Discouraged kid gets 760 - 20% accuracy on diagnostic exams

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Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
Posts: 1
Joined: 05 Jul 2019
Quick Stats:
3.9 GPA from large public state school - finance major
28 ACT - consider myself a strong school test taker but a weak standardized test taker
320+ hours studied (190 to complete Target Test Prep, 90 verbal, rest in practice tests)
Started study in end of January
Took test in early May

Quant resources used:
Target Test Prep (literally all you need to get a minimum of 48)
All free MBA.com practice questions
Very few OG practice questions

Verbal Study materials:
Princeton Grammar Easy
Newest edition of Manhattan Sentence Correction

Verbal Practice materials:
2012 Manhattan Sentence Correction all questons - found online PDF for free
OG all questions for all 3 sections (SC, RC, CR) found online PDF for free
OG verbal supplement (found online PDF for free in a google drive)
SC 1000 - did first 250 questions
All free MBA.com practice questions

Read articles about templates which was very helpful but didn't make my own template
Did 1 untimed essay
Did 2 timed essays on my last two practice tests

All MBA.com practice questions
Vertias free practice questions
Practice exams

Practice tests:
Official 1: 750, Q49, V42, IR 4
Official 2: 750, Q48, V45, IR 4
Official 3: 750, Q49, V42, IR 5
Vertitas free CAT: 710, Q49, V39, IR 5
Official 4: 750, Q49, V44, IR 4
Offical 1 RETAKE: 780, Q50, V46, IR 8
Real GMAT: 760, Q49, V44, IR 7, AWA 5.5

Background info: Discouraged kid wants super high gmat score
I graduated college in December of 2018 and have an Investment Banking job lined up for June 2019. My goal is to transition into Private Equity after a couple years in Banking and then get an MBA. I saw the GMAT as a way to potentially stand out during PE recruiting and I knew that I wouldn't have much time to study during banking or PE later on. Since the test lasts for 5 years I figured it'd be good to take it while I had a full semester off with no other obligations.

I knew that the only way the GMAT was going to help me later down the road is if I achieved a score that was competitive enough to break into the M7 so I set my retake score at 730 (target score of 740). Since I had a great GPA in college and generally consider myself smart I thought it wouldn't be that hard to get a super high GMAT score. I was very wrong.

When I first started studying for the GMAT I took a couple diagnostic exams for Math Revolution and Target Test Prep. I basically couldn't answer a single quant question and certainly not within 2 minutes. I scored about a 20% on the diagnostic exams for both programs. Everyone says to college seniors "take the GMAT during your senior year while you're still in STUDY MODE". While this makes sense for most people, in my situation I never actually got into STUDY MODE while in college. I'd simply go to class, do homework, do a tiny bit of review for exams and do well. After my abysmal diagnostic exams, I realized that I was going to have to put myself into STUDY MODE for the first time in my life.

I started my first week using Math Revolution but found it was way too intimidating and way too unorganized to work for me. It further discouraged me and made me feel like I wasn't smart enough to beat the GMAT quant. I believe MR is a good program for people who are already decent at Quant and want some additional tips, but for me it was way too hard.

In the early stages of studying I found myself constantly doubting if I even had the intellectual ability to reach my target score on the GMAT. Specifically, I struggled very hard with quickly and accurately solving basic math / identifying the right approach to solve the problems. Also, most people say "the quant is tough because you probably haven't studied this basic level of math since grade school." For me I actually never learned the majority of the quant. I never learned anything about number patterns or tough rate / work problems. I never even learned how to do long division or multiplication outside of the multiplication tables. Starting in 6th grade we got to use calculators on every test so I also hadn't solved a math problem on paper for like 10 years.

I was ready to give up but then I stumbled across Target Test Prep. After taking their free trial I felt a new sense of encouragement for the GMAT Quant. The program was extremely thorough and easy to follow. Read my TTP review for more info, but basically you read a chapter and then take a crap load of practice tests starting easy and getting hard. If you complete the course according to the study plan it's basically impossible not to achieve at least a 48.

My study plan:
With Target Test Prep in hand, I decided to fully commit to the GMAT. I set a target study time of 4.5 hours a day (I achieved an average of 4 hours a day). I tried to space out the studying in 45 to 1.5 hour increments and diligently recorded all of my study time in an excel document to keep me on track. I spent the first 6 weeks doing 4.5 hours of quant only. Then I transitioned to about 3 hours of quant and 1 hour of verbal.

Quant advice:
If you're serious about the GMAT quant and had bad diagnostic exams, just get TTP and follow their study guide EXACTLY. It took my 190 hours to complete but by the end of it I felt very confident in my quant ability and consistency. I didn't use any other resources. I didn't even read a word of the Official Guide. Unless you NEED a 51, I wouldn't use the approach that most other test companies use which is "let's give our students insanely hard questions that are very unlikiely to come up in the GMAT because then solving real GMAT questions will be a breaze). I think that approach will just discourage the average person and is just a waste of time unless for some reason you NEED a perfect 51. Otherwise, just use TTP and rest assured that you are using the best availble resource.

Verbal advice:
I didn't have a good verbal plan since TTP only did quant. Basically, I just did a ton of practice questions and read 2 sentence correction books (without even really taking notes). I found this approach worked okay for me just because I'm pretty naturally strong in verbal, I'm a native english speaker and I dilligently tracked my errors. Tracking erros is incredibly important if your only really studying is through practice questions because it allows you to actually learn and improve. If you don't track your errors and study why you got each question right or wrong you won't learn from practice questions. Also, don't beat yourself up when you get a question wrong, lots of the GMAT verbal is pretty unfair IMO and lots of the non-official practice questions are pretty bad so just try to learn something but don't get upset with wrong answers.

Reading faster:
I also hadn't ever done a lot of serious reading. I haven't read many books and I never opened textbooks in high school or college. I knew this was going to be an issue for me so I picked up a fun mystery/murder novel and read that during my breaks in between studying quant in my early weeks. It really helped me to simply improve my reading speed. I also tried to read New York times articles every day once I started my verbal studying on week 7 of study. I've also heard the advice of read 3 official GMAT RC passages a day which I think is great advice as well.

Practice Test phase:
WITHOUT RUSHING ANYTHING, I made sure to complete the Target Test Prep course exactly 24 days before my real GMAT Exam. Lots of people advise blowing your first GMAT practice test super early in your studying to give a benchmark. I specifically didn't do that because I knew there was tons of stuff I still needed to learn and I knew it would discourage me. Instead, I took my first practice exam 24 days before my real GMAT. I then alternated between 1 practice test day and 3 review days, and took a total of 7 exams with the 7th being the real GMAT. In my review days, I carefully reviewed each problem I got right and wrong and tried to study any week areas. Because of my TTP work, my Quant score was insanely consistent and with high verbal scores I was able to consistently score above my target score which gave me a ton of confidence.

Test day ritual:
I originally scheduled my test for an early morning but actually paid to reschudule the test to an afternoon test. I knew that my mind would be sharper later in the day and that I need a lot of time for my test day rituals.
Wake up late, around 10 after getting great sleep
Do 11 minutes of Zen meditation focusing on simply clearing my mind
Eat a large breakfast
Do 10 or 15 easy OG Quant problems
Take a break and hang out or something
Do 10 or 15 verbal questions some of each of the 3 problem types
Prepare my snacks for breaks
Do a 5 minute visualizaiton / positive self talk meditation as recommended my TTP
Go take the test

Other thoughts:
Don't use your entire breaks! The exam proctors don't do a good job moving quickly to check you in and out and I actually lost 45 second from my exam. Take the breaks fast and go back in the room.

If you're a non-native english speaker the test is actually biased against you. It super unfair and messed up. That said, it is still very possible for you to achieve a super high verbal score but you won't be able to use the approach that I did of simply answering practice questions. I'd recommend doing an intense course like e-GMAT for the verbal or taking TTPs verbal course when it gets rolled out. Try to take a similar approach the verbal as I did with quant.

I barely studied IR and AWA and basically just got super lucky on the IR. The AWA wasn't bad since I'm a pretty decent writer but if you're not a good writer or you want to get a perfect 6, definetly use a memorized template. If you memorize a template you're basically garenteed a perfect score.

Your speed for quant will improve with time. I didn't believe it at first since I was struggling so hard but it really did improve. Same for verbal but it was more dramatic with the quant.

Focus on the quant and sentence correction early since those are things that you actually can learn and there are specific rules and facts to memorize.

Don't waste too much time reading the GMAT Club forum questions. There's all kinds of people going on there and posting what they think is the right answer or approach to the problems and it can be very hard to know if they just got lucky with thier answer / approach or if they are actually correct. Try to focus on the responses from Experts.

Overall verbal accuracy according to my error logs: 85% but did better on the OG questions (cuz they are better questions)

Overall quant accuracy according to TTP analysis: 89% with 1:55 average (although I did significantly better near the end of the course for both accuracy and time per question.

I got a ton of questions wrong on my official quant practice tests and still got a bunch of Q49s. I averaged 7 wrong out of 31 for my 49s.

The test taking experience feels very bad. Even if you are getting a great score you will probably feel like the questions are super hard and you're getting a bunch wrong. Just try to focus on the question you're on and never give up. I felt that I totally bombed most of my practice tests and ended up consistently getting 750s. My real GMAT felt actually pretty decent but was still a tough experience.

TTP is without a doubt the best resource for quant. There's absolutely no way that I would have passed the GMAT without them.

Thanks for reading my insanely long rundown of my GMAT experience. Hope it helps someone and let me know if you have any questions!


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by Bara » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:25 pm
Go you!

Create and initiate an individual plan and stick to it. Honor the whole self taking the test (mindset/zen meditation and eating right). And finding the support you need.

For verbal: I concur -- it's biased again non-native American English speakers and there are a few ways to deal with this. Our head verbal tutor has cracked the code (she has a PhD in cognitive linguistics, so our students see huge improvements) and a student needs to identify if they 'feel' answers or correct or use a clear cut formulaic rule set (and understand sentence meaning) to best answer SC sets.

Fast reading is indispensable and a learned skill. In fact, we teach it in 3 - 5 hours in our GMAT/GRE Speed Reading Clinic. It's a GAME CHANGER. Not sure how fast you read? Then take a quiz to find out. https://citytestprep.com/tests/
Ideally: you're reading 350+ wpm with 80% comprehension.

Hope you've celebrated a bit!
Bara Sapir, MA, CHt, CNLP
Founder/CEO City Test Prep
Maximize your Score, Minimize your Stress!
GMAT Badass and Test Anxiety Relief Expert
SPEEDREADING: https://citytestprep.com/mindflow-workshops/
ANXIETY RELIEF: https://citytestprep.com/mindfulness-therapy/
BOOK: https://tinyurl.com/TPNYSC
TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McA4aqCNS-c


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by [email protected] » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:07 pm
Hi 2019gmat2019,

I'm so pumped to hear that TTP helped you score 760!! Nice work, my friend! Good luck with things moving forward.

Scott Woodbury-Stewart
Founder and CEO
[email protected]


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