This debrief is for everyone, but I anticipate it will hit home more for the folks on this forum who are doubting themselves and are scoring well below their target scores on practice tests or the actual GMAT. Reaching my final score was an ABSOLUTE battle and I can say candidly, that it was the hardest I have ever worked at anything (No I’m not lazy). While I do consider myself to have above average intelligence and to be a sharp individual, I am NOT a natural test taker – In fact, I struggle immensely with test anxiety.
MY BACKGROUND: 26 yrs old Male. Management Consultant – Business Transformation and Financial Management. BA in Business Admin. MS in Accounting.
I have taken the real GMAT 4 times.
620 (Q39 V35) in 2008. I needed to take the GMAT to gain admission into an MS in Accounting program. I started with a diagnostic first ever GMAT of 480 grabbed the Kaplan
book and self studied for a couple weeks. Honestly, I hate that this score is on my score report and I don’t consider it to be part of my true GMAT journey (the 3 GMAT attempts within the past 8 months to get ready for this year’s apps).
I began studying for the GMAT in Sept of 2011. I signed up for the MGMAT 9 week class. During my 4 months of class and self study after the class I improved my score only 50 points from a 590 diagnostic to a 640 in October. This was extremely frustrating and I’ll be honest – I had days where I felt like getting a competitive score was just not feasible and that I just didn’t have the brains to beat the test. I followed the class syllabus without deviation and did every OG problem. However, I achieved a LOWER score on my actual quant than I did on my diagnostic. HOW???
I had moments of hope at the end when I scored a 700 and 690, but the truth was I simply wasn’t mentally ready. In general, you need to hit your target score or above consistently with confidence or you wont produce the results on game day.
MY PROBLEM DURING THIS PERIOD OF STUDY: My study discipline was excellent, but I just wasn’t retaining the takeaways for my problem solving strategies and the quant weak areas. On the flipside my verbal improved drastically because I was picking up and improving the way I THOUGHT ABOUT the questions when approaching them.
My practice test scores went as follows:
- 9/14/11 – 590 (Q43 V29) - Diagnostic Test MGMAT
- 10/23/11 – 620 (Q43 V32) - MGMAT
- 11/10/11 – 640 (Q43 V34) - MGMAT
- 11/21/11 – 640 (Q43 V34) - MGMAT
- 12/05/11 – 630 (Q42 V34) - MGMAT
- 12/14/11 – 700 (Q44 V40) – MGMAT
- 12/ 17/11 – 690 (Q44 V40) – GMAT Prep I
TOOK OFFICIAL DECEMBER 2011 GMAT – 640 (Q42 V38) AWA 6
I took about a month and half off started studying again for 2 weeks starting in February and then had a debrief session with MGMAT and they advised me to push my test further because I had a trip to Costa Rica with friends in March. They forecasted that I was close to my goal, but that I needed 5 weeks from the day we had our debrief. Furthermore they encouraged me not to go on a vacation in the middle of that 5 week period. This was very frustrating because I felt like I just wasted a couple weeks of study time and would be prolonging the day I would say farewell to the test and be stress free, but I put the books on the shelf and enjoyed myself.
I started up again the last week of March 2012 and hired a tutor name Horacio Quiroga. He is a former MGMAT tutor. He was an absolute rockstar and took a personal interest in my progress. We didn’t touch verbal. I worked with him for 12 hours going over major areas he though I should focus on. I learned the proper way to think about the problems that frustrated me SO much. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I DID WAS RESTUDYING PROBLEMS CONCEPTUALLY with him. EVERY PROBLEM WE COVERED, I WENT OVER UNTIL I UNDERSTOOD THE WAY TO APPROACH THAT PROBLEM TYPE IN GENERAL.
My practice tests were the following :
- April 2012 – 670 (Q48 V35) IR 3 – GMAT Prep I – New Software
- May 2012 – Q45 – Quant Section only GMAT Prep II New Software
At this point I had improved my quant drastically, but my main obstacle was test anxiety. Although I hadn’t hit my target score, I still felt good because I just had a bad practice in verbal. Hitting that score probably would have helped beat that anxiety though. I showed up on game day and just broke down. I landed one of the few question types I just really struggled with. It was a difficult parabola coordinate geometry question. I had never taken a practice where I missed question #1 or a real GMAT where I felt like I missed question #1. This got in my head big time because it is hammered hard in the MGMAT class
that you really want to get the first question right. It shook my focus. Mid way through the section I was sweating, breaking down, and way behind schedule, which led to random guessing. I finished quant and knew I had done horrible. Thought I may have even done worse than my last GMAT. I even considered canceling my score. I went back in and was pretty relaxed because I knew it wasn’t going to be THE ONE so the pressure was off. I did very well on my verbal.
TOOK OFFICIAL MAY 2012 GMAT - 680 (Q42 V41) AWA 6
I went home very upset and booked my next GMAT for a month out. Took the week off and started studying again the next Monday. I studied the same materials I had studied previously, but used the new GMAT prep question pack as well. These questions were great for me to get daily exposure to official questions since I had exhausted all my materials. I studied less each day and relaxed more. I exercised at least a few times a week and enjoyed myself outside of studying. When I studied, I made sure that it was very productive and focused on understanding the problems I struggled with thoroughly.
My practice tests were the following:
May 2012 – 700 (Q46 V41) IR 7 – GMAT Prep I – New Software Reset
May 2012 – 730 (Q48 V41) IR 7 – GMAT Prep II – New Software Reset
OFFICIAL JUNE 2012 GMAT – 710 (Q49 V38) AWA 5.5 – IR 5
IR was a big ? – I didn’t know where I would hit there. Was really hoping for a 5 or higher and I got it (didn’t know the percentile would be so low though and I am unhappy about that). I felt pretty solid with my Quant section and knew I was doing and excellent job of ditching questions I didn’t know and tagging the ones I did, but didn’t expect a 49. My verbal experience was bad and I was quite worried to be honest. I underperformed quite badly on verbal. I got 2 extremely long passages for reading comp. I ran out of time at the end. I still stop and get frustrated knowing that if I had performed even a little better, I would have earned a 720 (at or above my schools averages). I scored a V41 on my previous GMAT and the two practice tests in the month of study. I expected a V41 or better on gameday. At the end of the day I am ok with my 700+ 80/80 split and happy that I did my very best on the quant.
MY KEY TAKEAWAYS:
- ONCE YOU CAN REALLY RELAX, YOU “PLAY” YOUR BEST. It’s just like any sport. You need the balance between sense of urgency and being relaxed to execute. Learned this from my verbal section on my May 2012 GMAT after I bombed the quant.
- UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU LET THE TEST MESS WITH YOUR HEAD. I learned the hard way. Tough question one, skip it and move on. It really does not matter. The thing is pretty accurate at measuring your level, so let it be.
- EVEN IF YOU KNOW YOU ARE AT THE LEVEL, HIT A SCORE AT OR ABOVE YOUR TARGET PRIOR TO GAMEDAY. It just gives you a confidence going in that is ABSOLUTELY INVALUABLE. It also alleviates test anxiety big time.
- STUDY CONCEPTUALLY – everybody says this, but I’ll reinforce. I took two GMATS without doing it and scored a 620 and 640. Sure I put in tons of time and did thousands of questions. I changed my style and scored a 680 and 710. The proof is in the scores that breaking habits and adopting a different method can work.
- IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING A GMAT CLASS, consider private tutoring with Horacio. It’s about the same cost, but you get tailored sessions that actually teach you how to approach problems the best way for you. This matters more than having a study plan and following a generalized learning schedule.
- EXERCISE. It really helps. I can’t begin to explain how much it makes you feel better on a daily basis when you’re in training. It really makes you feel more productive in general and think positively.
- STAY MOTIVATED. This sounds obvious, but it can be extremely frustrating. I know. 4 takes. The same quant score on almost every test from Sept 2011 to April 2012. Use school websites to read about your dream schools. Read the comeback stories on GMAT Club.
- Books/Materials Used: 9 MGMAT guides
, OG 12th
, OG 13th
, GMAT QUANTUM Website videos, VR 2nd Ed, QR 2nd Ed, GMAT Prep I, GMAT Prep II, Horacio’s unique materials.
- My other threads
FEEL FREE TO ASK ME ANY ?s or PM. Hopefully all this hard work and perseverance will not have been for nothing – Here come the application funtivities!