It has been a horrible year for me. And well, someone had to pay for it. I’m glad I’m ending it on a good note.
I scored a 770 (Q51, V44) [EDIT: AWA-5.5; IR-8] on my retake. It was pretty emotional for me. Right after I saw my score, I clinched my fist, and then freezed for 10 secs. Came out like a retard - mumbling “I’m not coming back”. All I remember is, people asking me to show my passport, to put my palm on the scanner and all I could hear was “I’m not coming back here”.
I could so relate to this -Coach Vince
: I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.The test experience:
Started my revision late the previous night and ended up going to bed at 3. Wasn’t able to sleep for another hour and a half and woke up at 10 the next morning. I’ve given countless exams without sleeping, so ‘less than adequate’ sleep was not going to scare me. Reached the center at 12 (an hour before the appointment).
Banana+Gatorade - I really don’t know what this does to you. I just took it as an opportunity to hog! Settled in and started my test.AWA
: In all my mocks I was never able to finish the AWA before that 28-29 minute mark. It was pretty similar on the test day as well. Chinese Burned template – enough said.IR
: Well, it started with a very stupid question. I checked 3-4 times whether I was misinterpreting it. Ended up spending more time than normal to figure out!
A couple of graphs and then an MSR. As soon as I completed the MSR, I saw another one. I wished GMAT wouldn’t do that to me. Anyways, ended the session just in time. I have absolutely no clue how I performed apart from a couple of questions that I know were surely right.
I hope the IR doesn’t put a dent on the score. I’m pretty skeptical about it and I'm sure I'll be all nerves before opening that official report online.Break 1
: Banana + Gatorade + 1/2 Snickers+ splashed water on the face/asked myself to stay calmQuant:
Started off with an easy question that I was about to miss. Took some time to figure out and then proceeded. I was very cautious and tentative with the first 10. I don’t know why.
After I had settled a bit, told myself I was behind the clock. Stepped up a bit. The next 15 were done pretty quickly, definitely in less than 2mins/ques. With the last few again, I was very careful. There were a couple of questions that I felt were a bit calculation intensive. Rest of it went well.
At the risk of sounding boastful, I never knew how I was doing quant – whether the question level was increasing – I scored a Q51 last time as well. In all my mocks I was pretty comfortable with quant and usually if I got a question wrong, I knew I made a stupid mistake.
For the record: I did not get any probability questions. I’m pretty comfortable with them and would have loved to see a few on the day. Just goes to show GMAT can bunk your beliefs anytime. It’s their playground after all.
After I completed quant, I hoped I did not do any silly mistakes.Break 2
: Banana + Gatorade + 1/2 Snickers+ splashed water on the face/asked myself to stay calm/ reminded myself this is the final frontier.Verbal:
Without going into too much detail of how I felt my verbal preparation was, I’ll start off with what I saw on the test.
Started with a couple of SCs, then a CR and then an RC on 6th. Thought I was doing well.
Was in time for first 10 and then I was stuck on an SC that was confusing as hell; spent 5 minutes on it. All options looked ‘wordy and awkward’. A couple of them used constructions I had never seen. Took a guess after eliminating 2 options and moved ahead. Wasn’t able to speed up immediately, but I reduced the gap at my next checkpoint.
On 18th I saw a boldface, I don’t know why but I noted down that question number. Again, because there is so much hype around that question, I had prepared well for it. In fact, I’m normally pretty comfortable with the BF questions. A few questions more and then a super-long passage.
Another boldface on 28th. This one was surprisingly very easy. Had no clue what to make of it – whether I had done the last few questions well. The last RC (early 30s) was not very long, but was convoluted.
Going into the last 5 I had 8 minutes on the clock. Luckily, I got a couple of CRs where I was able to spot the answer without POE (or at least I felt those were the answers). I had 1:40 on the clock for my last question. A horrible, horrible SC. Jumped to the options directly without understanding the meaning. A couple of choices were so badly worded that there was absolutely no meaning to them. Luckily, found the answer with 25 secs left on the clock.
By the end of it, I figured out that I had done well on verbal (unlike quant where I had no idea). I thought even if I ended up with a Q50 I will get a decent score.
A tip on the dreaded Report scores/Cancel Scores screen. Never click your mouse aimlessly on the screen, except the Next button. It checks the Cancel choice, if you end up clicking it anywhere close to or parallel to that text line.
My Practice Scores:
Tests taken prior to 1st attempt: MGMATs – 700, 720, 770, 740, 750, 750.
Had exhausted the GMAT prep tests without taking them too seriously – did only quant section once, and did only verbal section once. This was before I started to study.
GMAT 1st take 720 (Q51,V35)
Tests from late Oct.:
MGMAT: 740 (Q48, V45); 720 (Q50, v38), 720 (Q51, v37), 720 (Q51, v38), 780 (Q51, V45), 780 (Q51, V45)
12/2: 760 (Q50, V42) -- Was livid. Did 8 questions wrong on the first 15 in quant. All silly mistakes. 2 days prior to the exam.
12/3: 760 (Q51, V41) -- This was better. I got no questions wrong in quant and I got fewer wrong in Verbal. Tip from the GMAT prep tests:
1.) Don’t exhaust GMAT preps. They give a very accurate picture of where you stand. I did that mistake on my first attempt. I did a mistake on my second attempt as well. I took them too close to the test. I avoided looking at a lot of GMAT prep questions in the preceding weeks, so that I get an estimate of how I’m doing. In doing so, I lost the chance of studying through “Official Collection of SC, CR and RC” -- available on gmatclub and a must.
So the best time to take them is a week or 10 days prior to your exam. So that you have enough time to go through all the official questions.
2.) The GMAT prep 1 shows the format of how GMAT will be presented to you. Be mentally prepared to see the first RC in roughly the same place (Q6-7). This is unlike other tests, some of which start with so many CRs or RCs. This knowledge is bound to help you on the test day.
Its implications: you get fewer SC questions of 700+ level. Because the first few are SCs and CRs. But if you are doing well, you are bound to get good RC questions. Obviously this does not mean that you need to be lax in your SC preparation. This only means you can’t completely mess up the RCs.
3.) Always write exams with AWA and IR. I messed up this on my first attempt and after my test realized the importance of building stamina. One of the things that are in your control and you shouldn’t mess up.
4.) Write things on your notepad in the tutorial that you need to keep in front of yourselves. I wrote my timing strategy and a few other things for each type of question.The motivation:
I can’t lay more stress on this than I will in my next few sentences.
It is pretty simple. If you are not motivated enough to see yourself in the school you want, to get the score you want, you will never end up getting them. Period. It is critical that you stay focussed and work hard towards what you have set for yourself. I don’t believe in 1 week-760 debriefs. A 2 month-720 is much sweeter. Let me just write here what everyone knows - there are no miracles. And you definitely won’t see one on the GMAT.
I scored a 720 (Q51 V35) last December. It was tough for me mentally to get a score that was lower than what I expected and right on the cusp of a decent and a good score (my definition). I was never able to make up my mind whether to re-take the test. All, I knew was I was better than that. This is what I wrote on other forum I was using last year:Scored 720 on the day (Q51 V35). In the run up to the test was scoring consistently above 750. Was expecting a 750+ score, but boy that verbal thing just knocked me down and I was literally gasping for oxygen. and the worst part is you can never tell where exactly you faltered and what were the gaps in your preparation. Not gutted. I'm quite indifferent in fact to the score ( I have no clue why !), probably because I know I have time and I can do better. Its just a matter of getting back to the drawing board and analyzing what different I can do on the test. Meanwhile, if you have a few suggestions, on how I cannot bomb the verbal again, please let me know.
I'd like to thank everyone who helped me on this forum.
I always visualized writing a great debrief. That kept me going. That was my biggest inspiration. This is anything but what I imagined. I'm signing off to come back later and update this post.
I decided not to retake it and apply to a couple of schools anyways to gauge my candidacy. So what was the motivation the second time around? I got dinged by a school. I was pretty upset and decided to retake the exam. That was Oct. 10.Coach Garry: Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman - you're perfect!
Just to add: I still remember a few youtube vids that I watched right before my test last year (one of them was ‘how great I am’ and another one was a speech by Coach Flowers - “I am a Champion”).Preparation tips:
It is one thing to say that I will study 3 hours after office each day and 6 hours on the weekend, and a completely different ball game to actually do it. I don’t believe in quality over quantity. Quality and
quantity is the only mantra. Make sure you study from the best sources available out there and make sure you cover enough areas.
I ensured I did not have consecutive days of “no GMAT study”. I felt this was very important. Although I lost 10 days in the last month because of some personal reasons, I felt I could get back on track.
I took last 7 days off. I don’t know how many people can do this – but this tip is very high on my recommendation list. Your org. won’t shut down if you don’t work for 3-4 days. Prioritize stuff and plan well in advance.Before the preparation:
(If I were to choose a tip that everyone did not mention in their debriefs – this would be it)
You need to be familiar with the format, the challenges, the concepts tested and basic tricks before you start to prepare. Last year I booked my test 3.5 months in advance and gave myself 1-2 weeks just to get familiarize with all the stuff GMAT is about. Went through various GMAT time management topics, psychology topics etc.
For eg, I knew that leaving questions unanswered hurts bad, that it is better to avoid guessing on two consecutive questions etc.
Obviously, you continue to learn till you give your test. Quant:
There is this story about a postman who is new in town. And there has to be an audit on the postal services. The only way to do well in the audit is to roam around the area and know enough. This analogy holds true in many areas of life, but works best for studying for quant.
If you haven’t roamed enough places, you may always get a question on the day you would have no idea about. I was pretty good with quant throughout, so no issues there.Topics to study:
Concentrate on number systems (including mean/median problems and Venn diagrams - must! ), algebra, geometry and co-ordinate. In that order.
All 4 are important and you will probably see a good split on the day. Because the test is relative (in terms of difficulty level of the questions) and people tend to avoid probability – that makes the probability questions appear at 650+ level (big assumption here). In short, you may avoid this topic, until you have a grasp of other areas.
After building up the basics (can’t give resources for this – have heard MGMAT guides
and gmatclub math book are decent) make sure you practice extensively from these forums. They have questions from various sources, some of them really good. Don’t move ahead till you understand your mistake. gmatclub tests
are challenging and real fun to take.
I took 3 per day for a couple of days.
My philosophy (based on my test taking experience) - If you are looking to score a Q50/51, make sure you don’t mess up questions at the end. Because you won’t get any more chances to recover back to a higher level. Although you can score a Q51 even if you do a couple wrong, spend adequate amount on the last ones.Verbal:
I’ll start with a very simple self-proposed theory:
Natives are good in verbal only because they have been listening and conversing in the language for so many years. They have a knack of getting things right because they can trust their ear. After AWA, IR and Quant – your brain is half dead. Yet, natives hardly mess up with verbal – Intuition.
If you are good at quant, your brain will be half dead as well, just that you won’t have intuition to carry you through. Build that.
You will score well on verbal when your knowledge of rules and your strategy blends into your intuition. And the only way to do this is – practice.
Learn rules, build strategy and practice + review as many questions as you can. After a few hundred questions you will definitely see patterns in SC and CR. You will instantly know what is wrong in CR, and what could be right.SC
Material: Aristotle grail, MGMAT SC
, Ron is in a different league – you just learn so much when you go through his posts on MGMAT SC
posts on gmatclub are also helpful.
Analyze every wrong option. I remember for my first time, I did not read the explanations in OG, for each question, in depth. Remember, it is their game and the best way to beat the test is to understand how they view their game. Don’t move ahead on every ‘wordy and awkward’ statement – reason it out. Know what fragments are, see how GMAT uses constructions etc. In short, be thorough with the OG, and other official questions (verbal supplement and verbal pack).
My approach to SC was simple. Read the sentence quickly – note the SV pair - break the sentence into modifiers. Quickly analyse which one modifies what. Attack.
Be very good with modifiers and parallelism. You can’t do well on SC unless you understand the importance of these two; parallelism in particular - almost 75% of the questions test parallelism in one form or the other.
Another very handy tip, if you are not sure with the answer choices pick the one that displays best parallelism. Next, if you are not sure, pick the shorter one. CR
By the time you go through 100-200 CRs, you will understand the pattern. Almost, always there will be only 2 choices that are relevant to the question. Rest will be out of scope or too narrow/extreme.
Understand the patterns GMAT uses: causal vs co-relation, giving opposite answer choices etc.
Practice prethinking the assumptions of the argument. Helps immensely.
Solve a lot of questions from forums and try to follow the logic. Generally, people good in quant don’t find a lot of trouble here.RC
This is the most ‘customizable’ section of the GMAT, in that different strategies work for different people. There is no one method that fits all.
One tip is read enough, do a lot of questions – this is the tough because it’s the most boring part of the test; try to prethink the main point.
If you go through OG explanations, most of the questions start with “According to the passage”, “the passage suggest” or “you can infer”.
According to the passage – the answer is explicitly stated in the passage. Try to sift and find the info.
Suggest/infer – you need to apply your brain after reading the information.
Be very careful with the dates and lists mentioned in the passage. Note the dates if you find hard to remember things. Last tip
: take the test when you are ready. Book the date in advance. Going into the test don’t do stuff that you haven’t done all your life just because people tell you to do so. Last year, I took a break of 2-3 days before my exam. That threw me off.
In the past, I’ve given up 15-20 mins of my exams just to revise an important topic. Last minute study works for me. I solved 100 official SC questions the day before my test. There is no reason that what has worked for you for 20 years, will not work on your GMAT day.Coach Vince
: Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.
I’ve talked to a lot of fellow students and a lot of instructors on this forum and would like to thank them for all the help.
I’ll be happy to entertain doubts. I’ll reply on this post whenever I’m sober and in senses.
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