After wrestling with GMAT for last 10 weeks since my first GMAT in March, I finally got a decent score of 690 (Q 44, V 40) - which I think is a pretty big improvement from my last score which was 500 - (Q 27, V 33) I know, I thought the world was gonna end. To be honest, I never thought I would get this kind of score....unlike many other MBA applicants, I come from a music school so it was extra difficult for me to study, especially math portions.
My original goal being 700, obviously I wished I could have pushed that extra 10, but I am really happy with my result here, and I am exhausted yet satisfied.
I already opened up a bottle of beer.....tonight will be fun. A LOT OF FUN. PS: It's going to be a long post. Books & materials used: Kaplan
for my first try, Knewton
and MGMAT books
for my second oneTest scores you received along the way:
VERY FIRST Kaplan
diagnostic back in January - 480. Enrolled in Kaplan
and studied for two months, first GMAT score: 500, After that, Knewton
Tests - 550, 570, 620, 550, 570, and GMAT prep scores from 600, 650, 640.
I did most of OG questions back in February, although looking back I think it was a waste of time, since I didn't understand the core concepts. I did buy OG Quant
and Verbal books, but never had a chance to actually look at them.Length of study:
Jan to March I used Kaplan
....although I honestly don't want count my Kaplan
times....I was a wreck and I honestly didn't think the lessons were any good, including their overpriced private tutoring.Knewton
- from April to May. MGMAT books
in June. GMAT Club app along the way. All three were very useful, especially the MGMAT books
Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals! My biggest mistake when studying with Kaplan
was merely going through questions without really understanding WHY and HOW to get the right answer, both Quantitative and Verbal. Number properties and algebra are definitely topics anyone needs to really master.Words of Advice:
Don't be afraid to move on. Chance is that even if you stare at the question for 10 minutes you will most likely still get it wrong in the end. When I see a question that I know will be really pain, I'll spend a bit more than 1 minute, and if I still don't get the question, I simply make a guess and move on.
Time management is the KEY. You don't wanna be running out of time during easy questions - that will really hurt your score.Things you wish you knew:
Wish I covered MGMAT books
a bit earlier. They are really really useful, and once you go through them you'll understand most concepts you definitely need.Things you have learned:
Lots of math...unlike most MBA applicants, I come from music school, which made it extra difficult for me to grasp since I haven't done math in close to 7 years. Verbal was interesting overall - now I win more arguments than I can possibly imagine Things you wasted your time on:
Extremely difficult questions and odd questions - and not being able to ace them and being sad about it. Kaplan
private tutoring - the biggest waste of time and hard earned money.My Test Experience
I actually first registered for Kaplan
GMAT course back in November - all the books and materials came in the mail, but I was afraid to open them since I haven't done math in 7 years and was being lazy, so I never opened them until the New Year's Day, which is super sad..
So I went to the library, looked at the first question on OG, and thought to myself, hey this doesn't look so bad. (I'm pretty sure it took me 5 minutes to do that question). Around that time Kaplan
suggested me to take their diagnostic test - I took one, and I got 480. I was depressed. That's when I realized GMAT isn't as easy as I thought.
I panicked and started taking Kaplan
online courses and finished all their question banks, extra lessons, etc - anything and everything Kaplan
had to offer. I even hired their private tutor which was super expensive, but I really wanted to get a good score.
So I took the test in March - got a shocking score of 500. I was so shocked I sat in my car for half an hour in a parking lot. I thought it was all over. I didn't meet people, go outside, and I barely ate. I was like that for about a month. Looking back, I definitely wasn't ready....plus, I had a serious sleeping problem and it really disturbed my life in general.
In April, I decided to man up and try GMAT again. This time, I decided to go with Knewton
after reading very good reviews about it. Knewton
was really good. First I didn't know how online only lessons will work out, but their concept pool was very useful. Also, they had office hours during the week which motivated me to stay focused during the week. I started to understand WHY and HOW I got the answers. Their lessons and instructions were superb - clean website, easy to navigate, iPad friendly QBs (HUGE), and great instructors.
After finishing up my Knewton course
in May, I started studying on my own. I basically re did Knewton
QBs multiple times, read their concept pages and took their practice tests, although I have to agree, the scores weren't very accurate.
With 3 weeks left, I decided to go on hard-core mode and went over all 8 MGMAT books
in more than a week - 6 hours a day. It was pretty brutal, but I learned and understood so much stuff during that week, and it was nice to remind myself on important concepts.
One week out - I decided to relax and clean my brain out. No GMAT books, no studying, no nothing. I drank, hung out with my girlfriend, and basically relaxed. I threw in two GMAT Prep practice tests to see where I was at. (Scores: 650 and 640)
Night before - listened to music, relaxed, ate wholesome foods, tried to get a good sleep.
Day of the test - woke up early, had good breakfast (oatmeal, eggwhites etc) and got to the test center half an hour early.
AWA Essays - to be honest, I didn't really cover AWA Essays since my first GMAT, but I found both topics pretty easy and I sailed through.
Quantitative - found most of them easy. Lots of probability questions, which I didn't expect...I was kinda losing focus during my last 3 questions but I managed to get them right (I hope
Verbal - I found verbal really hard - I got two very long reading passages for RC in the beginning which made me running out of time in the beginning, but I managed to catch them up during SC and CR questions. Honestly, I didn't recognize many CR questions - all of them looked pretty fresh, with no noticeable patterns.
SC was about average.
Oh, and I had to pee really bad by the end of Verbal.
so make sure to go to the bathroom and let it all out during breaks.
The moment of truth - would you like to cancel your score? Hell no! Honestly, I was expecting something like 600 or 640, or 550 for the worst....and alas - 690. I could not believe it. I never ever scored this high even during practice exams. I almost asked the desk staff if this was indeed correct.
I hope I didn't bomb my AWA essays!Bonus: Kaplan VS Knewton
I'll put it this way - Kaplan
has some pretty neat stuff, (Test Center practice test, huge question pools, easy breakdown of each practice tests etc) but what Kaplan
fails to teach students are basic fundamentals and concepts that students absolutely need. They merely brush on them by going through some questions, without explaining WHY and HOW this answer is right, especially when it comes to Number Properties and Sentence Correction. I was hoping to get that covered from private tutoring, but all we did was going through Kaplan
questions together, nothing else. Kaplan
Private tutoring was the biggest waste of my money and time during my GMAT experience.
I personally found Knewton
extremely useful. As I mentioned above, their QBs may be small, but they make up by really attacking the bare concepts of each areas rather than brushing them through. Plus, $50 refund guarantee can't be beat, and you get one year subscription compare to Kaplan
's 3 months, which is really short. However, I agree that Knewton
's practice exams are really off - I didn't think they were accurate, so I didn't really care about them. Also, I wish Knewton
would clean up the Concept Queue a little cleaner - by each topics, difficulties etc etc. In addition, their office hours cover EXACTLY same questions every two weeks or so, which I found a bit odd.
In conclusion - I think Kaplan
is good for someone who is aiming for mid 500 or low 600 score range, but who knows - maybe if I took Knewton course
first I might have different opinions.
Honestly though - regardless of what courses you're enrolled at - you are the one who have to be strict and to stay focused. It wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it - I think it paid off.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got more beer to open up.....