Finally, after months of having been a regular peeping tom at this forum, I am writing my own GMAT debrief. Took my GMAT today morning, so am a shade exhausted, but nonetheless, quite happy.My background first:
Am one of the older guys in this forum, with a total of 11 years of work experience. Am an Indian. I have done my engineering from IIT and then worked in the software space for over 4 years. I then did my MBA from ISB, Hyderabad and have subsequently worked in the Finance field now for 7 years. I am a VP at a leading global investment bank and am based in Mumbai, India.
The obvious question one would ask is: If I have already done by MBA and work in Finance in the investments business, why take GMAT now? The answer: I plan to do my Masters in Finance from London Business School. I plan to build a career on the buyside and buyside options in India are limited and relatively not as remunerative. Hence, the plan to expand my scope by doing an MIF.My GMAT prep:
At this stage of my career, I have been out of touch with any form of test taking (standardized or otherwise) for 8-9 years now. So, the prospect of prepping for GMAT and getting a good score was pretty daunting. However, given my strong Quants background and my confidence (sometimes misplaced) in my abilities, I had the firm belief that I could do it.
I searched the web, especially GMATClub, and identified MGMAT as arguably the best GMAT resource available, So, I went ahead and bought all the MGMAT (Verbal and Quant) books. I then bought the OG 12
and the OG12
Verbal and Quant.To cut a long story short:
I studied all the MGMAT books
once and did only the advanced OG questions from MGMAT. Given my strong quants background, I took it easy for Maths and focused on Verbals instead. MGMAT was a great building block for my GMAT preps - given I was hopelessly out of touch.My practice scores over a timeframe of 40 days, in order of test taking:
GMATPRep 1: 720
MGMAT 4: 730
MGMAT 5: 740
MGMAT 6: 750
GMATPREP2: 750First attempt: 730
I took the GMAT after a month and half of prep and got a score of 730 (Q 48, V 42) - I was not happy with my score as I believed I could do better. Especially, the quants score rankled in my mind - I felt rushed during the quants section, spent more time than I should have on tough questions and ended up submitting the last 7 quant answers in 9 minutes, guessing 3-4 of them. My overconfidence in my ability to crack quants had come back to bite me in a place that is not used to being bitten. I was happy with my verbal score, but really thought that my quants preparation was undercooked.Second attempt: 760
I decided that I shall take GMAT again and this time, focus entirely on quants. It was my experience that MGMAT was not the best suited for my quant preps. For one, the quant sections in MGMAT are way tougher than the actual GMAT, and for another, its scoring algorithm seems to be much more generous. Hence, the high quant scores that I had been getting at my practice tests were, to some extent, misleading.
I now focused largely on the GMATClub website for my quants prep this time around, going through as many threads as I could and solving interesting and difficult problems. In particular, the GMATClub online maths book was very helpful, concise, to the point and focused entirely on GMAT. I did the GMATClub diagnostic test twice and went through each question of Bunuel's PS and DS documents. As I did not want to spend any more dollars on my GMAT preps, I did not buy the GMATClub quant test battery - though am sure, their quality is very high indeed. Going through these difficult questions and threads at least twice helped me get over my rustiness in Quants and helped a great deal.
I must mention here that I am indebted to Bunuel and Walker for helping me a great deal with the quant sections through their amazing explanations and whiplash for her easy-to-use verbal guides.
Another thread that I had read here at GMATClub helped me a lot - the author advised to do the first 12-13 questions in quants at a slow and steady pace given they probably have a significant weightage on the final score level. He also advised to speed up while answering questions 16-28, given this would be the place where a large number of experimental questions would likely be added. And finally, to take more time to solve the last 8-9 questions, as time pressure in the last section would mean panic could set in and lead to sub par scores.Test day:
I took a break of a month from any kind of GMAT prep and then worked on the quants section exclusively for 8-10 days. taking any and every free practice GMAT quant test I could find on the net. Probably, they were not the best tests, but helped me with much-needed practice. I must mention here that I have found the PlatinumGMAT free full length practice test a very good one indeed, with a number of interesting and tricky questions.
Then, arrived test day - the night earlier, sleep was elusive, to say the least. However, I didn't suffer from nerves as I already had a 730 score as backup. I rushed through the AWA sections and finished AWA 20 minutes early. This time, I was determined to finish quants with time to spare. I spent more time on the first 11-12 questions and breezed through the middle section. Some of the questions in the middle section were ridiculously easy - clearly, they were experimental questions and helped me save time given they could be solved in 15-20 seconds. Though I took time on the last 7-8 questions, I still had 11 minutes to spare when I finished.
Verbal was almost a repeat of the last time. I slogged through verbals and never, for once, felt in the comfort zone. By this time, I had a terrible headache and the stupidly high amount of Red Bull I had drank during the break was making its presence felt, much to my discomfort. I trudged through verbals, uncomfortable and unsatisfied, and ended with 4 minutes to spare.
I was pretty relieved seeing a score of 760 as I had been expecting 50-51 in quants, but was apprehensive that I might have screwed up my verbal bigtime. Apparently, GMAT didn't agree and gave me a decent Verbal score of 42!My verbal prep:
Although I have a high degree of comfort in English for a non-native speaker, MGMAT's SC
guide was my bible - this book was invaluable as a platform to build my GMAT SC skills. The CR book was decent although the RC book was not of much help. For CR - the key was practising as many problems as I could to sharpen my analytical skills. RC was an area that I did not spend much time at all, as I am a voracious reader and RC was relatively easy. The SC, CR and RC threads on GMATClub were invaluable - the key is to go through the discussion threads in order to understand the concepts involved rather than just look at the solutions. The resources available on GMATClub itself are, I believe, enough for practice if one has built a strong base in GMAT-Verbal. Doing hundreds or thousands of SC or CR or RC questions and cramming oneself probably is not the best approach, methinks.Parting shots:
As told by many before me, don't ever, EVER underestimate the GMAT - overconfidence can be your bane, as GMAT will extract its pound of flesh in due course - as I found out initially with my sub par Quants score.
Being good in Maths or English DOES NOT mean you will do well in GMAT Maths or English - it requires specific skillsets, knowledge and practice
Keep a tab on time, ALWAYS - I learnt out the hard way how a couple of extra minutes spent on trying to solve a particularly obtuse problem can cause a 30-point dent in your final score
Leave your ego at home - You might be the smartest guy around in school - but the GMAT is not a puzzle solving contest where you need to get all problems right - when an obstinate problem stares in your face, accept defeat and move on - give the devil its due
That's it for now - take care folks. Need to, have to, want to drink a lot tonight - and yes, eat Sushi!
Edit: Added my second post to my debrief below
Hello again folks!
Have decided to add another discussion thread, capturing some more random thoughts, once the bubbly excitement of a 760 score has settled down now.
So here goes:Things they tell you to do, but I didn't:- Take no tests in the last few days, just revise:
I had taken 3 full tests in the last 3 days leading to the GMAT - this was primarily because I had set myself a timeframe of only 10 days for my second attempt as I was going on vacation after that and it was not possible to take the GMAT later. Also, for me specifically, getting accustomed to the test taking mindset just prior to the actual test works - keeps me mentally agile and on my toes. I think, given the more than one month of inaction after my first attempt, taking a host of tests leading into the G-day helped me get over my rustiness.- Always include the AWAs in your mock tests:
In all my mock tests, I have never, ever done that. A 4 hour ordeal, including the one hour taken for the AWAs, would have been very stressful and would not have allowed me to take 5 practice tests in the last 7 days. Despite many pieces of advice to the contrary, I believe that, for people who are comfortable expressing themselves cogently in English, leaving out the AWA sections during the practice tests could actually be beneficial. In fact, in the actual test, writing the two AWAs in a relaxed mode helped me enter the quants section in a comfortable frame of mind. - Maintain an error log:
I have never maintained an error log
, though I have revised my incorrect solutions post taking a mock test in detail. Revising the problems that I got wrong and those that I got right accidentally have been very helpful in improving my overall accuracy and performance. However, I am not a very organized person by nature and maintaining an error log
of all questions I had gotten wrong across all mock tests would have been too tall a mountain to climb. For me, learning from my mistakes after taking a mock test largely offset the need for a specific error log
.- Take your time when going through the RC passages, and take detailed notes:
Well, this strategy did not work for me. It led to significant time leakage and did not improve my accuracy. For me, quickly browsing through the passages to have an overall idea of the structure (occasionally spending a bit more time on sentences that are more dificult to comprehend) and then diving into the requisite portion when answering a specific question worked better than taking detailed notes. It ensured that I spent time on questions that actually needed spending more time on.
I must mention here that many other pieces of advice here at the forum have been real gems and have helped me achieve the score I have. A couple of key ones are:- Keep track of time - give yourself a minute max to evaluate whether you can solve the problem - if you think you cannot, make an educated guess if possible else a random one, and MOVE ON!
This worked like a dream for me - I had spent more time than I should have on some obstinate quant problems and ended up with a rushed and panicked quant score of 48 in my first attempt - followed the advice to the tee the next time and got a sweet 50 on the next attempt.- The problem sets on DS and PS by Bunuel, strategies, tips and solutions by Walker and Bunuel:
A mere thank you is not enough to express how much the problems and solutions have helped me. To all ye future test takers - please go through these freely-available documents and include them in your test prps.- The various verbal threads, verbal guides by Whiplash, Gayathri, TestMagic, RC guide by Rhyme etc:
Apart from the Manhattan SC guide, these documents and discussion threads were invaluable - had gone through all these documents and the SC, CR and RC discussion threads on GMATCLub. Would have, without doubt, gotten a lower verbal score if I had not gone through them.
Cheers and wish you a very happy new year!