Update as of Nov 25: I have been admitted to Chicago Booth for the part time MBA program starting in Spring 2014.
Nov 6 post:
I have been working for ~10 yrs after a double MS in Mechanical and industrial engineering. I had decided to pursue my MBA a long time back, but only got serious in 2011.
I started my journey 2 yrs back. My wife was starting her exec MBA in a few months and I wanted to get the GMAT out of the way before life got even busier for us. My daughter was 1 yr old at the time, and I knew that prolonging my attempt at the GMAT will make it tougher to study going forward. The biggest mistake I made was that I did not research much online on how to go about my preparation. I discussed with a friend on what he did to get to a 730 and all he told me was that he used the OG12
. Based on that feedback, I went to B&N and got the OG and supplements home. I then started to go through the quant and verbal questions without studying much theory / concepts. After getting through 50% of the questions in the OG and finding that I was not much successful, I decided to try a variety of online resources, such as Grockit etc. I started going to websites that offered free resources, in addition to the OG, CR Bible, Manhattan RC
and Powerscore SC
. The Manhattan RC
book enabled me to take the MGMAT tests online. I took all of them within a period of the 3 months of preparation in addition to the 2 GMAT prep tests. Clearly, after getting through the resources and the tests, I was still not quite there, scoring in the range of 600 - 700. I took my 1st GMAT test in Oct '11 and scored 560 (Q47, V21). I felt quite dejected as I knew that finding time again to study would be difficult.
Then in Dec '11, I decided to take another crack at the beast! This time I enrolled into the Kaplan
online course. I'd say that the course was decent, but I personally don't feel that there was much emphasis on the areas I needed to improve on. The instructor was good, but IMO the 9 sessions did not emphasize much on how to strike CR and RC, which were my weak areas. Although my SC was strong, I was erratic with my SC scoring, sometimes getting 70% and sometimes getting 100% correct. In my Kaplan
tests, I was scoring in the range of 640 - 730, so felt confident that my prep was making a difference. The Kaplan
classes were from 9 - 12 at night, which is all the time I got to study. My wife was traveling for a full week sometimes for MBA and work, making it more difficult to take time for a focused preparation. I signed up for a date in April '12. When I got to the test center, I realized that I had forgotten my passport! This really knocked me out. My wife had to drive an hour to the test center to deliver the passport. Anyhow, Quant went ok, but then by the time verbal came on, I felt so tired and worn out that I pretty much gave up midway. I somehow got thru the section. The score was 570 (Q45, V25) this time. Once I got home, I knew that the lack of sleep the previous night and the fact that I left my passport home affected my performance. I therefore decided to try one more time.
Since I really needed some new prep material and new questions to study, I signed up with Knewton and took a date in May '12 for my 3rd attempt. The main driver for choosing a date so close to the previous date was due to IR section being introduced in June. In hindsight, I should have dealt with IR and taken some extra time with a more methodical approach. After getting through all the Knewton resources, and going through OG and previous resources again, I thought I was ready for the test. For the 6 Knewton tests, my scores ranged from 570 - 700. My score on the final Knewton test was 570, the test that I took just 2 days before my actual test. This got me a bit concerned! To ensure I was close to the test center and had a fresh mind for the test, I stayed the night close to the test center. Call it luck or just nerves, I never slept a minute ... i tossed around the whole night, blaming my luck, the silly, noisy air conditioner or anything else I could think of!! Anyway, I somehow dragged myself out of bed and went for the test. I felt rushed during the test, just as I had during the previous times. I scored 560 (Q44, V23) this time. I then said to myself that I was pretty much done and wont try again..
Given the average performances, I decided to apply to one of the top 5 schools close to my home. I applied to the school with the 570 score, thinking that my yrs of experience, leadership positions and community involvement will balance out the inadequate score. My interview went great too. I was pretty positive about the admit, even though I knew that the avg score the school desired was 680. My app was rejected. After self reflection, it was clear to me that my gmat score was the root cause for the decline.
I decided to study one more time and apply for the spring '14 start. And here is where I did a lot of things differently....
- downloaded the economist
and the new scientist thru the library website to my iPad every weekend. I would read every night for an hour, working to improve my reading skills and comprehension. IMO this helped immensely.
- borrowed MGMAT book
series from a friend. I had never seen these books before, though had heard a lot about them. I went thru these books front to back, learning the key quant concepts. These were mainly useful for quant and SC. I read a couple quant books two times.
- finished all self-study sections in knewton. I think knewton quant and SC were great, but CR and RC were ok. Overall I preferred knewton to Kaplan
- downloaded gmat toolkit, a resource I highly recommend. I practiced the supplemental official books first and used the toolkit to monitor my time. Once done with all questions for each section, I'd practice each quant question that I took over 2 mins or got wrong.
- used number picking and back solving strategies on all questions I could.
- understanding the meaning of the SC sentence! This is one concept I likely missed the past few times, even though I knew it was important.
- then I got into the OG 13
. Since I had looked thru the OG 12
book few times in the past, I was hungry for new, never-before-seen questions.
- I purchased the question pack 1, which has over 400 new official questions. This is a must buy for re-takers and IMO the quality of questions is better or as good as those in OG.
- I also purchased the gmat prep 3 and 4 tests that came out recently. These were important to me as I had done prep 1 and 2 tests a few times in the past. In the last week, all I did was was the gmat prep 3 and 4 tests and the question pack 1.
- CR was my single biggest weakness, and I worked to improve by prethinking as often as possible . It used to take me ~3 mins on an avg to arrive at an answer. Online forums, mainly those from Ron Purewal helped immensely. Any words of praise for the guy are not enough... He's probably the most highly paid instructor out there!
- last but not the least, I practiced timing. During the previous attempts and the practice tests before those attempts, I was always crunched for time. That's why my scores deviated so much. This time, I made it a must to not spend more than 2 mins on a quant question, max 2.5 mins. My score range reduced significantly, MGMAT scores ranging from 640 - 680, GMAT prep 3 660 and prep 4 680.
So my final attempt was on nov 2, and I knew that if I stuck to the task, I'd score in the 700 range. I really was not shooting for 750, as I knew that I just did not have the time to accomplish that high a score. I slept just about ok the night before the test. The test was at noon.
I reached the test center on time. Got seated for the test. AWA was a cakewalk. I had scored a 6.0 the previous times, so was not worried. Then came IR, for which I had not prepared at all. I had decided to guess the multi reasoning and try the graphical and other questions so that I had the best chance to get thru the section with decent success. There were a couple very convoluted questions, which probably did not help my score. I ended with a 4/8 on IR... (I dont really think that there is much emphasis on this sections' score as of now... Hope the schools think the same!). Then quant started after the break, and I was on it from the get go. I think the test works on the principle that... to get some, you have to give some... If u show ego during the gmat and say that I have to get every possible question right, then you had it. The moment u have an inkling that u don't know the answer, guess and move on. I had to do that on the 5th question. I know it's best to get the first 10 questions right, but i'd rather hit a new golf ball instead of trying to find the one I lost in the bushes! I finished quant with a minute to spare. I was confident that I'd end up with a 49 or 50. Then came verbal... The big challenge! I was confident with all the SC questions as I was looking for the meaning. But the CRs were tough... There were few that had tough language and some that had atypical question stems. The RC passages were tougher, changing direction... I had to pay close attention to the changes. Due to the CR timing issue, I found myself in a tough spot towards the end, with 10 mins left and ~8 questions to go! I had practiced to keep myself from being in this tough spot, but i slipped on time management sometime during the middle of verbal. I then immediately focused at what I had at hand. I decided that for the last 10 questions, I'd not write down anything on the notepad. I decided to pick the first answer that made sense to me and then move to the next question. I finished the last SC question with 2 secs to go! I feel that the improved reading skills helped me in this time crunch situation. When the score report page came on, I could not believe my eyes! The number 7 in the 700 (Q49, V35) never seemed luckier. When I look back and think of what made me do better in verbal this time, I feel that being careful initially was key. I ensured to get majority of SC and RC questions correct as those were my strengths in the section.
This roller coaster ride put me thru a major endurance test over the past 2 yrs. Thru this experience, I have uncovered some of my weaknesses, but discovered a lot of strengths!
In closing, I want to acknowledge that it's great to see so many netizens on gmat club and similar websites. In some respects, we are all competing for an MBA seat with each other, but that does not keep us from helping out each other. It's great to see gmat aspirants help each other with concepts. Keep that up! And kudos to the instructors who come to these sites and give detailed explanations for free!
In addition to reapplying to the top 5 school that rejected my application, I plan to apply to other top ones in my area. Long debrief, but how else would I cover 2 yrs!!
Good luck with preparing for this test ... nothing is impossible, and impossible is nothing!