Yesterday (8 Feb 2013) I received interview invite from my dream B-school (London Business School). So I am very happy. Thought of sharing my GMAT experience with you guys. I am a 30+ guy working in the City of London in Strategy and out of touch with studies for 9 years. The idea of studying for GMAT was daunting. I have never ever prepared for GMAT - I had ZERO idea of how GMAT exam works. But I knew that I needed at least 680-690 to get into LBS. I was a good student - my colleagues consider me as a very sharp guy - but I dont have the tenacity at the age 31 to put hard work into GMAT preparation.
So I took up Kaplan
classroom course (Leicester Square) - expensive @ £1100 for 9 classes. I took up evening classes - 7PM to 9:30PM. Also got access to Kaplan
portal. The teachers were really good - they helped me understand the format of the tests and gave a good idea of the different types of questions and appropriate strategies to nail them. However, I couldnt find time to do my homework between two consecutive classes.
PLEASE NOTE, THAT IF YOU DONT DO THE REQUIRED HOMEWORK EVERY WEEK (AT LEAST 14 HRS A WEEK), YOU WILL BE WASTING YOUR MONEY. So I did waste my money. I didnt take the Kaplan
CAT tests and one day, the 9th class was over. Stressed, under pressure, i gave the first Kaplan
CAT diagnostic and scored a confidence-shattering 570!
I booked my GMAT test within 4 weeks to keep me under pressure. Within the next 3 weeks, I took the rest 8 Kaplan
CATs - and never scored > 640. I was gutted. I read GMATclub blogs and heard people saying Kaplan
is tough and Kaplan
640 = real GMAT 690 and all that. Anyway, I went ahead to give my first real GMAT test. I was NOT confident, I was NOT nervous. I was just OK. The AWA essay was easy, I finished 3 mins early to allow enough time to look for typos. IR was terrible, I couldnt finish and I took 10 mins for the 1st question!! I didnt take a break between IR and Quants. Quants was good - I studied Engineering in University - so I had confidence. I finished quants 1 min before time. Then took a break. Then came the Verbal. Within first 10 questions, the verbal got so tough that the 11th question was almost rocket science to me. It was too hard. I was struggling. On one hand I knew that I did well in the first 9 questions, but on the other hand the next 10 questions (11-20) took me so long that I only had 20 mins left for the last 21 questions! So that was a disaster. I panicked! I guessed the next 10 questions (21-30). And then also, I didnt do well in the last 11 questions (31-41) because I lost confidence. At the end, I scored 630!!!! I was shattered. I was so sad, that I had few beers at the pub next door and got a black cab from my Pearson test center (Holborn) to the St Pancras Eurostar station and bought myself the first ticket out of London to Paris to spend a quiet weekend in Paris to question what went wrong. I had my passport with me and no luggage, no toothbrush, no underwear. I was devastated. I am a big 6'1" guy, and I had tears in my eyes on the Eurostar. Friends, family were calling my mobile to find out my score- but I was too embarrassed. I switched off my mobile for 2 days and eloped myself!!
NOW READ THE NEXT STEPS VERY CAREFULLY
I did a forensic analysis of what went wrong. It's important to learn from mistakes. We, men, do mistakes. That's fine. But make sure that you don't do the same mistake twice! That's the rule.
So I made 3 mistakes. fatal mistakes. Mistake 1
I didnt study enough. I was lazy. Yes I am VERY intelligent- but I have to study at least certain amount. I MAY NOT need to study as hard as many other people but I gotta do something, right? My arrogance made me complacent. I was over-confident. I realised that I took Kaplan
CATs without any background preparation. And in a way, wasted them. So I prepared a spreadsheet study plan for 40 hours over 3 weeks - no timing - no CATs- pure old school studying with pen and paper and understanding the different types of questions. So I had 5 categories to look after - DATA SUFFICIENCY (DS), PROBLEM SOLVING (PS), READING COMPREHENSION (RC), SENTENCE CORRECTION (SC) and CRITICAL REASONING (CR). All I had is the the GMAT Official Test Guide, 13th edition. And nothing else. Over next 40 hours, I nailed the book. All 5 categories. Mistake 2
Underestimating the VERBAL section. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT VERBAL SECTION IS MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN QUANTS.
You know why? Because thousands of people in this world including the smart Indians and Chinese and Russians are bloody brilliant is quants. So getting 48-49 subscore in quants wont yield a great scaled score of 700+, unless you do really well in VERBAL. These guys get crazy high sub-scores in Quants, but struggle to score a 35 subscore in Verbal. Think like this - when everyone in the city has a degree from Harvard, then Harvard is nothing special in that City. You need something else to differentiate.
So that means - if you are just OK in Quants- and great in Verbal- your end scaled score will be much better than these Quants guys. I added additional 20 hours just to study SC, RC and CR. I was convinced that VERBAL is the key to score 700+. Quants is just the base of the pizza - but VERBAL are the toppings which make the difference. Mistake 3
TIMING, TIMING and TIMING. I forgot that GMAT is an adaptive test. And Kaplan
CATs were not adaptive. So I didnt actually experience any adaptive test till I walked into my first real-life GMAT. So I spent $49 or something to buy 6 online MGMAT CATs. These CATs were adaptive. I had at least 4 weeks of solid preparation (total 60 hours) before I opted for those MGMAT CATs as I didnt want to "waste" those like I did for the Kaplan
CATs. The MGMAT CATs changed my life- those tests provide you step by step score results showing your percentile score changing with every question (hit-or-miss). The MGMAT test reports helped me to understand the adaptive nature of the test. Its all about timing. Doesnt matter how clever you are, you have to know where to stop. Guess, and move on. Guess, and move on. And dont guess 2-3 consecutive questions, rather guess alternate questions. Dont put yourself in a position where you have to guess last 7-8 questions of the section - rather start guessing alternate questions from the last 14-15 question onwards. By the way, I scored 680 at my 6th/last MGMAT CAT. SECOND AND FINAL GMAT (few days before xmas)
I booked the test within 5 weeks of the previous test as GMAC doesnt allow you to take another test within next 30 days. This time round, I didnt tell anyone - my best friends, my colleagues, my parents and not even my girlfriend. It really helped to take the pressure off. Test was scheduled for 8:30AM in Holborn, London. Didnt study at all the previous evening- instead watched telly and drank couple of beers. It helped me to destress.
Essay went well. Finished in time. For IR, I decided to skip/guess the tough question which I THOUGHT would take more than 3 mins. So I only answered about 6 IR questions - but those 6 were solid, I was confident that I was right. Rest were guesswork. So Finished IR in time. NO break. Quants were OK. Finished in time. And took a break before VERBAL. I told myself in the men's washroom, that I got to nail VERBAL. VERBAL went tough - that showed I was doing well. But as per my strategy, I took average 70 seconds for SC questions thus giving me extra time for RC questions which were the most time consuming. One tips, dont waste 4-5 mins to read the RC at first, just spend 1.5 min to read it high-level and then go back to it for each RC question. My strategy was 70 sec for SC, about 135 sec for CR and about 140 for RC. At the end I did really well, i finished 39 questions in time, missed 2!!!! Which is not good. But I knew that those 39 questions- I performed really well. The GMAT test gave me a 2-min window to decide whether to accept or reject the score. I was stressed, but I decided to go forward.
I closed my eyes with the palm of my hands, opened my eyes - and there was 710!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost jumped in joy in that small exam room! The lady was watching me from her cubicle in surprise!
And guess what, this time round, my verbal subscore was 40!! (Q48, V40) - whereas my previous scoree 5 weeks ago was 630 (Q47, V31).
Now guys, WATCH and LEARN. I improved my verbal subscore from 31 to 40 in 5 weeks -i.e. from 58 percentile to an incredible 90 percentile!!!!! whereas my quant subscore remained almost the same. So, can you see what difference the verbal subscore made to my final score? Can you?
You got the message, right?