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
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.