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My love story with the GMAT and how we scored 750 together

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Joined: 21 Oct 2017
Posts: 78
Location: France
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Technology
GMAT 1: 750 Q48 V44
GPA: 4
WE: Project Management (Internet and New Media)
My love story with the GMAT and how we scored 750 together  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 11 Mar 2018, 14:58
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Hi Everyone,

I took the GMAT a few months ago and earned a 750 (Q: 48, V: 44, IR: 8; AWA: 6.0). I thought I would take the time to share my story and some thoughts with you. The GMAT Club community has been a tremendous help, and I hope the following will allow me to contribute and help some of you.

First off, I want to start by thanking bb for creating the GMAT Club, and Bunuel, mikemcgarry, chetan2u and VeritasPrepKarishma. I'm truly amazed by your depth of knowledge, patience, dedication, your ability to turn complex matters into easy to grasp concepts, and your kindness (because I asked a lot of stupid questions and yet you answered without making fun of me :lol: ). Thank you for being such rock stars!

I realize I wrote WAY too much so here is a table of contents as a way of apology. It has no anchors though, because I'm noob :cry:

1. Background
2. Failed Start
3. Growing Up
4. Choosing Kaplan & First Diagnostic Test
5. Switching to Admit Master
6. Second Diagnostic Test
7. Classes Being
8. First Practice Test
9. Booking the Exam
10. Last CAT Before the Exam
11. Last Week Before the Exam: switching focus to Verbal
12. Last Two Days: don't introduce new material!
13. Test Day Breakfast and Prep
14. Test Day Experience
15. Support System: Cool Girlfriend
16. Couple Tips/Reminders


1. Background

I'm 29 years old, from France and currently live in Canada. In 2010, I graduated from a French Business School and obtained a BBA. This is when I moved to Montreal and joined a very small tech agency, for which I now have worked for the past 7+ years and in which I became a partner. Most of my relatives being doctors, I always thought I would go back to school and academically achieve something above my BBA undergrad. As such, pursuing a MBA had been in my sight for a while.


2. Failed Start

Back in 2013, a couple of friends started studying for the GMAT and were planning to join a MBA program the following year. This is when I decided I was going to do the same. Armed with determination, I purchased the Official Guide and started studying for what probably ended up being a solid day...

Needless to say I didn't have the motivation at the time and was generally speaking upset I had to take a standardized test. For one, coming from France, multiple choice tests were foreign to me and I thought they were a lazy way to evaluate students. On the other hand, although my English was already strong enough, I disliked the idea of being at a disadvantage when compared to native speakers taking the test. Long story short, I was frustrated before I even started, and as any good Frenchman would do, I rebelled against the test (a.k.a. I didn't anything more than stopped studying)


3. Growing Up

Finally, in early 2017, after reevaluating some career and life goals, I decided I was going to study the GMAT for real, and scheduled to start my preparation as of September 2017 to take the test the following December/January.

This time-frame allowed me to get past the summer wedding season and get some of my employees up to speed on certain things so that I could work less. I would generally work anywhere from 60 to 80-hour weeks, and managed to scale down to 45-50 hours while preparing the GMAT.


4. Choosing Kaplan & First Diagnostic Test

My girlfriend had studied her MCAT with KAPLAN and had a great experience. I therefore didn't do much research and chose to go ahead with KAPLAN full online access and in-person classes in Montreal.

I can learn a lot better in-person rather than from an online course. The in-person aspect was very important to me and I was scheduled to start KAPLAN classes by the third week of September.

I started working on my own using the online platform, but I really wasn't working that hard and was waiting for classes to begin to really dig in. As recommended by KAPLAN, I took an online Diagnostic Test which I feel went horrible. I scored 610. It didn't feel good but I wasn't exactly panicked. Verbal-wise, I had never done anything remotely close to that type of test, and my score was still okay. Quant-wise, my score was abysmal but I felt that for every question I knew which "door" needed to be opened to answer, except I had none of the keys lol.

I soon received from KAPLAN their prep book, a small and very useful formula book, a book from MBA Admission and a booklet of laminated worksheet with a wet erase pen. I really liked that last part. It really made me feel taken care of, helping me understand what the real GMAT would be like.

Waiting for my classes to start, I read the chapters in KAPLAN book, and did some quizzes on their online platform, which by the way is very well put together with a huge database of questions.

Anyways, 3 days before my classes were scheduled to start, KAPLAN reached out to me to let me know they were cancelling the course due to low enrollment, and they had no other options to offer than the online classes or a refund. I felt this was a massive betrayal on their part. They never mentioned these classes were conditional to anything, the news came with insufficient notice, and that really threw away my study plan and my confidence.


5. Switching to Admit Master


This is when I found out about Admit Master, a prep course offering six 8-hour in-person classes and an online platform, for the same price than KAPLAN. I decided to get refunded and booked with Admit Master.

(I ABSOLUTELY loved my experience with Admit Master and in retrospect I'm very happy KAPLAN ditched me haha. If you have any questions in regards to Admit Master, feel free to pm me.)

I booked with AdmitMaster on September 28th and my classes were scheduled to start on October 15th. From that point on, everything changed.

These guys sent several emails with very targeted work they wanted me to do before the first class. A lot of it was done on IXL (https://ca.ixl.com/) and were reviews on Grade 9th/10th Math. Probably very similar to some of the Math Foundation books available out there.

I started working every single day, 3-4 hours at night (between 7pm and midnight) and 20 hours on weekends, i.e. 10 hours on Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday. Obviously, I wasn't nearly as productive in the first few weeks as I was towards the end of my journey. My brain was out of shape to sustain intense studying, but I was incredibly motivated and all I could think about was going home to work on the GMAT.


6. Second Diagnostic Test

10 days after having enrolled with Admit Master, I took their Diagnostic Test and scored a 640. I was hoping to score higher, but I realize now this was very unrealistic since I really only had trained my basic skills and had not started learning yet how to beat the GMAT per say.


7. Classes Being

Admit Master classes started. 8 hours, every Sunday. 4 hours of Verbal in the morning. 4 hours of Quant in the afternoon. They were AWESOME, everything I had hoped for.

Tristan, our teacher, explained to us how the course was going to work. Essentially, every core concept the GMAT covers was broken down by chapter, with targeted practice questions from Admit Master, reference to OG questions and to more IXL practice.

This pace allowed me to cover all relevant topics and feel comfortable with them. I wasn't mastering anything just yet, but I was building confidence.


8. First Practice Test

On November 11th, not even 5 weeks after taking my Diagnostic Test I took an online CAT on Admit Master's platform (same as GoGMAT) and scored a 700. FYI, for all my practice tests, I mimicked actual test conditions: AWA, IR, 8-minute break + snacks, Quant, 8-minute break + snacks, Verbal (I talk about GMAT order at the end of the message).

At that point, I still had two classes left which were going to cover advanced strategies, so I dedicated most of my time to running 10-question tests focused on specific topics and reviewing them at length. I also kept building my error log, whether it was for OG questions or from the online bank - the platform I used allowed you to flag questions, although it unfortunately did not allow you to review them as new, meaning I would still see the answer choice I had selected the first time around.

Although I had spent a fair amount of time learning the different question types and techniques for each one of them, I had not dedicated much time to Verbal yet. I felt I needed more work on my Quant. I probably spent 3 hours working on Quant for every hour worked on Verbal.

My goal was to improve my Quant score, so that's what I focused on. As per the CAT timeline in my signature, I managed to improve my Quant score by 1 point with every new CAT I was taking.


9. Booking the Exam

Unfortunately, since I didn't plan things as well as I should have, I had to cut my study plan short. I had planned to take the exam right before Christmas, because I was going to go on vacation in France and I was afraid that I would lose too much momentum over the break. On November 11th, I decided to book my exam date only to find out that the only date left open in December was on the 4th, almost 3 weeks earlier than what I wanted...

I was getting punished for bad planning and procrastinating. Don't procrastinate !

My morale wasn't at its best and I was afraid this timeline would result in me scoring poorly. In any event, I decided I was going to suck it up and stick to passing the exam before the Christmas break. Important - I set my floor score at 680, deciding to cancel anything that would be lower than that and accept anything at that level or above (knowing you can still act upon your score a couple of days after taking the test).

My exam was scheduled on a Monday at 1h45pm, so I decided to take my last CAT (GMAT Prep) the Monday before, at the same time. I didn't go to work that day and did my best to replicate what real conditions would be like.


10. Last CAT Before the Exam

On my last CAT, a week before the exam, I scored a 720. I felt like I needed a few more weeks to get to a solid 50 in Quant but I just didn't have the time. I knew I would be able to improve my stagnating 40 in Verbal by cramming Official Verbal questions in the last week, which is a strategy I had decided to take after booking the exam.


11. Last Week Before the Exam: switching focus to Verbal

During my last week I switched my focus to the Verbal section. I have practiced questions from Kaplan, GoGMAT, MGMAT and Veritas, and although they all do a good job, I would say that nothing is worth Official Questions.

Over that last week, I plowed through all SC and CR questions from the OG 2018, OG 12th edition, and spent a lot of time on GMAT Club searching the forum for OG sources. As usual, I would do quick sets of 10 questions, generally spending 15 minutes per set, and spending another 10-15 minutes going over the explanations, even for those I got right.

Spending a lot of time on reviewing answers was very beneficial to me, especially for CR. Reading the OG breakdown of the passage really helped me understand how GMAT writes questions and therefore how to avoid traps. On test day I got all CR questions right.

SC was always harder for me. I had spent some time reviewing the MGMAT SC book a friend gave me, and my accuracy generally was at about 70-75%. I was fine on idioms but I had not practiced enough to properly recognized patterns. Still, that last week did wonders and I achieved 91% percentile on test day.

For RC, I practiced writing down Passage Maps in 4-6 minutes and making sure I could then go through the questions in about 1 minute per question. All in all, I didn't do much RC practice, however I have read The Economist for years. It used to be a hard magazine for me to read, but over the years I got comfortable with it and I think this was a great training on its own. (I'm not suggesting you shouldn't practice RC, but as you understand I had to pick my battles). I achieved 95% percentile on test day, which I believe means I got 1 wrong answer.

In terms of Quant I went over my error log, which was a nice way to refresh concepts and build confidence. I would generally achieve close to 95% accuracy on these and manage to do them in under 2 minutes.


12. Last Two Days: don't introduce new material!

I kept doing much of the same, except I tried focusing on hard and new Quant questions, which was stupid. I was a bit too tired and stressed, didn't do well, and lost confidence.

Verbal was still going strong and I was getting most things wrong.


13. Test Day Breakfast and Prep

My test time was scheduled at 1h45pm. In the morning, I reviewed my formula sheet, did about 10-15 hand-picked Quant questions I knew how to solve and liked.

I made myself a late breakfast, around 11h30. I had eggs and tomatoes. No sugar as I easily get hypoglycemia, prepared my snacks: 90% chocolate for caffeine, low sugar nuts energy bar, unsalted mix nuts, bananas and water. This was very similar than when I was running competitively or playing tennis tournaments, except for the chocolate part.

I don't do too well without caffeine but I was advised against drinking coffee because the caffeine gets released too fast in your system and the effects wear off quickly, so I switched to dark chocolate. This may all be BS, but whatever haha.

I knew how to get to the test center and what it looked like inside thanks to my "KAPLAN Test Day Experience" which I had done "partially" a month before (their computer system didn't work so I ended up not being able to take a practice test at the Test Center, but still got to experience getting there).


14. Test Day Experience

I got there 30 minutes in advance. The staff recognized me and I chatted with them for a bit. They then checked me in 15 minutes early. I sat down to the computer and during the few minutes before the test starts I made sure the two pen I was giving worked. I used the provided earplugs and soundproof headphones on top.

AWA: I then proceeded to completing the AWA and Integrated Reasoning sections. I was stressed but I knew exactly where I was going with the AWA. The prompt was one of the longest I had seen, which I actually like. I probably dished out 700 words (not to say that quantity matters, but to say that having a well-oiled template in mind really works), only spent 90 seconds rereading and voluntarily decided to use the last 60 seconds to not touch my keyboard and focus on my breathing before IR.

IR: IR is something I had had problems with, and I was fully prepared to skip 2-3 questions, namely the Multi-Source Reasoning ones. I felt very comfortable with the first 6 questions which I finished much faster than anticipated. As a result, when the Multi-Source Reasoning question showed up, I decided to take a minute to read it and decide if I wanted to skip it or not. It looked pretty difficult but manageable so I decided to try it out given my considerable time surplus. Weirdly enough, I ended up having 2 back to back Multi-Source Reasoning sets (i.e. the last 6 questions). I didn't know this was possible and would have been very annoyed in a different scenario, but I managed to answer all 12 questions with 3 minutes left on the clock.

Btw, I spent these extra 3 minutes sitting at my chair, breathing and calming down. I didn't just click submit and go on break. I also want to point out that despite the fact that I finished early, I wasn't overly confident with my answers. I just realized that spending more time on questions wouldn't help me come up with a different answer.

First Break:
I raised my hand to go on break, when straight for my locker, shoved a few snacks in my mouth and started walking and stretching a bit. Then bathroom break, a few more snacks and stretches. I made sure to wash the snacks off with water to make sure I wouldn't get thirsty.

Quant:
Then the real thing began with Quant. I felt good during the first quarter, but then a few bad thoughts started clouding my mind. The second quarter was a rough patch (57% accuracy...), until I managed to regain control and move forward more positively. I finished Quant with a bit too much time on my hand. I had 9 minutes left for the 3 last questions.

Second Break:
I followed the same drill during the next break. I wasn't feeling too happy about my Quant section but managed to stay positive and look forward to the upcoming Verbal one.

Verbal:
Questions got really hard very quickly and I saw by far the hardest CR and RC questions I ever came through. I had to do a lot of "Process of Elimination" as I couldn't manage to be certain about the right answer. Even using PoE I wasn't super confident but I stayed on track with my timing. I was much happier with my overall management of the Verbal section, but the questions were really hard and I had no idea whether I was getting them right or wrong.

Love Strikes:
Upon completion of the section I took a few seconds to breathe and to get ready to see my score, which up to this point I was afraid would be below my expectations. Then I saw my unofficial score:

750 (Q: 48, V: 44, IR: 8). I received my AWA score 10 days later and earned a 6.0.

I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing. I had to read every score and percentile 2 or 3 times before I realized I actually got that score, which was beyond my expectations. I was disappointed with my 48 in Quant, as I think a few more weeks would have allowed me to reach for 50, but I never thought I could get a 44 in Verbal. Anyways, I walked out of there ecstatic.


15. Support System: Cool Girlfriend


For what it's worth, I want to share with you something about the support system that allowed me to spend +/- 30 hours/week working on the GMAT while working +/- 50 hours/week.

Namely my girlfriend, who was amazing and really helped me get focus, get to establish a global study plan as well as weekly detailed ones. She was extremely encouraging and accepted the fact that our social life would be practically non-existent while the GMAT lasted. It wasn't easy for her or for me. There were a few times when I had to take a night off to give her some much deserved attention, because ultimately my selfishness was just getting the better of us. .


16. Couple Tips/Reminders

Reminder 1 - GMAT order
You can choose the order you want to take the GMAT. I chose to stick with the traditional AWA+IR, then Quant, then Verbal because:
1. When you get to the test center, you are likely to be stressed out, so imo starting with AWA is the best idea because with a little bit of training and a good template, it is very easy to be fully prepared to destroy that section. It will require very little energy from you and even if you have a hard time gathering your thoughts because of the stress, it shouldn't be a problem because you can rely on a template you know by heart.
2. IR was difficult for me, but I don't think it is high-energy. I think that first and foremost it requires you to be careful and with advanced IR strategies, you can afford to skip questions and therefore not be pressed by time. This makes AWA + IR a very good warmup and a way to bring your stress level down.
3. Quant is what in my opinion requires the most energy. So I feel this is perfect after a light warmup.
4. Verbal is extremely draining, and I could never do too well on Quant after Verbal. However, I can do Verbal even when exhausted (e.g. I'm used to reading The Economist before going to bed after a long day). So finishing up with Verbal made sense to me.

Reminder 2 - snacks
Remember you cannot drink or eat while taking the exam, but only during breaks. As such, I made sure to never have my water/coffee on the table when practicing. This forced me to mimic real test conditions and build stamina.

Reminder 3 - keep track of RC passages
You are going to get 4 RC passages. It's possible the last passage you are going to see comes towards the end of the section, which means you could have 4 questions left to answer, with 6 minutes left on the clock. If RC shows up in these conditions, you are going to be way too tight on time. So keep track of how many RC passages you have done to avoid getting caught off guard.
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Please Press +1 Kudos if it helps!

October 9th, 2017: Diagnostic Exam - Admit Master (GoGMAT) - 640
November 11th, 2017: CAT 1 - Admit Master (GoGMAT) - 700
November 20th, 2017: CAT 2 - GMATPrep - 700 (Q: 47, V: 40)
November 25th, 2017: CAT 3 - Admit Master (GoGMAT) - 710 (Q: 48, V: 40)
November 27th, 2017: CAT 4 - GMATPrep - 720 (Q: 49, V: 40)

December 4th, 2017: GMAT Exam - 750 (Q: 48, V: 44, IR: 8, AWA: 6)


Originally posted by Hadrienlbb on 11 Mar 2018, 14:11.
Last edited by Hadrienlbb on 11 Mar 2018, 14:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My love story with the GMAT and how we scored 750 together  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Mar 2018, 14:15
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Thanks for posting a great debrief and congratulations on a great score! Kudos for the formatting as well!

Great job getting gmat out of the way.

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Re: My love story with the GMAT and how we scored 750 together  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Mar 2018, 16:47
Congratulations buddy..
A great debrief and equally great score. Wish you all the best for you applications and hope to hear great news again.

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Re: My love story with the GMAT and how we scored 750 together &nbs [#permalink] 11 Mar 2018, 16:47
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