5 years after my first GMAT attempt and countless to-retake-or-not-to-retake pros & cons lists later, I finally took the GMAT on Feb 14, 2014. This forum was super useful for my prep and I feel grateful that a place like this exists where you can gain so much! Armed with a 740 (which isn't a perfect score, yes, but it's not too bad to be able to share some gyaan), and tonnes of prep material - here goes my shot at a contribution.
I am a Marketing person with an Arts degree. Took the GMAT 5 years ago using only the Official Guide. Got a 670 (42Q, 38V). I applied to the London Business School's Master in Management and got accepted. Ditched that for a job at a global bank instead and decided to apply for a proper MBA after working a few years. I wanted to target top 10 B schools so a 670 probably wouldn't cut it. Especially with a non-business major. 5 years went by while I mulled over whether to retake the GMAT or to apply with my score. Finally, when my score expired, I decided to give this another shot. This time with a lot more purpose and preparation. Here's my experience - hope someone finds it useful!
I haven't studied Maths since class 10 so I knew Quant was going to be my biggest challenge. I warmed up with some basic study material over a couple of months (just a few hours over the weekend/ sometimes after work etc.) just to get myself up to speed. For this, I used Manhattan's Foundations of Math Guide. Once I finished that cover to cover, I felt confident enough to start practicing.
I had read some good reviews of the Princeton Review’s book with 1037 practice questions – so ordered that on Flipkart. (IMO, it’s a really good compilation of tricky math problems – definitely worth a look). Spent 2 months doing all the Math questions from here. I couldn’t solve all of them and was quite stuck on some concepts but my goal was to get a sense of the GMAT difficulty level and gain momentum with my prep.
Then I booked a test date – with 50 days to go. 6ish weeks seemed less but I knew that I needed a deadline to work towards. I was quite open to the idea of retaking the test if I didn’t hit 700. So now I was committed to a date and I had 6 weeks to go. I made a detailed study plan (attached) and diligently followed through. I started off with going through each Manhattan Strategy Guide (I think these are brilliant for Quant). 15 days before the day, I started taking mock tests regularly.
I also joined weekend classes with a great Math teacher (Mitul Gada in Mumbai) who helped me clear difficult concepts with a fabulous 'no-formula' approach and also helped me understand where to focus the bulk of my efforts. I realised that Number Properties, Co-ordinate Geometry were important topics so I did the Manhattan Strategy guide twice over with a special focus on the advanced sections.
Alright, I’m going to keep myself from getting into too much detail (too late, eh?) – My entire study plan is in the Excel sheet. So that’s basically what I did in the last 50 days sprint.
My mock test results -
MCAT 1 – 650 - 44Q, 35 V
GMAT Prep 1 - 700 - 45Q, 41V
MGMAT 2 - 660 - 45Q, 35V
GMAT Prep 2 - 710 - 46Q, 41V
Manhattan 3 - 680 - 45Q, 37V
GMAT Prep 1 (repeat) - 760 - 49Q, 44V
Manhattan 4 - 680 - 44Q, 38V
GMAT Prep 2 - 730 - 46Q, 44V (2 days the final day)
Real GMAT – 740 – 50Q, 39V
Now I’m going to try to summarise my entire experience into bullets of advice –
1. The Error Log
is not a mythical concept:
When I started out with prep, I read a lot of people here mention error logs and I couldn’t fathom how feasible it would be to note down each error. But I found a way to make it work – and it was extremely useful – because towards the end, I could just selectively focus on the areas where I was repeatedly making mistakes. So this is definitely a top recommendation! A banker friend of mine always says – ‘what gets measured gets managed’. You get the drift?
2. GMAT Prep is not just hard work – it’s ‘smart’ hard work
I think it really helped me to understand how the GMAT functions, what it tests and what test taker mistakes are most common. So in addition to content knowledge, tactical knowledge was supremely important. I cannot imagine getting this score if I hadn’t had a timing strategy, a calming strategy and a break-food strategy
3. Keep yourself motivated:
There were days when the whole test seemed like an unnecessary ordeal and my mind would conjure up a hundred reasons for why I should be doing everything else besides the GMAT. I think you really have to watch out for what you do with yourself in moments like these. I would get on this forum and read stories of other people’s successful GMAT experiences - that would drive me. Or some days I would just take a break and do something fun and unrelated to the GMAT. Basically, find a way to keep yourself engaged when the mental demons come knocking with negative-self talk.
4. Have a timing strategy & practice it:
I used a time table and wrote it out before each section and kept a tab by checking if I was behind or ahead of time constantly. If I was more than 2 minutes behind, I would guess and move on. I don’t think I ever left any questions unanswered even on a mock test. I wanted to make sure I don’t lose too many points because of not finishing the test.
5. Quality versus Quantity:
Here’s the thing – I never really finished the Official Guide. Quant - I only did the Advanced Questions from Manhattan but I made sure I did them well – analysed mistakes and did the wrong ones again after a week. For Verbal – I did CR and SC entirely but never did RC. I’m not saying this is the best strategy to go with – and if I had time, I would probably have done more. But the point is that if you have time constraints – I’d recommend doing fewer questions well versus doing every single question fleetingly.
6. Mental preparation – Stress management, Visualisation and Keeping yourself mentally fit:
I think the GMAT tests more than just your subject matter expertise – it’s also a stress test. So you must try to manage the impact that stress has on your D-day performance. I took the last week very easy – watched a few movies, went out a lot and exercised significantly. I was very stressed so needed to spend a lot of time in calming my nerves. Visualisation is a great technique – read up about it and practice if you can.
Okay now that debrief was not brief by any standards. Good luck with your prep and hope this helps!
File comment: This is my personal guide - please customise as per your requirement.
My Study Plan.xlsx [4.11 MiB]
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