This was my first attempt at GMAT. Although there are lots of other experiences way better than me in attention to detail and useful tips, I decided to share my own experience considering the fact that I was helped due to a similar kind of post in my quest to ace the GMAT. Thanks to Nimalan whose post gave me the confidence to go through with my planned schedule(760 in 40 Days
I am an engineer from India with 3.5 years of experience in the BPM industry. I joined this forum with a goal to complete the exam in 2 months. Unfortunately, things reached to a frenetic pace at my workplace, leaving me no time to prepare for the exam. 14 hour days & 90 hour weeks became the norm of the month. It was in early August that I was able to take a week off from work (170 odd days without leave even on weekends) to attend to my personal goals. It was in this week that I decided to scour this forum for any sort of helpful advice which will help me to reach my goal. I zeroed in on my date for Oct 09th and worked my way backwards. The next day after I booked my slot, I stumbled upon Nimalan's post (link above) which essentially validated my planned schedule.
The only books I've referred for my Quant and Verbal are
OG13 Kaplan Premier
My initial plan was to go with the MGMAT course. However, I realized that the MGMAT course isn't suited for someone who's planning to prepare only for ~20 days. This is the first junction in which gmatclub helped me. I ditched the MGMAT course for Kaplan Premier 2013
. This book helped me in getting the breadth of the GMAT topics in a single shot without having the need to extensively dive into each topic.
With a fixed amount of time available (35 days), I decided to break down the schedule into 22 days of study and 12 (excluding test day) of revision. Nimalan’s post helped me in realizing the importance of giving multiple practice exams. So I planned my practice exams to coincide with my slot (830AM to 1230PM). Timing my breaks to precision helped me get comfortable with the 4 hour format.
I allotted 4 hours a day for my preparation. I spent one hour in the morning revising my previous day’s notes and error log
. This helped me in avoiding mistakes I made the previous day. It saved me from going through any topic more than once as I was already hard pressed for time. I made it a point to return early from office and put in 3 solid hours in preparation rather than wasting 5 hours with a distracted mind.
I downloaded the GMAT prep software and decided to give one of its practice tests as a diagnostic. This is explicitly not recommended
as we are wasting a perfectly good exam for diagnostic. I realized my mistake at the end of the revision phase. I scored 640 (Q 46 and V 32). I compiled the error log
for this exam and used it as a reference for every mistake I made for the rest of my preparation phase.
4 days on Kaplan Premier
Verbal section (1 day for CR, 1 day for RC, 2 days for SC, 1 day for Revision )
4 days on OG13 Verbal (1 day for CR, 1 day for RC, 1 day for SC, 1 day for revision of the difficult ones encountered in all 3)
5 days on Kaplan
Quants ( 2 topics a day , revision for the spare time left on the 5th day)
5 days on OG13 Quants ( 2 days PS , 2 days DS and 1 Day revising all wrong answers)
1 day on IR Kaplan Premier
1 day on AWA from chineseburned
2 Practice tests from MBA.com (GMAT Prep)
2 from Kaplan
GMAT Premier (Free tests with the book)
1 from Princeton review
(Free test upon creating an account)
1 from Manhattan GMAT
(Free test upon creating an account)
1 GMAT Club free test ( Quant and Verbal Only)
Six months after registering at gmatclub, I kicked off my preparation on Sept 2nd. The first two days of the preparatory stage were tough. I found that I was unable to maintain my concentration levels to the levels I had marked for myself. I made many silly mistakes which I would not make during my undergraduate phase. I scored decently in the SC’s during my Diagnostic exam. This helped me in easing into the routine. If I had started with a section I was weak in (Say CR), I could’ve found it difficult to hit the right notes in the start of my prep phase.
The workbook tool provided by gmatclub was invaluable to my preparation. I could simply open the workbook and find the questions ready to be answered. It helped me in nailing the timing part of my preparation. The timer for each question helped me tune my internal timer, which let me know if I was spending more time on a question.
The rest of the preparation phase went smoothly. The precision worked like clockwork that I doubted that I had chose a light workload for this stage and it would come to bite me once I entered the revision phase. The OG questions were very useful. They gave me an actual feel of the GMAT questions Somehow, the OG questions gave a sense of authenticity that was lacking in Kaplan
. I gave myself 30 extra seconds while working on the OG, just to make sure that I use them properly. I used an error log
(plain notebook) to keep a track of all the wrong/guessed answers. Sometimes, it felt tedious to enter all the details about each and every wrong question. Thankfully, I stuck to my plan and completed the stage without slacking off.
Revision StageSept 26: Free Test in GMAT Club (Q 50, V 35)
Going by the advice from the debrief I referred at the start of my preparation, I decided to give the GMAT club test first up. Getting the worst case scenario isn't a bad thing. I felt that it will help me gear up to the main event in a better fashion. I scored (Q 50, V 35) in the exam. Upon analysis, I felt that my practice using the Workbook helped me in feeling comfortable with the tough questions in the Quant section. The verbal score literally floored me. I was expecting an encouraging 37+ score at least, which I felt I deserved at that point. It helped me measure the gap between my expectations and my actual standing.Sept 28: Kaplan CAT I 660(IR 7, Q 48 V 32)
It was the first time I was writing the complete 4 hour test after my preparation. I was a bundle of nervous energy hopping around my room at 730 in the morning before the test. Exactly at 830, I started writing my test. I completed my AWA and IR by 0930 and took a break, trying to imitate the exam day pattern. Unfortunately, I got a call which made me late for the Quant section. My timing deteriorated as I progressed in the tests. I found my concentration slipping at the end of the section. The results were highly disappointing. I decided to give my next exam on Oct 1st and spend the additional day in going through the error log
of the exams. Oct 1: MGMAT Free CAT 750(IR 5, Q 48 V 44)
After going through each and every mistake in the last two CAT's, I gave my MGMAT CAT with renewed energy. The score justified the amount of work I put into improving my Verbal Score, but I realized that I neglected my IR and Quant in this exam. I was elated when I saw that I cracked the 700 barrier for the first time. A quick review of my answers showed that I took too long in answering the mid range questions in Quant, which led to the low Quant score. I decided to work on improving my Quant skills to a 50 Level. Oct 2: Princeton Review Free CAT 720 (Q 49 V 40)
The Princeton review
gave a tough review of my Verbal skills. Buoyed by my latest verbal score in MGMAT, I dropped my concentration levels in the Verbal part. There were lots of trap choices, which I selected in haste without going through all the options. When I reviewed my answers, I found that I had selected 5 trap choices out of the 9 wrong answers in the Verbal section. The Quant section didn't reflect my improvement, but I felt confident of pushing to the 50 mark I had set for myself.Oct 4: Kaplan CAT II 750(IR 7, Q 50 V 41)
The second Kaplan
CAT saw me hitting all my targets for the first time. I was elated beyond measure. I felt good writing the exam and the results were spot on. I was giving my test at Bangalore, so I left the review for the next day. There were a few mistakes in the verbal section as I guessed them and moved to the next question to comply with the timing. This was the best experience I had while giving the exam and I felt it was my optimal performance (which was validated by the final exam score).Oct 6: GMAT Prep II 750(IR 7, Q 50 V 41)
With 3 days to go for the final exam, I decided to wind up the revision stage by giving the last GMATPrep practice test. Getting the same score as the previous CAT gave a great boost to my confidence. The exam threw up several mistakes I made in the Quant section as well as some rules I had misinterpreted in the Verbal part. As the questions were retired GMAT official ones, I felt confident that I could successfully reach my target score in the exam.
Test Day ExperienceFinal Prep
I was left win 2 days before the exam. Over these two days, I went through my entire error log
and all the Hard Questions in OG. I had made a staggering 150 mistakes in the OG. I reworked the entire question list again and made sure that I will not make the same ones in my exam. This was the clinching point in my entire preparation. I slept 8 hours on both the days
and relaxed completely. I finished going through my error log
in the afternoon before the exam. I spent the rest of the day relaxing with a novel. Exam Day
I reached the exam center an entire hour before the start of the test. It was a fresh day in Bangalore at 0730 AM when I reached my test center. I carried a printout of Chineseburned's post about AWA, which I perused till it was time to enter the test center. Two candidates had already started with the exam and I was seated within 2 minutes of entering the center. After I entered the colleges for reporting the scores, I encountered the tutorial. I used the 8 mins given for the tutorial typing out the ChineseBurned's template in the practice AWA window. I didn't bother finishing the tutorial. AWA and IR
The AWA section was fairly easy. I spent the first 5 mins retyping the template, while dissecting the holes in the argument. This helped me in finishing the AWA with 5 mins to spare. It was the first time I had finished AWA with 5 mins to spare. I reviewed the entire essay and corrected some typo errors. I fumbled with the IR. All the practice tests I had done didn't help me in finishing the IR section. The section time expired as I was answering the second bit in the last question. I don't know how it is going to affect my scoring. This was a rude shock. I thought I'd finish it on time, but failing to do so gave me the kick required to start my engine.Break1
After the shock of not finishing the IR section, I badly needed the break. I went to the washroom and splashed several handfuls of ice cold water on my face. Splashing cold water always helped me relax. I took a few sips of water and returned to my place with 2 minutes to spare. Keen to avoid a repeat of IR, I jotted down the timing strategy on the scratchpad. With seconds to spare, I resumed the exam.Quant Section
The Quant section flew by. I started to concentrate on the timing right from the first question. Within 15 mins, I found myself answering the 10th question. At that point when I felt that I was coasting, I started feeling that the questions were getting easier. I suffered a bout of self doubt before I could pull myself together and continue the exam. I modulated my speed and the questions sped by. With 15 mins to spare, I answered the 35th question. It took 6 mins to answer the last two questions. I decided end my section as taking more time for the questions would decrease my scoring. Over the entire Quant section, I guessed 3 questions and moved on. All in all, I felt better in the second break than while taking the first one. Break 2
I followed the same procedure in the second break. I reminded myself that it was the final stretch and I need to stay focused till the end of the exam. I drank several sips of water and requested the exam proctor to decrease the AC level in the room. After jotting down the timing for the Verbal section, I mentally reviewed my error log
for RC and pitfalls I frequently succumbed to. Verbal Section
I knew that my luck held on when I found that I didn't get an RC until the 8th question. RC's were my weak point as I usually tend to skim through the passage instead of reading it critically. I spent nearly 8 mins struggling to understand the passage ( it had 3 questions) before giving up on it. The rest of the section was a breeze. The other two RC's were quite easier than the previous one and I spent optimal time (2 mins reading the passage and 2 mins each question). I reached the 35th question with 20 mins to spare. I divided the rest of the time equally to all the questions, keeping two mins as buffer for the last question. I finished the section with 3 mins left in it. Muttering a quick prayer, I ended the exam. Deciding to report the score whatever it might be, I chose the report scores option. Results
The result stumped me. Literally. I got the same score down to the split as I had got in my last two practice tests. Q50 V41
IR 6 67 Percentile
AWA 6 91 Percentile
Although I was disappointed that I couldn't crack the 99 percentile, I was happy with the score. I collected my report sheet praying that I haven't messed up my IR too badly by not finishing the section.
The IR is disappointing. I wish I had taken care of the timing in that section too.
My Takeaways from the exam
Scoring 750 in less than 35 days is possible, and I have successfully validated my belief to do so. For those who feel that power packed short term prep is the way to go, these are my takeaways.1. Cover all your bases:
When you are planning to give an exam with a short prep duration, we tend to miss covering some portion of the topics. Make sure that you diligently cover all the areas. Using a single book helps in keeping a track of all the topics to be covered. Kaplan Premier 2013
will be quite useful in this regard. 2. Don't aim too low
It is very important to avoid aiming low, especially when one is preparing for a short duration. It is a general tendency for someone to measure achievable score with the duration of preparation. Time and again, I've seen many people scoring high with comparatively less duration of preparation. One always confuses duration with the level of preparation. Set a realistic target + something further.3. Application is the key to success.
The key to unlock success is not just finding the right ingredients and the formula. The effort one expends in applying them in their quest for success plays a major role. I've mentioned instances in which I felt sluggish in implementing the various guidelines I had set for myself. With my score in hand, I can assure you that sticking to them at the lowest ebb had helped me in crossing the hurdles. There were days when I felt like postponing the error log
compilation, but I forced myself to stick with it. The hard work paid off when I could revise the complete list of mistakes within 24 hours before the exam. All the effort I put into the error log
helped me overcome the last hurdle of the race.4. OG & GMATPrep questions are pure gold
Sometimes, I regret that I used one GMAT Prep practice test early in the preparation stage. I felt that I lost a perfectly good practice exam due to negligence. However, it taught me the importance of OG questions provided by GMAC itself. OG questions always inspire a brand of confidence. Maybe it's due to the fact that the prep companies are duplicates of the original thing. Treat each question as a chance to answer a question that comes in the exam. Use them diligently in your preparation. Work on them multiple times if you get time. Avoid questions from any test prep companies during the last 2 days before the exam. They may be too easy or too tough than what is asked in the exam. 5. Review your Error Log frequently:
Always pay attention to your error log
. It is your personal scorecard. Enter each and every mistake you did during the preparation stage as well as the CATs. Go through the log after each and every practice test. This helps in keeping your mistakes at the front of your mind and avoiding the same ones. The more mistakes you log and review
in your revision phase, the less you make in the test day.
GMAT Club has played an immense role in my success. The site has provided me with tools of my choice which helped me approach the battle in my manner.
The following folks deserve a special mention.
: Following Bunuel's posts was the best decision I've taken for my Quant preparation. Each day he works diligently in bumping up threads, answering queries, providing solutions in an elegant and crisp manner and lots more. I made a list of all his suggested methods and applied them in my Quant practice daily. I tweaked quite a few of them to suit my purpose, which helped me in coasting through the Quant section
: Nimalan's post was in the right place at the right time. His post provided me the boost I needed to go forward with my strategy and achieve the target. His post allowed me to make two important modifications to my plan.
GMAT Premier instead of MGMAT.
b. Day Gap between examsKaplan
GMAT Premier was the book I needed to effectively execute my plan. MGMAT material, although really good, would have been too cumbersome to complete in a crash course. After reading his post, I realized the importance of taking a day to go through our mistakes before attempting the next practice CAT.
: You are simply awesome. You've done all the groundwork on behalf of hundreds of AWA aspirants. Your post helped us enjoy the fruits of your labor. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work.
My family and friends had been supportive over the entire duration of my preparation. They've allowed me to bail out on most of the things, so that I could devote my already limited time in preparation.
Last but not the least, the one person who drives me is my inspiration. You're there in all the things I do. I wouldn't have done this without your presence. Thank you.