It’s a long de-brief of a very long journey, lesser number of words wouldn't have done justice so please bear.Final Score 750 (Q49, V42)
Before I delve into the details of preparation and the process, I would like to introduce myself and familiarize you all with my background. I belong to the over represented Indian Male IT demography, which has of late come to resonate as a weakness. I always knew I wanted to do my MBA and that too from the top notch school. For my Indian friends, I gave several attempts at CAT (Indian Management entrance exam) but couldn't score enough to make it into the elite league and the other set of colleges didn't ever interest me. However, this never led me to give up the idea of doing my MBA. In fact it strengthened my belief to do something better and bigger. I have never wanted an MBA for the fancy name or just as any other alternative. I wanted it for a reason and they were pretty solid for me to pick up the GMAT. Meanwhile, I took all the necessary steps to differentiate my profile from typical IT one’s. I moved into IT business consulting and bid farewell to the world of coding. This was my best shot, and a worthwhile one, to build my profile for a good school.
Enough said about my background, I started preparing for the GMAT in June, 2013. I had some air about myself as I did pretty well in the CAT exam and thought that GMAT would be an easier ride. I learnt my lesson on this with time. I started with reading about the exam on GMATClub. I would like to add here that GMATClub forum has been the only consistent thing in my journey throughout, though, you may notice, that I rarely posted anything. I always knew that verbal is my weak area and I need to devote maximum time to it. RCs and I have never got along well and my knowledge on English grammar was not sound either. I started with SC Manhattan guide and went through it in detail. I tried solving questions from the OG and then with the material I’d gathered from some friends (Caution: Don’t pick up any material as I did). I thought I was doing fine with SC and decided to move to CR. I DID NOT READ ANY BOOK ON CR and started solving questions. RCs continued to trouble me but I though I’ll be able to compensate that with CR and SC. I gave Manhattan mocks and GMAT prep. Now, let me tell you one thing about solving random material. You end up seeing questions in the mocks that you have already solved. Almost all 30% of the questions that I used to get, were already solved by me previously. Result, I always got 700+ score. So happy I was that I ended up booking my test date. I went to the exam, AWA, IR breezed through them, quant, ah my favorite part , I though I’m on cloud nine. My dream shattered when I came across the verbal section, I had no clue of the questions, I had no idea about what the CR was trying to test and Rcs, my favorite enemy gave me a reflection of where I stand. I Ended with a score of 660 (49-31). I had no idea what had happened and I felt devastated. I thought I’ve been proved a complete failure yet again and I’m worth nothing.
The era of self-pity continued for exactly 72 hours, obviously accompanied with a considerable amount of booze. Finally, coming back to myself I realized that I had completely misjudged the exam, not only verbal but also quant. I knew, I want an MBA and that too from the very best school. I knew I can touch the magical figure of 700. I knew I need to re-do things and do them right. I made a plan. I had to do two things, find good questions to practice for verbal and focus to get quant 50/51. This time I decided to start with quant. I knew all the concepts way too well, so just skimmed through them once again. DS was the problem here. You think you’re too smart for it but it ultimately outsmarts you. I practiced the tough questions that I found on GMATClub. After gaining some confidence on handling tough ones I thought I’ll move to SC. I had decided I’ll take each part one at a time and master it. I re-read Manhattan SC and Aristotle SC book. I would like to mention at this point the importance of Manhattan SC guide. It’s the single most effective book to master rules need for SC (though you need more than that to master answer SC in GMAT). I solved OG and verbal guide but time this time I gave more time reading explanations, not only official explanations but also given by some experts. I gained more confidence and my accuracy did increase. Then I moved to CR as this was the section which completely bowled me out. I read the Manhattan CR
guide and that gave me an idea as what the question is trying to test you on. I practiced more and more to get a hold of the reasoning process. I would always go back to GMATClub to try out the difficult questions to evaluate myself. Then moving to RC, I tried focusing myself more and more. I made a point to solve 3 RCs per day and get all correct. But, that never happened. It was already October, and I was running short on time if I had to apply to R2. This time I tried Kaplan
Mocks and scored somewhere in the range of 690-740. Not to forget I had no repeat questions in my mock and Kaplan
tests are pretty difficult, especially verbal, and does not reflect actual GMAT level questions. I went for my second attempt on October 17th. Same process, AWA, IR, Quant, Verbal. I was pretty comfortable till quant, double checking each and every answer before marking. I moved to the real challenger, Verbal. I think I was more prepared this time and knew what I was doing. I managed my time well, I was not scared of the questions and RC did n not seem to trouble me much. I was never really confident because I remembered my last attempt and knew not to expect anything in between the exam. Ended the exam, 700 (50 34). Glaring on the screen, excited at seeing the 7 figure I rushed out. I thought I got everything that I needed. I took a break, celebrated and started brainstorming for the applications process. I knew 700 was not an exceptional score, but it wasn’t bad either. I knew this is was my best chance and I have to go ahead and apply. I applied to just the top tier universities including ISB, Tepper, UCLA, McCombs and Georgetown. I thought my overall profile with 5yrs of experience in Business consulting was enough. I started with the alien process of essay writing, but did not have much time as deadlines were near. I somehow managed to submit my applications on time and then the long wait started. Let’s cut the story short. The result was Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding without interview and then another Ding after an interview and being wait-listed for Georgetown.
It did not take me too much time to realize the problem and where I went wrong. After a lot of introspection, research, talking to multiple current students in top B-schools and essay reviews, I realized two things. First, my essays need to be better, I had the content but it was like something that has just been put together to puzzle the reader. Second, though my GMAT score was good but not good enough for an Indian Male IT applicant. I realized that the top schools have an average for 720-730 when it comes to Indian applicants. My Indian friends, I cursed each one of you who busted him/herself to increase that average. I cursed you guys day in and day out, never realizing that I’ll be a part of the group soon
The best way to learn from failure is to make it your friend, not a permanent one. Accept it humbly, get your thoughts together and make a plan (even if you don’t stick to it). I started in June and my plan was to re-write my GMAT and work on essays in parallel. I knew even if I improve by a few points in verbal I’ll cross 720 and that would be sufficient but I always wanted to make it big this time. I didn’t want any stone unturned and hence decided to join CrackVerbal [url](http://www.crackverbal.com
)[/url] classes in Bangalore. I had heard a lot about Arun and attended their demo class, which was RC
. Though not sure whether the classes will be of any help, I signed up and started their 6 weeks verbal course. Let me emphasize on my preparations here. I started with RC, with a difference this time. CV classes introduced me to the “making a map” concept for an RC passage. I knew I’d tried everything so why not try this too. Suddenly I realized I was more comfortable handling RCs. You read a paragraph or 5-6 lines and then pause for 5 seconds to scribble on your notepad. Just jot down whatever you’ve understand in 5-6 words. You do this for the entire passage and then move to the questions. I realized I never referred back to the map but my understanding of the passages suddenly increased. I was able to comprehend better and obviously answer better. Never knew I could tackle RCs so efficiently. A recommendation to all of you struggling with RCs, please try this approach. Let me know if guys want me to elaborate on it further. Also, do not hesitate to spend an extra 40-60 seconds on reading the passage. Will help you cut down time on questions. I would also like to mention a strategy on how to handle dense RC passages, I’m still not an expert on it but I got 2 such passages in my exam, I think I handled them well. Let me tell you this, I didn’t understand anything about the passage or what it tried to say. I just read it out slow. I take more frequent pauses to make a note, every 3 lines. I just scribble something. Though you don’t realize but your brain gets the needed pause to register something. This helps when you answer. Also, a dense passage is usually accompanied by questions that are not very tricky or have close answer choices. The idea is, not to be afraid and take them head-on. This is the only key to ace RC, though I still don’t claim to be an expert, I just fought my worst enemy better
Coming to CR, I would like to thank Arun for giving me a new perspective. When I joined, I knew a lot on CR and was doing well on it. I did understand the reasoning but I was not consistent. I heard every word Arun said very well. There’s not much that one needs to do in here. There are stringent rules that can be applied but there are few ways that can help you get “in the zone” to answer CR questions. I use the term “get in the zone” because once you start finding patterns that GMAT tests, you’ll never have difficulty ever again. A word of caution, please do not try to solve CR questions from un-authentic sources. This does more harm than good. You will end up losing confidence and your concepts will falter. An example of this would be trying to solve every LSAT question you get your hand on or on GMATClub too. Please, be careful and do not solve every question. The best way to practice is to get GMATPrep
questions and focus on the how to negate an answer. There might not be a correct answer, but there surely will be four wrong answer choices. Remember one thing, target the conclusion of the question. There are different ways of handling every question type but reasoning process remains the same. Once you hit that, you’ll never get a CR question wrong. In contrast to what I had experienced and read, CR was the easiest for me after I followed a structured approach and I was most comfortable answering CR in the exam. Advice in one line, don’t practice tons of question, practice a few but understand why the wrong answer choices are wrong
Coming to SC, the most sacred part of the exam. Please put my following line in your head: “SC IS NOT ABOUT ENGLISH GRAMMAR, IT IS ABOUT LOGIC”. Till my previous attempt, I always tried to learn as many rules as I could. I learnt every Manhattan SC rule by heart. Let me tell you one thing, almost every grammar rule you learn for SC will have an exception and you can’t go learning all, especially if English is not your first language. I learnt just one thing out of my entire class, use SC rules along with applying logic. I picked the same OG questions, which I’d done a dozen times, same GMAT Prep questions, but I didn’t apply rules until really needed. I just applied a logical approach to every question and tried to understand what the sentence was trying to convey. Once you master this, SC won’t trouble you anymore. You can easily have a 3-2 split for most of the questions applying the well-known concepts in areas that GMAT tests you. Always remember that the option you choose must be conveying the intended meaning. Manhattan SC book is more than enough for you to learn some major concepts, not grammar:).
Lastly, coming to my strongest area and the one because of which I missed 760 (99th percentile), quants. I was giving my mocks regularly, this time veritas prep
(not a fan of their mocks or question quality) and was scoring 50/51 consistently in quant. I used to check my mistakes and wont term them silly because there was a trap and I missed it. I tried to practice questions, tough ones under a limited amount of time. While writing my exam I thought I was doing well but only to realize that I did fall in the traps set for me and ended at 49. I regret this but nevertheless I can’t complain about my score. Who doesn’t want an extra 10 points on the GMAT or the perfect 760 score . The only thing that troubles is that quant is the reason (My Indian Male Engineering friends would agree).
That was a lot of words and a long story, I’ve got used to writing a lot because of my quest with building perfect essays for my applications. Sorry for the long long de-brief. My intention was just to let you guys know that anyone who REALLY wants a 700 or 750 can get it. It’s not a test of some rules or English language. It is a test of logic and self-management. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses if you want to ace it.
I have devoted my last 1.5 years to just GMAT and research on B schools and essays and know what importance this holds in one’s life. I would like to help anyone who really is stuck and needs any sort of help. Especially Asian people, it’s a difficult road ahead for us. GMAT might not be the only thing but yes a high GMAT sets you apart, so why not give it a genuine shot. Hope I might have helped or inspired some of you, do let me know for any clarifications of specifics. Feel free to shoot any sort of question, I will be glad to answer.
One last piece of Advice: Don’t’ give up, if you really want it.
P.S.: please don’t judge my SC skills by my debrief, I’ve had enough of it