My 5 months of effort finally led to a happy 760. I am writing a competitive exam after nearly a decade and this exam has been a huge learning experience, both in terms what the exam tests and how to get work done along as a working professional, the latter being an extremely important factor in my success.About Me:
Busy working professional. Am out of the house 10 hours a day including commute. I do have friends and like to party on the weekends. Finding time to study was difficult.Test day experience
Integrated Reasoning: During mocks, IR usually has been a race against time. However, on the actual exam it was relatively smooth. There are a couple of interesting charts, one of them being the relationship diagram which are easy to do once you figure out how to get through them. I got stuck in a 2 part CR question (Most support, most weaken). However, since I had saved some time initially, I was able to complete this section on time. The key thing to IR – Make sure you are comfortable with MSR and GI questions. This gives you all the bandwidth you need for the 2 Part questions. Quant Section
: This section started badly. Was completely stumped by the first question.. was a typical number properties question and I mis-read it. Spent 5 minutes on it. However, I was not disheartened. If anything, this just propped me up. Timing was never a problem for me in quant and I did finish the section on time in spite of the initial blip. I did see a probability question – nothing difficult. I did see a couple of interesting coordinate geometry questions (DS) as well. I felt that the exam tested fundamentals. There were hardly any long calculations or solving. Refreshments
: There are many recommendations that I have seen on this forum, with Gatorade being the most common one. I feel refreshed after drinking a lemonade. I did have a granola bar as well. I did see people recommending chocolates, however it leaves a strong aftertaste which I find distracting. Verbal Section
: I had strict timing guidelines for this section. 20 minutes for first 10, 18 each for the next 20, and 19 minutes for the last 11. First 10 went smooth and on time, including an RC. Saved one minute for the next 10 (no RC). Got RC on 21 – a surprisingly long one. That one minute gain allowed me to be calm and comprehend it fully and plough through it. Got a couple of confusing SCs in between. Weird comparisons and constructions, where one had to choose the best out of worst choices. Had to apply POE on them. I had 18 minutes left for the last 11. Told myself, all the hard work is done – need to focus a little longer. Thankfully, nothing weird in the last 11. One more thing – I got a boldface question somewhere between 15 and 20.My recommendation
: Never double guess yourself during the exam. You know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. Worrying about what you don’t know will just make it worse. Just focus on doing the best and getting over with the exam.My Preparation
I started prep in September. Started the traditional way was purchasing the Kaplan
GMAT Premier. I got a really good introduction to the GMAT, however nothing more. As a researched forums I realized that MGMAT was the way to go. So ordered the full set from Amazon.
The entire bundle is good value. You get a thick set of books, the tests and other support from MGMAT. The quant bundle is a great refresher. It was easy to read and sift through. I could complete the quant preparation in a month. The books probably cover every topic out there. However, when I look back, I believe that I could have saved 15 days of prep time had I known the areas where I need to work on. It would be really great to have a 100 question diagnostic that tells you what you need to work on (37 questions are too few).
The verbal part was not so great. The SC book is really comprehensive but is a chore to read. The first couple of chapters are great but after that the book introduced so many grammatical terms that I was thoroughly confused. The book was really difficult to read after a full day’s work. It seemed to me as if I was studying to be a grammarian rather than an MBA.
I saw a few explanations from e-GMAT
on the SC forum. They were great. I check around and found e-GMAT
was highly recommended for non-natives. I decided to give it a try. This was much better than reading a book – something that I could do after my work day. Surely, I learned rules, but this time, I understood the reasoning behind them. I attended a free lecture by Payal, one of the SC instructors at e-GMAT
, and I was blown away by the meaning centric approach. It just worked so well on SC questions. After that lecture, I decided to take up the course. They sent me a 40 day study plan and all the practice material. It was intensive but something that I could do along with my work. I am glad that I did this because this gave me a focus on what I needed to complete to ace the test. Overall, I would highly recommend this course to anyone who needs help in Verbal. This course is a game changer.Mock Tests
There are two things that I learned about mocks:
1. Taking (free) mocks from different companies is useless.
2. GMATPrep is the most accurate assessment.
I used three sources for mocks – Grockit, MGMAT and GMAT Prep. I used all three for different purposes. I got Grockit with my eGMAT
purchase. I used that resource to prepare for mocks. I would create section wise quizzes (SC. CR. RC) or entire Verbal Quizzes just to know where I stand in a section. The nice thing is that Grockit has a huge question bank and some solid analytics behind it. I did 6-8 verbal quizzes. I went on to MGMAT mocks only when I reached 80% accuracy on these verbal Quizzes. I also did about 10 quant quizzes mainly to see the areas that I needed to work most on.MGMAT
: Then I moved on to MGMAT mocks. MGMAT mocks are a good way to test yourself and to build stamina. I did 4 MGMAT mocks – scores 660, 690, 720 and 740. I realized that quant in these mocks was a lot more calculation intensive. Nevertheless, they have impressive reporting capabilities and even though their scoring is not the same as that of GMAT Prep its very consistent and hence these are a good tool to track your progress. GMATPrep
:I saved them for the last 20 days. Took three mocks (the first one twice). Scored, 720, 740 and 740. These are most representatives of the real GMAT. Excellent questions. I would say that SC on GMAT prep is quite different (more difficult) from MGMAT mocks. CR questions are a bit more tricky as well. RC is very comparable.
I did solve all the GMATPrep questions after I completed the mocks. Make sure that you go through the GMATprep documents posted on GMATClub. They are the best questions out there. Most of the gmat prep questions have been responded to by experts. Make sure that you read those explanations.So where does Ping Pong come in
Yes, all the above led to my success. However, the biggest contributor to my success was the support from my wife. My study time took out 90% of our together time. So to make the most of the remaining 10%, we developed a routine to play ping pong for a few minutes every night. There is more below but I would tell you that support from family and friends is probably the most important contributor to one's success.Things that worked for me
Acing the GMAT is no rocket science, yet it requires a lot of effort. Here are a few things that helped me get there.
1. Make routines
: Studying was not a part of my daily routine. Initially, I had to make a decision every day as to when to study. I had to seek permission from my wife who always had plans. Overall, this was stressful. To do away with this, I decided to devote 7-9 for studying – 4 days a week. That way I did not have to decide when to study. We would have a light snack 6.30. Once we made these changes, studying became a lot more productive.
: I have read many people say that they do well when attacking one section, yet falter on the mock or the exam. The fact that I did those Grockit quizzes, gave me a lot more confidence that I would perform well. It also helped me with the timing strategy for the exam. I never double guessed myself in the exam.
3. Invest in good sources
: Invest in purchasing mocks instead of taking the free ones. It will help you compare your performance and also ensure that you are being tested on concepts presented in OG 13
. Similarly, if you are busy professional I recommend investing in prep course as it will keep you on track.
4. Spend time on the correct problems
: As I did 6-7 mocks, I realized that the best way to maximize my score was to keep the time, and to spend time on problems that I was confident of answering. Never, take a question personally (especially on verbal). Take a guess and move on if you are not confident about it.
5. Do something interesting along with studying
: Studying took two hours away from my day everyday. So I had to do something to compensate for it. I purchased a table tennis (ping pong) table. Those 10 to 15 minutes of ping pong were a great stress buster.
6. Imagine success
: There were days when I was down, did not want to work. On those days, I would read success stories from people such as Santanu, read stories of people getting fellowships form the likes of Darden, Tuck etc. I kept telling myself that GMAT is not a chore but an investment in my future, probably my biggest investment. That kept me going all along.
I know that this has been a long post. I hope you find it helpful. I have learned a lot, been motivated by a lot of people on GC and BTG. This is my chance to give back. I will be happy to take any questions.