I just got back from the test center with a score of 700, and WOW, what a LOOOOONG arduous journey it was. I know it's not the sexy 750+ score, but I'm proud of it. I know this score will enable me to apply to any school without my GMAT score being a question mark.
I want to share my experiences with everyone so you can learn from them, better yourself during prep, and NOT GIVE UP!
I have been thinking about pursuing an MBA for a number of years, and whenever the idea popped up, the GMAT was what scared me most. I was never an incredible standardized test taker. But, I knew the GMAT had to be conquered in order for me to have a chance to attend a top MBA program.
July, 2013, I reached out to a family friend of mine who is an alumnus of a top school. I told her that I want to apply to business school in Round 1 of 2014. She said, "you gotta write the GMAT, and it would be extremely beneficial if you had a 700+ score."
Well, here's where the journey began. To give everyone an idea of my quantitative skills, I didn't know how to do prime factorization, I had no idea about overlapping sets or perms and combs, I didn't have a clue how to setup a Rate/Work problem, and I had to learn how to do the basics of factoring, because I hadn't done them in many years... To give everyone an idea about my verbal skills, I am a native English speaker who scored in the 55 percentile on SAT verbal. With that underwhelming foundation, I set an ambitious goal to score a 700, and I started studying.
I downloaded the Magoosh
software, bought the Manhattan GMAT books
, and bought the OG.
I took my first practice test on Manhattan after about 2 weeks of learning the basics of the GMAT. I scored a beautiful 590 Q38, V34. To be honest, it was probably a better score than I should have got.
I started watching the Magoosh
videos, and they were helpful with the basics, but I was covering too many topics in too short of a time period; I wasn't able to absorb anything.
I switched over the the Manhattan books
, and I went through each math book one-by-one. This really helped me master the basic concepts. I was always good at math growing up, so the old material came back quickly, and I was able to factor, multiply, divide, etc. very quickly.
Once I went through the math books, I thought I was getting to the finish line, so I decided to book my test for September, 2013. I kept doing practice problems on Magoosh
, and I was at about a 60% success rate on medium/hard questions in quant and 70% on medium/hard verbal. I enrolled in a local prep course in Canada. It really didn't teach me much. It cost $1000 that I will never get back. I decided it was time to write a few CATs. I wrote 4 CATs in 2 weeks and got,
Manhattan 650 Q40, V38
Manhattan 640 Q42, V36
YIKES! I postponed my GMAT to November, and I went on a 2 week vacation in mid - late September.
My prep from July to September was full of stress and anxiety. I work 60 hours per week, and I felt guilty if I did anything at all during my free time except study. This was a bad approach, and I knew this when I saw my declining GMAT CAT results. I decided to take a more relaxed approach leading up to my new test date in November. I bought the Kaplan 800
book, because I thought it could take me from the 650 range to the 700 range. I studied a lot from this book thinking it would take me to that next level.
I retook the GMATPrep exams and scored,
730 Q47, V44
700 Q47, V39
WOW! I thought I was ready to conquer the GMAT. I was certainly wrong! I went to my first test and convinced myself that I was calm, relaxed, and ready to dominate!
During the quant section, I noticed that I was being given a lot of really simple questions. I finished the section with 10 minutes left, and thought to myself, "that's not good..."
I felt like the verbal section went alright.
I was ready to see my score and saw a 610 Q40, V34. I nearly fainted in my chair. What a slap in the face.
Here's a good tip: Do not tell all of your friends and family members that you are writing the GMAT!!! I had to call so many people to tell them about the crappy news. It was horrible!
The turning point in my story was now. DO NOT GIVE UP! I promised myself that I would get a 700, and I said I am not stopping. I studied HARD (3 hours per day) for a month and then went on a 2 week vacation. On the vacation, I made sure that I remained fresh. I would do series of 10-20 questions per day out of the OG. I came back and I studied even HARDER (5 hours per day).
I went on GMAT Club and I read multiple success stories. Every single story stressed the importance of the OG. So, I downloaded the GMAT Club iPhone app and I tracked all of my OG results. I went through every single question in the OG for PS, DS, CR, and SC. For all of the ones I got wrong, I tried again. If I got them wrong a second time, I made sure I understood why, thoroughly. Bunuel really helped me accomplish this on the math section. Simply use the search bar and type in a portion of the question. Bunuel's explanations were mostly perfect.
I also bought the GMAT Club tests
. I got about 30% correct when I would write a practice exam, but I would go through the incorrect answers in a similar fashion to what I did with the OG - I made sure I understood what I did wrong. These tests were great, but they are really for people who are looking to get 90 percentile + on the quant section. However, what theses tests made me really realize was how bad the Kaplan800
book was. Those math questions were sub-600! I do not recommend you buy this book.
I booked my test for today, knowing that my basics were covered, and it was just a matter of being able to pull it all together during the real thing.
I wrote another Manhattan test, and I didn't finish the math. I scored a 690 with a 39Q and 45V - Haha, what a ridiculous verbal score. I knew the quant was low, because all Manhattan quant sections are more difficult than the real GMAT.
I arrived at the test center 30 minutes early and realized that the tall americano from Starbucks upset my stomach. I had to go to the 7-11 nearby (in a rough part of town) to unleash some demons. Make sure that your body is 100% comfortable before you take the exam! You do not want to be distracted.
I went in to the test center, and I was already familiar with the unfriendly staff and setting. I went in and wrote the AWA and IR sections. I stored a Starbucks refresher energy drink in my locker, and I took a sip from it after the AWA/IR. I wrote the quant and felt ok about it. I would go on runs of getting about 4-5 questions right, and then I screwed up on a few easy ones. I chugged the rest of my energy drink in between the quant and verbal and then went into the verbal with an open mind. I knew I was strong in the verbal, so I knew I had to nail it to lift my score. I was thrown some very difficult/confusing questions but managed my time well and persevered.
I clicked on the button and saw the 700 pop up..... Wow, 6 months of pain and hard work really paid off....