After taking the GMAT the first time around and feeling extremely disappointed with my score, I decided to retake the GMAT about six months later. I found these message boards and the MGMAT Road Map
very helpful in designing a study plan that got me to my target score. If you're in a similar situation, don't get discouraged. After receiving a 540, I did the whole "maybe I just won't go to b-school, the GMAT takes too much time to prepare for, etc." thing. I took 6 months off, spent a lot of time reflecting on it, and I realized that if you put the hours in, you will get the score you want. I waited for a time in my life when I didn't have a ton going on outside of work, and I committed to studying until I was happy with my score.
I thought it would be helpful to break out my post by (i) mistakes from the first time around and (ii) what I think I did right in order to get to my target score. Let me know if you have questions, and good luck to everyone out there.Mistakes I Made the First Time Around (540 - 37Q / 30V)
1. Overestimated my ability to "just wing it." I scored 1510/1600 on the SATs with virtually no preparation, and I thought I could replicate that performance on the GMAT. WRONG! I only studied for about 7 weeks. During this time, I was very inconsistent with my study schedule due to work constraints. I would cram in a couple hours during the evenings after long days at work, and this was not effective.
2. Took an in-person Princeton Review course. The instructor was very nice but not a great instructor. The Princeton Review content focuses mostly on "tricks" like plugging in answers, picking your own numbers to plug in, etc. These are great if you only need to score in the 500's, but you need to spend the time to master the fundamentals if you want to score in the 700's. ~$1000 down the drain on a pretty much worthless course and I got to my target score by just studying on my own with the MGMAT set...
3. Spent too much time taking non-GMAT Prep practice tests. I was consistently scoring in the 600's on the Princeton Review practice tests, but I did not have time to fit in a GMAT Prep practice test. Even though the GMAT Prep tests do not include answer explanations, they are preferable since they contain questions from the test maker (and seem to correlate pretty highly with your actual score).
4. I did not visit the test center in advance and was unprepared for how strange the GMAT experience can be.
5. I listened to advice that "the first 10 questions are absolutely critical - if you don't get all of them right, there is no way you will score in the 700's." On my first attempt, I had no clue how to set up the first problem. This caused me to panic, I then spent 5 minutes trying to solve it to no avail, I panicked more, and the whole experience spiraled from there.What I Did Right the Second Time Around (700 - 46Q / 40V)
1. Realized that it was going to require 100+ hours of studying to get my score into the 700s. I laid out a 3 month schedule with 2 hours of studying each weekday and gradually scaled the study hours on the weekends to 4 hours each day. I've never been much for studying in large chunks of time, so I decided to spread the studying over a relatively long period of time. Also, I rarely studied for more than an hour at a time, but I was extremely focused while studying. I found it easier to wake up an hour early and study prior to going to work while my mind was fresh. I would then spend another hour studying during my lunch break or after dinner. In total, I studied 144 hours prior to my second attempt (excluding studying prior to my first attempt).
2. I spent ~3 hours just planning my studying. The MGMAT Road Map
is extremely helpful in a similar way that this site is helpful, and it offers many helpful tips for getting back into study mode if you're been out of college for a while.
3. I used higher quality study materials. I purchased the MGMAT complete set and only did practice problems from the OG, OG Verbal
Review, and OG Quant
4. I made flash cards for quant problems that I struggled with and reviewed them weekly (a tip from the MGMAT Road Map
5. I set weekly goals that I knew I could accomplish. Specifically, I devoted one week to each MGMAT book
in the set. I read a chapter or two each day, and I did practice problems from the OG that corresponded to the content. If I finished a book during the week, then I rewarded myself by cutting my weekend study time.
6. I focused on GMAT Prep tests. I took the first test 4 weeks prior to scheduling my GMAT and got a 700. After getting a score in the 700's, I went ahead and scheduled the GMAT for 4 weeks from that time and started my review immediately. I took the 2nd GMAT Prep test 1 week prior to the actual GMAT and scored a 720. My actual GMAT score fell 20 points, but I can't complain.