By Ajay Amar, PhD, 16-Jan-2012 20:00:00
Background: I have been out of high school since 1988. Last math class was in 1991 in college. Thought my strength was verbal, but overestimated my abilities.... My goal was a minimum of 600, but my dream was 700.
• Although I did not take a practice GMAT exam prior to the start of the class out of fear, my best guess would be quantitative sub-score of 20 and verbal sub-score of 25 for a total of 450.
• After one month my practice exam was quantitative 31; verbal 36; total 560.
• After two months I was at an average quantitative 39; verbal 36; total 615
• Test day almost exactly 2 months after starting GMAT Review with Dr. Amar: quantitative 35; verbal 39; total 620. (Yes, my scores flipped on me. The last week in preparing for the test I focused on verbal and let my quantitative slip...and I was lazy with a couple of key algebra concepts while I studied.)
1. Breathe. You can do this. Even if you don't believe it, keep telling yourself you can.
2. At no point in time should you look for shortcuts beyond the ones that Dr. Amar teaches. Do the work.
3. Do the work. 'Doing the work' entails a number of things that I found successful:
a. Setting aside 3.5 hours every non-class day for non-interrupted practice time focused on understanding and applying rather than memorizing. Each day should entail practice that is the same length as the actual exam. An ideal practice schedule may go like this:
i. The practice immediately following the class should have 1.5 hours of focus on the class material just learned (check the flight plan for suggestions).
ii. One hour of “weak” area review. [I purchased the extra review materials and found these very helpful.]
iii. One hour of strong (or least weak) area review. [I actually didn’t do this and it turned out my strengths were just less weak areas...had I spent a bit more time here I think I would have improved greatly. After only one week of strong verbal review my sub-score increased 4 points. Had I spent two months doing a little review, well, it likely would have been an amazing increase.]
b. Write out EVERYTHING. I went through two 100 page spiral notebooks (front and back) each month. By the end of the program I had a system for approaching everything, including a clear and consistent shorthand that worked for me. I was also dreaming in math...If two people are at this street corner and they start walking toward those two over at that street corner 50 feet away how many steps would it take if the people who are walking wear a size 6 shoe and the other a size 9?
4. Take practice tests.
a. Try to mimic the testing environment as much as possible.
b. Take a test at least once a week, even at the beginning, twice a week toward the test date.
c. Do not overtake the practice tests...I did a practice test everyday toward the end. A bit overkill because I was looking for my score to improve through practice tests rather than going and doing more problems systematically.
Final thoughts: My ultimate score was not my dream, but adequate for the purpose of graduate school and significantly higher than it would have been (estimated at least 170 point bump, if not 200 points in just two months). It should have been higher regardless. Toward the end I was more anxious to be done and to find shortcuts than I was to solidifying the concepts learned in class. For example, rather than understanding ratios, I kept looking for a formulaic approach that then would require math skills rather than reasoning...GMAT is all about the reasoning skills!
Again, you can do this! Find fun in the challenge of the quantitative and find the idiocy behind the wrong answers in the verbal and you may like the whole experience of preparing for the GMAT a little...or as I did, a lot.
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