I gave the GMAT this week and scored a 730 - 96th percentile. I've received a lot of help from this forum so I intend to give something back through this debrief. This is going to be really long, so please skip to sections that interest you.
I've seen a whole lot of debriefs here on GMATClub and most of them are immensely useful. I really don't know how much I can do to add to those, besides, I don't want to confuse those of you who've already fixed on a strategy. Hence, I'll try to not to advocate a particular strategy and will stick to pointing out what I did during my preparation and what might help you.
I'll go reverse chronologically as many of you will probably want to know my actual test day experience:Test day experience (and the day before)
I've read a number of debriefs where people say that the day before the test should be spent relaxing or doing anything apart from studying. However I've always been the kind who studies all the way through to the exam, so the day before the test I just kept solving practice problems in a leisurely manner. I know this may sound silly, but when I started doing problems real slowly and getting deep into the question I discovered quite a few new intricacies that I'd never noticed before. I basically spent the day appreciating the finer elements of the various questions
and it kept me relaxed, yet in touch with the upcoming exam. This worked for me so think about it.
My test was scheduled for 9am so I got to the center by around 8.30am. Carried some chocolates with me to eat during the breaks. Was provided with a locker to store these items.
Initial formalities included palm vein recognition and getting a photograph taken. Passport is mandatory for Indian candidates. The test center environment was really comfortable and the staff helpful.
With all this done I began my test.
Identified 5 schools to which I wanted to send the score reports.
: Please read this post
for some info on which schools to send score reports to. This could save you some cash while sending score reports for both GMAT and TOEFL.
During the tutorial I typed around 5 sentences in the practice screen for the AWA to calm myself. Remember to reduce time spent in mouse movement by using Alt+N to go to the next page/question. This is valuable and will save you valuable seconds instead of using the mouse to navigate to the Next button during the test.
Alt+N to go to the next question. Alt+Y to confirm your selected answer. Make sure to use these two.
The AWA section went quite well. The argument was flawed and I had no trouble identifying 3 weak points and shooting the argument down. The Issue was rather generic - whether schools should be involved in providing social as well as ethical eduction - and I wasn't able to provide relevant examples to illustrate my point. However I felt I did a good enough job on this as I gave certain hypothetical examples to draw out my line of reasoning.
Took the break, ate a chocolate, hit the washroom and encouraged myself for 2 minutes. Then got back to the test.
The breaks are 8 minutes long and one thing is important to note: Both when you sign out for a break and when you sign in back to the testing room you have to display your passport and give your palm vein identification. This takes a few seconds and is a part of the 8 minutes that you receive as a break. Make sure not to cut your 8 minutes too close as you need to complete this formality twice during each break. If there is one thing you should take away from this its the knowledge that the GMAT is getting tougher.
It was tough. And I don't mean getting the odd tough question. I was peppered with really continuously stubbornly tough questions. I wasn't weak at quant, but I wasn't a superstar either. I could solve most questions given sufficient time and no pressure. However I'd learnt from experience through a lot of practice that I was pretty slow at big, long, wordy questions. I was also slow on number properties. And I got quite a few of these during the test. Number properties with multiple variables. Number properties with inequalities and modulus. Questions where you need to draw a table for x, y, xy, |x-y| and then subsitute +ve, -ve, 0, fraction greater than 0, fraction lesser than 0, you name it. I was beat. From practice I knew I was slow at these questions. I was weak at data sufficiency. I knew I could solve every one of those questions in 5 minutes each. However I didn't have that luxury. And I got a lot of these questions. One question on mixtures. One on work.One on average speeds. Two on probability. Two on set theory (finding number of people who did exactly 2 of 3 things). I nearly lost it during the exam and was on the verge of giving up. However I had taken quite a few practice tests before and I had experienced the very same feeling. In all those tests I had scored Q48 or 49 so I knew it was because I was attempting 700+ level questions. I hung in there. And then the quant section was over.
Back in the restroom I calmed myself down. I knew that I had probably done better than I thought on quant. I also knew that verbal was what would make or break my score as it contributed largely to the final score. I was strong at verbal despite being a non native speaker. English was my forte. Or so I thought.
It started off as I expected. I'd prepared really well on sentence correction (more on this later). And I was good at critical reasoning. The first 20 questions were really smooth. I knew I was on track and in good shape. I could almost see the 780 at the end of the exam. However the last 20 questions really did me in. I started feeling a little vague in the head. It was hard to keep my mind from wandering. I lost focus. The RC's turned horrible. I got a nasty RC (economics related) with 4 questions of which I was sure of none. This was followed by a second RC (work culture in organizations) almost equally tough. And then a bold faced CR. I struggled on all these. Towards the end I was feeling upset. The questions were tough and I was confident only of the SCs. The CRs and RCs all had 2 answer choices that were really close. And I'm sure this cost me atleast 6 points in verbal. That silly saturated feeling, and the tougher questions towards the end of the test. I'm sure I got a string of questions wrong. And I'm sure my overall score dropped by atleast 30 points.
Finished the test, skipped the optional feedback, background info, blah blah and went to the score. Closed my eyes, tried to visualize 750, saw the 730, felt a pang of disappointment (I wasn't being greedy, I knew I was capable of 750 and had consistently scored as much during practice) and came out of the testing room. I knew the verbal section had beaten me and the last 20 questions had pulled me from a V45 to a V40. Anyway, that was it, I collected my score report and returned to office.
Thinking about it I'm really satisfied with this score. It took me a day to get over the disappointment but then 730 is a great score although I know I could have done better I'm happy. I've got to start putting together my apps now.My preparation:
I started focusing on the GMAT earnestly around 3 months ago. I have a 12 hour job so I had to study for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. I took leave from work the week before the test to focus on fine tuning and practice. Up to the last week my study was mostly haphazard. I collected a huge amount of material from friends most of which I never used. I'm sure some of you do the same and I can tell you its not necessary. These are the materials which were of real use - Study Material:
- All the manhattan gmat guides
for quant (will give you complete understanding of the subject)
- Manhattan gmat sc
- Kaplan GMAT 800
(the 2nd half of the book has some weird problems that are interesting to work on)
- GMATClub math book (must study as it gives you some shortcuts that are not mentioned even in the manhattan guides)
- GMAT_LSAT_CR.doc (Got this document from GMatClub - has more than 200 GMAT and LSAT CR questions that are more than sufficient practice - Remember to always look up ur mistakes on google)
- RC.doc (similar to the above one - contains more than 200 RC questions that are sufficient practice - I did around 30 RCs)
- OG 12
(must have as this is the base you should work on - quant is totally unrepresentative of the test now, for verbal the last 30 questions of each section totally represent the current GMAT)
- GMATPrep SC (A document compiled by sondenso that has 180 GMATPrep questions - I've added a few here to this document, please let me know if you want this)
- AWA (not much study on this - the OG 12
has a great writeup on what they expect from this section - follow this and you should be good. Also, read the sample essays there, they will give you some idea of what a 6pt essay looks like)Practice tests:
- GMATClub math tests (will condition your mind to work on tough problems - do them timed, ignore the percentile at the end, and then review them)
- MGMAT practice tests (see my honest review on this here - they're great practice but not totally representative)
- GMAT Prep tests 1 and 2In retrospect this is how i would've studied (you tend to realise such things only once you're very close to the test or have finished the test)
1. Take a GMATPrep test to see where you stand. Don't bother to analyse, just look at the final score and how badly you fared in math or verbal. Understand what a GMAT test is going to look like. By the time you finish your preparation you're going to forget the answers to the test you just did so its not a waste of taking this test at the beginning.
2. Drill through all the MGMAT math guides. Focus the most on Number properties guide
and Inequalities guide. Work out every single problem they say, especially when they cross reference the OG.
3. Manhattan gmat sc
guide. Read this thoroughly and take notes. This is the single source that can take you to a V40.
4. Once the Manhattan Guides are completed go take the Manhattan gmat
sample test on their website. You will realise how much you still have to do and why you need to buy their practice tests (Why? Because their analysis is amazing and can help you pinpoint weak areas)
5. Read all the articles on the GMATClub math book. There are posts referred at the end of each page with practice questions. Work on these.
6. GMATPrep SC document - Almost every single question here has been discussed on the Manhattan gmat
forums, I've compiled an excel sheet which links each of these questions to the relevant thread on the MGMAT forum. Let me know if anyone wants this. This document and this approach of referring the MGMAT forums for explanations alone raised my confidence on SC.
7. OG 12
- do every single question in the OG. Systematically read their explanation of each answer. For verbal focus hard on why the wrong answers are wrong.
8. Practice CRs from the GMAT_LSAT_CR.doc. Again, search all your doubts on google. This alone can give you tremendous practice on CRs.
9. RC.doc - RCs just need practice. My strategy during practice was to read the question carefully once and try to answer the questions without looking back at the passage. I developed great retention capacity this way.
10. Practice tests one after the other. Buy the MGMAT practice tests (comes free with purchase of any MGMAT strategy guide) and take all 6 of them. At the end of 3 tests use their analysis tools to see where to improve. Go back to the relevant MGMAT guides
and study those areas. Take the remaining 3 tests.
11. Take the GMATPrep tests
again and again and again. Don't focus too much on the scores. Try and bring down the number of mistakes during each test and try and finish each test faster than the last. This will tune your mind to the final GMAT interface and help you build speed.My scores during practice:
MGMAT online sample test (around 8 months back I guess) - 630
GMATPrep test 1 (after some study) - 710Veritas prep
online sample test - 630
GMATPrep test 1 after resetting - 750Kaplan
CD test 1 - 610 (extremely tough especially in verbal)Kaplan
CD test 2 - 700 (after some more study)
GMATPrep Test 1 after resetting again - 780
GMATPrep test 2 - 690
GMATPrep test 2 after resetting - 750
MGMAT online sample test again - 690
MGMAT online test 1 - 700
MGMAT online test 2 - 730
MGMAT online test 3 - 750
MGMAT online test 4 - 730
MGMAT online test 5 - 770
Thats about it. I think I've covered pretty much everything that I did until I finished the GMAT, and what I could have changed. I hope this helps atleast a few of you. Trust me, this test is totally beatable. You don't want to be in a position where you've done the test and then realize you could've beaten the test if you'd prepared differently. Hence the reason for me giving my retrospect approach above. Thanks a lot to GMATClub for all the help I've received here! I will continue to contribute on these forums. If anyone needs any more info please don't hesitate to ask. Good luck to all of you!!
GMATPrep SC document - Invaluable!!
GPSC.doc [305 KiB]
Downloaded 1255 times
Answers to questions in the GMat Prep SC document
GPOA.xlsx [47.22 KiB]
Downloaded 1026 times
For those who use Excel 2003 please download the .xls format of the above answer sheet here
My debrief: done-and-dusted-730-q49-v40