I have taken GMAT on the last day before the format change. And I am glad I have reached my target score of 740 (Q48, V42). I have taken GMAT twice before. While I received 680 (Q47, V36) the first time, it went down to 660 (Q49, V31) the second time. I have decided to take it yet again and I swore that will be the last time. I didnt want to spend too much time preparing for Integrated Reasoning.
First time I took this is what I did. I first installed GMATPrep software and took the test. I got 660 (don't remember the breakdown). I felt I did ok without any preparation. At the same time I realized that GMATPrep usually overestimates one's capabilities by a good 20 to 40 points. My target score was 720. I am a pragmatist hence I didn't target 99% or 790 score or above. I was well aware that GMAT is only one of the pieces in a puzzle called the MBA Admission.(I strongly urge everyone who is yet to take the GMAT to have a rough idea of schools you are targetting and accordingly formulate a target score.) My primary targets were business schools which have terrific finance curriculum, a great alumni network, and awesome career services and which are in the North-East and Mid-West (Euphemism for New York, Philadelphia & Chicago). So I figured I have a lot of work to do. I evaluated my GMAT Prep test and quickly realized that my skills were found wanting especially in Geometry & Word translations. I also knew that I had a long way to go on the verbal side of it. But, I was not entirely honest with myself. I told myself that CR & RC are something that did not need much attention because I have very good analytical and reasoning skills and my reading comprehension was pretty good. So, I have decided to purchase Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction
and the GMAT OG 12th
Edition, GMAT Quant 2 edition and Manhattan Advanced Quant. I would go to a Starbucks every evening after returning from work and after finishing my dinner. Sit there for an hour or two and started solving problems while timing myself. This was a terrible strategy I will explain why further below. Data Sufficeiency problems were indeed scary. I was taking way too long to zero in on an answer and also my hit to miss ratio was very disappointing to say the least. At this time I came across a free 2 hour Manhattan GMAt class
which is a first in a series of 14 classes I believe. I knew I couldn't afford all 14 of them but I figured it wouldn't hurt to go sit in the first class and see what's all the hype about (In GMATClub and elsewhere Manhattan GMAT
has got terrific reviews). Boy I am glad I attended that session. I was completely stoked. The instructor gave some tips to attack DS questions and I used those same techniques and they worked. My DS performance improved markedly. On a different note my verbal preparation was shaky. Although I was doing well with SC I started realizing that CR was a drag on my score overall. My exam was two weeks away and I started taking GMAT CAT Tests from Manhattan GMAT
(6 of these tests are free if you buy any of their books. That was a splendid deal. Honestlyl!) My score varied between a scary 560 to a decent 660. I got most of the 700 level questions wrong and for CR questions I got even the 600 level ones wrong. I panicked and after reading some reviews and recommendations in GMATClub I purchased Powerscore CR
Bible for GMAT. I reprimanded myself for waiting until there was just a week left to buy this book. In the end I could only do the first few chapters and the test day was upon me. I took my final GMAT Prep test and my score was 720 (again dont remember the breakdown but I remember that none of them is ridiculously low or high). I was cautiously optimistic. Going into the test center I was confident notwithstanding my shortcomings in verbal. The essays were easy enough but that 1 hour felt like it. I took the break. By the time I began Quant I was a little worn out already. I felt I did quant well. I took the break again and ate a banana and began the verbal. Halfway through the verbal I felt completely exhausted and wished the test finished immediately. I struggled through my last 10 to 15 questions. Finally I finished and mustered some strength to view my score. 680 showed up. After all they were not wrong to say that GMATPrep overestimates the score by about 40 points. My verbal score was disappointing. I went home and pondered whether or not to take the GMAT again. While 680 is not a sterling score it could be competitive. Everyone I knew discouraged me from taking the test again. I did some research on the my target schools and I have also realized that this is something that is in my hands. Something that I could improve. There is no reason why I should let it go and take a chance. So I scheduled my second test about a month and 15 days later on January 2nd 2012.
My strategy going into it the second time was to outperform in Quant and maintain my verbal or improve it slightly. To quantify it I was thinking more like Q50 & V36 which would put me over the magic mark of 700. So I bought all Manhattan GMAT
Quant books. I revised my quant strategy from earlier. I mentioned earlier that my strategy of solving all OG 12
questions first was terrible. This time I completed each main topic and then would go ahead and solve all DS & PS questions related to that topic. For example, I would study the Geometry book and all its sub-topics and then attack its DS & PS from the OG12
. I didn't change my verbal preparation strategy what a dumb mistake that was. In fact I might as well go as far as saying that I actively ignored Verbal while putting oh so emphasis on Quant. I took a Manhattan GMAT
CAT test and saw my score as 690. Usually these tests are way tougher than the actual GMAT test. So I was optimistic. The day has arrived and I have only brushed up the verbal seciton. I felt confident nonetheless. So I set out to tame GMAT. I had a couple of unfortunate events minutes before I was to take the exam. As I was driving to the exam center I met with an accident thanks to the narrow Philadelphia city roads and unruly taxi drivers. Luckily I survived but my car sustained some major dents! After reaching the exam center the supervisor wouldn't seat me because I didn't bring my passport with me. I deliberately didn't bring my passport with me because they were more than happy to accept my drivers license last time. A half hour argument ensued and finally she promised she would let me take the exam if I would go home & fetch my passport with in an hour. By the time I went home and returned to the test center I was worn out but I began my exam. Despite these setbacks I felt alright after writing essays and I felt very satisfied with my Quant performance. But my head was splitting with the stress. Afterall my afternoon was quite eventful. Its the same story again with Verbal my energy levels plummetted especially with the headache weighing heavily on my ability to sit through the test. I didn't care for the last 10 or so questions and I was running out of time. I wanted to get it over with. There and I am done. The score was about to pop. I was still optimistic given that I felt very confident about my Quant. There Q49. I said cool not bad I thought I'd get a 50. But its ok. Then my eyes focused on the three digit number. It was 660. I was shocked. My verbal was a dismal 31. I went home and slept the day off.
Again time had come to decide what to do next. Should I retake the test or not. I thought it was too much work to prepare yet again. I was bringing my work home more and more. I am finding it tough to focus. I phoned my mum & dad and said I would rest my case. I have all but given up hope to apply to my target schools. I felt my application would not be viewed favorably. Few months went by and then out of blue I heard news that a childhood friend of mine did exceptionally well in civils exam in India. His success kindled the spark in me again. It motivated me not to give up but learn from my mistakes. I took stock of the situation and booked an appointment for June 2. I stuck to my Quant strategy as I believed it worked for me. I attacked Verbal more vigorously. I studied Powerscore CR
BIBLE. It was very useful and terrific. It also helped me attack RC questions easily. I applied the same principles there. I read news articles daily and I made sure that I constantly apply the GMAT verbal rules to them. For RC preparation I would read an article and frame GMAT stlyle questions myself. I also kept in my mind that I had to maintain my energy levels and concentration throughout the exam for nearly 4 hours. I wiped out my PC and reinstalled GMAT Prep again. I drank the 5 hour energy drink and started my GMAT Prep test. I made sure that I also wrote the essays this time. So far I skipped the essays whenever I took the prep tests. Not this time. Wrote the essays and went on to do Quant section. Energy levels were still holding up. I didn't feel worn out. I started attacking Verbal with full concentration. I felt I did well across the board. I had about 2 mins left on the verbal. My Prep test score showed up 750 with Verbal and Quant in lower and upper 40s respectively. I felt satisfied with my preparation and the prep test. One day before the actual test I stopped preparing and ate my favorite foods and watched my favorite shows. I went running for an hour and felt rejuvenated. On the day of exam, in the morning I went to starbucks had my latte and read news. Came home around 12 in the noon and ate my sandwich and packed a couple of bananas and water. I packed my Passport the night before! I went to the test center by 1:30 good one hour before the scheduled time. The supervisor seated me by 2. I took the shot of 5 hour energy just before walking in. I began the GMAT and took one hour for the essays. I took the break and ate half a banana. Energy levels were good and no headache. I went back in and began the quant section. I felt I did good but not as good as I did last time. Nonetheless I didn't let it bother me. Took the break again and ate the rest of the banana and drank some water. Returned to my seat and began the verbal section. I was cautious but confident as I answered each question. It felt as if I answered all the questions correctly. In both Quant & Verbal section I followed a cardinal role. That is to spend enough time calmly in answering the first 10 or so questions. since this is a CAT it is important that you get more than two or three questions right in a row. This will ensure that you dont fall back to a lower level from a higher level. however do keep in mind that you dont spend 5 mins for every such question. I spent about 2 to 2.25 mins on first 10 questions and about 1.5 to 1.75 mins on the rest of them. Anyway, I finished the verbal section and clicked next until I reached the page asking me to cancel the score. I said no dont cancel and show me my score. I had no number in my mind. i was not thinking anything and just waited for the score to show up. I saw 740 with a fairly decent split between Quant (48) and verbal (42). I was thrilled but it took a while to sink in. I walked out finally content with my score.
So in short the following are the things that helped me reach my goal
1) Manhattan GMAT
Quant books all 5 of them.
2) Manhattan GMAT
verbal SC book.
3) Powerscore CR
4) GMAT OG 12
5) Maintain energy levels through out the test. This needed practise too!
6) Take enough time to get first 10 or so questions right. Double check your work!!!
7) Make sure you didn't guess any answers in first 10 or so questions.
8) Take every break you could.
9) Relax on the day before exam.
10) DO NOT GIVE UP!
STAY FOCUSED ON THE GOAL. Everything else falls in its place.