My journey and the lessons I learned
Ok first of all, I m not a GMAT expert, nor am I too happy with my score. 730 is a very ordinary score for Indians and hence I definitely do not stand out as of now, based on GMAT. Will have to put in a lot of work before I am ready with my applications. I would like to share my experience during the preparation, my observations and some of the mistakes that I made.
This is not exactly a debrief per say. I did pretty much the same things those are mentioned in all the other posts. Same books and same CATs ( Manhattan, Kaplan
, OG etc). But here I would like to bring out certain points which I think would have helped me, had I known before.
1. Do not waste your GMAT Prep tests. They are invaluable. What I did wrong
: I re-took the tests as often suggested to me by umpteen number of peers.Trust me, you take the tests twice, the third time you will start seeing repeats. Understand that even 5 repeat questions can take you from 700 to 750. The more frequently you write these days, the more repeats you will get and the more skewed the results will become. I had reached a point where I never got less than 790 in a GMAT prep. As you can see, my score turned out to be far below that. My advice
: Take 1 test at the middle stage of your preparation. Take another just before your exam (give some time to learn from your mistakes - I say, 15 days from your exam). Even if you plan to overwrite GMATPrep, make sure that you are least bothered about the score and more concerned about learning from the mistakes and practising.
2. Stop worrying about, and wasting time over, the algorithm of GMAT. Personally, I think it is of no use. Think about it. When you are writing the GMAT - are you even going to think whether 'this question is important so I need to get it right' or 'this question comes in the end so I can relax'? Absolutely not! Your goal should be to get every question right. Focus on your preparation more than on how to 'comprehend' the algorithm.What I did wrong
: I tried to learn every bit about the adaptive algorithms. It did not help me because the moment I entered the exam, all the junk I had learned about these algorithms was washed out. My advice
: This is just unnecessary. Period. Concentrate on getting maximum questions right regardless of their relative positioning in the exam.
3. No, Kaplan
is not hard. Kaplan
is not 'unlike GMAT'. What is it with everyone cursing Kaplan
for preparations. Guys, I want to say something here ( and I do not claim to be preaching gospels, but writing down my observation ) : All the three versions of OG that I studied from (10th,11th and 12th editions), I pretty much saw a huge overlap of questions. I guess the 10th edition is a bit different but still. I don't think the questions are revised inside out. The statistical data that is presented in the last pages of OG (conversion of percentiles to the GMAT score) are all based on the data from January 2005 to December 2007 (please correct me if I am wrong). Guys, the GMAT is getting harder and harder year on year. Simply because the candidates keep getting better and better. I am still waiting when will the latest conversion chart be published. It essentially means that a 750 5 years ago would correspond to not more than a 710-720 today. Where I went wrong
: I ignored Kaplan
till 4 days before my exam. Agreed that Kaplan
tests are hard. But it is only because they force you to think in the right direction. Their passages are not only long, but also dense, which gives you the right practice. Worry not about the score, but about what you learn from those questions. In my opinion, the more you practice hard questions, the better prepared you are (it is true that one should practice only GMAT like questions, but then again, Kaplan
has one of the finest teachers and GMAT champions so I pretty much assume that they of course know more than I do about 'what is a GMAT like question'). So don't get bogged down by low Kaplan
scores, but properly practice each and every problem that is presented to you in those CATs and practice tests.My advice
: Take Kaplan
tests as learning models. Use them as tools to create a launchpad to handle tough problems. But do those tests. They are important and it is easy to feel complacent by scoring a 750 in other 'easier, but GMAT like tests' but if the questions are not hard enough ( as they would be on the real GMAT of 2011 and ahead..remember we are not in the good old 2005-2006 days when the competition was far lesser ).
4. OG is important. But not sufficient. Analyze it this way - in OG, you have 1 hard problem for every 5 questions. If you solve OG as it is, repeatedly, your brain will get used to solving 1 hard question out of every 5. But the GMAT is adaptive, unlike the paper-book. If you keep solving questions rightly, you will keep getting tough questions, probably 2-3 in a row. Remember that your brain has to prepare for more than 2-3 tough questions in a row more so than for 1 hard question in every 5. So use OG only for practice. Don't get complacent by thinking 'Oh! I solved the OG twice, with a 90% accuracy - that should suffice'. No. That is where I went wrong. I had a 95 % accuracy in verbal and you can see 38 does not reflect that. So OG will show you what type of questions you might get on the exam. But always remember that the exam will be harder than OG. I might face some disagreement here, but this is what I observed both the times (yes - I wrote the GMAT once and got a 710. This was my second attempt).
5. Do not overstudy. This is simple. GMAT is not rocket science. You just need a month or two, fully dedicated. Towards the end, take a week off from work and get on to it. If you study for 4 months, the performance curve would reach a saturation. Remember the law of diminishing returns. So start studying and write the exam within 2 months once you feel your performance is at it's peak. Honestly, I did not dedicate myself to GMAT for more than 2 weeks. This is not an excuse. This is totally my fault and I regret now. Disconnect the broadband, switch off the TV and start working on it. It is simple high school math and basic verbal-logical reasoning. You don't need a Phd for a 780. You just need the right type of preparation in the right direction. Take every question as a learning pool. Make your own rules and start categorizing questions in different types. Maintain an excel of all those questions that defeated you. Go through those questions a week before the exam. And remember, do not waste your GMATPrep software. This software is hardly updated (I can't validate this though). Use it wisely
I hope this post helps some of you guys. Finally, a big thanks to this community in general and all the members whose inputs have been a constant source of learning and inspiration.
One last thing, try out Princeton Tests - the math is pretty easy but the verbal is quite reflective of the actual exam. The explanations are also good and in my case, the princeton CATs exactly predicted the score I was about to get on the GMAT.
Cheers and all the very best to all