I took my third GMAT on Saturday (12/22/2012) and was thrilled to score a 730 (Q45/V44). I know that for many of the math buffs in this forum a Q45 is not great, but I was very happy that it was sufficient to get me passed that 700+ hurdle.
First, a little background: I was born abroad, but for all intents and purposes, I am American. I have 4 years work experience in Architecture and other creative fields (design/photography) and I am pursuing an MBA with a concentration on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. My top schools are Kellogg, Stern, HBS, and Cornell.
So, back to the GMAT. My first attempt was a little over a year ago. I was supremely overconfident and completely underestimated the test. As I have seen in various other debriefs, if you are pursuing an MBA, it is probably safe to say that you have been successful in other areas of your life. Although this confidence is important for success in the real world, it does not automatically mean you can score incredibly well on the GMAT without preparation.This is the First Lesson to be learned: Don't underestimate this test.
After I took my first GMAT and saw the dismal 550, it completely knocked the air out of my sails. I started to reconsider my MBA prospects and eventually just reverted back my focus to my job. A year goes by; though, and that thought of an MBA continues to pull at me. I was not particularly happy in the direction my career was heading, and another year just did not help. I again started to research MBA's and the GMAT and after being humbled the first time, I decided to be much more cautious this time. But the most important part to take from my experience is that if you feel a real calling for an MBA, don't stop trying to pursue your goal.This is the Second Lesson: Don't Give Up.
For my second attempt, I started to study rigorously with OG13 and the 2 official supplements: Quant Review 2nd Edition and Verbal Review 2nd Edition. I found GMATClub and although I rarely made posts, I benifited immensely from the practice problems and the explanations. I signed up for the GMAT Club Question of the Day which was both challenging and fun. In fact, I think I'm going to keep my subscription because it always provides some insight into a strategy or a way of thinking that I had not previously encountered.
Throughout my self study, I took many CATs and practice tests. GMAT Club tests
, demoralizing. I think that at this point, I would have a much better time with them (and I actually plan on continuing my prep just for fun) but I think the GMAT Club tests
should come with a warning that says something like: "WARNING! Only take these tests if you have scored in at least the 70th percentile on other practice tests." The diagnostic was brutal. But then again - and I'm sorry that I'm just thinking all this through while I write - although they were painful, I did learn a great deal from them. I just feel that people should know that the purpose of the GMAT Club problems and tests are to challenge you beyond a very high GMAT level so that you will find real GMAT problems to be much easier.
MGMAT CATS - Did poorly. MGMAT 1, 540. MGMAT 2, 620. MGMAT 3, 600. These scores were not what I had seen in my GMAT Prep scores so I decided not to worry too much about them. Also I have read from other GMATClubbers that the MGMAT scores are not very reliable which again gave me more confidence.
Second official GMAT attempt: 650 (Q39, V41). Blargh. 2 months self preparation. 90 point increase is great, but not great enough for top tier schools. I thought about my score for 1 day and then I said, "you know what, I'm going to beat this. I'm not going to give up this year." I signed up for the test 1 month and 1 day after my second attempt.Third Lesson: If self-study doesn't work, trust the professionals
I had put my heart into studying and I didn't see the results I wanted. I felt that another month of studying on my own would not get me the results that I was looking for so when I saw a promotion by GMAT Club for a discount at Knewton, I jumped at the opportunity. I was particularly interested in the 50 point guarantee. With a 660, 50 points would get me to 710, definitely worth $350.
I jumped right in and boy what a difference it made. I'm glad I had previously prepared because I had a good foundation to understand all the lessons, but there were a ton of things that I had missed in my self study that were invaluable. First of all, and I know all you here at GMAT Club are going to shudder at this (but I hope this serves as a warning to others), I did not know about the huge penalty for not answering questions. My first attempt, I left something like 4 or 5 Quant questions unanswered. Verbal I always finish with lots of time left, so that was never a problem. My second attempt, I recognized that pacing was important, but I still left 1 quant question unanswered. HUGE mistake. It automatically takes points off your raw score.
Aside from that, Knewton taught me lots of strategies to pace and answer questions efficiently and correctly. I started to really understand THE GMAT. Before, I was focusing on the problems, Knewton helped me understand the test. But, once again, my CAT's were a bit demoralizing. Here are my CAT's prior to my third attempt:
Knewton Diagnostic: Q42, V36, 640
Knewton CAT 1: Q43, V37, 650
Knewton CAT 2: Q45, V40, 690
Knewton CAT 3: Q39, V37, 610 (I'd like to mention that I think this happened cause I took this test while I was incredibly tired. Mental fatigue is real.)
Knewton CAT 4: Q46, V37, 680
Knewton CAT 5: Q43, V44, 710
I saw good improvement, which made me really happy. Especially that last 700+ score. Again, I had read all over that Knewton CAT algorithm was a bit off so I decided to just focus on learning from my mistakes than on the actual scores. Since I had become much more confident and comfortable with the GMAT, I took more MGMAT test.
MGMAT CAT 4: Q36, V36, 600
MGMAT CAT 5: Q44, V36, 660
What the heck? Why were my CAT scores so low? Especially verbal? I scored in the 91st percentile in the real thing the second time, how was V36 so prevalent in my practice tests. Oh well, I decided, once again, to focus on the lessons learned. I should also mention that I am pretty relaxed and so I don't think anxiety plays a part here.
Anyways, last test:
GMAT Official 3: Q45, V44, 730
ALL MY CATs WERE WRONG. Unfortunately, I had already used my GMAT prep CAT's way before my final attempt and so I never had a good measure of where I actually stood except right at the beginning. This is my advice about CAT's: They are important, but they are mostly good to learn from practice problems and get your pacing correct. Don't worry too much about the final scores. They're all based on different algorithms that make inflated scores for some people and deflated scores for others. . . either way, it could be dangerous to rely too much on them.And that's my last piece of advice: Save a GMAT Prep CAT for when you truly feel ready and are confident in reaching your goal. And Don't sweat the other CATs scores.
That's all friends. Thank you GMAT Club for all the motivation and support. I hope that my debrief may help someone. If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to reach out!
GMAT Official 3: Q45, V44, 730
The GMAT is beatable! Perseverance is the name of the game!