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blow by blow account (super long post) [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 01:57
hello everyone, i just wanted to finally take a moment to go over my recent GMAT experiences and provide you all with my insights and opinions on this stressful process. i posted earlier about improving from a 610 to a 730, so for anyone out there that didn't score as well as they thought they should, stay determined and keep hope that the 2nd attempt will be much much better. that being said, here goes...

Preparation:

i started my prep around april, reading and working through problems in ARCO and princeton review... but i quickly realized that these books were too easy and not going to be representative of the actual test, so i picked up the OG 10th edition. as often said, this book is an absolute must... if you're a muslim, jew, or christian, this thing is like the koran, torah or bible. its the law man. no ifs ands or buts about it. you'll be wise to pick it up. before working through the questions, i took the two powerprep exams to see where i stood... there's alot of advice about when you should take the powerpreps, personally i think its best to take one cold before going through OG, and then one about midway through your OG studies. i did both cold cause i was so anxious to see my score on a program that undoubtably mirrors the acutal test the best. the results were not impressive PP1- 590 and PP2- 590. my weak points went straight across the board so i knew i had alot of work ahead of me. i started tackling the OG in earnest. basically i did every question in every section, timed in about sets of 20. i kept a error log and also a log of the questions that took me over 2 minutes to complete. i believe its crucial to study in a timed setting so that you get used to battling the clock and the fatigue that comes with answering multiple sets of questions. also the error log is crucial. these mistakes are your weakpoints and need to be addressed. also when reviewing your answers, be sure to review the correct ones as well and compare your method of attack to that of ETS or whatever book you may be using. this reinforces your good instincts and takes away the possibility that you got lucky and answered correctly. in any given problem, you should be able to identify what topic, theory, or rule ETS is trying to test you on and go about attacking the problem. overall, i got about 80-85% right in each section of the OG. by this point, i was feeling fairly confident on my timing and my ability to attack the questions with the ETS's mindset.

during this time, i also took the kaplan classroom course, but only because my company paid for it. i found the classroom instruction to be very basic and more geared towards those who are not looking to score in the upper 90th percentile. however, the course was beneficial for grasping critical reasoning methods and certain number properties rules. but in no way worth the $1,300 tuition. in that respect, i dont recommend the classroom course, unless of course, its paid for by someone else. that being said, i did find the kaplan course book and online tutorials, quizzes, workshops and tests to be very very useful. as everyone states, kaplan quantitative is very very difficult, so it basically prepares you for anything the actual gmat will throw. this only works to your advantage if you don't get too discouraged by missing kaplan questions and scoring poorly on thier GMAT cats and losing confidence. otherwise, i found the practise of deciphering kaplan questions beneficial to the process of problem solving. its great practice and there's a ton of questions to practise on if you take the online course. my kaplan scores were as follows: diagnostic-690, CAT1- 620, CAT2- 560, CAT3- 580, CAT4- 680. kaplan also offered full length practise tests that are not CAT, so they tended to be easier.. i scored between 690-730 on those. again, its practising the full length test, including essays, which is what is important... getting used to being under the gun and the cumulative 3 hours of having to focus.

Test day #1:
scheduled the test at noon and i woke up early but had a hard time relaxing. i was anxious and a bit stressed since i had too much time to think about what was about to happen (note: 2nd test i scheduled at 9am so i didnt have any extra time to think or stress out.) the AWA's were a cinch i felt confident that i would score well (ended up with 5.5)... so i took my break and tried to psyche myself up for quantitative. got the first question, an average problem with an inequality... too easy i thought, though i was still nervous. 2nd question was a ratio problem where you had to figure the percent difference between two variables... easy but for some reason i blanked out and it took me a few minutes to nail it.. not a good start... the following questions started to get very difficult... one on coordinate geometry, and a couple DS and PS on geometry that were near impossible... these early questions really rattled me as i struggled to keep pace at 2 minutes per question. i finished the section on time, but i had to guess at a fair number of questions just to maintain my pace througout the test. i think that was my big mistake, not plowing through solveable problems and being too quick to make a guess justto keep pace. it was like midway through the test, if i saw a problem where i could not recognize a plan of attack immediately, i gave it for guessing.. which is not a good idea. anyways take my break and tried to stay positive for verbal. start off with a few easy SC and some CR which was way more difficult than OG... CR had become my bread and butter but that day it failed me... i got one boldface early... and got hit with 4 RC passages... 3 40 liners early on, and one 85 liner at the very end... it was brutal trying to plow through those passages. they were all obscure passages too, the big one was a physical sciences one, with all sort of bizarre terminology... that killed me. when it was all over, i knew i did poorly, but i had to see my score. i knew that i would probably have to take it again so i just wanted to see what this effort was going to score, so id have a better gauge the next time around... hit the button and wham!! 610 (39Q 34V). ouch... i was bummed... disheartened... at a complete loss... all the studying was for nothing. i took a few days off and then hit the books again, and scheduled another test.. i had come too far to not try again i thought. i figured id give it one more shot and if i could not score well then, it just wasnt meant to be... really believing in this new attitude totally helped to relieve alot of stress and anxiety. if i cant get into b-school, then no big deal, my family and friends will still love me, ill still have my job that pays pretty well anyways, and its not gonna be the end of the world... i think we put way too much pressure on ourselves to perform well on this test, that sometimes its better to just try our best and accept the outcome.. lets the chips fall where they may and roll with the punches if you will.
so i studied for another month, more like just reviewing the error logs and going through the OG in mock tests by randomly picking 37 math questions and 41 verbals... i took 4 such of these mock tests to simulate the actual exam. i also reviewed my kaplan materials too. the day before the 2nd test, i took PP2 again and scored a 780... of course i remembered all the problems but it was more for raw confidence than anything else.. and sort of setting a tone for how i wanted things to go the next day. it was a good dress rehearsal. after that i put all my gmat materials away and just relaxed.

Test day #2
got a good nights sleep but i woke up with a sore and stiff neck... and a stomach ache... BUT more importanly, i didn't feel stressed out about the exam.. i had like a "lets take this test and see what happens" attitude... and i was going in feeling carefree and confident... get to the site half hour early and i start joking with testing lady about how i cant write in cursive... what the hell man, why cant we print that ETS statement... we have a good laugh about it and im feeling good... again the AWA was a breeze... i finished each with about 5 minutes to spare, which i used to rest my eyes and relax... take a break and i tell myself that i must remain calm for the entire quantitative.. to treat it like a practise test and trust in myself and my preparations. the first two questions are a joke... simple algebra and an easy DS on coordinate geometry slopes. from here on out, the problems got harder, but suprisingly, they were all solveable.. i mean it wasnt like i was completely at a loss.. so i just plowed through them as best i could. i got one easy combination, one super hard probability, lots of DS on number properties with inequalities and absolute values, one counting problem, a couple average problems... one work rates problem, one mileage problem, two problems that only involved simple conversion of feet to yards and feet to miles and seconds to minutes etc... one DS comparing median and means, one remainder problem, and one find the arc of a circle problem. suprisingly no squares or triangle problems... i have a pretty freaking good memory so i actually have a list of questions from both my exams that i memorized... but we are not allowed to post actual questions on here are we?? anyways, i finish with a minute to spare and only had to make like 3 blind guess and only a few educated guesses.. the rest i felt pretty darn confident that i got right... take my break and i remind myself that im on a roll here and to keep it up.. that its almost over and im building up to a better score... i tell myself that this is going to be my defining moment not a moment that defines me... im ready... hit verbal and wham the first SC is pretty darn hard... i get a boldface eary on and some more SC and CR that are not as easy as i thought they should be... at this point i call a 20 second time out and tell myself to relax. take each question one at a time and knock em out. the first RC is a tough one on mangerial theories... 65 liner... then more SC and CR all much more difficult than OG. the 2nd and 3rd RC passages are back to back, but the topics are my favorites ones... one on pesticides and another on womens movement... i nail both cos the reading is actually enjoyable and easy. so i gain my confidence back and start working towards closing in on #41... i mean i cant wait... it feels so great when you know youre almost done... anways, i made up so much time with RC passages 2 and 3, that by the time i get to the 4th one at question 30, i have about 22 minutes left. 4th passage is a 70 liner on engineering and stress fractures... again, interesting stuff... so i knock that one down even faster and have like 15 minutes left to work on the last 5 questions, which i needed every second cos they were difficult CR and SC's but with all the time i was able to figure them all out... whew, finish the test and blow through the question and report the score finally... it flashed and it was like how i always envisioned it would play out in my best dreams.... a 730 (47Q 42V). i was so stoked... i basically doing cartwheels out of the testing center like a little girl...

My reflections:

it is completely true that the GMAT tests your ability to handle stress more than it does anything else. in retrospect, looking back at all the problems i encountered, most of them were very much like OG and only a few were darn near impossible to answer. if given time, each question was solvable. GMAT wants you to be stressed going into the exam so that a few difficult questions here and there will completely throw you off your pace and rattle you. when that happens, GMAT has got you and you are most likely not going to recover. thats what happened to me in the first test... pre exam jitters... a couple of hard problems, and then a spiral downwards as i lost hope and trust in my abilities. theres no one easy way to relieve the stress... each person is different, but do what you can do, to limit any stress before and during the exam. you are guaranteed to peform so much better. i also realized that there's a huge component of luck in the GMAT... despite it being computer adaptive, the computer does not know what areas we favor... in the 2nd exam, i got all my favorite types of problems... i.e. DS number properties, testing positive and negative properties, work and rate problems, absolute values, ratios, plug and play problems, gross profit problems, and to top it all off, they were all in a form that i was familiar with... in verbal, i got 3 RC passages that suited me perfectly. without those specific passages, i would not have done as well as i did. so luck is a definite factor as well.

My top tips:

1. work on as many OG problems as you possibly can. keep that error log and review it religiously. when solving the problems, try and figure out what OG is asking for and what approach is the best. review correct and incorrect answers.
2. replicate test conditions at all times. that means timing all your problems, using only pencils and limited scratch paper, re-drawing all figures, and working at least in 60 minutes blocks to ensure that your endurance is built up.
3. do at least a few full length practice tests before taking the real one. you must also do the AWA portion as it will contribute to mental fatigue to a certain degree.
4. the day before the test, do a final powerprep exam to build your confidence and then try to relax and get a good nights rest.
5. on test day, trust in yourself and your preparation. stay calm at all times, and never, under any circumstance panic.
6. be aware of your pace, but don't obsess over time to the point that you can't focus on the problem at hand. this will only rush your answers and cloud your natural reasoning. give each question a good honest effort and don't completely give up on any question if you think you can solve it with a little more time. this is a difficult balancing act, as you dont want to spend too much time on any given question, but those few questions that you are close to solving may make the difference between a high and low score. this is especially true in the first 15 questions i think. therefore, adjust your pace to allow less time for questions 16-37. what i found was that once the CAT levels out, you start getting pretty easy questions from 25 onward that you can knock out in a less time. for example, i answered the last 10 questions in less than 15 minutes. plus the experimental ones are likely to be clumped in the middle of test.
7. stay focused only on the question in front of you. dont worry about previous questions or trying to judge how you're doing by the difficulty of the questions.
8. take all your 5 minute breaks and use that time to clear your head and to psyche yourself up for the next section.
9. if you feel yourself straying towards the end of the test, take a short mental break, or otherwise dig deep for the those last reserves to pull you through. its no time to be throwing in the towel when you're so close to the finish.
10. realize that your final score is NOT a reflection of your intelligence. a low score does not make you a loser or anything less than you actually are. the GMAT is not life or death. its one test of many "tests" that you'll encounter in life. but do be honest with yourself. if you feel that you can really do better as reflected in your practise exams, then definitely give the test another honest shot. nerves play a critical role, but are less of a factor the second time around.

thats about it... best of luck to everyone. i hope this super long post helps at least somebody out. i know it was posts like this that i enjoyed reading and got the most inspiration from, so i wanted to give back something. ill be checking this site periodically, more for asking about apps and programs that i might want to apply to, so if anyone has any questions, ill be happy to respond.

tvc15
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 08:39
Thanks for the long post. Your tips were excellent.
You may not notice, but this post is going to be appreciated for a long time.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 08:46
Incredible tvconefive. Thank you very much for sharing your invaluable experience. It seemed very much like a RC passage :) Wish you all the best in your applications.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 09:20
wow! your post is like a never-ending RC :) I had to skim thru, I accept.
Congrats tvconefive
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 11:50
For me, this is the most helpful post I've read on these boards. My 1st attempt last month (Sept. 7--I think I'll remember that date for a while) was VERY similar to your first attempt. Even my PP1 practice score before OG was 580. I'll probably refer to your post every week to keep me motivated until my next attempt in November.

Good luck.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Oct 2004, 21:16
Your sharing is very useful for me. I decided to try abother time to see "what will happen" and I know that I need to pace myself even during my preparation.
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 [#permalink] New post 11 Oct 2004, 22:25
im glad that post was at least helpful to some of you. riteshb, just hang in there man, and believe in yourself. and gain confidence from good preparation. think positively and forget what any detractors may say. study hard and the results will follow. same goes for you too eileen. when its all said and done, it will be so much more sweeter to have earned the score you want, after a previous disappointment. those darn first time 700+ scorers will never truly know our experiences... hehehe... best of luck!!
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 [#permalink] New post 11 Oct 2004, 23:07
that was awesome. I am sure you have encouraged a lot of test takers and for that, i thank you. :)

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 [#permalink] New post 09 Nov 2004, 02:20
It really did.
Thanks for sharing. It has been really usefull.
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Best Post Ever [#permalink] New post 03 Feb 2005, 17:24
I have to say this is the best post i've read on any gmat site....thanks for the long post and i will take the og (aka gmat bible) to heart...
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 [#permalink] New post 03 Feb 2005, 23:40
thanks aroman21... dont take the gmat too lightly and put in a good honest effort and you will get exactly what you deserve... the gmat seems like such a long time ago, after going through all the application process, but inretrospect, its a great way to get into the whole process and in the mindset that you have to make goals and clear those hurdles... in that way, a standard test like the gmat is valuable. best of luck!!!
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 [#permalink] New post 04 Feb 2005, 09:29
Congrats on an awesome score tvconefive. I too thought your post was awesome. Mostly because I know the GMAT is going to be more of a mental test than a conceptual test for me. I mean you're right, most people can figure out the Math and with some practive the verbal too, but it's not about that. I've realized that in the last few weeks before my exam. Walking into the test with confidence and calm is THE MOST important thing. I only hope that when my test date comes I am able to do that, I only hope my head does not get in the way, like it did for you on your first attempt. Again great post, I'lll be reading this many times before the exam as well, just as a reminder.
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 [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2005, 19:15
just wanted to update y'all with some great news... just got word that im in at yale SOM R2. i cant believe they notified this early. i still have other applications out on the table, but it feels great to have the first admit. now i can relax and take the load off knowing that ill be in a top tier program come fall... best of luck to those currently applying and those gearing up for the gmat!
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 [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2005, 19:52
wow!!! great gmat score, great post and great news.
Congratulations for getting admission in at Yale. You deserve it.
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 [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2005, 21:52
As my first post, I want to thank you. The details of your GMAT experience helps put the long journey I have ahead into perspective. And thanks to everyone that contributes to this site, finding it only last night, I feel very fortunate as I think this will provide a tremendous benefit to me as I prepare myself for G-Day :twisted:
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 [#permalink] New post 07 Mar 2005, 20:35
the good news keeps rolling in... just got my anderson admit!!! 2/2 now, with apps still on the table at columbia, nyu, kellogg, cornell and chicago... im telling you guys, the final payoff feels really sweet so hang in there and slug through this gmat exam and the whole application process... and itll be all worthwhile.
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Congrats [#permalink] New post 26 Mar 2005, 06:52
Congrats on the two acceptance, you truly deserve them, keep us posted on any further developments.

Every time I start to loose heart or need some motivation I look at your post and return to OG and friends.

Thanks again for the fantastic post!!! You have kept me and many others motivated on the quest for GMAT success.
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 [#permalink] New post 26 Mar 2005, 07:03
Wow, can't believe I missed this. Congratulation on your acceptance to UCLA!
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 [#permalink] New post 26 Mar 2005, 12:26
thanks again for the kind words and best wishes... just hang in there and believe in yourself.

as an update, ive also received admits from chicago, nyu and usc... that makes me 5/5 now.. i really feel like i have a good handle on what the adcomms are looking for so any help i can provide in the app process for you guys, just ask away... next thursday is the deadline (d-day) for my remaining three apps... kellogg, columbia and cornell.. obviously at this point everything is just gravy... but if i shoot 8/8 from the field, man id feel like michael jordan or something...

then will come the difficult but enviable position of deciding where to go! keep the faith and best of luck...
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 [#permalink] New post 26 Mar 2005, 13:02
Hi there
You must be marvellos with your essays and you must have terrific profile. Best wishes for 8/8 and I trust you will get that was well.
Perhaps you could share your essays points.
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  [#permalink] 26 Mar 2005, 13:02
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