Study and Strategy questions relating to the GMAT.
ManS911
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Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by ManS911 Wed Dec 01, 2021 5:45 am

Hi Stacey,

I hope you are doing well.
I have come across your articles on GMAT on Manhattan website. I find them very helpful. Thanks a lot.

I have taken MGMAT CAT 1 (770) and CAT 2 (730) in untimed mode to test my concepts. I do not want to bomb remaining MGMAT CATs, so I need your valuable inputs (I am really stuck, as my actual GMAT results are in the ground while my practice test results are in the sky!!!) on how to move forward for remaining MGMAT CATs. My GMAT details are explained as below:

I have used MGMAT SC, CR and RC guides for concepts, so I am familiar with the quality Manhattan provides and MGMAT CATs were my first option after official stuff. So, After my 3rd actual GMAT offline attempt, I took Manhattan CAT 1 (770 V44, Q51, untimed) & CAT 2 (730 V40, Q49, untimed) to cross verify my standing on concepts.
I have scored 560 (Official test 1), 720(Official test 2), 690(Official test 3), 700(Official test 4) in my mock tests, all timed (June, 2020 to aug, 2020) before appearing for the 1st attempt. After my 2nd attempt, I gave official practice test 2 780 (Q51, V46 (1 CR repeated))-timed and Practice test 3 760 (Q49, V44)-untimed (Sept, 2021 to Oct 2021).

As I have explained, my scores in practice tests are good, but in the actual GMAT I have scored 660, V33, Q48 (offline), 550, V25 Q44(offline) and 590 (Q47, V24) (offline). My Scores in the second and third attempt were really disappointing and brought my confidence below ground. Now I am finding it difficult, from where to start. I don't have any idea how to pace myself.

I don't think my concepts are an issue, but I always run out of time in the verbal section (around 05 min remaining at 25th Question!!). I am not able to decide which question to leave in the exam. Sometimes for questions I am getting right, I don't feel confident and I need time to reckon that I haven't made mistakes and in overanalyzing questions, I get some questions right but I lose so much time on those questions. In addition, I take around 5 min on RC short passages and 9-10 min on long passages to read passages and answer questions & around 3 min on longer CRs, so I am already short by 1 or 2 questions in exam.

following are the troubles i am facing while giving actual GMAT offline:

1. I used to practice on my Laptop. I find the test center screen oddly difficult to read from. I have to struggle to read through and have to read twice or thrice, which at my home, I think, I can read and digest very easily. I have felt the same in all attempts. I always have around 4 mins left when I am at Q25 in the verbal section.
2. Due to reading twice or thrice and discomfort, I spend inordinate time on answering questions and end up skipping or guessing too many questions, as in practice tests also, I have to move fast in the Verbal section to finish my test and end up guessing a question or two.
3. Test anxiety (days before the last two attempts, I didn't sleep).
4. I always run out of time in the verbal section. In Manhattan CAT1 and 2 also, i ran out of time at around Q25 in verbal just as i do in actual GMAT.

I have read in one of your articles that any question should be practiced first in exam mode and then in practice mode. I have been practicing that way for 2 weeks.
Yesterday late evening, I gave the official test 5 and scored Q50 and V42 (timed), though I left 1 whole RC( 2/3 ques wrong and 1 lucky guess)!!!.
Come to think of it, Even if I spend a lot of time on questions I have trouble solving, I end up correcting only 2 out of 10 such questions. So it doesn't make sense to spend much time on such questions, and I think I am getting good at identifying such questions.

But am i going in right direction?
If not, How should I move forward for remaining MGMAT CATs?
Should I consider taking GMAT online? Will it help?

I want to score V40-42, Q50-51. I need a good score (730+) before june,2022.

Your view on this situation will be much of help.
StaceyKoprince
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Re: Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by StaceyKoprince Thu Dec 02, 2021 6:16 pm

Welcome to the forums! And thanks for your kind words.

Before I dive into details: Don't take any more tests untimed. (And for anyone else reading this: Don't do this even one time. Basically, never take tests untimed.)

Time management is part of what the test is testing. If you take a test untimed, then you are training yourself to approach the test in ways that are exactly the opposite of what you need to do on test day. And that will definitely mess up your ability to get the score you want on test day!

I'm glad that you saw the post about exam mode and practice mode—yes, keep doing that! The basic idea is this:
(1) Exam Mode: The first time you try a GMAT-format problem, do it as though you're taking the exam right now. Make the decisions you would want to make if this were really the test—including decisions around bailing, guessing, etc.
(2) Practice Mode: After you're done with Exam Mode, feel free to go back and spend as much time as you want retrying the problem. And make it open book! You're allowed to look up rules and formulas, re-read or re-watch part of a lesson, etc. The only thing to delay looking at is the actual explanation for this problem. See what you can figure out yourself before you go to the answer.

On a test like the GMAT, we all get stuff wrong. It's how the test is built. So you will be given problems that are too hard for you and you will have to guess on some problems. Your only choice is *when* you guess.

Right now, you have not been making an active choice to guess on things, and so you are forced to guess at the end of the section. The GMAT is essentially a "where you end is what you get" test. If you have to guess on a bunch of questions at the end of the section, your score drops a lot and then the test ends... and where you end is what you get.

The other super-annoying reality is that the extra time you spent earlier in the section was likely on questions that you got wrong anyway. (That's the point—they're really hard, so they suck you into spending too much time...and because they're really hard, you're more likely to get them wrong.)

Your goal is to train yourself to take the test like an executive making decisions about where to invest. You don't invest in everything. You invest in the things that are most likely to pay off. You are being given "investment opportunities" earlier in the section that are just bad opportunities—too hard or will take too long to solve or both. Better to walk away from those "opportunities" and instead invest in other problems later in the section.

So part of your studies need to focus on when and how to guess throughout the section. This takes just as much careful thought and study as learning how to get other problems right. You literally have to spend time studying how to identify the "bad opportunity for me" problems in 20-30 seconds so that you can guess and move on, saving all of that time and mental energy for better opportunities elsewhere.

The beauty of this is that, once you get good at that, the test becomes so much easier to take! (Not easy. But easier.) You'll no longer be banging your head against the wall and tiring yourself out mentally—and then making careless mistakes because your brain hurts.

The same is true on the Quant side, although because your Q goal is so high, you won't be doing this on quite as many problems. But even for a Q 50-51, you're not going to get every single problem right. On the Verbal section, aim for the fast-bail (guess quickly and move on) on approximately 4 problems if choosing all CR/RC. If some are SC, then do 5 or 6 (since SC is faster, you don't save as much time on each bail).

Sometimes for questions I am getting right, I don't feel confident and I need time to reckon that I haven't made mistakes and in overanalyzing questions, I get some questions right but I lose so much time on those questions.


Oh yes, second-guessing yourself. That can kill you on a test like this. I hold myself to a few rules here on Verbal:
1. Once I'm down to 2 answers, I'm allowed to compare them against each other once more—but that's it. No agonizing back and forth between these answers. Choose and go.
2. If I choose an answer and then realize that I made a legitimate mistake ("Oh, wait, this says that they're NOT dropping prices to help generate sales volume—I missed that word the first time I read it!"), ok, then I'm allowed to change my answer. But if I'm just not confident and second-guessing myself...nope. I choose what my first instinct said and move on.

Now, it might be that, when I review, I realize I did make a mistake after all. Ok. Now I'm going to learn what I need to learn so that I know how to do it next time. But in the moment during the test, I'm not going to agonize over it, because the point is that I really don't know. If I did know, I wouldn't be agonizing about it in the first place.

Make the exec call—make a decision and move on. Learn from your errors later, sure. But in the moment, make a call and let it go.

Given what you described about your difficulties reading the screen in the testing center, yes, you may want to consider taking your future exams in the online format so that you can use your own computer. They've recently changed the rules around this so that you're not limited to taking it only 2 times at home.

One more bigger picture thing. It sounds like you've taken the official test 3 times now? There are some limits you should be aware of. You're allowed to take the test up to 5 times in any rolling 12-month period. So if you took those three tests in, say, August, September, and October of 2021, then you can take 2 more tests between now and August of 2022. When you're a full year after the date of your first test, that one will drop off of the list, and you'll be able to take it a sixth time. And so on. (There's also an 8-test lifetime limit. Let's hope you don't get close to 8 tests, though. :) )

So you may need to be a little careful with planning things if those three tests were all in the past 6 months or so.

And finally, for Verbal in particular, I think there's one type of analysis that people who are able to score in the 40s do really well that other people don't do. You may have seen my write about this in one of my articles. Whenever you're reviewing any type of Verbal problem, ask yourself four questions:

(1) Why was the wrong answer so tempting? Why did it look like it might be right? (be as explicit as possible; also, now you know this is not a good reason to pick a certain answer)
(2) Why was it actually wrong? What specific words indicate that it is wrong and how did I overlook those clues the first time?
(3) Why did the right answer seem wrong? What made it so tempting to cross off the right answer? Why were those things actually okay; what was my error in thinking that they were wrong? (also, now you know that this is not a good reason to eliminate a certain answer)
(4) Why was it actually right?

Basically, people who can consistently score 40+ on Verbal actually understand how the test writers set traps on Verbal. The main way this happens: A wrong answer is somehow written to be more tempting than the correct answer. And you fall into a double-trap when picking it: You think something is wrong with the correct answer and you don't notice the actual error/issue with the wrong answer that you just picked. So if you can see how they got you to miss the error in the wrong answer and how they got you to doubt the correct answer...then you are a lot more likely to score really well on the Verbal section of the GMAT. :D
Stacey Koprince
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Content & Curriculum Lead
ManhattanPrep
ManS911
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Re: Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by ManS911 Thu Dec 09, 2021 3:14 am

Thank you so much for your wise words. They are really helpful.
I have given CAT3 recently and scored V37. Though i had to rush through everything and made false calls on easy questions, i found it more easy to identify que i have trouble solving and i am tuning myself.

BTW,

I came across one article (https://www.mba.com/exams-and-exam-prep/gmat-exam-prep/tactics-and-guessing) on mba.com regarding guessing strategy.
For verbal section it says,
"If you are on the Verbal section and you have five or fewer questions left, it also doesn’t matter if you guess or skip the questions. Again, finish the item you are on to the best of your ability and don’t worry about the others."

But it also says that it depends on ability. For high ability score hurts on skipping questions and for low ability score hurts on guessing question.

Till now i have always read that it is beneficial to guess a que rather to skip it; After reading that article, i am thinking what to do.
I know that you have already mentioned to skip 4 CR/RC que throughout the test in verbal question, but, keeping mentioned article in mind, does it make sense to skip 1 or 2 question at the end and do the current question at my best ability and try to get it right, incase i am facing time crunch?
StaceyKoprince
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Re: Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by StaceyKoprince Thu Dec 09, 2021 7:33 pm

The article is a bit confusing. It does say this:
If you are on the Verbal section and you have five or fewer questions left, it also doesn’t matter if you guess or skip the questions.


But the end of the article says this (emphasis added):

If your scores tend to be relatively low on a section, leaving the questions blank may actually result in a higher score than getting even the easy questions wrong by guessing. If you are near the top of the scale, you have farther to fall if you omit the items and therefore you should guess. Low ability—omit; high ability—guess; medium ability—see above.


They don't specify what they mean by low ability vs. medium vs. high, but I would assume the low end of the range is something like 20-25 or lower on Verbal and maybe 30-35 or lower on the Quant).

That is definitely not your goal. :D You're at the "high ability" end of the scale. (And most people who we see here on the forums are aiming for the high end of the scale.)

Finish the test, even if you have to guess blindly.

Make your choice about where to guess based on how hard the question in front of you is right now. If it's too hard, it doesn't matter if you spend an extra minute or two...you're probably still going to get it wrong. So you might as well get it wrong faster and spend that time someplace else.

p.s. Glad that you're making progress on knowing when to keep going and when to guess—keep studying / practicing that!
Stacey Koprince
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Content & Curriculum Lead
ManhattanPrep
ManS911
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Re: Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by ManS911 Thu Dec 16, 2021 9:05 am

Thank you so much for your valuable inputs. :)
StaceyKoprince
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Re: Help required for strategy on how to proceed for GMAT

by StaceyKoprince Mon Jan 03, 2022 6:18 pm

You're very welcome!
Stacey Koprince
Instructor
Content & Curriculum Lead
ManhattanPrep