EDIT: Sorry for the double post. I have edited this note to include my post about my official score:
In case anyone is interested, I recieved my official score breakdown:
Overall (Percentile): 750 (98)
Quant: 49 (83)
Verbal: 44 (97)
AWA: 6 (90)
IR: 4 (40)
I completely bombed the IR section. Pretty bummed about it - hopefully schools don't look too closely at it during the 2013 - 2014 application cycle.Background
I’m a Management Consultant based in North America. I completed my undergrad in April 2010 and began working a few months after that. My interest in attending b-school stems both from my profession (the MBA is a sine qua non for advancement in my firm) and from my own desire to pursue higher education. As such, I decided to write the GMAT.Books & Materials Used
- The entire MGMAT book
series (I read each multiple times)
- OG 11
, 12, and 13
- Verbal Review 2nd edition
- Quantitative Review 2nd edition
- PDF of all the math questions contained in the GMATPrep (found on this forum)
- 6 MGMAT practice CATs
- GMATPrep v1 (older version without IR) – took each test once (two total)
- GMATPrep v2 (with IR) – took each test twice (four total)The Beginning – Studying like an idiot
In February 2012 I began studying for the GMAT with no specific test date in mind. I decided to focus first on quant and then move to verbal. By studying I mean I picked up OG 11
and started doing math questions. I cannot overemphasize how poor this method of studying is. I didn’t realize my math fundamentals were weak and, as a result, I began memorizing theorems and formulae instead of understanding the principles of number properties, geometry, etc. Moreover, my practice was sporadic because of my hectic and often unpredictable travel schedule. After about two or three months of fruitless studying, I decided to switch gears and get back to basics. This was mainly due to a quick analysis of my error log
; my hit rate for PS questions had not improved significantly since I began studying so I knew something was wrong. The Middle – Studying like a pro
Towards the end of April 2012 I decided to start reading the MGMAT books
cover-to-cover. My brother had taken the course a few years ago and luckily hadn’t thrown out the books. I read through the books, doing each set of practice questions. I forced myself to truly understand the concepts being discussed and to do so I had to read each page slowly, often aloud to myself. Reading the number properties book alone was worth the process. Around this time I started to do practice questions exclusively on the imitation GMAT note board and marker produced by MGMAT. In addition, I started to time myself on each question in order to identify three things:
1) Question types I get right but take too long to complete --> means I need to identify patterns more quickly
2) Question types I get wrong but take too long on --> means I don’t understand a principle
3) Question types I get wrong but don’t take enough time on --> means I am improperly applying a principle
Doing the above step moved my hit rate in math from ~ 80 % to ~ 90 % and my average time per question down from about 2 minutes and 30 seconds to 1 minute and 45 seconds. First Practice Test:
By mid-June 2012 I had completed most of my math preparation and decided to take a practice test to gauge my progress. The only preparation for Verbal I did was reading about the question types in the OG. The result was disappointing: 690 (46 / 39). I managed my time poorly and had to guess on the last 7 quant questions. This was the biggest lesson I took away from my first experience with the GMAT: sometimes, you’ve got to guess and move on. It sounds basic but it has far reaching implications. After that, I decided to schedule my exam for Friday, September 7th.
If you’re interested, here are my other practice test scores:
6/17/12 – GMATPrep 1 (new version): 690 (46 / 39)
6/23/12 – MGMAT 1: 700 (44 / 40)
7/08/12 – MGMAT 2: 690 (45 / 38)
7/22/12 – MGMAT 3: 740 (47 / 45)
7/28/12 – GMAT Prep 1 (old version): 760 (49 / 46)
8/05/12 – GMAT Prep 2 (old version): 720 (47 / 42)
At this point, I started writing the tests with the AWA and IR sections and took timed breaks. I tried to mimic exam conditions as much as possible. For the last CAT I took I actually went to the local library and sat in a room to try and get used to writing in an unfamiliar environment.
8/11/12 – MGMAT 4: 700 (43 / 41)
8/17/12 – MGMAT 5: 700 (44 / 41)
8/24/12 – MGMAT 6: 700 (47 / 39)
8/31/12 – GMATPrep 2 (new version): 750 (49 / 44)
9/02/12 – GMAT Prep 1 retake (new version): 740 (47 / 45)
9/04/12 – GMAT Prep 2 retake (new version): 770 (50 / 47)
As you can see, my MGMAT scores were consistent but much lower than my average GMATPrep score. This didn’t mean I took the MGMAT CATs lightly; the MGMAT math questions were difficult and the explanations were superb. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to get a top score on the GMAT. The End – The payoff
During the last week of my preparation, I spent a lot time reviewing my previous exams and error log
. I also took advantage of GMAT Club’s free access on September 3rd and was severely disappointed with my results. I could barely answer more than 50 % of the questions correctly. Dejected, I decided to power my way through about 800 + math questions from GMATPrep that I found on this forum. In retrospect, it probably helped improve my math score but I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy.
The day before my test I tried to take it easy. I watched some TV (I’m a sucker for The Sopranos and Mad Men) and lightly reviewed the ~ 20 pages of quant and verbal notes I had developed. I also visited the test center to ensure I knew how to get there, where to park, and to ask about any specific policies that the test center had in place. I went to sleep early but found myself unable to sleep. Luckily, my exam was scheduled for 1:30 pm so it wasn’t too much of a problem.Test Day
I woke up early, ate a large breakfast and drank a bottle of Gatorade. I always found it helpful to do 10 easy math questions before my tests so I picked up the quantitative review book and chose 5 PS and 5 DS questions and solved them on the yellow note board. After this, I reviewed my notes once again and headed to the center. I listened to classical music on my way there as it calms me, mainly because it usually doesn’t contain lyrics.
I arrived about 45 minutes early and the proctor let me start right away. I drank a third of the bottle of Gatorade I had brought along and jumped into the AWA. It was a relatively straightforward argument about a national supermarket chain’s attempt to gain market share in smaller markets through more local involvement. No problem. Next up was the IR section. I tackled each question as best as I could but by the end of this section, I wasn’t feeling all that great about my performance.
I took my break, sprinted to the bathroom, and downed a further third of my Gatorade after I came back. I was determined to do well on the quantitative section. Started off with a basic ratio problem then moved to a more difficult geometry question. By the middle of the section I was about 2 minutes behind schedule and I was getting questions I felt were easy. I kept thinking “this is not going well.” I sped up, guessing on questions I didn’t know in order to get back on schedule. The fact that I didn’t see any probability or combinatorics questions further strengthened the voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t doing well. Finished the last question with about 30 seconds to spare and breathed a sigh of relief. I was almost done.
Once more I sprinted to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, and finished the last third of my Gatorade. The verbal part was my strength and I knew I could do very well. My MGMAT and GMATPrep practices had for the most part been above 90th percentile and I had done some intense studying with the MGMAT SC
guide to push my GMATPrep scores up to the mid 90s. I went through the section and felt it went much better than the quant section. I knew I was doing well when I got to question 35 and got stuck on a CR question in which EVERY answer could have been correct. Across all my prep tests, and the real GMAT included, that question was the only verbal question I ever guessed on. Hopefully it was experimental. I got to the last question (SC) with about 5 minutes to spare and leisurely picked apart the grammatical issues. I hesitated in confirming my answer because I wanted to think through if I actually wanted to report my score or not. After about two minutes of debating, I decided that I was going to report my score because even if I did poorly, this was a chance to learn and without data it would be difficult to diagnose problems.
I answered the BIQs (prepopulated from my registration) and hit the “report score” radio button. Those 5 seconds the software takes to calculate the score were the longest 5 seconds I’ve ever had to wait. The result: 750 (98th) Q: 49 (83rd) V: 44(97th). When I saw my score, I was ecstatic. The math score was the one I was most proud of, since I hadn’t been scoring consistently in the 80th percentile on my practice tests. I guess I really couldn’t gauge how easy or difficult the questions were and got very lucky with which questions weren’t counted! Overall, I’m very happy but I’m still waiting on the official score to be reported, including the AWA and IR.
This process has been a difficult one but has been made less so by the existence of GMATclub. For every question I got wrong during my prep, I always came to this forum to find out what I was doing incorrectly. It has been a fantastic resource and I encourage anyone who is in the process of studying to visit often. My 4 Lessons:
1) Always start with the basics: even if you're an engineer extremely proficient with math, it won't hurt to spend some time reviewing the basics of the math principles tested on the GMAT. The same goes for verbal.
2) Error logs will only get you so far: a well built error log can help you diagnose performance issues, but it can be exponentially more powerful when paired with a diligent review of every question you do, regardless of if you got it right or wrong.
3) As much as possible, take full length exams (w/ AWA and IR): for me, this really helped build my stamina. Moreover, I was often very nervous when I started each of the CATs and this reflected itself in the poor math scores I would see when I skipped the AWA and IR sections. During the actual exam, I found these sections to be useful in that they are a nice way to ease into the exam.
4) Plan out pre-test day dinner and test day meal schedules: if you're going to train for high performance then look to the training schedules of other high performers to understand what works. Athletes will often do this to ensure they won't eat anything that may upset their stomache. The last thing you want is to try some new food the night before your exam only to find out you're allergic! The natural extension of this is to visit the test center in order to plan your route and to ask the proctor about the policies of the test center.
I haven't posted on this forum previously but am happy to answer any questions you may have.