1. Have a plan and stick to it
2. Develop a strategy, test it in the mocks, and apply it on D-day
3. Timing is the key
4. Keep yourself hydrated and energized
5. Focus on the question on screen
6. PS: focus on your strengths, don’t waste time trying to get your weaknesses right
7. DS: Rephrase the question stem to a simple equation / Yes/NO ans
8. CR: Pre-think the answer
9. RC: Read actively
10. SC: Read the question skeptically - looking for errors
Feb 2012: I register for the GMAT.
Feb to May: Study hard. Mock score range - MGMAT - 680 to 770, Kaplan
: 640, GMAT Prep 1 & 2: 730
May 2012: GMAT Score: 660! (Q49, V31) [AWA 5/6]...SHOCK OF MY LIFE!
Next 18 months: Moved on, switched my job - joined an Investment Bank - MBA goes way down the priority list.
Dec 2013: MBA discussions with friends and family start again...decide to take another shot at the test.
Studied hard and more importantly studied SMART this time! Mock score range: 670 to 720. GMAT Prep 1 & 2: 720
March 2014: GMAT Score: 740 (Q49, V42), [IR 7/8, AWA 6/6]...ELATED! but more importantly, RELIEVED...I would not have to take this test again!... on second thoughts, (why didn I get 750?)
After being through it all twice, I think there were some key differences in my approach to the test and my test taking strategy that made the difference. I layout my strategy (for each section and question type) below and hope test takers, re-takers, and non-natives would benefit from this post - just as I did from this fantastic forum! I have classified the debrief into 10 points so that you can refer to the exact strategic point / question type if you like (while maintaining your own strategy for others)1. Have a plan and stick to it:
Know exactly what you are going to do on test day – what you will have for breakfast, what you will be wearing, how you will travel to the test center, what you will do during the breaks – whether you will have a chocolate bar or just have an energy drink?... whether you will have Red Bull or only water? – EVERYTHING!
Once you have a plan, stick to it. Ensure that you have tried and tested everything in your mocks (eg I used to have a red bull during the 2nd break even during my mocks!). As long as everything goes as planned, you will remain confident during the entire duration of the test.2. Develop a strategy, test it in the mocks, and apply it on D-day:
Formulate your strategy and stick to it when you take the practice tests. Identify what went well and what you could have done better. Refine your strategy, finalize it before the test and just go ahead and apply it on test day3. Timing is the key:
Timing is the most important factor. I believe managing time well was one of the keys to my success in my last attempt. I ensured that I always stay "ahead of time"
or on time
but "never behind time"
at all times during the test. To ensure that, I used to tell myself that just as there is a penalty for not finishing the test within given time, there is a penalty for not finishing the question within stipulated time per question i.e. 2.5 min / ques in IR, 2 min / ques in Quant and 1m 49 sec / question in Verbal. For this, I wrote the below numbers on my noteboard.Quant
I looked at the clock about 6-7 times during each section (say after 5 questions or so) just to ensure that I was never behind time. This kept me aware and I was always ahead of time during the test.
And, that penalty is: getting more questions wrong (even if you get a particular question right by spending more than avg time on it). Lets face it, you spend more time on a question because you do not know the ideal route to the solution. And if you spend even more time, even though u get it right, u hv less time per ques for the rest of the ques, which will hamper your accuracy and may even make you panic under time pressure.4. Keep yourself energized and hydrated:
GMAT is a long test. What makes it worse is that as you progress on the test, the sections carry greater weight. Hence, it is important that you always keep alert, especially towards the latter part of the test. Ensure that you carry an energy drink and some food (if needed). Also, have water during each of the breaks. I had water in both the breaks and gulped in a red bull before the verbal section5. Focus on the question on screen:
In a long test like the GMAT, it is easy to lose your focus. Ensure that you focus on the question on screen and do not have any external thoughts. Most importantly, do not think of the result. Also, ensure that you don’t waste time staring at the screen. It happens that you lose your focus on just keep looking at the screen without any idea of how to proceed. Keep in mind that every second spent staring at the screen is time lost which will stray you away from your overall objective of doing well on the test – as it will make you fall behind time. If clueless, move on and focus on the next question6. PS:
focus on your strengths, don’t waste time trying to get your weaknesses right: Realize that you have strengths and weaknesses and you do not need to get all questions right to get a good score (even 750+). It is OKAY to get a few questions wrong. Focus on your strengths, spend some more time than the avg (2 mins) if you are ahead of time. However, balance that by getting incorrect answers quickly – you are most likely to get a difficult question from your weakness area wrong even if you spend too much time on it.7. DS:
Rephrase the question stem to a simple equation / Yes/NO ans. This is the essence of DS. Unless you simplify the questions and understand very clearly what is being asked, you will likely get confused while solving the question. Obey this fundamental rule, ALWAYS! Another effective strategy is to review your answer if you get an EASY (C) answer. You may have been foxed by the test makers8. CR:
Pre-think the answer. This is the most effective strategy for CR. If you spend 10-15 seconds pre-thinking, you only need to find that answer choice. This helps you achieve high accuracy without spending a lot of time on the question9. RC:
Read actively. RC on the GMAT is a very dreaded section. The passages are boring and long and can drain you of precious mental energy during the last and the most important section of the test. Understanding RC is also important since you have 2-4 questions based on the passage. If you don’t understand the passage and get a string of wrong answers, it will penalize you more than getting a CR / SC answer wrong. Hence, it very important to understand the passage.
Read actively, taking notes for each paragraph. It is also important to understand the main idea of the passage (often asked as a question) and also keep in mind the tone of the passage (sometimes asked directly or indirectly). I followed the below structure to take notes.
P1: [write your notes]
P2: [write your notes]
P3: [write your notes]
What? (is the author trying to say): [your understanding of the main point]
How? (is the author making the point): [have words like descriptive, critical, analytical, etc.]
I have found this strategy to be very effective and helped me improve accuracy from ~50% to 80-90%. Also, active reding will always keep you interested in the passage and help you follow the structure of the passage.10. SC:
Read the question skeptically - looking for errors. The key to solving SC quickly is identifying the errors in the question early and then finding the choice that fixes them. Doing SC at a good speed will help you stay ahead of time which you can uilize in RC, the more time consuming question type
These strategies helped me ace the test. I was confident on test day and felt even better when everything went according to plan.
I would like to thank GMAT Club for my success at the test. Special thanks to bb, Bunuel, Mike McGarry @Magoosh
whose posts were very helpful in formulating and executing my strategy and beating the GMAT.
Hope this post helps. Feel free to post your queries, will be happy to respond.