I cannot even begin to thank GMATClub and all of its members for supporting me throughout my GMAT journey. In order to begin paying off some of the substantial GMAT-debt that I have incurred, please accept this debrief as a down-payment and give me strength to keep up the contribution installments!
I had taken the GMAT once before, when I was in university. I scored a 690 (Q44 V40/42 - I honestly cannot remember). I took it without any sort of studying - no GMATPrep, no MGMAT, nothing. Although I'm not a native speaker, English has been the sole language of instruction to which I have been exposed my entire life, so I was able to do reasonably well on the Verbal. Furthermore, I've always been technical, and, in the absence of any formula memorizing and strategy, a 44 is about as well as someone like me could have expected to do on the Quant side.
I was very happy with my score, and figured that I could go off into the world, work for a few years, and start applying.
As application time drew closer, I grew ever more anxious about a 690. Sure - it doesn't raise any red flags and can comfortably get me into plenty of very good schools, but something started gnawing at my innards until I finally decided to give it another go. It's not that I was ashamed of my 690. Rather, I felt that I was not doing myself justice by failing to retake an exam for which I knew I could study hard and score 690+.
So, I decided to begin my preparation in January. Being an avid sports fan and former pugilist, I figured that I would use a boxing training-camp model for my GMAT experience. I scheduled my test for March 12th and started on January 2nd as soon as I got back home from work. My GMATCamp was as follows:The Materials:
No camp is complete without the requisite materials to do one's job. I bought the OG13 and the MGMAT books
(Strategy, Quant and Verbal - I think it was 9 of them in total). I downloaded GMATPrep, and that was that.Week 1: Diagnostic Tests
Had this not been so pathetic, it would've been funny. I took the Quant Diagnostic on the OG13. I hadn't touched a math problem since college, and my head was pounding by the end of it (in spite of the fact that the test itself is not absurdly long). I had to lie down for the rest of the day and couldn't even grade myself. I wound up scoring "Average". The next day, I took the Verbal Diagnostic and scored in the highest decile (I can't remember for the life of me what it was called, but I do recall that I only got two SC questions wrong). I decided that Quant was to be my primary focus. Another aspect of the whole debacle that bothered me was the fact that I was getting very fatigued with relatively little effort. 30 Quant questions were enough to rule me out of action for the rest of the day. Keeping this in mind, I started researching ways of improving my stamina.
I look at my diagnostic errors, and ascertained the weak areas - Combinations & Permutations and Number Theory. I read those books first. I would do the problems at the end of the chapter mentally.Weeks 2 - 5: OG13
While reading the MGMAT books
on Quant (I used the Verbal ones sparingly, mainly for a list of idioms) I started doing all of the practice problems in the Official Guide. I worked my way through Quant, and then went on to Verbal. My hit rate for Q was about 95% on the easy ones, 85% on the medium difficulty, and 70%ish on the hard problems. My verbal accuracy rate was 95% the whole way through (which indicated that I had to tighten up on the silly mistakes). I noticed several troubling patterns, chiefly among them the proclivity to go right/wrong answer benders. In other words, I could get 7 Hard questions correct, followed by 4 straight errors that I really had no business making. I knew then that I needed a strategy for keeping myself happy and engaged, regardless of the outcome of the previous questions. In addition, I tried to work on timing from the beginning. I would do 20 questions in a row, see how long they had taken me, and then decide if I should be going faster or slower (this depended on the difficult and material of the question at hand). Weeks 6 - 7: GMATPrep & 700+
Following the first 5 weeks, I was fairly confident in my ability to handle the fundamentals. I now needed the more difficult stuff. I got myself a compilation of 700+ difficult questions and started doing churning. They were divided by category and subcategory (ex: General Arithmetic --> Sets). I started with the number-based stuff and moved on to statistics during these two weeks. I also took my first and only GMATPrep mock test, scoring 700 (Q46V40 IR 8). Although I find mock tests to be useful indicators of ability, I did not want to put too much stock by an approximation. Weeks 8 - 9.5: 700+ Level Quant & Final Verbal Review
I continued my 700+ difficult journey, moving on to geometry and (finally) permutations and combinations. Up to this point, I had been putting in 4 hours on the weekdays (i.e. all of my spare time) and 6-8 hours on the weekends. Now, I toned it down a bit and did 2 hours on weekdays and 4 on weekends. I wanted to wind down my activity so that I could peak at the right moment and not be mentally tired and jaded by test-day. I also perused the MGMAT Verbal books (I found their strategy for CR strange, and RC has always been easy for me, but the SC was a revelation). I made sure to analyze the list of idioms and remember the ones that looked funky and/or flat-out wrong to me. I also read up on like-vs-as and other such delights, trying to understand them but at the same time not allowing them to eclipse my inner radar to which all written language is subject. What I'm trying to say is that I didn't want to be full of memorized idioms and no longer be able to spot the "best-fit" answer. The Last Weekend: R&R
At this point, I knew that I had done all I could. I took the day before the exam (a Monday) off work altogether and enjoyed my weekend. My exam time was 3PM so I started sleeping in more and staying up later and later. I did some easy quant and verbal questions to keep myself sharp, but nothing notable.Test Day
I woke up at 11AM and went out to buy myself a Gatorade for my test break (I read somewhere that the electrolytes keep your brain working even when it's tired). I kept myself loose by watching TV and eating a couple of hours before the exam was due to start.
I got to the test center a half hour early and walked around the building a couple of times prior to going in. I put my Gatorade in my locker and went in.
The essay went alright (I got a 6 the previous time). The IR went terribly. I was stuck on the first couple of questions, and left myself a mountain to climb on the last 10. Fortunately, I was able to finish with about 15 seconds remaining, even though I didn't really check the time very much.
At this point, I took my first break and tried to calm myself down. I had a few large gulps of Gatorade and splashed some cool water on my face. Fortunately, my whole spiel about keeping myself happy and engaged kicked in, and I was able to forgive and forget with regards to the IR. I walked into the Quant section and felt like a new man. As expected, I finished with about one minute remaining, although I don't remember feeling very strongly about my performance one way or the other.
I took my break and drank some more Gatorade. I went back into the Verbal section and had to go to the bathroom starting around the 20th question. By the time I got to #30, I was ready to burst but I kept calm and forced myself to refocus my attention before starting to read the prompt/question. Since I had always finished Verbal 10-15 minutes early, this didn't cost me too much in terms of quality time per question. This refocusing worked until #39 when I decided I was just gonna rush through the last couple. Fortunately, they were SC and didn't take too long.
Now the real fun started. I had to go through all of the screens between the end of the test and the score. I saw my 740 flash up on the screen, along with the percentiles, but I really didn't care at this point. I snatched the unofficial copy out of the hands of the receptionist and ran to the bathroom. I came out a little over a minute later with a great big smile on my face and resolved never to drink Gatorade again (until I have to run on empty again).
In the intervening weeks, I received my official report and found out that I score a 6 in the AWA and in the IR, too. Sure - it's not as good as it could have been, but I'm 100% happy.
More importantly, I am delighted that I had the wherewithal and determination to force myself to study for the GMAT, in spite of there being a good chance that I could slide by on my 690. This, more than anything, is the true nature of my accomplishment - it's not about the performance relative to other people (there will always be folks who are better off and there will always be those who are not). It's all about the self-actualization and receiving a score that reflects my ability when I have trained, as opposed to my ability on any given day.
That is, after all, what the GMAT is all about.
Thank you once again to all of my readers and all of those whose posts I read in search of something I could not do on my own.