Here you go! I will appreciate any feedback. If anyone benefited from my feedback, kindly award me kudos (just a morale booster for me).
Please feel free to raise any further questions or clarifications or content that I need to add in order to make this a more complete debrief.
Gmat attempt time line
1. Jan-Feb 2008 – prepared for Gmat in Delhi.
2. March 2008 – enrolled with Jamboree
India test series
3. April 2008 – got 660 (Q 49, V 30)
4. Jan 2010 -restarted gmat preparation along with my job (without taking any leave)
5. Jan-Feb 2010 – gmat fundamentals
6. March 2010 – gmat sectional tests
7. April 2010 – enrolled in Knewton course as I was not feeling confident and focused. Completed full course within April.
8. May 2010 – full length tests (Knewton, Manhattan and Gmatprep)
9. 27th May 2010 – exam date but had to reschedule to 15th June due to the disturbed situation in Bangkok (fortunately, rescheduling my exam was a blessing in disguise)
10. 15th June – took gmat second time and got 740 (Q 50, V 38)Practice Test Results
Knewton 1: 650 (Q 49, V 29)
Knewton 2: 640 (Q 50, V 26)
Knewton 3: 670 (Q 49, V 31)
Knewton 4: 650 (Q 47, V 31)
Knewton 5: 640 (Q 46, V 32)
Manhattan 1: 700 (Q 51, V 35) – untimed in order to check my maximum potential
Manhattan 2 : 660 (Q 47, V 33)
Manhattan 3: 660 (Q 46, V 34)
Manhattan 4: 680 (Q 48, V 35)
Gmatprep 1 : 720 (Q 49, V 39)
Gmatprep 2: 690(Q 48, V 35)
Gmatprep 3: (only Maths section) - 49Preparation materials used
I focused only on limited materials that were highly rated by gmatclub members. This was because I had very limited time to prepare and so did not want to waste time shifting from one material to another. So, once I finalized the books, I devoted myself to religiously study them.
a. Gmatclub forums – used gmatclub maths book and other forums to review maths concepts and practice questions
b. Gmatclub tests
– practiced number theory questions from here
c. Gmatclub diagnostic test – used it to identify weak areas
d. Kaplan 800
– as I was given this book by my friend, so I used this book to review concepts and do some practice questions. However, it was not much helpful. Gmatclub is solely sufficient to cover maths.
e. Official guides + quant review – did it twice especially the last 50 questions
f. CATs – Knewton + Manhattan + gmat prep tests and review questions
a. SC – Manhattan Gmat
4th editions: solely sufficient to handle SC section. Did not refer to any other book. I also regularly read Manhattan forums and the answer explanations especially from Ron Purewal (God of gmat English).
b. CR – Powerscore CR
bible: excellent and advanced book on CR; again – sufficient for gmat preparation; did not use any other book
c. RC – no book used. Used RC techniques as per Knewton course and Gin’s RC tips (downloadable from gmatclub) How I approached the study materials?
I knew very clearly that my weakest area was English (I got only 30 in my first attempt) and so I devoted most of my time on English in the first 2 months.
1. Manhattan SC – very tough and dense material. I read the basics section first and attempted the questions at the end of each chapter. Once I finished the basics section review, I moved to OG.
2. OG SC – chose 15 questions at a time, took a timed test with 60 seconds per question and then took an untimed test. After that, those questions that I had different answers within timed and untimed conditions, I tried again under untimed conditions. During the untimed test, I carefully analyzed all the options and tried to identify multiple mistakes. Then I checked my answers and logged my mistakes in the error log
(from gmatclub) and re-read concepts the next day. Following this method, it took me one month to finish OG and Quant+verbal review
3. After I took gmatprep tests
– I downloaded the Gmatprep Sc question bank from gmatclub forum (186 questions in total) and attempted most of the questions again (by referring to Manhattan forum for explanation)
4. CR and RC – I followed the same strategy. CR I allotted 1.50 min per question and RC (starting with 6-7 min for reading, finally targeted 4-5 mins)
The benefits of the above approach were:
1. I could get most out of official gmat questions
2. As I would check answers only after 3 attempts, I could very quickly know my concepts gaps and wrong assumptions. For example, if I got a question wrong under timed and untimed condition, I knew there was a clear concept gap and therefore devoted time studying the concept in detail.
As my level was already 49, all I had to do was go to 50 or 51. Gmatclub was the best place to go to and so I devoted almost all time on this website. Everything that I needed was there.How I managed study with my job?
Office timings: 8 am to 5 pm; Lunch time: 12 noon to 1 pm
Working days: 5 days a week + 2 working Saturdays
Location of residence: right next to office (5 min walking distance). I stay in a single room and have 24 hr wireless internet access (provided by the company). No roommate so that I can focus on my study.
Food: eat at the office canteen only (stopped cooking since I started gmat preparation; this saved me 1-1.5 hours per day)
1. Every day I would leave for lunch at 11.45 am sharp, finish eating by 12-12.10 pm, come back to my desk and take a 10 min nap in order to refresh my brain and then go to one of the meeting rooms to study. Generally, during lunch time, meeting rooms were vacant so I could study there for 1 hour undisturbed. During this time, I would only take tests. Once back to my room, I would review my test results and study the respective areas.
2. Working Saturdays – I would try to finish all my tasks by 12 noon and then find a secret location in my office to study (generally in the meeting rooms)
3. Leave office by 5.30 pm, finish food by 6.30 pm and then study from 7 pm to 10 or 11 pm. I did not study at a stretch but often took 30 min break after every 2 hours of study. So, effectively I studied for a maximum of 2-2.30 hours every day.
4. Weekends – did not go out and stayed in my room to study. Studied for around 6-8 hours per day on weekends.
5. Before going to bed – I would read one of these for around 15-30 min – The Economist
(hard copy) or fiction novel or solve sudoku
Knewton Course Review
Why it rocks?
1. 50 points Money back guarantee – therefore, if you do well in the diagnostic test (first attempt) or have a score of 650-700 in the first attempt and plan to retake gmat, then it may be a low risk proposition. The only thing you need to devote is your time.
2. Quick and quality feedback – the knewton help centre is quick to respond to any queries. Every night I asked them some or the other questions and next morning I would receive a detailed explanation or clarification.
3. Good study videos that comprehensively cover almost all topics
4. High quality live classes – excellent and well prepared faculty and active participation of other members during class (I am talking about office hours)
5. A lot of practice tests – both topic wise and section wise
6. Free Gmatclub tests
+ $100 discount on reference + regular cash discount/promotion = not very expensive gmat preparation course (it cost me $690 - $150 (March Madness) - $ 100 (reference) = $ 450 + cost saving of $ 80 (gmatclub tests
) = $ 370 (net perceived course value))
7. Knewton CATs
a. English section explanations are excellent (similar to the way OG 12
b. Most questions – both Maths and English are basically reworded or twisted version of the OG or officially released questions
c. Level of Maths is generally lower and easier than actual Gmat. However, this weakness is smartly covered up by providing access to the Gmatclub tests
where you can practice harder questions.
8. English section – I was happy with the English section because it was very similar to the Gmat prep and actual questions in the exam. The explanations are also high quality.
Why it sucks?
1. Knewton CAT
a. Scoring is weird. After the first 2 tests, I felt that its algorithm went awry. In spite of doing considerably well compared to first two tests, I got terribly low score in all the subsequent tests.
b. There is no CAT analysis provided (compared to the Manhattan CATs that have a very useful and sophisticated analysis)
c. You cannot try the CAT questions again because Knewton does not provide option of hiding answers while reviewing unlike Manhattan. This was bad for me because I could not know my concept gaps. After every CAT, I attempt the wrong questions untimed to test my concept gap and correct answers under timed condition to test any guesses made.
d. All practice tests are untimed. This was again terrible because I could not practice questions under timed conditions. I had to repeatedly use Walker’s gmat timer
2. Maths section
a. Question level is nearly same as that of OG – basically reworded questions with slight change. Therefore, it tests most of the concepts as per the officially released questions
b. I felt that maths questions were easier than actual gmat.
3. Concept queue
a. Although Knewton touts this as revolutionary, I found it very overly simple with not much value.
b. The biggest problem with concept queue is that although you may know which area or topic you are weak, you will not be offered specific questions or question drills to master those concepts. You will have to retake all the practice tests again and get those wrong questions right. I was disappointed with this because 1 or 2 weeks before my exam, I wanted to work only on questions that covered my weak areas. I simply did not have time to redo all the practice tests (by the way, there are a lot of practice tests).Final verdict on Knewton
I did not intentionally give verdict on Knewton because I wanted to leave it open for readers to decide. This is because given different background and circumstances, what may be good or bad for me may not be so for others and therefore, my verdict, should not veil someone's decision to take the course.
However, as per the request, I still present my verdict below so that someone with similar requirements can take a more informed decision.
----------------------------------------------------------------------Knewton course may not be responsible for my results because
1. It did not help me improve my Maths score (as Knewton's Maths is not very strong). Gmatclub tests
, gmatclub forums, Manhattan tests and forums and Gmat prep Maths exhaust explanations were far better guide.
2. In spite of taking a lot of tests, due to lack of CAT analysis and lack of focussed practice on weak areas, I could not boost my English score as well. For English, Manhattan books
and forums are more than sufficient.
3. Knewton CATs were a big disappointment in terms of its scoring and lack of analysis, and hence, I had to take shelter with Manhattan tests when I needed help most.
In sum, in retrospect, I could have scored well without Knewton. Manhattan and official guides were my savior.