24, white femaleEducation:
BS in Finance & Information Technology Management from Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, dismal 3.2 GPA, definitely not a natural academicEmployment: Cigna
, summer internship and full-time employment within the Technology Early Career Development Program (TECDP
), additionally I had the opportunity to intern in our Hong Kong IT office while studying abroadTarget Schools:
Top 5 US MBA Programs, I wanted to see how well I would do on the GMAT before making selections
In order of importance:
1/6 GMAT Prep 1 - 680 (Q42V41)
3/24 MGMAT CAT1 - 710 (Q44V42)
4/1 MGMAT CAT2 - 690 (Q45V38)
4/7 MGMAT CAT3 - 700 (Q43V41)
4/8 MGMAT CAT4 - 720 (Q45V41)
4/15 MGMAT CAT5 - 750 (Q48V45)
4/19 MGMAT CAT6 - 720 (Q43V45)
4/22 GMAT Prep 2 - 750 (Q45, V45)4/26 Official GMAT - 720 (Q48, V41)
My strategy was definitely an evolution. I still stand behind my general approach; master, not learn, the basics, identify and remediate weaknesses, train for endurance and timing. My execution of that strategy, however, certainly left room for improvement.
You can see how misinformed I was in my first few months’ attempt here
. My struggles can be boiled down to one root cause: lack of commitment. A few hours a day will not separate the excellent from the above average. Becoming totally and completely involved devoted to your goals and dreams is requisite to achieving those results. That concept finally clicked for me after months and months of putting in mediocre effort. I fully committed to my GMAT goals and resolved myself to performing at my absolute best.
After a few weeks of intensive study, I was almost finished with the MGMAT guides
, which I worked through in complete entirety, doing all of the practice problems and sets within the OG12
. At that point I was convinced from reading sundry debriefs that I needed to schedule the exam to push myself to my final limits. I booked G-day six weeks out, game on.
During this final 2 month stretch I was studying several hours most weekdays, and 6-9 hours each day on weekends. From what I’ve read on the forums here, others are capable of amazing stretches of study. Accepting that I could not viably or effectively work for those same time intervals was just one of many self-realizations I gathered along my journey. On the weekends, after 3-4 hours of intensive study I would have to take a break, literally unable to process anymore. I would usually get up and go for a run or do yoga then make a healthy meal for myself before going at it again for as many hours as I could.
I should note that a very important part of my prep was to maintain a very regimented lifestyle during my final 6 week sprint. I would wake up between 5:00-5:45AM and go to sleep between 8:45-9:30 every day, including weekends. I exercised 6 days/week, and ate very healthy, portioned controlled meals. None of this was a radical departure from my everyday life but I made much more of an effort to “tighten” all my disciplines simultaneously.
Along that same vein, substance control became especially important to me. While I would by no means call myself a “burnt out”, I definitely identify with being a heavy (almost daily) recreational smoker. In my final sprint I maybe had a total of 4 beers in 6 weeks, toking was eliminated cold turkey and entirely. I did, however, continue to use and rely on occasional consumption of adderall to enhance my studying. Though I discovered that I didn’t really need it once I had given up smoking, I found its effects to be a huge advantage and used it for all of my CATs and on exam day itself.
Exactly one week before test day, I took the day off and ran through a GMAT “dress rehearsal”. I ran through my predetermined routine down to the very outfit I was planning to wear. This was a critical step in helping me visualize the realization of success.
Four days before the test I took my last CAT, the GMAT Prep, reviewed my results for 40 minutes or so, and finally concluded my preparation for the exam. I did not study at all for the three days up to the exam, and carefully followed my sleeping schedule. Day before exam, got off work and went to a luxurious 1.5 hour restoration yoga class, had a small dinner, laid out all of my clothes for the morning and put myself to bed shortly after 9:00PM.
I had several nightmares, almost to be expected with all the emotion, but felt well rested when my alarm sounded at 5:00AM. I got up with that strange Christmas/childhood birthday sensation of a day that has had entirely too much build up to possibly materialize into genuine existence. I flipped out of my tempurpedic, outfitted myself with my best running gear, strapped on my watch and left for a morning run. I went the same routine I did the week before, 4 miles and told myself I would be proud and happy no matter the morning’s outcome. When I got home I made a small vegetarian protein shake and showered. I pulled on my G-day outfit (yoga pants, long sleeve tee and velour hoodie) and finished off my breakfast with an English muffin egg & cheese sammy. With that, I popped my 5mg of addy, grabbed my wallet, keys and snackies and was on my way to test center.
I actually missed the exit, which was ironic because this also happened on dress rehearsal day, but I didn’t allow myself to be flustered and simply rerouted. I had left plenty of time for such occurrences. Finally arrived to test center, I knew exactly where my room was from last week. I checked in, stashed my things in my locker and was escorted to the testing area. I requested earphones and was given 2 pens to use on my pad. My proctor took me to my seat and before I knew it, I was writing my first essay.
Both essays went very well, I consider myself a strong writer so above all else I was happy to have an hour to settle into the environment. I took the first break, getting snacks and water from my locker on my way to the bathroom where I did a series of ridiculous exercises to get my blood pumping to my brain. My snack was mixed nuts (not that trashy peanut kind, the classy macadamia nut kind) with dried berries but I hardly ate any before I went back in.
Hello Quant, my nemesis. I took a deep breath and the questions came. I was rolling fairly hard at that point, and the questions came easily. I stuck to my 4 split timing method and made a few calculated guesses. The section ended with a comfortable 45 seconds left on clock. I felt positive, and repeated the break procedure.
Time for verbal, my strength, so I thought. The questions just seemed so different from my last Prep CAT. They were incredibly long, all of them! The CR’s were all 4-6 lines each, even the SC questions were multiple lines it was like nothing I had seen. I got 4 RC questions, one was very short and thankfully all of them were in the first 2/3rds of the section. In general, the questions seemed much longer and much more vague then I had ever seen. Especially the SC questions were very different from my prep, perhaps I had been relying on my understanding of idioms but it just seemed that I consistently had to guess between two strong options, something I very rarely did in my prep.
By the end of verbal I had a terrible, terrible, headache and was feeling unsure of verbal. Click, click, pause, I covered my eyes with my hands and then looked. 720. I felt confused, then sort of uncomfortable. I mechanically exited the test center, then building, walked to my car and immediately started bawling my eyes out uncontrollably. This continued for the next two hours.
It took me several days to fully accept that the exam was over, and that I was not going to retake, 720 would be the score I attached to my MBA applications. Even though my score was solid, I was incredibly upset not to see something closer to the 750’s I had gotten on the practice exams. More than anything, I was blown away by the score breakdown. Had I preformed as I had expected in Verbal, my score would have been 10-20 points higher than anything I had seen with my amazing turn out with Quant.
Reflecting back over the past few days following the exam, I think that I was extremely emotionally involved with the concept of achieving excellence on the GMAT. What I’ve come to realize is that the score itself is not the achievement, it is merely an output of the function that the student has created through their preparations. The achievement is dedicating yourself to your dreams, committing to what it takes to make them a reality and sacrificing anything necessary to follow through on that commitment.
(for people who don’t want to read the novel)Strategy
– If you’re just starting out, read as many debriefs as possible and zero in on the stories that sound similar to your situation. Take 1 practice CAT or diagnostic test and start from there.Weaknesses
- Know what a weakness is, know your weaknesses. A weakness is a question type/subject area that frequently results in inaccuracy, over-consumption of time, and/or confidence destruction. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, perform root cause analysis, build a strategy to close the gap and practice the heck out of it.Timing
– I used timing splits for quant and verbal during my practice CATs, but quickly did away with timing for verbal because it was my strong suite and is difficult to gauge because of RC. I wrote my splits in the upper right-hand corner of my pad before starting the section, I then would only check the time at those question intervals. For Quant I did the following:
Q#, Time RemainingGuessing
– Guessing is a huge part of any GMAT test taking strategy. Even if you know every question type out there and all content by heart, there’s always the chance you’ll get an experimental question. Through completing so many practice CATs, I pretty much knew which questions to guess on within 15 seconds. If a question takes more than 2-2:30 for you to solve, you’re probably going to miss it anyways, don’t jeopardize the rest of the section. It is also prudent to consider that guessing is less risky towards the beginning of a section, and very dangerous towards the end.RC
– I took crazy notes every time. I know this doesn't work for a lot of people, but I’m a very slow reader so it was essential to me to only read the passage once.Visit the Test Center
– If you’re serious about the GMAT, just do it.Essays
– Probably won't be relevant for most reading this, but my strategy for essays was almost laughably easy. On the last two practice CATs I wrote both essays, the only ones I did during my entire prep. The definitive guide I used was of course that of chineseburned
– Being confident manifests mental clarity, these forums can be helpful tools but can inspire evil comparisons. You’re a unique individual with a unique background, set your own expectations that are in line with the person you are.Discipline
– Structure your entire life during the serious parts of your prep, being in “game mode” 24/7 really helped me focus.
Things I wish I had done differently
In general, I wish I could have fully committed sooner. I drug out this process for far too long because I was unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve my goals.
I wish I had structured the time I spent with my significant other more. I more recently read that someone reserved Sundays, all day, for their wife. If I had better managed my boyfriend’s expectations I think we could have avoided a lot of stressful fights/breakdowns.
Finally, I wish (truly just fanciful thinking, I'm not sure it would even be possible) that I had been less hard on myself about my results. After reviewing the 2011 demographic score break down from the GMAC
, I came to understand that US women on average score an astounding 44 points lower than their male counterparts. Taking that into consideration, I believe my score is differentiating when compared to similar applicants.
In conclusion, I want to give thanks to this community. GMATClub.com was a huge asset in my prep, but almost more significant was the emotion support I gained from my peers here. This exam is a serious challenge, and like any other challenge it will knock you down and take you out permanently if you let it. Knowing that I was fighting alongside my fellow warriors here gave me comfort and strength.
“Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.” -Abraham Lincoln