[Disclaimer] long post – grab drink [End Disclaimer]
Before I chronicle my journey, I want to say that this forum has been a godsend. I spent a good deal of time here reading through other people's journeys, some to the magical 700 score, solving difficult questions and in general just learning from everyone else.
I took the GMAT for the second time this past weekend and scored 630 - Q38, V38. This score represents a 170 point increase over my first GMAT score (460 Q29 V25). I know a 630, based on some of the other scores on this forum is not that impressive but for me it is a victory of sorts. I won't be shouting down from any buildings though, and I probably won't retake it as I have 7 years working experience, currently in middle management (Risk/Compliance function) for a fortune 500 company, had a 3.6 GPA in my undergrad (Management Information Systems) and the program I intend to join has a 650 GMAT median score. Bearing these in mind, if I need to retake to up my score, I know I can hit the magical 700 if I continue along the path and with the assistance of the people on this forum
I began preparing for the GMAT in November of 2009 but like many people, the holidays became a distraction so I studied casually through November and December. In late December I discovered GMAT club and joined in January 2010. I read BB's post on taking the GMAT journey (Dude - you deserve some type of an award for this forum). I have to say that the first time I took the GMAT, I seriously underestimated it. I thought I could rely on my general knowledge and with a little bit of study, I could ace the thing. So I just answered questions on the OG 10
sporadically moving from quant to verbal with no plan. All I can say is oiyee! Never before have I been humbled by an exam like I was when I saw my score.
This second time around I first got the GMAC OG 12
book and took the diagnostic test at the beginning. Nothing new, it just confirmed what I already knew. I needed more help in quant than I did in verbal. Through this forum I learnt about the Manhattan GMAT
forum. I wanted to refresh my basics on math so I bought the numbers properties book by MGMAT and Jeff Sachman’s Math book . I also wanted to brush on my grammar so on the advice of several people on this forum I bought the Manhattan sentence correction
book. This book is the crème de la crème of sentence correction books . With MGMAT books
I got access their CATs. A friend of mine had just taken the LSAT so I borrowed his book to brush up on critical reasoning. While I think this book may be helpful, I would say that the problems are way beyond the difficulty level I saw on the real GMAT and would only recommend it for people who have a firm grasp on the basics of CR and RC. As such, I reverted back to this forum and learnt about the Powerscore CR
Bible. This book helped me understand clearly how to dissect arguments and improve my timing.
Having obtained the books, I studied for about 3 weeks, each day about 3 hours and on weekends an average of 12 hours spending about two thirds of my time on quant and alternating to verbal every other day. I wished I could do more but I was pushing myself as hard as I possibly could. I literally stopped hanging out and going to movies with my wife (God bless her – she gave me all the space I needed to work hard). I would study for an hour each morning and two hours each night on weekdays and I would spend a majority of my weekends locked up in my study room (typically 8 to 12 hours).
I took my first MGMAT Prep test and scored 570 Q33 V35, I was disappointed but I noted that this was an increase from the 460 I had a couple years earlier. I decided to be positive, reviewed each question diligently and followed up. A week later I attempted my first GMAT prep test and got a 640 Q40 V 36. I was elated. I actually began to realize that that I could conquer this beast called the GMAT. However, comeuppance was around the corner. I took my second GMAT Prep test and lo and behold I scored 560 Q32 V34
I cannot tell you how demoralized I was after this shock. I told myself that pressure makes diamond and if I wanted a good score I had to earn it and nothing would just be given to me. I took the setback as motivation and developed an error log
. I also realized that timing was my biggest impediment. I found myself rushing towards the end of the exam and therefore failing most of the questions towards the end (on one test I failed all 9 final questions on the verbal section). I also realized that I was too eager to solve questions so I would just dive into solving without actually stopping to understand what the question was really asking. Basically, I would anticipate the question before even reading it which meant that I wasted precious time trying to mentally begin solving a problem before fully understanding it.
I think for test takers, it is important that you realize the GMAT is just a test – relax and watch your stress levels as you take the exam (even the practice ones). After dissecting the problems from my second GMAT, I took the Manhattan prep
GMAT test the following weekend and scored a 650 Q43 V36. My scores ranged around 610 through 680 on the MGMAT (See breakdown below) while the GMAT prep scores ranged from 610 to 670 (with the 570 score being an outlier and another score of 720 which was a misnomer as I had seen of the questions from earlier tests and knew the answers – but the 720 was a good mental boost)
The other thing I started to do more is exercise regularly. For me this relieved the stress of constant studying. One mistake I did is that I wanted to study more intensely in the final two weeks before taking the exam so I stopped going to the gym. I would not advise anyone to do that now looking back.
Anyhow below are my test scores:
MGMAT Prep 1 – 570 Q33 V35
GMAT Prep 1 – 640 Q39 V39
MGMAT Prep 2 – 650 Q43 V36
GMAT Prep 2 – 560 Q32 V34
MGMAT Prep 3 – 650 Q43 V36 (identical to prep 2)
GMAT Prep 1 (retake) – 660 Q44 V36
MGMAT Prep 4 – 610 Q34 V39
MGMAT Prep 5 - 680 Q42 V40
GMAT Prep 2 (retake) – 720 Q45 V42
Real Test 630 Q38, V38
With my wife out of town for half the week before I took the exam, I tried as much as I could to study intensely and brush up on knowledge that I may have missed. I worked through about 300 of the 1000 SC and diligently went over the OG 12
quant section . I began to burnt out after having really worked through a rigorous work schedule and study schedule for the better part of two months. I also worked on some critical reasoning questions and lessened my workload towards the end of the week as I was taking the test on a Saturday. I returned to the gym Thursday and exercised hard which felt good (see above note on exercising). On Friday evening, I studied for a couple hours then packed my lunch, went to bed at about 10PM. I could not sleep till 1AM and then I woke up again at 4AM. After 2 years, I was going back to the site of my worst defeat – literally – professionally or otherwise (not to over-dramatize it but it was my intention to destroy this giant – I was ready to go!). I watched the news, took a shower at 5AM then had breakfast at 5:45AM. I left home at about 6:30AM for the test center.
I got to the test center at about 7:15AM and the proctor didn’t start checking people in until 7:30AM. One thing I forgot to bring was my passport and so the nice woman at the Pearson VUE center told me to just drive home and get it, if I was back in an hour I would take it. Amazingly, I did not panic. I was calm, drove back home, got my passport and drove back. I actually enjoyed the breeze and the nice weather as it had started to warm up. I checked in at 9 and started working on the AWA. I was relaxed, kept an eye on the time, the topics were pretty generic so there were no shocks or surprises. I took my break then started working on the Quant section. I was acutely aware of my time issues but I was able to work through the questions. I want to state that contrary to what I’ve read somewhere on this forum, the quant section problems appeared a bit easier than those in the GMAT prep and MGMAT programs. I was able to go through all questions, I guessed 3 questions for the sake of time but my timing on the Quant section was the best of any of my prep exams. I took the second break and worked diligently through the verbal section. Here I concur with a number of people’s observations that the verbal section on the real GMAT is harder than the practice exams. The SC’s were wicked and the passages were bland but not unexpected at all. Again, another tip I learnt from this forum, I had signed up for the National Geographic magazine and somehow got used to reading passages about holes on the moon and experiments on lice fleas (pun intended).
The CR was somewhat easier than I had seen in the past but overall, the difficulty in the SC made for a much harder verbal than I had previously experienced. I barely finished on time on verbal (I had to guess – an educated guess – on one the final question) but my overall timing was good.
I then answered the survey questions and before I clicked on the button to accept my score said a little prayer just to thank God for the journey and to accept the score – whatever it would be. I knew I had done everything I could and believed that I would perform well. Then voila! 630 Q38 V38. I said good, am done. Considering the average GMAT score is somewhere in the mid 500’s – I felt good. I wasn’t ecstatic but I was also reflective considering I had scored 460 in my first attempt. This time my walk out of the test center was not a brisk defeated one but a calm one. I left the building, called the wifey – talked for a short while then headed back home relaxed and ready for the next phase of this journey.
1. You can do it. As relevant as this is when you tell your kids they can be anything they want to be, you too can do anything you put your mind to. You just need to make like Nike and Just Do It!
2. The GMAT is an exam. It won’t come into your home and beat you upside the head with a frying pan so no need to be nervous about it. Just be diligent in your study.
3. Remember though that this test does not give you anything, you have to earn everything you get. You could be lucky here and there but you can’t be lucky all the time and unless you’re good at betting, don’t leave anything to chance. Even if you’re good in grammar, you still need to study and refresh. As stated by several people on this forum, you don’t need to be a math professor or a pulitzer prize winner to pass the exam but you need to understand the basics.
4. The OG is the single best tool for preparation overall. Make that the lynchpin of your study and then obtain the other materials to support it. After all, that is one of the tools (the other being the GMAC Prep software) that the GMAC puts out there and in my experience was the closest one to the real thing (A fact noted by several members here). Any study plan should have both (book and software).
5. Develop an error log
. How do you know your weakness if you don’t dissect your performance? The ones offered on this forum are great.
6. Keep your plans simple and limit your sources. There is a dearth of information out there with everyone and their mother giving out advice about passing the GMAT and offering lessons on how to attack the exam. So, pick and choose wisely. Here I found that my error log
helped tremendously, as I was able to really concentrate on my weak areas and then decipher the noise from the real thing.
7. Also forums like this one, beatthegmat.com and Manhattan GMAT
can be very useful. Ron Purewal over at Manhattan GMAT
is very good at breaking down problems to their very basic components. I did attempt the GMAT club tests
as well although at times I found the questions to be way beyond my abilities and I felt that I needed to brush up on the basics before I attempted them.
8. Exercise – or pick up a routine that can alleviate the stress of studying. Also, limit your study time to 2 months. I studied on and off for two months before really delving into it for 3 months. At the end, I felt like I was burnt out, possible because my original plan had started in November. 3 months is optimum.
9. Look at the big picture, the GMAT is only a component of your application, an important one but still, a piece of the pie. So don’t divorce your wife/husband or break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend or sell your kids (kidding!) to pass the GMAT. I’m sure you are talented enough in other areas so not scoring in the 90th percentile won’t automatically disqualify you from your program of choice.
10. Read about other people’s experiences. When you find yourself struggling, just read about what other people went through. I did that a lot; I spent time just reading how different people conquered their fears and passed the test.
So there you have it. Sorry for the long post but I hope someone will benefit from my experience.