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My recent GMAT experience (710 Q:49 and V:38)

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My recent GMAT experience (710 Q:49 and V:38) [#permalink]

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New post 19 Sep 2006, 07:43
My GMAT Experience:

GMAT Score: 710; Math – 49 (90th percentile), Verbal 38 (85th percentile).

1. Got lost on my way to the test center.
The very thing I was afraid of had happened to me. Thanks to Google maps, I was completely lost on my way to the test center; Good thing is that I allowed myself a 45 minute buffer, which came to rescue. Lessen learned - Get to know the exact route to the test center a day before, even if it means to do a dry run. And also try to be there at the test center 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to your scheduled appointment. This will give you a chance to acclimatize yourselves to the center surroundings and will give you ample to time to relax. Also allow room for some administrative stuff, such as reading the rules booklet, taking your digital photograph, finger prints etc., which usually takes around 10 minutes.

2. Nerves got the better of me and wasn't able to eat sufficient food.
It is very important that you have a nice decent meal before the exam as you'll be there at the center at least for 4 hours (unless, you're a genius and you can finish both Math and Verbal sections in half of the stipulated time, in which case this experience wont apply to you, anyway). And this exam sucks the nutrients from your body on a geometrical rate. I had a slice of pizza (that's all I could eat due to my nervousness) an hour before the exam. But, luckily I took a chance and took some bananas and a bottle of water with me, which came to rescue during the breaks.
Even after having a banana each at each break, I was completely drained out of energy at the end of the exam. (I also had a splitting head-ache towards the end of the exam, due to my intense concentration on the computer screen, but I am sure it's just me and my eyes)
I suggest everyone to take energy bars or some fruit or any food that replenishes energy quickly. The instructors would allow you to keep them in the locker and would let you access these, only if the food is not accompanied by any reading materials (this is not really a strict policy, but if they catch you reading some material while you're eating or drinking – you will be in big trouble). My advice - don't take any reading material to the test center, it's not worth it.
Also bring some water or some drink with you, even though they usually provide water at the center, it is advisable to have a back up.

AWA Essays:
3. Take ear-plugs at least for the essays:

The test center provides ear-plugs upon request. My recommendation is to use them at least during the AWA essays. There were around ten people who started the GMAT around the same time as I did. And everyone started typing almost at the same time. The ear plugs took that distraction away. Of course, after the AWA essay, I didn’t see much of their need, so I got rid of them after that.

If you’ve taken the GMAC’s prep tests, the actual exam is going to be exactly similar to those. I mean the print, the instructions etc., (There are of course a few exceptions, but the main difference is that the breaks and the instructions are timed in the actual GMAT and they are not timed in the prep test). Basically, it gives you a notion of familiarity which was a welcome relief for me. I strongly suggest you to finish taking both the tests at least a week before the exam. Some of the questions I encountered in the actual test even had the same format as those of the prep tests. In fact I even went a head and took a third test using the same CD. The prep tests are designed to mimic the real test and hence are also adaptive. I did see repetitions, but I also got to see some questions that I wouldn’t have, had I not taken it the 3rd time.

4. Lost time during the first break. – A big no-no!!!
One of the key things that helped me during my prep tests is the utilization of the breaks to the maximum extent possible. I learned that using deep-breathing techniques for a couple of minutes fills your brain with much needed oxygen and instantaneously re-vitalizes your brain. While this is absolutely true, this very strategy back-fired on me due to my negligence.
During my first break, which spanned for 10 minutes (After the essays and before the Math section), I visited the bathroom, had a banana, drank some water and went down-stairs to get a fresh-breather. By the time I got back to my terminal, I exceeded the break-time by 47 seconds and the computer deducted that time from my stipulated time for Math section. Now, you must think, so what… - it's only 47 seconds… It's actually much more than that, it changed my mood, I was totally disturbed and took 3 minutes to actually get back into the groove and concentrate on the problems at hand. Thank God it happened before my Math section, which I consider my forte. Despite the lost time I managed to finish the section well in advance and actually had 6 minutes left for the last question. But, I should not boast… 

Note: Every time you leave the test room for a break, they take your right index finger print and they lock your computer. And before you get back into the room they take your finger print again and have to unlock your terminal, this is a process that takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.

Morals of the story:
1. Allow yourself only 5 to 7 minutes for the break.
2. Definitely try the deep breathing exercises. They do help!!!
3. Make sure you eat or drink during breaks.

Even though I didn’t get to do this because I spent too much time during the first break, you should definitely use the following grid for Math. I recommend writing the following grid before the start of the math section on the corner of one of the laminated sheets given to you. You’ll have approximately 2 minutes or so to go through the math section’s instructions. And since these are already known instructions to you, you can utilize some of that time to write down this grid.

Question Minutes
1 75
7 60
14 45
21 30
28 15

The above table shows the approximate question number that you should be working on at 15 minute count-down intervals. This will help you give a good read on your pace on the test.

Verbal Section:

Needless to mention, after learning a valuable lesson from the mistake I made during the first break, I arrived at my terminal 4+ minutes to spare after the second break. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a minute plus to perform breathing exercises during my break. I also had a banana and drank half a bottle of water.

Enter Verbal section:

You will be given exactly one minute to read the instructions before the verbal section begins. Assuming that you’re well versed with these instructions, my recommendation to best utilize this time is to write the following grid at the corner of one of the laminated sheets that were given to you.
Question Minutes
1 75
8 60
16 45
24 30
33 15

The above table shows the approximate question number that you should be working on at 15 minute count-down intervals. This will help you give a good read on your pace on the test.

The very first question that was thrown at me was a sentence correction question, testing my knowledge on idioms. Just when I thought I could take pride on my sentence correction mastery, the question bursted that bubble and I felt like a deer in the headlights. Don’t exactly remember the question (don’t think it is legal to discuss it, even if I did remember), but the question left me with two very probable options after using POE and eliminating three others.

1. Not x so much as y
2. More x than y

Both seemed correct to me and after staring at the choices for 2 extra minutes, realized that I am wasting valuable time, I made an executive decision and picked with not so much x as y. Honestly, I am still not sure if I picked the correct choice.
Anyways, after that I just went along answering questions at my best pace. Didn’t follow any of the strategies I learned, like diagramming or taking notes, just understood the reasoning that was presented to me and went with my gut instinct.

Reading-Comp to the rescue:

Ironically, the very section I have dreaded for the longest time, came to my rescue and to my total surprise, I was cruising along the passages and answered the questions very easily. My recommendation is to read the entire passage at one shot, comprehending as much information as possible. From my experience you can take anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes to read the entire passage, but if you have a comprehension of 80% of the passage, I’d say you’ll more than likely score 90% on reading comp without spending more than an average of 2.5 minutes on each question. I was more certain of my answers on the reading comp section than I was of my sentence correction and Critical reasoning.


I am not sure how this thing happened, but I urge you to be wary of this:
Ironically, I made the stupidest math mistake of the day in the verbal section. With 6 minutes left and the question number showing 39/41, I thought to myself that I have 6 minutes left to answer two questions (do you see it yet?) and hence decided to spend 3 minutes on each one. The questions were critical reasoning questions – so, I spent extra time on the first to make sure that I got the answer correct and the last one I spend around 2.5 minutes to answer it and just when I thought I was leaving the section with 35 seconds to spare, the computer threw me the 41st question at me with 35 seconds to go. I was shocked and totally panicked. At which pointed I just prayed to the GMAT Gods and randomly picked an answer without even reading the question.

Morals of the story:

1. Use your break wisely, take a bath room break – this will relieve a lot of tension, eat something and drink water and do some breathing exercises, if you believe in them.
2. Make sure you arrive at your terminal at least 2 to 3 minutes early and write down the grid show above on one of the corners of the sheet.
3. Finally, even though this could be a stupid mistake on my part and not everyone would do this - make sure of your math in how many questions you’re left with when you’re approaching the end of the section.

Also, do not think about the level of toughness of the question and try to analyze whether you’re doing well or not so well. It is not worth it. GMAT very cleverly disguises that by introducing experimental questions. Frankly, after finishing my test, I totally under-estimated my performance in the verbal section and thought I won’t even get 670. So, just concentrate on the task at hand and leave the result to the Gods.

Felt tip and laminated sheets – a colossal inconvenience:

At the end of the exam – I, along with few other testers, spent 5 minutes in the bath room. Sounds awkward – doesn’t it? We were all scrubbing our palms with soap to get rid of the ink that was smeared all over our palms. Whoever came up with the idea of long laminated sheets and a felt tip to write on them should be shot.

All through my practice I used a ball-point pen and A4 paper, which worked wonderfully for me and I am sure almost 95% of us are comfortable using these. As if the exam itself is not difficult enough, some genius came up with this idea to laminate some long graph sheets (much longer than the average A4 sheet) making it extremely uncomfortable to write on. Following are the drawbacks I found with this system:

1. Due to its extra length, the laminated sheet is very difficult to be place on the table while operating the mouse comfortably.(The only exception to this is – a person who can write with his right hand and operate the mouse with his left or vice versa or a person who is ambidextrous.)
2. The felt tip is thin but when you write on the laminated sheet is so smooth that the ink doesn’t stick to it, making it very hard to write on it legibly. I could honestly say that just due to this issue, I have gotten at least two math problems incorrect because I could not read my own number on the sheet. So, I had to re-do the whole calculation but only this time much slower and steadier – which obviously took significant time.
3. And of course, by the end of the math section, I promise you, your fingers and palm are smudged with ink, which might not be as bad as the other two reasons and also if you’ve scored well in the exam.

P.S: Not sure whether GMAC adapted this idea of laminated sheets in order to save trees or not, but if that was the reason, I’d like to contest that more trees are cut than saved by this method, if one takes into consideration the amount of water and the number paper towels one would use to get rid of the ink on one’s palm.

That’s it folks: That’s all I got to say about my GMAT experience for now. Hope this helps or at the very least gives you a good idea on things that need caution on your exam day.

Classes and Study material:

1. Manhattan GMAT online class (9 weeks) – Excellent program – highly recommended.
2. Manhattan courseware: If you don’t want to take the class, the second best thing is to procure this material and a thorough self-study of this material should boost your score up.
3. LSAT super prep – This has some awesome tips on critical reasoning and reading comp approaches – highly recommended, if English is your weakness.
4. Official Guide – There is no other substitute for this book to excel at GMAT. It is not so much the questions it provides as the explanations to the right and wrong answer choices it provides that makes it so unique. If you’re serious about getting a good score at GMAT, you must complete all the sections given in this book at least once and understand the explanations given in this book. The only draw-back in this book that I found is the math section, where sometimes I think it provides the long-winded bookish way to resolve a problem (especially a complex problem) and deliberately avoids giving the short-cut method, which saves time.
5. Grammar Smart and Word Smart audio CDs: These I found extremely useful (especially the grammar smart part), because I drove from Philadelphia to New York
Every week and instead of listening to music, I listened to these CDs for the last 3 months. Call me a geek, but fellaws, let me tell you - they helped me tremendously.
I must have listened to the CDs 5 and 6, which cover the grammar rules, at least 10 times and now I can confidently say that I can spot a misplaced modifier and a subjunctive mood in a sentence coming from a mile. So, if you have long daily commute, these CDs would definitely help you.

abbadee –yabadee –yabadeee - That’s all folks


~Venkat :wink: :arrow:

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New post 19 Sep 2006, 08:30
Congrats Venkat on the great score!! :P :P

Good luck with the apps...

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New post 19 Sep 2006, 08:32
Very nice score :) Congratulations :D

Thanks a lot for your debriefing... some parts are even really funny ;) It gives energy :D

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New post 19 Sep 2006, 09:05
great post and great recommendations!!! Moreover... EXCELLENT SCORE!!!



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  [#permalink] 19 Sep 2006, 09:05
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My recent GMAT experience (710 Q:49 and V:38)

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