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GMATStory 430(prep)->620(Official)->660(Official)->...(long)

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Joined: 28 Jun 2009
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Location: Moscow Russia
Schools: -=! LBS (int) !=- HEC (admitted) INSEAD (int)
GMATStory 430(prep)->620(Official)->660(Official)->...(long) [#permalink]

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New post 05 Oct 2009, 13:46
Hello Everybody!

I’ve been a quite participant of this forum fro about 4 month now!!! Thank you all for creating this place and helping people (and me) to get really well prepared for the GMAT!!!

Seems that some time has passed since the GMAT exam and I am ready to tell my GMAT and admissions story, which is just right in the middle of the process.

So to start with I am Latvian, age 27, living in Russia, Moscow for the last 7 years. I have a wife and no kind yet. I am on my last year in the University to become a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Moscow State University. This is going to be my second degree. The first one I hold is a Bachelor of Business Administrations also received in Russian University of National Economy. I was working full time for the last 8 years, while also studying. Currently I am a personal development training program coordinator and I've been working for this company for last 6,5 years.

I am going to apply to INSEAD as the only school I would like to get in. Actually I knew about Insead for a long time, but decided to really go for it and apply only in February - March this year. Which also meant I will need all the list of the requirements to be fulfilled starting with GMAT

I scheduled to start preparing for the GMAT on the June 1 with going to intensive GMAT courses here in Moscow in the company called MBA Consult. And actually doing a test on August 17, just a day before the long scheduled trip to USA (NYC, LA, SFO)

Somewhere in April I ordered a pack of GMAT and MBA app process books from with included:

The Official Guide for GMAT Review OG12
The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review
The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review
Kaplan GMAT Premier Program, 2009 (Book & CD-ROM)
Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook
Kaplan GMAT Math Workbook
GMAT For Dummies
How to Pass the GMAT: Unbeatable Preparation for Success in the GMAT
Cracking the GMAT with DVD, 2009 Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation)
Reading Comprehension Gmat Strategy Guide
(Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guides) 3rd edition

Great Application Essays for Business School
How To Get Into the Top MBA Programs, 4th Edition
65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays:

I actually did not know what to order, so I tool a bit from pretty much every thing (which is not good, as it turned out later).

Somewhere in the middle of may I tool GMAT prep for the first time and scored 430. Which is OK, cause I actually didn’t had a clue what I was doing, how the CR works, what is DS questions. The score brake down was ~35 for quant and 11 for verbal.

I need to point out that I am not stupid) I just haven’t been using my English skills for about 6 years from school. So a lot of work to be done to score 700+ for Insead!!!

On the first of June the GMAT course started with 3 times a week X 3 hours and with gigantic home works. I was almost the only one in the group of ~15 students who was actually doing all the homework. It took me a LOT of time. I was focusing on understanding, not the speed. The course went on very smooth section by section. I found out that GMAT has it’s own logic and structure and everything is followed by rules. So the thing is to memorize the rules and the strategies. AND PRACTISE A LOT. A lot of times I felt exhausted, cause I made the same mistakes again and again. But at some point I like had an insight and things started to improve dramatically. The easiest for me was the SC section. I usually scored about 75-90% correct on drills from different sources. I did the OG, Kaplan, some from SC1000, and a “book “ called GmatPlus, which is a 300 page compilation of CR, RC and SC from easy to super difficult. Also I did a lot of Barrons questions and ManhGmat.

After I did a 3 weeks verbal course and 2 weeks Quant part, simultaneously started the GMAT Advanced Course in the same company, which actually was a Sunday 10-18 X 4 weeks practice course with even more gigantic home works. This intensity really helped me to get going and actually DO DO DO a lot of practice and drilling. During the advanced course we paid more attention to timing, which was my bad, as I was spending a LOT of time for RC and CR, and about 1,5 min for SC. So this was a big deal for me to start improving my timing. I usually did about 4-5 hours of practice every working day and ALL weekend days from morning to evening.

Tremendous thank you to my wife, who didn’t divorce me while this crazy summer). We didn’t have a single movie or restaurant thing during my GMAT prep. She was really supportive and believes in my success. Actually the plan is that we are going to move to France together for the year at Insead.

When the Advanced course ended I scheduled a private tutor for the GMAT to discuss all the mistakes I am doing on verbal part two – three times a week for 2-3 hours up to the test. She also gave me a lot of additional tasks and material to practice with. The math part went on really smooth (OG I do about 90-95% PS and about 80-90% DS correct) after the courses. I was studying in a school where maths was the main subject, so I just needed to refresh all the needed concepts and get familiar with DS questions. I also created the error logs for everything I did – quant and verbal (included it bellow)

So two weeks before the test on the 2 of August I got a two weeks off my work and I started to do a full CAT tests with essay writing to practice the real thing in time:

Here are the results of the tests:
Q48 V27 610 26/07 GMAT PREP #1
Q47 V40 710 06/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #1
Q46 V33 640 09/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #2
Q43 V33 660 10/08 GMAT PREP #1
Q43 V35 640 11/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #3
Q47 V36 680 13/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #4
Q46 V39 700 14/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #5
Q49 V41 730 15/08 ManhattanGmat CAT Online #6
Q47 V28 620 16/07 GMAT PREP #2

One thing for sure - I really improved and established my perfect timing during these full test drills. After the last drill I was perfect in doing the essays on time ( I like to write long essays about 500-600 words) and also I did the tests themselves perfect leaving me about 1-2 minutes in the end for the last question.

The wrong thing I did was that I did a full test Gmat Prep #2 on the day before the test day. And I scored really bad on a day before the actual test after constantly improving my score and scoring 700+ for two times in a row. Afterwards I went to the movies but the sense that I am a mess and not ready for the test got me.

The Test day!

I had an appointment for 12:30 Monday, so I had time to wake up, go to a long shower, have a breakfast and relax at TV before the test. I felt really calm, but with a lot of thought going on in my mind about the rules and strategies. At about 11:30 my wife drove me to the test center which is about 10 min drive from my home and after passing two passport controls( that is the area of the university, where the test center is located. I was about 30 minutes early for the appointment. I was starting to really get worried. I was offered an option to start the test right away (early) got my palms scanned, photo taken and all that under cameras, felt my self like a prisoner. I was given several pads to write and 4 pens, (all of which wrote really bad, I could not understand what I am writing). I was invited to the test room with was really small and packed with cameras and microphones. Something like 4 by 2 meters with 4 workstations, three out of which were in the process. I sat down at the PC and my heart started to jump out of my breast.

It took the PC to load the GMAT program for about 10 minutes, during that time I was able to write the key works and the scheme for both essays. Which helped me to relax a bit. Went through the reg. process and here the test started. Themes were easy ( I believe all of them are) and my timing for the essays is the following:
2-3 min read the task and formulate the 3 arguments or issues in my mind
2 minutes intro
3 min each paragraph
and 3 min for conclusion
which is 18 minutes TOTAL.
I usually just go for it, write whatever comes in to my mind not even looking to the screen. Now I end up with the text about 500-650 words long (according to my practice) and I have about 10 minutes to check the spelling and to read carefully through the essay and correct the spelling. The logic is fine, but the last questions was incomplete and I started to fix it during the last minute of time. I scores 5.0 on AWA, which is fine for me.

The break.
I took a break, which is now 8 minutes and is hard to control, cause even my watch was taken away. I ate a banana and drank some water and was ready to go on.

Now the Q Part.
Here comes the real thing. I was so stressed when I saw the first question, what I could not concentrate and focus my mind and it took me whole 9 minutes to get started. Yes whole 9 minutes for the easy Q #1 about the area of two squares. After I got over my mental block or whatever it was I started to run for it as a hell. I do not remember a think, a question, nothing what was there on the test. I just know that it was not really hard, no combinatory or probability problems (which made me worry) and I had something like 7 minutes for the last 5 questions. This run was a miracle. And thanks God I was practicing timing for the last two weeks before the test, as without it I could not do the 36 q problems in 66 minutes. The Q part ended and I felt quite calm. But with a little head ache.

Took a brake.
One more banana and another water swallow and back to the test we go.

The Verbal
Now the verbal. I actually had not many thoughts and I know I am not a verbal master so I said to my self, just got for it and do your best one by one. You’ve done a Ton of practice, so you’ll be fine. The test started, and it went smooth until the Q 5-6, when it was really hard for me to understand the questions on the CR, SC seemed to test the UNKNOWN and so on. By 20th question my mind started to unplug as it was fried. The whole verbal part seemed really hard, half of the questions seemed formulated in a way I have not seen before. So did my best tried to solve everything. Timing was OK, but the result was unknown. Completed the test and the magic button to show the result appears…..

The result was 620 with Q48 (!!!:)))) and V28 ((((((
And that is after number of practice tests which all were well over this score.

This result killed me, cause I really had been working my a*s of for 13 weeks and this is it!!! No R1 app for INSEAD and the whole MBA plan is being postponed, the next day I am going to USA for a vacation, so can’t continue to practice (insane/not effective to practice GMAT during vacation)

I went on the vacation, and a lot of times my mind went all over me with all the kind of thought about me not being good enough for the MBA, and especially Top-10, that I will never make it, and so on… You all know what kinds of talks we all sometimes have….

During my trip to USA I bought the following books:
Equations, Inequalities, and VIC's, GMAT Preparation Guide,
4th Edition (Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guides)
Sentence Correction GMAT Preparation Guide,
4th Edition (Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guides)
Critical Reasoning GMAT Preparation Guide,
4th Edition (Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guides)
Number Properties GMAT Preparation Guide,
4th Edition (Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guides)

From Quant I lack some skills in Number Properties and inequities, so to boost my score on retake to Q50 will need to practice those areas, and for verbal I find that Manhattan GMat strategy guides has the most explicit explanations about how to break down the problems and questions and how to solve the CR and RC without answers (like the Q part where I usually solve the Q without looking to the answers)

I came back on the 4 of Sept and could not even open up GMAT books, I was so frustrated and demotivated, that nothing really helped me to force myself to restart the prep process. It really seemed that I deserved better that the 620… So it took me a week to get over the mental defeat in the face of GMAT…

Finally I restarted to study the GMAT verbal from the very beginning, from the basics, while just practicing some quant problems.

In about 20th dates of September I had a talk with one of my class mates from the Gmat courses and she said that most of my group mates who took the Gmat in September scored 700+ (and I know that there were several who really were weaker then me and did not invest the amount of time even close to the one I did)
So I just told the story to my wife, saying that probably the questions pool of the questions in Sept is easier and people got lucky and my wife said, W.T.H. go and try the GMAT again, right away, tomorrow.

First I thought that my wife is kidding, I haven’t even restarted the prep and my mind is a mess, and I WILL NOT GO, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES!!! After a long evening talk I registered for the GMAT a day after tomorrow. I didn’t prepare, just did one full time Manhattan Gmat and scored 730 and reviewed the essay writing scheme. (The essays I wrote according to the scheme given by a guy from this forum. He names it a AWA 6.0 guide. It is perfect. It has all one needs to handle the AWA task on GMAT)

So here I come for the test. This time 10:00 the first time available in the morning, so no one would disturb me with loud typing. I came to the test center with a light feeling of excitement and anxiety about the score I would get (I remember I had a thought that I might score any score from 200 to 800 this time, don’t have a clue about the score I am getting)

I checked – in, had a couple of jokes with the girl at check in. She gave me new pens, which wrote perfect, and the test started.

Essays went really smooth.
After each of them I had about 5-6 minutes left. I hope these essay writing skills will help me during writing essays for the application. This time I scored even highter - 5.5 for AWA and that is with 5 minutes left for each essay and I am writing a long ones!!!

Quant part.
I was fine from the very beginning. I love the math from kindergarten and I really enjoyed this part. Nothing specific to say about this part. I remember several problems and some of them I solved at home so to be sure about several concepts. Had a couple of probability questions and one combinatory problems. The bad thing which made me worry is that I hurried at some point and in the end I had about 8 minutes for the last 2 problems.. My bad!!!

Took a break, water, fruit and back we go.

One thing I remember from ManhGmat strategy guide it that they say that if you want to succeed on the GMAT, you just have to love every text about frogs or mole rats and every CR about some diabetics or whatever. In the guide they say that every time you see a RC or CR you need to say to your self – I am lucky to spend my next 2 or 8 min to learn something new and extremely interesting about life of (f….n) mole rats or oceans or whatever…. So I did the Verbal and also had some 5 minutes in the end. My bad….

Now the score…

660 Q47 V34 (up 6 points)!!!! And that is after more then a month long brake from the active prep.

And the main miracle is that I feel to be over my 620 (first attempt). I see that 620 is not my score and I will soon hit the 700+ club. It is just a matter of final fine tuning, practice and hard work to concentrate on the details (for me the RC is the hardest)

In the very beginning I could not find a thing that went wrong during the first attempt, but now after a while here is what I’ve learned.
1. All of the prep materials are great, but OG is the only one which will help you familiarize with the real Q, so after the 1,2,3,4,5… month of prep go over the OG from the start to the end a couple of times so your brain memorizes the “official” questions and the original “SMELL of GMAT”
2. GMAT’s psychological aspect is also, if not more, important then the intellectual part of the exam. I just over practiced and my brain was a mess during the first attempt, that is why it was so hard to recognize the questions asked on verbal.
3. I need to improve my patience and focus during quant. This is the biggest challenge for me in quant as in difficult problems with 2-3-4 operations I make silly mistakes in between the calculations.
4. THE MOST IMPORTANT IS TO TRUST YOURSELF ON THE TEST… INTUITION IS A BIG THINK on GMAT. My first attempt was only a logical approach, while during the second attempt many times I just let myself to choice the answer just because it seemed right with less of an intellectual approach!!!

This is it for now!!!

I am going for the GMAT again on the 1 of November!!!! I CAN SMELL THE 700+ coming!!!

If there are any questions about GMAT in Russia, Moscow, and prep materials or any other… please ask, will be happy to answer or help!!!

If there are any advices to how most effectively do the 4 week study plan I have (with a mean time essay writing and recommendations gathering) I would love to hear them…

Thank you once again for reading!!!

From Russia With Love

Sorry for the long post, may be the whole experience is useful for someone.

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Re: GMATStory 430(prep)->620(Official)->660(Official)->...(long) [#permalink]

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New post 05 Oct 2009, 14:29
Fantastic debrief and a great score improvement. Good luck on the third time!
Also, join discussions at the country specific forum: - you can start a thread for Russia. I opened one for Ukraine :)

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Re: GMATStory 430(prep)->620(Official)->660(Official)->...(long) [#permalink]

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New post 05 Oct 2009, 14:32
Good job! You'll get there! I'll be retaking the beast soon and INSEAD is my top choice by far.

Good luck to you.

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Re: GMATStory 430(prep)->620(Official)->660(Official)->...(long)   [#permalink] 05 Oct 2009, 14:32
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