I feel I owe a quick gmat debrief as I used the site extensively and certainly owe some of my success to the tools made available to me through this website.
I took the test about a month ago and I received my final score report 2 weeks ago.
I am certainly happy with my score and I hope it will help me in whatever direction I choose to go from here!
I received my undergrad in mechanical engineering from a smallish liberal arts school in the USA and I have been working in a design firm for the past 3 years. I have always considered an MBA and spending the past 3 years working as an engineer has pushed me towards preparing to make a career shift sometime in the next few years. I don’t find the day to day of an engineering job to be very interesting. With that being said I have just accepted a new job which will combine a bit of marketing and engineering type work. I am hoping this position will aid me in a career transition in the next 5 years. Though, perhaps I will love the position and my gmat score will simply fall of the record books.
Since I was going to be in a time of transition I figured I may as well study a bit for the gmat and get a score that I could use sometime in the next 5 years if I do decide to go the business school route.
My preparation for the gmat started very unfocused as I wasn’t really sure of when or even if I would take the test. About 6 months ago I started with a Kaplan GMAT 2010
. I basically just paged through it from time to time. I focused mostly on verbal. I assumed my engineering background would assure me a decent quant score which didn’t end up being as true as I had assumed.
About this same time I started to look online at the best ways to prepare for the test and I discovered the gmatclub. At this point I took a bit of a hiatus from any preparation with the exception being that I subscribed to the daily gmat question from the gmatclub. I did both the verbal and quant question everyday. Right or wrong I always reviewed the forum for each question to see how my problem solving strategy might be improved and also to discover what areas of test knowledge I lacked. I think there is a very important point to be made here. Acquiring all of the actual knowledge required for the test will only get you so far. Approaching problems in a quick and precise manner is just as if not more important.
I believe the daily questions ended after 120 days. After the questions ended there was probably one month of time where I didn’t even touch any gmat material. During this month I purchased an OG 11th Ed when I found it on sale at a local bookseller. After a month of doing nothing I decided it was time to set a date so I had something to work towards. I set a date about 2 months out. I didn’t have a particular number I was shooting for. I wanted something in the 700’s that would keep my options open at least from the gmat score perspective.
So with a date set I decided I needed to start an actual prep plan. I took my first full practice test with the free GMATPrep software. Result
GMATPrep approx 2 months out...
I was surprised. I play a bit of poker so I instantly saw this score as a simple upswing in variance
I certainly didn’t think I was at a 760 score level. However, I still found the test valuable as I found my two areas needing the most improvement were sentence correction (expected) & problem solving (unexpected). At this point I purchased a Manhattan sentence correction
book not only for the SC review but also for access to their online CATs.
With these results in hand I put together a study schedule. I set aside a week for Sentence correction and then a week for quant with a focus on problem solving. Followed by a half week each for CR and RC. I then put in a week for a few practice tests. Followed by a week for review of still weak subjects. Finally, I figured the last week I would review AWA strat and take the second GMATPrep exam.
Things in my life over the next two weeks went normally meaning, the unexpected and unplanned happened and I wasn’t able to get as much time in as I hoped but I did more or less stick to this schedule.
For my SC review I went through every page of the Manhattan guide with a highlighter. I highlighted bits that I thought were particularly important or that I didn’t understand very well. This would be important later in the process.
For my quant review I went through the kaplan
and OG sections on quant strat. I again used a highlighter in the OG quant
section to highlight things I needed to know that I hadn’t previously. This included diff number properties, geometry and some stats. I followed this up by doing every quant question in the OG and reviewing each problem that I took too long on or got incorrect.
My proposed half week each for CR and RC turned into doing the hardest 20 ?’s in the OG for each topic. I was satisfied with how I did so I actually didn’t do any further review for these 2 subjects.
Next I embarked on two practice tests....I used Manhattan GMAT
’s online CAT exams.
I was a bit disappointed at the drop from my first test but this was also more along the lines of what I was expecting. I ran out of time in the quant and had to guess 2 of the final 3 and actually didn’t get a guess in for the last which I am sure hurt my score. I was again weak on SC in the verbal and based on what I reviewed should have gotten a few more right.
Again, I ran out of time on the quant. I had two PS ?’s on this test that I spent over 4 minutes on each. I needed to learn to ditch these ?’s quick when I saw that they would take far too long for me. Save story on the verbal.
At this point I will say that my focus for both of these tests was poor. I took them both on beautiful Saturdays with plans of doing things with friends immediately after. This is not a recipe for success.
At this point I was 6 days out. I decided to delay the AWA review until the day before and focus on SC and quant for the next 5 days. I reviewed all of the highlighted portions from my previous studies which was very valuable as it allowed me to focus on previously determined weak areas.
I also decided to take the quant section on 2 more man CATs to try to hone my timing.
#3 Quant: 47
#4 Quant: 48
While my timing improved my score did only slightly on the second. I was a bit dissapointed but I also was feeling more confident. I felt I was capable of scoring better than a 48 on my actual test day.
The day before I read up on AWA strategies. Everyone says take the day before completely off but I didn’t really have time to since I hadn’t touched AWA yet I needed to do a quick review. I spent about 4 or 5 hours the day before preparing. During that time I also wrote 4 full responses. 2 each of issue and argument. This was strictly to make sure I was clear on timing and knew what length I should shoot for on my responses.
The night before I again strolled through some of the highlighted material just for a last second brush up on a few SC concepts.
My test was scheduled for 10:30.
I was up around 7 and ate a good breakfast and had some coffee. Another hour or so of highlighted material then off to the test center. I had a bit of a drive but I arrived at about 10.
On the way I picked up another coffee along with a cliff bar and a 5 hour energy. These were to be my test fuel :D
I didn’t find either prompt too difficult and I had an outlined response to each documented about 3 or 4 minutes into the 30 minutes. I am not slow at typing but I ended up only having about 1 minute to review each of my far too long essays. I did what I could focusing on the first and last paragraph of each for review.
I took the first break. I took a small swig of 5 hour energy and ate about a ⅓ of my cliff bar.
The section seemed to go well. I found the actual GMAT questions to be less time consuming than the manhattan test problems (or perhaps I was just better prepared at that point). Whatever the case I never had a problem I didn’t feel I had a chance at. I remember having one problem that I knew would take me too long but I narrowed it down and guessed between two options. I arrived on the final question with 2 minutes remaining. I was bummed when I had he question solved in 30 seconds and thought I was ending on a 500-600 level question. I literally stared at the question for a minute wondering what I was missing. I thought I had been doing well why was this so easy!
Again, I took the second break. I followed the same exact routine.
This section again went pretty smoothly. Nothing stands out in my mind except a few touch RC’s and CR’s. I thought I had a perfect answer in mind after reading each ? only to find two choices that seemed to say very similar things. Again, my timing was great as I had about 1:30 left for my final question which ended up being a SC I believe. I felt good after taking the section but I really didn’t have a guess at that point for my results.
Instead of receiving my score at this point I was lucky enough to participate in 30 more minutes of GMAT heaven
I was mentally exhausted at this point. I certainly gave my best effort on the ?’s but I am sure that if it had been graded my score would not have been very good. The ?’s were unique. They never seemed to be conceptually difficult as much as just being able to sift through large amounts of information to find relevant specifics.
When I came to the point of choosing to report my score I didn’t really think twice except to make sure I was clicking the right selection. My score popped up and I was certainly satisfied.
A Few Hints for prep and test day...
1. Pick a date! This is key to being motivated.
2. Focus on how problems are solved not the specifics of a given problem. Overarching concepts are most important.
3. Memorize useful shortcuts esp for quant section...divisibility rules, triangle types, algebraic identities
4. For RC I chose to read quickly first trying to understand overall theme of a section. When asked specific questions re-read the relevant area of the given passage.
5. Use the earplugs at the test center if you are at all prone to being distracted.
6. Purchase practice marker board to gain familiarity with your only note taking tool during the exam.
7. Focus on improving weak areas most. Give quick review to strengths...don’t waste precious study time with areas you are already proficient in. For instance, doing 100 easy RC problems where you get 95% right is probably not a good use of time if you lack in understanding some grammatical rules like I did.
8. During the test don’t even think about your results. An experimental problem or your particular strengths could easily have you distracted by the lack of difficulty with a problem. I was lucky to only have this once at the end of a section though I shouldn’t have let it bother me at all.
9. Go into the test confident of your ability to reach whatever goal you might have. If you aren’t confident you can reach your goal perhaps you need a bit more time to prepare.
Well I am not sure where I will go or what I will do with my score in the future but a big thanks to the gmatclub founder and all of its contributing members. Best of luck to all future test takers!
I wrote this quick and didn’t have time to proofread so sorry about the grammatical and spelling mistakes that I am sure exist.