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Four years to 760 - my journey

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Four years to 760 - my journey


It is strange to write this post after completing 5 years in this forum. GMAT for me, has been a huge battle with a lot of learning about myself. I, personally, love the test (as evident from my presence in this forum), and always considered it a personal failure that I could not get the score I wanted in the real test after repeatedly scoring in higher 700s in practice tests. The last year has been really difficult for me (GMAT, applications, among others), and this year I wanted to make everything right. I knew that GMAT was going to be the first place to start.

Warning: This is going to be a long post. If you have the time, read along. If you do not, I will post some sort of a TL;DR version in the next couple of hours/days.

Phase 1 : The first taste of the GMAT - 2012-2015


I was a regular on the forums, and scored 760 on the Manhattan test early on. I was overconfident and had just graduated from college. I wanted to get the GMAT out of the way and focus on building a b school relevant profile, figure out schools and then apply a couple of years down the line. (I was 22). I took the GMAT and scored a dissapointment - a score that was more than 700 (Yay) but not nearly close to my practice test scores. I did prepare quite a bit, but deep inside I was not really happy with my score. I started being on the forums more often, did many projects and made a lot of really good friends. Meanwhile, I quit my job, joined a non-profit and stayed there for two years. 2.5 years later I got into another non-profit in a fairly high level position and decided that now is the time to take the GMAT again.

Phase 2: The year that was - 2016


Personally, I was doing well in lots of fronts last year. I was finally happy with my work, GMAT Club had become an extended family, and B School application seemed a very realistic goal. Almost all consultants told me I had a really nontraditional profile (in a good way), and I should have no problems clearing the top 10. I booked the GMAT date in June and was on my way to a perfect year of application. Little did I know that stopping at Baskin Robbins to get some ice cream for my mom who was visiting would change everything. Somebody stole my bag that had both my laptop and my passport. I realized the importance of the passport for the GMAT 2 weeks before the test (yes, I was an idiot). I had to run around the passport office for months (The Indian system for stolen passports is far from perfect), and my whole plan was tossed. I postponed the GMAT for two months and finally got the passport. Took the GMAT in the worst state of mind and scored the same. I thought I could make up with my application stories, and my profile but the year, one of the most brutal for Indian applicants, defeated me.

I was left with 0 admits, and it was the worst feeling I have ever felt.

See I am the kind of a guy who got things pretty easily in my life: I got into a really good college, my first job was a blue-chip manufacturing giant, and I had developed quite a decent set of accomplishments in working in non profits for over four years. Business schools did not see it, and I felt like a loser. What was the hardest part was that GMAT Club members whom I tutored or helped reviewing essays had gotten into their schools of choice while I was sucking my thumb. 2016 was NOT a good year.

Phase 3: 2017: Ray of sunshine



This year started off with the best feeling of my life. I got an interview invite from Haas. Haas was my top choice all along and I figured they must have looked past my GMAT. Haas is also known to be notoriously selective, so needless to say I was feeling really good and my interview went really well. Haas ended up not admitting me, but honestly, I could not be happier. Haas had shown interest and I knew that all I needed was to get that 99th percentile. Meanwhile, I was the youngest in my company to get promoted to a lead position this year, and my CEO was kind enough to encourage me to reapply. My boss, kind lady, asked me to take my last two weeks of April off to prepare for my test (I had earned those leaves - I think I did). I prepared my butt off in those 2 weeks (and a month before that). I took my test last Saturday. As I finished my last SC question, almost certain to face the same fate, 760 flashed in my screen.

I am going to business school in fall 2018

(Note that the last sentence would not be a correct SC sentence, but you probably knew that already)

Are you with me so far? Now that you are somewhat familiar with my story, let's get to the part that you are here for. My test day experience and my preparation (I doubt whether my experience will help the average test-taker, but I will try to make it that way)


Test Day - 13th May 2017


I had booked the test in the last slot almost (4:30 pm). I am not a morning person and I wanted to be as alert as I could. The night before was pretty bad and I did not get sleep till 5 am. A last moment chat with bb had calmed me down and I woke up after 5 hours of sleep. I made myself a burger for brunch and revised my learning log (I had a very elaborate learning log - more on that later). I reached the centre at 4 pm and started my test at 4:15.

AWA was fairly easy. While I knew the chineseburned template by heart, I did not follow it exactly. I used my own vocabulary (facile, farrago and some others that I don't get to use every day), and wrote 4 paragraphs in the format: Restate the claim | Weakness 1 with example | Weakness 2 with example | Questions for the author | Conclusion and had 15 mins to spare. I told myself that IR will be a blast and started the section. IR was a breeze for me, and I had always scored decently with IR. However, my first (and only) MSR question came at Q9, and I had problems with the passage. I guessed two and answered one. The last question was easy. I clicked next and took my break.

For break, I had taken sunflower seeds, almonds and a litre of ice cold water with BCAA (I don't consume carbs and BCAA helps me in the gym). Took a few gulps, and went for the first 75 minutes that was quant.

I was VERY close to making a ridiculous silly mistake in my first question. I almost slapped myself and moved on. Quant seemed to be a mix of easy to moderately difficult questions but nothing that I did not expect (my quant prep this time was really efficient - more on that later). From my ESR, I can see that I have made 2 mistakes in quant. While that probably should have led to a Q51, but what do you know! Middle of the test, I completely forgot the total angle of a polygon formula, but I was able to answer the question correctly by eliminating other answers. (UGH). Quant ended on a good note. However, in the 20-30 set of questions I had a few REALLY simple questions. One of them just required the expansion formula of \((x+y)^2\) and I remember triple checking the answer. Glad I did. The last time, I had 18 minutes to spare but this time I made sure I spent enough time on tricky DS questions. I finished quant with 5 minutes to spare. Raised my hand and took a break.

This time, I was quite sure that I had bombed my quant and only verbal could save me. Ate a few almonds, gulped down the entire bottle of BCAA and braved myself in front of the computer.

Now, I know that a lot of people think that SC has changed or verbal is more difficult. I could not agree to any of those claims. If you look at some of the harder official questions, you will soon realize that GMAT has always had a huge collection of really tricky SC and CR questions and incredibly dense RC passages. I really enjoyed SC (it is my strong point) and made sure I did not fall into the trap of following blind parallelism. Meaning was something that I did not much care about but I made sure that I know every modifier in each question, their modifee (I made it up), subject and verbs and pronouns and whether they agree. Only when I could not find grammatical mistakes I moved on to the meaning. I had to do that exercise in 2 or 3 SC questions.

Critical reasoning was very tricky this time, but I had practiced a really decent CR template and used it for all questions. Same was with RC (more on that later). I had 2 really big passages. On Q36, I had my last RC which made me very nervous as I had little time to spare. Fortunately, I could decode the RC farily quickly. The 40th question was a CR which I had trouble solving. I ensured my clock was at 73:00 for the last question. Ended up spening 4 mins on the 40th CR question. Probably did not get it right.

I already mentioned how I felt while finishing the test, but just to recap: I froze looking at my score and had the TA ask me if I want to cancel the score. I mumbled something and confirmed that I wanted to accept the score. (Of course I did).

Came out: spoke to bb, and the wonderful mod team and called my parents. I also wanted to call all my schools that had rejected me, but they will hear from me in a few months.

All good in 2017.

How I prepared for the test


Many people are naturally good at standardized tests. I am not one of them. While I think I get things easily but I also am a very fidgety person with a very low attention span. I will elaborate more on what I did but before that a bit of preface:

I have used/reviewed the following courses over the last few years.

1. Knewton Full Course (I am old in this game)
2. Manhattan 9 week full online course
3. Veritas Prep Live online course.
4. e-GMAT verbal online course.
5. Kaplan live online course.
6. EMPOWERgmat online course

I think I did a few others as well. I paid for all of them except the Kaplan, which I was just auditing. I realized that almost none of the courses are enough to get you a 760. It all boils down on how you choose to reflect on your mistakes and train for the test. Most of these courses are really good at catching you up with the basics. Some of them also go in really good detail (such as e-GMAT), but since I had already exhausted the first 4, I decided to go with EMPOWERgmat for my last attempt. Why? I am not sure. I guess I wanted a change and I really enjoyed how Rich talked about the psychology of the test. I loved their approach to CR and RC and ended up using them thoroughly in the test. I also think they stress on testing cases a lot and almost force you to think from an answer choice point of view.

Let me get into the details of each sections. (Read: How to score a 99th percentile).

Problem Solving: This, in my opinion, should be your best bet in the quant section. Here are some advices.

  • NEVER trust a solution by someone else at face value. If it is not your solution, chances are you probably have not internalized it. Apply the solution in other problems and see if you can do it on your own.
  • Bunuel is a genius. You are probably not. Follow every single one of his questions but don't take his solutions for granted. You may think that "oh this was so easy" but remember that you did not come up with it and probably will not on test day. Case in point: This question or This one. Bunuel has amazingly elegant solutions to both of them but if you think you can come up with similarly stellar stuff on test day you are probably mistaken.
  • Moral of the story - Strive for multiple ways of solving a problem. When you look at a problem: ask yourself this. Can I solve it any other way? If the answer is Yes, don't assume. Get your ass to solve it on a piece of paper. If the answer is No, grind and post on the forums. Somebody will respond. Probably Bunuel. Thank him for me.
  • GMAT Club tests - Ironically, I never used them fully in my previous attempts. This time I left nothing behind. I solved and reviewed ALL GMAT Club questions. Yes all thousands of them. I worked hard.

Data Sufficiency: I knew that DS was going to be a more difficult battle than quant. I realized that organizing your thoughts is key for DS, and being a very messy, borderline ADHD person in general, I had to grind even harder. This is what I did.

  • DS questions are of two types. One which has a value answer and one which has a Yes/No type answer. For every one of them I made a matrix like this.



    Image



    Sounds complicated: Trust me, this makes your life infintely easier and makes sure you don't forget anything midway (Learned this from Ron Purewal).
  • I was also extra cautious in writing down any pre-conditions such as x is an integer or x is non-negative. I tended to miss those and get things wrong.
    Basically I followed this Rule - IF YOU FORGET SOMETHING, WRITE IT DOWN.
  • Lastly, Two Words: GMAT Club tests. Bunuel and bb have created the most GMAT - like (but harder) questions that are laden with traps. If you do them religiously, you will automatically grow to be a more careful person. I did not take them in tests format, but in quizzes. This is what it looks like now.


    Image



    Yes I solved 1100+ quant questions. I believe Q49 to Q50 is a very tough journey but Q50 and Q51 are often interchangable. You can disagree.

Sentence Correction: Sentence correction was always my strong point. My last ESR showed that my SC score was 92nd percentile, so I knew I had to work extra hard to make it even better. This is the approach that I followed for every single SC question. (BTW I improved my SC score to 98th percentile).

  • First, identify if there is something straightaway wrong with the original sentence (optionA).
  • In the other answer choices, actively look for bad parallelism (the most common error choice in the GMAT and more complicated that you may think), check modifiers and their placements with respect to the stuff that they modify, and finally check if pronouns have an antecedent (this is NOT the same as pronoun ambiguity, which is NOT something that the GMAT tests very rigorously - ask me in a reply if you want me to clarify that point).
  • If you can't decide between two choices (very rare), choose the one with the better parallelism. If that does not cut it choose that one that is more concise. The tricky thing is that for some ultra hard SC questions the most concise option will probably be wrong (that is why it is a hard question).

Critical Reasoning

While I did not engage in a lot of prethinking, I made this template for every single (except inference questions) CR questions, even in the actual test. This template is for an assumption question (hence the A). However, the other parts of the table will always be the same. In the top column I would rephrase the conclusion of the argument in my own words in the column below I would try to write down any missing piece that could make the argument tighter. (it could be as specific as the answer below or as vague as something like "No other cause/reason". It is just a push to get you to think in the right direction. Thanks @EMPOWERgmat for this great tool and I have seen that this template has helped me increase my focus in CR questions. My percentile has also increased from 83 to 92.


Image


Reading Comprehension

This was my biggest issue in verbal. I could barely keep my attention going and my last percentile was 69. I knew I had to do a lot better to ace verbal this time. I followed Empower's advice again and made a template like this for every passage that I got.



Image



The second column is to understand the author's tone (postive, neutral or negative) for every paragraph along with the main point of that paragraph. I recommend reading at a speed that does not hinder your comprehension. Reading slowly and getting the passage, in my opinion, is a far superior approach than moving to the questions directly without a careful understanding of what the passage has to say. The tone really helped me nail primary purpose questions. Again, thanks to EMPOWERgmat for this great approach.

Thoughts on GMAT Prep companies


  • It may seem that I am recommending EMPOWERgmat, but that is simply not true. I liked their approach but I do think several prep companies have really good processes to help you improve. I really wanted a fresh start and they gave me new structures to play with. I think it boils down to how badly you want something. I am certain if I wanted this score last year, I would have worked harder and scored better than I did.
  • However, I do not think the same way about GMAT Club tests. I think they are totally essential. I do not agree with what a lot of people say that it is only useful if you want a Q49 or above. If you are taking the GMAT you want the best possible score. I would not recommend you do them in your first practice session, but eventually, I think it is the best resource for GMAT quant. Nothing comes close.
  • No GMAT company can get you the score you want. There is no magic formula and silver bullets. That is precisely why I really love the test, as it is a trainable skill. Sure there are some people who are just really good at standardized tests, but they are exceptional outliers. For any normal dude, if you put in the work and are ready to constantly face the mirror and nitpick on yourself, this test is yours.

Some gratitude for the end


  • GMAT Club is an ecosystem that defines my online presence. I love the community (if you type GM in my web browser, GMAT Club will appear before gmail, and I have 5 active gmail accounts). I try to give back some to people but my ledger is always red. I seem to have received way more than I have given. To give a perspective: there is a guy in Atlanta who recently graduated from Fuqua who responds to my email in seconds and always happy to talk. bb is a private message way (I still can't comprehend how), and Bunuel replies to every single post on the forum (I can't comprehend this too). I have made a lot of friends and lost touch over the years and some are new. One of them is helping me set up a trading portfolio, and the other is planning a reapplication strategy in conjunction. My point is that this community is full of some extremely helpful and smart people. Contribute and you shall receive. Don't be a stranger who has 0 posts and tons of PMs asking people of things. Giveth and thou shalt receive.
  • I will write a similarly detailed post when I get into a school, so let's hope for that and keep our fingers crossed.
  • If you want me to post my ESR, I am happy to do that. (I do have to check if there is any confidentiality code in the PDF but probably not. Although many people have shared their ESRs, but rules and rules I guess. I will post it if you guys want.

    That's pretty much it from my side. There are probably a bunch of typos which I will fix over the next couple of days.

    It has been a wild journey. Time to call the curtains.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 12:26
Loved every word of your post. Highly inspiring. Thank you for such a great post.

Wish you good luck for your future. :)

And I know we're going to be friends throughout​ our life.

Thanks to GMATClub for giving me great friends. :-D
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 12:28
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Congrats on hitting the 99 Percentile.. It was good discussion with you these many years... Hope this year make you get your dream school :)
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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Allow me to be the first one crap! two people beat me to it.... to congratulate you on the 99th percentile honors. It is definitely about time and more than deserved. Kudos for staying on course, not giving up, and coming up with the energy to post this debrief. I did not have to ;-)
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 13:23
congratulations on proving it to yourself and the World, hope you get your dream college.
Your post is indeed very inspiring.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 14:04
Congratulations - souvik101990

760! is definitely a dream score for every GMAT aspirant. Wish you all the best for the admission process.

I always had this assumption that GMATClub tests are for people who want to score 51/51 in Quant. But, your explanation makes sense now and glad that you clarified.

A very detailed post and the one which deserves Kudos and a Bookmark.
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 18:38
Simply Amazing.
Your hard work paid off. Meanwhile, your base score, a 720, was good as well. You needed to break 40 score, though much tougher but doable considering your skill potential.

I downloaded the files you shared on sentence correction, around 700 questions i think it was you and also CR question.
With respect to Quant, I am basically working on all questions from the very basic level up on GMAT Club, Qs that are written almost entirely by Bunnel.

However, the highest score from my pool of applicant, to the best of my knowledge, was 550, the scorer one of my brilliant friends. Having said that, breaking to 700, for me, seems like climbing mount Everest while having not much hiking experience and much gears such as oxygen and ax.

I've been working on GMAT non stop since December 2015 and have a very good feeling this year about it. I hope in a matter of couple of months or, max, by November 2017, i also post the end of my GMAT journey.

Thanks for sharing your amazing story and i hope we share our stories of the top universities we applied in application season and the offers we get.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2017, 20:13
Never Give up!!! Quite motivational :) All the best for your application process.
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Last edited by NandishSS on 16 May 2017, 08:24, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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Many congratulations to you on your great score !!
I am an active sneaker on this forum and it is true that there are so many ingenious write ups which suggest some pretty marvelous ways to tackle a problem.
Loved the line " Contribute and you shall receive. Don't be a stranger who has 0 posts and tons of PMs asking people of things. Giveth and thou shalt receive. "

I definitely am that stranger with zero posts and many PMs .. with this awakening call .. lets just see how much I am able to contribute to the community :D
Planning on giving gmat "the call" by july end.
Kudos to you !!
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 16 May 2017, 02:04
Heartiest congratulations on a great score Souvik :). You are truly an inspiration for all of us.

Wish you the very best for your applications ahead. Do keep us all posted.
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 16 May 2017, 04:06
Heartiest Congratulations Souvik. It is very difficult to be energetic for test preparation. From your post it looked you were always enthusiastic about test.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 16 May 2017, 04:58
Congratulations souvik101990! It is a very inspiring post :) All the best for the school of your choice and hope you !!!

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 17 May 2017, 03:02
Simply WooooW! I will print this out and keep in my Pocket.

Best wishes to you!


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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 18 May 2017, 11:09
Mom - Look that Verbal guy scored 760.
Awesome mate. Is it possible for you to explain the DS table that you posted with a value and Yes/No question. It would be helpful for all of us.

What say!!!

Thanks

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 18 May 2017, 11:45
Here I am...better late than never - Congratulations Souvik. 99%le achieved!

Wish you all the best for the path ahead :)

Brilliant Debrief!
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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I'm embarrassed that it's taken me three days to congratulate you publicly, Souvik! I'm still absolutely amazed by how much you've contributed to this community over the years, and I'm in awe of your work ethic in general. You've earned every bit of this 760 -- and then some. I feel like GMAC should give you an extra 20 points for the awesome debrief, too. :)

When you get into one of your favorite MBA programs, please arrange a stopover in Denver so that I can be one of the first to congratulate you in person on United States soil!

Congratulations again, and thank you for being such an inspiration to everybody here.
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 18 May 2017, 16:31
Souvik i am amazed by your dedication and commitment to achieving your goals. 99% of the people would've given up and probably do give up. That's why they never reach the 99%tile mark. You outperformed 99% of the people, by refusing to give up.

So I am going to use your story for motivation until my test date. Congratulations!
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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 18 May 2017, 23:08
Souvik ! You rock! You never give up, you're a true survivor, a perfect example of someone who's going to make it in life. I have a question. Most top business school's average GMAT score is well below 740 (Haas 715!). So giving that you did some voluntary work for a while, it seems so unfair that you had no admits. Esp you seem like the perfect applicant. I have mixed feelings about your post. On one hand It's inspiring but on the other hand it seems unfair. Would there be any other reason than scoring below 760, which prevented you from getting in? Did you ever ask them?

Last edited by Isabelle0812 on 20 May 2017, 11:14, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey [#permalink]

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New post 19 May 2017, 01:57
souvik101990 wrote:

Four years to 760 - my journey


It is strange to write this post after completing 5 years in this forum. GMAT for me, has been a huge battle with a lot of learning about myself. I, personally, love the test (as evident from my presence in this forum), and always considered it a personal failure that I could not get the score I wanted in the real test after repeatedly scoring in higher 700s. The last year has been really difficult for me (GMAT, applications, among others), and this year I wanted to make everything right. I knew that GMAT was going to be the first place to start.

Warning: This is going to be a long post. If you have the time, read along. If you do not, I will post some sort of a TL;DR version in the next couple of hours/days.

Phase 1 : The first taste of the GMAT - 2012-2015


I was a regular on the forums, and scored 760 on the Manhattan test early on. I was overconfident and had just graduated from college. I wanted to get the GMAT out of the way and focus on building a b school relevant profile, figure out schools and then apply a couple of years down the line. (I was 22). I took the GMAT and scored a 740. I did prepare quite a bit, but deep inside I was not really happy with my score. I started being on the forums more often, did many projects and made a lot of really good friends. Meanwhile, I quit my job, joined a non profit and stayed there for two years. 2.5 years later I got into another non profit in a fairly high level position and decided that now is the time to take the GMAT again.

Phase 2: The year that was - 2016


Personally, I was doing well in lots of fronts last year. I was finally happy with my work, GMAT Club had become an extended family, and B School application seemed a very realistic goal. Almost all consultants told me I had a really nontraditional profile (in a good way), and I should have no problems clearing the top 10. I booked the GMAT date in June and was on my way to a perfect year of application. Little did I know that stopping at Baskin Robbins to get some ice cream for my mom who was visiting would change everything. Somebody stole my bag that had both my laptop and my passport. I realized the importance of the passport for the GMAT 2 weeks before the test (yes, I was an idiot). I had to run around the passport office for months (The Indian system for stolen passports is far from perfect), and my whole plan was tossed. I postponed the GMAT for two months and finally got the passport. Took the GMAT in the worst state of mind and scored the same. I thought I could make up with my application stories, and my profile but the year, one of the most brutal for Indian applicants, defeated me.

I was left with 0 admits, and it was the worst feeling I have ever felt.

See I am the kind of a guy who got things pretty easily in my life: I got into a really good college, my first job was a blue-chip manufacturing giant, and I had developed quite a decent set of accomplishments in working in non profits for over four years. Business schools did not see it, and I felt like a loser. What was the hardest part was that GMAT Club members whom I tutored or helped reviewing essays had gotten into their schools of choice while I was sucking my thumb. 2016 was NOT a good year.

Phase 3: 2017: Ray of sunshine



This year started off with the best feeling of my life. I got an interview invite from Haas. Haas was my top choice all along and I figured they must have looked past my GMAT. Haas is also known to be notoriously selective, so needless to say I was feeling really good and my interview went really well. Haas ended up not admitting me, but honestly, I could not be happier. Haas had shown interest and I knew that all I needed was to get that 99th percentile. Meanwhile, I was the youngest in my company to get promoted to a lead position this year, and my CEO was kind enough to encourage me to reapply. My boss, kind lady, asked me to take my last two weeks of April off to prepare for my test (I had earned those leaves - I think I did). I prepared my butt off in those 2 weeks (and a month before that). I took my test last Saturday. As I finished my last SC question, almost certain to face the same fate, 760 flashed in my screen.

I am going to business school in fall 2018

(Note that the last sentence would not be a correct SC sentence, but you probably knew that already)

Are you with me so far? Now that you are somewhat familiar with my story, let's get to the part that you are here for. My test day experience and my preparation (I doubt whether my experience will help the average test-taker, but I will try to make it that way)


Test Day - 13th May 2017


I had booked the test in the last slot almost (4:30 pm). I am not a morning person and I wanted to be as alert as I could. The night before was pretty bad and I did not get sleep till 5 am. A last moment chat with bb had calmed me down and I woke up after 5 hours of sleep. I made myself a burger for brunch and revised my learning log (I had a very elaborate learning log - more on that later). I reached the centre at 4 pm and started my test at 4:15.

AWA was fairly easy. While I knew the chineseburned template by heart, I did not follow it exactly. I used my own vocabulary (facile, farrago and some others that I don't get to use every day), and wrote 4 paragraphs in the format: Restate the claim | Weakness 1 with example | Weakness 2 with example | Questions for the author | Conclusion and had 15 mins to spare. I told myself that IR will be a blast and started the section. IR was a breeze for me, and I had always scored decently with IR. However, my first (and only) MSR question came at Q9, and I had problems with the passage. I guessed two and answered one. The last question was easy. I clicked next and took my break.

For break, I had taken sunflower seeds, almonds and a litre of ice cold water with BCAA (I don't consume carbs and BCAA helps me in the gym). Took a few gulps, and went for the first 75 minutes that was quant.

I was VERY close to making a ridiculous silly mistake in my first question. I almost slapped myself and moved on. Quant seemed to be a mix of easy to moderately difficult questions but nothing that I did not expect (my quant prep this time was really efficient - more on that later). From my ESR, I can see that I have made 2 mistakes in quant. While that probably should have led to a Q51, but what do you know! Middle of the test, I completely forgot the total angle of a polygon formula, but I was able to answer the question correctly by eliminating other answers. (UGH). Quant ended on a good note. However, in the 20-30 set of questions I had a few REALLY simple questions. One of them just required the expansion formula of \((x+y)^2\) and I remember triple checking the answer. Glad I did. The last time, I had 18 minutes to spare but this time I made sure I spent enough time on tricky DS questions. I finished quant with 5 minutes to spare. Raised my hand and took a break.

This time, I was quite sure that I had bombed my quant and only verbal could save me. Ate a few almonds, gulped down the entire bottle of BCAA and braved myself in front of the computer.

Now, I know that a lot of people think that SC has changed or verbal is more difficult. I could not agree to any of those claims. If you look at some of the harder official questions, you will soon realize that GMAT has always had a huge collection of really tricky SC and CR questions and incredibly dense RC passages. I really enjoyed SC (it is my strong point) and made sure I did not fall into the trap of following blind parallelism. Meaning was something that I did not much care about but I made sure that I know every modifier in each question, their modifee (I made it up), subject and verbs and pronouns and whether they agree. Only when I could not find grammatical mistakes I moved on to the meaning. I had to do that exercise in 2 or 3 SC questions.

Critical reasoning was very tricky this time, but I had practiced a really decent CR template and used it for all questions. Same was with RC (more on that later). I had 2 really big passages. On Q36, I had my last RC which made me very nervous as I had little time to spare. Fortunately, I could decode the RC farily quickly. The 40th question was a CR which I had trouble solving. I ensured my clock was at 73:00 for the last question. Ended up spening 4 mins on the 40th CR question. Probably did not get it right.

I already mentioned how I felt while finishing the test, but just to recap: I froze looking at my score and had the TA ask me if I want to cancel the score. I mumbled something and confirmed that I wanted to accept the score. (Of course I did).

Came out: spoke to bb, and the wonderful mod team and called my parents. I also wanted to call all my schools that had rejected me, but they will hear from me in a few months.

All good in 2017.

How I prepared for the test


Many people are naturally good at standardized tests. I am not one of them. While I think I get things easily but I also am a very fidgety person with a very low attention span. I will elaborate more on what I did but before that a bit of preface:

I have used/reviewed the following courses over the last few years.

1. Knewton Full Course (I am old in this game)
2. Manhattan 9 week full online course
3. Veritas Prep Live online course.
4. e-GMAT verbal online course.
5. Kaplan live online course.
6. EMPOWERgmat online course

I think I did a few others as well. I paid for all of them except the Kaplan, which I was just auditing. I realized that almost none of the courses are enough to get you a 760. It all boils down on how you choose to reflect on your mistakes and train for the test. Most of these courses are really good at catching you up with the basics. Some of them also go in really good detail (such as e-GMAT), but since I had already exhausted the first 4, I decided to go with EMPOWERgmat for my last attempt. Why? I am not sure. I guess I wanted a change and I really enjoyed how Rich talked about the psychology of the test. I loved their approach to CR and RC and ended up using them thoroughly in the test. I also think they stress on testing cases a lot and almost force you to think from an answer choice point of view.

Let me get into the details of each sections. (Read: How to score a 99th percentile).

Problem Solving: This, in my opinion, should be your best bet in the quant section. Here are some advices.

  • NEVER trust a solution by someone else at face value. If it is not your solution, chances are you probably have not internalized it. Apply the solution in other problems and see if you can do it on your own.
  • Bunuel is a genius. You are probably not. Follow every single one of his questions but don't take his solutions for granted. You may think that "oh this was so easy" but remember that you did not come up with it and probably will not on test day. Case in point: This question or This one. Bunuel has amazingly elegant solutions to both of them but if you think you can come up with similarly stellar stuff on test day you are probably mistaken.
  • Moral of the story - Strive for multiple ways of solving a problem. When you look at a problem: ask yourself this. Can I solve it any other way? If the answer is Yes, don't assume. Get your ass to solve it on a piece of paper. If the answer is No, grind and post on the forums. Somebody will respond. Probably Bunuel. Thank him for me.
  • GMAT Club tests - Ironically, I never used them fully in my previous attempts. This time I left nothing behind. I solved and reviewed ALL GMAT Club questions. Yes all thousands of them. I worked hard.

Data Sufficiency: I knew that DS was going to be a more difficult battle than quant. I realized that organizing your thoughts is key for DS, and being a very messy, borderline ADHD person in general, I had to grind even harder. This is what I did.

  • DS questions are of two types. One which has a value answer and one which has a Yes/No type answer. For every one of them I made a matrix like this.



    Image



    Sounds complicated: Trust me, this makes your life infintely easier and makes sure you don't forget anything midway (Learned this from Ron Purewal).
  • I was also extra cautious in writing down any pre-conditions such as x is an integer or x is non-negative. I tended to miss those and get things wrong.
    Basically I followed this Rule - IF YOU FORGET SOMETHING, WRITE IT DOWN.
  • Lastly, Two Words: GMAT Club tests. Bunuel and bb have created the most GMAT - like (but harder) questions that are laden with traps. If you do them religiously, you will automatically grow to be a more careful person. I did not take them in tests format, but in quizzes. This is what it looks like now.


    Image



    Yes I solved 1100+ quant questions. I believe Q49 to Q50 is a very tough journey but Q50 and Q51 are often interchangable. You can disagree.

Sentence Correction: Sentence correction was always my strong point. My last ESR showed that my SC score was 92nd percentile, so I knew I had to work extra hard to make it even better. This is the approach that I followed for every single SC question. (BTW I improved my SC score to 98th percentile).

  • First, identify if there is something straightaway wrong with the original sentence (optionA).
  • In the other answer choices, actively look for bad parallelism (the most common error choice in the GMAT and more complicated that you may think), check modifiers and their placements with respect to the stuff that they modify, and finally check if pronouns have an antecedent (this is NOT the same as pronoun ambiguity, which is NOT something that the GMAT tests very rigorously - ask me in a reply if you want me to clarify that point).
  • If you can't decide between two choices (very rare), choose the one with the better parallelism. If that does not cut it choose that one that is more concise. The tricky thing is that for some ultra hard SC questions the most concise option will probably be wrong (that is why it is a hard question).

Critical Reasoning

While I did not engage in a lot of prethinking, I made this template for every single (except inference questions) CR questions, even in the actual test. This template is for an assumption question (hence the A). However, the other parts of the table will always be the same. In the top column I would rephrase the conclusion of the argument in my own words in the column below I would try to write down any missing piece that could make the argument tighter. (it could be as specific as the answer below or as vague as something like "No other cause/reason". It is just a push to get you to think in the right direction. Thanks @EMPOWERgmat for this great tool and I have seen that this template has helped me increase my focus in CR questions. My percentile has also increased from 83 to 92.


Image


Reading Comprehension

This was my biggest issue in verbal. I could barely keep my attention going and my last percentile was 69. I knew I had to do a lot better to ace verbal this time. I followed Empower's advice again and made a template like this for every passage that I got.



Image



The second column is to understand the author's tone (postive, neutral or negative) for every paragraph along with the main point of that paragraph. I recommend reading at a speed that does not hinder your comprehension. Reading slowly and getting the passage, in my opinion, is a far superior approach than moving to the questions directly without a careful understanding of what the passage has to say. The tone really helped me nail primary purpose questions. Again, thanks to EMPOWERgmat for this great approach.

Thoughts on GMAT Prep companies


  • It may seem that I am recommending EMPOWERgmat, but that is simply not true. I liked their approach but I do think several prep companies have really good processes to help you improve. I really wanted a fresh start and they gave me new structures to play with. I think it boils down to how badly you want something. I am certain if I wanted this score last year, I would have worked harder and scored better than I did.
  • However, I do not think the same way about GMAT Club tests. I think they are totally essential. I do not agree with what a lot of people say that it is only useful if you want a Q49 or above. If you are taking the GMAT you want the best possible score. I would not recommend you do them in your first practice session, but eventually, I think it is the best resource for GMAT quant. Nothing comes close.
  • No GMAT company can get you the score you want. There is no magic formula and silver bullets. That is precisely why I really love the test, as it is a trainable skill. Sure there are some people who are just really good at standardized tests, but they are exceptional outliers. For any normal dude, if you put in the work and are ready to constantly face the mirror and nitpick on yourself, this test is yours.

Some gratitude for the end


  • GMAT Club is an ecosystem that defines my online presence. I love the community (if you type GM in my web browser, GMAT Club will appear before gmail, and I have 5 active gmail accounts). I try to give back some to people but my ledger is always red. I seem to have received way more than I have given. To give a perspective: there is a guy in Atlanta who recently graduated from Fuqua who responds to my email in seconds and always happy to talk. bb is a private message way (I still can't comprehend how), and Bunuel replies to every single post on the forum (I can't comprehend this too). I have made a lot of friends and lost touch over the years and some are new. One of them is helping me set up a trading portfolio, and the other is planning a reapplication strategy in conjunction. My point is that this community is full of some extremely helpful and smart people. Contribute and you shall receive. Don't be a stranger who has 0 posts and tons of PMs asking people of things. Giveth and thou shalt receive.
  • I will write a similarly detailed post when I get into a school, so let's hope for that and keep our fingers crossed.
  • If you want me to post my ESR, I am happy to do that. (I do have to check if there is any confidentiality code in the PDF but probably not. Although many people have shared their ESRs, but rules and rules I guess. I will post it if you guys want.

    That's pretty much it from my side. There are probably a bunch of typos which I will fix over the next couple of days.

    It has been a wild journey. Time to call the curtains.

Hi Souvik, I read ur post today . This is so highly encouraging. First of all I congratulate you on this grand achievement.

I am looking forward to get some enlightenment over how can a beginner start with the preparation . I have during last year started on my own 2 times and left show in between may be due to lack of focus, fear of failure , less motivation .

I want to ask how to keep going and make actual progress on study and learNing.

Would you suggest having some fixed time table and the specific study material to cover in that fixed time.

I hv with me og 17, off quant review and off verbal review.

Thanks in advance ..

And once again big congrats and wishes to get into ur dream school.

Sent from my Moto G (4) using GMAT Club Forum mobile app

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Re: Four years to 760 - my journey   [#permalink] 19 May 2017, 01:57

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