Hi guys, I recently gave my GMAT and was ecstatic to get a 750. Even though there are many more who have gotten a better score with less effort, I would not trade my struggles and my learning’s for their brilliance. I started my preparation a year back and scored a disappointing 660 in my first attempt. I was almost on the verge of giving up after my first attempt but somehow was able to motivate myself to pull up my socks one more time and give in everything. I am glad I did because during this time I rekindled my love for many things and picked up a great habit of writing and most importantly got back my much needed self-belief that I could do it.First Attempt – limping to 660
I started my GMAT prep in August of last year. I followed the traditional route, bought all the MGMAT books
and took the Knewton
prep course. My goal was to get 710 or higher and I was under the impression that I was doing quite well especially given my score on the MGMAT mocks. I really liked the Knewton course
at that time for it was really entertaining. However, I felt that the coverage was not as comprehensive- nowhere near what someone like me who did graduation in India needs.
The MGMAT material was quite good for quant. I am an Indian and am strong in quant and hence I practically did not attempt the book on word problems. I focused my energies mostly on number properties, sets, and coordinate geometry – all and all spending less than 30 hrs. on quant. My last three MGMAT scores before the exam were 720, 730, 740. I even scored 40 on my last MGMAT exam. However, I could only achieve a 31 on my real test.Second Attempt: Understanding what is needed to do well on Verbal
Sentence Correction on the exam absolutely shocked me. I struggled with RC too but this was no news to me. I felt that the resources I used did not prepare me very well for this. Then I read Stacey’s article on the new announcement and importance of Meaning and realized that there is a new way of doing Sentence correction. I was kind of disappointed that I did not know about it earlier and that the MGMAT book
did not emphasize it as much. Also, I read the Santanu’s debrief (excellent debrief) in which he talked about the importance of GMAT strategy. He recommended e-GMAT
for verbal so I checked them out. They have a decent free trial. I liked it and upon inputs from icaniwill and others purchased the course. Their sentence correction course is simply awesome. It made me realize how much I did not know on Sentence Correction even after going through the MGMAT SC
twice. It also covered way more material than the Knewton course
. Also e-GMAT
has a very strong emphasis on meaning and meaning change. Similarly their RC course is a game changer. It taught me how to read a passage efficiently and respond to the answer choices. My RC accuracy improved to 80% after this course. Previously, I got only 60% of the questions correct. Their live sessions were a lot more intense than the Knewton
live sessions. They covered more material and had more in-depth discussions. I would attribute 7-8 point improvement to this course.
What all did I learn from my preparation:
My second attempt was difficult. I was almost at the verge of applying to tier 2 schools when I decided that I would give it a second shot. However, once I made this decision, I knew I had to get my fighting spirit back. The first thing I did was to look at the latest motivational research. I read a short article titled “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently” by Heidi Grant Halvorson. It is an excellent article that emphasizes on learning, how you should evaluate your progress etc. I highly recommend reading it (attached). Then I purchased an audio interview by audible ($4 only) in which she details these things out. Again highly recommended. Here is how I changed my approach:
1. Got a parallel challenge
: I decided that along with my prep, I would lose weight and get fit again. Hence, I made it a point to hit the gym at least 4 days a week. How did this help? It made me realize that importance of time and this made me much more efficient while studying. Also I felt good about myself which gave me more confidence.
2. Build on special victories
: I had a daily and weekly goal and I told myself that every week if I complete these goals, I would go and play soccer. I love playing soccer (eagerly waiting to watch Germany Vs Greece) and this was incentive for me to do two things; plan wisely and execute on the plan.
3. Do things that make sense
: The splits method in Sentence correction and the skimming approach in RC did not make sense to me. However, I had little basis to question these approaches during my first attempt even when they did not make sense to me. However, in the second attempt I followed the meaning based approach and read the passage with an aim to comprehend a reasonable amount of information even when doing so took a bit longer.
4. Not to be satisfied by the improvements
: This is directly from Heidi Grant’s article. She is right when she says that we become complacent when we look at how much we have achieved. As suggested by her, I looked at how much I had to achieve both while exercising and while working out.
5. Use GMATClub’s new interface and GMATPrep
: GC has done a great job catalogue questions for SC/CR/RC. It has also organized them by difficulty which by great. Make sure that you use this – especially where the OA is not suspect. Also, use the GMATPrep documents. Both these provide an excellent source of practice especially if you are someone like me who has pretty much exhausted all GMATPreps.
6. Try either reading of writing (or both)
: A lot of people here recommend reading WSJ and other newspapers. With all the reading that I did on GMAT, I could not focus on reading stuff that I was not interested in. Rather than that, I decided to write articles in my areas of interest, work etc. I used notepad to ensure that my grammatical mistakes are not corrected automatically and then used to copy the text to gmail to correct spelling errors. I would then put my SC hat on and correct not only for grammatical errors and also look for more effective constructions. I did this twice a week and found this very useful.
How did I approach various sections?
I have covered most of this before. I will briefly summarize here.
1. Sentence Correction
: Focus on meaning is very important, almost as important as knowing the grammar rules.
2. Critical Reasoning
: Focus on understanding the argument. Understand the various question types. If you do this then you should be able to do well.
3. Reading Comprehension
: Similar to CR. Read the passage efficiently and focus on understanding the passage. Answering questions will be a cakewalk once you do that.
: Practice, practice, practice… I used GC’s tests and Grockit to focus on my areas of interest. Look for questions in the quant forums and opportunities when the tests are free.
5. Integrated Reasoning
: I did all GMATPrep problems and all the 50 OG problems. The key in IR is to get comfortable with the language of the question. It takes some time to do this. I had to revise at least 50% of the problems and some even thrice but if you are comfortable with charts and Verbal, IR is manageable.
I know this is a long debrief. However, I hope you find this useful.