8/20/17

First, shout out to @phantombanker for his original work "How I got a 770 on the GMAT with minimal effort while working banking hours" which I attempted to pay homage to with the post title.

Introduction

Re: This Post
This post applies mostly to the Quant section of the GMAT, which was by far the most challenging portion of the exam for me. For those of you who can ace the math no problem, I'd still say it is worth a read as a lot of the advice I have concerns exam strategy and approach. Won't be of much help with the Verbal section though.

A good deal of the information that follows was sourced from various GMAT articles and guides, which I then aggregated along with my own notes . . . AKA some bullets points and/or text are copied verbatim from other sources. So not all my own words; I just incorporated advice I found particularly insightful into my study guide.

Background
I started my GMAT journey last July, with the expectation of applying to schools in the fall of 2017. As a native English speaker who has always read a lot, I was able to hit maybe the 93rd to 99th percentile in Verbal consistently without studying, so I focused my study entirely on Quant. Given the weighting differential between Verbal and Quant, I really only had to get a "decent" Quant score to reach the 720+ range I was targeting, which seemed perfectly achievable at the time given that math has never been a subject which I have struggled on.

My study process was well-thought out, and I was extremely diligent in my preparation.

  • I studied extensively using a variety of resources - MGMAT, GMAT Hacks, GMATclub resources etc.
  • Took all 6 MGMAT CATs and all 6 Official CATs.
  • Detailed error logs of everything. And I studied A LOT.

My first official exam was in October, on which I scored a 700 with a 42 Quant (47th percentile). Disappointed, I continued to study and took another crack in November, which resulted in another 700. Improved my Quant score slightly to 44 (54th percentile), but Verbal fell a bit. Thought ok a little more improvement and I'll be alright, and scheduled another test for December. The third time was a heartbreaker - I choked and about 15 questions into the Quant section I knew I was toast, and thought about just walking out with the test unfinished. Another 700 with a Quant score of 42; my performance had declined after hours and hours of studying. Given my non-elite undergrad and work experience, a 700 wasn't going to cut it for the schools I would consider (especially with such a terrible Q/V split), and I didn't end up applying for the 2017 intake. Also, by that point I was wondering WTF is wrong with me . . . I consider myself pretty fucking smart (unlike the majority of you on WSO . . . lolzzzz), have always been a great standardized test-taker, and while not an absolute math whiz am very comfortable with numbers.

In January, I did some serious reflecting on my performance and spent a lot of time mapping out an improvement strategy. My sub-50th percentile quant scores and the sense of shame that accompanied them actually became a huge motivator for me - yes, I needed a great score to get into a Top 10 MBA program, but now I felt like I needed a to prove I WAS NOT FUCKING RETARDED. Scheduled my exam for May, and over the next few months I studied my balls off using a variety of prep resources, in addition to really trying to prepare myself mentally with respect to strategy.

And boom when that 770 flashed on screen . . . YAHTZEE MOTHAFUCKA!

I was absolutely elated, it sucked studying so much and would have been nice to get that score on try #1, but at least the time I spent wasn't for naught. (On a related note, the Sunday before I took the GMAT I went to church for the first time in a long while. Prayers were answered, and since we all know correlation implies causation . . . ) On a more serious note, WSO has been a great resource for me over the years, and I figured this would be a good opportunity to give something back. The next section notes the issues that I identified as trouble spots for me personally (after my first 3 exams, pre-770), followed by my general study advice and strategy.

Main Issues I Was Having / Areas for Improvement

Nerves/Anxiety

  • Especially when I didn't recognize quickly how to solve a problem.
  • Needed to gain speed in problem recognition and be able to find the solution path quickly.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Do tons of problems until you tend to recognize what they want quickly.

Timing/Pacing/Rushing

  • Would go into problem immediately and start frantically calculating trying to solve w/time constraints.
  • There are some things that I knew OK but took me too much time to get right.
  • Reading too quickly / misreading the question occurred far to often.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Best way to speed up your quant solving is to memorize the multiplication table!

Overcalculating

  • Was blindly applying techniques to solve questions, this is a terrible idea.
  • Unnecessary complications in questions that could be solved much faster (not able to see shortcuts).
  • Ability to emulate calculator - not what GMAT tests. Don't get bogged down w/complicated calculations.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Don't need long division - GMAT reliably uses a set of simple numbers. When it doesn't, you can usually approximate. Determine the amount of calculation needed based on the answer choices.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: There is no math section on the GMAT. There is only quantitative reasoning.

Arithmetic Calculation

  • Simple arithmetic errors - dumb mistake ex. doing math in head, rushing, scratchwork legibility.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Learn some mental math tricks - they will save you time on the exam.

Careless mistakes

  • Ensure you pick the right answer choice for DS problems.
  • Need to minimize computation errors.
  • Watch out for unit conversions, "except" problems.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Write everything out; DON'T perform calculations in your head.
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Scratch paper usage - transcribe clearly, set up problem correctly the first time! Write neatly and legibly, organized, have system, write out steps (easier to go back and spot mistakes).
  • SOLUTION/TIPS: Slow down. Take your time. Focus intensely only on the step you're on at that moment.

Study Materials

Notes & Review Materials

  • whitecollarandsuspenders Total GMAT Guide (study guide/notes I made and may share)
  • PS and DS question notebooks (wrote down problems I got wrong b/c I didn't know the concept well)
  • Flashcards (things that you should memorize ex. variations of 3 special quadratics)
  • GMATclub Quant Guide, GMATclub Flashcards

Books & Courses

  • Target Test Prep course (really good)
  • MGMAT - Strategy Guides
  • MGMAT - Foundations of Math
  • MGMAT - Advanced Quant
  • GMAT Hacks - Total GMAT Math
  • Bunuel on GMATclub (guy is amazing)

CATs / Exams / Qbanks

  • GMATprep CATs (6 total, 2 free w/GMATprep software, definitely buy the exam packs to get 3 - 6)
  • MGMAT CATs (I didn't love them but still worthwhile, quant is very hard)
  • GMAT Official Guide Questions - 2017 OG, Quantitative Review, GMATprep Qbanks (For practice questions and CATs, Official GMAT ones are by far the best, key thing is to get used to the style and format of the GMAT test writers and become familiar with the types of questions the GMAT will ask you.)
  • GMAT Hacks - 1,800 practice question set (Breaks up the questions by difficulty, you know how well you are doing on easy/medium/hard questions. Answer explanations are very detailed.)
  • MGMAT Online Practice Sets
  • GMATclub Flashcard questions
  • GMAT Club forum, you can search questions by Tags and by Difficulty.

Study Strategy, Tips, Etc.

Quant Topics

  • Number Properties and Statistics are most important IMO. You need to master them. Algebra is next.
  • Remainders were a sub-topic I saw as important.
  • Don't overlook Word Problems - Overlapping Sets, Distance/Time/Work/Rate
  • Combinatorics and probability come up more at higher levels.
  • Know Coordinate Geometry, they can make these trickier at higher levels.
  • Gotta master fundamentals of Geometry, they also can throw you ridiculous geometry questions at higher levels, maybe a good time to guess (that was my strategy).

Remember

  • GMAT = IQ test. Once you know math concepts, it's all about applying them to solve complex problems.
  • Memorizing math formula's and doing thousands of practice problems alone does not = great scores.
  • Though practice can help, the GMAT is all about problem solving and that for many cannot be taught.

Master the Foundations

  • Get foundations into your head: memorize times table, geometry formulas, basic arithmetic rules, etc.
  • Perfect your basic techniques. Get better at solving simple things and memorize some of the shortcuts.
  • Know by heart the common percent values, square roots, powers, and fractions - this saves time.
  • The ROI of concentrating on advanced concepts is small (unless trying to go from 49 to 51 or the like).
  • Slow down your work on GMAT questions and focus on building your overall math fundamentals. Build up the base before tackling the more nuanced GMAT quant.
  • Make sure you are hitting a certain percentage of the questions in each topic/subject. Set a goal such as 90% of questions have to be right in exercises, OG, or wherever.
  • Knowing problem types is a great, but GMAT ramps up difficulty by execution. The difference between a low and high difficulty problem on the same subject is more about learning to identify and apply the right strategies, finishing problems in the correct amount of time, and seeing through misleading answers.
  • These are the kind of skills gained over time through repetitive practice, not by reviewing content in one fell swoop. A constant exposure to material is always better for retention than occasional, intense effort.

Understand Question Types, Recognize Strategies to Solve

  • Familiarize yourself w/test - question types, answer types, what each section is testing and how.
  • Not many people feel that quant problems are predictive, but when you do enough problems they become predictable - you will begin to recognize patterns.
  • Try to look for the simplest way of solving questions. Don't "buy" complex explanations. for 95% of GMAT questions there are simple explanations. For many questions there are more than one good way to solve - familiarizing yourself with all of them will help you find the simplest way to do it.
  • Follow Bunuel's posts - he often provides very eye opening solutions that are quick and effective.
  • Stay away from the longhand approach. Take shortcuts: Plug in the answers and or eliminate them. When it comes to problem solving, because the GMAT supplies five possible answer choices to each question, the task is not to calculate or derive an answer, but to choose one, a subtly different task.

Review and Error Checking

  • Keep an error log of all your mistakes and/or guesses (see attachment for a good template), analyze questions, read answer explanations - understand WHY question was right/wrong.
  • Read the answer explanations of all the questions (including the ones you got right) and see how the questions writers are thinking (will be useful later in the prep process).
  • Periodically go back to the questions you got wrong, esp the hard mean ones that you did not know how to even approach and make sure you can solve them and know the path to solve them.
  • Do the mistake analysis on the questions! Not enough to just classify mistakes in a pretty error log
  • Comb through your performance. Identify problem spots. Locate weaknesses. Track your progress on each question type and each skill. Ultimately, the goal is awareness.
  • You want your common mistakes/errors in mind when you take test so that you can consciously avoid them.
  • Write a reason for making a mistake - figure out exactly what it is! (Not knowing something? Forgetting a formula? Confusing concepts? Not reading the question carefully? Making a silly mistake? Rushing?)
  • What did it teach me? What did I learn from it? Each error is a learning opportunity - use it.
  • Next step is to turn mistake into action item - how to ensure that you never make that mistake again?

Timing

  • When solving questions be very conscious about the time it takes you to answer the questions. Always time yourself. If average time it takes you to answer is too long, go back and learn more on topic.
  • It doesn't matter whether you got the answer right if you can't get it right in a timely manner. Time is just as important as getting the answer right.
  • The most important time is the total and average (per question).
  • Questions are becoming wordy, in OG spend some time observing the trend and styles of questions.
  • Many people can solve simple questions in about 1 minute w/o problems. However, those who solve with conventional method of approach take about 5 minutes in solving a difficult question. Thus, very helpful to learn various techniques and tips that can guide test-takers to solve difficult questions in just about 2 minutes.

How to Approach/Solve Questions

Plan of Attack

  1. Read through the question carefully.
  2. What is being asked?
  3. Any clues in question (ex. the word "integer")
  4. Write stuff down (neatly!)
  5. Glance at answer choices (PS)
  6. Any possible CMTs given questions stem? (DS)

Determine strategy to solve

  • Have plan for each question type.
  • Simplify/factor aggressively.
  • Any time saving techniques or quicker solutions?
  • Look for shortcuts and/or patterns.
  • Estimation?
  • Use smart numbers?
  • Plug in answer choices?

Solve

  • Minimize careless errors.
  • Mind your timing.
  • Write neatly.

DO NOT waste time on problems you don't know how to solve! Move on to guessing strategies.

Strategy Tips

General Strategy Tips

  • Balance between speed and accuracy is the key to a higher quant score.
  • Must answer every question, so guess and move on if needed.
  • Avoid guessing 2 questions in a row. If pressed for time, solve every other question.
  • Try not to miss too many questions in a row.
  • Practice consistent scratchwork, and follow that pattern when you take the GMAT.
  • Don't try and interpret question difficulty - ignore the difficulty level of each question
  • Focus on problem at hand - not last question, not what score will be, etc.
  • If you encounter a hard question that you are not sure how to solve, take a moment to pause and think of any unusual / backsolving / etc paths to find the solution.
  • After reading a question, stop for 5 seconds and instead of fully engaging yourself, take a casual look at it and think if an easier solution exists. Don't just rely on your reflexes, use your brain too.

Specific Strategy Tips

  • Pay attention and keep track of units
  • Do not miss an important detail in the beginning of the question - this is a common catch
  • Don't forget about "Unique" numbers
  • Check whether you have considered: positive numbers, negative numbers, fractions/non-integers, zero, the biggest number they'd let you use, and the smallest number they'd let you use.
  • Answer the right question - don't answer the wrong question/solve for the wrong variable
  • An easy way for the GMAT to cause this is by including an extra variable or an extra step.
  • Don't Multiply/Divide variables across inequalities (unless you know it is positive)
  • If you multiply or divide both sides of an inequality by a NEGATIVE number, you have to flip the sign.
  • DS Problems are not drawn to scale - don't fall in love with the figure!
  • You have to consider various ways that the angles and shapes could be drawn
  • PS problems drawn to scale unless noted, but make sure to check
  • Don't forget that a definitive "no" answer to a Data Sufficiency question means "sufficient."
  • Recognize logical solutions to seemingly complex problems.
  • More problems can be solved by approximation than you think.
  • When you round up or down, make a note of which way you've adjusted.
  • The answer choices are a major hint to whether approximation is appropriate. If the answer choices are spread out (as in the previous example), approximate away!

Timing/Pacing Strategy

  • You need to be prepared that the timing will not go as you wish; you may get a hard start or a few questions in a row that will get you down. Stay calm, remain flexible and adjust to the test.
  • Plan to be stuck. Plan to be freaked out. Plan to panic. Don't do it but have a plan for all of these situations. Know when it is time to cut bait.
  • Never ever ever spend more than 3.5 minutes on a single question. After 3 minutes, if you still can't see a solution, figure out an alternative approach, or start a guessing strategy.
  • You can, at any point, decide to guess and move on. The most important juncture, though, is at the 1-1.5 minute mark, by which point you should have the question more or less figured out.
  • Once you hit the 2 minute mark, you're probably not using the most efficient method, and your approach could easily take another minute or more.
  • If you reach 3 or 4 minute mark, you probably don't know what you're doing, and are unlikely to figure it out.
  • In short, the longer you've spent on a question, the more you should consider guessing and moving on.
  • Time you've spent so far is a sunk cost, you're far more likely to benefit from spending remaining time on the rest of the test rather than continuing to look for a way to deal with question you're struggling with.

Guessing Strategy

  • The most important guessing strategy is simply to guess at all. It's the best way to ensure that you properly manage your time. You almost certainly won't get every question right, and it's best to save time on some of the ones you don't have the skills to answer.
  • Any strategic guessing is a bonus. Sure, if you guess on five questions and consistently narrow the possibilities to three choices instead of five, you'll probably guess right twice instead of once. That'll help your score. But it isn't worth spending a lot of extra time trying to "out-think" the test.
  • That said, there are some other things to consider. None of these approaches is foolproof--the GMAC knows them too--but they will point you in the right direction.
  • Avoid choices that stand out, ex. if only one of the five choices has a square root, it's probably wrong.
  • Avoid extreme choices - if one answer is much larger or smaller than the rest, don't choose it.
  • Approximate, particularly useful on geometry where you might be able to "eyeball" size of angle or line.
  • Look for "matched sets." If 6 and -6 are both choices, it's more likely that one of them is correct. On percent and fraction questions, matched sets include those that add up to 1 or 100, such as 1/9 and 8/9.

Additional Advice

Exam Day Tips - Health/Wellness/Science

  • Obviously make sure you get plenty of rest the two preceding nights and are healthy in general.
  • On exam day, eat a banana before you start and another during one or both of your breaks. Only eat a light meal before the exam, nothing heavy. For me, banana + Clif Bar is a good combo.
  • Drink Gatorade before you start and during your breaks. Feed that brain with some glucose. Yes, Gatorade.
  • Wash your face with cold water during your breaks. Increases alertness and feels fucking great.

Exam Day Tips - Other

  • When I took the CFA exams, I liked to wake up at 5am and get the brain going by reviewing for 2 hours. Just felt good to refresh the morning of, and evidently it worked (or at least didn't harm me too much).
  • DO NOT DO THIS FOR THE GMAT! The first 3 times I took the GMAT I did just that, and was noticeably "sluggish" during the test. Think of it like a sprint.
  • When I got my 770, I didn't even think about the GMAT until I reached the exam center, and only spent a couple of minutes mentally preparing myself (i.e. "follow your plan of attack" and "if you are bogged down just guess and move on" etc.) while waiting to be called.
  • Can't guarantee this approach is best for everyone, but it was for me - my brain felt a lot fresher and was able to operate at peak performance for the duration of the exam.
  • Also, if you take or plan on taking any ADD/ADHD medication for the exam, I'd go easy on the dosage. It helps for the CFA exams when you gotta crank for 6 hours, yes. But remember, the GMAT doesn't have a math section, it has a quantitative reasoning section, and I think those meds actually hurt performance.

Attachments

I've included the workbook / error log that I made, should be a useful template although I had to upload it as an xls file so not sure about compatibility. Left a little bit of my info too - take a look on the summary tab down below and you can see my quant scores as well as the correct/incorrect answer pattern that got me that. Kinda interesting.

I'd recommend you try and memorize the flashcard set I made, as well as the multiplication table (made things so much easier to be able to know 19*13 = 247 and the like off the top of my head). The other two flashcard sets are good, relatively comprehensive study material.

Comments (67)

8/10/17

Great tips. I'm taking my GMAT end of September.

Accepted.com
8/11/17

amazing man, very thank you!

Nicest haircut than Bateman

8/11/17

Bookmarked. Thanks.

8/11/17

Love this, thanks for sharing all your insight!

8/11/17

I think quant is the easiest part of GMAT.

8/11/17

Ok? I'm sure plenty of people think Quant is the easiest part, especially on WSO.

For me personally, Quant was most challenging section, mainly because I struggled with the time constraints. Hence the focus on strategy/approach in the post above.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/12/17

Excellent thread. Thanks!

8/12/17
whitecollarandsuspenders:

First, shout out to @phantombanker for his original work "How I got a 770 on the GMAT with minimal effort while working banking hours" which I attempted to pay homage to with the post title.

Introduction

Re: This Post
This post applies mostly to the Quant section of the GMAT, which was by far the most challenging portion of the exam for me. For those of you who can ace the math no problem, I'd still say it is worth a read as a lot of the advice I have concerns exam strategy and approach. Won't be of much help with the Verbal section though.

A good deal of the information that follows was sourced from various GMAT articles and guides, which I then aggregated along with my own notes . . . AKA some bullets points and/or text are copied verbatim from other sources. So not all my own words; I just incorporated advice I found particularly insightful into my study guide.

Background
I started my GMAT journey last July, with the expectation of applying to schools in the fall of 2017. As a native English speaker who has always read a lot, I was able to hit maybe the 93rd to 99th percentile in Verbal consistently without studying, so I focused my study entirely on Quant. Given the weighting differential between Verbal and Quant, I really only had to get a "decent" Quant score to reach the 720+ range I was targeting, which seemed perfectly achievable at the time given that math has never been a subject which I have struggled on.

My study process was well-thought out, and I was extremely diligent in my preparation.
- I studied extensively using a variety of resources - MGMAT, GMAT Hacks, GMATclub resources etc.
- Took all 6 MGMAT CATs and all 6 Official CATs.
- Detailed error logs of everything. And I studied A LOT.

My first official exam was in October, on which I scored a 700 with a 42 Quant (47th percentile). Disappointed, I continued to study and took another crack in November, which resulted in another 700. Improved my Quant score slightly to 44 (54th percentile), but Verbal fell a bit. Thought ok a little more improvement and I'll be alright, and scheduled another test for December. The third time was a heartbreaker - I choked and about 15 questions into the Quant section I knew I was toast, and thought about just walking out with the test unfinished. Another 700 with a Quant score of 42; my performance had declined after hours and hours of studying. Given my non-elite undergrad and work experience, a 700 wasn't going to cut it for the schools I would consider (especially with such a terrible Q/V split), and I didn't end up applying for the 2017 intake. Also, by that point I was wondering WTF is wrong with me . . . I consider myself pretty fucking smart (unlike the majority of you on WSO . . . lolzzzz), have always been a great standardized test-taker, and while not an absolute math whiz am very comfortable with numbers.

In January, I did some serious reflecting on my performance and spent a lot of time mapping out an improvement strategy. My sub-50th percentile quant scores and the sense of shame that accompanied them actually became a huge motivator for me - yes, I needed a great score to get into a Top 10 MBA program, but now I felt like I needed a to prove I WAS NOT FUCKING RETARDED. Scheduled my exam for May, and over the next few months I studied my balls off using a variety of prep resources, in addition to really trying to prepare myself mentally with respect to strategy.

And boom when that 770 flashed on screen . . . YAHTZEE MOTHAFUCKA!

I was absolutely elated, it sucked studying so much and would have been nice to get that score on try #1, but at least the time I spent wasn't for naught. (On a related note, the Sunday before I took the GMAT I went to church for the first time in a long while. Prayers were answered, and since we all know correlation implies causation . . . ) On a more serious note, WSO has been a great resource for me over the years, and I figured this would be a good opportunity to give something back. The next section notes the issues that I identified as trouble spots for me personally (after my first 3 exams, pre-770), followed by my general study advice and strategy.

Main Issues I Was Having / Areas for Improvement

Nerves/Anxiety
- Especially when I didn't recognize quickly how to solve a problem.
- Needed to gain speed in problem recognition and be able to find the solution path quickly.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Do tons of problems until you tend to recognize what they want quickly.

Timing/Pacing/Rushing
- Would go into problem immediately and start frantically calculating trying to solve w/time constraints.
- There are some things that I knew OK but took me too much time to get right.
- Reading too quickly / misreading the question occurred far to often.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Best way to speed up your quant solving is to memorize the multiplication table!

Overcalculating
- Was blindly applying techniques to solve questions, this is a terrible idea.
- Unnecessary complications in questions that could be solved much faster (not able to see shortcuts).
- Ability to emulate calculator - not what GMAT tests. Don't get bogged down w/complicated calculations.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Don't need long division - GMAT reliably uses a set of simple numbers. When it doesn't, you can usually approximate. Determine the amount of calculation needed based on the answer choices.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: There is no math section on the GMAT. There is only quantitative reasoning.

Arithmetic Calculation
- Simple arithmetic errors - dumb mistake ex. doing math in head, rushing, scratchwork legibility.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Learn some mental math tricks - they will save you time on the exam.

Careless mistakes
- Ensure you pick the right answer choice for DS problems.
- Need to minimize computation errors.
- Watch out for unit conversions, "except" problems.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Write everything out; DON'T perform calculations in your head.
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Scratch paper usage - transcribe clearly, set up problem correctly the first time! Write neatly and legibly, organized, have system, write out steps (easier to go back and spot mistakes).
- SOLUTION/TIPS: Slow down. Take your time. Focus intensely only on the step you're on at that moment.

Study Materials

Notes & Review Materials
- whitecollarandsuspenders Total GMAT Guide (study guide/notes I made and may share)
- PS and DS question notebooks (wrote down problems I got wrong b/c I didn't know the concept well)
- Flashcards (things that you should memorize ex. variations of 3 special quadratics)
- GMATclub Quant Guide, GMATclub Flashcards

Books & Courses
- Target Test Prep course (really good)
- MGMAT - Strategy Guides
- MGMAT - Foundations of Math
- MGMAT - Advanced Quant
- GMAT Hacks - Total GMAT Math
- Bunuel on GMATclub (guy is amazing)

CATs / Exams / Qbanks
- GMATprep CATs (6 total, 2 free w/GMATprep software, definitely buy the exam packs to get 3 - 6)
- MGMAT CATs (I didn't love them but still worthwhile, quant is very hard)
- GMAT Official Guide Questions - 2017 OG, Quantitative Review, GMATprep Qbanks (For practice questions and CATs, Official GMAT ones are by far the best, key thing is to get used to the style and format of the gmat test writers and become familiar with the types of questions the GMAT will ask you.)
- GMAT Hacks - 1,800 practice question set (Breaks up the questions by difficulty, you know how well you are doing on easy/medium/hard questions. Answer explanations are very detailed.)
- MGMAT Online Practice Sets
- GMATclub Flashcard questions
- GMAT Club forum, you can search questions by Tags and by Difficulty.

Study Strategy, Tips, Etc.

Quant Topics
- Number Properties and Statistics are most important IMO. You need to master them. Algebra is next.
- Remainders were a sub-topic I saw as important.
- Don't overlook Word Problems - Overlapping Sets, Distance/Time/Work/Rate
- Combinatorics and probability come up more at higher levels.
- Know Coordinate Geometry, they can make these trickier at higher levels.
- Gotta master fundamentals of Geometry, they also can throw you ridiculous geometry questions at higher levels, maybe a good time to guess (that was my strategy).

Remember
- GMAT = IQ test. Once you know math concepts, it's all about applying them to solve complex problems.
- Memorizing math formula's and doing thousands of practice problems alone does not = great scores.
- Though practice can help, the GMAT is all about problem solving and that for many cannot be taught.

Master the Foundations
- Get foundations into your head: memorize times table, geometry formulas, basic arithmetic rules, etc.
- Perfect your basic techniques. Get better at solving simple things and memorize some of the shortcuts.
- Know by heart the common percent values, square roots, powers, and fractions - this saves time.
- The ROI of concentrating on advanced concepts is small (unless trying to go from 49 to 51 or the like).
- Slow down your work on GMAT questions and focus on building your overall math fundamentals. Build up the base before tackling the more nuanced GMAT quant.
- Make sure you are hitting a certain percentage of the questions in each topic/subject. Set a goal such as 90% of questions have to be right in exercises, OG, or wherever.
- Knowing problem types is a great, but GMAT ramps up difficulty by execution. The difference between a low and high difficulty problem on the same subject is more about learning to identify and apply the right strategies, finishing problems in the correct amount of time, and seeing through misleading answers.
- These are the kind of skills gained over time through repetitive practice, not by reviewing content in one fell swoop. A constant exposure to material is always better for retention than occasional, intense effort.

Understand Question Types, Recognize Strategies to Solve
- Familiarize yourself w/test - question types, answer types, what each section is testing and how.
- Not many people feel that quant problems are predictive, but when you do enough problems they become predictable - you will begin to recognize patterns.
- Try to look for the simplest way of solving questions. Don't "buy" complex explanations. for 95% of GMAT questions there are simple explanations. For many questions there are more than one good way to solve - familiarizing yourself with all of them will help you find the simplest way to do it.
- Follow Bunuel's posts - he often provides very eye opening solutions that are quick and effective.
- Stay away from the longhand approach. Take shortcuts: Plug in the answers and or eliminate them. When it comes to problem solving, because the GMAT supplies five possible answer choices to each question, the task is not to calculate or derive an answer, but to choose one, a subtly different task.

Review and Error Checking
- Keep an error log of all your mistakes and/or guesses (see attachment for a good template), analyze questions, read answer explanations - understand WHY question was right/wrong.
- Read the answer explanations of all the questions (including the ones you got right) and see how the questions writers are thinking (will be useful later in the prep process).
- Periodically go back to the questions you got wrong, esp the hard mean ones that you did not know how to even approach and make sure you can solve them and know the path to solve them.
- Do the mistake analysis on the questions! Not enough to just classify mistakes in a pretty error log
- Comb through your performance. Identify problem spots. Locate weaknesses. Track your progress on each question type and each skill. Ultimately, the goal is awareness.
- You want your common mistakes/errors in mind when you take test so that you can consciously avoid them.
- Write a reason for making a mistake - figure out exactly what it is! (Not knowing something? Forgetting a formula? Confusing concepts? Not reading the question carefully? Making a silly mistake? Rushing?)
- What did it teach me? What did I learn from it? Each error is a learning opportunity - use it.
- Next step is to turn mistake into action item - how to ensure that you never make that mistake again?

Timing
- When solving questions be very conscious about the time it takes you to answer the questions. Always time yourself. If average time it takes you to answer is too long, go back and learn more on topic.
- It doesn't matter whether you got the answer right if you can't get it right in a timely manner. Time is just as important as getting the answer right.
- The most important time is the total and average (per question).
- Questions are becoming wordy, in OG spend some time observing the trend and styles of questions.
- Many people can solve simple questions in about 1 minute w/o problems. However, those who solve with conventional method of approach take about 5 minutes in solving a difficult question. Thus, very helpful to learn various techniques and tips that can guide test-takers to solve difficult questions in just about 2 minutes.

How to Approach/Solve Questions

Plan of Attack

    - Read through the question carefully.
    - What is being asked?
    - Any clues in question (ex. the word "integer")
    - Write stuff down (neatly!)
    - Glance at answer choices (PS)
    - Any possible CMTs given questions stem? (DS)

Determine strategy to solve
- Have plan for each question type.
- Simplify/factor aggressively.
- Any time saving techniques or quicker solutions?
- Look for shortcuts and/or patterns.
- Estimation?
- Use smart numbers?
- Plug in answer choices?

Solve
- Minimize careless errors.
- Mind your timing.
- Write neatly.

DO NOT waste time on problems you don't know how to solve! Move on to guessing strategies.

Strategy Tips

General Strategy Tips
- Balance between speed and accuracy is the key to a higher quant score.
- Must answer every question, so guess and move on if needed.
- Avoid guessing 2 questions in a row. If pressed for time, solve every other question.
- Try not to miss too many questions in a row.
- Practice consistent scratchwork, and follow that pattern when you take the GMAT.
- Don't try and interpret question difficulty - ignore the difficulty level of each question
- Focus on problem at hand - not last question, not what score will be, etc.
- If you encounter a hard question that you are not sure how to solve, take a moment to pause and think of any unusual / backsolving / etc paths to find the solution.
- After reading a question, stop for 5 seconds and instead of fully engaging yourself, take a casual look at it and think if an easier solution exists. Don't just rely on your reflexes, use your brain too.

Specific Strategy Tips
- Pay attention and keep track of units
- Do not miss an important detail in the beginning of the question - this is a common catch
- Don't forget about "Unique" numbers
- Check whether you have considered: positive numbers, negative numbers, fractions/non-integers, zero, the biggest number they'd let you use, and the smallest number they'd let you use.
- Answer the right question - don't answer the wrong question/solve for the wrong variable
- An easy way for the GMAT to cause this is by including an extra variable or an extra step.
- Don't Multiply/Divide variables across inequalities (unless you know it is positive)
- If you multiply or divide both sides of an inequality by a NEGATIVE number, you have to flip the sign.
- DS Problems are not drawn to scale - don't fall in love with the figure!
- You have to consider various ways that the angles and shapes could be drawn
- PS problems drawn to scale unless noted, but make sure to check
- Don't forget that a definitive "no" answer to a Data Sufficiency question means "sufficient."
- Recognize logical solutions to seemingly complex problems.
- More problems can be solved by approximation than you think.
- When you round up or down, make a note of which way you've adjusted.
- The answer choices are a major hint to whether approximation is appropriate. If the answer choices are spread out (as in the previous example), approximate away!

Timing/Pacing Strategy
- USE THIS STRATEGY: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog/2016/10/18...


- You need to be prepared that the timing will not go as you wish; you may get a hard start or a few questions in a row that will get you down. Stay calm, remain flexible and adjust to the test.
- Plan to be stuck. Plan to be freaked out. Plan to panic. Don't do it but have a plan for all of these situations. Know when it is time to cut bait.
- Never ever ever spend more than 3.5 minutes on a single question. After 3 minutes, if you still can't see a solution, figure out an alternative approach, or start a guessing strategy.
- You can, at any point, decide to guess and move on. The most important juncture, though, is at the 1-1.5 minute mark, by which point you should have the question more or less figured out.
- Once you hit the 2 minute mark, you're probably not using the most efficient method, and your approach could easily take another minute or more.
- If you reach 3 or 4 minute mark, you probably don't know what you're doing, and are unlikely to figure it out.
- In short, the longer you've spent on a question, the more you should consider guessing and moving on.
- Time you've spent so far is a sunk cost, you're far more likely to benefit from spending remaining time on the rest of the test rather than continuing to look for a way to deal with question you're struggling with.

Guessing Strategy
- The most important guessing strategy is simply to guess at all. It's the best way to ensure that you properly manage your time. You almost certainly won't get every question right, and it's best to save time on some of the ones you don't have the skills to answer.
- Any strategic guessing is a bonus. Sure, if you guess on five questions and consistently narrow the possibilities to three choices instead of five, you'll probably guess right twice instead of once. That'll help your score. But it isn't worth spending a lot of extra time trying to "out-think" the test.
- That said, there are some other things to consider. None of these approaches is foolproof--the GMAC knows them too--but they will point you in the right direction.
- Avoid choices that stand out, ex. if only one of the five choices has a square root, it's probably wrong.
- Avoid extreme choices - if one answer is much larger or smaller than the rest, don't choose it.
- Approximate, particularly useful on geometry where you might be able to "eyeball" size of angle or line.
- Look for "matched sets." If 6 and -6 are both choices, it's more likely that one of them is correct. On percent and fraction questions, matched sets include those that add up to 1 or 100, such as 1/9 and 8/9.

Additional Advice

Exam Day Tips - Health/Wellness/Science
- Obviously make sure you get plenty of rest the two preceding nights and are healthy in general.
- On exam day, eat a banana before you start and another during one or both of your breaks. Only eat a light meal before the exam, nothing heavy. For me, banana + Clif Bar is a good combo.
- Drink Gatorade before you start and during your breaks. Feed that brain with some glucose. Yes, Gatorade.
- Wash your face with cold water during your breaks. Increases alertness and feels fucking great.

Exam Day Tips - Other
- When I took the CFA exams, I liked to wake up at 5am and get the brain going by reviewing for 2 hours. Just felt good to refresh the morning of, and evidently it worked (or at least didn't harm me too much).
- DO NOT DO THIS FOR THE GMAT! The first 3 times I took the GMAT I did just that, and was noticeably "sluggish" during the test. Think of it like a sprint.
- When I got my 770, I didn't even think about the GMAT until I reached the exam center, and only spent a couple of minutes mentally preparing myself (i.e. "follow your plan of attack" and "if you are bogged down just guess and move on" etc.) while waiting to be called.
- Can't guarantee this approach is best for everyone, but it was for me - my brain felt a lot fresher and was able to operate at peak performance for the duration of the exam.
- Also, if you take or plan on taking any ADD/ADHD medication for the exam, I'd go easy on the dosage. It helps for the CFA exams when you gotta crank for 6 hours, yes. But remember, the GMAT doesn't have a math section, it has a quantitative reasoning section, and I think those meds actually hurt performance.

Attachments

I've included the workbook / error log that I made, should be a useful template although I had to upload it as an xls file so not sure about compatibility. Left a little bit of my info too - take a look on the summary tab down below and you can see my quant scores as well as the correct/incorrect answer pattern that got me that. Kinda interesting.

I'd recommend you try and memorize the flashcard set I made, as well as the multiplication table (made things so much easier to be able to know 19*13 = 247 and the like off the top of my head). The other two flashcard sets are good, relatively comprehensive study material.

Holy well and organized post, Batman!

+SB

Nice job on the 770

So if its an IQ test, what is your IQ?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

8/12/17

Thank you man this is really helpful! I was wondering do you have any estimate of how many hours a day, and how many days per week you studied approximately?

8/12/17

Congrats, chief! Hell of a write up, too. Though, I was tempted to stop reading at the, "I could score into the 99th percentile in verbal without studying" bit. I'm glad I didn't.

Thanks for the tips.

8/12/17

great post, i remember when phantombanker put up that GMAT post, still gets traffic to this day

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

8/14/17

Thank you sir. And yep both his post and study guide were super helpful.

Wish I could have been like him and gone one and done on the exam though . . .

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/12/17

Thanks for doing this! I know you mentioned you "studied your balls off" in the post. I was curious to how many hours did you put in studying before and after you got your first score(700)?

8/13/17

Summary: He studied like crazy for a really long time and kept taking the test until he got a favorable result.

"Elections are a futures market for stolen property"

8/12/17
Esuric:

**Summary: ** He studied like crazy for a really long time and kept taking the test until he got a favorable result.

whatever works / whatever you can pull , right?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

8/14/17

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/17/17

Why are you so bitter/arrogant on this site all the time?

8/13/17

It is possible for a non-native speaker to got more than 750?

8/13/17

I find it helpful for you to call out the impact of ADHD medication. I'm prescribed ritalin and I found it impacted my performance quite a bit.

Could you explain more about how you managed this (assuming you need it day to day)?

Accepted.com
8/13/17

I scored 760 and 6.0. 99th verbal but only 89th percentile for quant. And I am non-native English speaker.

Used only the Manhattan GMAT program (read everything twice) but never studied the logical reasoning for verbal, since I felt it came easy. Used the MBA.com official prep tests to diagnose myself in the middle of my training schedule and at the end, since they are identical to real tests. Scored 770 on the practice shortly before taking the real test and therefore went in feeling confident. Missed one or two math questions and was actually close to cancelling my score - crazy, I know. Somehow thought I did terribly and was considering cancelling but ended up choosing to see the final score. Was quite happy in the end.

8/14/17

"only an 89th percentile for quant" aka you got a 50 . . . pretty damn good dude.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/14/17

Which part of verbal do you feel is easiest to improve by studying? Sentence correction?

8/16/17

I was the weakest in sentence correction and remember spending the most time practicing it, and it therefore yielded the largest improvements. Or rather, I remember I had the biggest whole in points to fill by getting sentence correction correct.

8/13/17

P.S

How did you format those 4x4 flash cards with the blue headers?

8/14/17

I printed them, cut them, and then taped them to actual index cards (both sides). Very efficient I know.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/14/17

Thanks. Just to follow up on my earlier question above: how did you find ADD/ADHD medication affecting you? Did you use it during study?

8/14/17

Besides GMAT Club is there any other self studying guides do you recommend?

8/14/17

GMAT Quantum notes were good, you should be able to find them online.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/14/17

@camerashy1 and @betanowthanlater - I'd guess that I spent 80 hours studying prior to my first exam. My first 3 exams were all taken within maybe 20 days of each other so that added another 40 or so hours in aggregate. When it became clear that I wasn't improving (and essentially couldn't apply for the 2017 intake) I took a month off, then resumed studying/preparing in February. That added another say 120 hours so 240 hours in total.

Frankly I wouldn't worry about the # of hours you study for though, it really isn't that kind of test.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/14/17

How did you determine what percentile each question was for your error log?

8/16/17

I copied that sheet from somewhere, maybe Magoosh? Sorry I forget where exactly.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
Best Response
8/14/17

Congrats on the score, but this is exactly what's wrong with the BSchool GMAT arms race and the scam that the GMAC has allowed to go on. New rules have basically allowed people to take the test an unlimited number of times, cancel scores any time, and essentially keep paying up in both time and money until they get their ideal score.

This score inflation then just goes on down the line, and now the guy/girl with a 730 on their first attempt is freaking out because their competition is autistic and took the test 5x (yes, I've heard people in my M7 program admit this) until they could get a 760. It's insane.

8/14/17

yeah i know a few people who took it north of 5x so they could score above a 700. really dumb and it makes it tough on people who don't really have the luxury of time to compete effectively. oh well yolo

8/14/17
plskystks:

oh well yolo

the slogan of the millennials right there

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

8/15/17

I only needed to take it once to get a 760.

8/15/17

Am I the only one who doesn't see the problem here and I haven't taken the GMAT and have no plans to go to B-school either. However, is this not life? There is no restriction on how many times this is taken so if a person scores 730 their first time and is bemoaning the person who put in the time and took it 9 times to get a 770, well, 730 needs to get on it. Isn't a large part of "genius" just hard work.

8/16/17

That fact that you don't see this as an issue is baffling, and simply speaks to the test-taking drone culture that students have grown up in these days. Sure, no one is going to look askew at someone who take the test a 2nd time, but 4x, 5x+? That's ridiculous and it only displays autism rather than intelligence, and certainly not "hard work."

Within a few years I guarantee banks and consulting firms will start asking how many times MBA students took the GMAT to go along with asking their score. And yes, people will value the person who took it once or twice over the person who took it 5 or 6 times.

All that happened with OP is that he basically lucked out and hit the extreme high end of his variance range. If he took it for the 5th time a week after he probably would have scored a 710, as that is likely his natural range after getting 700 3x before. The fact is that going into a test such as this, with proper preparation you should have your own 95th percentile CI for your ability, and as any trader knows (I'm not a trader), you should be able to make a market on most things. My range was 720-770 based on all my preparation, and I scored a 750. 770+ would have been lucky, and <720 would have been extremely unlucky or something went wrong (like I accidentally clicked on a wrong answer or messed up my timing) .

Not hating on the guy, but luck is what got him there, not working hard. If you don't understand this then you basically don't understand the concepts of variance and tails.

8/16/17

I 100% agree with you re: "the GMAT arms" race. They actually just capped the number of times you could take the test at 8, which is good but still high.

Your point about my score being as a result of "luck" though . . . I got a 42, 44, 42 on the Quant section my first 3 exams, which I took over a period of 60 days . . . then worked very hard and studied for a few months and got a 49.

Yes, I did hit the high end of my variance range on Verbal to get a 770, but I worked hard to improve my Quant to bump me to the 750+ range at least. Wouldn't you agree that a move from 42-44 to 49 on the Quant section is a little extreme to attribute it primarily to luck?

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/16/17

Sorry, but no, your first 3 tests are most likely indicative of your true quant ability and processing of numbers. You took the tests a bunch of times, learned the system, and likely went something like 6 of 7 on toss up questions whereas you normally would get 2 or 3 of those questions correct. I'd be willing to bet this test was an outlier for you, but that's okay, it's awesome you got that score.

In my own case, it was basically impossible for me to get less than a 49Q (I got 50Q and I may have not even answered the last quant question in time b/c I was dicking around, long story, but idk), and I knew that simply based on my ability and being a former engineer. But kudos to you as you likely blow away my verbal, as my range there is something around 40-45. I could never get a consistent 45+ verbal on the GMAT, and I know that, but if I ended up scoring a 47V I would have just been like "well shit, today was my lucky day". It happens.

Anyways, my point has digressed and your quant it likely fine for Bschool; I'm not calling you dumb at all. 95% of MBA jobs out there won't require someone with natural ability for 50Q, so it doesn't matter, and I tend to think that having your verbal ability that high is more of a relative benefit.

8/16/17

Dont be a jerk.

8/16/17

I can guarantee that jobs will never care simply because they are often interviewing candidates in Grad school to begin with. Will they really care how many times you took the GMAT over the fact that you may be in Wharton? How many people here have been to interviews where their GPA was asked? I would be puzzled if I went to a job interview and they cared about how many times I took a test over my overall score or the school that I'm in. Especially considering that nothing you will ever do in real life will be related to this test. Even if Op lucked out, that's life. Some are born luckier than others. Obviously, some aspect of hard work got him there as his score improved, there are stories of candidates who took it multiple times and went from a 600 to a 700+. Also chances are that the 730 can take it multiple times and have their score never improve. The game and the rules are the same for everyone, do not bemoan how others choose to play it.

8/16/17

LOL some of you people make me shutter for your simple lack of statistical understanding. I wasn't even hating on the dude either.

And hey genius, if banks and consulting firms didn't care about your GMAT, then why do they ask for it on official applications? Number of times taken will simply be another way to help weed through a pile of applicants.

8/16/17

deleted

8/18/17

They dont ask about grades at interviews because they have already looked at those to screen you.

8/24/17

I agree with this.

In my official gmat practice exams, my range over 4 attempts was 720-740. Quant ranged from 44-48, and Verbal ranged from 40 to 44. My actual score was a 730, which was a Q49 and V40. In other words, I got lucky on quant, and unlucky on verbal.

I'm sure if I took the time to re-write I could get "lucky" and get a Q49 and V42-44 to push myself into the 750+ range, but at $250US a pop and with essays to write, my need to write another GMAT exam was roughly equivalent to my need for a hole in my head.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

8/15/17

Agree.

I'm preparing for the test and I'm blown away by people who score amazing but keep taking the test each year to push their scores up higher.

I question whether there are other limiting factors in their MBA profile which would prompt them to this, whether the AdComs are becoming pure numbers hungry, whether test takers are boosting their marks to sell tutoring services, job applications or otherwise.

8/18/17

It seems like the "GMAT arms race" replicates life in general, in that you keep on trying until you get to your happy place. This isn't that strange or novel.

8/20/17

Seriously it is insane. Admittedly, I took the test twice because I felt test day jitters got to me the first time. But I spoke with an admissions officer at a CBS event a few weeks ago, who said the average is going up to near 730 this year. That's almost 13 points above last year's average..

8/15/17

Thanks for the guide. How much did you study versus for each level of the CFA? Where are you off to business school?

8/16/17

My best guesses:

L1: 200
L2: 350
L3: 350

I'm applying to schools now . . . we shall see.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/15/17

Congratulations on the score! Appreciate your tips and strategies!

8/16/17

Excellent! Thanks!

8/16/17

Great post man. and good luck on the apps! How do you rate the MGMAT - Advanced Quant guide? Do you really need it to get a high quant score (48+)?

8/20/17

It's not necessary - the harder questions just build on top of or involve a combination of fundamental concepts, so it is all about mastering those and then being able to apply them to novel and more challenging questions. I didn't end up studying from that book very much to be honest. But it does help to get comfortable (read: not freaking out when you see an unfamiliar and difficult question, and being able to either take steps to solve or guess and move on) with more difficult questions.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/17/17

Awesome man; been studying for a month now and I just can't seem to stay prioritized while working full time. This should help tremendously - Thank you.

8/18/17

I love this post. Congratulations @whitecollarandsuspenders ! Just curious, do you have an idea what your optimal profession would be right now- Speaking of what you want to do when you finish your formal education?

8/20/17

My dream job = portfolio manager of a long/short fund investing exclusively in emerging markets, ideally with a total return mandate and thus capable of investing in both equity and debt.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/23/17

Awesome! I absolutely loved emerging markets equity and debt investment research in grad school. Definitely the most exciting sector of the market IMO.

Best of luck my friend, though with this level of discipline and focus you won't need it.

8/19/17

You did nothing at all for the verbal or IR???????

8/20/17

Nah man. Other than complete those sections in the practice exams I took.

IR I don't think you can really study for, and with Verbal "I just know" if that makes any sense. WIth RC and CR I pretty much go 100%, may miss a tricky SC question here or there because I don't know the grammar rules, I just know whether something sounds right or wrong. I think it is because I read a ton, but again I really can't explain why I am so good at Verbal.

Not trying to brag by any means - you can see I had plenty of trouble with the Quant section. Just lucky with my ability on Verbal I guess.

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
8/20/17

You should have a gold medal for this.
This will help in the future.

Once again thanks a lot.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

8/27/17

thanks man, saved the attachments +1
can you shed some light on what CMT is? and perhaps your background prior to MBA? - I seen you said it was less than optimal.

thanks

8/28/17

You mention non elite work background. What did you do if you mind me asking?

8/29/17
9/11/17

"The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

  • Margaret Thatcher
9/11/17
9/14/17
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