It all started over dinner table at a restaurant on a fine evening. The month was September, the year was 2013 and the week was third, as far as I remember. I wrote on the paper napkin and showed it to my fiancée (then GF) – “Oct-Nov-Dec – GMAT preparation. Jan – GMAT Exam”. Wow ! She was ecstatic in knowing that this perpetually unplanned guy was planning something at least.
I am the quintessential guy from a middle class family where the family slogan of 10th – 12th – Doctor / Engineer reigns supreme. On top of that, my army background adds a couple of professions to the list – Air Force Pilot, Army Officer etc. Holding 1st position in 10th & 12th and managing a position just a hair above the average Joe in a National Institute of Technology was enough to feed my bloated ego with the over confidence that I can crack the GMAT with relative ease. To top it all, I had even planned a three month “revision cum practice” spree. What else was needed?
As the saying goes – “Easier said than done”. The same was true. Purchased OG ’13, Princeton Review (Just went to the book store & purchased the first book available on the shelf). I did practice in bits n pieces, never taking anything seriously, what with the ego of a proven track record of having scored a 98.5 %ile in CAT. This is gonna be quite easy I thought! Took the first GMAT Prep in Jan 2014. Scored 610 Q48 & V27). Smaaackkkkk ... Boom .... Parachute punctured! I’m having a free fall, head downwards!
It was time for a reality check. Reviewed all the answers meticulously and realized two things:
1. The quant may be testing elementary concepts but it was not testing elementary application. It all depended on how well you understood the concepts and how well you dodged the bouncers thrown.
2. Verbal is not a gut-feeling game. The gut at this point of time was not helping much. 30 was seeming like a mountainous score then.
The time was ripe for some serious preparation. I consulted my friend who had passed out from ISB. He immediately shared all the study material with me and gave me some useful tips. I realized that Princeton Review was not the kind of stuff that is going to help me score high. It was elementary to say the least. I started browsing more and more on GMATClub and started reading the blogs. It was heartening to see inspiration in the form of headings such as “620 to 710 by sheer hard work”, “590 to 700 in a matter of 3 months” etc. The magical 700 seemed so attractive & elusive at the same time. I dared not to read the “650 to 750”, “660 to 780” blogs for they seemed to be for the god-gifted elites who never had to study to get above 95% in CBSE Board Exams or who solved I. E. Irodov’s problems just as if they were “two equations-two variables” kind of stuff. I thought the 700ish blogs will keep me motivated and the 750ish blogs may sledgehammer my self-confidence and leftover ego. In hindsight, how wrong I was !
Serious preparation started in March-April 2014. I bumped into e-GMAT online course. Took the free trial questions and saw the explanations for Sentence Correction. I was awestruck. Never imagined GMAT grammar could be taught in such a simple manner. Immediately purchased the SC online course and started doing it. I was hooked onto it. I tried doing it daily after hectic office hours and outstation tours. This course made me realize that there can be structure to the whole verbal section and the so called gut can be kept at bay 99% of the times, without getting stuck anywhere. e-GMAT helped me raise my verbal score from 27 to 34 without putting much effort anywhere else other than Sentence Correction. I attended the free webinar by Rajat on Prethinking in CR and I must say that the technique is extremely useful and practical. It raised my accuracy in CR to more than 90% in a matter of few weeks. I completed The GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible by Powerscore and practiced CR with the Prethinking technique in mind. There is nothing more required for CR I can tell you now. RC was neither my strength nor my weakness. I tried making it my strength by the so called popular techniques such as reading fast, skimming, scanning, revisiting blah blah blah... It still remained where it was earlier. Since I was getting around 70~75% accuracy there, hence I did not bother spending much time there. I must say that I am not against the techniques prescribed by various sources for improving RC. They are useful in many ways. But RC is one area which takes a relatively long time to improve. Hence, I wouldn’t recommend keeping RC for the last few weeks in your study schedule. Study RC at the beginning and keep applying the techniques for continuous improvement. Don’t let a week go by when you do not practice and apply the RC techniques.
To cut a long story short, after doing all this, including straying half-heartedly towards the Manhattan GMAT Course and withdrawing as if having touched a hot iron, I was still afraid to take the GMAT. My fear emanated from two things :
1. Not being able to get a 700 in practice.
2. No provision for cancelling the score without the GMAC knowing it.
In this struggle, I kept on postponing the GMAT date booking from April to August 2014. The GMAT preparation had so much impact on my normal life that my better half intervened and explained to me the benefits of booking a date and working towards running the last few miles. I must mention here that I have a hectic schedule in office which involves long working hours, outstation tours, lots of client interactions, mobile ringing 24X7 etc. Although the reason seems not justifiable now, still the office schedule was a major reason for me to not take out hours daily for studying. I studied intermittently whenever I got the time and tried to put in long hours on Sundays (Saturday is working ). Anyways, 11 Sep 2014 (The choice of date is just incidental and nothing to do with any theory probably effervescing in your mind currently ) was the appointed date of my first GMAT. Before that, I tried getting as much match practice as possible thru online resources, GMAT Prep Questions, OG, GMAT Club, e-GMAT etc. Wrote GMAT Prep 2 on 9 Sep 2014, got a 660 and felt a little confident. However, that confidence was not enough to remove the itch of 700 in my mind. My ego was still playing spoilsport, forcing me to think something’s amiss. Since the GMAT Prep 2 was a full practice test (I did AWA and IR too religiously), I was at least confident of spending the 4 odd hours without getting a backache or an urge to run away from the desk. Finally gave the GMAT. Scores below :
Overall : 680 (QA : 49, VA : 34, IR : 7, AWA : 5.5)
I was a bag of mixed feelings. Elated because I had scored my highest score ever on any GMAT practice test (Although I had taken only 2~3 ) and sad because I had missed the magical 700 figure which the so called intelligent souls are able to manage seemingly nonchalantly.
Nevertheless, I applied to 3 good schools – All Top-50 (In fact I could garner only that much strength, given the enormous stamina one requires for each application). Didn’t really introspect much except on the “essay-freezing” day (The deadline ). As expected, only one call. But there was less disappointment since I had not applied myself completely in this. But going through this whole process helped me get a first-hand experience of what it takes. And I must tell you that it really helps. Now I see myself armed with a comparatively substantial amount of confidence, enough to apply to good schools, to go for the kill.
Getting back to the topic, the period from Sep ’14 to April ’15 was my whiling away time, period in which I could manage to apply to only 3 schools and in the balance time, try to sort out some of my personal issues.
April to June ’15 was spent in warming up & delaying booking GMAT appointment for a second attempt. In June, one of my colleagues (A truly intelligent soul. Had scored a 740 few months back) suggested Veritas Prep as a comprehensive prep course having some magical stuff and he was kind enough to lend me the login credentials of one of his friend’s account. I will always be grateful for that.
Second Attempt :
Serious Preparation started on 27 June 2015. Started with Veritas Prep practice question bank. Tried to keep my accuracy to around 80% level in each section. Veritas Prep has this awesome feature of providing data for each question where they say what percentage of people got it right, what percentage chose each of the answer choices, what is the percentile level of a particular question etc. Although the data may not be representative of the complete applicant pool, still it helps to know that you’ve answered a question correct which only about 15% or 20% of the people answered correctly. This fact boosts your confidence and you try to work towards getting those questions correct which only about 1% of the students have answered correctly
Thanks to the various success stories on GMATClub, I adapted the below strategies for my second attempt :
1. Keeping an error log.
2. Following a defined method for each question, no matter what.
3. Following a study fixed study schedule and not straying towards “study whenever I get time” kind of attitude.
Elaborating on the points above, firstly, an error log helps immensely to iron out certain inherent deficiencies in your attitude towards some topics, attitudes which do not allow you to get past 30% accuracy in that topic. You will get some mind boggling revelations as you go thru the error log after each mock / sectional practice test. For instance, my accuracy in DS questions was coming around 50~60% although I was getting 49 regularly in mocks. From the error log, it all became clear. I was doing all comparisons / calculations etc. in my mind and making silly mistakes. I decided to strictly do all range-finding / comparisons / slopes estimation on paper, however easy the problem might seem. I strictly wrote each step on paper and just saw my silly mistakes reduce drastically. Now I was having more than 85% accuracy in DS & hence started scoring 50 / 51 regularly.
Secondly, following a defined method for each problem really helps reduce the stress during exam and helps improve the time management. There is really no time to reinvent the wheel. Strictly approach each question with a set method (The method you develop during your 3 odd months of preparation) and try to solve. If even after 2 minutes of trying out all methods you are nowhere near the solution, just mark the best possible answer and move on. This is the best possible favor that you would do to yourself. It is inevitable that your score will increase several notches higher if you follow this strategy of leaving your ego outside the exam hall and not spending 7~8 minutes on a question which seems to challenge you. There will be 1~2 questions in Quant which may just go over your head and you may not be able to come up with a magic strategy to deal with them in the stipulated two minutes. Trust me, just leave that question. Let it go. There may be even higher number of such questions in Verbal where you are simply unable to go past the last two options, after eliminating the other three. Trust me, after your two minutes are over, just choose any and move ahead. There is no spoilt milk here and there is no need to cry over it.
Finally, a fixed study schedule will help you reduce the stress you encounter in the repeated decision making process of “when to study?”, “how many hours to study?”, “where should I cram in those hours in my schedule?” A fixed study schedule has already answered all those queries and taken those stress inducing decisions for you. For instance, I studied every morning from 6.30 am to 7.30 am and every evening from 10.30 pm to 11.30 pm. This was the only study time I could cram in my hectic schedule. This freezing of time helped immensely with the stress control. The decision was already taken – I just had to execute it
Moving on, the next three months (July-Sep) were spent in following the disciplined study schedule described above. For SC, I did purchase e-GMAT SC Online again (at a discounted rate this time ) and rigorously followed their 3-step-process. Identifying errors in SC with the 8 standard errors in mind was enough to boost my accuracy levels to more than 90%. Doing the OG questions after covering each topic of e-GMAT (They provide which OG questions to practice after each topic) helped me grip the nuances of that topic very firmly. For CR, I again completed the PowerScore CR Bible to get a grasp of the various question types and methodically applied the e-GMAT Prethinking process to solve each question once I had identified the precise category of the question. I believe nothing more than this will be required for CR. For RC, I completed the Manhattan RC Basics booklet and applied the learning to each RC passage during practice. The main point concept is really useful in getting many of the questions correct. Moreover, I feel if you have practiced CR thoroughly, then it helps in RC too.
For Quant, I practiced questions from GMATClub mostly. Bunuel’s questions and excellent explanations on GMATClub help a lot to get real and effective practice. Also, the GMATPrep additional questions are good practice. The GMATClub Math Book is also useful in brushing up the basics.
My Scores in Mocks :
Veritas Prep – Started from 610 on 28 June and ended @ 670 on 09 Aug. Used Veritas mostly to iron out the various deficiencies in my approach / skills / knowledge by specifically targeting the topics in which I was getting most wrong answers. I diligently reviewed each mock & maintained an error log. I still have that log with me if anybody wants to check out.
GMATClub – Gave the Free Mock. Completed Quant. Scored 51. At a later date, completed verbal. Scored 41.
GMATPrep – Started from 740 on 23 Aug and ended @ 750 on 10 Oct. I had purchased the additional 2 mocks. Absolutely essential and real practice !
e-GMAT Scholaranium – This is one stuff you must practice only after you are through with all the verbal practice and are at a comfortable 700 level but wish to push towards 750+.
Moving on, besides creating a study schedule for GMAT I had even created an exercise schedule for half an hour in the evening. Mostly I did running for 3~4 Kms. It feels really light-headed and stress-free after exercise. This helped me overcome the laziness, backache and general exhaustion during the later stages of practice when I started doing full-length mocks (With AWA & CR). In any case, running is a great way to keep in shape and I’m surely gonna continue it
Test Day (12 Oct 2015) :
Having spent the previous two days watching at least 4~5 movies and going out with friends, and having scored a 750 on 10 Oct in GMATPrep Exam 4, I was pretty relaxed while driving to the exam center. Slight nervousness crept in when I had to wait for about half an hour on the reception sofa doing nothing. That’s a period when the devil tries to enter your mind and you need to resist it. I told myself “Whatever was required to be done is done. Now just be confident. Sit Straight. Walk Straight. Look Ahead. Be Confident.” Each of us has a different way of calming down the nerves in such periods on nothingness. (Few may prefer to recite Hanuman Chalisa while others may just visualize Mr. Sanjay Mishra in All the Best saying Dhoonduuu... Just Chiiiiilllll !)
After the formalities, I took a deep breath and started with AWA. It went better than expected since somehow I could come up with 5~6 weaknesses in the argument instead of the usual 3. Completed AWA with 3 minutes to spare. Rechecked and felt satisfied. IR rolled in with an unusually tough first question. It took 6 odd minutes to get thru this one since I did not want to start off with a wrong question. Thereafter, the race against the clock started. Panic struck when 12 minutes were left and I had completed only 5 questions. I had roughly 100 seconds per question for the remaining 7. Changed gears and worked on super power mode. Rushed thru 3~4 but with reasonable confidence of having done each of them correct. Still 3 questions to go with 5 minutes in hand ! Somehow managed to creep thru. Wasn’t feeling too confident about this section but decided to let bygones be bygones ! Raised my hand for a much needed break. Had orange cream biscuits and lots of water.
Seated for the next section with 6:33 minutes elapsed on the break clock. Time to start my favorite and strong section – Quant. Completed first 10 questions in 18 odd minutes, carefully reviewing each question for any silly errors or wrong interpretations. I was happy to stick to the time schedule I had so painfully practiced. 15th question onwards the going started to get tough. It was no longer a breeze and I had to meticulously tread thru each question until I reached the last 5. Still had 13 odd minutes remaining so I patted myself for executing my timing strategy to perfection. Completed the section with 2~3 minutes to spare and waited. Though I had tried my level best, still I was not feeling confident of having got more than 35 questions correct. I felt I must have got at least 4~5 wrong. Anyways, it was time to recharge ! Dashed towards my biscuits and water. Stretched and tried to calm my nerves. Came back with 7:00 minutes elapsed on the break clock.
Time to start the dreaded verbal section : the section getting the most air time on almost all GMAT forums, discussions and chats. Gathering all the strength I could, I trudged along in first gear for the fear of getting initial questions wrong. Getting 2 RCs in the first 15 did not help much with the confidence part of the bargain. CR came to rescue with some good but solvable questions. SC seemed a bit tricky since there was a lot of deviation from the standard method questions we all practice all the time. In any case, I could somehow get into the mind of the examiner by delving deep into the meaning of each sentence. Once the meaning and intent is clear, the going gets easy. Stuck to the meaning concept and followed the process for each question. I felt I had got more than my share of difficult questions but I was not feeling very confident of having nailed more than 90% correct. My gut was saying I must be lurking somewhere in the 80% range. Completed the post-exam survey. Oh ! Did not complete it, to be precise. I was left amused when I saw the time had expired. Never looked at the clock during the survey and the survey got submitted after the time expired. Some buffering and high amplitude heart beats later, the screen flashed. I was blinded for a while for no reason. Immediately looked on the right hand top corner and saw the clock was ticking. So I knew I had limited time. Then read the scoreboard slowly to digest each word and felt on top of the world to see something like this below :
Quant : 50
Verbal : 42
IR : 8
Overall : 760
Few days back, I got my AWA score. Elated to see a 6 there
Sources for Study :
Quant (DS and PS) :
• OG ’13, OG-Quantitative Review, TIME (CAT Study Material – Used especially for Number Theory), Veritas Prep Question Bank, GMATPrep Question Bank, GMATClub Maths Book, GMATClub Quant 700 to 800 Level Questions, GMAT Question of the Day from GMATClub.
Verbal (SC) :
• e-GMAT SC Online Course, e-GMAT Scholaranium (Complimentary part), OG ’13, OG-Verbal Review, Veritas Prep, GMATPrep Question Bank, GMATClub 700+ SC Questions.
Verbal (RC) :
• OG ’13, OG-Verbal Review, e-GMAT RC Webinars, Manhattan RC Book, GMATPrep Question Bank, Veritas Prep.
Verbal (CR) :
• Powerscore Critical Reasoning Bible, OG ’13, OG-Verbal Review, e-GMAT Pre-thinking Webinars / Assumption Negation Techniques, GMAT Prep Question Bank, Veritas Prep.
So there goes my debrief (Whoa ! This is not brief... This is really really long ).
If you’ve read this far and endured this account arduously, then I guess you’re really passionate about scoring high in GMAT. 90% job is done with your passion only. Rest can be taken care of by the various methods and prescribed techniques.
Good Luck to Everyone and Enjoy this Journey called GMAT !
Was this review helpful to you?
Be the first person to comment
on this review.