First off, I want to thank all the member of this forum, over the past year I have benefited a lot from this forum, and now hope to return (or at-least begin to
) the favour.
Originally I wanted to post this debrief much earlier. My initial draft was almost 5 pages. Would have posted that, but didn’t want to bore you guys with my needless story. Anyway, after some introspection I have narrowed down the major mistakes & shortcomings that I suffered from. I want to share with you guys how I evolved & overcame these challenges. Hopefully my story will be helpful for someone else.
I had to take the GMAT thrice to get the score I wanted, and each time I had to muster greater courage than before. Now I feel proud that I had the courage to keep fighting until I prevailed.
The key to success, at-least for me, was putting aside the fear of the exam. You guys just won’t believe how afraid I had become of the exam. It was not until I let go of the fear of failure or fear of what might happen in the future, I got the result I desired.
Preparation for the GMAT is not just about knowledge, but rather about believing that you can – not maybe you can and especially not you can’t. Take-1: Missed by a mile
My first attempt was way back in 2012. I had joined a decent prep-course, one with many competitive students. I don’t remember all the mock scores – but my GMATPrep scores were ~720 range. Even though I had done most of the content others did, still going into the exam I knew I won’t do well. I ended with a 600(47,25). Don’ts
Thoroughly research the test-prep company if you are going to join any. I didn't, just went with the hype and face value of the company. The biggest problem I faced was the High student/teacher ratio. The teachers were super busy – always!! , so almost never got any time to clarify doubts. Well – I too was at fault; I have always lacked the patience to wait around . Take-2: Improved but still off-target
No strategy: This one is a biggie, it took me another attempt to realize this one. In a nutshell – to get consistent results and replicate the performance achieved in the mocks, I had to implement a strategy for each question type and make these strategies second nature. Most good books (KAPLAN/MGMATS/PS...) have good strategies. The problem is that everything other than the mocks we practice is non-cat, so it is easier to solve question at home (achieving 80~90% accuracy) without applying any strategy, but under stressful conditions of the exam my mind would block up and I couldn’t perform as well as I should have.
Don’t let others unnecessarily demotivate you. This happens a lot. I ended up practicing out of context question for GMAT and unnecessarily was scared of the GMAT-math – considering I had always done well in high school and college level math.
After the first attempt I was devastated – didn’t expect to fall this off the mark. Meanwhile I got busy with work as I had transitioned in to the family business. It took me exactly a year, to muster the courage to start over and not to procrastinate any further. My prep this time was exhausting, I didn’t leave anything behind; well except “fear”. So afraid of the GMAT I had become that even the thought of taking a mock test would paralyze me. In-fact I even cheated on some mocks!! – Really stupid
. However this time I prepared very methodically, and to be honest, if I had the right mind-set, I would have got a much better score.
The night before the test, I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep. During the test, I was constantly afraid that I might run out of time, so I concentrated more on time slots/sections etc. than on solving questions. Ultimately got a disappointing: 670(5, 4, 49, 32). The score was 100 points off from the GMAT-prep and Exam-pack scores I got. Mocks: MGMAT (Expected score: 740-780)|G-PILL(Expected score: 800|Exam-Pack, GPREP(Expected score: 740-780)
Don’t take mocks lightly. After getting a bad score, never convince yourself that the exam is probably harder than the real GMAT. Me and a lot of my friends did that esp. for MGMAT mocks. It doesn't help. Mocks only help us analyse our weakness. Learn from them, don’t waste your energy on mock scores. Take3: Redemption
Timing is secondary. First make sure that you have the right strategy for solving each question and then practice..practice..practice!!!, timing will improve as a consequence.
Don’t make your life all about GMAT. Exercise, eat healthy, go out with friends – stay happy.
Although I did entertain the thought of applying with this score, I was not satisfied with what I had achieved. My mother, right of the bat told me to take it again. My father on the other hand asked me -- if you have put your best foot forward, why don’t you move on. I told my dad – “ Pa from childhood I have heard great thing about working hard, and that hard work always pays off. Now that I have worked so hard, if I give up all that will be so superficial -- If I give up now, I will always give up without even putting up a fight” (This combined with a few people bailing out on me, was my driving force. I wanted to share this thought with you, because until you find your driving force, you will not achieve the score you want)
So I decided to give it one more shot. But by now I had exhausted all good mocks, except Kaplan
’s. I took the Kaplan
classroom program. The course was just perfect for me. The class size was usually 2-3 students/batch. Teachers were super nice and always available for clearing doubts. The only downside to Kaplan
was the comparatively lower difficulty level of the SC questions offered on the PLS(online platform).
Although I was more determined than ever before to beat the GMAT, I was still suffering from a lot of worries, and kept procrastinating. This is another mistake I had made during my earlier attempts, and was on my way to make it again. It was in mid-Jan, when something just clicked. I realized that all this needless worry can be postponed for a later time and that procrastinating the GMAT prep won’t help anymore. I set a schedule for a month and 15 day, booked the GMAT date, set particular dates to take the mocks and went about a rigorous study plan. When the dreaded one-week deadline approached, I was still a bit unsure about my prep and wanted to reschedule. However, I knew that there is nothing new that I will learn by postponing for even another month or two, and that at this point it is all about the mind-set. So during the last week I studied very little, maintained the exercise schedule, and slept properly. Mocks: Kaplan(Expected score: 750-770)|Grockit(Expected score: 700-780| Some other free ones)Test-Day
My Test was scheduled for 1:30 pm. I reached the center well before time. Took some lunch and listened to music. The AWA prompt didn't go so well, I could hear a lot of people in the background, and I couldn't come up with a lot of solid arguments. The IR section, however, went surprisingly well (I was ahead of time, something that rarely happened). I came out for the break, ate a snickers and drank some black coffee. The math section was a breeze. Throughout, I held a 5 min lead. Also this time, I rarely looked at the clock. However, on the last question (a ridiculously easy P&C question) I panicked because I Thought I won’t be able to mark the answer, and an unmarked question holds a greater penalty. Later I realized that I had been copying a 6 incorrectly as a 10. Moral of the story don’t let stress and time get the best of you.
The verbal section was as expected, some super tough SC, weird CR questions and ultra-boring passages. Additionally, there was some ruckus in the center while I was reading my 3rd passage. As a result by the time I reached the 30th question, I was behind by 7 mins. So at this point I switched to some faster strategies (courtesy my multiple preps
Nonetheless, all this rushing towards the end made me really nervous, and I strongly contemplated cancelling my score. Somehow mustered all the courage I had left and clicked submit. Breakup (7, 50, 41, 750)
I was shocked at first & then ecstatic, well mostly shocked. The center-manager had to escort me till the gate
So that’s my story guys. The bottom line is – Knowledge can be conquered, but the GMAT tests more than just knowledge, it tests your nerves. The preparation is an evolution – for some it takes weeks, for some months, and for some years – but in the end certainly doable.
** my apologies for the long debrief. Hope someone finds it useful.I also want to share some other tips & things I did along the way:
1. Backing GmatPrep: the software has no option to reset the question pool (esp. if your using question pack/exampack). What I normally did was backup the GMATprep folder in “C:\Users\USERNAM\AppData\Roaming\GMATPrep” to some other directory. This would reset the software. When you need to take a look at the old tests/questions just copy the folder back in the above path.
2. GmatHelper: I love writing software. One thing I missed, was a tracker (error log
) for textbook questions. Although there are some great xls-based trackers are available on GCLUB, I felt I could quickly make something of my own. This is what I needed:
Step 1: Enter a textbook & the question categories
Step 2: Select the book in practice mode. Enter Qno, Category, Subtopic and start a timer. Mark ans and official ans(first time).
Step 3. Analyse the data across multiple books, based on first attempt, last attempt and worst attempt.
Step 4. Set reminder/alerts on the redo-questions
Step 5. Share the data with my teachers & friends.
So the software I wrote does all that, I am happy to share it with anyone (Its perl based)
3. Paper tracker XLS: I didn’t completely write this. But I have made a few helpful modifications.
4. MY powerscore CR
5. GPSC, GPCR: most effective & representative resources, for practicing SC and CR. For GPSC I recommend that you analyse and read about each question from MGMAT forums, whether right or wrong. These docs can be found on the following links this-was-a-collection-of-gmat-prep-sc-collected-by-sodenso-105446.htmlgmat-prep-critical-reasoning-collection-106783.html
Materials & course(s) used:
1. GCLUB Tests: Best practice for Math. Really helped me avoid silly mistakes
2. Grockit: Interesting ways to study, good questions
workbook and online course material
SC: good summaries, good strategies overall. Downside: no full length tests
5. Gmat-Pill: RC is good, I couldn’t apply other strategies. Tests were replicated from GmatPrep and OG. For retakers that’s a bit of an issue.
6. MGMAT tests: Brilliant diagnostics after tests.