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My GMAT journey to 740 : Believe you can and you will

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My GMAT journey to 740 : Believe you can and you will  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Mar 2019, 05:04
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Now that I have finally completed my GMAT journey and have a few admits on my hand, here I am ready to pen down my thoughts on the entire preparation process - replete with failures, frustrations, anxiety and moments of self doubt. Let me warn you that I am not going to be precise with my debrief.

Background : An average student with medium Quant and weak English grammar proficiency with history of anxiety attacks and disaster in an timed competitive examination environment. Performing under time pressure has never been my cup of tea and has always affected my test scores in the worst possible manner.

The Beginning : I began my quest for MBA in 2016 targeting CAT and IIMs with very little serious mode of preparation - obviously hitting the ground flat on my face. In retrospect, I was not entirely convinced myself that I wanted to pursue higher education and living in the moment cherishing the success of achieving short term goals in day to day job life. But soon the monotonicity and lack of recognition of IT developer hit me hard as things didn’t go as per plan even after putting in much hard work. I realized the importance of a post graduate degree and dived in head first into the pool of preparation for GMAT in 2017 and let me assure you it wasn’t an easy swim.

The Struggle: Coming back from office everyday -all tired and exhausted , sitting down with the books, practicing the questions and reflecting on your mistakes is an onerous task. The mental strength and will power required to shake off the brain drain of the entire day, ready to take it all in, is the most important task and it takes time to make it a habit. Reflecting back this is the single most important step – To get started and not stop !!!
But its just the tip of the iceberg. There will be days when you will be physically exhausted, emotionally lagged and when you will see that the effort is not bearing the fruits of success - the natural reaction will be to simply give up. The trick is not to fall for it. To be associated with someone who will motivate you to keep going helps. And if you are alone in this journey, you have the debriefs and GMAT Club to fall back on where almost everybody who has been on this journey has hit multiple roadblocks.

I started with understanding the exam pattern well. I completed the OG only and tried to understand the official explanations provided. The initial diagnostic test did not go well , and neither did the subsequent mocks. I had set a target of 700+ for myself and was determined not to settle for anything below that. I gave 3 mocks and a diagnostic test which were not going as per my expectations but I had scheduled my test date already and wanted to sit for the actual exam irrespective of the scores hoping for some miracle. This misconception was fueled by the general belief that GMAT is an easier exam than CAT exam conducted by the IIMs and if you are good with quants and moderate in English you will clear it with a lesser effort. I couldn’t be more wrong.

First Attempt : I gave my first GMAT on October 2017 and it was a complete disaster as I scored a mere 620 on the actual exam. Back then the exam could only be taken in a fixed format of AWA-IR- QA-VA . Verbal was always my weakness and by the time I got to the VA section my brain was completely exhausted and I secretly started to wish the exam was over soon while still sitting in front of the system. I had already given up in my mind before the test even ended. Although it wasn’t a shocker given my mocks were not going very well , this entire experience left me broken and full of self doubt. Following this harrowing experience were a series of sleepless nights and anxiety attacks. The thought of getting stuck where I was for eternity had turned into a nightmare. To get back to normal life I left the preparation completely for the year and focused on getting on with life.

Starting All Over again: With the beginning of the next year, I realized I will never be at peace with myself again knowing that I had given up on myself. I decided to take up only one resolution for the year -to get over the phobia of appearing in a competitive exam. With the determination to go through it all over again, leaving no stone unturned and to do it without the pressure of outcome I pulled out the books again. Its worthy to mention that by this point of time I had developed an apathy for office and the short term goals and appreciation expectations there. It helps immensely to be clear in your mind what is actually important to you and not let your attention get diverted in any other direction.

The first thing I did was generate an Enhanced Score Report(ESR) of my previous attempt and study it carefully. It clearly showed me the point where my attention span broke and I started making silly mistakes. This was absolutely crucial to realize where I was going wrong. I comprehended that I had massively undervalued the importance of appearing for mocks will full preparation each time as if actual exam and sitting through it developing the speed and attention span.

Verbal : I started with the basics from the MGMAT study material, going through each and every chapter and noting down the important points. Verbal was my weakness, specially Sentence Correction and the textbook basics didn’t seem to be enough as I kept making mistakes while practicing from the OG again. So I subscribed to the eGMAT verbal course after reading the reviews on the forum and benefited out of the online lectures which gave me a direction as to how to breakdown a given sentence and spot the error. I also figured out that RC will be my most trusted friend in this section. I didn’t have to struggle much with the CR part after carefully going through the techniques mentioned in MGMAT.

Quants : I did not start from scratch as I had already developed a fair idea of the basics while preparing for the CAT during previous years and dived directly to practice problems from OG. When I was finished with OG I bought the Official Quant Review ebook and started practicing from there. Problem solving was relatively easier for me and I struggled with the Data Sufficiency portion especially with the Integers and Inequalities questions. I went back to the basics on an adhoc basis to identify where I was going wrong and kept a log of the incorrect questions.

IR & AWA: I sat through every IR and AWA sections of my mock. For IR, I approximated my answers for very complex sets but never left any question unanswered and tried to follow answering in a format for my AWA analysis.

By June , I had taken my time on learning the theory and started focusing on practicing questions only. Every problem in the OG book was important and this time I made sure I didn’t go through the official explanations alone. This is where GMAT Club forum has contributed the most in my preparation. I looked for the SC’s I was getting wrong in the forum and reading through every comment associated with it to try and understand the thought process of where I was going wrong. I cannot stress enough on not only focus on what is the correct answer but how to think and clearly identify the error in the sentence first. I maintained an error log to identify which kind of SC error I was missing on the most.

Second Attempt : With an objective to appear for my GMAT in September , I started giving the mocks again once I was done with the OG questions. I tried all combinations for the selection of section sequence in the mocks and figured out that VA-QA-IR-AWA works the best for me as I need to deal with the Verbal section with full focus and fresh mind. The mocks didn’t start off well as I was spending too much time on thinking and was unable to complete all the questions within the stipulated time initially. But I saw an improvement on the accuracy level from the last time. Slow and steady move helped me not to lose my motivation even though the mock scores were not even close to my expectations. I made sure I appear for the mocks in a complete test environment and take no extra breaks which helped grow the tenacity to sit through the entire stretch keeping the attention span unaffected.
I used to GMAT Forum SC and CR questions during breaks in office and go back home and reflect on the error log. It helped me to keep my focus and be involved in the preparation even on busy days at work.
I did not study before the exam day and just went through the quant formulas and SC error log, slept early and tried my best not to think about the exam. Letting the exam fear not get to you is the key.

D Day Disaster : On the exam day I tried to stay calm. Had dry fruits in my bag for the intervals. The exam was going well, but sometimes luck is not on your side. While attempting the second last question of the verbal section my system hanged and I had to quit the test. I did not know what to make out of this. I felt like crying after all the hardwork and months of preparation coming to such an expected end.
The test center offered to report GMAC of the event and get a free of cost reschedule after two weeks but no later than 6months.

Never Say Die : For me I had left no stoned unturned during my second attempt preparation and I wasn’t going to let the effort go to waste. I scheduled my examination on the very weekend the slot was available after two weeks. This time before I exam day, the only thing I did was get rid of any expectations and simply focus on going there and giving in all I had. I had accepted that luck was not my friend and the outcome is completely out of my control. So to stick to my resolution the only thing I could do was not giving up.

Actual Test Day : I appeared at my center well before time, took public transport to reach there so that my mind doesn’t get overthinking with nothing but passport and dry fruits in my bag. I stuck to my tried and tested pattern of VA-QA-IR-AWA pattern and completed each section on time. I was well rested , did not feel sleepy or exhausted and steady during the entire exam not panicking for once.

When finally the score showed up on screen, it was then that my heart skipped a beat and I clicked on I accept with a deep breath. My test day score is the highest I have ever scored in all the mocks.

My journey has been worth the while as it was a struggle within myself and I am glad to have not given up despite the challenges faced. I had a couple of friends who knew about what I was going through and helped me not to lose motivation and also clear my doubts - with all their mind and heart. I will be ever grateful to them and GMAT Forum. The debriefs and success stories helped me push myself even on the darkest days.

Books & materials used :
1. GMAT OG, Manhattan Books - especially on Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning.
2. Test scores received - I subscribed to Manhattan Prep GMAT Mock – set of 6 tests.
3. Online Test Prep – eGMAT Verbal Course

Mocks Date Score
CAT EXAM 1 14-10-2017 590
CAT EXAM 2 26-10-2017 640
CAT EXAM 3 28-10-2017 650
CAT EXAM 4 05-09-2018 660
CAT EXAM 5 08-09-2018 600
CAT EXAM 6 13-09-2018 690
CAT EXAM 1A 17-09-2018 700
CAT EXAM 2A 05-10-2018 680
CAT EXAM 3A 10-10-2018 710

Final GMAT 13-10-2018
Score : 740 ( QA 50, VA 40, IR 6, AWA 5)

After a struggle of almost 2years to get the desired score, finally I made it to the 700+ community. I hope my debrief will help some of you to never stop believing in yourself. I hope I can give back something to the GMAT Club community by sharing my story.

Thanks

P.S I slept like a baby that night and am finally at peace with myself.
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Re: My GMAT journey to 740 : Believe you can and you will  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Mar 2019, 09:12
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Congratulations DMITRA2604 !!! hope u got through colleges of your choice!..
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Re: My GMAT journey to 740 : Believe you can and you will   [#permalink] 04 Mar 2019, 09:12
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