This post concludes my GMAT testing career. After a year of on and off studying, I took the test last Friday, scoring 720 (v40 q48). The following is a brief overview of what I did in this GMAT adventure and I hope that this story could be of inspiration, or at least of entertainment, to everyone.
Jay-Z said it best: “allow me to (re)introduce myself.” I’m 23 years old. After spending the first 11 years of my life in Shanghai, China, I spent the past 12 years in the States, moving from one area to another with my parents. Compared to my international brothers and sisters, I am less capable in Quant (the Quant foundations laid especially in China and India are just incredible) and compared to my US counterparts, I am less capable in Verbal (English not my native tongue). Furthermore, I am a bit lazy. I tend to put off things that are due today to tomorrow. I graduated in 2006 from a 2nd-tier university on the US east coast.
I began studying the GMAT in February, 2007. After looking through the OG, posting a few questions on forum, and doing a few problems, I took my first GMAT Prep exam. I scored 640. “Not bad,” I thought, “If I study a bit more, I’ll hit 700 in no time.”
After studying for about an hour a day on weekdays, and 2-3 hours a day on weekends, I took GMAT Prep exam 2 in April, 2007. I scored 620. WTF! I thought I learned a lot. How can my score drop?
The score was a disappointing. However, I realized that I did study hard enough. From May to July, 2007, I increased the amount of time I spent on the GMAT. I posted my questions in the GMAT Club forum as much as I could. I bought the GMAT challenges, worked through 2-3 challenges per week. Slowly, but surely, I felt both my quant and verbal skills improving.
One of the most important decisions I made after I scored the disappointing 620 was that I found a study partner. For about a week after I got my 620, I did not study. To be honest, I feared the test. On the other hand, I realize that I should not give up. I needed someone to support me in the conquest. Soon after, I posted on Craigslist (a free classifieds website) that I was looking for a study partner. Luckily, someone replied. We meet and studied together as often as we could (sometimes once a day). Her presence forced me to study everyday. I owed her a lot.
Fast forward a few months, during which I parted ways with my ex-employer, landed a new job, and moved to a new city. My GMAT progress stopped. I now scored in the 670 range, but it seemed as if no matter what I did, I was not improving. After finishing the OG. I finished the 1000 Sentence Correction, but I still miss many SC questions on the practice exams. I ran through half of the 1000 Critical Reasoning series, but every CR question I read still confused me, and I had to read the question twice before I could understand it. I was lost. I practiced and reviewed more questions.
November and December of 2007 were landmarks of my GMAT preparation history. During those months, I did and re-did every full length test from GMAT Prep and 800Score. I still remember the first time I scored above 700 on a GMAT Prep exam. Although, I have already done that particular exam 4 or 5 times, seeing a ‘7’ in the hundred digit made me happy. 800Score, though its percentile and scoring systems are flawed, provided good questions at a good value – 5 test for $25. The 800Score questions were harder than those of GMAT Prep.
The GMAT Club Challenges
) helped to boost my Quant from 44 to 48-49. Although very few questions on the real GMAT exam are comparable to the Challenges’, the Challenges allowed me to be more cautious and more detail oriented. Those characteristics were immensely important to every test taker.
Another important aspect of my preparation was momentum. After I went through a few more practice tests, scoring in the 700s each time. I felt that I should take the test. My score stock was on the rise and I should sell before it drops. I signed up for a test one week later on Jan. 4th, 2007.
One week before the test, I did not do a single new question. I looked over my error log
for maybe an hour per day.
I slept at 10:00 pm the night before my 8:00 am exam. I wanted to be well rested. However, anxiousness awoke me at 3:00 am, and I was not able to sleep afterwards. Lying awake for three straight hours before the big battle was difficult. I watched my cell phone clock in the dark: 3:05am, 3:35am, 4:02am. Gradually, the numbers started looking like scores: 450, 530, 610… Well, at least the scores were rising. I put on some old jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and left for the test center. I didn’t brush my teeth or take a shower.
I had scouted out the test center two nights before the exam. When I got there, I had to wait in the hall way. Somehow, I was much calmer than I was laying in my bed. Moments later, a number of GMAT taking comrades joined me in the post, along with other soldiers who were in the pursuit for nursing licenses and electrician licenses. Though we had different enemies, our goals were one and the same: take the damn test and go home.
I was the first person admitted into the testing center. The waiting area had 30 or so chairs, bright lights, cold air, and a water dispenser, which I visited three times in my brief stay. Two suited gentlemen sat behind a large, sophisticated looking table checked IDs, took finger prints, and took pictures. One by one, they handed us numbers. I landed number one.
The waiting room was our barracks. Soon, our battles will begin.
My number was called first. One suited gentleman handed me a key to the locker. I was to put everything – wallet, watch, cell phone, keys – in the locker. A lady of about 40 years old signaled me to follow her into the back room, where the testing will take place. That lady is the proctor. Emotionless, she handed me a notepad and a pen, spoke to me about the rules, and took my finger print. From where I was standing, I could see 12 – 15 battle stations, each armed with a chair, a monitor, a computer, a mouse, and a keyboard. The proctor guided me inside, typed in the password using the keyboard on station number 1, and I was finally alone with the GMAT.
A few screens of less important instructions came up first: question types, testing formats, blah…blah…The most interesting screen would have to be the one stating “which schools would you like to send your score to?”
The two essays warmed my brain up. I read the issue and the argument, noted a few points, inserted a whole lot of transitional words (in addition, moreover, however, first, second), slapped on the introductions and conclusions, and took my first break. I was relaxed. I took my drink of water, went to the restroom, and got ready for my second tour in GMAT land.
Quant was not as difficult due to the much needed practice using GMAT Club Challenges
. No probabilities, no combinations, no work questions, and no mixing questions appeared in my exam. This surprised me a bit and I felt less comfortable as I moved along without difficulty. Because the GMAT increases in difficult when one is doing well, does my comfort level indict that I am doing less than “ok?” I finished the section with 2 minutes lefts, drunk more water, went to the bathroom (important strategy: don’t drink too much water before the test, the consequences could be dire), and returned for Verbal.
I felt more confident with Verbal not because that I was better at it, but because I spent much more time practicing Verbal than practicing Quant (indicted by my post count on GMAT Club: 88% in verbal). I came across one ‘two highlighted portion’ CR question. I was also lucky that I was not attacked by any science related passages. A science passage would most likely have paralyzed me.
Following the end of the test, a variety of optional screens popped up: would you like to receive financial aid, would you like to receive junk email, blah…blah….
The moment of truth. I don’t think my heart has pounded as vibrantly as it had at that moment with the exception of my first sexual experience. A few more mouse clicks, the computer went into a “I’m scoring you test” mode. Computer noises that were too quiet to notice before sounded as if they were thunder. I felt that my heart was going to burst open.
A year of work, and all I have to show for it was a number. Was I glad? Damn right I was! I don’t every want to touch another GMAT question for the rest of my life. At the same time, I felt somewhat empty. I spent many nights and weekends preparing for the GMAT while the other boys and girls my age are out partying and living it up. Now that I have accomplished my task, who or what am I suppose to fight now?
I feel that the GMAT, in the end, became a personal challenge. It became a part of me. The score, though important, is not as significant as the process. You may live in a different country, have a wife and some kids, and be 45 years old. But realize that when it comes to the GMAT, you and only you can define your destiny. Hard work does pay off. Until my next battle, however soon that may be, I’m going to open a beer and watch TV.
Peace and God Bless.
LeeHere is a list of resources that I used: GMAT Original Guide 11
(the one with the orange cover)
800Score (5 tests for $25)GMAT Club Challenge Tests
(Must have for anyone wanting to score 45+ in Quant) http://gmatclub.com/wiki/TestsManhattan GMAT Sentence Correction Guide
(must have for Sentence Correction)Manhattan GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide
(not too important)
1000SC, 1000CR, 1000RC
*I did not take any GMAT courses. Thought about it. But decided not to (too expansive).