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From 620 to 750...

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Author Message
2 KUDOS received
Joined: 27 May 2012
Posts: 30
Schools: Stanford '18 (A)
GMAT 2: 750 Q47 V47
GPA: 3.9
WE: Investment Banking (Investment Banking)
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 8 [2] , given: 2

From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2012, 08:58
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I have been silently luring around the gmatclub for quite a few weeks now, and this is my first big post. I wanted to spend an hour or so to write this debrief not only to give myself a sense of closure, but also to share my gmat experience with the community. Hopefully this will help prospective test takers. Also, forgive my lack of organization and structure :-D

I am an international student studying computer science and business administration at a (top 25) US university. I just finished sophomore year this May. I have always dreamed of attending a top 5 MBA program (definitely looking at the 2+2). I knew I had to take the GMAT eventually, and I thought that the few weeks I had in between the end of a summer internship and the start of school was my best window to take the test.

So in August of last year, I took the GMAT for the first time. I had been scoring in the mid 600s on the Princeton Review tests after a week or so of studying. My intention was not to make this my flagship score; I just wanted a relatively stress free way to familiarize myself with the test (although I was secretly hoping for a 700+ :) ). I thought the beta IR section was difficult, convoluted and horrible overall. In the end, I ended up with a 620 and 11 AWA. Disappointing, but fair. I lost a few minutes when it took the test center staff longer than usual to log me in after a break and when I had to get out to replace my dry pen, but ultimately, I felt that I would still not have scored above a 650. Not too bad as a freshman, I thought.

I promised myself that I would do better this year. This time, I had a good month between the end of my internship and the start of school. I gave up an internship offer (albeit a short one), which I considered to be the opportunity cost of studying for the GMAT. If i scored a 700+, it would be worth it. This time, I completely ditched princeton review's cracking the gmat and got the (12th ed) official guide, including the 2nd edition verbal and quant. Initially I just powered through the material without really timing myself. I basically just did the questions blindly. I realized that this was fruitless after scoring two 640s on the princeton review tests. But then again, I personally feel that their scoring algorithm is rather weird. I also felt that the questions were a bit different in spirit when compared to actual gmat questions. Perhaps i just wanted to blame something else for the low score lol. I scored a 680 on MGMAT CAT 1, which I thought wasn't too bad, and a 610 (Q30+, V 45) on Kaplan's free test. The latter had a very hard quant section, and a surprisingly easy verbal section.

Still, I wanted to score above a 700, and I looked to gmatclub posts for motivation and guidance. I did not feel like putting effort into creating error logs, and at that point I knew I wasn't motivated enough. Either that or I was lazy. Whatever the case, I needed more drive. Thus, I looked again to this forum for inspiring gmat stories. I found many memorable tales, but the best thing that came from this was my getting the MGMAT OG Archer (recommended in a post). This was invaluable. It kept track of all my errors, the time I spent on each question, and motivated me by displaying "statistics". I could see how many OG questions I had finished, and my cross section accuracy and time management. It was rather encouraging. I realized the importance of timed practice. I grew to love MGMAT after buying more tests, question banks and downloading the extremely convenient flashcards (almost as good as the gmatclub's!). I gradually devoted more time each day to study for the GMAT, and I brought my tablet containing the flashcards everywhere - to meals, to the courts, and even to (wait for it) the premier of the dark knight rises in my country (sad, I know)! I now knew my work ethic was getting better.

Two weeks before my test date, I started taking practice tests every other day. I had 5 MGMAT Cats to go through, 4 GMAT preps (old and new) and some paper based tests. The paper based tests were useless and quite frankly, a joke. It did not simulate tests conditions at all, because it wasnt adaptive, it felt more like the SATs. Bunch of easy questions at the start, then a few hard ones at the end. Zero time pressure. At this point I wanted to become a test taking, question answering machine. I hoped that taking tests almost every day would make the gmat a part of everyday routine - when the test day came, it would be just like another regular day. I did MGMAT 2, then a GMATprep, then MGMAT3, then another GMATprep. Then I did MGMAT 4 and 5, then GMATprep, then MGMAT 6, then the last GMAT prep the day before the test. Below are the results:

MGMAT 2: Q46, V45 - 740
GMATPV1-1: Q49, V42 -750
MGMAT 3: Q46, V44 - 730
GMATPV1-2: Q49, V42 - 740
MGMAT 4: Q48, V42 - 730
MGMAT 5: Q48, V45 - 750
GmatPrepV2-1: Q49, V42 - 750
MGMAT 6: Q49, V45 - 760
GmatPrepV2-2: Q49, V44 - 750
*IR scores for MGMAT were horrible, from 1-5, strangely enough I got an 8 on gmatprep (way less time consuming)...

I could not believe that I jumped from a 680 to 740 in a week. Despite never finishing any of the MGMAT math sections (they are A LOT longer than the GMATprep questions) and occasionally pausing tests, I was rather pleased. MGMAT math slaughtered my quant confidence, but my good scores reinforced it. I was somewhat bothered by never scoring above a 42 on verbal on the gmat preps though, since I was killing MGMAT's verbal. Verbal was clearly my strength, as my math without calculator or software was horrible despite my engineering + finance background. I was always good at writing/English and applied math, but for some reason abstract math in any form has just never been my cup of tea. I loved the quant table/combinatorics problems but hated absolute values and number theory. So I knew my strengths and weaknesses going into the test.

The night before the test I was nervous as hell. I could not relax. I kept thinking intensively about the GMAT/hard problems/nerves to the point that my head started hurting. I again looked to this forum for last minute tips. Apparently studying right before test day is bad because it undermines your well earned confidence. I bought this, so I ended up watching Margin Call to calm myself instead of studying. I never really stopped worrying. Sleep came only after 2 hours of lying in my bed worrying and praying, and even then I was "doing" problems in my head while half asleep (it is hard to accurately describe this state).

On the test day I was nervous as hell. I kept thinking that I might score below a 700 again, and that I would have "wasted" the last 4 weeks. I had breakfast, then went to get a haircut (somewhat random, yes), then had lunch. All that time I was in a semi-trance like state. I kept staring randomly at random things. I did not study because of aforementioned reasons. Eventually I pulled myself together and got to the test center at 1pm (my test was at 2). I clocked my elevator waiting time at a ridiculous 19 minutes, and finally got to the test center. I followed protocol and sat down for a good 20 minutes before being called. My hands were sweating (tends to happen when i get extremely nervous).

They gave me 2 pens, 2 noteboards and a calculator for AWA/IR. I asked why they gave me a calculator when the test software already had a built in one. They said it didn't, so confused, I went "um....oh." I then asked for an extra notebook, but the staff said two was the max. I argued for a while, and eventually lost. I was somewhat flustered (in my quant practice sections i spoiled myself by having one page per question) so I went to the restroom to (figuratively) cry about it. Then I came back, sat my butt down and took deep breaths while reading the tutorial. Still nervous as hell. But I started.

I didn't care much for AWA. I had received an 11/12 before, which I thought was acceptable. Essays have always been enjoyable for me, but untimed essays were just vacuous. I didn't see how a timed essay truly captured your essay/argument writing skills. Still, I wrote a decent essay. Then came IR, which was surprisingly agreeable to my tastes. It was way more palatable than the MGMAT IR sections. Or perhaps I was scoring so low that the questions given to me were easy... I'll suppose find out in 20 days. Also, I was right - the software did have a built in calculator. The calculator they gave me became redundant; also, it did not have a square root function - I definitely needed that. I finished IR with a minute to spare and then took a break. Still nervous as hell. The sections that "mattered" were up next.

I came back after my break only to see that I still had the calculator they gave me for the quant section. I was thinking to myself, wth?!?!. Did they not care if I cheated or something? After a few moments I told myself that I wanted to beat the gmat "fairly", and to prove to myself that I could do it. I had studied hard for the test. This was a matter of honor, not desperation. 2 seconds into quant, I put the calculator on the floor and slid it across the room. I was proud of myself for making that ethical decision. Also, there were cameras and sound recorders in the room, so using the calculator wasnt exactly the rational decision lol.

I looked at the first question of quant. A fair question, a table with two columns asking me to solve for values of a two variable equation. And then I choked. The nerves got to me, and I wasnt thinking straight. I couldnt solve it. I spent 3 minutes on the first question and I was super tense. My algebra work on the notepad was horribly failing me, and I wanted to give up. I guessed and moved on. I guessed on the very first question, and I was ashamed. The trend more or less continued for the first 15 questions or so. I screwed up many questions I should have been able to do, and guessed a good number of times. It was only after question 18 or so that I felt more relaxed and gathered myself. I thought I was doing a satisfactory job, as I saw more and more difficult questions. In the end, I still guessed a lot. But I finished quant with like a minute remaining. I had never done that before. I sacrificed accuracy for speed, and my gut told me it wasn't worth it. But I was nervous, what else could I have done?

After the break I came back and started verbal. Upon seeing the first SC question, I choked for a bit. But after 30 second, I became excited for some reason. I remembered that verbal was my strength and I had waited all these weeks to rip through the GMAT verbal section. So I did. I made a few educated guesses on questions that I narrowed down to 2 choices, and most of the time I was comfortable with my answers and my pace. I built a good 5 minute buffer (I was on question 25 with 30+ minuted remaining). I felt good, but then something strange happened.

I clicked confirm answer on q26 and nothing happened. I clicked it again, and my answer choice wouldnt change. The clock was still counting down. I spammed the mouse, but that didn't work too. I was about to have a seizure when an error message came saying that an error had occurred. Network Connection was lost in the middle of my verbal section, and I again I was like wth?!?!.... It took them around 3 minutes to fix. Fortunately I was able to resume, starting on question 26, but I lost 2-3 minutes. Lost, just like that. I lost my 5 minute buffer but I still had a little more than 1.5 mins per question. I didn't look back - I kept on going. I powered through the RCs and eyeballed CRs for an answer. I had 6 minutes left for the last 3 questions, and I made sure I got them right. And then I was done. I did not want to see my quant score, but I wanted to see my verbal score.

I took a few moments to gather myself before proceeding through the survey questions. I was finally calm. I did not cancel my scores. And then, I reached the score report. Q47 (73rd percentile, but couldve been worse i guess), V47 (nice). I thought 45 verbal was my limit. And there it was - a 750, 98th percentile. I took a breath, thanked God and smiled. When my mind played "Honor him" from Gladiator in the background I was at peace at last. I had done it. I was glad I took the GMAT early at 20, before junior year, as it would probably never bother me again (unless my IR score is like a 2). 750 was more than I could have hoped for. Perhaps I couldve scored 10-20 points higher if I had controlled my nerves in quant. But I didn't care anymore - it was over. I was happy to give up a month of summer/a second short internship for this score. I survived the gmat, and life was good. I had a great dinner with friends afterwards.

Ultimately, I want to thank gmat club for all the great resources on the site. The forum has been extremely helpful, and I am proud to be part of this community. I would be glad to answer any questions prospective test takers may have about my experience.

Here are some key lessons I learned:
- Mental preparation is as important as technical preparation.
- Skip (or rather guess) difficult problems. Time is extremely valuable on the test, and from my practice tests, the questions I spend the most time on tend to be the ones I get wrong anyway.
- Use OG Archer (even just the free one)
- MGMAT quant prepares you well, dont get discouraged if you think it is too difficult at first. Overall, MGMAT materials are worth what you pay.
- Study the gmatclub/mgmat flashcards. Super convenient, super helpful.
- Convince yourself that taking the GMAT is "fun" (goes with mental prep)
- If there are any other college kids out there, considering taking the GMAT now, the sooner you get it done the better
- Find some way to REALLY motivate yourself. It just works.

This is a really long post. If you're still reading, thanks.

Last edited by HappyBuddha on 03 Nov 2012, 17:17, edited 3 times in total.
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Joined: 20 May 2012
Posts: 20
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Strategy
GMAT 1: 690 Q47 V37
WE: Engineering (Manufacturing)
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 7 [0], given: 2

Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2012, 15:03
"The best" briefing that I have ever read.
Current Student
User avatar
Joined: 19 Apr 2011
Posts: 23
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Nonprofit
Schools: Stanford GSB - Class of 2015
GMAT 1: 740 Q49 V42
GPA: 3.9
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 29 [0], given: 6

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2012, 19:10
Dude, honestly, congratulations on that score! Amazing debrief and thanks for sharing!
Senior Manager
Senior Manager
Joined: 06 Aug 2011
Posts: 405
Followers: 2

Kudos [?]: 125 [0], given: 82

Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2012, 11:56
wow...!! great score..!!.. congrats..!!

u didnt mentioned the buks for verbal section?? can u tell us which buks u read for CR and SC??

Bole So Nehal.. Sat Siri Akal.. Waheguru ji help me to get 700+ score !

Joined: 27 May 2012
Posts: 30
Schools: Stanford '18 (A)
GMAT 2: 750 Q47 V47
GPA: 3.9
WE: Investment Banking (Investment Banking)
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 8 [0], given: 2

Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2012, 19:34
Basically my study materials for verbal were the OG 12th edition and the OG Verbal 2nd edition, plus the MGMAT CATs. I did most of the CRs and SCs in those books (with Archer), starting from the back (the harder questions).

My strategy was just to get through as many problems as possible, it was easier to remember concepts that way, especially for SC. MGMAT Flashcards also helped for SC. MGMAT CATs had very good explanations for the verbal section.

Also, I made sure to understand the most difficult(and ambiguous) CR questions by reading the answer explanations online from the MGMAT, gmatclub and beatthegmat forums.
Joined: 13 Jul 2010
Posts: 17
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 2 [0], given: 25

Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 28 Sep 2012, 03:21
Congratulation on the great score!

Did you use the archer lite or the complete ($14) Archer?

Joined: 27 May 2012
Posts: 30
Schools: Stanford '18 (A)
GMAT 2: 750 Q47 V47
GPA: 3.9
WE: Investment Banking (Investment Banking)
Followers: 0

Kudos [?]: 8 [0], given: 2

Re: From 620 to 750... [#permalink] New post 28 Sep 2012, 12:10
I used the complete archer, just because it came with the package I bought. Archer lite alone should be fine though.
Re: From 620 to 750...   [#permalink] 28 Sep 2012, 12:10
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