMAT might leave you vulnerable at the highest level, where they seem to consciously pick on tricks and common rules (I got one question like this, where you are tempted based on a basic rule, but where some overriding principle lets you go with a better choice). But don't get me wrong, MGMAT is a great source too. In fact, using only the grammar book doesn't give you the sharpness to catch errors that you get from MGMAT. I used OG 12 and the purple verbal book for question practice. Key to good verbal is getting SC down to about 1min per question so you can spend the additional time on CR and potentially RC. If you really learn your grammar, this is probably the easiest part of the test.
-Critical Reasoning: I didn't find any of the teaching guides helpful on this topic, and I looked at quite a few (mgmat, powerscore, kaplan). This was a problem, and it's where I think I made all my verbal mistakes on the real gmat. I relied on OG and LSAT for questions, mainly the latter because it's tougher mentally. And more than anything, it gave me confidence on test day. After doing LSAT CR questions, the gmat questions began to appear a little 'wordy' and the actual logic a little easier. I didn't get a single boldface question on the actual test.


AWA
I wrote 3 sets of essays under timed circumstances beforehand. I found it useful to have a guide for the arguments. My guide was the following template (literally): weak analogies, correlation vs causation, necessary versus sufficient, statistical problems such as bias, relevance and sample size, and things changing over time. Key is not to waste energy in this section on test day.

I found gmatprep to be a reliable indicator. I got 760 on the first one (2 months in to my preparation)....i then retook it and only got 730 a couple of weeks later. Then I got 770 on the second one (3 months in). In the final month, I used hard math problems and combined them with tough LSAT RC/CR passages and SC from OG/purple book to create mini-gmats (25 math problems and 25 verbal) which I would do 3-4 times per week, under onerous circumstances (eg. taking a horrendous-looking RC passage from LSAT but only using 3 questions from it to force myself into timing problems). That way I was always short on time, always having to cut my losses, and always struggling. Similar on math, I would take 25 hard questions, to ensure that I wasn't using time on easy ones to make up for harder ones. Towards the end of these sessions, I was getting 70% of the math right and 80-90% of the verbal.

Good luck! bottom line: you more or less decide your score. it's then about finding out how much work you need to get there. Plus a bit of luck :)

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by madhur_ahuja » Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:20 am
Thats a great debrief and let me be the first one to congratulate you :)

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Re: Scored 780 thanks to Ian Stewart

by mmslf75 » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:35 am
manuka wrote:I took the gmat two days ago and scored 780, q50, v47. I spent the last 4 months putting myself through a pretty rigorous regime that involved preparing for a couple of hours every day, allowing myself 2-3 days off in total during that period. In my opinion, succeeding with gmat is all about determination and using good materials.

I started out with Kaplan and Gmathacks, revised for a few weeks, took gmat focus, and scored 44-49. Having scored in the 98th percentile for the gmat about 9 years ago (back then I was doing mba, now doing phd and old results no longer count), I knew I could improve. I looked around this site and read a great post by a guy who had scored 770. Much of what follows is based on his approach.

Quantitative
-I used all MGMAT math books as starting point. It's way better than any other prep companies in my view and particularly good on number props, geometry, and prob/comb, although I think it over-emphasizes the importance of the latter. I would not use any other non-official material than this except for that of Ian Stewart (more below).
-OG 12 questions, but use them after you have got the basics.
-Gmat Focus. Similar to real thing. I got 44-49 (a couple of weeks in), 46-50 (a couple of months in), 48-51 (2 weeks before test).
-Mathematician and private tutor Ian Stewart provided me with his own proprietary and customized questions which can be as hard as you ask him to make them. If you can get him, you will have the pleasure of working with someone who is truly gifted and mindblowingly fast, with a great sense of how to teach.

Verbal
A lot of people say work on your weakness or work on your strength. I think to get a really high overall score, work on verbal. It's rarer to have high verbal than high quant, so you get more bang for the buck when you combine them. If English is your mother tongue, there is no reason you cannot get 51 on this section with some serious practice.
-Reading Comp: LSAT actual past questions. You can get them on Amazon. They are harder than the hardest GMAT I saw, but very similar in nature. For structure, I used Powerscore, which was excellent. And OG 12 of course for question practice.
-Sentence Correction: Doing Grammar, by Max Morenberg, and MGMAT. I could not have used one without the other. The first one taught me grammar like nothing I have seen before, the second how to apply that knowledge on the gmat. Using only MGMAT might leave you vulnerable at the highest level, where they seem to consciously pick on tricks and common rules (I got one question like this, where you are tempted based on a basic rule, but where some overriding principle lets you go with a better choice). But don't get me wrong, MGMAT is a great source too. In fact, using only the grammar book doesn't give you the sharpness to catch errors that you get from MGMAT. I used OG 12 and the purple verbal book for question practice. Key to good verbal is getting SC down to about 1min per question so you can spend the additional time on CR and potentially RC. If you really learn your grammar, this is probably the easiest part of the test.
-Critical Reasoning: I didn't find any of the teaching guides helpful on this topic, and I looked at quite a few (mgmat, powerscore, kaplan). This was a problem, and it's where I think I made all my verbal mistakes on the real gmat. I relied on OG and LSAT for questions, mainly the latter because it's tougher mentally. And more than anything, it gave me confidence on test day. After doing LSAT CR questions, the gmat questions began to appear a little 'wordy' and the actual logic a little easier. I didn't get a single boldface question on the actual test.


AWA
I wrote 3 sets of essays under timed circumstances beforehand. I found it useful to have a guide for the arguments. My guide was the following template (literally): weak analogies, correlation vs causation, necessary versus sufficient, statistical problems such as bias, relevance and sample size, and things changing over time. Key is not to waste energy in this section on test day.

I found gmatprep to be a reliable indicator. I got 760 on the first one (2 months in to my preparation)....i then retook it and only got 730 a couple of weeks later. Then I got 770 on the second one (3 months in). In the final month, I used hard math problems and combined them with tough LSAT RC/CR passages and SC from OG/purple book to create mini-gmats (25 math problems and 25 verbal) which I would do 3-4 times per week, under onerous circumstances (eg. taking a horrendous-looking RC passage from LSAT but only using 3 questions from it to force myself into timing problems). That way I was always short on time, always having to cut my losses, and always struggling. Similar on math, I would take 25 hard questions, to ensure that I wasn't using time on easy ones to make up for harder ones. Towards the end of these sessions, I was getting 70% of the math right and 80-90% of the verbal.

Good luck! bottom line: you more or less decide your score. it's then about finding out how much work you need to get there. Plus a bit of luck :)








CONGRATS/// Great SCORE!!

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by myohmy » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:50 am
Congratulations! A great debrief and an even better score! Good luck at b-school!

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by gmatmachoman » Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:32 am
Awesome Score 7 Awesome Debrief!!

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by reachsb » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:13 am
Congrats on your awesome score. A very inspirational debrief. I'm so glad to read about someone who stepped out of his/her comfort zone to seek that extra bit of information to prepare for the GMAT. Frankly speaking, I was getting sick and tired of reading the tall tales posted on this forum by cowboys claiming to have studied from only the OG for a month and yet scoring in excess of 750. Unfortunately, for the most of us plebians - it ain't that easy.

There is a tremendous competency gap between the folks who score a 710 and those who score a 780 on their GMAT. And your debrief highlights that fact. One can only wish that B-schools start lowering the weightages given to 'milli-vanilli' essays (thanks to the ever growing cottage industry of so-called 'Admission Consultants') and place more emphasis on the candidate's GMAT score.

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by caspermonday » Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:16 am
Manuka, thank you for your debrief! Can't agree with you more that to achieve a higher score you need to work on harder problems than those that appear during GMAT.

One question: you say that you used to take mini-gmats with 25 hardest math problems. Where did you find those problems?

Thanks again,

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Ian

by EMAN » Sun Sep 13, 2009 7:27 pm
How were you able to get Ian Stewart? In person or via the internet? I might be interested in doing something like this. I am quite impressed by his credentials and forum responses.

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Re: Ian

by manuka » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:14 pm
I sent him a message over the internet. I found his contact details on gmatix.com, which i think is his own website. I'm sure you can find it there. good luck!

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by rishi4you » Fri Sep 25, 2009 8:32 pm
Hi Manuka,

Its a very nice debrief. Can you let me know what propelled your Verbal score to 47. How did you managed to get that kind of score in Verbal.? I have tried all options and still cant get past 36-38

Did Ian Stewart as pointed out by you also helped you in your Verbal score .

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by GMATBootcamp » Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:11 pm
congratulations on your awesome score! Hard work, solid study materials, and a great tutor can definitely a difference!
Paul

Focused GMAT Preparation
www.thegmatbootcamp.com

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by manuka » Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:46 pm
rishi4you wrote:Hi Manuka,

Its a very nice debrief. Can you let me know what propelled your Verbal score to 47. How did you managed to get that kind of score in Verbal.? I have tried all options and still cant get past 36-38

Did Ian Stewart as pointed out by you also helped you in your Verbal score .
With a verbal score of 36-38, you have some fundamentals to work on. Look at the material i recommended in my debrief. There really wasn't any other secret to it for me, except a bit of luck. It's pretty hard work though, esp getting through the grammar book, but it will give you confidence and the MGMAT SC book will seem alot easier afterwards. One thing I would add to my debrief: compared to the quant section, the verbal section is much harsher on mistakes at the higher level. Each mistake can make a significant score difference. On top of that, i felt the last 2 verbal questions were easier than the ones before. As Ian Stewart pointed out to me, it's certainly possible that the test makers put a few 'easy' questions towards the end to 'overpenalise' those who do not manage their time wisely (because missing a relatively 'easy' question hurts the score a lot more than missing a tough one). Finally, do build in some time for some tough RC passages. My toughest RC passage was probably on par with the lsat stuff.
manuka

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by iamcste » Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:03 am
manuka wrote:As Ian Stewart pointed out to me, it's certainly possible that the test makers put a few 'easy' questions towards the end to 'overpenalise' those who do not manage their time wisely (because missing a relatively 'easy' question hurts the score a lot more than missing a tough one). Finally, do build in some time for some tough RC passages. My toughest RC passage was probably on par with the lsat stuff.
Hi Ian,

thanks for your great posts. Can you please elaborate on the overpenalize part? Is this true and how much can it impact you, can it really reduce your raw verbal points by more than 10 (meaning 40 to 30 because you mismanaged time)

thanks
Iamcste

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by vivecan2005 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:39 am
Great Debrief!! When study SC from other books like "Doing Grammar", Don't you feel that these books kind of pass the boundryline of GMAT scope? It is well known tha t GMAT test 8-10 kinds of errors spanning from Parallelism till Conjunction and these books take you to many areas which are never tested in GMAT.

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by Ian Stewart » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:58 am
iamcste wrote: Hi Ian,

thanks for your great posts. Can you please elaborate on the overpenalize part? Is this true and how much can it impact you, can it really reduce your raw verbal points by more than 10 (meaning 40 to 30 because you mismanaged time)
The short answer is: I don't really know; only the test designers know precisely how the question selection algorithm works. I can say the following with some confidence:

* It doesn't hurt you much to get an 800-level question wrong; that only proves you likely aren't an 800-level test taker. It hurts a lot more to get a 400-level question wrong;

* The description you read in prep books about the algorithm ('get a question right, your next question is harder; get a question wrong and your next question is easier') is an oversimplification. There are several factors that the algorithm uses to select your next question, and your ability estimate is only one of those factors (the test also needs to ensure content balance, and that no question is overused). So even if you are doing well, it is possible to see questions which are 'easy', and which still count, and these could show up at the end of your test. If you don't have time to attempt these, you're risking answering an easy question incorrectly.

* Some of my higher scoring students told me that they found the end of their test much easier than the beginning. Now, that may just be coincidence, but near the end of the test, the algorithm has a lot of information about your level; it is, perhaps, then less important to deliver questions near your ability. So while I have no way of knowing for sure, it strikes me as a possibility that there may be questions near the end which are of a lower difficulty than you might expect. Were I designing the test, and if I wanted to ensure that later questions were as important as early ones, that's something I would consider, at least. Whether the real test works that way I can't say - I only have anecdotal evidence to go on.

* Pacing of course is critical, but for your score to fall from a 40 to a 30, you would need to miss quite a few questions; answering one or two questions incorrectly at the end certainly will not make your score fall that far. If you needed to guess at 10 questions in a row at the end, however, then your score could fall quite dramatically.
Last edited by Ian Stewart on Sat Nov 06, 2010 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If you are looking for online GMAT math tutoring, or if you are interested in buying my advanced Quant books and problem sets, please contact me at ianstewartgmat at gmail.com