I haven't posted much at all but been lurking for a couple of months now. I'm a fresh graduate looking to get into some high end Mfin programs, so I don't know if this score is considered a success yet. However I figured I'd share my debrief before I forget everything. It's only right that I give back to this wonderful community. I will not be retaking the GMAT and focus on strengthening other parts of my app.
I'm a native speaker (from an Asian country where the standard of English isn't so high though) and found language to be my strength in high school. But I was always crap at math until I entered a slightly quantitative course (think acct, econs, finance) in University and improved on it.Official Score: 740 (Q50, V42, AWA 5, IR 8)
Prep time: ~2 months, full time studying
Sources: MGMAT (all guides + advanced quant + scratchpad), PowerScore CR
guide, OG 12
, GMAT Prep, GMAT Club resources
Test date: 8 Oct 2013Tip 1: Understand that the GMAT takes time to prepare for, so plan accordingly!
Even if you are a genius, you will need at least a month or more depending on how often you study. Read some of the top scorer debriefs if you don't believe this. So ensure that you will have enough time to see it through before deciding to start. Jul 2012
Last year I did study for the GMAT for about a month or so but gave up because I got an internship and decided to concentrate on that instead. Big mistake. When I started again this year I had to start FROM THE BEGINNING because I had forgotten everything. When I first started last year I was complete crap at the GMAT. I remember only getting like 50% accuracy on the diagnostic test. Got slightly better on the OG quant
questions (about 80% accuracy) after reading and doing all practice questions in MGMAT guides
(except for quant). Then found a huge roadblock in the form of verbal. It was a complete nightmare and I still couldn't get going in terms of accuracy above 60%.Fast forward to (somewhere in the middle of) Aug 2013. First two weeks of prep
With no job I wanted in sight, I decided to tackle the GMAT again. Since I had read MGMAT quant guides before I decided to quickly go through them and do OG qns again. Got to around the same level as 2012 and then moved on to verbal.
Tried the famed MGMAT SC
guide only since I remembered that the others were crap. Didn't help much at first and accuracy on OG qns was about 60-70%. Then decided to move on to CR.
Tip 2: PowerScore for CR!
After reading the entire PS book for CR, I attempted OG's CR questions and found myself getting something like 3 out of the first 60+ questions wrong. Whoa! I was really happy and decided to move onto RC.
Finding that most scorers didn't really use a resource for RC, I decided to go at it on my own as well. I got similar results to my CR scores. At this point I was really liking my prep. I moved on to my first MGMAT CAT.Weeks 3 to 6 of prep
Took MGMAT CAT 1 and scored 650 (Q42 v37) but figured I could do better since I wasn't used to test taking. Reviewed wrong answers, refreshed on some concepts and took MGMAT CAT 2 a week later. Same score of 650. I then started realising that MGMAT CAT quant was really tough. I was feeling really disappointed at this point in time. I had read the success strategies of 700+ scoreres and knew that they all scored about 750 for MGMAT CATs. I then went online to look for further correlations and realised that after MGMAT's recalibration in 2012, scores got alot lower. This comforted me abit but I knew I should still be scoring better if I wanted a 700+ score. Tip 3: MGMAT Advanced Quant: A must have for quant prep!
I then stumbled upon MGMAT's Advanced Quant guide. This book was a game-changer for me! I started seeing where all these tough questions in the CATs were coming from. Took me took weeks to run through all the questions (accuracy was horrible as expected), CAT scores started going up to 690.
At the same time, I tried going through my mistakes for SC (both OG and MGMAT CATs) over and over again, figuring out where I had gone wrong. I often googled these questions alot to find explanations that suited me the most). Started to see improvements in my SC and Verbal performance as a whole. MGMAT's RC and CR questions can be pretty tough as well but its just a matter of getting used to them.
With this practice, I finally pulled my MGMAT CAT scores up to about the 720-740 range.MGMAT CAT Scores:
CAT 1: 650 (Q42, V37)
CAT 2: 650 (Q40, V38)
CAT 3: 690 (Q46, V38)
CAT 4: 720 (Q44, V45)
CAT 5: 740 (Q46, V45)
CAT 6: 700 (Q40, V45)Weeks 7 to 8 of prep. Final 2 weeks.
In my final two weeks, I took the GMAT Prep tests.GMAT Prep CAT Scores:
GMAT Prep 1: 760 (Q49, V44)
GMAT Prep 2: 740 (Q47, V44)
After this point in time I decided to completely abandon Verbal and just focus on Quant. I spent these two weeks doing GMAT Club forum questions and redoing some MGMAT Advanced questions.Tip 4: GMAT Club: Great resources all over especially for Quant
So why I said luck can play a part is that if you look at my final score and last few CATs, I actually did reverse of how I expected to do. I got 50 for quant and only 40 for verbal, despite getting 45/44 in verbal for the last 5 of my CATs and only managing a 49 highest in quant. I am pretty disappointed by how I did in verbal but I guess it comes down to a little bit of luck. The key thing to realise is that if you don't wanna retake (who does), get yourself in a score range where it correlates to a 720 to 780 score. It could have gone better (I maybe could've got 760/770 if I had gotten 44/45 for verbal but I also could've gotten 700/710. This way barring some freak occurence you know you're going to be in that range.Other general tipsKnow when to GIVE UP!
If I could only give you one piece of advice, it would be this.
This is especially so with QUANT where most people struggle for time. If you pass the 2 min mark, look through and take a guess (unless you are really close to solving it). Even if you know you can get it right, but are only about halfway towards computing the answer, GIVE UP. It's not worth it and the time that you are set back by adds a great deal of pressure to you. Also if you don't already know you will be GREATLY PENALISED for not finishing. i.e. if you get the last 3 questions wrong your score will still be (much) higher than if you didn't answer them at all. If you let these build up you will fall into a death trap where you can never catch up again.
Remember that questions get HARDER if you get them right, so it's pretty foolish to think that you can make up for lost time by doing the later questions faster. I emphasize quant also because you can easily get caught up in solving a question and totally lose track of time (I took up to 7 or 8 mins on certain questions in the CATs).
Some things you can do to prevent these things happening:
1. Understand that NOBODY gets everything right, even 780-800 scorers get quite a few questions wrong.
2. Following that, you can aim for a target accuracy like one poster did. E.g. aim for 80% accuracy. This means 30 out of 37 quant questions.
3. Once you have the above, you can start throwing questions away. The obvious candidates are the ones where you still have no clue after staring at the qn for 20 seconds. You will recognise these questions with time. Do yourself a favour and earn an extra 1m40 on these questions. This will also help with question.
4. Have benchmark timings to see whether you're ahead of or behind time in the exam (I used 75, 60, 45, 30 and 15 mins remaining)Review your mistakes
This is a no-brainer and has been said plenty of times. But what I would add is that sometimes you need to take extra effort. Review it 3, 4 or more times. Keep asking yourself how you could have though about it or strategised better. Or if you gave up because of time, could you have done the question in a faster way? Like I said google to see others' answers and strategies.
If you have extra time, I would suggest going through questions you got right as well, especially the hard ones, because you may have gotten lucky.Keep an error log
This one may not be as important, but it can help you zoom in to your areas of weaknesses. I always had an idea that I was weak with absolute value and probability. Turns out I got questions of every kind wrong because some of them were so damn hard.Take CATs, take many of them... If not at least time yourself according to the test
MGMAT's are the best imo for simulating real exam experience. Take them in the proper setting (i.e. don't pause etc). I went to a very quiet library and brought the snacks I intended to use for the real GMAT
If you can't take CATs or have run out of them, the next best thing to do is to time yourself (obviously), but try to do longer instead of shorter sets (e.g. sets of 20 are better than sets of 10).
Stamina is an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT and an often overlooked part of the test and you will no doubt feel very drained after a full length CAT (about 4 hours). Many times (even the times when I did well for verbal), I felt drowsy and tired during verbal and I didn't answer some questions in the right state of mind.
So if you can, take full length CATs so you can get used to the experience and figure out how to use the breaks.For verbal, I never followed traditional advice for time
You know, the advice where you try to do one SC within a minute and CR and RC questions within 1 and a half mins. Looking back I never once closely adhered to this format. I have taken over 3 minutes for an SC question and under 20 secs for an RC question. It really depends on how hard the question is. By the 4th CAT i realised I was finishing with 7 minutes or more to spare on verbal. Hence, I started not caring about the time so much during the first half of verbal.
That's about all that comes to mind for now. Hope this has been helpful. I'd like to thank the guys at GMAT Club and Manhattan, especially posters that contribute regularly (Bunuel, bb, GMAT Tiger). Also everyone that posted a solution or a debrief, thanks for giving back.
Do note that I am just an average joe in terms of intelligence. When I first started my GMAT journey last year I would have probably gotten 500-600ish. Keep at it and the results will come. You may take quicker or longer than others but you will eventually get there if you work hard.
Good luck guys!