I graduated from BITS-Pilani, India in 2010 with bachelors in Electrical and Electronics (EEE). Inspired by how my friends were motivated for higher studies in engineering, I appeared for GRE and applied to a few schools. Even after a miserable score of 1300(Q800, V500) in GRE
, Stanford University found something interesting in me, and I thereafter began what would become 2 of the most exciting years of my life - academically, culturally and extra-curricular-ly. After graduating summa-cum-laude from Stanford with Masters in Electrical Engineering in 2012, I started working at eBay Inc., San Jose in mid 2012. GMAT JourneyStage-1: Self Assessment
I started my GMAT journey in October 2012 by purchasing the MGMAT Complete Strategy Guide Set which comes with 6 online mock tests and also OG13. Based on the strategy mentioned in the OG, I started by giving one of the mock test in MGMAT CAT 1 and scored 640(Q48, V31). I remember being a little happy at that time because I honestly expected scoring a lot less and I believed that with a little practice I could possibly score a lot higher and suddenly GMAT seemed like a piece of cake (although that feeling did not last long
, as explained later). So I set an ambitious goal of 760 in the actual GMAT and stuck to it till the end. Stage-2: Core content - Books, books and more books
With OG13 and 10 MGMAT Strategy Guides, I knew I had enough fodder that would last the next few weeks. But I believed in taking small steps at a time and studying a little everyday, which is also what MGMAT strategy guides recommend. Thus the focus was quality and not quantity. Also because I was working, I could not afford spending too much time during the weeknights and spent the majority of my time preparing over the weekends. Stage-3: Self evaluation
After going through all the 10 MGMAT Strategy guides and OG13, I appeared for another MGMAT mock test CAT2 on 20 January 2013 to see where I stood. That day I scored 680(Q51, V33). I was disappointed with that score for multiple reasons : (i) the majority of the score improvement was from Quant, which was anyways my strength being from the engineering background (ii) With so much preparation, I could only improve my score by 40 points (iii) I had exhausted all the study material and I was not sure of the path to move forward. To get more data on my predicted score, I gave more MGMAT mock tests with following results:
CAT3 : 22 January 2013 : 700(Q51, V35)
CAT4: 28 January 2013: 660(Q46, V34)
CAT5: 9 February 2013: 680(Q46, V37)
At this point, it was very important for me to understand the variation in my section performances and why I was not scoring higher. I analyzed the Quant and Verbal sections separately. I think there are two types of errors primarily:
(i) Silly mistakes - mostly due to time constraints.
The best way to figure out what type(out of the above 2) of mistake you are committing more often, whenever you revise the mock CATs, do not just look at the solutions and explanations. Try to solve the wrong questions again without time constraints. If you get your answers correct this time, then that means your concepts are good and time management and speed(with accuracy) are more important. If you still cannot get your answers correct, then that means that you need to go back to books. I think this was a very crucial step in my preparation process.
I realized that in Quant, I was making lot of silly mistakes. I could solve most of the questions that I previously answered incorrectly in mock CATs, correctly without any time constraints. And for Verbal, many of my answers were based on intuition and what felt
like a right answer, but actually turned out wrong
. This intuition based approach might work for a native English speaker or for easy to medium difficulty level questions, but I most certainly failed with this approach in harder questions. That was hurting my consistency, accuracy and hence overall GMAT score. It was clear that I needed a more foolproof approach to solving verbal questions. Stage-4: Sharpen the Blade
I was stuck.
My score was not moving above 700 and consistency was seriously under pressure. As I read more on forums etc, I realized that lot of people get stuck at late 600s or early 700s and it is requires lot more structure and strategy to score any higher. I was going through some old emails,and I came across an email from e-GMAT
. So I dusted it off and found out more about e-GMAT
and their content, courses, previous students' success stories etc. I later found out that one of the co-founders of e-GMAT
, Payal Tandon shared the same alma mater with me, which was kinda nice. So I emailed Payal and took more information about e-GMAT
. After tuning in to a few strategy sessions from e-GMAT
and looking at their course material and reviews, I decided to purchase the e-GMAT
Verbal Online course. It came with 12 month Grockit membership.
course, especially the SC section was extremely helpful to move my score a notch higher. I found their SC content to be very specific, precise and applicable. I made a lot of topic-wise notes
while going through their material. Their material is very specific as it provides a clear set of tools and strategy to attack an SC problem of any level. For example, I learnt that before one starts to look at the answer choices in an SC problem, it is very important to understand the intended meaning of the sentence because a particular sentence might have more than one grammatically correct versions, but often, the answer is the one that fulfills the intended meaning. That really was the dealmaker in my case. I started paying lot of critical attention to punctuations, specific keywords, transitions, clauses and meaning, which helped me solve the problems with much more confidence. Evidently, my consistency in SC section improved drastically, and more importantly I became much more confident with this section
, which helped me further refine my strategy. Also, one of the founders of e-GMAT
, Rajat Sadana was very helpful in guiding me through my GMAT preparation, especially when my exam date was closing by. I really liked having someone much more experienced guide me by specifically looking at my previous CAT performances and helping me design an optimum strategy for the actual exam.
At this stage, I had finished 10 MGMAT Strategy guides, solved all the questions of OG13 twice, and finished e-GMAT
material completely. I felt like I read a lot
, now was the time to get more practice. Grockit(that came with e-GMAT
Verbal Online) helped me do exactly that. They also provide a really cool topic-wise analysis of your skills within each section based on the questions you have solved. That analysis gets better and better as you solve more questions. I solved all the Hard level questions in all the topics for the Verbal Section in Grockit. That gave me ample practice and with some sections like SC:Idioms, the more you practice, the better you are, coz I felt like there were gazillions of questions on idioms and every so often I used to bump across an idiom I was not aware of.
[u] Stage-5: Get the GMAT exam date and download GMAT Prep
I realized that it was time to take the GMAT exam date or else I will keep preparing for it eternally. 19th April 2013 was my chosen G-day.
[u] Stage-6: G-day and G-2
Do absolutely nothing that has anything to do with GMAT for the last two days before the exam. Just relax, watch lots of comedy shows, sleep a lot, drink lots of water(but not just before the exam), eat healthy food, go for a walk and stretch yourself. I usually think a lot about the exam just before the exam, but this time I totally disconnected myself from GMAT. I treated this like just another mock CAT. I could afford to do that though because among other things, this was my first attempt and I am not applying to b-schools this year. But nevertheless, just talk to your friends, go out, laugh and relax
. Ensure that you are absolutely fresh before the exam. This ->
stage is over.
Summary of advice:
1. Read Stacey Koprince's articles. I have learnt a LOT about GMAT exam strategy from her articles.
2. Definitely buy at the very least e-GMAT
's SC course. For $69, its a steal.
3. Give at least 5 GMAT mock tests at various stages of your preparation cycle.
4. Stage-4 is probably the most crucial stage for many of us as we are scrambling for something to hold on to that can improve the score a notch higher.
5. Relax and de-stress before the exam. Do not study just before the exam. Plan your eating and drinking habits for the exam. Reach the exam center at least 15 mins in advance. Carry minimal stuff with you to the exam center. You literally cannot take anything besides yourself and the clothes that you are wearing inside the examination room.
Hope this post benefits those who aspire to do well in GMAT
All the best