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[ADVICE IS WELCOME!] Post GMAT Debrief & Dealing with Frustration

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[ADVICE IS WELCOME!] Post GMAT Debrief & Dealing with Frustration  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 12 Nov 2018, 13:17
Hi all,

I am writing this message in order to debrief about my GMAT test and study experience and to ask for advice. Posts in these forums have been very enlightening to me, so I thought maybe some of you can give me some advice as to what should I do study-wise. First, let me share a bit about my background.

I am a 28-years-old Black Brazilian who graduated in International Relations and Law (in 2012 and 2013, respectively). My career focus is social impact, so I had the opportunity of creating a social project dedicated to sustainability in a slum in Rio, of interning at GlobalGiving, a non-profit crowdfunding platform in the US and of, for the past 4 years, coordinating the educational technology area of Lemann Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving basic public education in Brazil. At Lemann Foundation, I have been mainly supporting edtechs to be implemented in Brazilian public schools. As an example, lat year I coordinated the implementation of a reading platform in public schools in São Paulo and as a result of this project, 50k kids read one or more books.

Along with my work-experience, I was fortunate to gain some scholarships and participate in some programs in which I interacted with people from all over the world (Programa Botín por el Fortalecimiento de la Función Pública, Engage in Conservation Program by Dekeyser and Friends Foundation and Prudential Global Citizenship Program). These interactions and learning opportunities sparked in me the interest to pursue a MBA. Therefore, 4 years ago, when I returned from DC, where I was interning at GlobalGiving, I decided to deepen my social impact experience and in the long-term apply to an MBA. I always dreamt of top b-schools (such as GSB, HBS, Wharton, Haas), but knew the journey ahead was long.

When I first took the GMAT - 2 years ago - I was scared when the 490 grade popped up. I knew that I had to improve a lot to reach the score necessary for top schools, so last year I decided to start studying more seriously. Although I studied a bit, because of work, I didn't find enough time to apply. In the beginning of this year, I was determined to improve my study focus - finding the necessary time - and apply. So I started my study journey again. I will share below more information on all of my scores and mock exams, so that you have a better idea on where I stand:


[24/06] - GMATPREP, Exam 1 (640)
Quant - 41
Verbal - 37

[15/07] - GMATPREP, Exam 2 (690)
Quant - 44
Verbal - 41

[22/07] - GMATPREP, Exam 1(560)
Quant - 32
Verbal - 35

[02/09] - GMATPREP, Exam 1 (690)
Quant - 41
Verbal - 44

[25/07] - Manhattan CAT 1 (610)
Quant - 40
Verbal - 34

[08/08] - Manhattan CAT 2 (570)
Quant - 33
Verbal - 35

[21/08] - Manhattan CAT 3 (630)
Quant - 38
Verbal - 37

[23/09] - Manhattan CAT 4 (580)
Quant - 36
Verbal - 33

[30/09] - GMAT Prep, MBA site Exam 1 (720, was very happy to see it was possible)
Quant - 46
Verbal - 42

Then, I was sometime without studying continuously...

[01/11] - GMAT Prep, MBA site Exam 3 (590, wow, that was a huge drop)
Quant - 41
Verbal - 31

[04/11] - GMAT Prep, MBA site Exam 5 (620)
Quant - 37
Verbal - 39

[06/11] - GMAT Prep, MBA site Exam 4 (600)
Quant - 36
Verbal - 37

[10/11] - GMAT Prep, MBA site Exam 6 (650, maybe there is still hope)
Quant - 39
Verbal - 40
IR- 7


So, today I took the GMAT and got 590, with the following breakdown:
Quant - 39
Verbal - 32
IR - 2

I decided not to report my scores. Although I wasn't expecting some miracle to happen, I was confident that I would be able to get at least a score in the 650 range. As you can see, though, my verbal score plummeted, so that I wasn't expecting. Yesterday I didn't get much sleep and was feeling very anxious for the test day, so this could have impacted a bit my score, as well. Also, I finished the Quant section before time, so I had the impression that I was doing questions too fast, which could have led to some careless mistakes. Nonetheless, these scores, specially quant, are somewhat consistent with previous attained scores in mocks, so I don't want to blame any "external factors", such as lack of sleep or anxiety (we have to cope with these).


As per my study strategy, I have mainly been focusing on Quant over Verbal (maybe this is a mistake) and on doing GMATClub exercises and mocks (as you can see). I have read through some of the MGMAT books and also the Math book of GMAT Club.

I didn't take any time off work to solely study, except 3 days last week, so I might use some time to be able to improve (I have 2 months of expired vacations). In these last week of study, with the time pressure of the coming GMAT, I tried to shift strategy. As I noticed that in order to get in the upper 40s in quant I couldn't get easy/medium questions wrong, I crossed frequency of GMAT tested topics with topics in which I had poor performance and focused on doing 500/600 level questions and learning from my mistakes. But I guess cramming on the last days wouldn't make me able to achieve last-minute high-performance.

Some more important info: I maintained an error log for questions from GMATClub, Manhattan, GMAT Prep and GMAT Quant Review. I haven't redone the questions I got wrong, with the exception of GMAT Quant Review Questions. Also, I didn't have time to go over the entire OG - just parts of it. I have the feeling that mixing different strategies and resources might be impairing my study. This would explain the inconsistency in the results.


So, my friends, now I face two possible scenarios:

(i) Retake the GMAT in at least 16 calendar days;
>if attained sufficient grade, would be able to apply this year
>concepts are still fresh in mind
>gained rythm of study
>already familiarized with study experience

>attaining necessary score (720) is not certain
>a bit exhausted from the study/test experience
>even obtaining sufficient score, I don't have much time to write the essays (applications due in beginning of January)

(ii) Take the GMAT next year
>more time to identify errors and cover conceptual gaps
>can relax a bit and not be exhausted
>more likelihood of attaining higher grade and improving overall application (?)

>procrastinate, again
>start to question if this MBA thing is really the best plan for me
>have said at work that planned to apply this year already - don't know if this impacts my career progression (they might not be counting with me for next year?)

I am more inclined to going for scenario (i), but would love to hear your thoughts/recommendations...


>Should I focus on exercises or in reviewing concepts? I imagine this depends on the way one learns - I like to learn with practice or by seeing videos - but as my strategies are not working, I thought maybe you can share some advice
>Is there any specific material you would recommend? How would you recommend studying it? Go through a topic and do exercises, for instnace?
>Is there any specific strategy you would recommend?
>Given the context I shared, do you think it is still realistic to consider applying this year?
>Is there a specific strategy to improve on integrated-reasoning? I have been doing very poorly on this section, except in my last mock, and can't understand why. I haven't practiced it though, so if there are specific materials you would recommend me for IR, that would be great!
>Is there a minimum quant grade requirement for top b-schools (for instance, quant over 48?)
>Should I consider taking the GRE instead of the GMAT? I chose the GMAT, because as I don't have a quant background I thought doing well on this exam would give me an edge. Also, b-schools are more used to evaluating the GMAT, than the GRE.
>Would you recommend any specific strategy to keep motivated, in face of failure?

Taking this time to share more about my study experience, the test day experience and some questions and concerns I have has already been very helpful. This forum has been a source of knowledge and motivation for me, so I hope to count with your knowledge and solidarity now again.

Thanks in advance,


Originally posted by leocorreia17 on 12 Nov 2018, 09:23.
Last edited by leocorreia17 on 12 Nov 2018, 13:17, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [ADVICE IS WELCOME!] Post GMAT Debrief & Dealing with Frustration  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Nov 2018, 12:32
Hi Leo,

To start, since you have named some highly-competitive Schools, you would likely find it beneficial to speak with an Admissions Expert about your overall profile and application plans. There's a Forum full of those Experts here: ... tants-124/

Many applicants to those types of Schools would have a Score Goal of 700+. While you might not necessarily need that type of Score to receive an invite to those Programs, if we assume that that is your Score Goal, then raising a 590 to a 700+ will likely require at least another 2 months of consistent, guided study - and you'll have to make significant improvements to how you handle BOTH the Quant and Verbal sections. Thankfully, the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Exam, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. With a Goal of 650+, you could potentially retest in a month and hit that Score. With just 16 days though, there would likely be a limit to how much you could improve.

You might choose to purchase the Enhanced Score Report. While the ESR doesn't provide a lot of information, there are usually a few data points that we can use to define what went wrong (and what you should work on to score higher). If you purchase the ESR, then I'll be happy to analyze it for you.

As to the additional questions that you asked:
-You would likely benefit a great deal by focusing on Tactics and learning to take advantage of all of the built-in patterns that GMAT question-writers put into the prompts that you'll see on Test Day. A GMAT Course of some type (either Guided Self-Study or instructor-led) would also provide the overall structure that would help to make your studies efficient.
-Integrated Reasoning actually has a lot in common with Verbal Critical Reasoning (with a bit of math and Quant Tactics thrown in), meaning that if you hone those other skills, then you will likely find IR to be considerably easier. Many Schools still do not put much of an emphasis on the IR Score though - so it's not worth putting a lot of time and effort into IR until you've properly built up all of your other skills first.
-Many Business Schools view an Applicant's Quant Scaled Score as an indicator of how that Applicant might handle the 'academic side' of the Program - and Quant Scores in the low-Q40s to mid-Q40s won't impress anyone. This is meant to say that by focusing on Quant Tactics, you'll be better able to score in the high-Q40s or Q50s, increase your GMAT Score AND better impress how Business School Admissions Officers will view your potential to handle the Program.

If you have any additional questions, then just let me know.

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Re: [ADVICE IS WELCOME!] Post GMAT Debrief & Dealing with Frustration  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Nov 2018, 08:30
Hi Leo,

Thank you for providing such a detailed debrief. Based on your story, I can provide some specific advice. First, let’s address your next GMAT date. The reality is that it’s quite unlikely that you are going to increase your GMAT score by 160 points by second-round deadlines, so although you should CONTINUE TO STUDY FOR THE GMAT, I recommend that you apply next year, so you have ample time to improve your GMAT score and complete your applications. All of the possible “cons” that come along with that decision can be easily rectified. So, as long as you truly still want to get an MBA, adjust your application date until next year.

Next let’s address your previous study routine. Based on your study plan, you have been taking practice exams before you are ready. GMAT practice tests best serve two main purposes. The first purpose is to provide diagnostic information. In other words, by taking a practice test, you can get a sense of what types of GMAT questions you’re comfortable answering and arrive at a reasonable estimation of how you would score on the GMAT at that point in time. The second purpose is, naturally, to provide a way to practice taking the GMAT and handling its various challenges, such as time pressure and the varying difficulty of the questions presented.

People often misuse practice tests as primary learning tools. You may have seen posts that go something like the following: A person with a score goal of 740 has been preparing for six weeks, has already taken all six of the official practice tests, and is wondering why her scores have been 600, 590, 570, 610, 600, and 560. In such a case, the person likely has been using practice tests as primary learning tools, meaning that taking practice tests has been much of, or possibly most of, what she has been doing to drive up her score.

Can practice tests be used as valuable tools for learning and continued score improvement? Yes, of course they can, if they are used properly and at optimal times in your preparation. However, practice tests should not be used as primary learning vehicles, because practice tests don’t really provide the kind of practice that you need to increase your score. To improve your score, you need to learn the basics of answering various types of GMAT questions, and then practice applying what you have learned by carefully answering practice questions in order to learn to answer them correctly. When you first learn how to answer a particular type of question, answering that type of question correctly can easily take way longer than the two minutes or so per question that you are allotted when taking the GMAT (or a practice test). The two minutes per question can fly by, and if you want to finish sections of the test on time, in many cases, regardless of whether you have figured out how to answer a question, you may have to just answer and move on. So, while taking a practice test can be a great way to work on your overall approach to taking the GMAT, practice tests are not a great way to practice getting right answers to various types of questions. To effectively prepare for the GMAT, you have to practice answering questions of each type without the time constraints of the test, and work up to a point at which you can answer questions of each type in around two minutes. Thus, there is very limited utility in taking practice tests before you have done substantial preparation. When you take multiple practice tests early in your prep, the tests simply underscore exactly what you already know: You need to learn more content and develop more skills to hit your score goal. Why spend three hours taking a practice test just to learn what you already know, wasting a valuable learning tool in the process?

Of course, you can benefit from taking one diagnostic practice test early in your preparation. Furthermore, once you’ve done substantial preparation and mastered much of the content tested on the GMAT, when you sit for practice tests, they will actually show, to some degree, lingering weak areas that require further study. I say “to some degree” because although practice tests provide a pretty good approximation of how a person would score on the GMAT at a particular point in time, because the sample size of questions on any practice test is rather small (31 quant questions and 36 verbal questions), practice tests don’t do a very good job of pinpointing specific areas of weakness. For example, let’s assume that of the 31 quant questions on a given practice test, you encounter one Rate-Time-Distance question and get it wrong. Should you conclude that you need extensive work on Rate-Time-Distance questions? Of course not. Similarly, what if you correctly answered the Rate-Time-Distance question? Are you good to go on those questions? Maybe. But maybe not. In fact, let’s assume that you took six practice tests, saw a total of six Rate-Time-Distance questions, and correctly answered them all. Can you conclude that you’re solid on Rate-Time-Distance questions? Probably not. One thing that makes the GMAT challenging is the vast potential for variation in the questions. There are hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of variations of Rate-Time-Distance questions that can appear on the test. So, correctly answering five or six (or ten) Rate-Time-Distance questions doesn’t really tell you too much. You must take care not to over-infer based on practice tests alone.

To truly improve your GMAT quant and verbal skills, and before taking any further tests, follow a linear study plan that allows you to slowly build mastery of one GMAT topic prior to moving on to the next. Within each topic, begin with the foundations and progress toward more advanced concepts. Carefully learn to answer questions one type at a time, first by learning the concepts used in answering questions of that type, and then by answering dozens of questions of that type.

In order to follow a linear study plan, you may consider using a self-study course, so check out the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant and verbal courses. You also may find it helpful to read the following articles about
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT and developing the proper mindset for GMAT success.

I realize that you asked some other questions; however, the first thing you need to do is reset your timeline and get on a path that will lead you to GMAT success. Feel free to reach out if you need further advice.

Good luck!

Scott Woodbury-Stewart

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Re: [ADVICE IS WELCOME!] Post GMAT Debrief & Dealing with Frustration   [#permalink] 28 Nov 2018, 08:30
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