Edit: Stickied by rhyme. He hasn't updated the story yet, but he just got admitted into Wharton.... this is a true inspiration for anyone struggling with their GMAT. From 420 to Wharton!
I just came back from the test center with a big smile on my face.
Got a 700 (Q47, V39). As many of you guys remember, I joined this site after getting a 420 back in October. I was feeling so down that I chose "positive soul" as my username. I have to say that the road was not easy, but I found very helpful all the support I got from you guys.
I am exhausted, so I will write in more details in the next few days.
Now, I am going to sleep.
Remember to never give up.
Thank you all for your kind words. I am very happy to see that all my effort and sacrificies paid off, and, hopefully, my experience will help others to beat the GMAT.
Before I start, I want to thank all the active members of the GMAT Club, specially, ywilfred, professor, vivek123, HongHu, GMATT73, coffeeloverfreak, laxieqv, ps_dahiya, Futuristic, fig, rhyme, u2lover, haas_mba07, necromonger, kevincan, and yezz
. I really learned from you guys. I take my hat off.
My GMAT experience is a very LONG one. I took the GMAT the first time in 1995, when it was still on paper and I was considering the idea of going for my MBA right after college. I got a 560!! I knew this score was too low to try to get into a top school, so I decided to take a Kaplan course
. After 3 months, my score improved a little to 590. Luckly (I guess), I landed a very good job in an European Multinational, so I decided to put off the MBA for a couple of years.
The years went by, and I started to climb the corporate ladder, so every year I put off the MBA. The funny thing is that during 4 years, my GMAT books traveled with me around the world.
In October 2006
, (10 years later), I took the GMAT again, obtaining a very VERY dissapointing score 420 (29Q 20V)
I knew my preparation for the test was not optimal, but a 420 was just too low. For my preparation I used the OG and my old Kaplan
books. I was consistenly scoring above 550 in sample tests, so I was expecting a low 600. I will never forget that day, it was the worst day of my life. I went back home thinking I was never going to get into a decent MBA program. Out of my dissapointment, I found strength to look for help. So searching the web, I found this amazing site. I posted my experience, and I got encouraging words from some of the member. At this point I saw light at the end of the tunnel.My second try:
I became determined to at least break the 500 level. I read many posts regarding preparation materials, and strategies. So I gave myself 3 months to retake the exam. Looking back, it was a mistake because I was working 60+ hours, and under a lot of preassure to deliver a project by the end of January. I went ahead anyway because I wanted my "revenge".
My preparation consisted on reviewing the same OG and Kaplan
materials that I used before. I also started to solve some of the problems in the GMATClub. I studied on and off during the first 2 1/2 months, and started to put 2 hours during the weekdays and 8 hours during the weekend.
I got a 510 (36Q 20V?) this time. Believe it or not, I was happy that I improved my Quantitative score. Final Try
Eventhough, I improved my score, I knew I had to improve. I was not near the 650 I need to even dream about applying to a top MBA. Then I decided to make it happen. I made a decision to score a 700. I was no longer going to be complacent with myself. So I started to make changes in every single aspect of my preparation.Thinks that I did, I believe it made a difference this time around:
1. I committed myself to put the time and effort.
Work and travel was no longer an excuse. I made the time. I promised myself I would study at least 2 hours per day. No matter what. This was very difficult, and I did not do it every day, but al least 90% of the time. I became more focus on achiving my objective.
2. I gave myself a realistic timetable to take the test.
I knew, I was not going to improve my score by 200 points in one month. At least not with my working schedule. This was one of the mistakes I made in the first 2 tests. However, I knew that I had to be serious with this issue, otherwise history would repeat itself.
3. I put together a very complete list of study materials and resources.
This was my list:
- OG Materials
: GMAT review 10th Edition, Verbal review and Quantitative review. I also obtained old GMAT paper tests from their website.
- Kaplan Materials
GMAT 2005, Kaplan GMAT 800
- GMATprep Software
: Downloaded from the website.
- LSAT sample tests
- GMAX online
- GMAT Club Forum and Challenges.
- GMAT 1000 Questions
I could have gotten more books, but I wanted keep it as simple as possible. I knew I was NOT going to improve by doing all available questions, but by changing the way I study (I will develop later).
4. I totally changed my study approach
a) I decided to cover the basics:
I came to accept that I did not have a good grasp of all the topics (Math and Verbal). It was that simple. I was really troubled by very simple rate and distance problems, and I was a dummy when I tried to solve number properties. What did I do:
I took the GMAX online course. I will not recommend this course to everyone, but if you make an honest self-assessment of your skills, and think you need help. I highly recommend it. Note: This course by itself will NOT help you to increase your score dramatically but it will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to apply some strategies.
b) I started to use an error log:
I cannot tell you how many times I read about it. I always said, I will defenitely do it, it makes sense, etc.....
BUT I NEVER DID IT (sounds like anyone you know????). Deep in my mind I thought it was a waste of time and energy: What did I do
: I just did it. It was really a pain in the begining. But I cannot tell you how much time I saved, and the things I discovered about myself. After going over the GMAX course, I discovered that 75% of my mistakes were careless mistakes, such as I did not multiply correctly (
), I did not read the question properly, I did not read all the answers, etc. I think this made a huge difference because on test day, I was right on the ball. I knew in which questions and calculations I was prone to make mistakes, and I paid a LOTof attention.
c) I always tried to solve a question on my own, I did not seek help until I knew I could not solve it on my own
. Before, I used to try a problem, I got it wrong, I will see the explanation given. BIG mistake. I was only doing the most convinient thing but I was not really learning. What did I do:
Sometimes I would spend 10 minutes on a question (obviously not during a sample test), trying to solve it. You might say "what a waste of time", now ask me if got a similar problem wrong. Very few times. I made a comittment to think and learn.
d) I never jumped to solve a question before spending a few seconds thinking about the quickest way to solve it
. I read once on post, not to attack right away a problem using "brute force". This is a skill you need to develop, and it is very difficult to think about it when you know that the clock is your enemy. What did I do:
When I was practicing, I realized that If I could not solve a problem under 1 1/2 minutes, I was using the wrong approach or I did not know the concept tested. So I tried and tried until I found a faster way.
e) I decided to learn from the GMAT questions
. In some courses, you read about traps, question types, etc. I knew about them, but I never actually thought about them when solving a question. I never said to myself, "this is a global question, so answers that are too specific will probably be wrong....". I knew the theory but I never applied it. What did I do:
For every SINGLE question, I would analyze each answer and find WHY it was right and WHY the other 4 were wrong. This way you learn to identify first hand what the GMAT test makers are throwing at you. I was getting so good, I could eliminate in a few seconds 2 to 3 answer choices. Depending on the question, you could eliminate the wrong answers by knowing your scope (even in math) and identifying how GMAT tries to trick you. In summary, Re-do the questions and read every single answer. Identify the reasons for being right and wrong. Do this and you will identify patterns that repeat themselves all the time. Once you do this on YOUR OWN. You will work faster and more efficient.
5) I participated more actively on the GMAT Club
. I have to accept that I always felt apprehensive about participating because some of you guys are VERY GOOD. However, once I improved my skills, I started to try. I answer some questions wrong but I learn from them. Don't be intimidated. I found myself learning a lot, trying to explain some of my answers. Sometimes, this process is a great teacher.
For you guys that feel intimidated, I can tell you that some of the questions I found in this site were just too hard for me. Some of the explanations were very hard to understand. In summary, I felt dumb. But on test day, I was so ready, I found very few questions I was not able to handle
6) Practice with the GMAT Challenges
. They were not easy, but they were great practice. The concepts tested were right on the money, and the time constraints really pushed me to my limits. I scored over 80% after my 6th challenge. It was a good tool to measure my improvement.
7) When I felt overwhelmed, I looked for the GMAT Club for inspiration.
. Things were never a piece of cake. I had my ups and downs. I really struggled to overcome my low score stigma. There were days that I would try 10 questions, and I would get 7 wrong. I just convinced myself that it was possible to do it. I logged in everyday for inspiration. (However, I have to say I felt frustrated when members posted their 700+ score on their very first post. Why?, because they made look easy to get a 700, while I was killing myself to get reach that level.) No hard feelings because you probably deserve it. My point is, If you want to improve, you have to work hard for it, and the GMAT Club has examples of people who have done it. Dream that it is possible just as I did.
8) I took care of myself
: There is a very good post about improving your score by exercising and eating better. I cannot say for sure If it really help me, but I believe it did not hurt.
I convinced myself that this change would help me score higher so I started to exercise 3 times a week and eat better. I made no radical changes and I lost 10 lbs.
I will not discuss about the test itself as I don't believe I can add any value to comments made by other members. However, I had a scary moment when the power went out in the middle of the verbal section. The computer shut down and it took 6 minutes to restart and recuperate the test. I believe I could have done a better job on the verbal part since I have to guess the last 5 questions. Maybe I could have reached 720 and make a 300 points improvement. My final GMAT score was 700 (47Q 39V).
Finally, I think I need to talk about things that I could have done better.
GMAT can take a huge toll on your personal life. The obsession to score higher hurt my relationship with friends and family. I distanced myself from them for 2 reasons: 1) I was ashamed of my score (since I live in an environment where people seem to get 650+ all the time
) and 2) I felt guilty when I took some time off. Don't let this happen to you. Find a balance, and try to get support from your friends.
Good luck, and remember to be positive.
As Rhyme mentioned, I got accepted in the Wharton/Lauder Program. I want to thank you guys for your support since the begining. I really worked hard on the applications and followed some of your advise. The only thing I can say about the application procress is that it is a pain in the %%$!!!!!!!
In a serious note, I think you need to market yourself well. Tell your story and be clear on your goals. Schools really look for people that will make a good use of their MBA, thus marketing the school for them.
So you know, I also applied to:
Harvard....haven't heard from them so I think they dinged me.
London Business School: Accepted.
Columbia: dinged after interviewing
It has been a long journey since my 420 in the GMAT. Although, the road was not easy, I am really satisfied with the outcome. It is really a dream come true.
Good luck guys in your projects and if you need anything, please drop me a line.
Remember to be POSITIVE and the only obstacle to achiving your goals is yourself.