640 to 720 in 7 Weeks

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640 to 720 in 7 Weeks

by lambert000 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:10 pm
First of all I should say that I've never been a super serious student/studier. I was a student athlete in college, but mostly athlete. I took academics serious enough to graduate and get a decent job, but I'm definitely not your "poster child" for academic prowess.

That said, I knew I needed a 700+ to have any shot of getting into a top 5 MBA program. Before I opened a single GMAT book, I took a GMATPrep exam (to get a true baseline score) and got a 600 (V34, Q38). Not terrible, but definitely not close to what I would need to get into my goal school. I'm a native English speaker, so my baseline verbal score wasn't terrible, but my quant skills definitely needed some help. I'm also not rolling in cash, so wanted to as efficiently study for the GMAT as possible (no $1,000+ classes for me, unfortunately).

5 Month Study Plan
My goal was to have a final GMAT score by early June so that I could spend the summer working on MBA applications. I started studying on my own in Jan, using the OGMAT book. The book provides great, high-quality questions and decent explanations. I was fairly disciplined, doing practice problems for ~8 hours/week (mostly on weekends with my roommate). After about 6 weeks of self-prep, though, I realized I didn't really have a plan or strategy for my studying. I worked on the skills I felt I needed to work on, but with the exception of getting questions right/wrong, was really missing having some sort of feedback on my progress.

In mid-Feb, I signed up with Magoosh since they had decent reviews and, at the time, were running a sale so I could get everything I needed for $99 (or so). Here's my assessment of their GMAT course:

Magoosh - the GOOD
--Tons of content - you'll never run out of videos to watch or practice questions to do. So if you like staying busy and having lots of information to go through, you'll love it.
--Some cool features, like the ability to create your own quizzes (based on what you want to practice) and data on how you compare with other students' performance on every single question.
--Can't beat the price!

Magoosh - the NOT SO GOOD
--I was really hoping for more of a plan - some sort of guidance to tell me where to focus my energy. I didn't get this witMagoosh.
--I found their lessons/videos to be quite verbose. I would have preferred to have them more concisely written/narrated to feel like my time was more efficiently being used.

After about 2 months with Magoosh (now we're up to mid-April), I decided to take another GMATPrep exam. This time I scored a 640 (V35, Q42) and started freaking out a bit. Based on my original goal, I only had six weeks left to get my sh*t together and score a 700+. Even though 40 points is a decent score increase in 3.5 months, I needed more.

After doing a bit more research of other course options, I decided to try PrepScholar GMAT, a newer course, since they claim to offer exactly what I was looking for - a personalized study plan based on my GMAT strengths and weaknesses. The online course is $399 which is obviously more than Magoosh but, in my mind, worth it if the course works. Here's my assessment of their course:

PrepScholar GMAT - the GOOD
--My personalized study plan was spot on - the algorithm identified weaknesses I didn't even know I had (apparently I suck at "Reading Comprehension: Application" questions... something I never would have recognized on my own).
--Tools like progress trackers and study schedulers kept me motivated and almost made studying fun (note: ALMOST).
--The questions seemed to be much more realistic to "actual" GMAT questions than Magoosh.

PrepScholar GMAT - the NOT SO GOOD
--They're a newer course the product didn't have as many 'bells and whistles' - like the question-specific student data or ability to create your own quizzes - that Magoosh had.
--Once I "mastered" a skill I wasn't able to do any more practice questions for this skill. Of course, I could always pull more from my OGMAT book or BTG forums, but it would have been nice to be able to continue drilling 700+ level questions.

After 3 weeks with PrepScholar GMAT, I took a third GMATPrep test and scored a 690 (V37, Q47). Still a bit disappointing (I was really hoping for a score starting with a "7"), but getting much closer to my goal. At this point I split my time between PrepScholar GMAT and drilling practice problems from the OGMAT book, using Prepscholar GMAT almost as a compass telling me on which skills to focus and the OGMAT book to drill questions. I scheduled my GMAT for June 1st and took one final GMATPrep test in late May - a 710 (V38, Q49)!

In the end, I scored a 720 (V39, Q49) on the actual test and was THRILLED. Could I do better and keep improving? Probably. Do I want to? No way. I'm done and never looking back. Onto applications, interviews, and, hopefully, MBA admission!

Again, here was my score progression:
-Jan 5, GMATPrep: 600 (V34, Q38)
-April 13, GMATPrep: 640 (V35, Q42)
-May 22, GMATPrep: 690 (V37, Q47)
-May 29, GMATPrep: 710 (V38, Q49)
-June 1, GMAT: 720 (V39, Q49)

And finally here are my top 5 key takeaways from my GMAT experience:
1. If your score isn't improving with what you're doing, find a new strategy. For me, self-guided prep (both on my own and with Magoosh) didn't work very well. I needed more personalized guidance and feedback. Every student is different and just because one strategy worked for your friend/brother/roommate's cousin doesn't mean it'll work for you.
2. Understand your mistakes. I know so many people who just do "50 problems a day" or whatever and consider that effective studying. I'd so much rather do 10 questions a day - and spend 15-20 minutes really understanding each question - than flying through them just to say I did them. Quality > Quantity!
3. Don't assume you know your strengths and weaknesses. I was shocked when PrepScholar GMAT diagnosed one of my weakest areas to be Reading Comprehension, especially since I always considered myself a somewhat avid reader. Once I was able to really hone in on that skill (and other weak spots) my score improved!
4. Separate GMAT prep and MBA application prep. Both will add enough stress onto your life - don't save GMAT prep for the last minute. Get it done/behind you so that you can focus on writing the best application essays possible.
5. Don't spend a ton of time thinking/stressing about the AWA. Especially if you're a native English speaker, find a few (free) templates/examples online, and go with it.

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by ErikaPrepScholar » Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:24 am
Congrats, lambert000! I'm glad that you found PrepScholar GMAT helpful in reaching your target score!

I couldn't agree more that Quality > Quantity when it comes to GMAT prep: it's more important to study smart than to study a lot. There's so much material out there that it's easy to spend a ton of time on areas that 1) aren't super important on the test and 2) aren't important to you. It's also easy to blaze through a bunch of material without stopping to analyze where you're going wrong -- making the same mistake repeatedly can actually reinforce the bad habit and worsen your score!

For others who are going the self-study route, I recommend:
  • Finding a way to diagnose yourself. What kinds of problems are you missing consistently? What do they have in common? Of those problems, which ones come up the most frequently in the tests that you take? You can come up with your own "skills" to focus on, use the skills in the OG, or search the internet for more ideas.
  • Spending as much time reviewing your practice tests/questions as you do taking them. If you missed a problem, why did you get it wrong? If you guessed correctly on a problem, how can you get it right next time without guessing? If a problem took you longer than it should have, is there a method to do it faster? Don't train yourself to do the problem wrong by making the same mistake again!
Best of luck with your applications!
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Erika John - Content Manager/Lead Instructor
https://gmat.prepscholar.com/gmat/s/

Get tutoring from me or another PrepScholar GMAT expert: https://gmat.prepscholar.com/gmat/s/tutoring/

Learn about our exclusive savings for BTG members (up to 25% off) and our 5 day free trial

Check out our PrepScholar GMAT YouTube channel, and read our expert guides on the PrepScholar GMAT blog

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by barksdale » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:17 am
lambert000 wrote: 2. Understand your mistakes. I know so many people who just do "50 problems a day" or whatever and consider that effective studying. I'd so much rather do 10 questions a day - and spend 15-20 minutes really understanding each question - than flying through them just to say I did them. Quality > Quantity!
Congratz! How did you go about understanding your mistakes? Did you use an error log, and if so, which one?

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by lambert000 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:25 am
Thanks! I'd answer your question in 3 ways:
1. At first, when self-studying, I kept track of all the questions I got wrong in a simple Excel document. This way I could organize and sort by skill if I ever wanted to go back to review. However, this was a bit time consuming and not very effective.
2. PrepScholar GMAT's diagnostic assessment really helped me to understand, at macro level, what skills I was making the most mistakes in (i.e. for which kinds of problems I needed to spend more time at the "core" level). It didn't give specifics on questions I got wrong, but I found the overall assessment to be helpful.
3. PrepScholar GMAT's answer explanations are super thorough and helpful. The program grades each quiz and allows you to go back to review any of the questions you want - whether you got them right or wrong - so I used this to go back and track/review the ones I bombed :)

Hope this helps!

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by barksdale » Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:04 am
Thanks for your answers. I'm guess I'm particularly curious if you found any patterns and lessons learned from your most common mistakes?

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by lambert000 » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:56 am
Not really, which is why the assessment was so helpful. My weakest areas were all over the place - Reading Comp, Coordinate Geometry, and Sentence Correction (idioms). I don't think I would have been able to pinpoint those specific areas/skills on my own.

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by barksdale » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:28 pm
lambert000 wrote:Not really, which is why the assessment was so helpful. My weakest areas were all over the place - Reading Comp, Coordinate Geometry, and Sentence Correction (idioms). I don't think I would have been able to pinpoint those specific areas/skills on my own.
Thanks lambert. Would you be able to share what the analysis looks like (if possible)??? I know that's a lot to ask, but I'm comparing resources, and that would be helpful to see. Thanks!! <i class="em em-pray"></i>

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by barksdale » Tue Jan 23, 2018 9:27 am
Hi ErikaPrepScholar. I'm curious how you think PrepScholar compares academically to Target Test Prep, or ExamPAL?

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by ErikaPrepScholar » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:29 am
Hey barksdale,

As Content Manager at PrepScholar GMAT, I think that our program is one of the best on the market, but I'll try to give you as unbiased an answer as possible. <i class="em em-grin"></i> If anyone from Target Test Prep or ExamPAL wants to jump in here with more information, feel free!

Similarities

All three programs are online courses designed to flex around individual student schedules. They also feature some level of customization and analytical tracking of student performance in individual skills.

Differences

The biggest difference between Target Test Prep and PrepScholar is that TTP only covers Quantitative content. PrepScholar covers all sections of the test, focusing primarily on Quantitative and Verbal. The other key difference is that TTP is customizable, but the student is customizing the program themselves. The PrepScholar program creates a study plan for the student, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses as well as how long they have until their test date. This ensures that PrepScholar users are always focusing on the right subject at the right level at the right time to maximize their score improvement.

ExamPAL adapts to the student in a different way than PrepScholar does. ExamPAL adapts on an individual question basis, walking the student through the way to solve each problem that will likely be easiest and fastest to them - which is pretty cool! PrepScholar's adaptive technology works on a broader level, targeting the students toward specific skills, skill levels, and question types that they struggle with, preventing them from wasting time on skills and question types that they already get right consistently. This means that we can target explanations for individual problems to the level of students who are likely to see them - if a student sees a 600-level problem in our program, it means that they aren't super advanced in the particular skill. This means that the solutions we provide will cater more toward a struggling student. On the other hand, if we have a 700-level problem, the explanations might focus more on higher-level strategies, since only a student who started out advanced OR successfully advanced through more standard problems will see them.

I have not used the Target Test Prep or ExamPAL programs, so I can't speak to their question accuracy, but I can guarantee that every problem in the PrepScholar GMAT program is based on in-depth analysis of real GMAT problems - their tricks, their traps, their answer options, their difficulties, their phrasings, their combinations of skills, etc. Depending on the question quality in the other two programs, this may be a similarity or a difference.

Additionally, PrepScholar and Target Test Prep both offer the option to add on one-on-one tutoring, while ExamPAL does not.


All in all, the three programs are catered to students who want the personal tutoring experience without the cost and inconvenience of personal tutoring, but each does so in a different way. If you are looking for a more self-guided experience, Target Test Prep may be right for you. Similarly, if you are looking to cover every topic but focus on that topic in a way catered to you, ExamPAL may be your best bet. If you're looking for a system that focuses you on the questions at the skill and level that are most likely to improve your score on test day, I'd recommend giving PrepScholar a shot - we have a 5 day risk-free trial, so if it isn't right for you, you aren't locked in.

If you want to know more about PrepScholar GMAT, you can check out our website at https://gmat.prepscholar.com/gmat/s/.

Hopefully this helps! Best of luck in your studies!
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Erika John - Content Manager/Lead Instructor
https://gmat.prepscholar.com/gmat/s/

Get tutoring from me or another PrepScholar GMAT expert: https://gmat.prepscholar.com/gmat/s/tutoring/

Learn about our exclusive savings for BTG members (up to 25% off) and our 5 day free trial

Check out our PrepScholar GMAT YouTube channel, and read our expert guides on the PrepScholar GMAT blog