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A lifetime journey to GMAT 740 (ESRs added)

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Joined: 24 May 2016
Posts: 6
Location: India
GMAT 1: 740 Q49 V41
GMAT 2: 690 Q49 V34
GPA: 3.66
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A lifetime journey to GMAT 740 (ESRs added)  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 20 Feb 2018, 06:37
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A lifetime journey to GMAT 740 (Q49/V41)



Thank You, GMAT Club


Firstly, it's my privilege to be writing debrief on GMAT Club. I have been such a big fan of this community and what it stands for. I never believed that I would write for this community. I would want to thank the contributors of the forum. My best wishes to everyone here, who makes sure that GMAT Club remains the best GMAT experience. With this debrief I wish to share with the community my learnings and hope to inspire people not to give up on their dreams. It is going to be a long post and I will try to detail the aspects of preparation that I have realized over the course of my preparation. This is not a review for those who can study the GMAT for 2-3 months and score a 700/750. This is for people who have been trying and failing to score their dream score. This review is intended to help those who gave up hope after 1, 2 or even 3 attempts. I expect all of you reading this story will find inspiration and learn something.

If you are short on time and reading to understand how I tackled the different sections of the GMAT, then go directly to General Learning from testing with GMAT for over 2 years section

If you are reading to find some motivation for your GMAT preparation, please read the section titled My story

My Background



I am an engineer with an Oil and Gas E&P Company in India and I have been working since 2012. As with any regular engineer in my country, I was pretty decent on my Quant and very weak in my Verbal. Since I manage operations in my company, my work is pretty dynamic and I spend anywhere close 9-10 hours a day working, sometimes even on weekends.
General Learning from testing on the GMAT for over 2 years
1) Over 2 years, I have patiently sampled all forms of GMAT Test prep in the market and I feel that E-GMAT (Verbal/Quant), OG, GMAT Club Quant, GMAT-Prep Tests, Question bank of GMAT retired questions and Manhattan Tests will help you get to your goals much quicker than any other resource.
I especially like @E-GMAT style of coaching because 3 reasons
• The Focus on meaning and comprehension instead of on tricks to eliminate the wrong answer. When I shifted from classroom/self-study coaching preparation to E-Gmat, the focus on solving problems by understanding the meaning of the sentence was time-consuming, but soon I picked up the trick and went along with it.
E-GMAT resources are more than enough for preparation and the only additional resources you would want are the test preps.
• Finally a shout-out to the super-supportive and helpful team at E-GMAT. Before I started with the E-GMAT, I was skeptical whether I would be able to clarify my doubts on the E-GMAT platform, since the course would follow a particular structure. I thought I would miss the attempt to speak to someone and get my doubts clarified. However, my skepticism was unfounded. The E-GMAT answer forums are a Gold-mine of information. There were days when I just went thru the Forum to understand how people think about, how do they deconstruct the questions. It is a shared community and I gained a lot of clarity by discussing on such forum
• Okay, maybe I will add just another one. E-GMAT teaches you the process to solve the question and throughout the Scholaranium platform, E-GMAT will keep testing whether you have imbibed the 3-Step process. Once you are comfortable with the application of the 3-step process, you will be answering questions in a jiffy.

2) Take your GMAT early
I mean by January of the application year, it will help you reduce the stress of managing the exam, application, work and family.

3) Shortcuts do NOT work
The GMAT knows that students are applying these shortcuts, such as start and end splits in SC's, Looking only for Conclusion Markers in CR to identify conclusion, not reading the RC enough to comprehend structure and essence of the passage. The GMAT purposefully make questions that will direct you to wrong answers when you work with these shortcuts. This understanding of how the GMAT prepares the questions truly changed my preparation strategy.

4) Time yourself - Initially when you are learning the process, it is rather preferred that you don't time yourself. But once you understand the process and solving questions, definitely time yourself, even if you are doing 15 questions of a particular section. For verbal sectional quizzes, I followed the below time sequence
• SC - 15 questions - 23 mins
• CR - 15 question - 30 mins
• RC (4 passages) - 15 questions- 30 mins (along with reading the passages)

5) If you are a re-test taker then you need to understand the mistakes you were making. If you got a lower score (-20 score) from your GMAT mock tests, then you need to critically look at your preparation. I followed this approach to question myself after each of my GMAT attempts

•Was I able to understand what topics the majority of the questions were trying to test?
•If not, then you have issues with your test preparation material and have not covered the whole gamut of concepts that the GMAT regularly tests.


•How was my timing on the test?
•If you were struggling with your timing, you will know post the test. If so, then you need to understand whether you were applying your set process of how to solve different questions. Prepare a method for solving each type of question. ie SC, CR and RC and don't deviate from that process. Practice, Practice and Practice some more by timing yourself, until applying the process is your second nature.

•Were the mock tests not given in a real test environment?
•Pretty Self- Explanatory

•Was I anxious or nervous during your test?
•Anxiety killed me in my 4th attempt and I knew I had to figure out a way to counter my test-day anxiety. My anxiety was so bad that I did not sleep the night before the test and it definitely affected my test day performance. I was having a meltdown and I was sure everyone in the room could hear how loud my heart was pounding. To counter my test day anxiety, I took up meditation. 20-30 mins every day in the morning. Earlier, I used to study for an hour in the morning for the GMAT, but I replaced the study session with a meditation session. It helped stay calm and manage my stress much better than I could have expected. Fun Fact --> I could not sleep the night before my 5th attempt, but I did not fret about the situation. I accepted my condition and went on to give the test. My last test experience was a lot different than my previous ones. I was in Zen Mode ie a state of focus in which my mind and body were in sync. Even though there was a lot happening in personal life and professional life, the thoughts did not disturb me. Breathing helps to calm down the nerves and the best thing about breathing is that you carry it with yourself all the time. If you feel uneasy or are getting anxious, relax, close your eyes and start breathing. Count your breaths, keep your head focused on your breaths and forget everything else.

•Access your ESR’s. They will tell you how you performed on your timelines. You can also think back to understand how you were performing at the time


6) Persevere, but don't demand results
In terms of efforts, I believe I put less efforts in my 5th (740) attempt than I did in my previous attempts. Point is, after a while, I stopped having any expectation from the test itself. Expectations from yourself, family, colleagues and friends create a lot of unnecessary burden on your life and with all things going on in my life, I just decided to have one less thing to think about. For my 5th attempt, I did not tell anyone that I was preparing again. I never told anyone that I had booked my test date. I also did not skip office to prepare the test. For my earlier tests, I used to take week-long leave from office and give the test. However, that led me to get nervous and anxious about my preparation. But before the 5th attempt, I did not skip office. I prepared over the weekend, went to the office on Monday, took a leave on Tuesday to revise and gave the test on a Wednesday.

7) Exercise - Often
Don't give up on exercise when you are preparing for the test. Pick up an outdoor sport and allow it to be your vessel to relieve your stress. I would implore test-takers to not change their routine drastically for the test, rather adjust the routine so that you can find 2-3 hours of study periods during the days.

8) Keep an Error log
I maintained an error log on Evernote and used tagging to segregate and manage the important questions. Further revise the error log often. Ensure that the Concepts, Errors and learnings that are recorded in the Error log are correct and are from a reputable source. The error log becomes a source of your learning and improvement. If you put in wrong concepts, and keep revising that concept then the practice will build a weak foundation.

9) Read the Wall Street Journal
Start reading the Wall Street Journal. The writing style, diction and grammar are akin to the real GMAT. I read a lot of other newspapers, but I found that the Wall Street Journal combines a lot of rules and concepts that are tested on the GMAT. Reading the Wall Street Journal helps you understand SC and RC questions.

10) Test Center – Reviews
Believe it or not, there are lot of sub-standard GMAT test centers in the country. Read the reviews of the Test Centers on GMAT Club before booking your test date. I lost 2 of my scores, just because of the conditions at the centers.

11) Understand how the GMAT Verbal Works
The whole Verbal section is just based on one key strategy. ie Comprehension. SC tests how do you comprehend and understand one line sentences. Understand that the key to SC is comprehension and not the rules. The rules are just a means towards the goal of comprehending the sentence. CR tests your ability to understand and comprehend a small paragraph. It tests whether you are able to follow and identify the structure of the sentence and understand how the paragraph reached the conclusion. The RC is again comprehension of 3-4 paragraphs. Most of the times, I faltered because I was looking for errors and not looking at comprehending the passages and sentences. Once I started comprehending and understood the intent of the questions , I was able to see thru the traps and figure out the right answers.

Strategies for various Verbal questions types

How I went from a V27 to V41



I believe that a lot of these strategies have been discussed on the forum, but I wanted to put this in because I felt that even though I knew the strategies there was a problem with the application of the strategy.

Sentence Correction



Sentence Correction was my biggest challenge. I must have done everything, right from trying to eliminate answers based on my half hazard knowledge to gaining clarity on the meaning of the sentence and using meaning to eliminate answer choices.
First things First - Idioms are no longer as important they were in earlier tests (till 2015). My classroom coaching guy gave me a list of 500 idioms to memorize. I spent quite a lot of time trying to remember the different concoctions of the idioms and I was miserably failing. I was trying to solve the questions by identifying the idioms and the strategy cost me a lot of time. The GMAT itself has stated it is moving away from idioms and I have no evidence to suggest that idioms will be heavily tested on the GMAT. Further, the GMAT also knows that a lot of people are memorizing the idioms and uses this trick to create wrong answers with right idioms but wrong meaning and incorrect grammar rules. Don’t believe me?? Try this question
https://gmatclub.com/forum/as-criminal-activity-on-the-internet-becomes-more-and-more-220239.html

Do not eliminate answers using the Start and End Split strategy



If you are using split approach strategy, then move away from the approach. Read the given sentence completely. Glean as much information and understand the intent of the sentence. Read the given sentence slowly and understand its meaning by focusing on sentence structure. By the test day, understanding the Sentence structure should come naturally to you. You will not have enough time to dissect the sentence slowly on the test day. Practice this strategy and time yourself ie 23 mins for 15 questions.
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 include SV errors, modifier errors, lists that don’t make sense. Once you have found 2 or three such errors, look for splits and get to the right answer.
The meaning method is longer, but the shortcuts will not hold for tough questions. You need imbibe the Meaning and Structure identification method
Know the Grammar 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 clear. Usage of “Would” and “including” is another topic that you should focus on. Further try to understand where “Modifier-touch” rule can be a bit relaxed. The guys at E-GMAT have done a thorough review of all these nuances of the GMAT and they have published fantastic articles about the topic.

My process for SC Questions



1) Understand the intended meaning of the Sentence and structure of the sentence.
2) Look for obvious errors such as Subject-Verb, Modifiers and Parallelism. E-GMAT has a lot of great videos on how to tackle different types of errors and I will definitely recommend you to take up the course
3) If you identify any errors, then move into the Choices, looking for splits such as S-V splits, Splits with Modifier/ modified elements and Splits with Parallelism elements. Do NOT eliminate answer based on START and END Split technique!!!
4) If you are still unable to find a clear answer, then mark the answer that most clearly gives a clear and intended meaning of the sentence. Prepositional Modifiers are notorious and their placement here and there within the sentence changes the meaning completely. Be Careful

Critical Reasoning



Know the Conclusion, but just knowing is not enough: Find the conclusion and ingrain it in your head, Negate the Conclusion, Find faults with the conclusion and frame an assumption. Once you are ready with the assumption, then jump to the question statement. 90 % of the time you would be asked to find out something around the assumptions, ie weakness, strengthen, evaluate (a subset of assumption questions) and the assumption questions.
Further, remember that keywords are important in CR and these keywords define the scope of the Conclusion. Keep a watch for these words. These words are generally probability indicators and quantity indicators.
By the end of my preparation, I was so used to the negation and Pre-Thinking process that I was using it whenever I was reading newspapers/books to find the assumption for the author’s argument. Imbibe the Pre-Thinking process and you will do well on CR.

Reading Comprehension – Focus on RC to get a higher score



Earlier Strategy
In all my previous attempts, I was focusing most of my efforts on SC and CR. I was hoping that my SC and CR would push my scores higher and would compensate for my RC. Employing this strategy had an unintended effect. On test day, I was taking longer time to solve RC questions, leading to lesser time for the SC and CR question. So in effect, I was just doing one section properly and the other two sections were severely affected.

The Most Important Strategy to deal with RC - Read SLOWLY
I cannot stress this part enough. Looking at the long passage, I felt that I should cut down on the timing of reading the passage so that I could devote more time on solving the questions. I went thru various strategies to reduce my reading time, but it was never effective.

My process for RC Questions – A combination of my personal and E-GMAT reading strategies



1) What you have to realize is that you have enough time to cover all the questions. Do not stress about the timing at all. Take 3+ mins to read, understand and comprehend a short passage (25-30 lines) and 4+ mins to read a long passage (40-60 lines).
2) Prepare paragraph summaries and try to understand why the author has included that paragraph, what is the function of that paragraph?
3) Before jumping to the first question, identify the main point of the paragraph. What is the author’s main point in writing the passage
This strategy has the initial investment of time but is great when you deal with the questions. Using this strategy, I was answering RC questions 45-60 seconds flat.
4) To sort of answer choices question which answer choice can be wrong rather than which answer choice can be right. Again, as in CR, lookout for probability and quantity indicators that might completely change the scope of the choice.
Note: For RC inference and main point questions, the answer choices themselves have a few word that can be a bit confusing and it is best if you understand how the GMAT employs these words.

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.

Quant


I had no specific strategy for Quant. I just tackled the question head-on, solved it and move forward. The E-GMAT course module, along with the GMAT Club Quant tests are truly a great combination and make up for good practice material.

Preparation Materials


1) E-GMAT Verbal and Quant Online – The best strategy and prep material on the market
2) GMAT Club Quant Tests – Gold Class for Quant Practice
3) GMAT Prep – 6 tests – The Real Deal. You won’t get as much practice from anywhere else
4) GMAT Prep Retired Questions – The Voluminous Question bank. Practiced this source regularly 1 month before the examination.
5) GMAT OG Guide – The condensed Question Bank
6) Manhattan Prep Tests – Great for practice. Use extensively to understand Verbal questions.
7) GMAT Question Pack-1 – Good additional set of Questions
8) Wall Street Journal – Read 3-4 articles a day from 20 days before the test. The WSJ app helped me to condition myself to the different nuances of Written English.

My Story



Stage 1- The Initial Struggle



Since my undergraduate years, I planned to go for Higher education. However, I had not decided whether I would go for an MS or an MBA program. After 3 years in employment, it became clear to me that although I truly relished my engineering work, the MBA would be a better fit for me if I wanted to continue in the corporate hierarchy. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Crude prices started falling and there was immediate pressure on all Oil companies to reduce operations, costs and manpower. It was at this time that I decided to seriously pursue my goals for a top MBA program.
In 2015 July, I decided to join a classroom coaching class in Gurgaon. I met a few people who had already given the GMAT. They had scored a 670-690, by just studying for a few months. Talking to them, I felt that GMAT will be a cakewalk. I used to take up the Weekend classes and study for a few hours every weekend. However, I could not follow up my preparation on the weekdays. I completed the course within 2-3 months and was soon giving mock tests. The mock tests did not give me impressive results and test scores were around 650-660. But I wanted to test my preparation for the real exam and feel the true nature of the exam. I booked my dates for November 2015. I was never prepared for this test and it showed on my performance. Further, my examination did not go well as there were a lot of disturbances at the test centre. It was Diwali time and the examination center was in a college. In the middle of the examination, the college students went on a cracker bursting spree :cry: . If this was not enough, the guy beside me started banging his keyboard on the desk. :suspect . My concentration and my scores tanked (GMAT 570). Disappointed, I cancelled my scores. I attributed my bad performance to the excessive disturbances through the examination. I decided to give it a shot again within the next few months (Jan 2016). This time around, I was better prepared and I felt I would score at least a 670-690. My performance on the mock tests was satisfactory and I had a good hold on the basic concepts of the Verbal and Quant. I started with the AWA, IR and went on to do the Quant Section. Before the start of the Verbal section, my concentration and focus started waning. I just wanted to finish the test somehow and could not stand another minute looking at the screen. Impatient, I randomly guessed a few questions. The exam got over and I had scored a 630 (Q48 and V27). Dejected, I accepted the scores this time. These scores would serve me as a reminder of where I stood in my preparation. I knew I wasn't getting to any top college with such scores.
However, there were many learnings from my 2 failed attempts. I will list them below.

Learning
1) The GMAT was not to be underestimated. You will meet people that say the GMAT is piece of cake and you can score > 700 score with only a few months of preparation, some even claim a time of few weeks, but it’s best not to employ such a strategy.
2) During the whole course of my in-classroom coaching, I never felt that I could score above a 650. For such a test, the classroom coaching model was probably not the best fit for me. I had to prepare for the test myself.
3) The GMAT is a true test of patience, a character that is not my strong suit, and focus. Like all important things in life tests the GMAT tests these characteristics, and you will need to work on both these aspects to get a decent score on the GMAT
4) I did not plan ahead, how I was going to manage my breaks. By the 3rd hour, I was completely exhausted and it showed in my results
5) The afternoon GMAT session does not suit me. Half the day passes and by the end of the examination, I was completely drained.
6) Choose your test centers carefully. Read reviews of the centers before booking your dates.
7) I gave GMAT when my industry was in a bad shape and people around me were getting laid-off in large numbers. A friend within my team who started with me in the organization lost his job. I would come into the office and see the desks around me being cleared. The organization was downsizing and familiar faces disappeared, one-by-one. It seemed there was an axe hanging over our heads and it was only a matter of chance that our names were not picked up in the lottery. This was my first downsizing experience and it has been imprinted in my memory. Those days were horrible and the stress affected my GMAT preparation.

Stage -2 - The Serious Attempt - Running against Time



2 tests down, I knew my preparation was not up to the mark. By April 2016, I was back in preparation mode. This time, I planned to study by myself for the examination. After office, I was studying for 2-3 hours on weekdays and 7-8 hours on weekends. I started doing the Manhattan Guide diligently and discovered many aspects that I had not practiced for the previous tests. One thing that I did differently for this test was to concentrate on SC Idioms and CR. Power Score CR bible is a great resource to tackle CR questions. For quant, I worked the GMAT club quant book and solved the OG questions. I also worked thru the Manhattan test series. The Manhattan test series gave me scores in the range of 670-700. I gave a few more practice tests from Veritas Prep (Free Ones) and I got a similar range of scores. I was getting my answers correctly but I was struggling with the time on the mock tests. I had also picked up a few shortcuts along the way such as checking for 2/3 splits and eliminating answers based on Idioms etc and I was these methods gainfully on my tests. But however, hard I tried, I never got a > 700 score on my practice tests. 2 days before my GMAT paper, I gave a GMAT prep test and scored a 690. I was hopeful of pushing my scores above 700 in the main examination. However, the night before the test, I could not sleep. I kept turning and tossing in my bed, but to no avail. Somehow I did fall asleep by about 5:30 AM and woke up at 7:30 AM for the GMAT. The lack of sleep made me sluggish and I felt I would not do well. I was also contemplating cancelling the examination, but the Round 1 application deadlines were fast approaching and I could not delay my GMAT any further. Dazed, I went to the examination centre, a Pearson Vue Center in Noida, which was a major upgrade as compared to the test centre in which I completed my first 2 tests. As the test started, I felt I could have slept on the table. I started with the AWA section (I swear I could have dozed up even before completing the section) and IR section. In my drowsy state, I could not figure out the questions on the IR sections and I guessed randomly. Post the AWA and IR section, I took a break and drank a mug of coffee and washed my face thoroughly. Feeling much better, I entered the room to complete the Quant Section. I overcame my drowsy state and started going through the questions. I was pacing myself well and I felt I was doing well on the Quant section. After Quant section, I took a break and I again tried to counter my drowsiness. Snickers and Coffee did the trick. I went back into the examination hall and started with the Verbal section. I had overstepped my break and the timer deducted 3 mins from the allocated 75 mins. I got a few SC questions right at the start and although I was able to figure out some, there were a couple of SC questions in which I could not understand what topic was being tested. CR seemed to be okay and I was pacing thru the CR's pretty well. RC's were my biggest challenge because they would take the most time and I could not get the right answers. I was searching for tricks and options that would allow me to tackle RC's. One of the tricks I was employing was to read and note down only the first line of each paragraph, skim thru the rest of the paragraph and note down any important names/dates/ places etc. The logic of this trick is that the top one or two lines of each paragraph introduce the paragraph and gives you an idea of what is to be expected ahead. The proponents of the trick were convinced that the main point of the RC's could be found just by analyzing the first few lines of each paragraph. I had employed this technique successfully in the practice tests, but in the real exam the passages seemed more complex and I did not feel confident while marking the RC answers. I finished the test and a 690 (Q49, V34) popped on my screen. It was agonizing to just miss the 700 mark. If I had just done a few more questions correctly, I would have crossed the 700 barrier. Anguished but satisfied with my performance, I left the exam centre. Despite my sluggish morning, I was able to retain my focus and score a respectable number. My Father asked me why I could not give the test again to get a higher score. I replied that "The Round 1 admissions were approaching fast and my 690 would just have to do. My profile would have to mask for sub-700 GMAT." He was little disappointed with my sub-700 score, but he tried not to show his disappointment. The truth is I was tired of giving the over and over again, and that point in time I did not how I would improve my score. I had put in the utmost effort and lacked ideas about how I could further improve my score.

Learnings
1) I was able to tackle the CR pretty easily, but I was not confident while marking the answers for my SC and RC questions. I needed to work on my SC and RC.
2) The fact that I could not sleep well before the test was because of the anxiety of the test. Earlier, I have never had trouble sleeping before exams. Even though I was satisfied with my performance, I probably would have got a higher score, if I was in better condition.

Stage -3 - Admissions Cycle - The Search



Armed with my above average GMAT and TOEFL scores, I planned to apply to some of the top business schools in the world. The GMAT score and my post-MBA goals were the main criteria in my school selection process. I chose to work with admission consultants to help me navigate the admissions process and craft my story. I applied to two business schools in Round#1 ( Tuck and ISB) and applied to other schools in Round # 2 and 3 ( London Business School, Rotman, Penn State Smeal & MSU Broad). The admission process is a completely different monster. My schedule, which was already hectic, became significantly packed. I was sleeping fewer than 5 hours every day. I was flying to international locations for my job and I was searching for MBA events in the area. I also flew to a few domestic locations such as Bangalore to meet admission officers. I prepared my essays, Resumes and video essays and submitted the application within the timelines. After the submission, the agonizingly long wait started. I was getting desperate to get the interview call. To counter my anxiety, I went for a run in the evenings. The sport is a great stress buster and helped me build patience. Though my resume and essays were solid, I did not receive many interview invites. I received just two invites, one from ISB and one from Smeal both of which I could not convert. I had categorized both of these schools as my safe schools and it was heart-wrenching to get a rejection letter from them. There were several reasons for not converting the Interview, but the GMAT was one of the more important ones. I had gone all out on this admission season and put in the great efforts to build and craft my application. The rejections were having an effect on my confidence and personality. A sub-700 score did not help my self-confidence. I had started becoming self-critical and was beating myself up over the wasted time. From August 2016 to April 2017, I was breathing the whole MBA admission process and in the end, I didn't have anything to speak for my efforts. I felt helpless. I had always won previous battles by outworking the competition, but this time efforts seemed to bear no results. The rejections pushed me into a dark place. The only ray of light was that Tuck and Smeal invited me to give a feedback about my application. They had liked my profile, but my GMAT score was an impediment to the admission.

Learnings
1) The adcoms have a stereotypical image of an Indian engineer and no matter how hard you try to differentiate your profile, they are looking at that GMAT score really closely.
2) Your profile may get you an interview, but the GMAT score will get you a scholarship/admission
3) An Indian engineer with a below 720 GMAT is not very attractive to any top school, not even the ones in Top 30
4) Here is a realistic analysis of the importance of GMAT scores for Indian candidates:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/admission-rate-213025.html

Stage -4 - The Inspiration and Clarity in Meaning.



Almost 1 year had passed since I had given my last GMAT. I shifted to a new place and I was staying with a couple of friends who were preparing for their first GMAT. Soon we were discussing the MBA programs and the GMAT. I still had no strength to attempt the GMAT again. One of the friends suggested that I try the course at E-Gmat. I was very skeptical about the offering and I kept putting off the preparation for weeks. I always thought that effective education could not be delivered over the internet and powerpoint slides. In the following weeks, I was thinking about my future plans and how would I go about the next 5-6 years of my life. The GMAT re-attempt question did pop up in my head, but I kept ignoring it because I did not know if I would able to stand the pain all over again.
After all, it was almost a year that I had not touched my books. I imagined what would happen if I gave up on my goals and I realized that even though I would be saved from the temporary pain, but I would have to live with a life-long feeling of guilt and regret. I would rue about not being strong enough to stand up and fight for my goals and aspirations. I did not want to die old man living in regret over not having the backbone to fight for his ambitions.
I decided to put up an effort and signed up for the free 7 days trial of E-Gmat Verbal Online and I loved the content. It was perfect for me. The facts that I could take expert support and also control the timing of my preparation were really attractive to me. Till now, I had sampled almost every test prep offering and E-GMAT was very different. The course focused on the basics and gave me an understanding of how to comprehend one line sentences. I finally came to believe that there was one resource that I could trust would increase my Verbal Score. I signed up for both the Verbal and the Quant Online Package and started to prepare for another bout with the GMAT. My preparation was progressing slowly and steadily and I was learning a lot of new concepts from E-GMAT. I especially liked their Verbal module and I think it’s a perfect resource for non-native verbal speakers. To clear my head, I was also playing football every week with my office colleagues. Unfortunately, in one of the sessions, I tripped and landed on my ankles. The doctor diagnosed it as a case of a fractured ankle, put a plaster on and advised me bed rest for 3 weeks
As a person, I am little hyperactive and I cribbed at the thought of sitting at home and doing nothing. But I figured that it would be a great time for me to complete the E-GMAT course. So I moved in with my parents and started studying for 8-10 hours for the GMAT.
It was a marathon session and within 6 weeks I had completely finished the E-GMAT course (Verbal and Quant) and had completed some of the questions on the Scholaranium, Egmat's excellent data analytics tool that truly helps you identify and work on your weakness. After 3 weeks of recovery, I joined back office, walking with the help of a crutch. My schedule was set up to study for 5 hours in a day ( 2 hours in the Morning and 3 hours in the evening). Since I was still recovering from my broken ankle, I was not able to go out as much as I would have liked. Running was off the table and I had to find other sources to unwind.
Soon I gave my practice GMAT test and I was scoring in the range of 710-750. I was extremely happy with the results I was getting and I decided to give the GMAT another shot in Oct 2017. I took a one week break from the office and locked myself in a room for the test. For the first time in almost 2 years, it seemed that I could achieve > 700 scores. However, the excessive studying, my attempt to catch the second round deadlines for 2018 admissions season created a lot of anxiety and nervousness. I knew that this was going to be my last GMAT attempt and I could finally concentrate on creating the applications.
I booked my test date in Oct 2017. This time the test allowed me to choose the order of the sections and I chose to go with Verbal first. A small commotion outside the centre disturbed my attention. 5 questions down the Verbal section, I put on my earmuffs and went along with the Verbal section. I was going thru the questions pretty easily and kept thinking of that 700 score. The only challenge I felt was on RC's. RC's were never really my strong suit and the passages were comprehending the passages was consuming a lot of time. I was stuck on a few SC questions and took too much time to answer the questions. In the end, I was running short on time and guessed a couple of questions. During the break, I thought to myself that this was a sure shot V40. I went to the Quant section and Quant seemed to uncharacteristically difficult. In the mid-way during the test, I said to myself that I would be lucky if I get a 48 on this Quant. Somehow I managed to finish the Quant section and completed my IR and AWA. I pushed the radio button and made a fervent plea for a score above 700. The screen, however, showed a 690 (Q48 / V35).
Shocked and Stumped, I stared at the screen for a few mins. I could not digest the fact that even after a year and with the amount of preparation that I had done, I got the same score as my previous attempt. Discouraged, I moved out of the exam hall and called my father. When my father heard the score, he did not say anything for a few minutes. I knew he was disappointed and he presumably felt that I had let my last shot go down the drain. But, he said, probably to comfort me, that this was part of life and it was not my day. That day, I was truly disappointed with myself. The past 2 years, I had let the GMAT and MBA admission process control my life. All the decisions that I had made were with the MBA in my mind and it was frustrating to see that my path to my goal was crumbling. My plans were disintegrating and I had nothing to show after 2 years. My Girl also had enough of my experiments and suggested that I should drop the GMAT. The MBA journey was not only affecting me but affecting my family and my relationships. My path had become my poison and it was spreading to other branches of my life. With the same score again, my hopes of applying to Round 2 of the admission cycle were dashed.

Stage-5 - Broken



20 days after my test I was sitting down with my scores and pondering about what went wrong. My quant scores had dropped from my previous attempt and there was no significant improvement in my Verbal scores as well. I was at a loss for an explanation. I got my ESR's and was surprised to see the results. My SC was down in the dumps at 55th Percentile, RC 69th Percentile and CR 97th Percentile. I sent my ESR report to Payal at E-Gmat and asked her review of my ESR. My SC scores were disconcerting because it was an area that I had spent my most time and had seen the most improvement. Over a few hours, Payal replied over and presented a full-blown analysis of my ESR. She mentioned some key points, which I will present in my ESR analysis. She also mentioned a point that my ESR was extremely skewed and she had not many ESR's like mine. The average performance on the Verbal section boiled down to two main reasons

1) I made a few mistakes in the starting 10-15 question.

2) I spent way too much time on my questions.

Understanding where I had gone wrong, I was contemplating of giving the GMAT again, but life had other plans. My father's health, which has been poor for a while now, was deteriorating suddenly. He is suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (Stage 3) (A total of 5 stages, after which the kidney has completely failed) and his disease suddenly started advancing. On the outside, his body was not able to discharge the water and therefore his hands and legs were swelling. His retina was also damaged and he had blood spots inside his eyes. At this rate, if uncontrolled, the kidney damage would be severe. That day my family had a tough decision on our hands. The doctor had suggested the only way to control the progress of the CKD was to undergo dialysis. We took a decision, as a family to take up the dialysis and I stayed with him for the procedure. It was a stressful time for our family. The fact that a person who had been perfectly healthy and fine just a year back today required external aid for survival had me questioning the meaning and purpose of our lives. Days sped by and soon we were able to get my father back home. I stayed with him for a few days and then decided to leave the town to join my duty.

Before leaving, my father had the message for me. He said that every man, who has done something outstanding, faces what you are facing today ie challenges, self-doubts and rejections and that there are times that even the best amongst us needed to respect the circumstance, remain patient and endure.
10 days after fathers discharge from the hospital, I went to an offshore site, which is a remote location with little connectivity. There I found enough time to renew my strength for the GMAT. I did not tell anyone, not even my family and my girl, about my intention to attempt the GMAT again.
This time, around Nov -2017, I went to check E-Gmat Scholaranium SC correction sub-sections. I started doing an analysis that would help me understand which type of questions was I spending the most time on. I understood that I was exceeding the time limit on my Comparison and Parallelism questions. Similarly, I had trouble with the Strengthen and the Evaluate questions on the CR section and my RC, well was just not strong enough. I just had 49 % ability on my RC. In a few days, I was scheduled to give a Verbal Workshop test on the E-Gmat platform. I took the test the test and my scores were pretty average ( 67 % - If I remember correctly) and I was struggling for time. The Verbal workshop, however, gave me action items that I could work on. The workshop told me that even though my concepts were in the right place, I was struggling to apply the process. Without reviewing the question set I decided to start working on my weaknesses - Timing! I pulled up a few GMAT Retired Question Banks and set the timer to time my performance. The timings were as follows
1) SC - 15 Questions - 23 mins
2) CR - 15 Questions - 30 mins
3) RC - 15 Questions - 30 mins (along with reading the passage)

Daily I used to train myself to practice a few sets of Verbal Questions within the time limits. I also took up solving the bookmarked questions within my E-GMAT Scholaranium. In this exercise, I kept track of all the questions that I had trouble solving. Since I had exhausted all my GMAT Prep test (6 tests) in the previous attempt, I decided to use the Manhattan Mock Tests. To improve on my Quant I solved Medium and Hard questions of E-GMAT Quant. Also, I gave multiple Quant tests on the GMAT Club. All these tests and questions were truly golden and helped me structure my thought process and improve my timing. On the Manhattan prep tests, I was giving the Quant - Untimed and Verbal with 75 mins on the clock. I had some experience with Manhattan Quant section and knew them to be extremely tough. Here the strategy was to understand by myself the logic/shortcut to solve a problem. The logic would then help me solve the rather easier problems on the GMAT. Further, I was keeping a track on Evernote of all the questions that I got wrong. Slowly and steadily, after all the practice, I started solving the Manhattan tests. The 6 Manhattan test gave me a score range from 700 to 730 and also helped me understand areas in which I needed improvement. I revised those topics from E-GMAT modules and picked out the questions from the question bank and from E-GMAT Scholaranium on those particular topics and kept practicing till I got a complete hold of the topic.
While I was preparing for the test, I had to frequently travel out of my base for work and it hampered my schedule and test preparation. I was picking up steam but as I went to out of my base, I had to re-schedule and re-engage myself to get into preparation mode. It was difficult to find time after 12 hours of work, but I did find some time, even half hour, to keep my mind focused on the goal.

During this period, my girl had stopped talking to me and we were having trouble maintaining the long-distance relationship. She wasn’t talking and I wasn’t pursuing. We have had our differences in the past, but they were always resolved within a few days, but this time around she stopped texting, blocked me on different social media accounts and blocked me from calling her. It went on for over a month, until the time I started getting worried. It seemed that she was staying out of touch with all our common friends and there was no way to reach her. She finally called me after 40 days and told me that she did not see a future in which our goals and our lives would converge. I told her that I wanted to come over and discuss her inhibitions, but she asked me not to come over. Over the next few days, I booked my tickets to her place, unknown to her. I was at the airport when she unblocked me and she sent me a picture titled “My fiancé” and said “I am engaged now. Don’t make it tough any more than it already is.”

I was devastated and it felt like someone had pierced a blade through my heart. I looked at that picture and kept thinking why and what could have been. I was completely shattered. Life was testing me and slowly but surely was breaking me physically, mentally and now emotionally, piece-by-piece. My support structure was crumbling and there seemed to be no end to my pain. That day, reality hit me hard and crushed me into a million pieces. It just felt that I was slowly losing everyone in this mad race to get to my goals. I faced rejections all throughout the last year but nothing was as painful as the rejection I faced today.

Stage 6: Redemption



Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch.
There are ways out. There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but It beats the darkness.
Be on the watch.
The gods will offer you chances.
Know them. Take them.
You can’t beat death but you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be.
Your life is your life. Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous
The gods wait to delight in you.

This poem by Charles Bukowski was my guiding light and helped me stand up to fight another day, despite the setbacks.
The below link is one of my favourite renditions of the poem
The Laughing Heart - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lK4LrD8Ii4&t=22s
Roll the Dice - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUoqWMzZSyM&t=10s

I had already booked my Test date for Jan 31, ~ 3 weeks from the day at the airport, but the setback had blown the wind out my fight and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was feeling angry at the situation that I could not control. In a few days, I found myself and I re-focused for the preparation, thinking as little as I could about the betrayal. My office work also kept me quite busy through that time and I had little time to think about anything else. In the meantime, I put up as much as 2 hours a day for the preparation of the test. Before the test, I practised on the E-GMAT Verbal Workshop again, and even though it was a repeat test, I had forgotten the questions from the last time. The Verbal workshop gave me a score of 89 % with 100 % correct answers in SC, 71 % correct answers in CR and 80 % correct answers in RC. I also took up the GMAT Prep Exam 5 and 6 and was pleasantly surprised to score a 740 and 750 respectively. I knew I was peaking and I wanted to get over the test. The next few months in office would crazy hectic work and I would find no time to give the test if I missed the Jan 31st deadline. Unknown to everyone, I booked my test date.

After my 4th attempt, I had identified that anxiety and nervousness were a real problem on the test. I took up meditation and used to take it up daily for 20 mins. The practice helped me calm my nerves and put my realities in perspective. Further, I was running again and it felt really nice to not give complete control of my life to the GMAT.

The night before the test, I could not sleep again, but this time I did not fret. I accepted the fact that I have not been able to sleep and I just had to manage my lack of sleep. I went into the test center, this time the Pearson Vue Center in Delhi, and calmly started with the Quant section. Right off the start, I got some tricky and easy questions. Unlike last time, I was much more confident and the answers were just flowing. Everything that day was in sync and I was in Zen mode. I finished my quant, took a break of 8 mins, in which I grabbed coffee and snickers, and then moved on to the Verbal Section. By the time I started the test, I had lost 2 mins on the clock. Again, the small setback did not faze me and I continued with my responses. For SC questions, I could easily identify what the questions were targeting and I was able to eliminate wrong answer almost immediately. I got two questions that I solved just based on the meaning of the sentence. In the RC section, I kept my cool and slowly and calmly understood the passage. Once I understood the passage, answering the questions were a matter of 45-60 secs. CR was my strong suit and I just followed my 3 step plan to eliminate wrong answers. Finally, I moved onto the IR and AWA section and finished the test. After a 4-hour long marathon GMAT exam session, a 740 (Q49/ V41) showed on my screen. I had been waiting for this day for 2.5 years and it finally happened. But there was no feeling of excitement or euphoria, it was a feeling of calm and relief. I got up from my seat and collected my test report to confirm that my scores were accepted. I went out and sent a picture of the scorecard to my father. He called and expressed his surprise over my sudden decision to give the test. He was happy, and for me it felt satisfying that he was content. I left the test center, thanking the gods and knowing that I had finished one part of my long journey

Life Learnings


• Over the last 2.5 years, I had grown a lot and there were a lot of things that I had experienced and learnt. The important thing that this journey taught me was that things that are worth having or achieving don’t come easy. Don’t ever give up feeling that you are inadequate. You yourself will need to face your challenges and fight your own battles.
• Life will throw unexpected challenges. For me they were the extreme uncertainties of my job, the deteriorating health of my father, mental agony over the instability of my relationship, the loss of self-confidence when schools outright scraped my application and my inability to score a decent score on the test. All of these happened together, and there was no escape. The point is, don’t stop believing in yourself. You might have a more difficult situation than I did, but remember there is always light at the end of your tunnel. The worst will pass.
• Patience and Stress Management  we are all growing and taking up much more responsibility than before. Cultivating patience and managing the stress are critical for our future. For me, I developed a habit to keep running and continuing meditation. Running helped me develop patience and pushed me to keep up the effort even when I was in pain. Meditation bought about calmness and clarity in thought process.
• The idea that kept me going even after multiple setbacks were that whether I could live with myself if I gave up on my attempts. Whether in the future, I would regret my decision of not pursuing my goals? If yes, then I had no business robbing myself of the opportunity because I failed to put in the efforts.
• I met a lot of people during my test prep. Some gave up without many attempts, some of the rest gave up still after a few setbacks and still some of those who already gave up will create unwarranted pressure by asking you about your preparation and your plans and offer advice that goes contrary to your goals. These advice will come from even your close and trusted friends, your parents and your colleagues. If what you are doing is important to you, then you alone have the right to take that decision. Don’t let someone else’s judgment cloud your path. Maybe in the short term you will justify to yourself that giving up was the right thing to do, but your inner self will know that you backed down not because of your own inadequacy but because someone else was making the decisions for you.

Share Kudos if you read the post and find some inspiration


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Originally posted by pnishant on 18 Feb 2018, 08:11.
Last edited by pnishant on 20 Feb 2018, 06:37, edited 7 times in total.
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New post 18 Feb 2018, 10:46
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Allow me to be the first person to Congratulate you... Awesome score buddy... All the best for your Application..I am also struggling in Verbal and your debrief provides me a lot of Hope... !!

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New post 18 Feb 2018, 17:59
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pnishant

This is unarguably one of the best detailed debrief I came across.
I visit this forum multiple times with a hope to get inspired and must
confess that your Gmat struggle is more than a victory over a simple
exam. It reflects your strong character and 'never give up' attitude.

Gmatclub is proud to be part of your success and wish you close the
journey with acceptance in your dream B school. Amen.
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 00:45
Congratulations and thanks for the phenomenal writeup, to share your experience. One question. You have mentioned in your post the following:

For verbal sectional quizzes, I followed the below time sequence
• SC - 15 questions - 23 mins
• CR - 15 question - 30 mins
• RC (4 passages) - 15 questions- 30 mins (along with reading the passages)

So, this adds up to 83 minutes, while we have only 75 minutes in Verbal. So, as per your experience, how should be best compensate this 8 minute deficit.
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 01:15
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I have always been a lurker on this forum, and never posted a thing. But this post was just so well written and articulated that i could not help but post a reply and congratulate you on your triumph.

So many ups and downs throughout your journey, yet you come up as a champion that too with flying colors.

Kudos to you, and Congratulations on your stellar score :-) :thumbup:
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 03:08
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Thanks for the detailed report and congratulations on your 740 score! Best wishes for your fathers health, and forget about the ex. Success is the best revenge and there are alot of fish in the sea.
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 03:24
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I'm awe-struck by the effort you put into making this post. Congrats on scoring a 740. Good luck with your applications. I'll note down the points you've mentioned.

I did struggle with my gmat as well to score a 710.

PS - Looking at the effort you've taken to reach a 740, please verify your score on gmatclub, A green tick would appear beside your score and that's pretty cool :)


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New post 19 Feb 2018, 04:26
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Unarguably the best debrief on gmatclub. People mostly tell about the preparation and course they opted for, but you have pictured the entire struggle and entire journey. There are so many guys going through the same and even more. Your debrief motivated me and many others who are on the edge of giving up to the everyday happenings of life.
I will be coming to read this debrief over and over, just to remind myself how winning is done. I feel every word you have mentioned in this debrief. I'm sorry for what you have lost in past and i wholeheartedly wish that you get the best now.
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 06:31
pnishant - One of the best debriefs on GMAT Club. Congratulations on acing the GMAT!! :)
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 06:45
Your journey is truly inspiring and motivating..congrats for the great score ..and best of the luck for your application.
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The best debrief ever! Disappointed and frustrated, I was looking for some motivation from last two days and as luck would have it I stumbled upon this! Pure gold! Exactly what I needed. I was so sick of reading "750, first attempt, 4 weeks" (nothing against these guys, honestly)... that got me thinking - maybe I am dumb and I should accept the fact :( . But then this happened. Real story, real people and real inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this. Congratulations and please keep motivating people!
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 08:25
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Congrats man. This debrief made me understand one thing that getting nervous before the exam is acceptable and that I shouldn't be dejected by that nervousness.
It really calmed me down. Thanks for the great post !!

All the best for your future endeavour.
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 10:44
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pnishant

First off, Congrats on the awesome GMAT score.
Wish you all the best for the applications(Hope you get into your first choice school)

Kudos to your patience and self-belief. Beyond a point, people begin to lose confidence
in themselves. This is probably a lesson for all those who lose hope whenever things
don't go as per plan. I have seen so many people quitting on their GMAT dream after
a couple of failed attempts.

I salute your will to succeed, Kudos to you!
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New post 19 Feb 2018, 16:46
Kudos to you!
Congrats on your score!
I'm really appreciated for your honest and clear debrief.
Good luck and best wishes!


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New post 20 Feb 2018, 02:18
Congratulations on your score! Thank you so much for the detailed debrief, it is sure to help alot of people (including me). Best of Luck for your future! :D
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New post 20 Feb 2018, 17:31
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Manukaran wrote:
Congratulations and thanks for the phenomenal writeup, to share your experience. One question. You have mentioned in your post the following:

For verbal sectional quizzes, I followed the below time sequence
• SC - 15 questions - 23 mins
• CR - 15 question - 30 mins
• RC (4 passages) - 15 questions- 30 mins (along with reading the passages)

So, this adds up to 83 minutes, while we have only 75 minutes in Verbal. So, as per your experience, how should be best compensate this 8-minute deficit.


Hey Manu,

The idea with this sectional break up is to have a minimum baseline and get used to the timing on the GMAT. if you see the number of questions, even the number of questions add up to 45 Questions, which is slightly higher than the number of questions that are actually tested. So this is an exercise to train your brain to complete an SC question within 90 secs and a CR/RC questions within an average of 2 mins.

Thanks
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Congrats for the great score :-) :thumbup: ! The debrief is really nice and detailed. :thumbup:
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New post 20 Feb 2018, 22:35
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Congrats bro. I share a similar profile and experience like yours. And I’m also struggling with verbal. Hopefully your debrief ll help me
Good luck with your application process


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New post 26 Feb 2018, 13:37
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Nishant - Thank you for taking the time out and doing justice to your story. I must say that it’s an amazing debrief, right amongst the best I have read (and I have read many). I am sure that many test takers will benefit from the same.

Sasindran - To improve GMAT Verbal 1) focus on one section at a time 2)Use the right methods 3)Study consistently and take notes.

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New post 26 Feb 2018, 19:05
Congrats!!! 740 is just phenomenal score :-)

mcelroytutoring Here is another 740!!! ESR attached :-)
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