From 640 to 740 in a month: what was missing earlier?

Hello everyone, I write my GMAT experience from a low 640 to a satisfactory 740 to give fellow aspirants a little value and encouragement, just the way I got considerable encouragement from lot of threads I read here and on other forums during m…

Hello everyone,
I write my GMAT experience from a low 640 to a satisfactory 740 to give fellow aspirants a little value and encouragement, just the way I got considerable encouragement from lot of threads I read here and on other forums during my preparation.
The facts first:
Started studying from mid August.
One month of preparation (almost full time with odd breaks of a day or two twice or thrice).
Books referred and prep tests taken:
Initially Kaplan Premier 2009
Attempted GMATPrep 1, scored 630, got scared, referred Manhattan GMAT.
Took second GMATPrep, scored 640. Referred OG 12th combined and OG2nd for Q and V both.
Took a Kaplan test with the CD, scored 550. Alarmed. Read the forums about the accuracy estimates of various prep tests and got relieved a bit.
Attempted GMATPrep again with some repeat questions, scored 710.

Attempted actual GMAT end of September, scored 640 (Q39, V41).

Got busy in other issues, gap of a month, restarted studies after first week of November.

Two weeks of preparation (full time).
3-4 days to go through the Manhattan books.
GMATPrep reinstall and retest, scored 710 (lot of repeat questions).
Took 4 of the 6 Manhattan online tests, scored 700 in the free test, then 640, 660 and 650.
Took another GMATPrep, lot of repeat questions again, scored 750. Took one day break and took another GMATPrep, scored 710.
Went through the OG 12th and OG2nd, all 3 of them in the last 3 days.

Attempted actual GMAT on 26 November, scored 740 (Q47, V44)

-----------------------------------

I shall post more about the experience of prep and the practices as well as the actual tests in the next posts.

The first GMAT experience:
Starting Mid August.
.......
Quant Prep:
Was misled into believing that the math skills required are quite basic! That is sooo not true. Yes, the concepts tested are basic but the level of command required on those concepts is very high. For example, while the number properties section is only about basic rational numbers, the detailed properties and the tricks n traps (sum of squares of consecutive odd/even numbers etc...) in them are no child's play. Perhaps I am no good in Quant and also have been out of touch with math for over a decade, so found it quite difficult to get the questions right . DS was especially tricky at the beginning and remained the bogeyman till the end. My scores reflect that too.

So I prepare basics from Kaplan Premier 2009 I have had lying around, find the practice quizzes not too hard (adding to the misconceptions). Takes a week.
...
Verbal Prep:
The Kaplan book is only basic about it. I am too casual about the prep and the lulled by the 'basic' nature of concepts. Just read through it and find the quizzes quite easy. Takes about a week (breaks of 1 or 2 days etc).
...
Took the GMATPrep 1:
I wrote both the AWAs to get into the groove of both the writing experience and to simulate the test endurance situation.
Took a timed break of 5 min.
Quant got me. In time. Could do only 16-17 questions in 45 min and then it was like running behind a speeding train. Had 20 min left for 15 Qns, then 10 min for 10 Qns and couldn't answer last 2-3 Qns. Why the fatality of this never sank in, I fail to fathom in retrospect.
Took a timed break again.
I thought Verbal was ok...or was it? Again ran out of time, couldn't solve the last 2-3 Qns. Some basic SCs stumped me as did some twister CRs and the passages were just so hard to read. Score 630.
...
This is no good. Now I know that the basics are not so basic when it came to this test. It's already first week of Sept, so I read through the Manhattan books and realise that they explain things which stumped me in the prep test. Pretty good. But the Qns in the books are way different from those in the GMATPrep tests. After referring these books, I take the GMATPrep2.
...
GMATPrep 2:
History repeated itself. I felt I was more comfortable initially in that I could understand what the Qns were saying, but solving them, in a short time...ha! With minor variations, I repeated the same performance. Scored 640.
...
It's horrible to think I could improve only 10 points after reading all these books and even that could have been a fluke. Alarms ringing. I receive the OGs in the mail and attack them in earnest. Try to solve Qns in time. Average accuracy is around 80% but I can't do them quickly, especially the trickier PS and DS. Finish half of the OGs and take the Kaplan CD test 1.
...
Kaplan Test 1:
If it was like running behind a speeding train earlier in Quant, that train became a bullet train. The Quant just kept getting harder. The verbal was so convoluted, especially RC, that I began to wonder if I was doing so well as to be thrown such tough balls...er...Score 550. Anticlimax. Murder of Monsieur Morale, me cursing from the bottom of my crushed heart.
...
Hold on! There's a battle to be fought still. Why 550 and 640? Forums zindabad, spend hours on PG to read about test prep accuracies. Am super relieved that Kaplan algorithm is skewed and can pull down the score by even 100. That leaves me with a max 650 in the last attempt. It's now 21 Sept and I have an appointment on the 27th.
Back to the OGs and finish the rest of the Qns.
...
Took a GMATPrep again after reinstalling the software and scored 710. Repeat Qns galore. No time left for anything right now.
...
D-Day:

In the morning, read up on the AWA section in OG12. Got an idea of what to write in order to get the points. Appointment at 1.30.
Drove to the center. Registration and formalities. AWAs went ok, nothing much to speak of.
Break time, the administrator took 2-3 min to get my signatures and the palm prints, ate up the break.

I got back with the time for Quant already started and 30 sec gone. Darn! I never seemed to have learnt a lesson in the practice tests and took too much in initial Qns. Some of them stumped me totally, a graph which I failed to correlate with the Qn took 5 min. Fatal Error. One more DS Qn like that. On average I was consuming more time per Qn too. Finally came to a stage where I was left with 20 Qns and only 27 min. Finally, rushed through somehow and took educated guesses on the last 10 Qns and finally got absorbed in guessing the the last Qn with 30 sec left and before I knew, time was up. So one Qn not answered.

Another break, came back in time now. Verbal wasn't too difficult but I didn't manage the time well and two of the RCs were super long and complicated science passages. Had 10 min for the last 10 Qns so took guesses in the 5-6 Qns and clicked the last 3-4 blindly.

Score 640 with Q39 and V41. Is there any need to expound on the misery, kicking-myself-in-the-head-real-hard, self-doubt, and the sheer stupidity of not managing the time well? The score says it all.
...........................
If this were a drama movie, it would say intermission about now and we could have that popcorn :)
..........
Filled the EPGP application for IIM-B, no interview call, not expected either.
Hiatus. Other concerns, responsibilities took centerstage and a month went by. First week of Nov almost gone. ISB application R2 deadline of 30 Nov loomed large and had to take a call on the second GMAT attempt. So decided to prepare first and then decide if I should attempt or postpone it for next year and appear with 4-6 months of prep. That would also mean everything MBA gets pushed to 2013. Not desirable at all.
...........
Start with the Manhattan books. Take 3-4 days. I target the difficult sections more carefully. I note many things which I had just read through eariler without application in the tests. I am now hell bent on not bungling up on the time management part. Not much to prepare really on the material. Get the 1000 RC, SC etc but don't have the time. Am bored as such with the material. I now know that to make serious progress on quant, I have to make math my daily diet for at least 4-5 months and then the regular sprinting ability would come. Not possible, have to catch this train sooner.
...
What really went wrong earlier:
-Not attaching enough gravity to the exam and prep. The loss of time reading the Kaplan and relying on it to get a good score was a luxury I couldn't have afforded but spent on and repented. Mind, the book isn't bad but it's simply too basic.
-Not getting the OGs right from the start. This is THE BIBLE. Period. No second thoughts. The Manhattan books are the next best as a supplement to understand what the OG explanations talk about. Mind, the OG explanations, especially for quant, seem simple enough in retrospect but there are times when looking at the problem, I got stumped. MGMAT books filled in these gaps.
-In verbal, I got too confident.
-Not enough practice tests and not learning lessons from the ones I gave.
-TIME. Time wounds all heals...er, sorry, couldn't resist. 😃 If am asked what is the most critical thing on the GMAT? TTT for TIME, I'll scream. Manage it well and it will only ensure you perform to the peak of your score making ability. Manage it poorly and boy, does it drown you in seconds (literally)! I took too much time in problems I couldn't ultimately solve! Heck, why didn't I move on? Fear of getting things wrong, the useless hope of getting things right if I just spent 30 sec more, blah blah!! If I gave some more time here, it's going to catch me 10 min later again. I failed to remember that. In retrospect, I think these are a few of the GMAC's criteria to assess management capabilities. You carry your knowledge and skill as a resource and have this 75 min as the only additional resource. Managing both of these is what GMAT is all about. Knowledge and skill can give an optimised score only when time is managed well. In addition, there is the AWA which probably is to induce a fatigue quotient in the game.
............
Back to prep.
............
Take a GMATPrep again with reboot, many repeats but the pattern gets drilled in. Score 710 which isn't useful to assess real performance. Then some revision and get onto the Manhattan tests. I try to manage my time well, score 700 in the first free test (Q47, V42..not too sure). Book an appointment in Pune for the 18th, no later date available. With the elevated mood, I take another and score 640. The quant just doesn't cut it somehow and remains the same but this time, the verbal ditches me and I get only 35 in verbal. Back to the forums, people say that MGMAT quant is tougher. So back to revision and tests again. Take one more and score 660. Not very bright, this. I know I need more groove for the Quant through OG so postpone my GMAT to 26th at Delhi. Costly decision and time gone too but it turns out to be the right choice. I have some time till 26th so give one more MGMAT (650), two more reloaded GMATPrep (scores 750 and 700) and attack the OGs in the last 3-4 days.
.........
Within the available time, I'm now saturated and go for the GMAT. Appointment at 12 pm. The Pearson Center.
There're a lot of people here to give the exam. We wait a while, get the registration done and finally I get in for the exam.
Go through the AWA, nothing much to speak of. Break.
The quant is again filled with some time wasters. For some reason, I couldn't make out one Qn. Looked simple PS. A graph asking the ratio of averages of the X n Y coordinates but no matter how carefully calculated, the answer just won't fit the choices. I looked for the word approximate or something in the Qn, nope. Finally, marked the closest and moved on after 3 min. Some DS Qns were also beyond me so clicked on a good looking guess. Even though I was a bit rushed in the end, with 10 Qns and 15 min to go, I managed to complete everything with at least a guess. No blind clicking.
Took a break. A chocolate, a smoke.
Verbal was a breeze. I got some SCs in the beginning, some CRs and then the RC passages in between. I managed the time really well, had to rush once near the end but even there I had 1 min per Qn and was left with 1.5 min for the last Qn.
Clicked report scores and was happy to see a 740. Q47, V44.
Big relief.
........
Even though I would have liked the Quant score to be better, I know that it'll take me serious prep to improve on it now. My math is either not good enough in aptitude or simply too rusty in skill. What mattered was that the polish of the last two weeks and the prep tests which sharpened my time management got me to perform near the best of my ability.
.......
I'll post some more about my prep experience and shall happily answer anything if folks want to know. Am not a really smart guy who cracks tests with a week or two of study and moreover, I know how it feels and what it takes to digest a low score. The one thing I can say to those who don't get a good score initially is that one gets there if one keeps going. So keep going at it and you'll get there. Cheers.

I'll post a few things that came to my mind as I prepared for the GMAT and what changed in my approach to it the second time. That change got me a better score, at least I believe that.

I was quite worried about Quant initially. My worries were not unfounded but where I got clobbered was that I answered seemingly easy Verbal Qns wrong.

Quant:
I started preparing with the Kaplan Premier book. It's an ok sort of book if you are starting your prep. You want to get serious on Quant scores or think you're not too good at math, go for the Manhattan Quant books. At first, they don't seem too useful, especially the advanced sections which make one feel - boss, this is splitting hairs. But that's exactly what's needed. Mere clearing of concepts isn't enough. We have to be certain of all the tricks given in the MGMAT books. For those out of touch with math, I'll say read these books once, solve the quizzes at the end of chapters, leave them be for 15 days (do verbal or something) and read them again. Through and through. Some things will sink in better this time. Then start with the OG problems. DO half the OG Qns of quant, come back to the MGMAT books.

The most important thing I learned from practice tests (apart from the value of time management): No careless mistakes!! You won't believe how many Qns I solved correctly in practice tests and in the analysis found that I had marked the wrong choice. Three in the first two tests. That woke me up. Always always mark answer choices CONSCIOUSLY- think to yourself- answer is C etc so selecting C here. Also, read the Qns carefully for traps, like a soldier on a minefield. I got many things wrong initially because I found the wrong answer (and it was there in the choices for PS) or that I did not adequately think what was being asked in DS. The MGMAT rephrasing helped me there. You strip the Qn down on your pad, then answer the core Qn. DS Qns are full of these traps. The logic of the Qn takes you on a loooong ride and asks you something subtly different. You need to get used to 'hunting' for the exact Qn asked. For this, the best tool is the GMATPrep software. Even after you take both the tests, you can take the tests again with repeat Qns many times just to get used to the Quant problem language and the familiar places where GMAT ambushes you with tricks. Just like the keywords spotting in RC, try and spot words like 'not', 'double/twice', 'half', 'approximate', 'opposite' (modifiers for the required answer, so to speak) etc. You get the picture.

You don't have to be fast with calculations. No mental acrobatics needed. It's always about logic in the test. Those that are simply about calculations are simple enough even if you're slow like me. Always spend time to see the logic structure of the Qn than enter into it with a brute power approach right away.

Most importantly, never lose cool. As soon as you're done with a Qn, forget it entirely (or try to) and think only of the one you're solving with the clock at the back of the mind. If it helps, think that you did the last one right, always! You'll never know till the test ends anyway. Even best of the people aren't sure how they're going to score.

That's all about Quant. Can't say more about it, it's all there in the books and in you head. :)

Verbal:

The break between Quant and Verbal is important. To relax and to get quant out of your head. What I did in the break (while I had a smoke and a chocolate bite) was to just pretend that I was actually solving Verbal quizzes till now and tried to think something about SC, RC and CR like ok....hmm, parallelism (i go, they going), subject-verb (you is a nut), modifier, noun-pronoun etc...like a flash really. Same with CR or RC.

It helps if you get into the habit of thinking consciously when you solve the problems of verbal, that way you spot errors you may otherwise miss. In verbal, sometimes the GMAT uses tricks which exploits the human mind's ability to auto-correct what it reads on the fly. For example, did you spot the error I made in the last sentence, as you were reading it? Exploits should have been plural exploit cos it's linked to tricks and not GMAT. If you didn't, it's probably cos you were reading 'casually' and this is a very important point. You have to start reading everything critically and 'saying' to yourself: not parallel, subject (so and so) doesn't agree with verb (such and such), tense should be this or that- CONSCIOUSLY. Do not go by the ear! It's NOT being read to you. Nobody speaks like that! That's the language used when people want to write complex things in the shortest and the most precise fashion. My experience is that, if you go by the ear, you might miss parallelism errors cos hearing is essentially a serial process in nature and parallelism requires you to 'look' at those words as chunks and clauses in relation to each other, back and forth, as if they were static blocks. The bottomline is that the GMAT tries to tell your ear something which 'sounds' right; it's your job to 'see' if it is. In SC, usually you can quickly eliminate two or three choices by spotting one glaring error of subject-verb, parallel clauses etc. Another error in the Qn or an induced error in the remaining choices will isolate the correct choice.

For RC, no use to try and acquire speed reading skill if you're short on time. It's a slow process and cannot be built in a month. If you have 5-6 months, reading speed may be enhanced but I have doubts on the skimming techniques. Just read the wikipedia article on the subject and you'll see what I mean. Use other things to aid you instead. I drew simple diagrams as I read. This is not always possible but when it is, the diagram fits the passage in your head 'visually' and will also give you the primary idea. My technique was to take one or two words from the first major sentence and build around it. Use arrows, small and big, use circles, underline, mark the keywords such as 'therefore', 'whereas', 'but/however', etc in the diagram with a single letter or symbol. Another thing I did was to imagine the activities being described in the passage. Think of a super long passage about the effect on the survival of desert turtles of various environmental elements. It became easy when I picturised those turtles as if I were watching a documentary.

For CR, it's just practice. Be sure to go through the OG once at least, twice is better. Again, visualisation worked for me.

Lastly, for AWA, just read the samples in the OG and their analyses. I only spent one hour on it for my first attempt, didn't even bother the second time. Scored 5.5 both the times. Remember the keywords such as 'syntactic variety', 'command over the language' and 'logical structure' etc.

That nearly sums my entire experience.

All the best. 😃

Great encouraging post !!!
I also took GMAT and scored timid 670. Your post is encouraging me to take the test again after methodical preparation. Thanks for your post.

Please share anything that might help other in preparation.

Hello everyone,
I write my GMAT experience from a low 640 to a satisfactory 740 to give fellow aspirants a little value and encouragement, just the way I got considerable encouragement from lot of threads I read here and on other forums during my preparation.
The facts first:
Started studying from mid August.
One month of preparation (almost full time with odd breaks of a day or two twice or thrice).
Books referred and prep tests taken:
Initially Kaplan Premier 2009
Attempted GMATPrep 1, scored 630, got scared, referred Manhattan GMAT.
Took second GMATPrep, scored 640. Referred OG 12th combined and OG2nd for Q and V both.
Took a Kaplan test with the CD, scored 550. Alarmed. Read the forums about the accuracy estimates of various prep tests and got relieved a bit.
Attempted GMATPrep again with some repeat questions, scored 710.

Attempted actual GMAT end of September, scored 640 (Q39, V41).

Got busy in other issues, gap of a month, restarted studies after first week of November.

Two weeks of preparation (full time).
3-4 days to go through the Manhattan books.
GMATPrep reinstall and retest, scored 710 (lot of repeat questions).
Took 4 of the 6 Manhattan online tests, scored 700 in the free test, then 640, 660 and 650.
Took another GMATPrep, lot of repeat questions again, scored 750. Took one day break and took another GMATPrep, scored 710.
Went through the OG 12th and OG2nd, all 3 of them in the last 3 days.

Attempted actual GMAT on 26 November, scored 740 (Q47, V44)

-----------------------------------

I shall post more about the experience of prep and the practices as well as the actual tests in the next posts.

hi thanks for the lovely inputs i would like to know which books will be better to refer the manhattan or the Kaplan.

Thanks for insight mate.. and congratulations for your score..

Cheers
Ritz

Hey I want to take the Manhattan GMAT test series. They give access to those tests when you buy any of their books. I was thinking of purchasing their SC book from their site which costs $26 but its delivery charges alone are about $36. Is there any way to circumvent these delivery charges as I am only interested in the test series.

Great debrief Hrishkesh! I can see it really comes from the heart.

Do stay on and enlighten others with your GMAT gyaan

Arun

thanks mate for the elaborate run on your journey......best of luck...


Thanks Rishi! Although we haven't met, I guess ppl must be calling you Rishi. If not, you just got a new cool Nickname :)

Thanks for the post..God is in details...

I am attempting GMAT with 20 days' preparation! Hope TIME will not cause wounds instead of healing them 😉

@tarun.g : Bro buy it from flipkart at 1264 bucks
http://www.flipkart.com/gmat-sentence-correction-guide-includes-6-free-online-exams-more-volume-8-5/p/itmdynenruu6zwrr?pid=9781935707677&icmpid;=reco_hp_historyFooter_book_4
@mohit878 said:
@tarun.g : Bro buy it from flipkart at 1264 buckshttp://www.flipkart.com/gmat-sentence-correction-guide-includes-6-free-online-exams-more-volume-8-5/p/itmdynenruu6zwrr?pid=9781935707677&icmpid;=reco_hp_historyFooter_book_4

can we get the M-GMAT test series too if we buy this book from flipkart ,or would an online pdf be sufficient if I am primarily looking to get the M-GMAT series ?? thnx
@CatNamoNamah I dont know about flicart but in bersarai delhi...the book is available and with that you get a code with which you can access the M-GMAT test series.
@CatNamoNamah : I bought MANHATTAN SC guide from Flipkart....it has also access code for test series.
@amitpuy
@mohit878 is the code share-able ?
@CatNamoNamah no... but user id and password are...
@survey All the best for 21st day
@amitpuy : Depending on my results, I will post either What-to-do or What-not-to-do D
@survey Your post is much awaited