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Memorable GMAT Journey from 660 to 720 in 3rd Attempt

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GMAT 1: 660 Q50 V29
GMAT 2: 680 Q51 V30
GMAT 3: 720 Q51 V35
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Memorable GMAT Journey from 660 to 720 in 3rd Attempt  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 04 Sep 2018, 07:09
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Hello Everyone

I want to share with you the best lessons I learned from my 3 attempts on the GMAT. These lessons are well applicable to the students whose scores have been plateaued in mid 600s.

Phase - 1 ( 1st GMAT attempt )



Score : 660 ( Q50 , V29 , IR6 , AWA5.5 )



I took the GMAT for the very first time on 9th June 2015. I registered for the exam around 6 months prior to the 9th June and started very casually by going through Manhattan Guides. I was in college then and was devoting nearly one hour daily to the GMAT preparation. I did all the 10 Manhattan guides covering the basic concepts of quant as well as verbal. I was very confident thereafter and even thought of scoring 700+ on the GMAT.

However, when I took the first mock test, I scored 590 (Q48, V23, IR3 ) on GMAT Prep 1. I was highly shocked to see such a low score as I was sure that I would score more than 700. Still, I thought that after reviewing I would be able to score much better in the next test. I took the first mock test just 20 days before my official GMAT exam and I was left with very less time for improving my accuracy. That was a major mistake I committed in my Phase-1: Attempted the Mock for the very first time just 3 weeks before the official exam.

I had bought 6 Manhattan practice tests and thought of utilizing all those tests. I even bought the 800score test series and attempted each of the tests. Overall I took 13 GMAT mock tests in less than 20 days. To prove my point that attempting the GMAT mock tests repeatedly does not improve the accuracy, I have mentioned below the scores of all 13 tests I took:

Test No. Date Score (Quant, Verbal, IR ) - Source


1 20th May 2015 - 590 (Q48, V23, IR3) – GMAT Prep 1

2 22nd May 2015 - 580 (Q40, V31, IR 0) – Manhattan

3 24th May 2015 - 610 (Q45, V30, IR 2.4) - Manhattan

4 26th May 2015 - 630 (Q47, V30, IR 6.04) – Manhattan

5 28th May 2015 - 430 (Q47, V 0, IR 0) – Manhattan

6 31st May 2015 - 630 (Q47, V30, IR 4.36) – Manhattan

7 1st June 2015 - 690 (Q48, V36, IR 3.17) – Manhattan

8 2nd June 2015 - 690 (Q45, V38, IR 3) – 800Score

9 3rd June 2015 - 630 (Q42, V34, IR 3) – 800Score

10 4th June 2015 - 620 (Q47, V34, IR 5) – 800Score

11 5th June 2015 - 640 (Q45, V33, IR 5) – 800Score

12 6th June 2015 - 590 (Q42, V29, IR 4) – 800Score

13 7th June 2015 - 650 (Q50, V27, IR 8) – GMAT Prep 2


It is clearly evident from the scores that my score varied between 580 and 690. Though I scored 690 couple of times but following that my scores plunged and I scored 650 just two days before my official GMAT exam. Still, I was under the impression that I would score 700+ on the official GMAT exam.

As pretty much obvious from the above scores, I scored 660 ( Q50 , V29 , IR6 , AWA5.5 ) on the official GMAT exam. I didn't find it surprising as my average scores from the mock test were almost the same. I got back to my college studies and didn’t bother about it for next 3 years :D

Lessons from GMAT 1st Attempt:



1) Practice is far more important than knowing the conceptual knowledge.
2) Start attempting the GMAT mock tests sooner in your preparations. It'll give you sufficient time for the needful improvements.
3) Do not be in an impression that you can score far better than your average mock scores.
4) Channelise majority of your efforts towards your weak areas.
5) Attempting the mock tests contribute towards improving your confidence and internalizing your timing strategies. It does not contribute much towards improving your accuracy on the GMAT.


Phase - 2 ( 2nd GMAT attempt )



Score: 680 ( Q51 , V30 , IR8 , AWA6 )



After working for almost 2 years on my startup, I decided to retake the GMAT exam. I started the preparation again by revising all the 10 Manhattan guides. Thereafter I took the GMAT Prep 1 mock test and I scored 620 ( Q50 , V23 , IR4 ). This low score was despite the fact that I attempted the GMAT Prep 1 for the second time. At this point in time, I realized that just going through the basic conceptual knowledge is not enough for me. I needed lots of structured practice, especially in verbal. Through my senior, Sahil Sir, I got to know about egmat and signed up for its course the very next day. I bought both its verbal and quant course.

egmat course is very interesting and easy to understand even for the verbal fledglings like me. The course is very detailed and it takes a good amount of time to complete all the video lectures. The best part about the egmat course is that it helps you in learning the application of the knowledge acquired. In my first attempt, I knew all the concepts but was not sound in applying those concepts. egmat truly filled that gap. It took nearly 2 months to complete all the video lectures of egmat.

The major mistake that I committed in Phase-2 : I Didn’t practice a sufficient number of questions using the 3 step process taught by egmat. I did around 50 % of the questions available on Quant Scholaranium and around 40 % of the questions available on Verbal Scholaranium. I firmly believe that had I have 1 more month of practicing the application of the concepts, I would have scored much better on my 2nd attempt itself.

It's better and preferable to keep attempting the scholaranium questions evenly during your GMAT Journey. In the end, it would be a daunting task to practice 1000+ questions in quant and 700+ questions in verbal. So to utilise the Scholaranium in an efficient manner, attempt the scholaranium questions regularly throughout your GMAT journey.

Another mistake that I committed: I Didn’t attempt the official GMAT exam ( GMAT Prep 2). I decided to attempt the GMAT prep 2 online 3 days before my official exam. Unfortunately, the website went down exactly 3 days before the official exam date and was down until the very last day of the exam. I had the option to attempt GMAT Prep 2 on the software installed on my Laptop but the pattern had recently changed and I chose not to attempt the old pattern test just a few days before the official exam. So practically I attempted only 1 Mock test in my phase 2 of the GMAT Journey.

Despite all these mistakes, my score on quant improved from Q50 to Q51. It's difficult to score Q50 on quant but it's much more difficult to score Q51. I knew all the concepts even in my first attempt but in my second attempt, I knew the exact strategies needed for seemingly difficult questions. Quant Scholaranium played a huge role in improving my ability in quant. I always enjoyed solving the customized tests on Quant Scholaranium. One important thing to keep in mind while solving quant scholaranium questions is that choose all Easy, Medium, Hard and Very Hard questions in each of your practice tests once you are confident about the concepts and applications. Otherwise, it will be very difficult and frustrating for someone solving all the Hard and Very Hard questions in the end. It's a good strategy to spread evenly all types of difficulties. For sure, very hard questions take more than average time ( 2 minutes ) to solve but attempt them and try your very best to get the answer even if it takes more time than usual. These questions actually provide resistance training for your brain. It is like if you can lift 100 pounds during your practice then you can definitely lift 80 pounds on your show day. In that sense “very hard questions” push your brain to think beyond your traditional limits which in turn makes you more efficient especially in data sufficiency questions. For all the questions that you get incorrect, take notes if needed. I took the notes during the review of my practice sessions. For example :

a) 2 is the ONLY EVEN PRIME Number.
b) 2 and 3 are the only consecutive numbers that are prime.
c) If “x” is squared than the value of x square will be less than x if 0<x<1.
d) Perfect squares will have an odd number of factors.

There were around 3 pages of Quant notes that I made during my review sessions. In the last week of my GMAT prep, I just revised all those notes and I felt pretty confident in quant. The confidence was well reflected in my second GMAT attempt in which I scored Q51. Through my ESR, I noticed that I got only 1 question incorrect on the last section of the quant.

As a complimentary bonus, because of my increased confidence in Quant, I scored 8 in IR ( I scored 6 in the Previous attempt ).

Lessons from GMAT 2nd Attempt:



1) Practice sufficiently to internalize the process in verbal.
2) Review at least twice all the questions you got incorrect on your first attempt.
3) Practice all the official GMAT tests available.
4) Take screenshots of incorrect questions. It would be easier to revise them in the end.


Phase - 3 ( FINAL GMAT attempt )



Score : 720 ( Q51 , V35 , IR7 , AWA5.5 )



Immediately after coming out of the test center on the day of my second GMAT attempt, I decided to attempt it one more time. I was clear that I couldn’t apply the verbal 3 step process on my GMAT exam. Lack of practice was a major reason for the same.

I decided that the third attempt will be full and final. To be doubly sure of my concepts and applications I researched a bit more about available courses and found CrackVerbalGMAT. I signed up for its verbal course and in the meanwhile, I also got advice from egmat team to attempt all the scholaranium questions, review the incorrect questions and focus on following the 3 step process.

In my third phase of the GMAT preparation, I focussed more on my strategies and approaches than on blindly practicing questions. It is very important to have a well-defined strategy beforehand for each of the section.

I started with the CrackVerbalGMAT verbal course video lectures and was very impressed with the way Arun Sir delivered the concepts in a very simple yet powerful manner. I started with SC and followed all the guidelines Arun Sir gave. It actually became very easy for me to reach the right answer. The most useful advice from Arun sir that worked well for me: “GMAT is a Test of ELIMINATION”. Surely it helps a lot to reach the answer by eliminating the wrong ones rather than by searching for the right one. Crackverbal has kept the course very concise and crisp. I completed all its video lectures in less than 3 weeks. By the end of the course, I was more confident than before and I started practicing official questions.

Another great lesson received from Arun Sir: Stick to Official questions. Especially in the last two weeks, it is preferable to practice and review only the official questions. Crackverbalprovides a question bank of old and retired GMAT official questions and I practiced all such questions in my Phase 3 of the GMAT prep.

In the meanwhile, I also attempted GMAT Club Quant and Verbal tests. I attempted majority of those tests. In quant, my average score was 50 and in verbal it varied from 30 to 45. I realized that whenever Humanities based RC passage came in the verbal section, my verbal score plummeted. So I practiced more of Humanities based RC passages on Verbal Scholaranium and improved accuracy with the time. By attempting GMAT Club tests, I gained the confidence in my timing strategies and approaches. In quant, its bit on the difficult side but still it's very good and highly recommended for those looking to improve the quant score.

Also, I bought Exam question pack ( 400 Official Questions ) for further practice. These questions are gold mines for the students looking to practice and strengthen their confidence. For each question, a detailed solution is given by the test makers. It is advantageous for the test takers as you get to know the perspective of test makers. This is especially beneficial in CR questions. I practiced all the questions and went through the solutions of incorrect as well as correct answers.

Before the final GMAT attempt, I practiced 6 official mock tests. Scores are mentioned below:

Test No. Date Score (Quant, Verbal, IR ) - Source

1) 19th July 2018 - 710 (Q50, V35, IR5) – GMAT Prep 2

2) 30th July 2018 - 740 (Q49, V41, IR5) – GMAT Prep 3

3) 3rd August 2018 - 680 (Q50, V31, IR7) – GMAT Prep 4

4) 7th August 2018 - 640 (Q49, V28, IR8) – GMAT Prep 5

5) 10th August 2018 - 700 (Q51, V33, IR5) – GMAT Prep 6

6) 11th August 2018 - 770 (Q51, V42, IR8) – GMAT Prep 3

In the 3rd and 4th attempt, my score went down to 600s again. I analyzed the test thoroughly and found that I failed miserably in managing the overall time in each section. Thereafter, I finalized and decided to stick to the timing strategies. I followed the following timing strategy:

Quant

Number of Questions Done - Time Remaining ( Minutes )

10 - 42
20 - 22
30 - 2

Verbal

Number of Questions Done - Time Remaining ( Minutes )

9 - 48
18 - 32
27 - 16
36 - 0

Before the starting each section, I made this small table on my sheet and strictly followed the timing slots allocated to each subsection. For example, In verbal I am on question 15 and the time remaining is 39 minutes, then I would rush in the next 3 questions so that I am left with 36 minutes by the time I complete question 18. By practicing so many tests, I realized that it's better to guess 4 questions in each subsection than to guess 4 questions consecutively in the last subsection.

One day before the Final GMAT attempt:



I am narrating my experience from a day before the final attempt. I revised all my notes ( both quant and verbal ) and went through my error logs. I went through the lessons I wrote down after each mock tests. I also revised all the incorrect questions from Official Guides. I even went for jogging and relaxed by watching my favorite show. I took the dinner an hour earlier than usual and decided to sleep earlier. I went to bed at 10 PM. Even before I realized it, I started thinking about my FINAL attempt and several scenarios started flooding my mind. This is the mistake I fell prey to in my 3rd Phase. I got overwhelmed with the thought that my FINAL attempt was due the next day and it can have a huge impact on my future career. I kept seeing the watch every one hour till 2 AM. After lying in bed awake for 4 hours, it is very easy and natural to stay awake for the next 4 hours ;) . After 2 AM, I deliberately stopped seeing the watch as with every passing hour, my anxiety was increasing. The last thing that I remember is that I was deep breathing and nothing else. Perhaps that worked and I fell asleep only to wake up before the scheduled alarm of 5.30 AM. I woke up at 5 AM and again the picture of FINAL attempt started invading my Fresh mind. I remained horizontal on my bed until my official alarm rang. I got ready and left for the test centre. I was not at all feeling sleepy even during my transit. I thought it would not matter much and entered my test center.

On the official Day of Final GMAT attempt:



I had practiced the mock tests in the following order: Verbal - Quant - IR - AWA. So I chose the same sequence and began my test with the verbal section. The first subsection of 9 questions went pretty good. Thereafter, I found it very hard to concentrate on the screen and comprehend the question in front. I was just not able to understand the meaning of any question, be it SC, RC or CR. Following which, I started losing control of my timing strategies. I just focussed on eliminating the wrong answers as I was not able to prethink the right answers. When I was left with 10 questions, less than 10 minutes were remaining. I took a deep breath and decided to attempt all the questions within the given time. 1 RC passage came in last 10 questions and I just skimmed through the passage as at that time completing the section was more important for me than doing the questions correctly. I somehow managed to finish the verbal section just 20 seconds before the given time.

I took a break and went to the washroom. I knew that I had screwed the verbal section. I was pretty sure that I would not be able to score more than my previous score (680). I felt sad and even thought of leaving the test center in the midst. I thought I would get to some B Schools with a 680 score. Then it suddenly struck me that Quant is my forte and if I could get Q51 this time as well, it would be well proved that previous score of Q51 was not just a fluke. I also thought that If I could prove my consistency in Quant, then some B Schools may consider my application on that basis. With this thought in mind, I decided to score 51 on the Quant section no matter whatever the cases may be.

I ate almonds and biscuits and entered the test room once again with the aim of scoring 51 on quant. I drew the timing table to keep my pace in control. I knew that I could not miss or guess a single question or else my score may slip to Q50 or lower. I did the first 10 questions in 7 minutes. I was very confident about my answers and proceeded further with the same confidence. As it happens, 1 or 2 questions turn out to be very difficult and conventional approaches don't apply to such questions. I perhaps spent 4 to 5 minutes in such questions and again lost the timing track. When 7 questions were remaining, 6 minutes were left for the given section. I didn’t think anything and just gave my best efforts to the questions on the screen. I focussed upon one question at a time. Actually, the questions were relatively easier in the last. At last, I was able to complete the section 30 seconds before the given time. But I was not confident of the last 7 questions as I rushed a lot and could not cross check my answers.

I took a break and went to the washroom. I knew that Q51 was not guaranteed and I may end up scoring Q50 or lower. I again thought of leaving the test room at this time, I was sure that I would not be able to score higher than the previous score ( 680 ). But then I thought I would not get any score at all if I leave the test center without attempting IR and AWA. I decided to cancel the score if it would turn out to be less than 680. With this thought in mind, I once again proceeded for the last section.

I ate almonds and biscuits and entered the test room once last time with the aim of just completing the test. As soon as the IR questions started popping up, I started to lose time on each question. However, this time didn’t panic as I was aware that I just have to finish the test. I got 2 Multi-Source Reasoning ( MSR ) and I was dead stuck on the second one. I didn’t understand an iota of that and tried my best efforts to guess the answer. In the end, I again faced a time shortage and managed to complete the IR section just 10 seconds before the given time.

Immediately after that, the AWA section started. I was very confident that I would score 6 on AWA. I started taking down the notes and 7 minutes passed by before I wrote a single word. I felt as if my thinking power had slowed down significantly. Anyways, I started writing down my essay and did write 6 paragraphs. Generally, in the mock tests, I was left with 5+ minutes after writing down my response but this time I was left with 30 seconds. I couldn’t understand where did the time fly by? :D I just wrote the concluding paragraph and remained cautious enough to submit the essay 15 seconds in advance. I submitted the essay in last 10 seconds and didn’t revise a single spelling or a sentence.

After it, I was completely exhausted and couldn’t read any of the sentences flashing on the computer screen. I just kept on clicking the desired buttons to keep moving to the next screen. Suddenly the score appeared and the first number that I noticed on the screen was “720”. I was highly shocked and surprised. The next number I noticed was 51 and realized that I proved my consistency in quant :) The next number was 35 and I was happy to see it. Thereafter I saw 7 and remembered the MSR I guessed :grin: . I was completely clueless and shocked and hence called in the invigilator. He asked me “Do you want to accept the scores?”. Then I realized that I had not yet accepted the scores and I said YES. 3 Days later I saw AWA score to be 5.5 and I remembered missing the revision part :-D .

In my First and Second attempt of GMAT, I had full control over my subsections and I was well following my timing strategies. In the third attempt, I constantly missed on the timing part and was under prolonged stress. Surprisingly, I performed the best on my third attempt. The single biggest lesson that I learned from my GMAT journey: NEVER EVER GIVE UP

Lessons from GMAT 3rd Attempt:



1) Practice Official guides twice to observe the pattern in "correct" as well as "incorrect" answers.
2) There is no substitute for hard work.
3) Finalise your timing strategies and implement them at least 2 times in your mock test.
4) After each break, attempt the section with a fresh mind as if you just started your GMAT exam.
5) Be calm and sleep enough to be alert on the test day.
6) NEVER EVER GIVE UP. ( Most Important lesson )

I’m very happy to score 720 on my third attempt and I am highly thankful to egmat and CrackVerbalGMAT. I can't imagine my success without either of them. A special thanks to GMAT Club. The community has contributed a lot raging from solving my doubts to keeping me motivated during my journey. I read the debriefs on GMATclub regularly and learnt a lot from others experiences. Those lessons are unparalleled.

In my whole debrief, I have focussed more on quant than on verbal. The reason is pretty obvious that I scored the maximum score of Q51 twice on the GMAT. So I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to achieve that score. In verbal, I performed average and I’m happy about my 6 Points overall improvement. To sum it up, I have jotted the one-liner lessons for each of the subsections:

Quant


Problem Solving ( PS ) - Finalise the approach and then start solving the question

Data Sufficiency ( DS ) - Try to prove the statements wrong. If unable to do so, then try to prove the statements right.

Verbal


Sentence Correction ( SC ) - Understand the intended meaning of the sentence and analyze at least one error in the original sentence. If unable to do so, start eliminating the obviously wrong answers.

Critical Reasoning ( CR ) - Understand the passage thoroughly and prethink at least one possible answer. If unable to do so, start eliminating the obviously wrong answers.

Reading Comprehension ( RC ) - Understand the big picture and structure of the passage. Prethink on general RC questions and for specific questions, always confirm the answer from the passage.

Integrated Reasoning ( IR )


Focus on your accuracy. It's better to do 10 questions right and guess 2 questions than attempt 12 questions with 50 % accuracy.

Analytical Writing Assessment ( AWA )


Follow the structured format. Be sure to write relevant points rather than write out of scope points.

Monitor your Progress:


I have attached two excel files with this debrief. I encourage you to utilize these excel files by actively updating your data and monitor your progress. In the file “Daily Progress”, you can input the number of hours you devoted to your preparation, number of quant questions practiced or revised, number of verbal questions practiced or revised. By filling this excel data, you can actively monitor your progress and check if on any particular week you need to devote more time to maintain your average study hours. After maintaining this excel file for two weeks, I actually felt motivated towards solving more questions and studying more to increase or at least maintain my average progress. Also, If you are weak in a particular subsection, then devote more time and practice on it. For example, I am weak in verbal and hence devoted more practice sessions to it and it is clearly evident from the excel data. The last column of “Days Left” keeps you on track in your GMAT Journey. It shouldn’t be the case that just two weeks before the exam, you suddenly feel the shortage of time and pace up the studies. It's always a good strategy to maintain the pace from the beginning and be mindfully aware of your progress.

In the file “Practise Tests 2018”, input the detailed scores of all your mock tests. Even you can input the total number of SC questions you got correct and the number of questions you got correct in Data Sufficiency. By maintaining this excel file, you’ll have a very clear picture of in which subsection you need the most improvement. For example, from my excel file, I got to know that I needed a lot of improvement in RC and accordingly I included more of RC practice sessions in my routine. One surprising observation which I made after giving the official GMAT exam is that my official sectional scores are very close to the average of the sectional scores of all the mock tests I gave for practice. For example, my average sectional verbal score for all the mock tests was 34.5 and in the official GMAT exam, it was 35. Now I can understand that this is not an unexpected finding as our scores of official practice tests are well representative of our actual GMAT scores. Additionally, in the second tab, “Timing Strategy”, I have outlined the timing strategies that I followed for all the GMAT tests.

Thank you very much for reading such a long debrief. I hope the lessons mentioned above turn out to be fruitful for you. All the very best for your GMAT Journey. Feel free to ask me anything about my GMAT Journey. I’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Ayushman Mathur
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Originally posted by ayushman1103 on 28 Aug 2018, 21:47.
Last edited by ayushman1103 on 04 Sep 2018, 07:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Memorable GMAT Journey from 660 to 720 in 3rd Attempt  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Aug 2018, 12:07
Many Congratulations @ayushman1103, and all the best for your applications. :thumbup:

Thanks a ton for taking the time to jot the insightful takeaways from your personal experience, appreciate the effort.
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New post 30 Aug 2018, 12:48
ayushman1103

Congratulations for achieving 700+ score in GMAT. Thanks for taking your time to give many details and strategies related to preparation. Its good to see that you had all those details such as date , test score and split for mocks that you took couple of years earlier.

All the best for your applications.

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New post 30 Aug 2018, 15:56
ayushman1103 Congratulations on the great score!

Thanks for the detailed debrief. All the points mentioned are really helpful.

All the best for your Apps ?

Posted from my mobile device
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New post 06 Sep 2018, 03:50
ayushman1103 Congratulations on 720!!!
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Re: Memorable GMAT Journey from 660 to 720 in 3rd Attempt  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Sep 2018, 17:36
Congratulations. And thanks for the write up.

The note taking strategy is pretty helpful. I sometimes get decision paralysis about which method to use for note taking. I always want to go digital but it's a pain in the butt. I might just stick to using my graph paper pads and number and storing the notes in a folder. Just like back in the day.
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Re: Memorable GMAT Journey from 660 to 720 in 3rd Attempt &nbs [#permalink] 08 Sep 2018, 17:36
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