I am very sorry this came out so long!!! I will start with my advice and then go into the actual debrief.
• Do not overburden yourself with solving too many questions each day in the days leading up to the test.
For my first GMAT I was solving q’s for 8 hours a day 10 days prior to the exam. I would stop everyday with a massive headache and feeling extremely tired. The GMAT is a marathon race - you cannot run a marathon when you’ve run 5 marathons for practice in the week preceding race day
. Be rested and that doesn’t just include one day. Consider 2-3 days rest without too much GMAT pressure. Get a day of rest even for practice tests. I only did this for the 730 practice test (coincidence?). Your performance in those makes a difference because it will give you the confidence for the big day.
• Be confident.
• Keep track of and directly tackle your weaknesses when studying.
Your score will increase only marginally if you simply solve 1,000 more random questions. You need to actually grasp the concepts. I recommend the MGMAT tests because they keep track of your weaknesses for you, and not just by section and question type but also by concept. E.g. my weaknesses were DS for question type and number properties for concept. In the 2 weeks before my 2nd GMAT I only solved RC and CR in the Practice tests and did not write any AWA’s. I made sure I focused on my weaknesses: quantitative with the MGMAT tests (especially DS and q’s with number properties and inequalities) and also focused on SC with the SC GMATPill.
• The IR of the MGMAT is much tougher than the actual exam.
Be sure they give you a calculator for the IR. My first sitting they did not give me one and I had to waste time with the computer calculator pressing buttons with the mouse.
Background about myself:
Undergrad and Masters: University of Cambridge (UK) Natural Sciences
Work: Management consulting for banks in the Middle East & North Africa region based in Dubai.
I plan to apply to top Business schools so I knew I needed a 700+.
I decided I wanted to apply for an MBA just around the end of May. So I started studying for a few hours 3-4 days a week after work for the whole of June and the first week of July. My estimate is that I was studying about 15-20 hours a week for five weeks. I registered to take the test 17th of July and took leave off work to prepare for the 10 days leading up to it (7-17th July).
I went through the entire MGMAT book
series solving all the questions after each chapter by the 10th of July and took the GMATPrep1: – 680, Q48, V35
. The rest of the 5-6 days before the test I started working through the OG 12
/13. Those 10 days before the GMAT I was solving questions for at least 8 hours every day (always timed) except the day before the test when I rested. GMATPrep 2 (14th of July 3 days before the test) – 660, Q44, V38
I didn’t have time to finish the Quantitative and left a few questions behind. I think I was getting very hard questions and was trying to finish them. So I thought to myself in the actual exam I should try and finish the Quantitative section faster. This worked to my disadvantage as in the actual exam I worked through the Quantitative too fast and had 25 mins for the last 4 questions. I was probably making too many careless mistakes and got easier and easier questions… (Q42)
On the 16th (day before) I woke up late because I thought to myself “I never sleep well the night before an exam so I should sleep well the night before that”. This failed miserably as I was too rested that last day and got almost no sleep the night before the test. This along with fact that I was almost late for the start of the exam compounded my anxiety and I was a wreck. On top of that, we had a heat wave and the air conditioning wasn’t working properly so my hands were sweating and smudging my workings. To add to my misery 15mins into the verbal section, the power went out for one hour. I went back to the test and continued where I stopped but essentially my test was prolonged for an hour this way. By the end of the test I was dead tired, hot and hungry. GMAT (17th of July) – 640, Q42, V36 | AWA 6 | IR 7
The result did not please me and I knew I could do a lot better. People were asking me how it was going, in the days leading up to it, and I always replied “it’s not going to go well”. My practice tests did not indicate otherwise - I was not confident
I knew I had to retake. Called PearsonVUE and requested a cancellation and a reschedule on the grounds of the power failure saying it negatively affected my performance (probably true to an extent, although the Quant wasn’t affected by the power cut). I waited a couple of weeks and they got back to me saying I can reschedule without paying but I cannot cancel it.
In the meantime by the 30th of July I restarted my studying realizing what I was doing wrong previously. I was just solving questions without addressing or recording my weaknesses. I needed to learn more theory not just solve questions- or at least find tougher questions.
I knew my weaknesses were: DS in Quantitative and SC in verbal (RC and CR I was consistently getting about 75-80% correct of the OG questions).
In the week 30th July – 3rd August I was just solving random questions here and there either from GMAT Club or other sources. I was mainly searching for tough math questions of the 700+ level because I thought the OG wasn’t hard enough (track down threads by Bunuel if interested in really tough math questions bear in mind though, not all are relevant). I also read somewhere that MGMAT has tougher math portions than the actual test. So I bought the question package with question banks and 6 practice tests from MGMAT, along with the GMATPill SC course. I went through most of the frameworks on the GMATPill SC course and on the 4th of August I took the MGMAT 1 – 730, Q48, V41 | IR: 3-4
(without doing the AWA).
Continued the same strategy and two days later MGMAT 2 – 690 - Q46, V38 | IR: 3-4
I was feeling more confident and was moving slowly forward. My initial plan for a retake was to take it on the 27th of August. For work reasons I couldn’t be away on the 27th and my director pressured me to take it earlier. So I had to reschedule for 3 days later 10th of August. I only accepted to do this because I was feeling buoyant from the MGMAT scores and knew I could get into the 700+.
In the last few remaining days I went more through theory completing the GMATPill 10 concepts for SC twice and went through tough math questions including the relevant question banks for my weaknesses in MGMAT, without pressuring myself too much.
The day before I read all my notes from the first time I took the GMAT (unfortunately handwritten and probably not useful for you here) including a few AWA samples I had written. Slept well the night before and woke up feeling much less anxious than last time.Result: GMAT - 720 - Q49, V40 | AWA 6 | IR 7
So essentially within 10 days (18-29 July I did nothing) with more directed learning of the concepts and some directed practice on my weak points I got +80 points (confidence also helped)! My only regret is not doing this earlier – I had another 4 practice tests with MGMAT and loads more questions, my score could have been even better!