I am a non-native English speaker with good math background (I am an electrical engineer). That said, I am very comfortable with English and generally manage well enough in day to day English use. Now, that did not translate into a good Verbal score is a whole different issue. There are primarily two reasons for me writing this debrief. Firstly, if my experience can help anyone not make the same mistakes I made and improve his/her score (can not use their here), it will make me feel a little better. Moreover, I need advise on how to improve my Verbal score considerably as I think I do have it in me to get a better verbal score than the 36 I managed. Prep Conditions:
Not the most ideal conditions for preparation, but I doubt they will ever be. I have a 14 month old boy who loves playing with me and hates it every time I hold a book and another baby girl on the way (read a hormonal wife who cannot take care of the boy for too long). All is not rosy at work either as I have been going through a bitter fight with the HR over the last few months about immigration related issues that did affect my motivation levels at different times during my preparation. My manager is pretty flexible though and let me work from home for one day a week to help my preparation. Preparation:
I thought about taking the GMAT for a long time and in retrospect, I regret not taking the test earlier. But once I found out about the second baby, I made up my mind that I will take the test one month before the baby is due. I know from my first experience that babies are very time consuming and the next best opportunity will be at least 2 years away. I had a one month trip to India in September and once I came back I started my preparation (in the 2nd week of October). I gave myself 3.5 months as I kind of knew the circumstances are not ideal (a blunder of an under estimation). So I went ahead and ordered the MGMAT guides
. Dedicated one week each for the 8 guides (remember the time constraints). In hind sight, it would not have hurt to skip the RC and CR guides as I did not learn much from them. The rest of the guides are amazing and I think ordering these guides is the first thing a serious GMAT aspirant should do. Quant Prep:
As I said earlier, I have a decent math background and hence considered Quant to be my strength. But it also put a lot of pressure on me because I did not want to fail on Quant and look kind of silly. So, I started my Quant preparation by going through each of the 5 MGMAT quant guides. I took a week each to completely read all the concepts and solve the questions at end of each chapter. I think this was a good exercise as I have been out of school for a good 10 years and normally do not calculate LCM/GCDs or volumes of rectangular solids in my job. A month before the test, I got the Advanced MGMAT Quant
book and quickly read through it. I feel that I did not get the full value out of this book as I was more focused on completing it rather than understanding the content. With limited study time per day, I took a week to finish the book (time I feel I could have used better studying something else). Somewhere after finishing the MGMAT guides
and starting the Advanced Quant Guide, I started doing OG problems (OG12
and OG Review) and felt that they were rather easy and was not learning a lot by just solving and reviewing the OG problems. I think the best way to tackle Quant is to take as many CATs and thoroughly analyzing the questions that you get wrong. This will ensure that you are spending a lot of time on questions that you have trouble answering rather than attempting 100 OG problems and feeling good about solving 95 right. Verbal Prep:
Just as I did for Quant guides, I took a week each to read through the Verbal Guides (big mistake) and completed the Guides in 3 weeks. I say big mistake because first of all, you don't need a strategy to tackle Reading comprehension. If I had to summarize the MGMAT RC
guide and tell you the only thing that is worth learning from the book, here it is - "Feel like you are really interested in passage". That is it. All the 70+ pages of the guide and that is the only thing that I learned from it. So my suggestion skip the RC guide. I have similar feelings about MGMAT CR
guide. In fact I believe that following the T model from the CR guide hurt my CR skills and slowed me down on my tests in general. 25 days before my test, I realized my CR skills certainly needed help and I ordered the CR Bible as suggested by a GC member (GMATLA) here on the forum. I only read the first 6 chapters (barely skimmed through them), but the impact it had on my CR is huge. My suggestion to any potential test takers out there is that there is only one book to read for CR and it is the CR Bible. If you don't have the CR Bible yet, your preparation hasn't started yet.
If spending two weeks on CR and RC guides was a mistake, spending ONLY a week on SC guide was a bigger mistake. What CR Bible is for CR, MGMAT SC
is for SC. Maybe, native speakers who have a "ear" for good grammar don't need it, but SC guide is a must have for all non-native test takers. That said, reading and remembering the rules will not automatically translate into a good score. I feel like after learning the rules from SC Guide, we need a good resource for strategies to attack SC questions. I am thinking of signing on to e-GMAT
SC course for this.AWA:
For AWA, used the ChineseBurned (AWA God according to me) template. Read through a few samples provided by kalpeshchopada7 and that was it. I am indebted to these guys for saving a ton of time on AWA prep. As suggested by some on this forum, I did not prepare for the AWA till the last week before the exam. I agree with these experts for most part, but disagree about the "last week" part. My suggestion to prospective test takers is that if you can communicate decently in English in your daily life, you do not need much preparation for AWA. But what ever preparation you do for AWA, get done with it a month before the test date. Its better to get it out of the way and save your self from a little bit of anxiety rather than waiting till the last week and being nervous about it. That did affect my preparation on the more important Quant and Verbal during the last few weeks. G-Day:
Went to the test center an hour early, was not as nervous as I thought I would be. But this calm was short lived. Only lasted an hour till the Quant section began. I stared at the first Quant problem for about 3 mins as is the norm for me in all practice tests. It was rather easy, quickly solved it and moved on. I saw some really easy problems and some really tricky ones. In all I felt that I did not manage the time well. Energy bar and Starbucks cold coffee. I decided I will not let my Quant effect my verbal. Failed miserably in keeping the Quant thoughts away during the break and at the beginning of Verbal. Eventually found my rhythm. Honestly, I felt that the GMAT verbal was easier than the GMATPrep and MGMAT Verbal. Got a couple of long and couple of short RCs. No crazy topics though. I felt very comfortable while answering RC (unlike during my practice tests). Thanks to CR Bible, my CR was A+, so I was very happy every time a CR popped up. Wont be surprised if I found out that I got all CR correct. SC was a different story though. Even though I did not notice any questions with multiple options that seemed correct(like many test takers have reported recently), I had this uneasy feeling that I was just clicking through the SC questions without being 100% sure. I guess my feeling was in fact right as my final score suggests. Retake:
Absolutely going for a retake. What's different? I am not sure. If anything, I will have an other baby
(and hopefully a little more help from the wifey
). I am going to sign up for the e-GMAT
SC course as I read some good reviews. Hopefully I can take my Verbal score to 40 and Quant score to 48+. Should be enough to get my score past the magic 700.
You can see from the number of "Kudos Given" on my profile that I am generous while giving Kudos. Is it too much to ask for a similar favor???