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GMAT First attempt - epic fail

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GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2012, 07:20
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Dear all,

I had my first shot at the GMAT yesterday. It was a complete disaster; I ended up scoring 150 points below my best MGMAT CAT, and 110 points below my bets GMAT Prep.

My background: I am not a native speaker, and my previous career was as a chef in fine dining. I just finished a bachelor degree in hospitality management, and my dream was to apply for the Grand Ecole Program (pre- experience master) at HEC. I say "was" because with my GMAT score, my chances of getting in this year is roughly equivalent to a snowballs chance in hell (no time to retake before the application deadline.)

With my rather non- academic background, quant was a real challenge for me. At the time I started studying, my math skills were virtually non- existent. I had never heard about quadratic equations, and I could not even perform basic algebra, let alone algebraic translations. The last time I had math at school was at 16 (I am now 25), when I got a far below average grade for my secondary school exam. I was not poor in math per se, but I had no interest in the subject at the time.

In short, when I started out, I had to learn math from scratch (hence my profile name). This was far more difficult than I expected it to be, but for some reason, I had gotten it into my head that, despite having no experience with math, I belonged at an elite business school. In retrospect, I was way too optimistic about my own capabilities, but hey; being realistic was never really my forte. The critical reasoning questions were very intuitive to me, but math, you actually have to learn. Luckily I was OK with verbal, as I lived and studied in an international environment for most of my life, and I read difficult texts in English on a regular basis (The Economist, novels, Internet)

When I started out, I tried to do a GMAT prep to assess my level. When I tried the quant section, I was completely clueless, and exited the exam. Should I stand a chance in the competition, I realized that I would need to focus full time on learning maths. My ambition from the beginning was to score >700. I enrolled in some economics courses at my local university, while I spent the bulk of my time studying for the GMAT. After about six weeks learning maths, I did my first GMAT prep and scored 540. Not bad I thought. Verbal was relatively strong. I did not study for it whatsoever and scored 35. Quant was 35, decent for my level at the time. I started with quant basics by GMGAT and Cliffs notes GMAT book (great if you, as was the case for me, don`t know what the word "quadratic" means, or if you know no algebra whatsoever)

Anyways, scheduled my GMAT for three months later. Studied all 8 MGMAT books, including the guide to the official guide (great for the quantitatively challenged, like me). Did most of the questions in the OG 12, and a lot of practice tests. I was making great progress!

My test scores below:

  • GMAT prep 1 550 Q 31, V 35
  • GMAT prep 2 640 Q39, V 39
  • MGMAT 1 530 Q 28, V 35
  • MGMAT 2 650 Q44 V 35
  • MGMAT 3 620 Q34 V40
  • MGMAT 4 580 Q32 V38
  • MGMAT 5 720 Q 44 V 38
  • MGMAT 6 680 Q42 V 40

Before the GMAT, I was very happy with my progress, and felt confident that I would score in the 650 - 700 range. I followed MGMAT`s advice and worked less the days before the exam to have lots of energy on test day. the day before the exam, I did not study at all. I had a great strategy that worked well for me during my prepping, and I got a eight hours of sleep the night before the exam.

Nevertheless, I screwed it up completely. At test day, I was slighly nervous, but not overly so. I am usually calm under pressure, and do not get nervous that easily. The Essays were going just fine. I took a break, ran in the stairs, had an iced coffee and ate a power bar. I was feeling in the zone! Quant started out well. Half way in, I was getting difficult questions ( a good sign) and I was on schedule. About two thirds in, I got some really hard questions, and since I had some spare time, I spent some extra time on those. BAD MISTAKE. Suddenly, I was behind on time, and I freaked out. Couldn`t remember a thing, and guessed several questions in a row.

When I started Verbal, I was feeling mentally strained. The poor performance at the end in quant had completely messed with my head. I was staring at the screen, couldn`t make sense of anything, or so it felt. Got in a rush in the end for verbal as well.

For the questionnaire in the end, I was so tired, I couldn`t even read any more. When I was asked whether to report scores, I knew I had messed up. However, as many people say that virtually everyone has a bad stomach feeling before reporting the scores, I was expecting it to be somewhere in the low 600`s. When I saw the score, I was completely shocked. 570, Q 32, V 36.

Anyways, I got up this morning and decided that the time for self pity was over, and I booked a new GMAT in 8 weeks from now; just in time for my second- choice school deadline. I ordered the advanced Quant book from MGMAT, and Kaplan premier, to get access to more CATs.

My plans for the next 8 weeks are:

  • Go through all the MGMAT quant books one more time, to get the basics right
  • Do all the GMAT Club tests
  • work on my error log
  • Go on vacation for a few days

My key takeaways from this experience are:

1) I was to obsessed with scoring really high, and consequently, I screwed up for my self. The nest time, I will focus on technique and timing, rather than getting it perfect.

2) I should not have taken the day before completely off. I got my best score on practice test`s after I had studied hard for several days straight. With a full day off, I was a little out of the zone when I started.

3) Don`t focus on the past section (obvious, but difficult)

4) Man plans: God laughs

Anyways, that was a long post. Advice on how to do better the next time is welcome :-)

Last edited by FromScratch on 23 Feb 2012, 01:36, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2012, 09:09
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Sry to hear about your score :(. But the good news is that it sounds to me like you have a better score in you! I want you to read my post: 10-tips-to-improve-your-score-app-with-no-extra-studying-124393-20.html and take it all to heart. With a stronger score inside your brain, it is up to you to do everything to allow yourself to achieve that on test day.

Concentrate your fundamentals, and making sure that you get every problem RIGHT that you have the ability to. Just look at every problem as another opportunity to increase your score, but remember that you have to do it in the right amount of time so that it doesn't hurt you on other questions.

PS. Some schools will let you turn in the GMAT a few days/weeks after the actual deadline for application passes. So I would call you #1 choice, and ask them if there is any way they'd allow a slightly late GMAT. It can't hurt to ask. Maybe you can take the GMAT in 4 weeks, nail it, and get your top choice.

Good luck to you, and let us know how round 2 goes! I'm sure you will make a large improvement if you keep all the lessons you've learned in mind.

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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2012, 10:21
Hang in there...what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger, right?
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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2012, 11:03
FromScratch, I actually think you'll do just fine in the next test. You just have to manage your time during the test better, esp, skipping questions that are too hard and/or time consuming. What I would do in your situation is to always stay ahead of the clock. You'll think a lot clearer and with less mistakes while ahead of time rather than behind. The point lost by skipping the hard questions are more than made back at the tail end of the test when you don't have to rush and guess.
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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2012, 01:31
Thanks guys,

After a couple of days of feeling down, I am now back in the game. I will focus on beating the GMAT the next time, instead on focusing on doing perfectly. Clearly, my obsession with getting it perfect only made me more nervous than what is necessary.

I will keep you posted about my second attempt! :)
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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2012, 15:02
I feel your pain... My first attempt score was worst than yours and I too felt like I was prepared for the exam.
I had studied for about 3 months at the time... but looking back... I did not work nearly as diligently...

After that test I told a break for about a month, although I couldn't really enjoy anything. I decided to start again... I didnt know where to start... wasted few months just studying here and there... I figured as long as I keep studying I'm bound to get better eventually... I WAS SO WRONG!!!

After I found these forums and started reading debriefs... I realized what I need to do... I'm still in the game trying to work though this hell...

Good luck, bud!
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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2012, 23:28
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Hi FromScratch

Sorry to hear about the debacle.

I had faced the same problem with quant the first time - next time, I never, NEVER, spent extra time on a problem - just skipped it if I could not solve it (It's there in my debrief attached to my signature).

A few general suggestions:

You could go through the GMATClub SC, CR and RC and PS, DS discussion threads, which are broken down into 700-level questions and 600-level questions. You can find these links here: viewforumtags.php

On verbals, I would suggest you could have a look at the e-GMAT course and enroll for the free trial. If you like it, you can then enroll for the paid version. It's relatively cheap and is targeted at non-native speakers mainly, if you think you need it.

Please go through the Brutal SC, CR documents on GMATClub - and also the verbal notes by whiplash, Gayathri, spidey etc - all are free downloads. You can download them here: download.php

Also, please go to whiplash's profile and download all the verbal documents you'll find in her signature.

For quants:

I would suggest that you go to Bunuel's signature and look at the wealth of material there - esp the 50 tough DS and PS documents with solutions.

I loved the Online GMATClub book - precise, lucid and has all the formulas one needs.

All the best!


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Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2012, 23:41
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I'm a pastry chef so I didn't worry at all about being nervous on test day and just focused on studying the content.

It was such a nightmare I didn't even write a debrief.

Life with the GMAT:

Jerome: Ben, c'est 20 secondes de plus qu'hier sur le meme parcours! C'etait bien le meme parcours la, non?!
Gigi: Mais t'enerve pas, Jerome, je crois que t'as accroche une porte.
Jerome: *$&#(*%&(*#%&

Re: GMAT First attempt - epic fail   [#permalink] 23 Feb 2012, 23:41
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