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6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT!

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6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT! [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2013, 12:47
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GMAT 1: 650 (November 2006)
GMAT 2: 640 (November 2007)
GMAT 3: 720 Q47 V42 (January 2013)

I just finished my 3rd go around with the GMAT. I took my first GMAT in 2006, and didn't get the score I needed for my target schools. A year later, I thought I would re-group, re-focus, and crush the GMAT. 2 months of studying all over again, a ton of hard work, and I finish the exam for the 2nd time with a score lower than my first attempt. I was devastated and felt not only like it was a big waste of efforts and time, but also like I wasn't smart enough or capable of scoring any higher. I was so disheartened and frustrated I wrote off the GMAT and told myself I'd never take it again.

5yrs later, I still haven't gone to business school and my interest in b-school sparks up again. The schools I want to attend now still require a higher GMAT than what I scored, and the I realize the only thing holding me back from diving in is my fear of taking the exam again and not getting the score I wanted. I didn't want to feel like I did that last time when I invested so much and only have a poor result.

In the end, I stepped up and realized fear is no reason to avoid the exam. I signed up for the exam again. At this point, I knew I had to do things differently. Here's how I studied for each:

GMAT 1: Princeton review book, Powerprep software (~2 months study time)
GMAT 2: Princeton review book , Powerprep software, OG, MC-Graw Hill or something (~2 months study time)
GMAT 3: Veritas on demand, OG, GMATprep (3 months study time)

Here's what worked for me:

Constant review of challenge problems and concepts.
I used an error log extensively, and re-visited challenge problems 2-3 times and tried to understand why I was still getting the wrong answer. The biggest value I found in taking a course was having access to amazing instructors that will teach you tons in how to solve, how to think, how to approach, and so on. I utilized Veritas instructors as often as I could to review challenge areas.

Consistent smart studying. Putting in the proper time to study is a given, but studying smart is a whole different ballgame. It was a slow transition, but I made a big effort to effectively make use of the huge amount of resources available. Quality over quantity.

Tackling problem areas as needed. I ended up skipping a lot of stuff on probability and advanced counting because I knew I was weak in areas such as arithmetic. Nail the fundamentals before you move on. In the end, I only faced 1 question on probability - which I "punted" anyways!

Getting into the right state of mind. I posted reminder notes around my study area to motivate me. I kept telling myself that I could master this exam, it just took the right focus and effective use of energy. Closer to test day, I watched, listened, and recited positive and inspirational messages to fire me up.

Ruthless practice exam review.
I did around 10 practice exams, and towards the latter exams I really started to drill down on all aspects. Every question was reviewed in detail and I made notes on my timing, overall feeling, hangups, accuracy, and so on. This really opened my eyes to what was killing me and what was helping me.

Test day, as many people describe, was quite an experience. One of the most useful tips for test day for me was to scope out the test location before hand. I had to drive about 30min to a different city for my exam, and knowing how to navigate there, deal with parking, building hours, etc was huge in keeping test day as stress free and smooth as possible.

Looking back, the major tips I would offer for test day:

Have confidence in your abilities. That means, nail the questions you know - take the necessary time to do the math correctly and check your work, while not wasting time on questions you don't know. I was confident in my abilities, but also kept in mind when I needed to throw questions away. This was huge in not only keeping my confidence up, but also for my timing. Hitting an ugly inequality DS question didn't rattle me as much when I knew I could throw it away after 30s. And related to this..

Keep a calm, yet focused mind.
I definitely had a few "OMG" mini-freak outs during the exam when I realized how far behind I was, or got a question that was "too easy for my level." I took a second to close my eyes, take a breath, remind myself of the key mindsets to have, and re-focus. Keeping calm focus was vital to clear thinking and success.

No doubt was this a tough road, and I'm still reeling over the fact that I beat the GMAT. I actually used to think I just wasn't smart enough to score over 700. A load of BS nobody should ever accept.


Other resources that I found helpful:

    Thursday's with Ron - didn't get to watch too many of them, but I watched/listened to Ron's timing session at least 3 times. This was a game changer for me. Before this, I was doing everything Ron stated not to do.

    Veritas and MGMAT blogs - tons of advice and info from excellent people.

    Veritas instructors - Looking back, especially since I took the exam twice via self study, I can say that the money I spent for the Veritas course was well spent. The material itself was great, but the instructors made it worth it. They know their stuff, and you know they're a trusted resource. Specifically, David N (Boston?), Matt D (Bay Area), Bill R (CA/Nevada) were extremely helpful and awesome. I owe a lot of my success to them. Highly recommend any of them.

    Forums - great to read motivating stories from all sorts of people. When I found out I wasn't the only one struggling with this exam it helped me huge in my motivation.

Practice Exam Scores:

GMAT Simulator Set 1 2012-11-11
40 41 640

GMAT Simulator Set 1 2012-11-18
36 42 630

GMAT Simulator Set 2 2012-11-25
42 44 680

GMAT Simulator Set 2 2012-12-03
47 26 610

GMAT Prep 2012-12-09
43 38 660

GMAT Simulator Set 1 2012-12-16
41 41 650

GMAT Simulator Set 2 2012-12-24
45 39 670

MGMAT Free Exam 2012-12-30
40 36 630

GMAT Prep 2013-01-06
48 40 710

GMAT Prep 2013-01-13
48 39 710
Manhattan GMAT Discount CodesKaplan GMAT Prep Discount CodesKnewton GMAT Discount Codes
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Re: 6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT! [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2013, 13:44
Congrats on passing that 700 bar! Is that GMAT Simulator Set same as GMAT paper tests?
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PraPon

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Re: 6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT! [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2013, 14:53
PraPon wrote:
Congrats on passing that 700 bar! Is that GMAT Simulator Set same as GMAT paper tests?


Thanks for pointing that out, forgot to clarify, "GMAT Simulator Set" are all Veritas practice exams.
Re: 6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT!   [#permalink] 20 Jan 2013, 14:53
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6 years later from 640 to 720. Lessons to crush the GMAT!

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