I just got back from the testing center, a day that will be remembered for a long time to come. After a grueling 4 hours the screen calculated the score, for what seemed to be the longest 10 seconds of my life, I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, there sat an amazing 730 (Q49, V40). I jumped, the proctor looked at me funny and escorted me out of the room. It was all over.
First I would like to thank all the people on this board, your help, inspiration and positive support got me through some rough times and also contributed to me getting such a desirable score. I spent countless hours reading posts here, doing the GMAT Challanges and listening to others' advice. I have a feeling I would not have received my score had it not been for the GMATClub website. So thanks again!!
I feel this is going to be a long post, so I apologize in advance, it is my honest attempt to give back and hopefully help in return for all the gains I benefited from in being a part of the club. I originally began studying at the beginning of March. Or should I say began again. I originally took the GMAT back in 2003 a number of 3 times! I knew I wanted to go to BSchool and figured I would get it out of the way. I took the first exam the same way I took my SAT - without even knowing what the test was all about. Unfortunately that did not work out this time - compared to a 1490 on the SAT I only got a 560 on the GMAT. I then enrolled in a Princeton Review
class and took it again only to get a 590 the second time. (I had also studied very little outside the class and only attempted two practice tests, back then called Powerpreps). I then took the next month and studied even less in retrospect and got a 640. Between this and being bombarded by people who thought going to bschool straight out of undergrad without work experience was a terrible idea, I decided to put my plans on hold and get some work experience.
More than 5 years later I was back to my old friend the GMAT. My scores had expired and I was starting with a clean slate. I decided I would actually study this time instead of my typical half-a$$ed attempts. I never studied much in high school or college as everything came pretty easy to me and managed to do quite well in a very difficult major (Math-Econ). This was going to be the first time in my life that I REALLY STUDIED. So I started even lower than most people - I had to learn HOW to study.
I started on March 2nd by taking a practice test to see where I stood ....490!! Wow, I was even more rusty than I could remember. This was going to take some effort...I don't like effort but here we go. I started by collecting a number of resources and going through them cover to cover. Over the next month I got through the Princeton Review
book, the Kaplan Premier
Book, Kaplan 800
and the Barron's GMAT book. That was a good start to at least get me in the GMAT groove, one that I strongly recommend to those just getting started. In retrospect you are probably better off using just the Princeton and Kaplan
books to start, I did not find Barron's very useful. I then took another practice test from Kaplan
- 680. Not bad, I was making progress. I continued by starting to go through the OG 11
as well as the official quant and verbal supplemental guides. Did all the problems from start to finish and kept a log of the ones I was getting wrong. I then dove right into the GMATPreps and in two consecutive weeks scored a 710 on the first one and a 750 on the second one (however, I quickly realized that the 750 was a fluke, I had managed to clearly guess right on a large number of questions I had no idea how to do). The GMATPreps seemed extremely harder than the OG and supplemental guides and I was pretty shaken up. I decided I needed to improve my quant which was hovering between 42-47 so I bought the GMAT Challanges. Did all 25 of them and even the verbal ones. I immediately saw a big improvement in my quant - I was no longer getting less than 48 in Quant.
In the meantime I also bought the Manhattan GMAT SC
BIBLE which I read RELIGIOUSLY at least two times in my prep, along with a few other Manhattan GMAT books
on Equations & inequalities and one on number properties, the areas that I had identified as weakest in my preparation. I continued practicing on any problems I could get my hands on as my approach was - enough practice will get me there. As mentioned before, I am not one that has a great studying strategy so for me it was all about quantity. This is probably what caused my preparation period to be so long - from March to July I probably put in between 20-35 hours a week and must have done over 4,000 problems - overkill, I know, but also a great way to solidify the skills and make sure I know the ins and outs of the test.
My practice CAT results up to May 31st were: (lost the breakdown for some of them)
CAT - 680
- GMAT Prep1 - 710
- GMAT Prep2 - 750 (Q49, V42)
- Manhattan GMAT1 - 670
- GMAT Prep1 (retake1) - 710
- GMAT Prep1 (retake2) - 730 (Q49, V40)
- PowerPrep1 - 700
- PowerPrep2 - 730
- GMATPrep2 (retake2) - 770 (Q50, V47)
- GMATPrep1 (retake3) - 770 (Q49, V47)
- GMATPrep2 (retake3) - 760 (Q51, V41)
So these scores must mean I was ready, right? I scheduled my test for May 31st. I was WRONG! I ended up with a 690 (Q48, V36, AWA 6.0), which was lower than most all my practice scores. I whined and complained and felt sorry for myself and friends on this board came to the rescue. The problem was two fold - I was very nervous going in and did not maintain my composure. I also ended up burning out half way through the Verbal part. And last, but most important, I was NOT READY for Verbal as well as I thought. Having gone through the OG and Verbal guide prior to the GMATPreps, I ended up seeing some of the OG questions on the GMATPreps, repeats which only increased as I continued to retake the tests. This gave me a very false sense of confidence on Verbal which my V36 definitely showed.
I regained my composure and immediately set a new test date for July 2nd. At BSD's suggestion I downloaded GMATTER and probably did at least 300CRs and 500SCs. I re-read the Manhattan SC guide again. I bought and read the Official LSAT SuperPrep
. I re-worked the last 30 questions from the OG and guides with the exception of RC. I planned to also practice RC more but never got myself to do it (I HATE RC!!) Say it with me (I HATE RC!!).
I also started doing the rest of the 6 Manhattan GMAT
CATs that you get free when you purchase any of their books.
- Manhattan GMAT2 - 700 (Q47, V39)
- Manhattan GMAT3 - 720 (Q46, V42)
- Manhattan GMAT4 - 700 (Q44, V40)
- Manhattan GMAT5 - 730 (Q51, V39)
- Manhattan GMAT6 - 740 (Q50, V40)
- GMATPrep1 (retake4) - 770 (Q49, V47)
- GMATPrep2 (retake4) - 750 (Q48, V45)
- GMAT Focus - Q46-50 range estimate - I know people say these are a rip off for $65 for 3 tests and I definitely agree. However I did find them helpful and a good way to re-asess my weaker areas, so if you have the cash, what's another $65?
I woke up the morning of July 2nd, watched some TV, had lunch and went to the testing center early. Here is a useful tip - if your test is late(er) in the day and you want to take it earlier, show up early! Chances are they will let you start right away which was the case for me today. I showed up almost an hour and a half before my test with the intention to take it early. I was feeling good, not stressed at all and determined to give the GMAT one more shot.
The test started with the argument and issue essays. Blah, blah, blah and blah, blah, blah repeat that 5 more paragraphs, write 600-800 words and there is your 6.0 in AWA. I am by no means a great writer guys, but one thing I can definitely say is that I can beat the GMAT AWA any day. As long as you have a clear template (also search this forum for ChineseBurned's AWA Guide, which is top notch!!) you can almost write anything as long as it flows well, has correct grammar and fits the topic. Do not spent too much time preparing for the AWA at the expense of the rest of the exam unless you are not a native speaker and struggle with writing (I am not a native either, but have been here for over 15 years)
Then came the quant. I wish I could say that I breezed through it but this time the quant was absolutely ridiculous!! At least 3-4 tough sequence problems, some ridiculous geometry, and a couple of mean & range DS's which took me for a spin. I was very shaken up by the quant and was almost certain I had done way worse than the month before when I got the 690. During that test, the math had actually seemed rather easy, in line with the GMATPreps. I finished quant with about 10 seconds to go. I had made a quick decision to guess a number of really tough problems half way through the test and move on in order to catch up on timing. Best decision I made and one I recommend to all - LEARN TO PICK YOUR BATTLES! Unless you are a Math genius, you will probably not fare very well if you don't.
I took a break, drank some Gatorade, smoked a cigarette (yes nasty habit but it does wonders for concentration) and went back to verbal. Stopped by the bathroom on the way back and splashed some water on my face (trick that I learned here at the club and one that I also strongly recommend). Verbal started well, a couple of SCs, then CR, then back to SCs. Nothing too difficult or that I was not ready for. The test must had caught on that I was doing well cause by the 7th question it hit me with a ridiculous RC passage that I could not understand even after the 3rd read through. On top of that the answer choices were each 5 lines long and confusing as ever. I did my best and picked the best answers, however I was unsure of most of them. One more SC and CR then another RC passage - just as brutal as the first one, again ridiculous inference questions, even a CR-like strengthen the argument question. How do you expect me to strengthen the argument when I have no clue what this damn passage even says?? Oh well, guess to my best and move on...should have studied RC more...too late now. The rest of the test went ok, the CRs were doable and SC was pretty much in line with OG and ManhattanGMAT. One last RC (very short one) but with tough, unclear questions. Got through the last question with about 20 seconds left which was surprising as I am used to finishing Verbal with 15 min to spare.
I got through the survey and reached the scores screen. To GMAT or not to GMAT...that is the question...I felt pretty bad about my experience and was CONVINCED I had done worse than my previous 690. The test, especially the Quant seemed brutal compared to the first time, although the verbal (aside from RC, gave me some confidence). Oh well what the hell. I clicked to see the score, closed my eyes...kept them close for probably longer than I should have and opened up to a 730 (Q49, V40. YES!!!!!!!!!! Improvement all around!
Could I have done better? Maybe...maybe not. But from what I've heard over the years from top bschool friends a 700+ is fine and gets you the check mark to move on as a candidate. The rest weighs on your experience, essays, reccs and undergrad which I hope I am pretty strong in (5 years experience in Investment Banking and Venture Capital)
Here are a couple of suggestions and hints that I found helpful in my preparation or during tests:
- Don't let your feelings about how you performed on a certain section influence your concentration for the next or reporting the scores. You will be surprised to see that you actually did better than you expected a lot of times (happened to me a few times)
- Study the Manhattan SC GMAT book, and read it multiple times. The SC is easiest to improve and the rules tested are few. If you feel you need more practice download GMATTER (thanks again BSD) It actually helps more to do SC on the computer screen than in a book (not sure why that is but I found it to be the case in the beginning I was doing better in written SCs than on computer screen ones. Must be the way our vision reacts to the two). I know some people have had the same experiences
- If you are feeling weak in CR buy an LSAT Critical Reasoning
book, they are definitely harder but will get you to a top hit rate if you are struggling
- Do the GMAT Challanges once you have reached a Q43-44 or above!! You will most likely reach a consistent 49-51 level after that!! I strongly believe in that and many people here will agree
- Pick your battles wisely! If you are a 45-48 Quant score taker you can get to 49-50 by being smart about the questions you quickly realize you wont be able to solve. Spend a few seconds and guess inteligently but move on. This will buy you more time for the rest of the questions or help you catch up when you fall behind.
- Practice a lot of problems for SC - you will start recognizing patters and these questions will become second nature. Here is also where you can buy time. Get your SCs down to 30-45 sec / question and you will have more time for some ugly RC or CRs. Unlike quant, I believe you have less room for error in Verbal and you can only get a few questions wrong and still get a higher score.
- Be calm during the test and maintain composure even if you think you did badly. It will pay off in the end and you might have a nice surprise.
- Answer and post questions on the GMATClub. It helps more to be directly involved than just to read it - it will help you retain and better understand the topics when you start getting involved (I learned this after getting the 690 and definitely benefited from it)
- Take the GMATPreps at least 3-4 times each. Sure you will see similar questions but it will help timing, comfort with the test in general, and seeing similar questions. Just don't read too much into the later scores as they tend to be overinflated by the knowledge of previous questions.
- Last but not least PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! I came up from a 490 to a 730. It was brutal and I hated my life over the past 4 months. But if I can do it so can you!!
As I mentioned I want to give back and help those that helped me. If I can answer any more questions about anything GMAT related please let me know.