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Guess I can finally write one of these

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Guess I can finally write one of these  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 12 Apr 2017, 23:03


I'm a 25 year old male from an over-represented demographic and I'm finally done with the GMAT (I think). I am technically a non-native speaker, but I've spent my whole life communicating in English, so it's like my 1st language. I'm also someone who tends to get really stressed annd I have non-engineer background. I also need to add that I spent most of my time in college training for a sport since I was competing at the University and National level(more on why this is relevant later).

Attempt 1 - 650 (August 2016) - (Q47V33)

Around August 2015, I was working as part of the Marketing (specifically Brand) team of a large BFSI company. I was looking for a change of job and that's when I decided that I wanted to do an MBA. My "dream job" is something that I cannot get without an MBA, and is something that would be a lot easier to get in the US. So I gave my month's notice and started preparing for the GMAT. At first, I just bought the OG and started with the diagnostic test. Big mistake, I didn't even understand what half the questions were asking and I ended up getting frustrated and quitting halfway through my 3rd quant question. I did some background studying using free resources and then ended up writing a practice CAT (don't remember which one, it wasn't a GMAT Prep CAT) and scoring 500. I don't even remember the splits. After this, I started reading up on the GMAT online and that's when I discovered this forum. I also bought the Manhattan series and signed up for Magoosh.

Magoosh - This is actually a great resource and had really useful practice problems and explanations. Also, after signing up with them, for the 1st time I wasn't very intimidated by the GMAT exam and felt that it was something I could do well in.
Manhattan Books - Great for foundations. I was able to go through the basics of quant since they initially make you do some "non-GMAT" questions until you get a grasp on the concepts.

However, I had to take a break in my studies while I was shifting jobs. After I restarted in January, I studied for a couple of months, but then my brother was moving to New Zealand, so I took 3-4 weeks off to go on holiday. I invariably ended up procrastinating a lot, but toward the start of May 2016 I started studying seriously. I mentioned that I get stressed easily, and from May till August I used to get regular nightmares about the GMAT. I remember once I had a dream that I appeared for the test and the entire thing was in a regional language instead of English. I spent the whole 7-8 hours that I was asleep trying to decipher what the questions were (I got through about 7 questions in case anyone was interested lol). It sounds funny, but I'm not even kidding, this is literally the amount of stress I'd put myself through. Anyway, I kept studying and stressing, but focused heavily on quant and was doing alright on Verbal. I took a Gmat Prep CAT and scored a 690 (Q48V37) and later on scored a 710 (Q49V38). I felt that I was ready and booked a date for the 6th of August 2016. I was really nervous, and a part of me kept believing that I wasn't ready. I just wrote it off as nervousness and went ahead with the attempt.

The result was really disappointing. I scored a 650. But the saddest part of the score is that I panicked at the test center and finished the Quant section with over 30 mins to spare and the Verbal with over 25 mins to spare. I wrote it off as a bad day and cancelled my score.

Attempt 2 (December 2016) - 680 (Q47V35)

After my 1st attempt I decided to push my applications back a year and start studying from scratch. I signed on with Empower GMAT. However, I was going through some stuff in my personal life, there was a death in the family and a friend was in hospital. It's all a blur, but I remember realizing 3 days before my test that I'd forgotten to postpone it. I went ahead and wrote it knowing that I'd be taking it again and ended up with a 680. Funny how I did better when I didn't study at all. I told myself that I'd do better next time, cancelled my score and left.

Attempt 3 (Feb 2017) - 640 (Q41V38)

I got in touch with Rich from EmpowerGMAT and explained my situation. I signed on with him again. I went through the course briefly during my previous attempt, but this time I actually went through everything. I studied heavily for this attempt, but did a lot more practice in Verbal than in Quant. I took a practice CAT (Exam Pack 1) a week before the exam and got a 690 (Q48V37) again. At this point all my mock scores were better than both my attempts so I assumed that my luck would change with this attempt.

I remember being completely stumped by the very 1st question in Quant. It seemed easy, but my answer didn't match any of the choices. Instead of moving on, I was stubborn, tried to solve it and wasted almost 5 minutes. I didn't get it right after all that time. This affected me throughout the Quant section, everything just seemed "off" and I wasn't able to think. It seemed like multiple times when I'd get an answer that didn't match any of the choices. However, the Verbal part of the test went a lot better, but the final score was disappointing to say the least. Looking at my ESR, the level of Quant questions that I was answering was the same as both my previous attempts, but I had made a lot more mistakes. I cancelled the score again and went home. Again an attempt where I'd studied pretty regularly, and screwed up on test day.

Final Attempt - March 22nd, 2017 - 710 (Q47 V39 IR-8).

At this point I emailed Rich again and explained what had happened. He was surprised at the drop in my Quant score, but when I mentioned that I'd focused heavily on Verbal over Quant I guess he figured what had happened. I took a month off and didn't think about the GMAT for a while. I also resigned myself to the fact that there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to improve my score from a 680.

Remember how I mentioned that I used to be in heavy training during college? Well, this is where that comes in. I had a major injury in my final year at college, so I wasn't allowed to do any proper exercise over the last 3-4 years. However, I'd been working on getting better, and around December I was allowed to get back to heavy training. I took a break from it during my December attempt and a couple of weeks leading up to my attempt in Feb, apparently it wasn't the brightest thing to do.

Well, one day in the 1st week of March, I'd come home after a heavy training session in the morning. I didn't have a lot of work to do (since it was Saturday) so I decided to take a full-length CAT and figure out where I stand. I took the 4th GMAT Prep CAT (2nd from EP 1). Everything I learnt from the Empower modules seemed to click and I saw that I'd scored a 750 (Q50 V40). The only difference was that I hid the timer and didn't glance at it even once during my test. I finished both sections perfectly, with a little over a minute to spare. I was stumped. I clearly had the intelligence and skills necessary to score well, so why was I screwing up the real test every single time? A part of me actually wished that I'd scored worse, atleast I'd have an idea of what I could work on.

I emailed Rich again, and explained everything to him. He said that I clearly knew everything that I needed to know about scoring at a high level. I should just take the test, and actually apply the tactics that I'd learnt with the Empower modules without emotion. There's no point in me going through the entire course and then choking/panicking on test day and doing my own thing. So going forward, I made it a point to practice every type of question everyday. I also booked a test day in exactly 2 weeks. Since I'd studied really hard for the 3rd attempt, I didn't need to do a lot of "studying" per se, I just focused on practicing all the Empower tactics that I learnt during the course. I needed to be able to look at a question, understand what was required and how I was going to approach it. That's it. Easy, right? I did 5-10 PS and DS questions, 1 RC passage, 5 CR questions and 10 SC questions everyday from the OG and the Empower course until the day before the test. I also did an additional CAT from EP 2 in which I scored about the same.

Day Before

I did the usual, went for training in the morning, went to work as usual. I stayed the full day, then went home. I watched a Disney movie (The Incredibles) while eating dinner and went to bed by 9 or 9:30. I read a book until I finally fell asleep. I did a bit of light review of idioms and 10-15 practice questions.

Test Day

I woke up at 6:00am and went for training. I ended up having a heavy cardio session, by the time I came home it was 8-8:30. I had a heavy breakfast and took a 1-2 hour nap. My dogs eventually kept barking and waking me up, so I got out of bed by like 11:00. I did a set of 10 questions as a warm-up and reviewed the parallelism idioms. The questions were from the Empower course which picked certain question in the OG. I had something light to eat, packed my stuff and left for the test center. I had this ritual that I used to do from my sports events, in which I'd listen to 2 particular songs before every race, "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi and "I'll make a man out of you" from the movie Mulan (Yes, really weird combination of songs, please don't judge me). I made it a point to listen to them in the car right before I reached the test center.

My test was scheduled for 1:00pm, but I reached by 12:20 and they let me start early. The AWA was a breeze, I finished it in like 10-12 mins. I also skipped 6 whole questions on IR (all the multi-source reasoning ones) and took my 1st 8 min break. I did some jumping jacks and pushups, had a granola bar and a bit of lime juice before panicking and running back in thinking that I'd taken too much time. After getting in I realized I still had 3 mins of my break left (Great start, huh?).

The 1st question in quant was really simple, I solved it in less than a minute. The 2nd was almost as easy as well. The 3rd was similar to one that I did earlier in the morning as part of my warm-up. By this time I was on a roll, I knew I'd do well as long as I stayed calm. Eventually I got to the end of the section and unhid the clock, and I realized I had 4-5 mins left. I took my time solving the last question and then took my second break. I did a few more jumping jacks and push-ups. Had the second piece of my granola bar, finished my juice and splashed water on my face. I told myself that I just needed to not screw up verbal and I'd be done with this exam in less than 2 hours.

The verbal section started off fairly easily. I had 4 sentence corrections off the bat, and I was able to figure out each one. I then got an RC and a few CR before getting back to SC. The section was getting harder and harder, until I finally had a 4 paragraph RC. Now, at this point I completely brain-farted and didn't realize I had to scroll down to read the 4th paragraph. I answered the first 3 questions (a purpose, inference and detail question) before realizing I'd completely missed the last paragraph. Whoops. I shook myself mentally and tried to move on with the rest of the test. The SCs were getting monstrous and the last RC passage I got was a real doozy. However, it came at that perfect time around question 33-34 when i was already thinking about the final score. Luckily since the RC came at this point, I focused pretty hard on it and by the time I was done, I was already at 38. I got 2 more really hard SCs and finally a Boldfaced CR. I was honestly really relieved to see one of these, cause it meant that the section wasn't going too badly. I finished, scrolled through the background and saw the final score: 710 (Q47 V39 IR-8). I was extremely relieved, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little disappointed that it wasn't higher. But hey, atleast my nerves didn't fail me and I didn't choke on test day yet again.

Thoughts after the test

Well, I did order an ESR, more for curiosity than anything else and I'd scored a perfect 51 on RC despite the incident during the test. My SC was also at the 90th percentile, from a 40 in my very 1st attempt. Finally, I was sure the Quant section was going just a little better, but I guess learning to let go and move on to the other parts of my application is a lesson in itself. Maybe I few months down the line I could evaluate taking it again, but I really don't think it will happen. there's no guarantee of doing better, and I don't want the stress of another exam to take over my life again. Plus if a college rejects me with a 710, I'm pretty sure they would probably reject me with a 730 too. Either way, I'm happy that I'm done, not having to worry about Data Sufficiency or Critical Reasoning or Sentence Correction again is oddly satisfying.

Also, in my previous attempts I'd try to answer atleast 9-10 questions of IR. This time I skipped 6 without even reading the prompt. My accuracy according to my ESR was 89% and I scored an 8, which is higher than all 3 previous IR scores. It doesn't really make a difference, but I guess luck was in my favor.


I need to add a separate section for EMPOWERgmat because of their contribution to my score. They changed the very way I approached the GMAT. Until I signed on with them I approached it like a "math test" instead of an event I could prepare for. I started seeing patterns in every section of the test and was actually amazed at how predictable some aspects of the test were. The course changes your very approach to the test and their podcasts get you pumped up and ready to do your best.

Despite Math not really being a strong point for me, the modules in their course really made it seem easy. At the end of the day, it's impossible to be prepared for every concept that GMAT throws at you, but with the tactics from the Empower course I was confident about tackling even the most dense and convoluted prompts in the most efficient way possible. Also, I must've exchanged atleast almost 30 mails with Rich personally over the course of my journey and he always got back to me in less than a day (despite the time difference). Overall the Quant section was fantastic.

The Verbal section of this course is pure gold. After going through their modules I scored a perfect 51 on RC in both my official tests and both my mocks. I also improved my SC from the 40th percentile to the 90th. It's not just that I was able to pick the right answer, most of the time in CR and RC I already had a pretty good idea of what the answer would be before moving to the answer choices. I also knew what to look for and how to identify the wrong answer choices. Really fantastic lessons from Max, watching him think through an SC, RC or a CR question invariably helps you do a lot better.

I'd also like to add a special mention to their support and team of advisors (Brian & Stacy). They were amazing at getting back to me, sorting out my issues and answering all my questions. There wasn't a single occasion where they took more than a few hours to get back to me. Overall, all my interactions with them have been awesome.

The entire team at EMPOWERgmat is as invested in your success as you are. If any part of this debrief resonates with you, or if you're having any doubts whatsoever about your GMAT, just sign up with them and don't look back. They'll get you to the score that you want.

Final Notes

Well, I guess that's that. I tried to keep it short, but clearly haven't been successful in doing so. It's been a long and tiring journey, and I'm glad it's more or less over. I might edit this debrief later to add stuff that I've forgotten. Anyway, time to focus on my applications for the 2018 intake. That's it for now, I'm happy to answer any questions that people might have.

PS - This community is awesome, I haven't really contributed much, but I'm glad that I was finally able to post a debrief of my experience. Good luck to everyone else taking the test or trying to improve their score!

Originally posted by Amaranth on 24 Mar 2017, 03:00.
Last edited by Amaranth on 12 Apr 2017, 23:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Guess I can finally write one of these  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2017, 19:20
Hi AvalonQQ,

That's OUTSTANDING news! With a 710/Q47, you can apply to any Business Schools that interest you, so you should consider all of your options as you work on your applications. You've shown a strong ability to do self-analysis and adapt, which is a skill that will serve you in Business School and beyond! Since I know that you're interested in applying to some competitive Programs, it's important to make sure that you properly 'market yourself' in each of your applications, so you might want to consider working with an Admissions Expert. As an EMPOWERgmat Alum, we can set you up with our go-to Admissions Expert for a free consultation - if that's something that you're interested in. You can contact me or the Support Team and we'll help set it all up.

Congratulations again on your success!

Another GMAT Assassin has been made!

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Re: Guess I can finally write one of these  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Apr 2017, 08:59
Great debrief.
Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience. All the best for your applications.
I hope i write one of these soon. 8-)

Help me make my explanation better by providing a logical feedback.

If you liked the post, HIT KUDOS !!

Don't quit.............Do it.

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Re: Guess I can finally write one of these  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Apr 2017, 17:56
Incredible progress graph Avalon!!! Congratulations!!
I will look up Empower GMAT.

This is very motivating for someone attempting again!! There are so many posts where people just want to give up after second attempt. Thanks :)
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Re: Guess I can finally write one of these &nbs [#permalink] 10 Apr 2017, 17:56
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