I finally finished with the GMAT and scored a 710 (IR:5, Q:49, V:38) on Friday Nov 22. I know it is not brilliant compared to the 750+ out there but after 6 times I am satisfied. I was hesitant to write this debrief because I am a little embarrassed of my situation. However, I do feel like there might be people out there like me (on the verge of giving up) so this debrief might benefit them and help them go on!
I started studying for the GMAT back in Sept 2011 and, in between, took it 6 times (basically once every 6 months). ---> And failed each time!
I think I might be the only person out there that took so many prep courses but could still not succeed till 2 years later.
Background: I am a Chinese American and went to school my whole life in America. I graduated with a BBA (GPA 3.9) on May 2011 and was advised by others to pursue a PhD in organizational studies. I know getting into a PhD program is a lot more competitive than a MBA program but all my professors and mentors encouraged me to go straight into a PhD program. This means I have to get a very high GMAT score even though I have very good recommendations, GPA, research experiences, etc. Like many people, I also had a full time job in the beginning of my studies. I was a loan officer for a credit union and put in 50+hours a week with my job.
GMAT #1 November 17 2011: 600 (Q 46, V 27)
I started studying for the GMAT May 2011 and did not know how to approach it at all. I decided to register for Princeton Review because when I took the SATs back in the day, they helped me achieve a high score. It was a 2 month classroom course and as I went through the course I got more and more discouraged. Don't get me wrong. I was probably one of the highest scoring student in that course (Most aimed for a 500) but after 3 weeks I knew I needed more than this course to get over a 700 on the GMAT. After a bunch of web searches, I signed up for GMATCLUB and started reading reviews on good self-prep material. I came across the MGMAT books
and purchased the whole set. When I started reading them I felt so enlightened because it answered many of my questions that I did not even know how to approach. I kept on going through the books, contuined my Princeton course, and practiced with the OG 12th
ed. I think I was about 3/4 done with the MGMAT books
and had only 1 week left before my GMAT. At that time, my CATs ranged from 400s to high 500's (If I could remember right). I ranged around a 40-45 on the Quant and 20-33 on the Verbal. I was thinking of postponing the test till later and only wished I knew about MGMAT books
earlier. I decided to just give it a shot and since I always score better under pressure I might actually get higher than my CATs. I took it and got a 600. Okay, so it is not great but it was way better than my CATs and I was very motivated that after more studying I will soon get to my target score.
GMAT #2 May 15, 2012: 620 (Q 45, V 31)
After I scored a 600 I decided I needed to find a better prep course since I almost finished the MGMAT books
and reading it over to try to process the information more carefully won't work for me because I have very good memorization skills but cannot apply those skills after I feel I read it once. After research, I could not decide between a MGMAT course or a Knewton course. I knew MGMAT was great but it was quite expensive and Knewton was cheaper and had a 50 point guarantee. I finally decided to go with a Knewton course but, at the same time, I had change at work (got promoted and put on more hours). I kept on taking the course but it so many things started happening that I thought that GMAT/PhD was not meant for me. I suddenly got an offer at another company that was 100 times better than my current job, pay and opportunity wise. I went through 10 interviews with that company and just kept on saying to myself that I could handle studying at the same time. After the whole interview process (I had to submit project and proposals for each one) I probably lost half of my studying time. Okay, this is stupid, but I asked myself what I really wanted and at the end I decided to decline the offer because if I take the job I would not have enough time for studying or school. Why didn't I think of it before I started the interviews? I don't know. Probably because I think I am a genius and could handle everything (I am also a single parent with a 9 year old daughter). Okay, I'm retarded. Anyways I continued my Knewton course but my CATs varied so much. I really did understand and practiced everything but I would constantly get 500's on the Knewton CATs. I think I went to take a GMAT Prep CAT after all the Knewton CATs and got a 650. On MGMAT CATs I got low 600's on all of them. So like most humans, I decided not to accept the truth and said to myself that Knewton CATs suck and were inaccurate. I took the GMAT and got a 620!
---> I did finish the course and got my money back from them since I did not get 50+points.
GMAT #3 October 26 2012: 550 (Q43, V23)
The more I am writing this, the more I am getting mad at myself so I am just going to cut to the point. I took a vacation after my 620 GMAT score, took practice CATs when I came back and somehow got a 670 on a CAT. My confidence went back up and I decided to go with a MGMAT course since their books helped a lot for the first test and I felt guilty that I didn't go with them from the beginning. I also took a GMAT Pill course sine they had a guarantee and they had good reviews. I also decided to turn part time at my job so I could concentrate on studying more. I actually do not know what happened this time but ended up getting a 550!
GMAT #4 May 21 2013: 590 (Q44, V28)
I honestly thought that the system had an error and was going to take it 30 days after until I saw an AD with Economist
GMAT and I liked its adaptiveness and decided to enroll in their course. Honestly, at this point, I think I was just lying to myself the whole time. The course actually gave me a lot of confidence but I didn't realized till the towards the end that it is just that their stuff is a lot easier and not like the real GMAT. I decided to take the GMAT again because I did have high 600 scores on CATs. Took it and got a 590!
GMAT #5 Oct 5 2013: 620 (Q40, V35)
I actually wanted to get a private tutor at this time but I don't know what stopped me and I decided to enroll into a E-GMAT
course. It was my best choice!!! I know they are known for improving verbal for nonnatives and I am a native but there was something in me that I never really wanted to admit. The reasons why my CAT scores varied so much is because of my verbal. I would sometimes get really high and sometimes get really low. I really did not know why because I remember that Knewton would say that GMAT measures will not vary like that. Then I realized that I am a native that is kind of like a non native. If this debrief is too long and tiring you out then don't care about this part but some people might be able to relate to this --->
I always spoke Chinese at home and from elementary to 7th grade I was put into a learning disability class. I was actually taken out of the learning disability class a couple of times and transferred to a ESL class because the schools did not understand how I processed information. I did speak English with my friends but I guess because I never went through the normal American schooling I did not understand the basics of English. Of course I never knew this till now because after 7th grade I was taken out of the disability program and put into normal schooling and from then everybody thought that my light-bulb finally opened up. Two years later my grades were so good that I was in honors, top in HS, Dean's list, top 10 in college, Summa Gum Laude etc. Because of all these recognitions and awards I never noticed my weaknesses. EGMAT
made me realize my weaknesses and I finally knew how to approach every question on the verbal section esp SC. After I took EGMAT
my accuracy improved from a 40-80% to a 95%. I almost got every question right on the verbal! Of course this is without time pressure. Their method is a lot longer and I will actually take 5 minutes to solve a SC question. Through practice I got this down to 2-3 minutes per question. GMAT day was getting close so I just went for it and got a 620. To my surprise this time I actually got higher in Verbal even though I ran out of time and guessed on the last 10-15 questions.
GMAT #6 Nov 22 2013: 710 (Q49, V38) DONE!!!!
I am so retarded and I guess since I was practicing verbal so much that I stop practicing math that I scored a 40 in Quant. Also, during the test I ran out of scratch paper and I couldn't get the proctor to give me more. (its complicated... I was a mess and wasn't really thinking) Anyways, I was thinking of self preping afterwards but decided to enroll in Magoosh
since it was cheap and had could reviews. It also had a guarantee. The course was great actually. Their verbal was just like all other courses besides EGMAT
so I just used the verbal for practice questions to quicken my speed. The Quant was awesome though. It wasn't too hard, made you understand basics but applied it to very difficult problems. After the course, I would constantly score around a 650 and this is where GMAT CLUB resources come in. GMAT Club is so awesome. They have everything!!! I purchased Question Pack 1 from GMAC and used GMAT CLUB for explanations. Once I realized my weaknesses, I would take that topic and take quizzes from GMAT CLUB tests
. I had confidence that I will do pretty good this time because I finally got 700s on CATs. I took it and got a 710!!!!
The reason I am so detailed and included seemingly irrelevant info for this debrief is that I want to tell people out there that the most important thing to understand to score well on the GMAT is to understand your weaknesses. Do not lie to yourself and whenever you do not understand a question, dissect the question. Dissect yourself. What do you lack to understand this question? From all this I really got the understanding of quality is better than quantity. Mo matter how many problems you practice, if you don't fully understand why you got it wrong and how you will get it right the next time, you will not get the most out of the problems.
Additional tip: Please do not let the CATs discourage you. My CATs scores varied so much throughout my studies and even at the end, right before my last test, I got a 640 on a GMAC Prep CAT. The important thing about CATs is for you to practice your stamina and know your timing.
For those out there that feel that they should give up and that the GMAT is not for you: Believe me, you could do it! If I can with these retarded moves, then you could with smarter moves.