– Oct 7th 2013GMAT Score
– 770, Q-50, V-44, AWA-5, IR-8Professional Background
– Entrepreneur, Indian, 11 years work exPersonal Background
– Married, Proud father of 8 month old boyThe GMAT MANTRA
– You are as good as you believe can be.GMAT Aspirant since 2003
(10 very long years)
I took the GMAT test 2 weeks back and scored a 770 (99 percentile). I put in around 5 months of as intense preparation as one could muster with a very demanding job and a young family. I benefited immensely from spending a lot of time on these forums and am very thankful to the moderators, site owners and users for making this community a treasure trove for any GMAT aspirant. I have been procrastinating about writing this debrief for close to two weeks now and I feel it is time to give something back to this community which has helped me a lot.
There are multiple debriefs here on GC that I cannot even light a candle to in terms of strategies, tips and tricks. I followed highly unconventional methods in my approach and I probably possess a learning aptitude that is highly unique. So I would like to categorically state that my methods and recommendations are mine and I am in no way stating that it will work for someone else. Background
I am a 33 year old entrepreneur who happens to have an Indian passport although home is far away from motherland. I completed my undergrad in engineering around 11 years back and my last tryst with standardized tests was CAT (which I bombed, figuratively speaking, with no admits into the IIM’s) and the GRE (97th percentile) which turned out to be ironically useless since owing to a personal financial situation, I was unable to pursue the masters that I was admitted into. I promised myself then that I would make up for that later in life and as I dived headlong into the corporate world and embarked upon a career that I would like to call eventful if not illustrious, it became clear that business school was my calling.
In terms of test taking skills, math was always my favorite subject and I do consider myself to be extremely good at it. I also happen to have a voracious reading appetite, although the volume I consume has dwindled considerably over the years. However the speed at which I can go through passages and books is quite high and my command over the language has always been exemplary.Arriving at the Decision
Although the decision to attend business school was taken almost 10 years back, the eventuality just got kept pushing back owing to a combination of extenuating factors in my professional and personal lives. I would buy GMAT preparatory material every 2 years in an attempt to rekindle the flame, but my stack of books just kept growing and gathering dust.
At the end of 2011, after multiple years of continuous growth at one of the top 5 internet companies in the world, I was heading up one of the most profitable sales P&L’s in the company’s history in an operation spanning 3 continents and around 21 countries. I was living the dream life with a great job in a great company, frequent flier status on more than one airline, deep entertainment accounts and investments into tech (and non tech) startups that were starting to show fruition. But there was this hole that I was unable to fill, despite all this, inside me and at the beginning of 2012, I embarked on a path that would turn my world upside down. I quit my job on a whim, joined a bunch of great guys at a techy startup in a market I haven’t worked for a long time and fell in love. I’d love to say that everything worked out great but if that was the case, I probably wouldn't be here writing this debrief. Fully dedicated entrepreneurism eventually made me realize why I do need to go to B School for reasons other than just the club membership. To cut the story short, I was made to realize that life and the decisions one has to make as an entrepreneur are very different from those when you do have the backup of a monthly income. Last but not the least, Fell in love, got married to a very special woman (who happens to be a researcher at an Ivy League school) who has been instrumental in helping me decide to take the plunge and also became a proud father of a very handsome boy in between.
Let’s face it. The decision to do B-School isn't easy and even more so when you get towards the wrong side of 30’s. It’s a tough call to take 2 (or 1) years off from a very rewarding (or not) life and go back to school. You have to consider a lot of factors including impact on career, costs (and opportunity costs), family and economy etc before one can arrive at an informed decision. Once you have cleared the fog in your mind, you should find it easy to choose what is best for you. I personally found me ready to finally bite the dust at end of last year and I found this forum and became a member in Nov.
Once I did become a member on GC. I did spend a good 5 months lurking around the forum trying to convince myself that I had made the right decision to go back to school at the ripe age of 33. A good part of this time was spent familiarizing myself with the test format, reading through countless GMAT debriefs, blogs (Cheetarah, MBAover30etc) and more. Once I was able to convince myself that I wasn’t too old for an MBA and that I could still have a decent shot at the GMAT, I eventually decided to get started midway through April and hit the ground running.Pre-Preparation Prep
GMAT is like a marathon and you would be foolish to think that you can do it without any preparation. The most important thing to do is to buildup you mental stamina and to get yourself into the right zone where you do believe you can excel. In my case it meant complete abstinence from all vices and stimulants including but not limited to alcohol, nicotine, PS3, Texas Hold Em Poker (Yes I uninstalled the app from my ipad and phone), TV series and movies etc
I also got back to regular exercise and a diet rich in what I call brain food – Fish (Sardines, Mackerel’s etc), Eggs, Nuts, Milk etc. I cut out caffeine, fried foods, Junk food, Chips, Soda etc. A lot of people swear by Red Bulls and other similar energy drinks but I am of the opinion if your brain is tired, just take a break instead of pushing yourself using artificial means.
I also effectively disengaged myself from all unnecessary social commitments which involves becoming something of a recluse but works wonders for getting into a routine. After checking out the closest test centers and available timeslots, I found that only morning slots were available for the time period I was looking at. Now the key to succeeding in anything you do is to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. I have never been a morning person and I knew that I had to practice waking up early and make sure my brain was firing on all guns around the time I had to do my test. Hence all my preparation involved trying to adhere to simulating the test conditions as much as possible.PreparationMaterial used
During my procrastination phase, I had zeroed in on the material I would want to use and it consisted of the following.
1. Manhattan Set of 8 guides
2. OG 12
3. Kaplan GMAT 800
4. Vedic Mathematics made easy by Dhaval Bhatia
5. GMATPrep Tests
6. Mnahattan Cats
8. Gmat Club Tests
Although I still do have all these books lying around, I was quick to figure out that I would use very little of any of these since all this information (Save for No.4) was available on demand on GC and I found it much more simpler to use my tablet and laptop for quick and intense sessions as lugging around books were just not practical. Strategy
Although a lot of people recommend diagnostic tests at the very beginning to see where one stands, I chose not to go down that route as I wanted to make sure I understood the format and the concepts well before I did that. So hence the first 4 months were almost entirely spent on GC and the tag search function, understanding each and every question type and going through bursts of each question type.
Another highly recommended strategy that I tried but then chose to ignore since it wasn’t working for me was that of an error log
. I just found it too cumbersome to maintain an error log
especially across multiple devices and that effort was abandoned in less than a day of trying it out.
I was working close to 10hrs a day and very rarely had the luxury of finding time to sit down to study. I would attack around 40 questions each from a different section every time I found myself a 30 min break between work. This was my schedule for close to 4 months. Weekends I would give around 10-12hrs doing the same. I believe the 40 questions in 30 mins helped me build up my speed and this was evident on test day when I finished all sections more than 10 mins ahead of time. Once i got myself familiar and comfortable with the questions and the timing, i started attacking the tests duplicating test conditions as much as possible and then going through my mistakes in detail. I never did an untimed test and always made sure I did do the AWA and IR sections where possible.CAT Diary
After around 4 months of preparation solely using GC forums, I felt ready to embark on the CAT journey and below you will find how I went through them. Please do note that all the tests were taken at the exact same time I was slated to write my test simulating the exact conditions right down to diet and loo breaks. I never skipped the AWA and the IR sections.Aug 9th – Economist Free GMAT Test - 730, Q50, V41
15 questions wrong on quant + 3 missed at the end, 18 questions wrong on verbal. I felt this score was inflated. The math was quite simple compared to actual GMAT but I felt the verbal to be more tougher.Aug 11th Manhattan GMAT Test 1 - 670, Q45, V36, IR 4.36
12 on Quant + 1 missed, 15 on Verbal. This score felt more realistic although I found both sections to be much tougher than the OG questions I had practiced on. The IR section was extremely tough.Aug 17th Manhattan GMAT Test 2 - 680, Q47, V36, IR 4.57
13 on Quant + 1 missed, 16 on verbal. This pretty much confirmed to me my baseline on MGMAT Cats’s although I was confident that I would do much better with the actual tests judging by what I was reading on the forum and my strike rate with OG questions.Aug 24th GmatPrep CAT 1 - 770, Q50, V44, IR 8
9 on Quant, 8 on verbal. This test put me in a great state of mind as this score was close to what I felt I could score. Although the cynic in me did point out that some of the questions I encountered on this test was ones that I had come across before on the forum and hence the score might be inflated.Aug 30th Manhattan GMAT Test 3 - 690, Q45, V39, IR 3.8
13 on Quant, 13 on verbal. Although my score did go up by 10 points largely due to an improved performance in verbal, I was getting concerned with my lack of improvement on my quant scores. Sep 13th Manhattan GMAT Test 4 - 710, Q48, V39, IR 4.6
12 on Quant + 1 Missed, 6 on verbal. I took a break from the tests for a week owing to personal commitments and was itching to get back on the horse. I was very happy to crack into the 700+ level on MGMAT as it was becoming clear that I am on course for a 700+ score. Although I did find it weird that despite increasing my accuracy by more than 100% my verbal score got flatlined at 39.Oct 6th GmatPrep CAT 2 - 740, Q49, V41, IR 8
7 on Quant, 8 on verbal. Owing to personal reasons again, I was unable to give GMAT the necessary attention till the day before the exam when I has decided o take the final Gprep CAT. I only managed to score a 740 on this despite improving my accuracy on quant. But what this test told me was I am on course to score between 740 and 770 the next day on the CAT.The D Day
I cannot stress on the importance of a good night’s sleep before the test. I unfortunately was out till very late on the eve of the test day and actually only managed to stock up on my snack box and do the test drive to the center at 2am in the morning, with the test at 10 AM. Back at home exhausted from the long day, my son did his best to wake me up at 6 AM
Although I was calm internally and in the right frame of mind to take the test, I do feel that I possibly could have done slightly better if I did have a good night’s sleep on the same set of questions. So I woke up at 6 and went through 15 OG questions each for PS, DS, CR and SC to get things fired up. I brushed on my notes on Geometry and Probability (my relatively weak areas) and had a breakfast of eggs and rice pancakes. I was very particular on my snack box and what I had n there were a small pouch of salted cashew nuts, 2 bounty bars and 2 oronamin C’s. Now I am very particular about consuming my bounty’s and oronamins at particular temperature so I had made arrangements to borrow my kid nephews temperature resistant lunch box which was then filled with semi frozen bottles and bars
For those not familiar with oronamin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oronamin
) it is a vile and funny tasting concoction of Vitamins, Caffiene and even some nicotine in the drink. It’s highly popular in the region where I live and a small bottle of it is like an electric shock to the brain. So with my packed goodie box and not so rested brain, I drove myself to the test center which was around a 15 min drive away and got there without any major incident. It was a busy day at the test center and I was around 15 minutes late to start my test, while I fiddled with chinesburned AWA template. Before starting the test I did scout the bathroom location right before I went in for the test ((with some extremely funny looks from the proctor) and I was glad that I did as it was an easy 2 min walk going to the restroom and back AWA
– I got a question on a motorcycle/bicycle business that I don’t exactly remember. I went clickety clackety away on the keyboard and got right down to business. I picked 3 flaws, and free wrote for 20 minutes. I proofread the essay, made some minor changes and just about realized with 2 minutes to spare that I had rambled quite a bit and could definitely have done better. IR
– This was a lot easier and definitely way much easier than MGMAT’s pretty similar to the GMATprep one. I managed to solve every question easily with around 5 mins to spare and I took those 5 minutes to prime myself for the task ahead. Break 1
– Ate a handful of nuts, Drank my ice cold oronamin with a couple of swigs of water, went to the bathroom, drank some more water, ate a cold bar of bounty and eventually rushed back into the room with around 2 mins is to spare thinking I had overstayed.Quant
– The section started off well and although I was pretty sure I was getting the answers correct, the relatively easy questions were starting to prove ominous. I was 8 minutes ahead of the clock after 15 questions and I was feeling good so far but there was still that gnawing feeling in the back of my mind I’d screwed myself a bit because I wasn’t getting any hard questions. However, I made sure that I wouldn’t let that chew away my confidence and kept chipping away. I got some really tough questions after 25 and boy I had never felt so relieved to see tough DS questions. I knew I was doing well and the gods smiled on me by not throwing up a single probability or combinatory question. I knew I was going to be in high 40s towards the end and by the time I answered the last question, I had a good 10 mins left on the clock.Break 2
– Repeat of Break 1. Only this time I was on high after quant and managed to engage in some banter with the proctor and went back in ready to take on the world.Verbal
– This was a tough one. I did not get any RC questions till after Q12. The RC passages I got were brutal and after the first one I wasn’t really sure if I were getting them right. I got 3 long RC passages, each one tougher than the other and I was really struggling to figure out how I was doing. SC was relatively easy and I had no trouble breezing through them. The CR started getting extremely tough towards the end and that’s when I knew that I must be doing well. I must have guessed around 2 CR’s and around 4-5 RC questions. Towards the last 10 questions I was just impatient and wanted to e done with the test and started really rushing through them. I actually finished 5 mins ahead of time and am pretty sure if I had used the extra minutes wisely earlier my score would have been a couple of points higher.Score
– I felt great about my Quant performance but was not very sure of how I had fared on Verbal. The tough CR questions towards the end did restore some confidence and I was expecting to see a 700 score. With my heart in my mouth, I said a silent prayer and went for the kill with a lot of images flying through my mind. I can’t begin to express the sweet confusion of Joy, shock and elation I felt when I saw the 50Q, 44Vand 770 total. I did a silent fist pump and got ushered out of the room. The proctor took a look at my score and commented that my bathroom scouting at the beginning made a lot more sense to him now.Wrap up
Now that the test is out of the way and I look back and reflect on how I went about cracking the GMAT
. I would like to comment on a couple of random topics that I believe might be helpful for future aspirantsBunuel
I cannot thank Bunuel enough for helping lead the way on the quant section of this forum. His methods are golden and if anyone is looking to score a 50, all you need to do is to try and understand how Bunuel approaches Quant problems and try to learn to think like him. This is one guy you want to be following and a 100 Kudos again for all your constant help and support. Although I am starting to have this premonition that Bunuel is a plural entity GmatClub Tests
This is a high quality treasure trove of tough problems, especially quant and will make the difference between a 47 and a 51.Verbal
There are a lot of non official questions and equally non official answers floating around on these forums and one should learn to not be caught up with specificities. I found a lot of intense debates over questions whose sources were questionable and honestly believe they could better utilize their time moving on and attacking other questions. I would recommend subscribing to (and reading) magazines like the economist
, scientific American, FT, NG etc to get your reading speed and command over vocabulary up to speed. Self-Belief and Spirituality
You will find a lot of articles on strategy, Takt time, timing strategies, AWA templates etc on these forums that would be giving much better tips than me. However all strategies, Intellectual capacity, test day variables etc are all useless if you don’t have the self-belief and gumption to take you across. Believing in oneself and visualizing the result you want immensely helped me and I’d highly recommend this. I would wake up everyday morning and just meditate for a short period of time, visualizing the score I wanted, the program I would go to etc. Fill your mind with the positive energy that one derives from it and then go about starting your day.The GMAT Less World
A lot of us do tend to take the GMAT very seriously and somehow manage to convince ourselves that there is no other way out in this competitive world. Competition occurs when life strives with life for success and mastery. All competition involves striving but not all strife is competitive. If I play chess against myself, there is no loser. We are all special people in our own ways and we should not let a GMAT score affect who we are deep inside.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this forum and am very thankful to the founders, moderators and the users for making this community what it is. I am embarking on the R2 madness and I will be around on these forums for some more time and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
You've been walking the ocean's edge, holding up your robes to keep them dry. You must dive naked under, and deeper under, a thousand times deeper! - Rumi
http://www.manhattangmat.com/blog/index.php/author/cbermanmanhattanprep-com/ - This is worth its weight in gold
Economist GMAT Test - 730, Q50, V41 Aug 9th, 2013
Manhattan GMAT Test - 670, Q45, V36 Aug 11th, 2013
Manhattan GMAT Test - 680, Q47, V36 Aug 17th, 2013
GmatPrep CAT 1 - 770, Q50, V44 Aug 24th, 2013
Manhattan GMAT Test - 690, Q45, V39 Aug 30th, 2013
Manhattan GMAT Test - 710, Q48, V39 Sep 13th, 2013
GmatPrep CAT 2 - 740, Q49, V41 Oct 6th, 2013
GMAT - 770, Q50, V44, Oct 7th, 2013
My Debrief - http://gmatclub.com/forum/from-the-ashes-thou-shall-rise-770-q-50-v-44-awa-5-ir-162299.html#p1284542