My GMAT Journey (Long debrief)
Background: 25 year old white American male, undergrad-marketing, 4 years as an Army Officer
640 (Q43, V35) October 2015
700 (Q47, V39) December 2015
700 (Q47, V40) May 2016 cancelled
710 (Q50, V36) June 2016
GMAT 1: 640 (Q43, V35) October 2015
I took this test after 1.5 months of preparation. I utilized Kaplan
’s self-paced online program and reviewed all the basic concepts and strategies. I think this is a great resource to get started. I was forced to take the exam before I was ready, but figured I would give it a shot anyways.
GMAT 2: 700 (Q47, V39) December 2015
I decided to retake the exam when I realized that I hadn’t been doing enough practice problems. For the next two months I did almost every single Kaplan
problem. I had a very solid foundation and was confident going into this test.
GMAT 3: 700 (Q47, V40) May 2016 cancelled
General Prep: After talking to a consultant and fellow vets at b-school, I decided to retake the GMAT. I scoured GMAT Club for a strategy and found that people were using this thing called the ‘OG’. I honestly had no idea what it was. I saw it on many posts, but really didn’t know what it was. Bought all three books and went to work. I completed every single question in all the books and went through again to hit the ones I had missed. I utilized MGMAT CATs and I must say that you cannot take stock in the scores of these CATs. I took the first one and scored a 580, this was weeks after scoring an official 700. The quant is ridiculously challenging. Use these to prep, but don’t lose sleep over your scores. I also started using the MGMAT SC
and Powerscore CR
. All of these resources helped tremendously and I learned a lot. I went into the test very nervous that after almost 9 months I would finally be done with the GMAT. All of the pressure of the moment weighed on me and I did not do well. Out popped the score and I was so disappointed. I immediately cancelled the scores and scheduled the closest exam date that I could get.
GMAT 4: 710 (Q50, V36) June 2016
Quant: I CANNOT GIVE GMATCLUB QUANT TESTS ENOUGH CREDIT. THEY WERE THE SOLE REASON THAT I EVER GOT PAST QUANT 47! One of the main reasons that I retook the GMAT was because of my mediocre score of 47. I was always good at math growing up, but just couldn’t get to that next level. I started taking the GMAT Club quant and started improving immediately. The tricks in the GMATClub quant tests are very similar to the actual GMAT. My real issue wasn’t the math. My problem was that I looked at a problem and immediately started working. It was very hard for me to take a step back to find the most efficient way to solve it. I also fell for many, many GMAT traps. If I could solve a question in under a minute, I immediately looked for trap answers. It took a lot of practice, but I eventually figured out quant.
Verbal: I read that LSAT tests can be very beneficial to GMAT preparation. As a native speaker, verbal was my strength. I thought that if I could push myself I might be able to get into the V42-43 range to really boost my overall score. Through my preparation I got better at RC and stayed about the same in CR. I would time the sections being sure to complete each question in under two minutes. I continued to review MGMAT SC
and do practice problems. I was very confident going into the exam.
Three weeks after my mediocre performance, I took my final GMAT. The essay went well, no surprises. IR also went well, but I was disappointed to see a score of 7. The Quant. My god the quant. I started off well, cruising through all of the problems. I was so far ahead at one point that I made an effort to slow down. I saw all of the traps and double checked most of my work. I cannot get over how well GMATClub quants prepared me. There was not one question that I didn’t know how to do. To emphasize this point further, my final question was exactly like one that I saw through GMATClub. When I first saw it while studying, I unknowingly fell for the typical trap, but when I got to the question on the test I knew exactly how to approach it. The question was a round table probability question that I never thought that I would receive again, but there it was. I confidently answered and completed the section.
I was very confident after my quant performance and knew that I could score really well. I started going through the questions and was just nailing them. RC went smoothly, SC went well, and CR went okay. I remember being very confident until about questions 20 or so when I looked up at the clock as saw that I had 25 minutes left.. I tried to pick up the pace, but I still had two RC passages. I had ten minutes remaining with 10 questions and a RC passage. I remained relatively calm, but absolutely flew through the problems, solving most in 30 seconds or so. Looking back on this, it was probably a mistake to do this. I should have just guessed on a few and actually solved the other ones.. oh well, barely finished the test and was very nervous waiting the result. Out popped a disappointing 710, but a Q50! I accepted the score and went home to think about it.. I had just scored 10 points higher on my GMAT despite studying for 5 extra months, but I also scored a Q50! Big reason why I decided to retake was my low quant score. I scored a miserable V36 though.. I know that I am more than capable of getting a V40 (I did it just a few weeks earlier, and could probably push V41) that being said, it isn’t guaranteed. My Q50 is not guaranteed. I actually think the test played right into my strengths, I was realistically expecting a Q48 with a slim chance at Q49. I could take the test in two weeks and score Q48, V39 and not even be surprised. I could take it and score a Q49, V38. All of these scores are 710 and I would rather have the Q50.. I am still disappointed at myself for squandering my great quant performance with a terrible verbal one. I know that most of you will tell me to take it again, but that would be my 5th time, 4th for record.. I don’t see myself repeating my quant performance and nothing is a given in verbal. I also need to start working on my applications as I plan to start applying this fall. Given everything, I am much more confident applying with a 710 (Q50, V36) than I would have been with a 700 (Q47, V39).
1) Take a realistic look at where you stand and what your goals are. I scored a 580 on my diagnostic test, my first goal was a 650, then a 700, then a 730. As I improved, I realized that the sky was the limit. That being said, it took me A LOT of time. I studied while working 12 hours a day and I really do not know how it is possible to study if you have a family. For those of you who somehow accomplish that feat, I salute you. I studied continuously for 4 months, took a month and a half off, then studied another 3 months. That month and a half off of studying really set me back, it was by far my biggest mistake of my prep. If you are dead set on a high score and are not scoring very high in quant or verbal off the bat, then be prepared to study hard for months. You have to really commit to it.
2) Everything starts with the basics, make sure you get a reliable prep company and review until you are comfortable with all the basics.
3) Read debriefs from people who scored highly (but take care not to get discouraged when they study for only 2 months and score 750.) Look at the resources that they used and see if those resources would benefit you. The best resources for me were:
a. GMATClub Quant
c. MGMAT SC
e. Powerscore CR
4) Take tons of CATs, but do not get discouraged by the results. As you can see I took a ton of CATs and didn’t see improvement on all of them. Take a look at the bigger picture and the trend over time. Once you become experienced you have a tangible feeling of where you stand. I was scoring 660/670 on GMATPrep, but I could tell that I was so close to breaking through. It was finally starting to click for me, I didn’t get discouraged by the score, but instead noted my weaknesses and continued to improve. Also, when you take CATs there are probably a lot of distractions. For me, I had my roommate playing video games less than 10 feet away, phone calls, neighbors listening to music, fire truck sirens going off a few feet away, etc. Needless to say, I felt that my practice CATs were lower than I would score on the real exam when I would be completely focused and free of distractions.
5) After taking CATs, identify your areas of weakness. GMATPrep does a great job of this. To attain a high score you have to be well-rounded. For example, I would get a 40 on CR after only missing one question. This was due to the fact that I had a low SC or RC score and would get lower difficulty questions on CR. If I improved my RC and SC I could get more out of my CR strength by getting harder questions. The same applies for Quant, but to a lesser extent.
6) When you get tired of studying or hit a plateau research some schools you are interested in, look at the careers you would like to pursue, and look at GMATClub debriefs/success stories. Doing this helped me get through the inevitable hard times. Envisioning success and having an iron resolve are crucial. GMATClub really has all the resources that you need to succeed.
7) Try to find debriefs from individuals who are similar to you. I had to improve drastically in both quant and verbal. Debriefs of individuals that needed to improve in only one area didn’t help me as much as these: a-unique-path-to-740-50q-41v-207376.htmlnative-speaker-640-to-680-to-710-to-kellogg-to-bain-164799.htmlfrom-600-to-760-q51-v41-secure-700-with-5m-plan-4-take-aways-210980.html
Special thanks to all those authors as those debriefs really helped me.8) Stealing this from someone else, but realize that your score on the GMAT is determined before you ever step foot in the testing center. Your months of hard work and dedication, trial and failure are what determine your score. Once you realize this you will study harder and be less stressed on test day. The official day should be a victory lap for all of your hard work.
9) Take the GMAT as a personal challenge. Studying for the GMAT was the first academic thing that I went after full force. I took stock in seeing measurable improvement over time. I put in the hard work and saw the results. It is an incredibly powerful feeling of accomplishment when you give something everything you have and, after setbacks/failures, you overcome the challenge.
*side note: I think the business schools should start publishing their scores of accepted students by region. This will be beneficial to everyone. Both foreign and American students will see scores that they need to be competitive. I feel that foreign students are eschewing the GMAT scores upwards.
**second side note: I think the GMAC should also show percentiles by region. If I score a Q49, it is 83 percentile overall, but I guarantee it is 90 percentile in the US. Same goes for verbal, a V41 score might be 93 percentile overall, but it might only be 85 percentile in the US.