Now that I’ve finally achieved my GMAT target and can bury the big stack of GMAT books in my back yard I wanted to summarize my journey so that others can hopefully benefit from my experience, just as I’ve done from similar posts in this forum.
First let me say thanks to GMAT club. I’ve spent hours reading through the posts here and often when I needed a psychological uplift I came here to read positive debriefs, suggestions for study methods etc. Now I’m looking forward moving along to the MBA Program section – finally!
A little background info on me: I’m a non-native speaker with 3+ years experience from Private Equity and M&A Consulting, studied and worked in the UK and then finally decided to pursue the dream of getting an MBA. I have a pretty strong employment background and a 1st class UK Finance degree, so I figured a GMAT score of 700 would be a target score for me to confidently send out applications to the top MBA programs. At the start of my GMAT study journey I decided 700 would become my magic number, I absolutely HAD to get a 700!
My first GMAT date was in May 2010. I studied for around 2 months prior to the test, probably averaging around 1-2 hours a day and then a little more on the weekends. At the time I was working, playing a team sport and trying to spend time with the family, so my schedule was pretty tight, therefore I tried to manage my study time effectively. I started out by using Kaplan
’s GMAT Premium Live Online book – which was recommended to me by a friend. This book was my introduction to the GMAT; the structure, DS questions etc, so at the time I was pretty happy with the book (that changed however). When I had gone through Kaplan
, I used the OG12
along with the OG verbal
and quant books, solving all of the quant questions and around 80% of the verbal (of which c. 50% RC). I kept a pretty neat schedule of all the problems I solved, % I got right for each category and so on to identify my strenghts and key areas for improvement. This was very helpful as it turned out DS (Number properties) and SC were my weak spots.
I took a few practice tests prior to my first GMAT, scoring:Kaplan
online test 2: 690 (V:41 Q:42)Kaplan
online test 3: 620 (V:38 Q:40)Kaplan
online test 4: 630 (split n/a)
GMATprep1: 690 (V:40 Q:44) (2 weeks prior to test date)Kaplan
online test 5: 640 (V:33 Q:44)
GMATprep2: 710 (V:40 Q:48) (1 week prior to test)
After my last GMATprep I was pretty confident. I had read in the forums that the Kaplan
tests would usually underestimate your ability, so I figured I should score around 700. FIRST GMAT RESULT: 660 (V:35 Q:47)
This was a bit disappointing score, as I was hoping I could get this over with in a single attempt and get back to family life and hopefully working on my golf game
I wasn’t happy with verbal and figured if I could only get that up to the forties, I should score in the 700 range.SECOND GMAT:
There was never any doubt in my mind to retake. I thought I should have done better on verbal, and based on my GMATprep exams, 700 was achievable. After the first actual test I took the following weekend off and then resumed studying. I gave myself an additional month of study time, booking a GMAT date just over a month after my first try. This time around I was going to try out MGMAT as I had seen positive reviews of their books on GMAT Club. I decided to buy 3 MGMAT study guides and cover them over the course of the month I had until my test date. I bought MGMAT SC
, MGMAT Number Properties
and MGMAT CR
. This was probably my best move over the entire GMAT journey. After covering these guides I could feel how my SC and CR improved drastically, and I also started tackling the tough number properties questions more strategically. The final 5 days before the test I studied pretty intensely, probably around 5 hours each day just working through question after question. I was going to reach the 700 limit this time around!
I took 4 practice tests prior to my second GMAT, scoring:
MGMAT 1: 700 (V:40 Q:44)
MGMAT 2: 670 (V:35 Q:46)
GMATprep 1 (2nd time): 740 (split n/a)
GMATprep 2 (2nd time): 700 (split n/a)SECOND GMAT RESULT: 630 (V:38 Q:39)
Yep! That was f-ing harsh! Even though I managed to increase my verbal score, I completely messed up the quant – leaving me with a LOWER SCORE! In retrospect I focused too much on verbal, not doing enough tough quant problems the month before the test and was ‘rusty’ once I was in the exam. This was pretty hard to take emotionally, I felt I was out of steam, had spent way too much time already on studying and I just wanted to get on with my life. Even though I knew back in my mind that I would do a third sit, I didn’t think about the GMAT for a full week before finally booking a new date – Friday the 13th of August! I used this week to write essays, managed to write 4 essays and it was really good doing something different in the evenings.THIRD GMAT
(and here we go again):
My preparation for the third sit was unlike the other two. I had already tried to do 100 questions per day, read through the manuals, writing pages after pages of notes etc etc. This time around I decided to change my approach and focus on really digging into each problem type; understanding what each problem was testing. It was less about quantity and more about quality (cheeky but sums it up nicely). I re-read through the MGMAT guides
, although not as intensely as the first time around, and then did an untimed MGMAT test just to see if I could actually solve all these problems without time constraints. For all wrong answers, I printed out the question and the answer and re-did these questions until I could do them correctly. I also spent more time on the forums (GMAT Club, MGMAT) to read through problems and explanations. Once the exam date was c. 2 weeks away I did 3 more MGMAT exams and the question banks that came with the study guides and did pretty well (see scores below). At this point I felt pretty relaxed about the GMAT, I knew I had the ability to do well and I just needed to transfer that into one good performance.
I took 4 practice tests prior to my second GMAT, scoring:
MGMAT 3 (untimed): 750 (V:45 Q:48)
MGMAT 4: 720 (V:45 Q:43)
MGMAT 5: 740 (V:45 Q:47)
MGMAT 6: 740 (V:45 Q:47)
THIRD GMAT RESULT: 700 (V:38 Q:48)
There you have it, what a relief! Although I didn’t perform well on the verbal I managed to do well on the quant section and reach that magic number. I had a pretty bad verbal day, I just didn’t feel good about many of the CR’s and RC’s and a part of me almost wants to re-take and get a higher verbal score. STILL, that is not going to happen as I reached my initial goal and now it’s essay-time. Two and a half months after my first GMAT the journey is finally over! FINALLY! Study material review:
+ Quant and Verbal review: A must have
Premium Live Online: Waste of money and more importantly time. I tried to read through it shortly before my third GMAT and then I realised how bad it was; at that point I had MGMAT to compare against.
- MGMAT SC
, NP, RC: If I could go back in time to the point where I bought my first set of study material, I would buy all of the 8 guides. I’m convinced I would have gotten at least a 700 on my first try with these books (saving me 2x250 exam fees). The MGMAT tests and question banks are also really useful to the extent that they offer you the ability to analyze your scores, your weak areas, slow areas etc. That I found really helpful.
- AWA: Chineseburned’s post is all you need, I read through it twice before my first GMAT, got 5.5 the first time around and 6.0 the second time (haven’t received third score yet). You can find the post in the Forums, unfortunately I can't post the link as I don't have 5 posts yet!General tips that helped me:
- If you are dealing with a tough problem – write! It’s hard to understand bunch of numbers on the screen, but once you write it down, analyze it in your head and manipulate the data back and forth you often stumble upon the answer (or at least the direction towards it). It also helps as it forces you to be pro-active with the data, which is a must to do well!
- Print out wrong answers on the prep tests and re-do them until you get them right.
- If you have been studying for a long time, get a disappointing test result and feel really drained, writing essays for a few days is a good idea. It focuses your energy back on the final goal, getting into business school, it gives you a little break from the GMAT material, and it saves you time later on as you still need to write the essays at some point.
- Never give up! If you set yourself a target and don’t reach it – don’t lose faith. YOU CAN reach it; just work at it strategically and you won’t regret it later.
- MGMAT. Period.
That’s the end of my story. It turned out to be a little longer than I started out with (both in terms of GMAT attempts and words in this debrief). Thanks again to all admins and contributors of GMAT Club. Best of luck to all and see you in the MBA Programs section!