I scored a nifty 770 (Q50, V44) on the GMAT 2 days ago, 10 points higher than what I scored on any mock test. It’s been a long journey, starting from 590 on the first GMAT Prep and I have learned a few things along the way that I would like to pass along. To be honest, at one point, I was happy with 740 so a 770 makes me extremely happy. Here is what learned about the GMAT:
1.GMAT is not rocket science
: Despite what it may initially seem, GMAT is not rocket science. The concepts that it tests are fairly simple. Having said that, it requires a lot of effort (>300 hours in my case) to score above 750, especially if you are a non-native.
2.GMAT is a test of logic
: More than a test of English language, or math proficiency, GMAT is a test of logic. While both English and math are tested to some extent, the ultimate thing that gets you the score is your ability to reason in a methodical manner.
3.Acing the GMAT requires some painful decisions
: You are going to miss friend’s birthday parties, reduce the amount of time you spend with your spouse and at times not able to spend time with your kid before he goes to sleep. But taking such harsh decisions make the difference in the end. My theory is that god watches your hard work and rewards you accordingly.
My goal was to study diligently for GMAT and get done with it in 2 month
s. But as they say, man proposes, god disposes. Finally, I am happy to be done in 4 months. Below is an account of how I prepared and the resources I used. In case you are not interested then you may skip to next section titled “my recommendations for others on the forum”.
Stage 1- Getting started
I started my preparation in March, after procrastinating for 3 months
(don’t we all love the new year resolutions). To evaluate myself I gave my first mock test and scored a miserable 590 (Q47, V25). Looking at the split, my target was to improve verbal score. Hence, I bought all 12 strategy guides from MGMAT
For the next 1 month, I worked through the Verbal guides. Barring the Sentence Correction (which was extremely detailed) guide I did not find other verbal guides to be particularly useful. I cannot imagine that the CR and RC guides were prepared by the same people who wrote the Sentence Correction guide. After going through the books, my Verbal Score did improve to V31 (first GMAT Prep 1 attempt) but I could not improve any further
. Frankly, even after going through the Sentence Correction guide twice, I did not feel that very confident. The book has so many rules and they are difficult to learn. I still remember trying the recall rules when solving SC questions. The quant books did help improve my quant score to Q49. Hence, I was happy to see my score jump to 660.
Stage 2- Getting the right approach
I was almost going to give up on Sentence Correction (I am not very good at mugging) when I attended one free session conducted by Payal from e-GMAT
on Importance on Meaning. In that session she solved some of the most challenging SC questions using a very simplistic meaning based approach without applying complicated grammar rules. Even though I had never thought about using a prep course, studying from books were not useful beyond a point so I joined their Verbal Live Prep.
The course gave me the right approach to solve Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning questions. The approach to focus on meaning is just brilliant. I had read the same in some articles, but literally seeing is believing. When I saw Payal and Shraddha take some of the most mind boggling sentences and solve them using meaning and Structure, it reminded me of my physics teacher who would solve the most complicated problems from Irodov using newton's second law
. It kindled my love for GMAT Sentence Correction. While I was quite decent in Critical Reasoning, Rajat's Prethinking technique streamlined the approach to CR. The great thing about their course is that you are required to do the audio visual concepts and solve questions as pre-work before every session. The class focuses purely on more challenging application which cements the approach in the mind. Since there is a class for everything, the course pretty much prepares you for Verbal. Also, you can ask any doubt in the live classes and all instructors are super helpful.
Overall, in 40 days, this course allowed me to improve my score to V38 in MGMAT and V40 in GMAT Prep mock (more about scoring later). I took 3 mocks at this stage - 1 GMAT Prep repeat and 2 MGMAT mocks. This improved my score to 720 -740 range (Improved my quant to 50)
Stage 3- Self improvement to 770
I found improvement beyond 40 to be extremely challenging because I did not know where to improve on. I took 3 mocks and answered between 29 and 32 questions correctly. While revising the mocks, I could point out the mistakes that I was making. My inability to improve further may also have stemmed from the fact that I was quite happy with a score of 740 in my mocks.
This changed when I attended the Verbal Workshop by e-GMAT
in which they stimulated the mock like environment for GMAT Verbal. Instead of 41 questions, this workshop contained 20 difficult questions to be solved in 42 minutes. I scored 75 on the workshop and was amongst the top 20 percentile However, the analysis that followed the workshop made me realize that when faced with a challenging problem or when pressed with time I resorted to deviating from the my regular approach to get to the answer. This often wasted time and led to incorrect answers. From then on I decided not to deviate from the process. I also decided to not spend more than 2 minutes on any question (other than the first question in RC) after question #20.
I implemented this in MGMAT#4 and GMAT Prep #2 and saw my score improve to V42. During the days before the exam, I did not take any mock test, I just resorted to solving the GMAT Prep questions by following the process. I attribute my improvement from V42 to V44 to this exercise.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OTHERS - KEYS TO SUCCESSDon’t worry about answering every question correctly
We all have limited brain power. Very important to use the brain on questions that you know well. If you are doing well, then chances are that there will be questions that you will not be able to answer. Don't spend all your time and waste your brain on that question (unless the question is in the first 5). To get the maximum score, you need to make your spend your brain power questions/areas that you are most comfortable in.
Follow the same principle in practice as well. I remember while looking at one CR question called "Tiger Beetles" which was exceeding difficult. However, as I researched more I realized that such questions are extremely rare and decided that I would skip if faced with such a question in the exam. I think that such decisions allowed me to focus my energy on excelling on most questions types without worrying about the odd ball questions types.
Do not second guess yourself during the exam
Just build a process that gets you high accuracy and trust it to work during the exam. Second guessing yourself during the exam is extremely counter productive. As the saying goes - "Believe in doing rather than worrying about how you did"
The more clear headed and organized you are during the exam, the lower are the chances that you will be feel fatigued or be behind on time. I also recommend that you do not look at the clock more than 5 times during any section as doing so more frequently can be distracting. However this would require some practice and self-control. If you have planned your timing on various sections well, you won’t spend time calculating the amount of time left, allowing you to spend every ounce of your gray matter on solving questions.
Accuracy is Key
Realize that you score points for answering a question correctly. I see many people worrying about timing early on in their preparation. I did too. Honestly, to those who are preparing, I would recommend that you build a method that gets you high accuracy and builds confidence. Timing will fall in place if you are confident.Focus on official questions
There are lots of sources of questions, however few if any match the quality of questions present in OG and GMAT Prep. A badly constructed questions harms you in two ways; One it makes you doubt your conceptual knowledge - something that is true when solving poorly built Strengthen and Weaken questions in CR and pronoun reference, tenses and modifier concepts in SC. Outside of official sources, focus on questions tagged MGMAT, Veritas
, economistGMAT and e-GMAT
. I have found that questions from these companies are generally reliable. Stay away from questions where the source is not listed. They can do more harm than good. I especially liked Mike's questions on the SC forum along with his detailed analysis.Do GMAT Prep twice
IMO -GMAT Prep is most representative of the kind of questions you are likely to see on the exam.
Do this twice - once 1 month before your preparation and then in the last week of the exam. Make sure you answer each question twice - first answer the question as you would do it in the exam ; i.e. timed condition and then spend time to justify the correct answer choice. In situations where you are not satisfied, refer to your notes, books, courses, forums to get to the bottom of things.
I prefer this method over using any analytics system such as Grockit for two reasons:
1.It is excellent preparation as it gets you in the exam mode through questions that are very representative of questions that you are likely to see.
2.If you do this well, this system will naturally expose your weakness and fix it at the same time.
One caveat – you should have nailed your timing before you try this approach.Mock Tests
Mocks are tricky business. A good mock test not only has good questions but also has a representative scoring algorighm. GMAT Prep is the best but it offers only two mocks. There is an additional paper based test that is somewhat helpful. I found that other than GMATPrep, MGMAT mocks were decently reliable. Despite having good questions, MGMAT mocks suffer a flaw - they do not put as much emphasis on first 10 questions as GMAT prep does. Hence, for a realisitic simulation, make sure that you focus on getting the first 10-15 questions right on the MGMAT mocks. This might mean spending additional time upfront but it will ensure that your end score is more representative and closer to the score you will get on GMAT Prep mocks. (disclaimer: this above is not my discovery, but a friend's who scored a 790. I agree with him though)
First 10 questions
First 10 questions matter the most: Although I said this in the previous point, I would like to re-iterate that getting the first 10 right (or 8/10 right) is key to scoring 40+. In the first stage when I scored 30 in GMAT Prep 1, I got 4 out of 10 incorrect. During the middle of my GMAT prep (stage 2), I retook the same exam and scored 40 when I got only 2 incorrect in the first 10 even though I made 4 fewer mistakes.
This debrief like my gmat-prep has become a lot longer than usual. The good thing is that I can now
hope to join the MBA tour in SFO or LA this weekend if I can take time out of my work.
Fire away any questions you have