Walk This Way

Time for an update on how my prep is going. Over the past 3 weeks or so, I have completed about 35 hours of prep. This time includes 5 practice tests. With the remaining time, I went through the Princeton Review guides, attempted a few questions from their bins before deciding that it might not be very useful, reviewed some concepts from the Manhattan GMAT strategy guides, and done some preliminary work on the AWA. Here are the results from my tests so far:

Notes on the scores:

  • Since my first GMAT prep test, I have been writing AWAs before I start the actual test. This has helped me realize that the extra hour takes its toll on stamina and I’m hoping that through enough practice, I will have developed the endurance to stay focused on the verbal section before my test day. I’m already seeing results on this front.
  • On the first Princeton Review CAT I took, I scored only a 700. From everything I read, these tests were more likely to overstate scores than understate them, and so I got a bit worried. I attributed the lower score on the first test to the fact that I wrote it at 7 p.m. after a long day. I was also rushing to write it so I could head out to meet friends – I had about 30 minutes left on my verbal section when I was finished. This test was also the first time I had tried to do the AWA before the actual sections, and that impacted my focus on the last stretch.
  • Looking back now, I’m not fully sold that the Princeton Review tests are a good tool. The algorithm seems off when compared to both the Kaplan test and the first GMAT Prep test, and the questions seem to have a different style as well. I was able to identify a couple of patterns, and picked up on a couple of key things through these tests, but overall, I think I might have made a mistake paying for theses and perhaps I should have paid for access to the Manhattan GMAT CATs instead.
  • The one benefit PR offered is the chance to have a couple of AWA attempts graded. I’m saving my last test for a date closer to my actual test date to evaluate my AWA writing again then.
  • The Kaplan test I wrote today felt good. Not as good as some of the PR tests (all the more reason I believe that those tests are flawed), but still fairly good. The score on these tests are supposed to understate expected results on the actual test, so I’m feeling ok after that one. Familiar patterns that I saw after my first GMAT prep test, but which seemed to not be the case after my PR tests re-emerged, suggesting that either I worked on these weaknesses but am slipping back into old habits, or that the Princeton tests are flawed. Either way, I have a clearer picture on where I need to improve.
Plan going forward:
I’ve mentioned some patterns I’ve observed and some things I need to work on. Here they are, along with steps I’m going to be taking to address these:
  • While I am fairly confident with sentence correction, it remains my weakest area. I have not built up the familiarity with all the question types and although I am confident I can do well with idioms, there are some on whose usage I am still not 100% comfortable. So over the next couple of days I will be going through the MGMAT SC guide and working through some of the advanced material to get up to speed.
  • I still tend to speed through questions, especially data sufficiency questions. The answer is almost always not ‘E’, and I tend to miss minor details in the question which alter my answer. There was a question today where I thought to myself: “If they gave me this piece of data, then I could solve using statement (II), and B would be the answer, but since I don’t have it…” Turns out the info I needed was in the question the whole time. I absolutely need to avoid mistakes like this as I would just be wasting away easy points. Gonna be doing a whole whack of DS questions from the OG after I work on SC questions and see positive results.
  • I am still writing AWAs, and even wrote one with the Kaplan test today. I just have no way of really assessing my work except for comparing with other essays online. Overall, I think my argument essays are fairly strong and I am able to identify flaws and convey my arguments in a concise manner. With the issue essays though, I have difficulty keeping my thoughts brief and still developing them fully. I find myself overwhelmed with ideas and points I want to make, and I invariably end up flitting through too many points without giving any of them the full time they deserve. So that’s what I’ll be working on going forward.
Overall, looks like things are going according to plan. No reasons to panic yet, but no real reason to celebrate either. As long as I am able to achieve some measure of improvement on my SC questions and learn to take my time with DS questions, I should see consistently strong results. Here’s hoping the next few practice tests bring me the consistency I seek.

4 responses to “Walk This Way

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