One week ago, after far too much dilly-dallying around, I decided to just go ahead and schedule the GMAT exam. When I went to the MBA.com website to check seat availability, I kind of freaked out -- exect for spots the next two days, there was no seat availability until December. However, monitoring the site throughout the day, I realized that seats would sporadically open up for more immediate availability (I assume because of cancellations or late seat releases). I was able to schedule a 5:30pm exam a week out. Now, it was time to get myself ready to actually take the exam...
I had been "studying" for a couple of months. However, I didn't have myself on a steady study schedule, so I would often go a few nights without even opening up one of my books. I had taken a few practice tests and had finished going through the Kaplan
book, so it hadn't been a complete waste thus far, but I realized that I needed a deadline to really motivate myself. That one week window I gave myself was the best decision I could have made.
Over the course of the next week, I took 5 practice tests (2 of both Powerprep and GMATPrep and 1 Kaplan
) and was able to really focus in on my problem areas when I took the test. Before this point, my biggest problem had been timing, specifically on the quant part of the Kaplan
tests. I had been running out of time with 5 or 6 questions left, and had to make random guesses just to finish those sections. By the time I scheduled the exam, I felt that I had improved upon this problem, but hadn't really tested it out yet. Here is my progression of practice tests scores:
Before scheduling the exam
PR CAT1: 710
After scheduling the exam
Powerprep2: 780 (Q49, V51) Friday night
CAT3: 640 (Q50, V38) Saturday
GMATPrep2: 770 (Q50, V44) Monday night (night before the test)
As I took these last five tests, my confidence grew exponentially. My biggest problem during my progression had been the overabundance of stupid mistakes on the quant section. Usually, this meant failing to read the question properly. My verbal scores (except for the Kaplan
, whose verbal I learned to basically disregard) were consistently strong, and the perfect score I received on the second Powerprep exam had me overconfident in my ability on that portion of the test.
Better yet, my timing had improved dramatically. I finished the quantitative section with time to spare on each of these tests, even the Kaplan
one. On verbal, I typically had about 10 minutes remaining when I answered the final question. I did have some concern about my weaker verbal performance in my final GMATPrep test, but most of the mistakes were of the same variety, so I felt that I would do better than a 44.
Test day was a bit of an ordeal, but nothing I couldn't handle. I'm currently working European hours at my job, so I get to work at about 2:30am and go home at around 11am. I try to sleep during the day, but often end up splitting sleep between daytime and nightime (warning: do not try this at home). Taking the test in the 5:30pm - 9:30pm slot was a blessing. I had scheduled the day off from work, so I was free to stay up late to take a practice test and do problems in the OG. I had slept about 5 hours during the day Monday, so I ended up staying up too late. I went to bed at about 5:45am, but couldn't fall asleep until after 8am. Of course, insomnia breeds upon itself, as thinking about not being able to fall asleep makes it even harder to fall asleep. During this time, I decided to get up and eat a couple pieces of cold pizza, and did some Data Sufficiency questions from the OG. Once I did fall asleep, I slept until about 12:45, which although later than I had originally planned on getting up, made for a good enough 4 hours of sleep. After getting up, I took a long shower and shaved, picked up some food and watched an (hilarious, as always) episode of The Family Guy I had saved on my Tivo. Before hopping on the L to go to the testing center, I went over the final questions of PS and SC in the OG.
When I got to the testing center, there was one unexpected factor that I learned I would have to face. The air conditioning in the building gets shut off at 6pm (the testing center is currently open later than usual to accomodate year-end demand). According to one person who worked there, this makes for quite an uncomfortable environment. Luckily, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I ditched my sweatshirt for a t-shirt before I sat down, and slipped off my shoes to allow as much heat to escape my body as possible.
I felt that the essays went smoothly. My only AWA practice was in the practice tests, and even then I skipped writing them half the time. I memorized a template going into the test, and intended to use that as the basic format. Analysis of an Issue was first for me, and I ended up taking a different route than normal. Instead explaining three different reasons for my beliefs, I ended up taking one detailed example and offered a contrasting example to solidify my stance. I felt that I did pretty well on this essay, but I'll find out for sure in two weeks. The Analysis of an Argument had an argument almost too easy to poke holes in. Multiple assumptions that needed justification and a failure to support the argument's main point via comparison. I think I did well on this, although my prose was more matter-of-fact than typical.
On to the quantitative section... one of things I told myself I would do in the quant section of the test was that after I reached an answer, I would re-read the question to make sure I was answering what the question was asking for. For example, making sure it asked for a ratio of a to b instead a to (a+b). I got to what seemed like harder bin questions pretty quickly, there was nothing that I had to guess on or even felt that I answered incorrectly (in other words, I probably still made two or three careless mistakes). I was happy that even with slowing things down with my strategy of double-checking, I still had plenty of time to spare when I finished.
As for verbal, it ended up being more daunting than had been the case in any of the Powerprep or GMATPrep exams I took. The reading comprehension questions were relatively straightforward, but the critical reasoning questions were somewhere between Powerprep level and Kaplan
level of difficulty and ambiguity. I still believed that I had done well on the verbal, however, so I was confident when I hit the last answer button that I would get a great score.
When the score of 750 popped up on the screen, I had mixed emotions. A week ago, I would have been ecstatic with that score. I also was extremely pleased to see that I had limited my stupid mistakes and gotten an excellent score on the quantitative portion of the test. But I couldn't believe that my verbal score was that low. I didn't expect the score of 51 that I got on my last Powerprep test, but I figured that it would have been in the mid-40s at worst. Thus, while happy to get an excellent score, I've found myself wondering what could have been, thinking of what I would have felt like if I saw a 780 pop up on the screen. That being said, I'm happy to be done with it, so I can now focus on the time crunch I've forced on myself to get in second round applications.