My background: German male with finance education in English, although mainly worked with non English speakers. For the last 5 years in Spain and just recently moved to Singapore.
1 st attempt:
I used the Kaplan
books to get a general overview of what the GMAT has to offer. I was working full time and could only study during the weekends for about 2 months. Kaplan
books are pretty good if you've never seen or heard of GMAT before. Also, in Europe we're not really used to standardized tests so it was quite a good introduction to answer strategies. I bought Princeton Review
as well as it was recommended to me but I didn't find it useful at all.
In the Kaplan
CATs I scored on average 640 and GMAT prep 620.
Right before the exam I took a week of holidays to focus on studying but in hindsight I can say it would have been better to invest a few more weekends over a few months. GMAT is not really material you just learn in a few nights under time pressure as I did for 95% of exams during uni.
I had the OG as well but the week off work passed quicker than I could really get to it..
Exam day 1: May 2013
It's been 5 years or so since my last exam and although I consider myself working very well under pressure, I was quite stressed before this exam - I hardly could sleep the night before and even had some stomach issues during test day..
I ended up with a 600 Q44 V30
RC was a killer for me and that clearly showed
If I were to do an MBA I wanted it to be a top school. For me it came down to 3: Wharton, Harvard and INSEAD. All these have über high GMAT averages so I knew I had to retake the GMAT.
I lost a month of no studying due to business traveling, but end June I got into gmatting again. I was so eager to do it right this time, to score 720+, that I was going to give 150%.
I started leaving a bit earlier from work so I could study during the week.
In Barcelona there is a popular GMAT prep school and in July I signed up for their express course: every day of the week 3,5 hours class! Plus the weekends full days I was studying on my own. Unfortunately quant was very basic and taught me nothing new, nothing I haven't learned from the Kaplan
In verbal however I picked up really good strategies, especially for my weak point: the RC
The main take out was to always go back to the text after you read the question in RC, BEFORE reading the answer choices. Simple for most, but for me it was a new approach and it helped tons! Then this must have been the most expensive advise at around 1000 euros for the whole course.. This strategy was very useful but the course was for beginners, not retakers (they didn't have one for retakers..)
Again, took a week off before the exam and this time I started doing OG questions, but again, couldn't finish the book. I only got through with quant questions. Still I had my exam date booked and I was going to go for it.
Exam #2 September 2013: I improved to 650 with Q45 and V34
3rd and last attempt
In October I moved to Singapore, so that month was no-study-month.
I still wanted to crack the 700 bar, and even started studying again, but I needed to fix my priorities.
End of November was the deadline for round 2 at INSEAD. I decided to focus on my essays and apply for that date with my 650 I had so far.
Reason behind this is their 80% range that starts at 650. I thought my score will be good enough then to apply with what I have and then still retake the GMAT.
This time I took 2 full weeks and I was focussing on my quant weaknesses: counting and probabilities and verbal: RC
for the quant topics (and in general all quant) I'm surprised i don't read this more often on this forum: Khan Academy! This forum has great explanations but I found it extremely useful to be "taught" some very difficult topics such as this one. I think it's a perfect way to learn some basics what you need for GMAT, especially when it's been a while since school. I bought 6 Manhattan GMAT
CAT's and scored on average 730.
On test day #3
I wasn't stressed at all as I knew how this goes. Also, I already sent my application to Insead and was going to take any GMAT score easy that I will see today. I think realizing that was one of the most important things.
Then, timing wasn't really an issue. However, at some point during quant I got a bit worried as questions seemed really easy and I thought I'm on 600 level. I was confident I will still get a good score as I have studied so much for verbal so this part should compensate. And this was the most surprising part for me when i saw the 690 in the end. I improved quant from 45 to 49 but verbal remained at 34...
So this should actually calm you down: Don't worry when you see easy questions like I did in quant.
Quite disappointed that I didn't break the 700 but hey, it's only 10 points, I guess I can live with that. I'm pretty sure I could improve verbal and get 720 or something but does it really change so much? I'm confident I got strong essays and an overall powerful application. And also my wife can't see or hear about GMAT anymore...
- What you will read very often here and what helped me: DO NOT GIVE UP. People have reached high scores before you. They are doable. There is a way and you can do it too!
- Don't rush in your prep. If you think you will need a month of prep before the exam, book your date in 2 months, it will pass quicker that you wish
- During the exam, don't lose confidence if you get easy questions. It doesn't necessarily mean you're in a low level, they might be high level and actually easy for you
I've sent an email to INSEAD informing about my score increase. Let's see what they say...
I'm pretty sure I won't do the GMAT again. Don't forget it's only an exam you need to get into your MBA. Don't make it become an obsession. The "worst" thing that can happen is you will get a lower score than you wanted (like in my case) and then you will take it again. And if there is need, then you'll take it again, and again.
I met some impressive alumni from Wharton and Harvard who are now successful CEO's and who took the GMAT 3, 4 times!!
Good luck with your preparations and don't worry, everything will be fine in the end. If not, it's not the end