I gave a quick debrief after my first GMAT on 11/5 here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/debrief-of-my-730-44q-46v-practice-tests-started-at-122768.htmlThe Decision to Retake
I was conflicted about retaking because 730 (96th percentile) is a great score and many told me I'd be wasting my time.
A number of things together led to me retaking:
1) I knew I could do better.
My practice tests, taken after a long day at work, were consistently Q48-50. I didn't submit the last question on the actual GMAT, and I think that hurt me. If I had taken the test again immediately after, I probably would have done better on the quant part. The verbal was just above my practice ranges (~44).
2) I'd like to do consulting after my MBA.
I came across information that firms look, not only at your total GMAT score, but also at your quantitative breakdown. I remember a specific article noting that quantitative scores correlate greatest with future success as a consultant, given the measure of your analytic abilities.
My 44 in quant is a 66th percentile. Not bad, but nothing special either. Especially if I'm shooting for top firms. If I was serious about consulting, I didn't want something that I can actively change be a hindrance. And if I'm going to retake for recruiting purposes anyway, I might as well have it benefit my bschool applications, too.
3) The 80/80 percentile rule.
Admissions counselors gave me a "politically correct" answer when I asked whether they recommend retaking. I eventually came across the "80/80" rule that has been discussed here and there - that the top schools are looking for a minimum of 80th percentile on both the Quant AND Verbal section. This was corroborated by an admissions consultant who suggested I retake if I know I can bring that score up.
4) I'm "poor".
I'm not only trying to get into a top school, but I'm also trying to get scholarships/fellowships/financial assistance there. Some scholarships and fellowships take GMAT score into consideration.
5) I wasn't alone.
A friend of mine from undergrad took the GMATs for the first time a couple days after me. He got a 710 and was set on retaking. It was one of those situations where you're more likely to go to the gym if you have a friend going as well. We didn't take it together, but just having someone else going through the same thing helps. In fact, had it not been for him, I probably wouldn't have registered to retake in time since it wasn't high on my priority list.Ok, so I have to register
Ok, I was planning on retaking, but at the same time didn't want to. I was pretty burnt out after the first round of studying and the results - especially since I spent 95% of my studying on materials for quant.
So what'd I do? For about a month after taking my first GMAT, I let loose and had a great time. Then, as I mentioned before, my buddy recommended booking before the slots fill up. Sure enough, but then it was about the first or second week in December and the slots were filled. I found one on the 3rd of January, with the extra experimental section.
Fortunately, the extra section comes *after* the test. So I wasn't concerned about it affecting my score, and I think there was a discount.
Unfortunately, I realized that the 3rd was too late for a couple of the schools that need the official report before the deadline (Dartmouth, Yale).
So after registering for the 3rd, I lucked out and found a test center a bit farther from me that was available on the 20th. I forked over the $50 fee to change my registration. At this point, I had 2 weeks to prepare.With two weeks left, surely I crammed
Not quite. In fact, I was due to travel for work and was staying in the middle of San Francisco the week prior to the test. I was also due to stay the weekend, visiting family.
So instead of cramming, I was busy with work and catching up/going out with friends/spending time with family. Before/after traveling, I took a couple practice tests:
1) Manhattan GMAT
's Free one - I only did the math portion. It was after work and I wasn't concerned about verbal at all anyway. With about 5-10 questions left, I was sick of it. I just clicked selected all C's and clicked through to be done with it. I got a Q44, the same as I got on the actual test. My perception that I should have done better than a 44 was reinforced by this, and my resolve to study harder was further diminished.
2) Grockit DiagnosticWith the 730 to fall back on, and many people's suggestions that it's pointless, I had a much harder time motivating myself to study. Plus, I was *still* burnt out.
Keep this in mind if you're ever planning to retake.
Now, that said, I did do some studying over the period of time between my first and second test. I would occasionally do problems on the GMATClub Toolkit app on my iPad before going to bed. It would only be a couple problems every other night or so before getting frustrated, but it was something. I went through materials on the iPad on the short plane ride, too.
The two nights before my test (the test was on a Tuesday) was when I crammed. I reviewed all the questions on the Manhattan GMAT
test and the grockit ones - both the ones I got right and the ones I got wrong. I also read the explanation for each answer choice. At this point, I realized that I'm probably less prepared/comfortable with the math than I was the first time I took the test. So I made sure to pray, too.
I also glanced through the eBook in the GMATClub Toolkit app, along with sling's notes: http://gmatclub.com/forum/slingfox-s-gmat-strategies-condensed-96483.html
I spent the last hour of studying before (trying to) going to sleep reviewing the Manhattan GMAT SC
The test center was a bit farther away, so I left early to account for lots of traffic.
I got there an hour early, and they let me in early.AWA
I breezed through the AWA essays, finished the first with just a minute to spare, and the second one with 10 minutes to spare. Chineseburned's guide (http://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html
) was a tremendous help the first time when I got a 6.0 AWA score.Quantitative
I began the quant section with an easy question that I breezed past. The second question stumped me. It took me 5 minutes to realize that it was, in fact, quite easy. All I had to do was manipulate an equation in the prompt and find the answer choice that gives an integer value for the variable. I overlooked the fact that the variable had to be an integer.
At this point, I sort of panicked. Thinking, "this is going to be embarrassing. I'm going to do worse than I did last time. What a waste of $300."
I made up time in other areas throughout the test, skipping questions here and there that would take me a while (great advice from shadow - http://gmatclub.com/forum/770-q48-v51-thanks-gmatclub-83370.html
I noticed that many of the questions were relatively similar to ones I faced the first time. A few different ones, but all in all, the same concepts. To save time, I made assumptions here and there (ie, are these triangles proportional? answer is much easier if they are, so yup!) instead of going through all the rules beforehand. I also caught a few instances where a vital piece of information - easily overlooked - changes the answer completely. I didn't catch these "tricks" the first time I took the test.
I finished the math section with a relatively easy question about the sum of all multiples within a certain range. Took an average, multiplied by how many numbers in that range, and done. With less than 30 seconds to spare. I was convinced that I did worse than the first time.
I went off to the bathroom, demoralized, lambasting myself for my poor preparation.Verbal
I came back to take on the verbal, downtrodden and exhausted. The verbal was more difficult than I remember it last time. I struggled with a number of all three types of questions.
I also ran out of time - I had to completely guess on the last couple questions. The last one was an SC so I was bummed that I didn't get to work on it.The Score
I contemplated canceling the score, but there is no way my curiosity would have let me. Let this be a note to anyone who considers this - DON'T CANCEL YOUR SCORE - no matter how horrible you think you did!
When I saw the 760, especially the 50Q, I was literally in shock. I was nearly shaking. I was afraid to press any more buttons lest the score be lost, as if it were some glitch that would self-correct as soon as I pressed anything.Debrief
1) My first quant score must have been at the far lower end of my range
2) This new quant score was definitely on the higher side of my range
3) Knowing how to take the test is just as important as knowing the concepts
4) I'm not good at gauging how I didMaterials
Here are the materials I used before and after my first GMAT. Everyone has a different background, learns differently, remembers differently and could benefit in different ways, so take it with a grain of salt:Quant
I only went through the MasterGMAT math sections. I did maybe 1 hour worth of verbal lessons on their platform. I did one practice test of theirs that had me at 49-51Q.
I'm due for a write up on their program, but overall, it gives a very bottoms-up lesson of ALL the math topics. It was a great refresher (I studied engineering) and introduced things I never actually learned (tough to come to grips with as an engineer - "there's a high school level math concept I don't know?!").
2) GMATClub Toolkit App
Great collection of questions, the included timer, and the scratch paper feature. Awesome app, highly recommended. Great for doing problems anywhere, anytime. The explanations and questions vary depending on who they're supplied by (there're a bunch by Manhattan GMAT
, Manhattan Review
, Princeton, etc).
I also went through the math eBook on the app. And played the practice game every now and then.
3) slingfox's condensed quant notes (http://gmatclub.com/forum/slingfox-s-gmat-strategies-condensed-96483.html
4) GMAT Prep Tests and question explanations found on this forum and the Manhattan GMAT
5) GMAT Prep Now Podcast (free) http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/gmat-prep-now/id430894972
I would listen to this in my car, or when I didn't want to do problems. It was easily the best video series I found. It was succinct, informative and precise. It didn't waste time on simple concepts, or it went through them very quickly, yet effectively. The person speaking in the videos has a charming Canadian accent, and is incredibly clear and articulate. (As an aside, I found Knewton
's instructors to be poor speakers when I did the trial and I couldn't picture myself sitting through entire lessons on GMAT topics by them.)Verbal
1) Manhattan GMAT SC
Everyone swears by this book, so I went through it a couple times. I didn't do many of the practice problems, just read the concepts. On test day, though, the SC problems felt like they were beyond the realm of the hard and fast rules found in the book. I think, ultimately, it's more important to understand the meaning and how best to convey that meaning.
I read a lot. And one of the best things I learned in my college English classes was to read "actively". As in, consistently question what the author is saying.
One neat thing to do is read articles off http://news.google.com
. Try to find something that is addressed by Fox News and Al Jazeera, or the NYT and Wall Street Journal. See what each news outlet chooses to include or exclude. Read the tone of the authors. It's actually quite fascinating.Useful Lessons Learned
1) Learn to look for key details
- Many who are computationally inclined or have a quantitative background are determined to get the right answer by brute force. This hurts you on the test, especially when you end up more focused on computing the answer than looking for the nugget/trick that makes it a far easier problem or makes the answer much different. In the rush for time, I found myself glancing through the prompts and missing key details or not entirely recognizing their ramifications.
2) Learn to move on
- Another problem with being "good at math" is that "giving up" or "guessing" is anathema. Shadow's note about quickly guessing and moving on with questions that a) he wouldn't know how to do b) would complete in more than 4 minutes, was a crucial piece of advice for me. I completely skipped over a number of questions on the quantitative section, and it helped me spend more time on the questions I could get that were 700-800 level ones.
3) We don't have to know everything
- The prior two notes lead to this one. I still don't know how to do the combinatorials for picking Sandy and Joe out of 10 employees, where they're paired up with just a woman, yadda yadda. But guess what - out of the 37 questions, it's likely that no more than 2 will be on this concept. And probably not at the highest level of difficulty. I realized this after my first test - don't waste your time beating yourself over the head with things you *know* you won't master. Just know the basics and take it from there.
4) We're not as good as we think we are
- The prep prior to my first GMAT got me into a solid range, good fortune (who knows how many of the questions I skipped were experimental) and better test-taking strategies helped me get a better score. Nothing can replace solid prep!
5) We're better than we think we are
- The GMAT gets more difficult the better you do. While it may feel as though you're lost, it's not necessarily the case. EVERYONE should be challenged. Have confidence in the efforts you put in.
6) Different things work for different people
- You might notice that I did not use the OG or do very much for the verbal section. In the back of my mind, I was angry at myself for not planning enough time to go through the OG. I wanted to, I just didn't have time. Apparently I didn't need to. Everyone always talks about how crucial OG questions are. I'm not disagreeing with them, just noting that everyone is different. The GMAT Prep practice exams (and looking up explanations), Manhattan GMAT
Practice test and explanations, MasterGMAT Practice problems, and GMAT Toolkit practice problems sufficed for me.
7) Doing lots of problems helps
- I read this in an article by a Manhattan GMAT
instructor: high scorers have a vault of problems they can relate to when taking the real test. As in, it helps to recall a similar situation/problem that you solved. It makes test day much easier, when, as you're looking at a question, you can think to yourself, "Oh, I've seen something just like this - all I had to do was...etc" or "last time I saw this, it was testing [some concept]"Thanks
I've linked to some excellent posts by some amazing gmatclub people. I learned a lot from their posts and it certainly helped considerably. So thank you to them and all the other GMATClub members who make this forum such a goldmine.
I hope my post can help others in the process as well.
Cheers and good luck!
Glad I Retook: 730 (Q44 V46) to 760 (Q50 V44)