The entire world came crashing down on me when I saw my score on the screen. I could not believe it! I was doing so well in the practice exams, yet I received a 550! I was confused, so was my family members, who saw me working hard for the exam, for the last three months. I was not sure what went wrong!
I spent the night after the test watching Netflix. I didn’t want to deal with the pain of pondering over the score. For the last couple of day, I started to think about the test and I was able to point out some possible reasons. Let’s start from the beginning.
(You can skip the test and the preparation part. The real problem is in the preparation part though. Nothing unusual happened during the test.)The Preparation
My GMAT journey begun on September 13, 2011, when I started the Manhattan GMAT class
. I managed to finish about 95% of the content, but about 80% of the corresponding OG practice problems, when the class ended on November 15. My cat scores clearly show the progress. First one, 500 q34/v25, taken before the start of the course, second test, 600 q46/v28, one week before the end of the course and the third one, 630 q45/v32, right after the end of the course.
I was targeting the top 5 MBA programs. Although, the initial scores were not good, I believe I have a better than average background. My undergraduate and graduate GPAs are both 3.74. My major is Mechanical Engineering. I have been working as a Software Developer for the last 3.5 years. I also initiated, funded and developed a writers platform, which received a national award in my country.
The point is that, targeting one of the top 5 MBAs did not seem impossible for me. However, I was well aware of the large Indian IT applicant pool. Although I am not an Indian, a Bangladeshi by born, I wanted to score as high as I can. So I targeted 720, the median score in many of the top 5 programs.
Near the end of the MGMAT course I realized that I won’t be able to cross the 700 barrier if I don’t plan correctly. One obvious solution is to take more time to prepare. But if I delay more than 1 month, I will have very little time to apply for the R2 and start the MBA in 2012.
The other solution is to take the test 3 weeks after the course, which is what suggested by MGMAT as well, and then take another test about a month after that. I decided to go with the 3 weeks approach. This was probably my first mistake. Cramming never works!
I scheduled the test on Dec 10, 2011. I took three weeks vacation from work leading to the test and planned to spend the vacation in three parts: reading, practicing, and revising.
I had two weaknesses: timing and verbal. For timing, I started using a handheld stop watch, instead of the iPhone app I was using at that time. For the verbal I decided to cover more materials. Here is the list of all books I used.MGMAT Books
(5 quant, 3 verbal, 2 foundations) - Covered during the courseMGMAT Advanced QuantDoing Grammar
Aristotle SC Grail
Aristotle SC 100 Collection
Aristotle RC 99
Aristotle CR Set
PowerPrep CR Bible
You can probably see the problem with my approach immediately. My second mistake is that I planned to cover a lot of materials, but included a lot less practice in the plan. For some reason, I thought practicing can be replaced with reading more materials.
During the first week, I finished 4 passages, 5 CR, 20 SC - all from Aristotle books, every morning. In the afternoon I finished a chapter from the Advanced Quant. In the evening, after returning from the gym, I read a chapter from the PowerePrep CR and skimmed thru a chapter from Doing Grammar
. Here is the CAT on at the end of first week - 670 q48/v33.
Note that, although I made a lot of improvement in quant (q45 to q48), my verbal did not improve as much as I expected, a mere improvement of 1 point, from v32 to v33. I got frustrated and I posted several posts in different forums. But did not receive any useful direction. However, I realized that I needed more practice rather than just reading a ton of books.
The continuous study without a break also started to take toll on me. I started to disliked the preparation.
I liked the PowerPrep CR so much, that I decided to finish it. At this point my schedule just fell apart. Not readjusting and following a schedule was probably the third mistake. I continued to finish PowerPrep CR and Advanced Quant. I took GMATPrep 1 on Dec 01 - 630. I forgot the quant and verbal numbers, but the verbal was clearly the culprit.
About a week before the test I started doing the OG. I had about 50% covered during the MGMAT course. I was trying to finish the rest of the OG. My fourth mistake was that I did not review OG carefully. I was just concentrating on finishing it.
Finally, the fifth mistake I made was by taking another GMATPrep on Dec 06 - 620. Taking CAT test frequently does not improve the score. I just lost my hope at this point. I was aiming simply for a decent 630-650.The Test
My GMAT was scheduled on Dec 10, three months after I started my preparation.
on the day before the test, I revised a collection of notes that I was preparing all along. I did some practice from OG. I stopped studying at 6PM and hit the gym for half an hour. I watched the movie Meet the Parents with my family. I went to bed at 11 and I think I slept well thru the night.
My test was at 1PM. I woke up at 9, ate light breakfast and got dressed. I did a quick revise from 10 to 11AM. However, I was feeling a little sleepy. So I took a fifteen minute power nap. I went to the test center, signed in and the test started.
I think my analysis of argument was pretty good. But I probably did not have a firm grasp on the issue question. I took the break. Went to the restroom, washed my face, ate a cliff bar, water.
The quant started. I was surprised to find out that there was just one minute to write down the quant timing grid. Soon the problem level started to rise. But for DS, the problem level did not rise as much. I was doing everything on time. However, I had to change the writing pad at one point during the test. I finished the test timely, and took the second break.
The verbal started. I think I was not doing bad. The question level seem to rise just a little bit. But at the middle of the test, I miscalculated the time and thought I don’t have enough time! I rushed. Probably at this point I answered a lot of questions wrong. The rest of test seemed on the very easy side. I finished the test about 2 minutes before the allotted time.
And then I was slammed with the score - 550 q47/v20! The AWA score came yesterday, a 4.5.
Individual Score GraphThe Lessons Learned
1. Do not cram everything in a short period of time. Take the time to build up your skill, slowly and effectively.
2. Do not cover a ton of books. Make a list of good and proven materials and just focus only on those.
3. Always make and follow plan. If you fall out of the plan, readjust. But don’t let it go altogether.
4. Use OG, and review your mistakes. Use OG, use OG, use OG.
5. Do not do CAT exams frequently. CAT exams don’t improve your score, practice does.
6. Take breaks, a day off etc. Do not burn yourself out in the last few days leading to the test.What Worked Well?
1. My timing sense was near perfect. Although I miscalculated the timing during the verbal, I was always on time. I used a real stop watch and it worked well for me.
2. My quant is solid now. I finished the Advanced Quant - all 150 problems. However, I will probably need more DS practice. But this is not of primary importance.
3. I studied a lot of books. So the theoretical basis is covered.
4. Although, I did not score well the exam execution was good.Future Plan
1. Need to focus on Verbal. My plan is to do 10 SC, 10 CR and 3 RC from OG everyday for two weeks.
2. Take test on every two weeks.
3. Two hour of DS every weekend.Questions to You
1. How long do I study before I take the next exam? I shifted my focus to 2012 for application. Also there is a test change coming up in June 2012.
2. Do I need to cover any other material? I know it is an absurd question. But I feel, I could use some more SC coverage.
3. Is there any other course that might be helpful for me? Should I consider taking personal verbal course? For instance, I can take MGMAT personalized verbal course for $185/hr. But it is too costly!
4. Do you see any other problem with my preparation?
5. Do you have any other suggestions?
Kudos is the best way to say Thank you.