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Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44)

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Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2012, 19:47
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1st Attempt: 10th March 2011 (700; Q47, V39)
2nd Attempt: 14th June 2012 (760; Q50, V44)

"The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." - Bobby Knight

Hey everyone!

Just took the test today (2nd attempt), and this time I'm ecstatic. As soon as I managed to comprehend the score, I thought of all of the great stories I've read here, and how they inspired me to work hard. I immediately resolved to write here and share my experience with you.

I'm an Egyptian living in Egypt, and my undergrad major was Mechanical Engineering. A few months out of college, I decided to take the GMAT just to get it out of the way (I knew that I'd want to do an MBA sooner or later, and that I'd probably apply in less than 5 years).

So, last year saw my first attempt. At the time, I thought I was studying hard, but in reality I was just solving problems and trying to get through the book(s) as quickly as possible. It's a bit comical when I look back at it now: I only used the official guide, studied for a month overall (the first half a joke, the second half a bit more serious) and only took the 2 GMAT Prep tests and then re-took them. I didn't even know how the Quant and Verbal were individually scored, and I don't remember ever bothering to know. I reasoned that I was already comfortable with both Quantitative and Verbal material by nature, and that my Engineering background further reinforced my strength on the Quant section. My re-taking of the GMAT Prep tests yielded 770 and a 740 respectively; this further cemented my belief that I was ready. Looking back, I think I chose to convince myself that I had improved that much (down from 690 and 700 respectively) in 2 weeks rather than concede that I probably remembered most of the answers, particularly the Quant ones.

My first attempt at the real test was not a complete disaster, but I was definitely disappointed. I remember repeatedly losing track of time during the Quant section, and making several guesses just to keep up with the clock. The Verbal section was better, but I remember deciding to abandon the effort of thinking about at least a couple of CR and a couple of SC problems...simply out of annoyance with the questions themselves. When the score appeared "700", I recall feeling completely numb and convincing myself that at least it's a good score in general.

A year went by, and I was set in my decision to apply for Top 10 B-Schools with my 700 score. I repeatedly reminded myself that my essays would tell an interesting story, and that my application would be worth looking at. Indeed, friends of mine currently doing Top MBA's confirmed and advocated my decision.

But I still felt weary, and a bit careless. I knew that I hadn't invested that much time or effort into the test, and that I just chose the easy way out. It didn't seem right. I also dreaded risking my whole application(s) on the essays and resume. I wanted something to stand out and shine.

Around that same time, a very simple question started establishing itself very strongly in my head: "If you could do better, and you know that, why not DO BETTER?". I didn't want to become one of those bitter people who dismiss challenging tasks as being easy, and casually claim that they could carry them out perfectly at any time if they wanted to, but that they didn't feel like it. So, after several prayers, consulting my parents and some of my close friends, I decided to re-take the GMAT. This decision came on the 1st of April, and I took the test today (14th of June).

And this time I took it to the limit. I used all 8 Manhattan books, and read/skimmed every single chapter. I would advise you here to only do the exercise questions at the end of each chapter to make sure you understand the content, but not as practice for real exam questions, which I noticed to be different from those in the Manhattan books. I also brought the Verbal & Quant separate guides (2nd Edition), and solved in them the questions specified by Manhattan.

This whole process took exactly one month. As I just began to feel confident, I started taking the MGMAT tests and boy was I humbled. The Quant scores I was getting were much lower than what I was aiming for (~42 vs. aiming for ~50), and I was a complete idiot at time management. My Verbal scores were consistently in the 40's, so I decided to park the Verbal for a while and concentrate on Quant.

Let me stop here and concede that my decision to focus exclusively on Quant was an extremely hard thing to do, or rather to concede that I had to do. I've always had pride in my Math skills, and have loved Maths since I was a toddler. My decision to focus on Quant tamed that ego, and forced me to discover my weaknesses and address them. With time, extreme focus on the MGMAT question explanations, and continuous practice, I was able to manage my time effectively.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, I decided to take GMAT Prep 1, and scored a 720, with a 48 in Quant which I felt I could have easily surpassed. Also, the Verbal could have been higher had I not made some choices based on pure annoyance with the question rather than self-controlled, reasoned thinking. I continued working, and the day before test day took GMAT Prep 2 and scored a 730. Somehow, I was optimistic. I was aiming for the 99th percentile, but was fine with the 730, and felt that a bit of luck, poise and style were all that separated me from a 760 or above.

I slept my full the day before test day: about 9 hours. I woke up, had some cornflakes, watched some TV and headed to the test center. I remember being much calmer and composed than I was on the day of my first attempt. My mental state was a lot better, and I remember going into the test center with an almost comical fighting spirit. I kept thinking "This will be a piece of cake, this will be the easiest thing that you've ever done!! Go ace this thing!!!"

The AWA went fine; I tore apart the argument some business analyst was trying to make. Next came the new Integrated Reasoning section: it was easy enough too. It felt like a compilation of CR, RC and basic graph-reading abilities all put together. There were maybe 2 or 3 questions I wasn't sure about, but I just thought "screw it...arrogant, proud-of-itself new section"

I went into the Quant section in such an aggressive and combative mood that I literally had a warrior face on while staring at the screen. To my surprise, and slight discomfort (for obvious reasons), the Quant section breezed by very smoothly. I reached the last 10 questions expecting to find relatively tough questions, but some of them were extremely simple. The 34th questions was a ridiculously basic Geometry question that I solved in under 20 seconds. I finished the whole Quant section with 5 minutes to spare (for the first time during ANY test I had taken)...and I remember thinking "I must have really %^&#ed this up". Funnily enough, I didn't care as much as I thought I would.

During the break, I kept pacing around the test center, went into the bathroom and started jogging in place and vigorously shaking my head. I was still in that weird "This is SPARTA!" mood, and I didn't want it to go away.

The Verbal section started off with one of the longest RC passages I had ever seen, and I remember being extremely annoyed but resolved to read it till the very end. Things went well enough with all the SC questions, which I felt I did fine on. The CR questions all had similar answers, and in more than one question I had some difficulty in forming any sort of conviction about an answer choice. Every time I finished a CR question that I felt I wasn't sure about, an SC question that was easier for me to solve came after it. During the last 10 questions, I suddenly realized that if I was doing well I should have started seeing at least one CR boldface question. I concentrated as much as I could towards the end, but still no boldface questions came up. I finished the Verbal section with 7 minutes to spare, and thought "This is either very good or very bad".

I then pressed "next", and proceeded to fill in GMAC's nerve-wrecking, worst-timing-of-all survey, and couldn't wait to be done with it.

When the "760" showed up on the screen, it took me maybe a whole minute to fully take it in. I blinked like 12 times, and at last I smiled. I headed out of the test center, in an ecstatic mood, to find that my car wouldn't start because I had accidentally left the flasher on this whole time. I remember thinking "well, the day can't all be roses, but a car battery you can purchase, a good GMAT score...well that's something else!"

Throughout the rest of the day, I mentally compiled all of the pieces of advice I would give to anyone taking this exam and aiming for altitude:

1) Don't just work hard, work strategically and invest your time smartly
2) IDENTIFY your weaknesses by keeping an error log, and focus on them
3) Make notes of silly mistakes you do, and find some way of disciplining yourself not to do them (I remember preventing myself from eating any dinner one day because I had decided that 2^4 = 8 and not 16
4) Don't redundantly go over areas where you're already strong: Just make sure every once in a while that you're still comfortable with them
5) Use Manhattan books for understanding, MGMAT tests (which have significantly harder-than-reality Quant sections) for time-management, and OG books for general/random practice
6) Minimize any "random practice" that you do. Localize your day's studying/practice to a certain area...especially if you're not near the exam date
7) Hammer down your ego, especially if you know that you're good at Mathematics and Reasoning, and learn to concede that you, like everyone else, have weaknesses
8) Discipline yourself to keep attempting at a question until you solve it, especially if you know that you have enough time. Don't just decide that this question is way too much of a nuisance, and that, as a matter of concept and not objective reasoning, you won't waste your time with it.

Test day (VERY IMPORTANT):
1) SLEEP WELL: helped me a lot...the fact that I scored 30 points higher than my highest practice test tells me that I had this potential all along, but that I chose wrong timings to solve practice tests (usually after work, rendering me a bit tired and restless)
2) Try to adopt a fighter attitude, and remain calm and laid-back internally. Don't go in with the "Oh God, please let me do well PLEASE!" attitude, but rather go in with a daring, even slightly cocky spirit. It'll help your mental state a-LOT.
3) Motivate yourself thoroughly between breaks.
4) When you feel that the questions are not as difficult as you expected, and that you might thus be doing poorly, DON'T PANIC...I think it's part of their strategy to drop in questions with very obvious answers every now and then just to interrupt your rhythm and see how well you can recover.
5) Don't fret if boldface questions don't show up in the Verbal section...I think the GMAC people probably decided that too many people were on to them, and either stopped introducing the questions altogether or stopped classifying them as high-difficulty questions.


I guess that's that then. Sorry for the long post, but I though it better to describe my whole experience and share with you every part if it.

If there are any questions you have for me I'd be more than happy to answer them. Till then, good luck!!!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2012, 20:05
Congratulations!!! So ultimately you have nailed it to the wall ;-)
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2012, 20:08
Excellent debrief. Thank you for your advise. Do you know your IR score? I am just starting my prep and will surely look for those MGMAT books. One more question, can you add your error log to your post. It would be great to have that.
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2012, 20:26
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Thanks pjolie!

Nope, funnily enough the IR score doesn't show, and the printed sheet they gave me at the end of the test says that I'll receive it with the AWA within 20 days.

It's all MCQ's: why we don't receive it immediately is beyond me!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 15 Jun 2012, 02:26
Sorry, forgot my error log! Here goes:

Quant:

Inequalities: 30% of Quant mistakes
Probabilities & Combinatronics: 25% of Quant mistakes
Silly mistakes: 20% of Quant mistakes
Odds & Evens: 15% of Quant mistakes
Other/Miscellaneous: The rest (10% of Quant mistakes)

Verbal:

SC Idioms: 35% of mistakes
CR find the assumption questions: 25% of mistakes
Giving in to annoyance: 20% of mistakes
Miscellaneous: The rest (20%)

This is literally the error log that I kept. Of course I had absolute numbers for everything, in descending order for each section. But I decided to convert them to %'s of total to give you a feel of the kind of errors that I was doing. As you can probably deduce here, I did not individually classify mistakes that took up less than 10% of my section's mistakes, and just made mental notes of them.

A piece of advice, keep your error log simple...it's only there to remind you that a certain bell needs to ring in your head when you get a question that you usually solve incorrectly :-)
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 23:21
that's a short error log :) thanks for sharing your experience!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 23:21
that's a short error log :) thanks for sharing your experience!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 23:46
This is certainly one of the better debriefs that I've read. Congratulations, and I hope to emulate your achievement.

Does anyone have an example of a very simple error log in Excel? I've downloaded a few on this site, but I think the [subconscious] reason that I don't use them is that they're overly complex.

Last edited by vandygrad11 on 18 Jun 2012, 23:51, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 23:51
Very vivid debrief! I could picture you in my mind!

Anyway, could you elaborate more on how you studied for verbal? I'm having a hard time strengthening my score. :( Hope you could provide feedback.
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2012, 03:41
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gmatsaga wrote:
Very vivid debrief! I could picture you in my mind!

Anyway, could you elaborate more on how you studied for verbal? I'm having a hard time strengthening my score. :( Hope you could provide feedback.


Thanks for the compliment :-)

I began verbal with the Manhattan books, just to get a feel for all of the categories of CR, RC and SC that come up in the GMAT. I didn't really fuss over the explanations of a concept if I found that I could understand it right from the get-go.

What I made it a point to do, especially in SC, was to read the occasional examples scattered inside the chapters, used by the authors to aid the explanations. I would read the chapter's heading and intro paragraph, understand what they wanted to explain, then skim-read the rest of the explanations and read an example every now and then to make sure I understood.

You'll find that doing that will save you a lot of time, and it will sort of get you to blast through your Verbal studying using this "checkpoint" approach, if you know what I mean. I usually tried to guess the answer to the example: if I got it right and I was sure that I could solve one just like it, I moved on. If I barely got it right, didn't know the answer, or got it wrong, I carefully read the section of the chapter dedicated to explaining the concept behind this example. What I don't recommend you do is devoutly read every single word of explanation by Manhattan: sooner or later things will get a bit too theoretical. Be as efficient/practical as possible when approaching the chapters, skim-read each one, and make guesses at every example, and you'll be on your way.

As for practice, I found that the Manhattan CR & RC exercises were great, and very close to the actual test. I solved the last 5-7 questions in the exercise section of each chapter after I skimmed it, and if course recorded my mistakes. As for the SC, my opinion is: don't bother. The exercises are way too theoretical, detailed, and not at all like the actual exam questions. Don't get me wrong, the chapter descriptions are great (especially the specific distinctions they have between similar phrases, such as "like" & "as")...but the exercises aren't. What I did do was solve the 2nd Edition questions specified by Manhattan at the end of each chapter. This was VERY useful, as the number/percentage of questions that I got right/wrong in each category helped me create my error log, and focus on my weaknesses.

I felt that I was ready to take practice tests when I had finished the SC book (kept it to last) and had a good feel of what many people call "GMAT English" (i.e. the set of rules and idioms that the GMAT stubbornly -if not condescendingly- accepts as proper English).

During the practice tests, I noticed that most of my Verbal mistakes were in SC, so I kept making notes of them to understand where I was going wrong. They were usually mistakes that had to do with my "feel" for the sentence, rather than what the actual right answer is in accordance with the rules of the GMAT. It took me a while to recognize and accept uncomfortable-looking answers as in fact the right ones.

You'll find that if you train hard on SC, you'll be extremely quick at solving the questions correctly, and that will save you time to read CR & RC carefully and solve them correctly too; what I mean to say is that most of my mistakes on CR & RC were because of not reading the question properly/being in a hurry/considering the question way too much of a nuisance. But what I found was that all I needed to do is give myself enough time to solve them comfortably and read them carefully...for that, I needed to save time on something else: SC.

If you have any more questions tell me straight away :-)
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 22 Jun 2012, 01:13
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 22 Jun 2012, 12:49
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carcass wrote:
what about your quant section ?? I suppose you have a strong background but what you did to improve or to avoid silly mistakes ??? share with us some thoughts if you can .............:)


I used the 5 Manhattan Quant books to cover the Quant topics. Frankly, I felt that they were enough for me to cover the basic areas of Quant in the exam. For practice, I used the Manhattan CAT's and the official guide.

During the first month of my studying, the Quant felt like a breeze. I found that I understood and could readily apply the material explained by Manhattan. I solved all of the exercises at the end of each chapter and usually had only silly mistakes. But then, I found out that there were 2 main issues that I could no longer ignore: silly mistakes and timing (that second one began establishing itself when I started solving Manhattan CAT's).

About the silly mistakes- at first I thought that I would just drop them one by one with more and more practice. I was wrong. It turns out that if you do not exclusively focus on each and every reason behind WHY you fall into a silly mistake you'll just keep on repeating it...at least that's the way it was with me. So I started writing in a small notebook all of the silly mistakes I was doing (filled like 16 pages). Every day before I would go to sleep I would read that notebook and add more mistakes to it. I found that by doing this I sort of had myself in a corner, where I had to face the fact that I was committing these mistakes on a regular basis. The act of writing them in itself is a concession: it's tangible proof that the regular excuses of "Oh I was really tired when I made that mistake and I probably won't make it on test day" don't apply. It's a way of facing oneself and saying: "You have a problem with this, this and this. You have to be actively aware that you commit these mistakes, and there has to be a certain foghorn that goes off in your head whenever you get a question which involves tackling the areas where these mistakes are probable". As soon as you start thinking like that, you become sharper, more disciplined and more alert when you solve Quant.

The timing issue, on the other hand, is precisely a matter of practice and nothing else. Solve, solve, solve again, take exams, retake them, and then when you're finished with them...keep solving :-) You simply get better: that's all there is to it. You look at the problem, and it no longer feels like a barrier between you and the 99th percentile, but rather an old annoying friend who's come back for another useless attempt at knocking you down. With more practice, you start relishing the fact that you're OWNING the GMAT's attempts to play cheap tricks on you.

The Manhattan CAT's have harder (and longer) Quant questions than does the real GMAT, but they're more lenient on scoring...but all of that is irrelevant. The main value behind the Manhattan CAT's is the analytics they give you when you finish them. You can exclusively focus on the areas where you made most of your mistakes, and stop following false illusions that you're strong on certain topics when you're in fact not : it's all there in numbers and statistics in the score report. And then you start going "Really?! I made that many mistakes on Algebra? (which is exactly what happened with me), but I thought I was strong at Algebra!!!" So you start focusing on what -it turns out- is preventing you from scoring higher.

One last thing: Data sufficiency questions can at times be EXTREMELY tricky. Sometimes it's not wise to settle for an answer simply by using logic and "mapping" the question. In some cases, you have to roll up your sleeves and dive into the arithmetic of the question itself...what appeared at first to be 2 equations for 2 unknowns (one would therefore think "C"!), can in fact turn out to be the same equation written in different ways (and therefore, "E"). I made it a point to write this down because many people say that Data Sufficiency questions will save you time if you go about solving them the right way. And I agree with that 100%, only just take care that you solve the problems in a simple but not simplistic way

Hope this helped :-)
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2012, 03:44
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This help me a lot :). This debrief on how you went toward your quant part of the test is simple amazing. I found many of your reflections right and similar to what I encounter throughout my practise each day.

Thanks. Thanks and again Thanks
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2012, 02:25
Big score, my Pharaoh. All the best in your apps.

Cheers,
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 28 Mar 2013, 02:55
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Hey All,

Just wanted to post an update that I hope would drive you to see the dream and work as hard as you can :-)

I just got accepted to Harvard Business School for the Class of 2015.

I look forward to seeing fellow GMATclubbers there!!!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 28 Mar 2013, 03:08
Bombol wrote:
Hey All,

Just wanted to post an update that I hope would drive you to see the dream and work as hard as you can :-)

I just got accepted to Harvard Business School for the Class of 2015.

I look forward to seeing fellow GMATclubbers there!!!



Awesome !!!!!! :woohoo

ALL THE BEST Ahmed Nabil
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 28 Mar 2013, 03:15
Rock750 wrote:
Bombol wrote:
Hey All,

Just wanted to post an update that I hope would drive you to see the dream and work as hard as you can :-)

I just got accepted to Harvard Business School for the Class of 2015.

I look forward to seeing fellow GMATclubbers there!!!



Awesome !!!!!! :woohoo

ALL THE BEST Ahmed Nabil


Thanks Dude :-) Hope you can do the same
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 28 Mar 2013, 10:26
Great posts of your debrief. very intensive. congrats on ur achievements.....mind blowing!!!
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All about Richard Ivey: all-about-richard-ivey-148594.html#p1190518

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Joined: 02 Jun 2012
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Location: Egypt
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, General Management
Schools: Harvard Business School - Class of 2015
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GMAT 2: 760 Q50 V44
GPA: 3.41
WE: Marketing (Telecommunications)
Followers: 9

Kudos [?]: 52 [0], given: 5

Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 03:37
sdas wrote:
Great posts of your debrief. very intensive. congrats on ur achievements.....mind blowing!!!


Thanks a lot sdas :-) I'm glad you found it relatable
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44) [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 09:21
Expert's post
Bombol wrote:
Hey All,

Just wanted to post an update that I hope would drive you to see the dream and work as hard as you can :-)

I just got accepted to Harvard Business School for the Class of 2015.

I look forward to seeing fellow GMATclubbers there!!!



CONGRATULATIONS!!! Great job and thank you for posting the follow up!
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Re: Done with the GMAT journey; 99th Percentile 760 (Q50, V44)   [#permalink] 03 Apr 2013, 09:21
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