I got done with the GMAT some days back. I must say that it was a very humbling experience – much more than what I anticipated. I scored a decent 750 (Q49, V44) The entire prep from the initial stumbles to the final success made me rediscover myself. I learned a few lessons which I want to pass on to you. Here is a description of my journey
I am an accounting professional with one of the majors. I have a reasonably demanding profession (9 hours daily, not crazy like bankers) which does give me time to study.Stage 1: The initial struggle
My goal when I started preparing was to score 720-730. My goal was to score (Q50, V38-40). My first mock score was 520 (Q47, V21). I had anticipated that I would need to work on Verbal but had never imagined that I would start with 25 percentile on Verbal. I immediately purchased the entire MGMAT set, Princeton review guide and the Kaplan
books (we have a natural tendency to believe that more is merrier). The V21 was such a shock that I put in every available hour outside of work studying for the GMAT. I would wake up at 5 in the morning and study till 8, giving myself a mere 20 minutes to have a shower and eat breakfast (mostly at McDonalds). While this did help improve my Verbal score to V28-V31, I was exhausted within 1 month. I gained 7 pounds during this time, which added fuel to fire. What bothered me most was that I was not able to improve. I had finished 5 out of 6 mocks and my verbal score fluctuated between 28 and 31. My Sentence Correction was killing me. It was at that time, a friend advised me to take a backseat and take a break. I can tell you that this was the single best advice I received during my prep. Stage 2: Meaning clarity comes to aid
A couple of weeks into my break, I attended the free session by e-GMAT
(thanks to GMAT Club for the invite). While I always knew the importance of meaning, the session demonstrated how to employ meaning to get to the right answer. The method outlined in the session was very methodical and yet very simple. Without the use of complex grammatical terms, we were able to solve some very challenging questions. This was interesting. I signed up for the e-GMAT
free trial and did a couple of concepts (I was still on a break). Then I received an invite for a CR session. Even though I was quite good in CR, I decided to attend the session (may be because I was itching to get back). I thoroughly enjoyed the session and decided to purchase Verbal Live Prep. It was the turning point in my prep.
I started with the Sentence Correction section on e-GMAT
. My Verbal score went up as I did well in my Sentence Correction. I completed the section in 10 days (the online course is excellent and gives you the flexibility). I took my first GMAT Prep 15 days after purchasing the e-GMAT
course and scored 690 with V36. This was a huge relief. However, as I did better in SC, I realized that I needed help with RC, especially in passages related to American history and biotech. So I moved over to RC. Again followed the same approach in RC – completed the online course, viewed the recording of one session and attended the other. The reading strategies really work wonders for boring passages. They make you understand the passages which makes them semi interesting. Once you understand the passage then picking out inferences or answering details questions becomes easier (more later). Improving on RC pushed my Verbal score to 39 to 41 range (GMAT Prep and free VERITAS Prep
test) and I was all set. Stage 3: V40 to V44 – Attention management
I was actually quite happy with a 730 (Q49, V40) and thought that I was all ready for the test. I had taken 8 mocks (1 initial, 5 MGMAT, 1VP and 2nd GP), so had enough exam practice. However, I had booked the test in March and still had 25 days to go. Also, I had 2 GMAT Prep tests left. Then I got invited to some workshops from e-GMAT
where I learned some very interesting things. I scored 85 percentile in the SC workshop, however I realized that I could have scored better than 90 percentile had I focused my energy on fewer questions. The workshop had 10 questions – easy, medium, and difficult and I tried to attempt all 10 and could solve only 7 correct. Had I tried to solve 9, I could have gotten at least 8, probably all 9 correct. Payal proved by discussing the performance of three students. From then on, my time management strategy included either focusing on questions or randomly answering them and moving on (if I was more than 2 minute short on time).
My verbal score improved to V43 on my next GMAT Prep as I applied this strategy (I still had 9 incorrect answers, 4 skipped). As I did three more workshops and 1 more mock, I noticed that my score in both Quant and Verbal improved. My strategies for various questions types
I believe that these strategies have been discussed on the forum many times. However, here is a summary of my strategies for various question types:Critical ReasoningKnow the Conclusion
: You should know the conclusion 110%. This means that what the conclusion talks about and what is does not. You will be able to weed out 3/5 or even 4 answer choices if you understand the conclusion. For example, if the conclusion talks about the possibility of rain tomorrow, i.e. is predictive in nature then an answer choice that talks about what causes the moisture to rise up is not likely to be an assumption. Understanding the possibilities with the conclusion
: This is a huge time saver. If the conclusion says that if X then Y, then it does not mean the X is the only path to Y. For example, a conclusion that says if you vaccinate, you will have fewer cases of malaria does not imply that you must vaccinate to have fewer cases of malaria. If you know these possibilities then you will save a lot of time analyzing answer choices.Understand the scope of choices
: Understand the keywords, know your relative pronouns and understand the structure of choices. Note choices become more difficult as you score higher on the GMAT. Do not rush through while reading answer choices at this point unless you know that the answer choice is talking about something irrelevant. Prethinking
: This was something that was big at e-GMAT
in Rajat’s CR lessons. Even though I did not follow this completely I did benefit from the approach. I spent the 15 seconds allocated for Prethinking to understand the scope of the conclusion. This helped me in a big way in difficult questions. Sentence Correction
This was a biggie for me. As stated above, I struggled in SC initially. Here is what I learned:Read slowly
: Do not rush through the original sentence and move on to looking for splits – YOU WILL GET SLAUGHTERED. Rather, read the given sentence slowly and understand its meaning by focusing on sentence structure. Sentence structure = knowing and accounting for all the noun, pronouns, verbs, modifiers, and parallel lists. Once you do that you should know the meaning. Once you know the meaning, identify faults in sentence structure. Example of faults would be SV errors, modifier errors, lists that don’t make sense (classical for 700+ questions) etc. Once you have found 2 or three such errors, look for splits and get to the right answer.
Even though this method seems longer, in reality it is much more efficient than rushing to the answer choices directly. Know your rules well
: You show know the grammar rules, be absolutely familiar with Verb-ed and Verb-ing modifier usage and the logic behind parallel lists. The usage of idioms such as Like and As should be crystal clear in your mind. There are tons of great article by e-GMAT
on these topics. Reading Comprehension Master reading strategies
: Read slowly initially and understand the passage. To do this you need to follow transition keywords and practice predictive reading. Here is what I did - I made note of transition keywords and memorized them (there are like 15 of them). I was able to recite them out cold. Then I took 5 articles from economist
and underlined all the transition keywords. This helped me master the keywords. Then I read 5 more articles and practiced predictive reading. I was able to predict the flow of the article ~50% of the times. Predictive reading habits are great time saver. GMAT reading is very different from reading reports or financial statements. Know question types
: Know the various kind of inferences, and detail answer choices. Know how the GMAC makes incorrect answer choices. The thing with RC is that because passages are longer and there is no conclusion, it is more challenging to weed out answer choices. However, if you understand the passage well, you will be able to see answer choices that have nothing to do with the passage or are inconsistent with the information given in the passage.
I had two back to back RCs on the test (Q7-10, and 11-13). Yet, my timing did not mess up because I followed the above approach.
I had no specific strategy here. Just tackle the question head on, solve it and move forward.I spent 15% of my time on quant, mostly to solve questions.My Prep resources
Here are the various prep resources I used
1. OG 13
and Verbal Review – Excellent questions, good explanations for CR and RC. Passable explanations for SC.
2. Exam pack 1: Excellent questions – go to e-GMAT
forums or MGMAT forums for explanations.
courses: Excellent value for money. Very helpful for folks like me who need help with Verbal.
4. MGMAT Verbal books: decent value for money but not so great.
5. MGMAT quant books: Good refresher and value for money if you need help with quant
6. MGMAT exams: Good value (these are free with books). Average questions but great analysis. I wish that GMAT Prep had such analysis. Again, the solutions could be better.
7. Veritas Prep
test: Good test, good explanations. I liked the interface.
8. Princeton Review: Cracking the GMAT
– not worth it
9. Kaplan Premier
: Not worth it.Good habits
One thing that I want to stress is that GMAT is not as much about being brilliant as it is about being methodical. Here are a few things that helped me:
1.Do not study all day
: I did this mistake early on when I studied all possible time that I had – bad strategy. Remember that you mind need time to absorb information. Study no more than 90 minutes on a weekday, even if you have time. The best thing- make a study routine and study the same time every day.
: I am a pen and paper person. I like to write things down. However, digital notes are much more efficient and searchable. I leveraged both. Take notes on pen and paper while studying and type them into Evernote at the end of your study session. It’s a great revision which helps retention.
3.Use the tagging system in Evernote
: Evernote is a great study tool. You can grab any webpage and put in to Evernote and find it easily. Once you have all the notes and reference solutions (which you need to revise) in a single tool, you can access them on the go. This is a huge time saver, especially when you have just 90 minutes. Here is a helpful video.
: You do not need to solve all the questions correctly to do well. Just make sure that whatever you do, do it well. Keep things black and white while managing time well.
I know that the above has been a long debrief. I apologize for the same. I hope that it is helpful. I will be happy to answer any questions.