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ust scored a 790 (Q50, V51) - Some Reflections
Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:34 am
I took the GMAT last Friday (6/21/13) and scored a 790, with a 50 on quant and 51 on verbal. Below is an overview of how I prepared, though I did not keep great track of what I did when, so the dates are a bit fuzzy. I started casually studying probably a year ago. Now, I have not been studying intensely for a year, but I bought all the books (princeton review, kaplan, manhattan gmat, official guide) and started out by reading the princeton review and kaplan books. I had the luxury of time since I knew I wouldn't be applying until fall 2013. My initial studying was very inconsistent. I would work through some of the kaplan book one weekend and then get really busy with work and not do anything for a month. By February though i had read the princeton book, kaplan book and manhattan books and done all the practice problems. I had also done the Princeton CATs to practice but I did these pretty early on and don't remember my scores. At this point I had a pretty good baseline and I then spent from late February to probably mid April working through problems - i did all of the problems in the Kaplan 800 book, Mgmat advanced quant and official guide. I still was not working super intensely - i was probably spending several hours each weekend on studying. I really started studying hard in late April - like every weekend for most of the weekend. Since I had bought my books so long ago, my access to the Kaplan CATs was about to expire, so i did all of the Kaplan CATs around late April to early May. I think I got 760s on every one, BUT, I paused the math section on every single one. If I hadn't paused I wouldn't have finished the test. And this is the number one issue I had throughout my studying... I had so much trouble with the time constraint on the quant section. I have very strong math skills and was a math major in college, so I had the ability to figure out the right answer to every problem and was too stubborn to say "this is taking too long, pick an answer and move on". So, even though I did well on the Kaplan CATs, I was not prepared for the real thing due to the timing on quant. My number one piece of advice is that the earlier you realize that you do not need to get even close to every problem right to get a high score, the better. My inability to internalize this, even though i knew it was true, was my nemesis throughout my entire preparation. Once I finished the Kaplan CATs I moved on to the Manhattan GMAT CATs. I also purchased the set of 5 CATs from 800score.com. I took the first MGMAT on 5/12 and got a 760 (Q49, V45). Again, I paused this test on math section. Every time i started a test i told myself i wasn't going to pause, but then i'd get to a problem where i screwed up the arithmetic or something and would pause. I couldn't help it. So while I was happy with my score it wasn't a true indicator of how I would do due to my pausing. Around the same time I did a couple of the 800score tests. The math section was good practice, but the verbal section was way too easy, and I don't think 800score's scoring was a reflection of how the real test is scored, so I didn't give too much weight to my scores, just used them as good practice for quant section. I then went on vacation for a week so it was tough to do any practice tests, so instead i did the Offical Guide Quant and Official Guide Verbal books (only did sentence correction in verbal though, because I
felt pretty comfortable with RC and CR and didn't feel that extra practice would help much). I took another MGMAT on 5/28 and scored a 780 (Q51, V45), but again with significant pausing on math section. My third MGMAT I took on 5/30 and scored 770 (Q51, V44), same story with the pausing. At this point I was really starting to freak out about the time constraint on quant. I decided I needed to set a date for my test, and scheduled it for 6/21. If I didn't get a date on the calendar I could have prepared forever. I took my next MGMAT on 6/2 and got a 730 (Q51, V40). I was very unhappy with my verbal score, as I had been doing really well on verbal up until now and wasn't worried about it at all. Looking at the questions I got wrong though, i realized something about MGMAT - that their scoring system is faulty. They place significantly more weight on questions towards the end of the test. In this case, I had only gotten 5 questions wrong, all in the 700-800 difficulty range, but I got 3 wrong in a row towards the end of the test which severely dropped my score based on MGMAT's scoring method. Once I realized their scoring was off, I tried not to worry too much about it. I should mention that in between all of these practice tests, I was reviewing problems from previous tests, worked on a few problem areas (I noticed i struggled a lot on rate problems so did a long review of that) and also did some integrated reasoning practice. I finally decided to take an Official test on 6/8, about 2 weeks before my exam. I was hoping that this would be the boost of confidence I need to get over my issues with the quant timing. I had heard of course that Kaplan and MGMAT math was way harder than the real thing, and I thought the hardest math questions in OG were not bad, so I was really hoping I wouldn't have an issue with the official test. Unfortunately, I was really nervous for this test and got flustered at the beginning and ended up pausing on a handful of math problems. Ended up with a 780 (Q50, V47). A fantastic score, but again not a score I could rely on because I paused. In my review of the test though, I realized that most of those questions I ended up spending a lot of time on I ended up getting wrong anyway. Finally it clicked that it was not worth spending so much time on problems I was struggling with, and finally I accepted that there would be problems I would need to pick an answer for and move on without fully vetting my answer. I took MGMAT #5 on 6/14 and got 780 (Q51, V45) and MGMAT #6 on 6/15 and got 730 (Q48, V41) with minimal (but still some) pausing. At this point though I was at least not really working on problems when I paused, I was taking a moment to take a deep breath and relax... which of course is not ideal at all, but an improvement. I had done soooo many math problems at this point that I had gotten much quicker at figuring out how to approach the problem. I took the 2nd Official practice test on 6/18, 3 days before my real test. Once again scored a 780 (Q51, V47) and did not pause on this one (finally!!). I did use every last second on quant and the timing was pretty tight on verbal too. I purchased the additional question set that you could get through the GMAT prep software and in the last few days before the test I did all of the integrated reasoning and quant questions. I think this was helpful in prepping me for the real questions. It's definitely true thatMGMAT and Kaplan quant questions are harder than the real thing, and I thought the official questions had a slightly different feel to them, so prepping by doing official questions the last three days got me in a good rhythm.
I was extremely nervous in the last couple weeks leading up to the test. I knew I was capable of achieving a high score (was shooting for 750+), but unsure of how it would play out. My biggest fear was that I would get flustered near the beginning of the quant section and it would throw me off, of that I just would run out of time on quant. I was also a little worried about timing on verbal, but not as nearly as much. At this point though, I just wanted it to be over. Even if I didn't get the score I wanted, I felt that getting on test under my belt would help me relax and would be a relief. Luckily, it went as good as I could have hoped. Got through AWA, which i kind of liked having at the beginning because it gets you in the zone. The first integrated reasoning question threw me off. I could not figure out how to come up with a solution, and finally realized after about 3.5 minutes that i missed a piece of critical info in the prompt. (Always read the question carefully!) After that, I most of the IR section on the easier side and timing wasn't a problem (knock on wood though - i haven't gotten my score yet). I took a quick bathroom break after IR and then... the quant section..... what I had been dreading. Luckily, my first few questions were pretty easy and I got through them quickly so set a good pace. I moved very quickly, and i was way ahead of pace by the time i was halfway through the questions. i then slowed down a bit, but not too much, and ended up finishing with about 5 minutes left. Overall the quant section was way easier than any practice test i had taken. I was actually pretty worried at one point because I felt like the questions were too easy and that maybe I wasn't doing well. I then did get a string of tougher ones, but nothing too bad. There were only maybe 2 that i felt unsure about, though since i got a 50 I must have made errors on some other questions. Once I was done the quant, i was so incredibly relieved. I wanted to get right into verbal and get the test finished, so i didn't take a break. The verbal section also was on the easier side - much easier than MGMAT and i thought it was easier than then 2 official practice tests i had taken as well. I felt like there was a clear answer for every question, whereas on all my practice tests there were at least a handful of questions where i debated between 2 answer choices. The RC passages were also not as bad as on some of the practice tests. I finished verbal with 15 minutes left. I was shocked by the score of 51 that i received on verbal... i got 47 on both the official practice tests. Ecstatic about my score... i knew that if everything when perfectly there was a chance i could get a 770 or 780, but did not dream i'd get 790. A couple final things. I prepared very little for AWA. About a week before test I read the section in the MGMAT book about AWA and I did the AWA section on my final practice test. The day before the test, I found a template on this website, which i modified and memorized. So going in, i had basically an intro and concluding sentence for every paragraph (wrote 5 paragraphs). When i started the section, I typed out my template, then when back and filled in the blanks. I still used the entire 30 minutes and am really glad that I had prepared the generic parts. Haven't gotten my score yet, so unsure of how i did. I had also been worried about the notepad you are given to do scratchwork on and the marker, so i bought the manhattan gmat replica from amazon. I used this for the last ~5 practice tests i took. I actually really liked it, as the pages are very large and the marker/pen is very fine toothed. All in all, this was quite a long and stressful journey for me, but it all turned out well. Good luck! TL;DR Don't freak out about time constraint! Accept early on that you will encounter tough problems you will have to make an educated guess on and realize that you can get a lot wrong and still do very well!
Last edited by yepgirlnope on Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:49 am; edited 1 time in total
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