I took my test today (28th March 2011) and scored 730 Overall 96 Percentile (Q49 -86 percentile, V41 - 92 percentile). I've attached the GMAT Master sheet that contains some of my strategies for the verbal and some pointers for the quant section. I hope you guys find it useful.
Update: Just got my official score report. I've scored 5.5 (77 percentile) on AWA
Chapter 1: The first battle
It was March 2010, after going through many ups and downs, I decided that it was time to meet the GMAT beast for the first time. After 1 month or so of preparation, I took my first GMAT. The Quant section was plagued with familiar timing problems - I never had enough time to finish the quant section. To add to my misery, I faced problems with my workstation during the test. I waited till the end of my Quant section to complain to the administrator. In hindsight, i should have raised the issue much earlier than I did.
My 8 minute break between Quant and Verbal sections was wasted in trying to get the administrator to log me off from one computer and to restart the test on another workstation. Before i knew it, the verbal section started. Next 75 minutes went by quicker than i could imagine. The test was over before i knew it. 670 (Q45, V38) - The screen read. I was disappointed when I left the center, but i felt much better after a number of people told me that 670 is a good score. There was a problem though, i didn't want a good score, i wanted an amazing score and i wasn't going to settle for anything less... The battle was just beginning..Chapter 2: The battle before the battle
After the first encounter with the beast, a number of things happened. I got promoted, the responsibilities, the work pressure and work flow increased. Yet, i managed to practice my verbal and quant skills on BTG and GMATclub whenever i got time. I got serious about the second battle around late July 2010. I'd come home from work and sit down and study. Work pressure was unrelenting, but the work pressure would not stop me from getting my score. 1st September was going to be final attempt at GMAT.. but little did i know....Chapter 3: So we meet again, Old nemesis
I was doing consistently well in verbal. I had analyzed my errors, I thought i knew all the traps that GMAT would throw at me. I believed that verbal score would really decided my overall score. I retook the MGMAT tests and GMATpreps, In the month of August alone i took 5 practice tests and averaged 740.
I was all set to conquer the GMAT. I took my last practice test 2 days before the actual test and scored 760 (Q48, V47). One day before the test, I pushed myself way too hard, my mind was fatigued. To make matters worse, the night before the test, I could not get any sleep at all. I woke up 2-3 times at night and realized i had a slight headache and became more paranoid. The test day arrived.
Quant was again plagued by timing problems. Questions seemed easy but my stubbornness to solve each question cost me at the end. I did not have enough time to effectively solve the last few questions. I was rushed and thus, my accuracy suffered. Nonetheless, i was determined to completely destroy the verbal section. I was doing fine till the 10th question mark. But then the unthinkable happened I got a humongous RC passage that went completely over my head. My strategy to make micro notes on RC passage did not help my timing at all. As i watched critical minutes tick by, I was thrown off my strategy. I merely went from one question to another without analyzing the answer choices or avoiding the traps. GMAT had delivered its finishing upper cut. As i lay on the ground i saw my final score that read 620 (Q46, V29) .. The world has just come crashing down. I somehow managed to drag myself out of the testing center vowing to return again....
Chapter 4: Time to bite the Knewtonian Apple
I spent hours reliving the test and charting out everything that went wrong. I realized what i had done wrong
1. I did not have an effective strategy for my quant section. Timing issues needed to be fixed.
2. I needed to pen down exact approach for each question type and practice each question type using this strategy.
3. The strategy to write as i read the RC passage did not work, further, i needed to hone my RC skills
4. I had become too familiar with Manhattan GMAT
and GMATprep content. I needed some other material to practice my new strategy.
Sir Isaac Knewton came to the rescue. Lured by the 50 point guarantee and half price, I ended up enrolling in the Knewton Course in January 2011 and got free access to GMATclub tests
. Knewton course was exactly what i needed. As i went through the amazing video lessons by Jen Rugani and David Ingber for Verbal and Jess Nepom and Rich Zwelling for Quant, the errors that i had made in my first two attempts became more apparent. I did all the homework, extra exercises and all the practice tests. My scores ranged from 670-700 on Knewton practice tests. Contrary to what many people have said about the Knewton scoring algorithm, I believe that Knewton tests force you to cut down on your errors. This strategy is effective in bringing your overall score up.Chapter 5: The End..
28th March 2011, It was time for the final stand. I took a week off work and did very little in last 3-4 days leading up to the test. The day before the test i watched "Iron Will" and loved this quote from the movie - "When you come to face the thing you fear, let the creator guide you". Further, i also changed my phone wallpaper to exactly what the heading of this post says - "Keep Calm and Carry on" - This message was a gentle reminder to keep my cool. Surprisingly, I had a decent sleep the night before the test. I woke up and i knew it was going to be the day that i will finally conquer the beast.
I reached the test center half and hour before time. After preliminary verification procedures, I was escorted to my workstation. Test began. It was the time to write the essays - I think i completely destroyed the poor author's argument [strike](* I could be proved wrong though *)[/strike]. The issue essay wasn't that hard either. I took my 8 minute break and munched on some Five Star to get the sugar rush. As soon as i was done, I jumped into the quant session. I got an easy question to start with but after the 5th question, the things got tough. I had my timelines defined - 75-57-37-16 and i was hell bent on meeting them. I fell behind a couple of times, each time i fell behind my planned time, i guessed the next hard question i encountered. Questions were a whole mix bag of PS and DS with topics ranging from number properties, equations, co-ordinate geometry, statistics, geometry to probability. I finished my quant section 1 minute before the allotted 75 minutes. I felt i did a reasonable job with the quant section.
I took the next 8 minute break, munched on the remaining five star and rushed back in. I had about a minute to go, I quickly type 10-12 rows containing A - E to use on hard questions. The SC's were definitely a class apart. The sheer brilliance with which each trap was crafted made me want to stand up and applaud the test maker. Each trap whether it be hiding the main verb in an adjective clause or joining two independent clauses using conjunctions other than FANBOYS (such as however) was crafted very subtly. I think only the SC's in the verbal challenges of Knewton came close to the quality of SC's on the real test. The RCs seemed pretty straight forward and easy to comprehend. Critical reasoning questions had familiar traps. I had a very simple strategy in handling the RC and CR questions that i will discuss a little later. I think I must have got 90-95 percent of my RC and CR questions right. I finished my verbal section with approximately 2 minutes to spare.
The test was over. I didn't exactly know what to expect. I was too scared to even guess my score. I kept on clicking next till i reached the dreaded screen. Do you want to Report your scores - The magic screen asked. Hell yeah!! - I didn't go through 3 plus hours to walk home with a cancelled score now. Seconds passed. Each second felt like a minute. The screen read 730 (Q49, V 41) - I practically jumped from my seat. I felt like Mario who had just jumped over the dragon. I closed a book today and picked up another. Its time to move on to the next hurdle......Takeaways
1. Only rely on official material - OG's or on material that is closely modeled on the Official material. I think Knewton does a very good job at recognizing the patterns in official problems.
2. BTG practice questions are a good resource to practice your strategies if you run out of the official material. I got them at half the price and I enjoyed working through these questions.
3. GMATclub tests
are useful. However, i only went through 4-5 of these tests.
4. I'd suggest you use MGMAT guides
to build the base for Quant and SC, Powerscore CR
bible for CR and Knewton tips for RC. Quant
1. Formulate an approach for each question type. For example if it was a work or a speed problem, my first step was to create a table. If it was a number properties problem, my first step was to simplify the prompt and understand exactly what the question asked.
2. As Jess Nepom from Knewton brilliantly puts it - Read the question part of the question. Most of my errors on quant were silly mistakes. This simple advise helped me cut down my silly mistakes in quant.
3. Focus only on whats important. I barely spent a day to study probability, permutations and combinations. I never quite got the hang of tougher problems on these concepts. Therefore, my strategy was that if i were to encounter difficult problems in these areas on test day, I'd simply skip and get that additional time for questions that i could solve.
4. Have a timing strategy and adhere to it - 75-57-37-16 worked for me. The toughest challenge is to teach yourself to let go of a problem. Every time i spent 4 odd minutes on a problem i got it wrong. Each problem on GMAT is solvable in 2-4 minutes. If it takes you longer than 2-3 minutes to solve a problem then clearly, you've adopted a wrong approach and therefore, not only are you more likely to get the question wrong, but also lose out on time that you could have used to solve other more solvable questions.
5. Be weary of the traps - This is what Knewton taught me. DS questions are the ones which GMAT uses to lay down its traps. If it looks too good to be true, chances are that its not true. Having such a questionable attitude towards answer choices on the quant section helps in reducing the number of errors and thus increasing the overall quant score.Verbal
1. Make a note of each error you make in SC. All of us differ in the type of grammar concepts that we are comfortable with. For example i was always slightly better at spotting S-V errors than at spotting verb tense errors. Its important to recognize where you trip so that you pay extra attention when such a question appears.
2. You cannot get better at verbal overnight. You need to work on it consistently. Verbal is all about grasping critical concepts and recognizing patterns. On certain questions, I could merely guess the answer by simply skimming through the CR passage and then quickly going through the answer choices. (Not a recommended strategy).
3. CR and RC questions fall under various categories, figure out what you need to do to solve each type. My strategy was simple, I'd read the stimulus in the CR questions. Read the question type and then tell myself exactly what was required. For example on assumption questions, i'd tell myself that the correct answer choice when reversed would destroy the conclusion or on weaken questions, i'd tell myself that the answer choice can bring outside information and that the correct answer would either fall under the category of "general principle" or "Situational detail" (These i learned from my Knewton Course).
4. When struck between 2 answer choices on a SC question. Give yourself 30 seconds to quickly analyze both the choices again and at the end of the 30 second period. Pick an answer choice and move on. On CR questions, if you're struck between 2 choices, figure out that killer word that makes one answer choice wrong. Again, if nothing works, pick one and move on. As you get better at recognizing patterns, you'll start picking correct answer more often.
5. On RC questions. Don't waste too much time on reading the passage. Do a quick read through. Read the question, figure out which category the question the belongs - Global, Inference or Detail - and follow through on the strategy. For example for global questions, consider the entire passage while picking an answer choice, for detail questions, go back to the passage and lastly, for Inference questions, make small logical leaps.
I sought out help from Forum members when i was down and out and i wasn't disappointed. Thank you so much.
As far as the heading of this post goes - Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public under the threat of impending invasion. It was little known and never used. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private sector companies, and used as the decorative theme for a range of other products
My GMAT story: 730 Debrief