Well it's done and dusted, I sat my GMAT last week and received my official score report a couple of days ago (very quick, I wasn't expecting it until next week at the earliest). I've not been a particularly active poster but I've been reading the site quite a lot so here's my debrief.
Overall pretty good score although I'm a bit disappointed with my quant, I guess I made a few silly mistakes. Although I was shooting for 760, I don't think it's worth the $250 + tax for a possible couple of points on the quant side, especially given it is dependent on the luck of the draw which questions you get the day, so I'm going to sit happy on my 740
I started in early May, having started my initial research a few weeks previously I quickly discovered that I was getting on a bit as far as MBAs are concerned (I'm in my mid 30's), so first things first I decided to sit the GMAT ASAP. I bought the OG, Quant and Verbal reviews from Amazon and decided to get down to it. I did the diagnostic test and, not yet having found GMAT Club and at the OG's suggestion, did the first GMATPrep test as a baseline scoring 720 (Q47, V41).
Having done an undergraduate degree in Mathematics I decided that I was just rusty on the quant side and so chose to just do the problem sets in these books to get me back up to speed and used to the question styles. The Verbal side was more of a concern; the sentence correction in particular scared me and I felt the initial score was somewhat of a fluke. Over the next month I worked through all the problems (Quant and Verbal) in the OG using the GMAT Club guide to the OG
to track errors and identify my problem areas. From the start I tried to keep my time down although some of the more complex quant problems were taking me some time. As I was answering the questions I noted any questions where I was unsure of the answer and the alternate answer I was considering, if any. I did this to ensure I could review precisely why the answer I discarded was wrong in the event I actually chose the correct option. Fortunately this coincided with a quiet period at work meaning I could spend 1 to 2 hours a day working on this at the office.
Reviewing the OG analysis it became clear I had a few problems with the DS questions, I was making a lot of sloppy errors and also missing some of the standard tricks e.g. not noticing that a two parameter equation I was asked to solve was a linear multiple of one of the answers. Also some of the properties of numbers questions referenced some things I don't think I'd ever actually been taught, but as the internet meme goes "what has been seen cannot be unseen"
I also had clear problems with advanced sentence correction problems. In this case I wasn't sure whether the OA descriptions in the OG had cleared up my confusion as I was never formally taught grammar, either in English or any other language, so I had no idea what the hell a "gerund" was etc. I decided to go straight onto the Quant and Verbal review books starting with my weak areas to see if I had improved through practice. As I worked through the OG in order I decided to do the DS first to keep the quant to the forefront of my mind.
<Shameless plug>As I had found bb's OG spreadsheet
helpful with tracking my progress and a version for the two supplemental guides did not exist I decided to put one together. So as I worked though this section I recorded my answers using paper and a pencil, creating the electronic version afterwards. I eventually did this for all the sections and uploaded it here
Analysing my DS performance I had indeed improved with a <5% error rate on hard questions so I moved on to SC. Here I did not fair so well, my error rate was the same now as it had been during my initial attempts at the OG questions i.e. approx 25% on the hard questions. As mentioned above I think this was because the OA explanations didn't always make a lot of sense to me so I ordered the MGMAT SC
book based on the many recommendations here. While I waited for this to arrive I continued working on the other sections of the review guides. This took me to the end of June.
Given my self imposed deadline of wanting to apply for next year's full time MBAs in the early rounds I booked my GMAT for 22nd July figuring that an early 720 boded reasonably well anyway. This gave me approximately 4 weeks left to work on SC. I also worked through all the GMAT Club test verbal question sets when we were given free access on 4 July.
Once the MGMAT SC
book arrived I immediately started working through it and, unlike most people here, found that it did not seem that useful. I think this was down to my lack of formal grammar training in any language meaning I had to learn the correct grammatical names for everything in order to understand the rules it was presenting. I came away from my first read of the book with about half a dozen rules jotted down on a notepad. Given the timescale I couldn't spend too much longer on this and was feeling a bit worried. However when I went back and worked through all the SC questions in the OG and Review books that I had been uncertain off or got wrong I found my accuracy had significantly improved! Not only that, it wasn't down to memory but rather my recognising and applying a specific rule.
Feeling better I decided to look at the MGMAT CATs to see where I was. As others on here had highlighted that the first few tests were very hard I decided not to pay a huge amount of attention to the score if it was too low. Over the next few days I did all the tests in a timed setting with the following scores:11 Jul 2010
CAT1: 700 (93%) Q47 (81%) V39 (89%) 13 Jul 2010
CAT2: 710 (94%) Q48 (86%) V38 (85%) + AWA attempted14 Jul 2010
CAT3: 720 (96%) Q47 (81%) V41 (93%) 15 Jul 2010
CAT4: 710 (94%) Q47 (81%) V40 (91%) + AWA attempted15 Jul 2010
CAT5: 780 (99%) Q51 (99%) V45 (99%) 17 Jul 2010
CAT6: 710 (94%) Q48 (86%) V39 (89%) + AWA attempted
After the CAT4 I became concerned as by this point I was expecting my scores to start improving based on other's feedback on the tests. Looking at the questions I was getting wrong there was a pattern on the quant side – work rates and probability/combinatorics problems. Foolishly I chose to plough on and did CAT 5 on the evening of the same day I attempted CAT 4 and scored a 780! When I reviewed it became crystal clear what the problem was, that test only presented me with one simple probability/combinatorics question and two rates of work questions (one of which I got wrong).
I was torn, the questions themselves did not resemble the equivalent questions on these topics in the OG books where I had done well on these problems but I had lost confidence. As a result I dug out some of my old stats and probability books from University and reviewed the counting methods chapters and problems which boosted my confidence again (whilst simultaneously reminding me how much I had forgotten – at first attempt I could barely read the text book that I had considered the bible at the time!).
I also need to say that I had the same reservations about the CR and RC questions in these CATs where I agree with many others on this forum that the MGMAT versions are vague and the answers very much debatable even after having seen the answers, although here my confidence did not waver as I was completely convinced it was poor questions rather than my skill that was the problem (wait, where'd you all go? Oh sorry, there you are. I lost sight of you for a moment as my ego got in the way
As you can see above I had started to write AWA essays to get me used to the timing and, as a native speaker who got good English exam results, I was surprised to find I was having problems! I had found chineseburned's guide
but I was having problems writing more than 350 words in the time allowed. On the CAT 4 I tried to keep my thoughts half on how I was writing the essay as well as the content. After finishing, these essays were also both approx 350 words and, as I thought about it, it became clear I was doing too much polishing. My natural style is to write and edit as I go along, rephrasing sentences for clarity, reduce word repetition etc - all good stuff in the context of the test but it was taking too long. For CAT 6 I tried to rein it in, only doing one quick pass at the end to catch the most egregious problems. This was much better in terms of length but another problem had emerged; I did not write what I felt were convincing arguments in the analysis of an issue essay. This was down to my simply not having a strong opinion either way on the topics covered and just sitting on the fence.
The final week of my preparation was upon me. Looking around the forum and reading the OG I quickly discovered something I had missed by not even glancing at the AWA until now, the topics in the OG are all the possible real questions (also available here
and originally from mba.com
)! I set about reading each of the Issue topics and attempting the 2 minute bullet point prep good essay writing guides always suggest. If I couldn't come up with a strong position I marked it down for further review. As I had under a week to go and roughly 30 topics I felt uneasy with I didn't think there was really enough time to wait for responses to an internet forum approach so I did what any self respecting man in his 30's would do – I ran home to mum and dad and begged for help
(OK it was Monday afternoon, they were physically the closest people to me who weren't at work and I felt they could provide good feedback given my dad used to be in marketing). We spent about 3 hours just doing the bullet point reviews of the topics I was unsure of, throwing around ideas on positions and examples I could use. This was incredibly helpful and about halfway through the time I started to see positions and approaches that had passed me by on first reading.
I had booked the test to coincide with a week off work so I had plenty of time. I had also done the second GMATPrep test with AWA on the Sunday 18 July getting a 760 (Q50, V44). However I did not actually use any of that time on the Tuesday or Wednesday, as when I tried to sit down and review my mind wouldn't settle on one topic so I took it easy instead.Test Day:
The nearest test centre to me was in central London about half a mile from the location of my first full time job! Having done the commute for over two years I knew pretty much exactly how to get there and how long it would take. I'd booked a 12:15 appointment but had to leave the house at 9:00 to get there on time going from a village station rather than the centre of town. I got out of bed at my normal working week time of 07:30 and got my things together. I don't eat breakfast, preferring to have a very early lunch so I stopped off at a supermarket on my way to the train station to pick up some sandwiches, chocolates and a bottle of water. On the train I tried to do some simple questions to get my mind in gear but I couldn't work well on the small table so I stared out the window looking at all the new buildings that have gone up in the 10 years since I did this commute regularly (Arsenal's new stadium being the most obvious!)
I arrived in plenty of time so decided to walk rather than get the tube to Holborn intending to stop off in the park behind my old office to eat my sarnies but of course as soon as I got there it started to rain! Not a good omen so I sheltered in a doorway behind my old office to eat them instead keeping an eye out for a double rainbow
seeing as it was still sunny
I was about an hour early but I had nothing else to do so I headed for the testing centre. As soon as I got there they signed me in and told me to go straight through to the testing room, no waiting around which I was quite glad of!
I was given my test pad and asked to take a pen from a box provided – I had to ask if I could test it myself – the pad was not the same one as shown here
. It was in fact laminated white A4 sheets with a heavy black grid sectioned into rectangles about 10mm x 7mm. I forgot to count how many sheets there were after the exam as I had intended as soon as I saw it was different, but there were at least 10 sheets as each page was numbered and I definitely saw page 9. This was more than adequate but I did have to write a bit larger than I was used to having been working with a mechanical pencil during my prep.
My essay questions were:
The following appeared as part of a business plan created by the management of the Take Heart Fitness Center:
"After opening the new swimming pool early last summer, Take Heart saw a 12 percent increase in the use of the center by its members. Therefore, in order to increase membership in Take Heart, we should continue to add new recreational facilities in subsequent years: for example, a multipurpose game room, a tennis court, and a miniature golf course. Being the only center in the area offering this range of activities would give us a competitive advantage in the health and recreation market."
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
Although I'm sure the question on the real test did not name the fitness center and
"It is unrealistic to expect individual nations to make, independently, the sacrifices necessary to conserve energy. International leadership and worldwide cooperation are essential if we expect to protect the world's energy resources for future generations."
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.
I felt I completed both these essays reasonably well at the time (although I nearly made a schoolboy error in the first essay having initially misread it as an increase in membership rather than an increase in use by members) I'm not sure what will have caused me to drop the 0.5 points but my spelling has always been [strike]atroshus[/strike] [strike]terrybul[/strike] bad
I took advantage of the break to nip to the toilet, grab a few chocolates and a drink of water. I dove back in and went straight through the quant section. I got a little nervous a few times when I got what I thought were quite easy questions but I only had to make an educated guess once when I encountered a question that in my opinion hinged on knowing whether zero is considered divisible by an integer or not. I didn't see a single rate of work question and only one simple probability question, so much for all the worrying I did about that then! I made reasonable time but I guess I made a few sloppy errors based on my score and finished about 8 minutes early.
I decided not to bother taking the second break as I had been finishing the verbal section of all my CATs with at least 30 minutes to spare so I could hopefully afford to pause during the real test. I worked through the verbal section at my usual speed, the only issue coming with one of the CR questions where the topic was slightly less clear cut than most of the OG problems. I also know I messed up the first question on this passage as I had one of those irritating moments while reviewing the second question where I realised I'd misinterpreted the last question
Even with a short pause halfway through I finished with about 25 minutes to spare. I read through all the additional pages, filled in my demographic questions with the bits I had missed when registering and braced myself. When the score came up I was reasonably happy, not my target but by no means bad. I tried to think where I could have messed up a few quant questions but couldn't think of anything obvious so I got up, caught my train home, got a call from the office because everything had gone pair shaped and my cover had been trying to get a hold of me all day, got home and slumped in front of the TV to await my AWA results.
Edit: Edited to add the missing breakdown of GMATPrep test 2, fix a few typos and add a link to the double rainbow for those to whom it is a mystery
Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.