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Debrief - 1st Time 710

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Debrief - 1st Time 710  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jul 2017, 10:07
Hi everyone,

I just finished taking the GMAT this morning and scores a 710 (48Q, 39V, IR8). It has been a whirlwind, but reading these debrief posts were super helpful to me, so I wanted to give back and write up my experience! I anticipate this will also be pretty cathartic for me.

My Background

-Graduated with a BA in Econ in 2015 from a small, private liberal arts college
-Two jobs so far: Market Analyst at an energy consulting company in the Midwest and a business development position at a consulting position in DC
-Motivation: Looking to apply for Bschool next year or in two years; I wanted to get this done early and know where I should look

Total Study Time: 208.5 Hours


Over the course of working towards the GMAT, I developed a succinct philosophy to follow and guide me:

"The GMAT requires strategy, hard work and luck"

Strategy: Know the tactics and strategy to get through the sections, such as (Empower Prep language here) Test-It, Test the Answers, Triage, etc..
Hard Work: Put in the hours and drill the materials through, identify strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, drill in and practice questions
Luck: Like any difficult thing to pull off, you need luck. That doesn't mean just hoping for luck, it means setting yourself up for success. For me, that meant biking to work to improve my health, eating better, meditating, drinking a little less alcohol, planning out studying time and all the other little bits


I thought about taking the GMAT late in 2016 as a way to keep myself career-focused since I knew I wanted to go to Bschool in the coming years. Since I knew I wanted to do that, I thought the best thing to do first would be to take the GMAT. Everything I read said to do that first and get it out of the way. Now that I have it done early, I can focus on other parts of my application! Also - I know I'll be super indecisive about schools since I don't want to get too attached, so now know what ranges of schools I should look at (since I have my score).

I bought the Kaplan GMAT book off Amazon in the fall of 2016. It wasn't very impressive and felt clunky. I didn't end up using it and my GMAT interest waned a bit. Over time, I practiced a bit using the GMAT Club practice tests and moved my Quant scores from low 20s into the mid-30s as a learned content and knowledge, slowly. My interest gathered steam around early March 2017 and I decided to get started formally, aiming for a test day in May since I knew I had a vacation coming up!

I knew that the Kaplan book wouldn't work, but I saw the in-person and online courses were very expensive, so I went ahead and got a set of the MGMAT books. I started working with these resources but didn't make much progress. I scored a 570, 610 and 590 on two MGMAT tests and a Kaplan test, and by April, I had spent close to 60 hours with nothing to show and a looming test day in late May. I saw my verbal scores doing ok in the low 30s and Quant scores that were struggling to get past Q37! I was very disappointed that I had spent so much to see my scores only come to around 600. But I quickly learned that this was only the start.

I then decided that I'd move my test back a few months, get the right resources and enroll in an online course. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. I bought the OG 2017 and the OG 2017 Quant Review. Most importantly, I enrolled in the 3-month, self-guided Empower GMAT course. I shelled out the cash and it was worth it (Thanks, Rich!). I tried to closely adhere to their 3-month schedule of using their modules, GMAT Prep exams, and other practice problems. I didn't do everything due to time constraints. I skipped a lot of geometry and RC content since those are weirdly my strengths. Over the course I slowly raised my scores, trying to take a practice test about once every two or three weeks. My GMAT scores did not climb as quickly as desired. They went from a 610 to a 610, then two 630's. Then I scored a 660 a month out from my exam. The last practice CAT I took, I scored a 680! The Empower course really honed my abilities, helped me identify my weaknesses, but most importantly, gave me the tools and strategies to succeed.

Their method is focused on honing the basics and using your skills to get all the easy questions right. I never actually learned how to solve complex work problems, difficulty ratios, and difficult remainder questions. But, I didn't need to! You can get away with a lot knowing you can ditch some questions and spend more time on other questions.

However, each problem I did practice, I made sure to thoroughly understand the question and how to solve it. Not just solving this specific question, but understanding the math and logic.

Also - I never used an error log, besides writing down questions and sometimes marking questions to return to. I have 7 notebooks of questions, but I never reviewed them too much. An error log might work if you use it diligently and it is very organized!

Materials Used

Kaplan GMAT Book - First thing I bought; was unwieldy and large. Difficult to start here - would not recommend!
Manhattan GMAT Prep - I bought all of their Quant and General Strategy Books. Good stuff to get me going, but still felt like I was all over the place
GMAT Club Forums: Read to benchmark yourself, your strategies and various resources to use
GMAT Club Practice Tests: Good and Very Advanced. Didn't use too much beyond my initial practice, but probably good for Q48+
Empower GMAT: 10/10 would recommend. Their methods were very useful. It felt like self-study since it was all on my own, but it gave me a structure to work with. Basically, there was a definitive endpoint!


I started to taper my GMAT studying 4 days before studying. I tried to do at least 10Q and 5V a day to stay fresh, but life gets busy. I took my GMAT on a Monday, so I studied a bit on Saturday morning, but mostly laid low and took it easy. I didn't do much besides reading, playing board games with friends, having a few drinks, preparing my Monday schedule and exercising! The night before, I also watched the newest Game of Thrones and then went straight to bed.

I focused intensely on my test-day experience. That meant I prepared all my materials beforehand, understood my route to the testing center and got all my bike stuff ready. I also didn't bring my phone and I woke up extra early to bike to work, shower and walk to the test center with ample amounts of time. I arrived at 7:20 and they brought us up to the test center at 7:30. I was the first one in and got started. Beforehand, I centered myself and was taking myself up the whole time - trying to stay upbeat.

I chose to take the test with Quant first, then Verbal, then IR + AWA. The Quant questions didn't seem easy, but we were not too difficult. I didn't try to focus on my overall experience but rather focused on each individual question. I had practiced my pacing (10 Q / 55mins, 20 Q / 35mins, 30 Q / 15mins) and basically nailed it! That was very important. I ditched and triaged about 3 to 4 questions. I attempted two of them before guessing and I wholesale guessed on a couple more that I didn't know how to do. I finished Quant knowing it went okay, but it felt like a mixed bag.

Then I took my break - got some food, water and used the bathroom. After going in and out of the testing room, I discovered that I went over by 20 seconds. I was initially mortified, but honestly, it wasn't a big deal. I always finished Verbal with a few minutes to spare, so I ignored it and moved on. My verbal felt exactly like GMAT prep - solid on the CR & RC, but SC felt difficult. I cruised through it and finished with 20 minutes to spare. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THAT. I had always tried to pace myself but I always rushed through it and still got a V39. If you are rushing, like me, it seems like it would be worth it to know more content for SC and practice difficult CR questions!

My IR section was a breeze. I think it was because, until the actual GMAT, I didn't see you could use the built-in calculator. After initially feeling stupid, I finished with time to spare and a score of 8. AWA was also very easy, but I write for my job, so it felt easy. It felt amazing to see the score flash up at the end, so your prep is absolutely worth it.


-Focus on doing a solid and good 10Q and 10V a day. That kept me focused
-You have to build time into your schedule, but don't overwork yourself. I worked over my lunch hour for 3 months. It was extremely difficult, but I had my nights free
-The hours matter. I cranked out 200, but I think I figured out how to study after hour 160. Don't make that mistake. Study smarter, not harder.
-Your resources matter. Almost all of my improvement came from OG materials and Empower.
-Get rest, eat well, exercise. Your prep won't matter if you don't do this.
-Don't pysch yourself out. I told myself I can always take it again, spend more $$, study harder. It reduces the pressure!
-You gotta live & breath the GMAT to a certain degree. I definitely would have dreams about it. I also got to a point that doing Q problems were enjoyable.
-Set goals and stick to them. I had a hard time setting a weekly schedule, so I would commit myself to just 10Q and 10V a day at most, with one practice test a week.
-Know your test center, visualize success and practice.
-Know your strengths - spend more time on these problems and skip the ones that are your weaknesses.
-Do your most difficult section first. I knew Quant was my hardest area, so I did that first.
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Joined: 13 Aug 2015
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GMAT 1: 710 Q49 V38
GPA: 3.82
WE: Corporate Finance (Retail Banking)
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Re: Debrief - 1st Time 710  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jul 2017, 19:10
First of all, congratulations!!!
Doing 10 questions set each day is really a good strategy to keep the pace. I'm too trying to incorporate it.
Like you have mentioned, eating well, getting rest, and doing meditation is really critical to deal with gmat anxiety. Thank you for the tips.
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Re: Debrief - 1st Time 710  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jul 2017, 20:52
Hi Classof15USA,

First off, a 710/Q48 is an OUTSTANDING score (it's right around the 90th percentile overall), so you can (and should) apply to any Business Schools that interest you.

You brought up a number of really important points that a lot of Test Takers simply don't think about. While many GMATers think of their studies as just about learning content and working through a big list of practice questions, there are physical and psychological factors that absolutely influence a person's attitude, energy and capacity to perform at a high level on the GMAT. Those same factors will play a big role in how you work through Business School - and your career - so you should keep them all in mind (as you'll likely be using them for years to come).

While you won't be applying to Business School for some time, when you decide to apply, you should reach out and let us know. We have a 'go to' Admissions Expert who we recommend (especially when applying to highly-competitive Programs) - and we'll be happy to set you up with a free consultation.

Congrats again on your success!

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Re: Debrief - 1st Time 710  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Jul 2017, 13:10
Congrats on the awesome score - make sure to celebrate! :-)

Many great points brought up, and it's always a positive message that perseverance pays off. 200+ hours, and an everyday commitment to excellence
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Re: Debrief - 1st Time 710   [#permalink] 26 Jul 2017, 13:10
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