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I Went to Battle With the GMAT--An emotional rollercoaster

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I Went to Battle With the GMAT--An emotional rollercoaster [#permalink] New post 20 May 2013, 14:17
I found a great new one year, CFA-aligned Master of Finance program near Seattle in February and have been scrambling to put an application together. My undergraduate GPA is an atrocious 2.54 and I have less than a year of experience so the top-tier b-schools were far out of my reach. I have since gotten my act together and one day hope to be admitted to a top-tier MBA program, but for now this opportunity is perfect for my professional development and interest. I have a BS in Economics and hope to be an equities analyst or trader. The university wanted at least a 600 GMAT score emphasizing the quantitative section to offset my poor GPA, and I had just eight weeks to study while working full time.

After studying for two months in the evenings and on weekends. I took my first GMAT. Below is a very detailed account of my test day.

The night before May 6, 2013 I spend mostly studying. They say not to study too hard the night before and get plenty of sleep but I’ve always been the cramming, all-nighter type, and was too anxious to sleep more than three hours anyway. Mom picked me up at 6:45AM and with coffee in hand, we drove into Seattle, plenty early for my 8:00AM appointment. I didn’t eat anything because I always seem a bit more on my toes that way, but Mom insisted I eat something so I grabbed a sausage McMuffin.

Inside the Pearson office, it took a while to get registered but the sun had come out and the ladies working were very friendly, so my mood was good. After all of the formalities with double and triple checking that I would be comfortable and ready to go, I sat for the essay.

The analysis of an argument essay was straight forward enough. The gist of the argument in question was that fitness models pictured in a magazine using fancy gym machines meant that the gym machines produced fit bodies. It was a clear false assumption of causation and failure to identify a sales pitch. I managed to produce five quality paragraphs although the structure might have been a bit off. I didn’t study at all for this section but it was easy regardless and I felt great.

The following Integrated Reasoning section was not so easy. I had not studied this either and it showed. I was frozen from the very beginning, and with no practice making decisive guesses here, all I could see was the clock ticking away. I actually stared at the clock at one point thinking to myself: “there is no way a second is that quick.” It was bad. It wasn’t even that the questions were too difficult to answer. I simply sabotaged myself wasting minutes upon minutes either calculating how far behind schedule I was for the thirty minute section or pouting to myself. After guessing at most of them, I quickly raised my hand and left the testing room to go on my eight minute break.

I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet, thoroughly bummed out. I had been working so hard and would be devastated if I couldn’t get into graduate school for the fall semester. I reached for my phone to check the time but realized it was in my locker. A minute or two later, I snapped out of it. Everyone knows the Integrated Reasoning section doesn’t matter and I wasn’t going to just lay down and be defeated.

I realized that the GMAT was about more than just speed and ability. The GMAT is about mental toughness. After all the flashcards and problems, practiced over and over under time constraints, you have to be hyper-focused and you must have a thick skin because there is no time for what can’t be controlled. The computer adaptive aspect amplifies this necessity because the test will seek out the limit of your ability, ensuring difficult questions and unsure answers for all who take this epic test.

I looked into the bathroom mirror at myself and gave myself a really mean scowl. The Integrated Reasoning section meant nothing and I had a dragon to slay. This was no time to pout and I was pissed off. I marched back into the testing area and quickly and quickly realized that I was late. The administrator knew this and was quick to scan me in and seat me at my computer. As soon as she logged me in I noticed the seventy-five minute timer already approaching the seventy-one. I know, I know. Idiot. But truthfully, it didn’t matter. I had given myself such an awesome pep talk in the bathroom that I wasn’t about to start pouting again.

I had the eye of the tiger and as soon as I hit the next button, all the timed math practice paid off. I had really got my timing and decisiveness down for the main quantitative sections, which is essential for a good score. I pushed the pace, quick to guess on any question that I didn’t like. This is important for staying confident enough to keep focused on the questions and not the clock. I seemed to get a ton of data sufficiency questions which was good for my timing, but not for my certainty. I just wasn’t sure on so many of my answers and felt just okay at the end. At least I had stayed focused and given a solid effort.

Feeling a bit better but still as though I would score poorly, I got some water and sat for the verbal section. With a couple minutes of break left, I sat at the desk, full of uncertainty and a mix of emotions. I the computer screen this time my mean scowl and pressed next. Reading is probably my weakest point. I’m just slow at it. After hitting the next button, I continued my furious pace, reading faster than ever and pushing ahead. My confidence increased with every question. I was quick with my answers and the questions seemed easy. The well-established GMAT trickery made me skeptical of obvious answers and I avoided them. Maybe I could salvage a decent score after all. The quantitative section was more important but the verbal still counts toward the overall score and it was easy. Ten minutes left. Five. My excitement grew out of control as my curiosity got the best of me for a few moments at the end. I put my head down and finished the test.

Some people talk about sitting in front of the screen thinking about the next moments. I wasn't overall that confident and expected about a 550. But there was no wait for me. I gave myself a couple seconds, thinking about how my life would change based on the next moment, and I clicked. 620(48Q, 27V). A smile. A sigh of relief. I expected much lower, and look! I murdered the quant and bombed the verbal which was the opposite of what I expected. But my targets were hit and an almost eighty percentile quant score would surly admit me to the Master of Finance program!

The rest of the day was amazing. I called all my friends and my mom as I walked to the bus stop. The sun was beaming and I blasted music from my Ipod all the way home with a smile on my face. But wow, what a test. The whole experience was a roller-coaster of emotion. From near depression to near elation, this test was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced and I’m glad I came out on top.

Thank you everyone on the forum for all the resources! I didn’t contribute much but sure read a lot over the last month. It feels great to work hard and accomplish my goals. I expect to do well in my MSF program and will hopefully be back in five years for a 700 push. I can only imagine what a 700 feels like but I hope to one day write about it here. Cheers!

-Cliff from Seattle, WA
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I Went to Battle With the GMAT--An emotional rollercoaster   [#permalink] 20 May 2013, 14:17
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