Here is a summary of my journey -
I am an Indian with engineering and business background. My target is to get into one of top 10 schools to pursue my interest in finance. Given my engineering background, I am strong in quantitative. But not that strong in verbal sections, especially, english grammar [That's the cool way of saying I suck in grammar
I started preparing for GMAT around last week of August'04. As I was targeting round 2 of all schools [by Jan'05], I knew I had very little time. First thing I did was to book a test slot for Nov 13th - I thought if I do badly then I can give another try in December.
Here is the list of books I used -
- Math Workbook
2. PR - Verbal Workout
2004 + CD ROM
4. Kaplan 800
5. OG - 10th version [Only the verbal sections]
6. Arco - GMAT CAT Answer to Real Essay Questions
7. Crack-GMAT Software [Waste of time. Don't use it]
I started with the first 2 books to understand the concepts. I think, PR-Verbal workout is good. The strategies and rules are clear and nice. I flipped through Kaplan
- Math Workbook just to refresh my memory. During this time, I tried to identify the areas of comfort and concern.
Areas of comfort => All quant stuff [excluding silly mistakes], Critical Reasoning
Areas of concern => Sentence Correction and Reading Comp, Silly mistakes in quant due to over-confidence.
Then I started with the full tests. Here are the details -
KAP Diagnostic 660
KAP TEST1 600 [Q = 50, V = 29]
PP1 680 [Q = 49, V = 33]
KAP TEST2 600 [Q = 50, V = 29]
PP2 680 [Q = 50, V = 29]
KAP TEST3 590 [Q = 50, V = 29]
KAP TEST4 640 [Q = 50, V = 35]
Crack-GMAT1 680 [Q = 54, V = 28]
PP1 [repeat] 740 [Q = 50, V = 41]
PP2 [repeat] 750 [Q = 51, V = 39]
KAP TEST1 [repeat] 590 ????? [This was 2 days before GMAT !]
I found many people on this forum saying that the practice test scores are no way similar to actual exam. So, I took these test as a stamina building and weakness identification exercise.
My study plan was quite simple. I have a full time job but very little family responsibility. So, I used to study 1-3 hours perday on weekdays and 7-10 hours per day on weekends. As per advice from other members and my friends, my primary focus was on OG. I cann't stress it more. It is THE book for verbal. So, everyday I used to make it a point to solve about 10 questions each from SC and CR, and about 2-3 passages from RC - all from OG. Again, understanding the answers is VERY VERY important. After few days it almost became a habit ! Another rule that I laid down for myself was to take at least 1 full test on every weekend (and sometimes 2). Other then these 2 rules I didn't have fixed plan. When I got some extra time, I covered Kaplan
2004 book and the CD too. Quant questions in Kaplan
are good but verbal is not as good as OG. Verbal in Kaplan
is too tough.
Starting from first full time test, I gave all the practice tests in as close to actual test environment as possible - wrote the essays, took 2 five minute breaks and even wore my shoes in all the tests ! I know it may sound funny, but the idea of giving the 4 hr practice tests is to avoid any unforeseen distraction at actual exam. So, it is a good idea to take the tests seriously. At times it is too tempting too skip the essay part. I will advice against it.
As many people have already pointed out in this forum, it is very very important to understand the answers. For every question that I got wrong, I used to go through the explanation (and curse myself for being so stupid
). I did all my tests and answers in one notebook. So, fortunately I had the error log
. (Though I didn't have any conscious plans of keeping an error log
The main problems I had in quant was to avoid making silly mistakes. In first few days I used to finish every quant question in about 1 min and in the process used to make silly mistakes. So, major challenge for me was to slow myself down and double check every answer, especially, DS questions. I brushed up few permutation, combination and probability theories too [pretty basic ones really]. Quant was my strength. I was an ace in all math related subjects throughout my career. [Sorry if I sound pompous. I don't want to give the impression that quant is easy on the exam.]
For RC - I took some advice from this forum. The Kaplan
and PR strategy of skimming through the passge didn't work for me. So, I changed strategy and read the passage carefully and took notes too. That solved my RC problem.
But, even after using all strategies and OG questions, the SC problem remained. I have to admit - my knowledge of grammar is not that good. I think for SC (and CR too), this forum is the best place. Last few weeks, I watched and participated in the verbal forum
. Some of the posts on that board were real eye openers for me.
Last few days
After I finished OG, I started with Kaplan 800
. As the book says, it contains a lot of tough questions. Again, I skipped the Quant part of it. I was able to crack the difficult RCs and CRs in the book. That gave me a lot of confidence. But, SC was bad as usual. Apart for Kap 800, I focused a lot on the discussion on the verbal forum
. From OG, I reviewed all the SC and CR errors that I have made. It is VERY important to review your errors.
Again, I started looking at the essays from Arco. I don't think anyone needs to spend a lot of time on them. Once you understand the format, it is not a big deal. As most business schools admit, it is not a very important part either. I will come to that later.
Last 2 days
Thursday [11/11] was a holiday in my organization. So, I gave the last 4 hr practice test from Kaplan
[it was a repeat] and got 590. Though I was trying not to think too much about the score, it shaked me a little. So, that's why I requested everyone to wish me
I went through few last minute notes. On Friday, I decided not to study at all. [I went through some essays though. They are like bed time stories]. I went to office on Friday because I knew if I stay at home I will drive myself crazy. It all depends on your personality. If you think taking a day off before exam will help then better to take the day off.
I went with a relaxed mindset - It is not the end of the world and it is not an one time exam. If screw up this time, I can give again in December. Reached the center 1 hour in advance. They quickly set me up. So, I didn't have to wait long. Previous day "shygo" gave a good advice - "Don't strain yourself too much in this section. Use this section to compose yourself for the next two sections". I used that advice. I didn't try to write the best essay in my life. Instead I tried to bring myself to exam mode. I wrote in a relaxed mood and finished 2-3 min early [each of them]. I don't know whether it happens to everyone, but I take few minutes to come to exam mode. So, the first hour on the essays really put me on the exam mode. At the end of it, I had a feeling that I did well. I took the 5 min break - jumped in the restroom and stretched in the waiting area
First 3-4 quant questions were really easy. Then the difficulty level started rising. I was very careful till 15th question. My strategy was 7 in 15min, 14 in 30 min and so on. I was going as per plan. I saw a combination problem in first 15 - but a real easy one. Nothing compared to what I have seen in the quant forum
I got stuck on one question around 19-20. And when I checked time on question 24, I was running behind schedule. So, picked up the pace a little. But it was difficult. I would say the level of difficulty was almost like Kaplan
. But the types of questions were not exact replica of Kaplan
. My point is - Be prepared to be surprised. Just keep in mind - none of the questions are "complex". So if it appears complex then may be you have to approach it from some other angle. If you have done the available material in Kaplan
and brushed up your basics, I guess, you will do fine. Don't let the odd type of questions freak you out. The last question was permutation but I didn't have time to solve it completely. So, I narrowed down to 2 and then guessed
Took the second break. Same routine - jumped in the restroom, stretched in the waiting area and flirted with the test administrator (just kidding.... if you think talking will disturb your concentration then no need to talk.)
Here is an advice - ask for fresh scratch papers after the quant section. That way you don't have to worry that you will run out of papers. I did the same thing. Started the verbal section. As expected, saw 3-4 SCs then one 50 line RC. The RC was easy [I will come back to SC later]. Then few more SCs and CRs. I took more time then I generally used to take. I have heard that you should see 2 RCs in first 15 questions in order to get a good score. So, I was little scared... but I didn't have much time to think about it. Around 18-19 there came 2 back-to-back RCs. I think I cracked them well. The passages were interesting (well - at least considering ETS standard they were good). After 24 questions I was left with only 26 min for rest 17 questions. So, I had to rush. The last RC was about 60 lines. It was a bit difficult. I got 2 boldfaced questions in CR. I don't know why people are scared of boldfaced questions. I think it is because of the fact that not many questions are available for practice. I found those 2 questions much simpler then some other CRs. Yes, it takes sometime to read all the choices carefully. Now coming back to SC - I was not able to use many "rules" in the exam. I think that's where I got the most help from the verbal forum
. Because I have practiced and seen so many questions on the verbal forum
and from OG, I guess, I internalized the rules. So, even though I didn't explicitly think about rules, I applied them pretty OK. But, during the exam I was feeling uneasy thinking that I am not using the grammar rules. Towards the end I felt my concentration is wavering a bit. So, I closed my eyes for 10-15 seconds and took deep breaths. I know it is very difficult to do that during exam, but if you can do that I think it helps. I finished the verbal section 5 second before time. But then ETS came up with their stupid survey. Finished the survey and confirmed for the millionth time that "Yes" I want to send the scores
After the verbal section, I was thinking that I will get somewhere around 680-720. But got 750 !!! Couldn't believe I got 41 in verbal
Some tips from my experience [very similar to what other's have posted]
- Identify your weak areas and concentrate on them.
- Keep an error log
. Or at least do all your tests and practice in one notebook so that you automatically have a log. It is VERY VERY important to review your errors and understand it.
- Don't get disheartened by practice scores. I know it is easier said then done. But at least try not to ....Everytime you feel upset about the score talk to yourself and say that the main purpose is stamina building. Personally I felt it today that you tend to do better in the real exam.
- Do everything to maintain cool before and in the exam (e.g., drinking water, juice, thinking about how you will celebrate if you get a good score etc)
- NEVER give up. Remember it is not so much about intelligence as it is about perseverance and planning. Schools don't want scientists, they want people who can think logically, plan clearly and communicate properly. Most of us have been working for years - we just have to channelize that energy towards GMAT.
- For verbal practice, OG is THE book and this forum is extremely helpful.
- Don't give Kaplan
practice test just before actual GMAT. It tends to screw up the timing strategy. PP is the best before exam.
This section of the forum about sharing GMAT experience is a real confidence booster. I wrote this long post because in past I have found long and detailed posts about exam experience to be very motivating [at least it used to help me a lot]. Hats off
to all the guys on this post for their perseverance, helping attitude and never-say-die philosophy.
I will start working on my applications. I will try to participate in the quant forum [as I claim it to be my strength
] and see if I can add any value. If you need any further information, feel free to private message me. If I can, I will try to answer.
Thanks and best of luck to all of you. You "WILL" succeed