GMAT -760 (Q50,V42) (1st attempt)
Just gave my GMAT today. The score was slightly lower than what I was aiming for (I don't mean to be a snob). I received quite a few questions of high-difficulty range in the Quant section. Thankfully, the DS part seemed simpler to the PS part, so I could go all out on the PS section confidently. The verbal had passages which weren't too difficult to understand. A few CR questions seemed tricky though. In the practice CATs, I had always scored around 51-55 with 10-15 min to spare in the Quant section. I ended up finishing the Quant a minute before time on the actual test. It was even worse in Verbal. The KAPLAN
CATs had me finishing the verbal section in less than an hour. On the final day? 10 seconds before time!! I don't know if it was the KAPLAN
CATs that mislead me or was it the final test that made me perform slower. Either way, my message is simple: expect to be thrown off balance during the actual GMAT.
Here's my long and painstakingly boring debrief:
I've prepared for the GMAT examination over a span of 8-10 weeks (1 month prep, 1 month gap, 1 month prep). I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience (weirdly), with excitement in the beginning and frustration at the end. If planned out and executed properly, a GMAT prep plan can ensure you of being at the top of your game without the need for you to work your ass off.
The books I used (not in order of usage):
1.) The Official Guide (OG) for GMAT Review (12th edition)
2.) Kaplan Premier
2010-2011 (+ CD and the online resources)
3.) Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction
(+ online resources) (Uses the official book for reference of problems)
4.) GMAT Prep Software (from official site)Things to keep in mind
1. DO NOT start with the OG. It is to be used in the end as a practice tool since it has the most accurate depiction of the kind of problems you will face on the final test day.
2. Rushing to take tests before learning anything - waste of tests.
3. Skipping basics and rushing to advanced topics - Useless! In the GMAT, if you don't bludgeon the easier and moderate questions, then you will never get the chance to reach the good stuff which actually plays the vital role in boosting your score.
4. Keep yourself motivated. Read about how others achieved high scores in GMAT, research your dream B-Schools and how awesome it is to get there, and talk to your friends/alumni/seniors about B-Schools and MBAs.
5. DO NOT let there be a substantial break in the midst of your prep. It brings your preparation back considerably. I had to take a month off in the midst of my preparation due to some unforeseen chores that cropped up during my final semester in college, but I used the official guide and spent 10-15 minutes everyday practicing some basic problems to keep myself from getting back to square one.
6. If you're a decent writer, the AWA section does not pose much difficulty. So don't waste your time on it until the last week or two if you are confident enough (I have a blog
that I update once in a blue moon, so I was kind of comfortable with spewing up random stuff ^^).Basic Preparation
First of all, pick a date and register. Don't think of studying then registering. You'll tend to not take the prep time as seriously. Take a diagnostic test or two, give a sample test and figure out how much time you need. Register accordingly and start your journey to your dream score! I used up one of the GMATPrep CATs right in the beginning to gauge my level. Scored a 680/690 (not sure which one), which was quite below what I was aiming at, but this gave me a good idea of my weak and strong areas (I found my SC to be seriously weak compared to other sections).
I did not exactly start with a rigid plan, but improvised as I learnt more about the exam, the resources and most importantly, others' experiences during the GMAT preparation. What I would recommend is to start with the Kaplan Premier
. The online resources and the CD-ROM provided are wonderfully helpful! Utilize them to the max. Focus on understanding the theory of getting the answers quickly and practice problems from the book. Most of the theory in this book encompasses that in the OG, and is pretty well explained (supplement it with the videos in the online resources), and also provides you with quite a few tricks not mentioned in the OG. It also provides one complete test in the book (which is totally unreliable as far as the score is concerned) and 5 online tests. DO NOT take the tests until you feel confident with the basics. There is no point in waisting the tests in the beginning. Use it to increase your endurance for the 4hr exam at the end.
If you're from an engineering background, Quant is going be a walk in the park. Some of the questions are very fundamental. So I would suggest that you focus most of your time on the Verbal section and brush up on your math basics and practice the Gmat math problems from the OG and the Kaplan Premier
, while timing yourself, to make sure you're fast and accurate. No need for a dedicated book for this part. DO REMEMBER that the Quant section being easy also makes it VERY IMPORTANT to be scored as accurately as possible without losing any unnecessary questions. To lose marks on an easy question would be the saddest part after so much of preparation.
For Verbal, I stuck to plain old method of reading and answering in the RC and CR sections. No notes making, no reading the question before the passage, no denial tests, no keyword searching etc. Just made sure I read carefully enough to avoid the need for a second reading. In the verbal's SC section, I didn't find the Kaplan Premier
's coverage satisfying. I wasn't feeling confident enough with the tougher questions. Almost every high scorer has recommended the Manhattan SC book. I used this to practice SC (after completing the Kaplan Premier
) and can definitely say that it was a good decision. A plus point is the 6 online CATs Manhattan provides with its books.
I read in a post somewhere that taking many tests and practicing a lot does not help. That it is the strengthening of the concepts that makes the difference. I feel that this tip is completely misleading. Though it cannot be argued that the concepts, for a topic like SC, need to be very strong to ensure a good score, there is no doubt in my mind that a person with inadequate practice in giving the GMAT CAT would score considerably lesser than his/her potential. Answering questions and understanding the methodology for working for each question must become second nature. I'm not saying you'll know each and every type of question that can come up. But, for example, if you see a data sufficiency question, you should instinctively find the exact end result that the question is looking for, look at the choices and figure out what choice is the answer without feeling the need to even look at the long text in DS answer choices. This is just an elementary example. As you take CATs, you will get faster at solving each question, whether Verbal or Quant, just by the increase in your comfort level in solving similar questions and getting your mind tuned to working with them.Final month
Tests, tests and more tests. Don’t worry about the scores too much. They are not the most accurate indicator of how you'll do on the test day. If you are worried, go to http://www.gmatclub.com/content/resourc ... /index.php
. There, you’ll find a score estimator which attempts to give a rough estimate of your actual score based on the tests you have given. Complete the test in one sitting, review your score and then review the answers. Spend time to understand where you went wrong and make sure none of your right answers were the result of a fluke.
Manhattan SC Guide was quite helpful in improving my Sentence Correction strategies. Many (me one among them) would get turned off by the book's highly formal grammar-ish approach with many formal terms and expressions. Just avoid such terms and see the examples to understand the point the book is making. Don't mug what you feel is too book-ish and over-complicates the matter. A part of SC works better when you depend on your ear. Be the judge of your own speaking skills and work hard on the part where your ear betrays you.
The GMAT questions from the OG that I had saved up were utilized in the final month. I wanted to make sure I was solving the best and most accurate representation of the actual GMAT questions only when I was most prepared for them. In the final two weeks, I made an inventory of the resources I had and what I needed to complete by the test day. Accordingly, I made a schedule and this helped me focus my preparation better. Here are a couple of snaps of a list I made and my calendar, that I used for some organizing (Click for an enlarged view). No, you don't have to be a freak like me and get obsessed
. Just be aware of what you're doing and what you need to do.
(The number next to the final test/quiz show the score I got on the final test/quiz of that category, along with the date I took it on.)
(o-> online, KAP-> Kaplan
CAT,MAN-> Manhattan CAT, CAT-> KAPLAN
CD CAT, Q-> Quiz, M.SC.Q-> Manhattan SC Question Bank)
As I mentioned before, I did not prepare much for the AWA. They are not all that important for B-School applications and most of the B-Schools ask you to write essays of their own anyway. Anyway, I gave 3 complete CATs at the end with the AWA part to get the whole experience, along with some AWA practice. I used the template from how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html
along with a few pointers from the OG and the Kaplan premier
Break up of the 3rd party CATs:
The 1st 4 MGMAT CATs were taken early on, and the last 2 were taken in the last 2 weeks.
MGMAT CAT1 : 680 (Q49,V34)
MGMAT CAT2 : 690 (Q48,V36)
MGMAT CAT3 : 680 (Q48,V35)
MGMAT CAT4 : 690 (Q47,V37)
MGMAT CAT5 : 710 (Q49,V37)
MGMAT CAT6 : 730 (Q50,V40)
The 1st KAPLAN
test is linear and paper based (from the Kaplan Premier
). The 2nd one is online, but linear. Partly because of this, and partly because I sucked at GMAT then, I scored pretty low on those. The last 4 CATs were taken in the last 2 weeks.KAPLAN
CAT1 : 590 (Q32,V29) [Linear, Paper based]KAPLAN
CAT2 : 650 (Q37,V41) [Linear]KAPLAN
CAT3 : 720 (Q55,V34)KAPLAN
CAT4 : 760 (Q55,V43)KAPLAN
CAT5 : 760 (Q53,V47)KAPLAN
CAT6 : 790 (Q55,V52)
I've heard from many that the GMATPrep CAT is the best indicator of your actual score. I gave the second GMATPrep CAT a week before my scheduled GMAT date. Got a 740 on that. An improvement over the initial 680 but still below my expectations. TEST DAY
On the day before the exam, I revised the notes I had prepared during my preparation. From morning to afternoon, I practiced a few questions that I had marked in the OG, to familiarize myself with the official questions' style. At night, I read the AWA template once again and watched Inception (for the n th time) to take my mind off GMAT (plus, it's a freaking awesome movie! :D). On the D-Day, I started the morning at 5 with the standard 7km run that I was accustomed to. I feel it keeps me energized in the morning and I didn't want to risk changing my routine suddenly on the test day. Gave the final Kaplan
quiz (which consists of a few questions from each section) before leaving, to get my brain into GMAT solving mode
I had chosen the official Pearson Professional Center in my city since I thought it would provide me the best testing environment I could get. I also visited the test center a few days before the day of test to get familiar with the location and avoid confusion on the test day. The test center officials were very friendly and the entire experience went very smoothly. I was provided with ear plugs which I used all the time. Helps drown out typing noises from other systems, but also makes you hear your breathing sounds and heartbeats quite clearly! An important tip I received from one of the folks at GmatClub.com : Before you press "submit" in each section, raise your hand for the proctor to come over. That way, as soon they come over, you can submit your test and it won't eat into your break time. For those who plan to use Red Bull or Gatorade or any such drink, make sure you try it out beforehand in a complete practice CAT. I tried 3 CATs with Red Bull and found out that it made me pee A LOT. So I chucked it and brought a bar of dark chocolate instead to the center.
The Quant section was tougher than the Kaplan
CATs I had attempted and left me worried about my score. At the end of the verbal section, I was even more worried because I was constantly running out of time. I had set pacing markers which I failed to reach during the verbal section. For example, I made sure during my practice CATs that I would complete at least 20 questions by the time 40:00 was shown on the timer. The first time I failed to do this was during the actual exam! I started hearing my own heartbeats, had to read the questions multiple times but couldn't figure out what was being said, started wondering if I would have to give the GMAT again etc. Panic is a dangerous thing. It can screw your mind up pretty bad. I made quite a few mistakes as a result (which I can now see clearly) and also had to hurry through some questions to reach the last few questions in time. I finished the exam with 00:10 on the clock!!
The final score on the screen did put me at ease but my initial goal had been 780 and I had imagined seeing it on my screen so many times that 760 actually made me frown! I know it's a very stupid thing to say and that it also makes me sound like a jerk, but I'm just being honest. I was actually sulking for some time, not because of the score but rather due to the individual break up of Quant and Verbal. It is only later that I realized that the reason I had lower scaled score but a decent overall score was because I had faced more questions in the higher difficulty range, which were tougher to solve. That made me feel a little better. Anyway, you can see this as an example of how a bad mental attitude can make you underperform. In such a situation, irrespective of how much appreciation you get from others, you know deep inside that you could have done better. And this is what eats you. So be prepared! Give it your best in the final few days, know that you are going to do good, and don't let anything shake you up on the day of the exam.
So my basic GMAT prep summarized
1. Kaplan Premier
Section wise Prep
2. Kaplan Premier
CD-ROM quizzes + Online Quizzes (left most quizzes for the final 2 weeks)
3. Practiced from OG (didn't finish the entire book, left the tougher half of each section for the final month)
4. Manhattan SC completion
5. A scheduled completion of all the leftover material in the final 2-3 weeks
6. Final month for test practices (Test from Gmat Prep software, 6 Kaplan
papers + Online Tests, 6 Manhattan Papers, 4 Kaplan
CD CATs) and revision of the difficult questions one final time
7. Used OG & Verbal Official Guide
for final practice during the last 10 days
I did not use any resource other than those mentioned above. Nothing else. No forum questions, no X99 or Y1000 kind of packages. I have been getting such questions and honestly, I don't even know what they are. There is a plethora of resources available on the net, not all useful! You have to understand one thing. Using a lot of material can sometimes be very harmful. GMAT works on a special kind of pattern, and if you practice questions that do not fall in this pattern, you are not doing anything but wasting your time. Many of the companies' material/free resources that are available will not be heavily researched before being put up. So it may just be a few random questions which, although tough, will still be just a bunch of random questions.
GMAT is essentially an endurance test. Practice helps you get the stamina to sit 4 hours straight with a focused presence of mind. But giving a lot of tests isn't enough. With each and every test, you should know where you are going wrong and make sure you don't repeat that mistake. It may not happen in a test or two. But a gazillion tests ought to fix that! What worked for me may or may not work for you. But I sure hope this little account of my efforts would be useful to someone else's preparation, just as others' briefing has helped me with mine. I would be glad to clarify any queries you may have.
Good luck for your GMAT!