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680 to 740 - Native English speaker

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Joined: 30 May 2017
Posts: 12
GMAT 1: 740 Q49 V41
GPA: 3.9
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680 to 740 - Native English speaker  [#permalink]

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New post 13 May 2018, 10:48
Improvement from 680 (V42, Q39) to 740 (V41, Q49) in approx 6 months.
IR and AWA remained at 8 and 6 respectively for both.

Age - late 30s.
WE - 16 years British infantry officer
Aspirations - Top 5 UK MBA, followed by transition to mgt consultancy - ideally MBB but I'm conscious of (a) the challenge of getting in, and (b) the fact that I have no private sector / commercial experience whatsoever!

I've not really touched maths for nearly 20 years - A-Levels, BA, and later MA were all Humanities / Social Science - so I know that Quant would always be a challenge. I remember early on in my practice for my first GMAT using a GMAT app on my phone thinking that it hadn't rendered the text properly because of the presence of the | marks. In actual fact, I didn't even know about the concept of Absolute Value! #amateur

However, I knew that I had a fairly strong background of international exposure and leadership, and having made the decision that only Oxbridge would do (too old to take 2 years out for LBS; domestic considerations preclude overseas study; you can't argue with the brand), seeing that their average GMAT score was 690, and speaking to a couple of other ex-mil that had gone there with lower GMAT scores I wasn't that worried. So I cracked 680 on my first test, and that was enough to get offers from both. However, I was never really happy with it, as my prep time was limited, so although I got what I wanted in terms of school, I knew I could do better. Furthermore, during the interview process and in conversation with others I knew that the sub-700 score (in particular with my huge Verbal-bias) would raise flags with top mgt consultancies (ie MBB), and even though I never figured out whether or not 700 was a make-or-break line, I decided to not take the risk - especially with my lack of private sector exposure.

I then deployed overseas on an operational tour, and - amazingly - had some time on my hands, so I got back into the GMAT study. A week after I returned I re-took and scored 740 - hopefully sufficient to put any aforementioned questions to bed. Here's how it went.

Months 1-3 (of 6)
I didn't really apply as much focus to learning as I should have, but just churned through lots of questions from various sources. As there was no way I could take the test until after month 6 my focus was on other skills and courses that had nothing to do with GMAT but would help close some of the delta in my private sector knowledge. I had a fairly comprehensive error log spreadsheet which helped identify the areas that I was weaker on. In addition to the OGs, I continued to use my Magoosh subscription (which I had bought to lead up to my first test), MGMAT Basic and Advanced Quant, the MGMAT online resources derived from this, some Veritas online CATs, and GMATClub practice questions. I probably didn't make much progress, but it wasn't my focus.

Months 4-6
Here I purchased the Economist GMAT course for 3 months (military discount - thank you very much...), and did NOT expect to get a 50 point increase. I was fully expecting to be asking for a refund after I took the GMAT. My focus was now 90% on the Economist course, occasionally (and less than I should have) dipping back to OG questions, looking at Magoosh lessons, or doing the odd CAT with MGMAT or Veritas. My theory was that they would not put together the course in that fashion and with that guarantee unless they had faith that their system worked. Clearly it did! I worked 1-3 hrs per day, taking a complete day off every other week or so. The Quant stuff was really good, and I picked up some great techniques and explanations for concepts I'd really struggled with ; the Verbal stuff was "meh" (I never really got into the idea of learning a whole bunch of rules - I'd always done fairly well simply going by what sounded right); I largely ignored IR; and I had little faith in their AWA assessments (one scored me a 3 for an essay which in my mind was at least a 5). The Ask-a-tutor facility was very useful, and the online tutoring sessions depended entirely on who was tutoring at the other end.

Test day
When I took my first test everything was perfect. I packed my kit the night before, filled the car up, bought my break snacks the day before etc. So all this probably contributed to the half-decent 680. On the retest I didn't pack until the morning I was leaving, had to return to the house after a mile of the 90 min journey because I had forgotten something, and had to stop and fill up and buy snacks on the way. However, I was generally very relaxed about the whole thing, and for a lot of reasons. Firstly, I was already into the school I wanted. Secondly, even if my score dipped I remain convinced that there is no hard and fast GMAT score requirement for MBB (although a good one helps). Thirdly, I had the Economist GMAT guarantee, so if I didn't hit at least 730 I would get my money back. Finally, the test was virtually free thanks to the Army. This all no-doubt contributed to my relaxed state of mind.

The beauty of the GMAT is that you never know how you're doing until you get the score at the end. I was convinced through the Quant phase (which I did first while I was fresh) that I was not doing particularly well, but stuck to the time plan and tried not to let it bug me. I've never had a problem with Verbal (my Q/V study time focus was probably 80/20, if not 90/10), so I didn't sweat it. And as I was only retaking to get my score over 700, and IR and AWA don't count towards that, they were of no concern to me.

Then the unofficial score came up, and I told no-one (less wifey) until the official score came in last night. Very happy, and hopefully now will be better positioned to challenge post-MBA for a place at a top-quality mgt consultancy.

Key takeaways:
-It's great being in a position where the outcome doesn't really matter. I really feel that it contributed to the positive result. If you can get to this point then try to do so.
-Economist GMAT Tutor is great for native English speakers whose maths is rusty. I'm a fan of entrusting my progress in anything to an expert, as they know more than me. I back myself against most people when it comes to speaking English, so I'll take or leave their Verbal stuff,
-Having (arrogantly) said that, I went down a point in my Verbal. Who cares? Some people on this forum obsess over single points - if your acceptance is dependant entirely on one point here or there then you're never going to be really relaxed, and you should perhaps worry more about the rest of your application...
-Anyone in the UK want to buy a bunch of used GMAT materials???
Joined: 30 May 2017
Posts: 134
Location: United States
Schools: HBS '21
GMAT 1: 690 Q50 V32
GRE 1: Q168 V164
GPA: 3.57
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Re: 680 to 740 - Native English speaker  [#permalink]

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New post 13 May 2018, 12:34
It is really great of you to get 740 despite not touching mathematics for many years. You may even get scholarship with your GMAT scores at any of Oxbridge.

Kindly press the +1Kudos if you like the explanation. Thanks a lot!!!

GMAT Club Bot
Re: 680 to 740 - Native English speaker &nbs [#permalink] 13 May 2018, 12:34
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