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My 'non-native' story from 580 to 730 (Q47, V42)

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Joined: 19 Mar 2014
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Schools: HBS '17 (A)
GMAT 1: 730 Q47 V42
My 'non-native' story from 580 to 730 (Q47, V42) [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jun 2014, 02:52
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I am an alumnus of a premier undergraduate institution in Mumbai and have been working in a boutique consulting firm in Mumbai for 3+ years. I am applying to top 10 MBA programs for Fall 2015.

I gave my first GMAT attempt on 21st May, 2014. I scored 730 (Q47, V42, AWA 6, IR 5). Overall, a 96th percentile. I have been a silent observer at GMAT Club and after reading some really helpful debriefs during my preparation, I thought I should share my experience as well.

I started my preparation this January with the sole objective of getting a 700+ score in the first attempt. Its been a tough journey balancing work and preparation, but after a planned social isolation and putting in a lot of time from January till May, I can definitely say that hard work and perseverance pays. Without a lot of research I purchased the Kaplan Premier 2013 in December and I aimed to get my Quant and Verbal concepts refreshed within a month. But work kept me busy and I did not realise how quickly time flew by. I gave the paper based diagnostic test in the book before I started but my aim was to refresh my concepts before giving a full online CAT. I completed the book only early March and decided to give a few online CATs. I gave my first CAT (Kaplan gives you 5 free CATs with the book). I did not attempt AWA since I wanted to understand my standing in Quant and Verbal first before even looking at this section. The score startled me - a 580 on the screen was unbelievable. I did miss completing a question in Quant and completed the Verbal section in a hurry. I have always wanted to target the top 10 schools and never thought that my baseline would be so low. I decided to give another CAT (Kaplan) the very next day and scored 590. The immediate reaction was that Kaplan may have some problems with its CAT and reading a few things online seemed to suggest the same. So I decided to give the MGMAT free CAT the next day. The results this time made me realise that the problem was with my level of preparation. I scored 590 (Q41, V31, IR 2.4).

Setbacks are important milestones. They help you get your feet on the ground, and my first few attempts at the GMAT CATs made me realise that, ofcourse with a lot of boots with low motivation levels. I decided to get smart with my preparation and decided to do two things.
1) Order OG 2014
2) Conduct extensive online research on GMAT preparation tips and strategies, stories of non-natives ace-ing the GMAT as well as good preparation material.

There was no looking back from mid-March. I decided to ignore Kaplan for the time being and only focused on the OG. I purchased question banks and 5 additional tests from MGMAT. I referred to Bunuel's posts and all the question banks for Quant. I also looked at Kaplan's Advanced guide for Verbal. I then purchased the additional GMATPrep tests and the IR tool. I had all the necessary material, and now decided to execute a planned study and test schedule. I took the GMAT appointment for mid-June thinking that I would require 3 months to move from the 580s to anywhere close to my target score. I sincerely believe that you do need to have a good set of preparation materials, but what ultimately makes the difference is putting in the hours to study.

I spent 1-1.5 hours before office each weekday and about 2-3 hours after office. I spent the whole weekends (8+ hours) studying/giving CATs. By the time I reached mid-April, I realised that I was scoring 650+ consistently and needed a final month of push to get my score to 700+. Also, sustaining a tough study schedule till June did not seem feasible so I decided to re-schedule my GMAT to May 21st. This was a risk, but I thought it was an informed one and I had the option of giving a second attempt in June just in case the first attempt was not satisfactory.

I took a week of study break the week before the test and dedicated the first 3 days to going through the OG as well as other material and making notes on sticky notes to put it up on my wall. It did help! For the next 3 days I gave the mock CATs (2 GMAT Prep Extended and 1 MGMAT). I gave my last 5-6 CATs with AWA so by the end of the mock CATs, the full test just became a routine for me. I did not do a lot on the day before the exam, just scanned through my notes, went to see the location of the Pearson center, and went for a long evening walk.

On test day, I reached the center a good hour in advance, bought an orange juice for the breaks. The entire test seemed another execution of the routine I had got into and I sailed through the test pretty confidently. The only point I got nervous was when I clicked the button to report the scores. The score read 730 (Q47, V42, IR 5). I got the official score report a week later with an AWA score 6. This was the end of a long, but a critical phase of the MBA application process. Satisfaction! We'll see how the next few months pan out with the essays, recommendations, et. al

CAT Scores
1. 8th March'14 -- Kaplan CAT 1 -- 580
2. 9th March'14 -- Kaplan CAT 2 -- 590
3. 10th March'14 -- MGMAT CAT 1 -- 590 (Q41, V31)
4. 23rd March'14 -- GMATPrep CAT 1 -- 660 (Q45, V36)
5. 30th March'14 -- GMATPrep CAT 2 -- 690 (Q44, V40)
6. 31st March'14 -- Kaplan CAT 3 -- 640
7. 3rd May'14 -- MGMAT CAT 2 -- 650 (Q43, V36)
8. 4th May'14 -- MGMAT CAT 3 -- 680 (Q44, V38)
9. 10th May'14 -- MGMAT CAT 4 -- 650 (Q40, V38)
10. 11th May'14 -- MGMAT CAT 5 -- 700 (Q44, V40)
11. 17th May'14 -- GMATPrep CAT 3 (Extended Pack) -- 700 (Q47, V40)
12. 18th May'14 -- MGMAT CAT 6 -- 730 (Q45, V45)
13. 19th May'14 -- GMATPrep CAT 4 (Extended Pack) -- 720 (Q46, V44)
14. 21st May'14 -- GMAT -- 730 (Q47, V42)

Preparation Material
Official Guide 2014
Kaplan GMAT 2013
Kaplan Advanced
MGMAT Question Banks - Quant and Verbal
GMAT Club - Bunuel posts and question banks for quant
GMAT Club - AWA chineseburned and sample answers to all prompts (the chineseburned guide is a sure-shot way for high AWA score)

Tips / Observations
1. Start early, especially if you are a non-native
2. The sooner you complete a mock CAT, the better
3. Kaplan is good for initial mocks (sets the expectation lower!), but use MGMAT and GMATPrep (incl. extended pack 1) for all mocks closer to the date
4. Quant in MGMAT is tougher than actual GMAT while Verbal is probably the same level
5. As said in multiple posts, your GMAT score expectation should be the average of your final 3-4 mock CATs
6. Use limited preparation material, but do multiple readings of each
7. Focus on time management for the first few CATs - it does take time to get to a comfortable stage. Also, attempt the full AWA+IR+Quant+Verbal sections in your final 4-5 CATs
8. During the last week, focus on revision only for the first 2-3 days, keep the last few days for CATs and their revisions
9. Keep realistic expectations, be ready to change expectations mid way into your preparation
10. Finally, practice makes perfect. The only thing that will make you succeed (from an experience of a mere mortal like me), is hard work. Make a schedule and stick to it, and you will sail through with flying colours!

I know its a long post, but hopefully it serves to help all my fellow GMAT Club members who are currently preparing. If you have any further questions, do feel free to PM me. Always happy to help!

Cheers :)

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” - Confucius

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Re: My 'non-native' story from 580 to 730 (Q47, V42) [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jun 2014, 10:31
Your story encourages me a lot. Thanks for a nice post and good luck with your applications.

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Re: My 'non-native' story from 580 to 730 (Q47, V42)   [#permalink] 07 Jun 2014, 10:31
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My 'non-native' story from 580 to 730 (Q47, V42)

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