Tamed The Tiger
I would like to thank all gmatclub members for their amazing posts. I used the standard prep material like everyone else does but what really helped me crack the exam are the gmatclub posts related to – prep strategies, test strategies and personal experiences of the members. I have not really posted enough in the club yet so I feel it is my duty to give back to it and contribute by means of sharing my own prep and test experience, how I learnt from my mistakes and what did I did to overcome them.
I’ll begin with giving everyone a brief background about myself - I am a non-native English speaker, married and have a young kid. I have been working in the IT industry for over 7 years now, so quite a time since I last went to college last.
So factors such as family, a full time job and no academics for a long time were my challenges. I got tremendous support from my wife who took almost complete responsibility of our kid so that I get maximum time for my prep. I couldn’t do much to change my work load though so I concentrated on the prep during whatever little free time I used to get every day. I prepared for about two months before my 1st GMAT attempt and was bombed – a 620 ! All thanks to a poor verbal score of 29. Quant was not excellent either, a 46. Disheartened, I came back home and booked a date for the second attempt – exactly 45 days later. What follows next is my prep journey through these 45 days.The first thing I did was that I listed down my weaknesses. They are as below –
1) Lack of concentration (this largely affected RC questions)
2) Underestimation of DS questions
3) Inability to complete the verbal section on time
Then I spent the next few days going through articles about increasing reading comprehension skills, concentration, reading speed, tips to attack GMAT-RC and time management in GMAT. I could find all of these in gmatclub posts (Thanks to the club members once again!). I found an amazing article on time management and about things to do in the last 14 days before the exam by Stacey Koprince. This article is well written and test strategies – especially on time management - described here really really really worked for me. Thanks Stacey! For my other weakness – poor concentration and comprehension – that affected my performance in RC, I could find some articles in the club’s forum detailing strategies to attack the RC. The articles are well written and seem very convincing at once but the strategies described did not seem to work for me at all, mainly for two reasons. First, I am not a fast writer of notes; second, my notes were never good enough for me to be able to find answers in them. So I discovered my own method to improve my concentration – tried stuffing my index fingers hard into my ears to cut any outside noise, it hurt, it sounds funny, but it worked! Yes, my verbal scores immediately started shooting upwards, so I adopted this strategy. Besides these, I started respecting the DS questions much more than ever before. Most posts I read about DS questions say one common thing – the best thing about DS questions is that one does not have to actually solve the problem
. I do not think there is anything too nice about it. Remember that when you are not required to completely solve a problem, you are actually required to imagine a lot without putting things on paper and this makes these questions much more tricky than PS questions. PS questions on the contrary may take long to solve but are safer. Only tough PS questions are tricky, most others are straight forward. So I started putting a lot of information on paper when solving a DS question and it helped. I started scoring more in quant as well. Also, a lot of posts suggest us to use AD/BCE grid for DS questions. It never worked for me. In fact I find it a waste of time to write down these 5 alphabets for each DS question. My way of doing it is that I write down two numbers on paper – ‘1’ and ‘2’, corresponding to the two statement in a DS problem. Then if the first statement is sufficient, I tick mark ‘1’ else cross it off. Same for ‘2’. If I cross off both ‘1’ and ‘2’ , I make a circle around them to mark it as a tick or cross (after evaluating both ‘1’ and ‘2’ together). This works the best for me and I can quickly choose an option. I also disregard the suggestion to evaluate second statement first if it looks simpler or shorter than statement 1. I don’t think this makes any sense or adds any value, except maybe a psychological advantage of an insignificant value. In fact if we are going to apply so many rules, we will actually be complicating things for ourselves during the test. The idea is to keep things simple. Well, so after I finished with this two week long exercise of weakness identification, weakness fixing, singling out strategies and listing the Do’s and Dont’s, I attempted a MGMAT test near Sept end and scored a 700. It was definitely a reason for me to be happy and to believe that my plan may now work. I spent one day relaxing and preparing a study schedule for each day starting Oct 1 till Oct 29. I allocated more hours on weekends and planned to take at least 10 CAT tests during this period in addition to solving sample questions. I followed my timetable on at least 25 out of 29 days and I saw consistency in my practice test results. There are four takeaways from the paragraph above –
(1) Identify your weaknesses.
(2) Attack your weaknesses by finding specific solutions.
(3) Read suggestions and strategies from all but try to devise one’s own. Remember that just because something worked for someone does not necessarily mean that it will work for you.
(4) Go for a disciplined and planned approach for your prep; a plan that suits you.Prep material I used –
2) Kaplan 800
CD companion (for CATs)
4) MGMAT online tests (1 free + 5 paid) the only prep material that I paid for
5) Gmatclub free testsAbout the prep material –
1) I found OG the best book for practicing sample questions and reviewing explanations
CAT quant questions are too easy and verbal is too tough
3) MGMAT quant is tougher than the actual test and verbal is at par with actual test
CAT scoring is horrible and not reliable; MGMAT‘s is close to real
5) Manhattan and gmatclub posts in the forum are outstanding. Special thanks to Manhattan’s explanations to verbal section questions.I have attached all my test results (practice and real) in this post.Test day experience –
I had a morning 9:00 appointment for my test on Oct 30 2011. I ate only a banana, drank a glass of milk and ate few nuts for breakfast. Reached the test center at about 8:15 am so had enough time to relax. I was offered a chance to start early so I began at 8:45 am. Completed both my essays and took a break. Used the restroom, ate a banana and NO WATER/JUICE. I did not want to risk a nature’s call ... hehe. Then attempted my quant section. Finished it with 7 minutes remaining but did not submit the last question because I wanted to utilize those 7 minutes for additional relaxation. I know verbal is my weakness so I wanted to give myself all I could before that section. And by the way, while I was resting, I knew I had rocked the quant section
. Then I took the usual 8 min break before the verbal section. My activities remained the same as in the first break. It had to be a good day for me. Things were going my way. My confidence kept rising up as I was going from one question to another in the verbal section because I was able to catch the traps in the questions. I think this is what that made the difference to my verbal score. And yes, forgot to mention – this time they provided a noise reduction headset, something which was a blessing for me. I finished the test with only 40 seconds remaining, I blindly guessed only 2 questions in this section somewhere in the 20s and the 30s (this was based on Stacey’s time management strategy I mentioned earlier). Then I impatiently ran through the personal details section and finally chose to submit my score – a 710 – I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t move for a while but I was very very happy inside About the test content –
1) I saw at least two SC questions based on intent.
2) 3 of the 4 RCs were short and simple. The 4th one was long and complex.
3) I could solve every question in quant but found at least 7-8 of them quite puzzling and tricky. I would not call them hard though.
Sorry for a long debrief. I hope you can derive some useful information from my experience. I would like to thank all the gmatclub members for their amazing posts in this forum. Without your help I wouldn’t have achieved my target score.
I wish each one of you good luck for your test and apps !
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