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Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes

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Location: United States
Concentration: Finance
Schools: Johnson '19 (WL)
GMAT 1: 650 Q43 V37
Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 18 Apr 2017, 13:51
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I walked out of the test center this afternoon for the 3rd time in the last 4 months with almost nothing to show for months of "preparation".

For those of you who are taking the GMAT for the first time, or thinking about taking the GMAT, let this post serve as a guide to hopefully steer you away from my mistakes.

Why do I even want to go to business school?
I'm a 25 year old American male. I'm an Officer in the National Guard, and worked as a personal financial planner for two years after undergrad. I love finance but wasn't in love with my job, I needed something bigger and more exciting. Through a happenstance meeting with an investment banker, I realized exactly what I needed to be doing - investment banking. I didn't know a whole lot about the industry, or how to get into it, so I started aggressively networking with I-Bankers in my area. After a month of meeting people, picking their brains, and making connections, I had two managing directors tell me that they would hire me on the spot as an associate - but I don't have an MBA. "Well, that's an easy solution"... I thought to myself, "I'll just go get an MBA."

This all happened in October 2016, and deadlines for round 2 were very rapidly approaching. I figured I'd quit my job (I had enough in savings to live off of for a year-ish) give myself a month for the GMAT and a month for putting my applications together. Once those are all submitted, I have an Army school that I've been putting off that I can attend from Jan-Mar, which will get me home just in time to get an acceptance and then leverage that with my connections in the IB world for a pre-matriculation summer internship, and I'll start off the Fall Semester already ahead of my peers. Easy!

What actually went down
I took my first GMATprep practice exam in October and scored a 550 (34Q/31V). I've always been good* at writing, but actively threw out every piece of non-essential math the second I left high school. Obviously I had a little bit of ground to make up there. For the next 31 days I devoted 8 hours a day to studying, and took one day a week off. I used the OG17, GMATClub, and the free bits of Magoosh to re-learn all of my basics. I was shooting for a 700+, because the only schools the IBanks I wanted to get into recruited from at the top 20.

My GMATprep exams for the first go around are as follows: ~200 hours of self study
    -550 (34Q/31V)
    -620 (38Q/38V)
    -640 (38Q/40V)
    -640 (37Q/41V) (

My first Official GMAT score: 640 (42Q/38V)

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed, but dang... Those GMATprep exams are exactly on point.

Second Go-Around
Obviously I wasn't going to get to my 700 on my own. I've always been a great standardized test taker. Didn't study a single second for my ACT and got a 29. I took every single advanced class, and AP class in highschool. I was even selected for the "Talented and Gifted" program throughout my primary and secondary education for those of you who know what that is. However, I think I relied too heavily on my own abilities - as I always have. For the second go-around, I decided to get a subscription to Magoosh. What drew me in was the great free content they have, and the money back guarantee. Can't argue with either of those. I kept using the OG17 (the first go-around, I did maybe 20% of the quant problems, and 0% of the verbal) This time, I was determined to cement my quant knowledge. I gave myself another 35 days of 8 hour a day studying. This time I didn't take any days off (actually maybe 3 days off). For whatever reason, (and thank god), I was so focused on my goal of getting a good GMAT score, that I didn't burn myself out.

I decided to take a holistic approach and focus on mental health as well as physical health. I ate right, and worked out consistently. I ended up dropping 20 lbs and got back to my freshmen year college weight (the finance world lifestyle sneaks up on you, I had 20 lbs to lose). I watched every single one of the Magoosh videos, did 90% of the quant problems they have, and worked through 100% of the quant problems in the OG17, as well as 40% of the verbal. I kept track of my correct/incorrect answers in a journal. I took very detailed notes on the videos, and made sure there was no problem I didn't know how to solve.

GMATprep scores for Second Go-Around
    - 680 (46Q/38V)
    -640 (42Q/36V) <- I was hung over, probably shouldn't have wasted a test that day
    -630 (38Q/38V) <- Had just come off 3 days of Army training, again, probably shouldn't have burned a test
    -690 (42Q/42V)

I did retake just the quant portions of the first two free exams on the software and got Q46 & Q45 respectively.

I felt good going into this test, especially because I had the 690 just 3 days prior. I figured I'd be on top of my game, got a good night sleep, ate right day of, brought food to the test center, and walked out with a measly 650 (43Q/37V)

Absolutely devastated. I had put in an extra month, done all of this work, and filled 10 notebooks with notes/problems/concepts/incorrect answers. I had made flashcards for basic mental math, nailed almost every single Magoosh idiom flashcard, and was 100% solid on how to solve every single quant problem in the OG.

99$ + 220 hours = 10 point increase..... What? At this point in time, all of my applications with a 640 had been denied, except for 2. I was wait listed at the U of MN Carlson and at Cornell Johnson. Their "unofficial" critique of my application was -> Increase your GMAT.

Okay, so... on to round 3

Third Go-Around
Limited time, low quant score, best bang for my buck on raising my GMAT? Take a quant class.

After looking through the reviews on here for quant courses, the obvious rising star was Math Revolution. "Get a Q51 and have 10 minutes to spare!" I signed up. Simultaneously, I actually found a couple spelling errors that the coders for GMATClub had made on the reviews page. I pointed the mistakes out to them and they gave me a month of free GMATClub CATs - Which was super awesome by the way. Definitely recommend people purchase those.

I scheduled my 3rd exam 17 days out, it was the next available slot at my test center. I religiously went through all of Math Revs videos for 7 days before coming to the conclusion that (This opinion is 100% my own, and your own experiences may differ wildly) its a complete crock, so I abandoned that ship.

For the next 7 days I went through GMATClub quizzes, one of their CATs, and took another GMATprep exam (only did the quant portion)

GMATprep Quant: 49 (2 repeated questions that I knew the answers to. I still solved them fully)
GMATclub Quant: 47

Okay, awesome. If I just get my normal 37-38 on verbal, and even get a 46 on quant, I'll be in the safe space for the two wait listed schools.

I walk out of the test center today with another 650 (Q43/V37). All of my RC passages were oddly long, and I ended up running out of time. My last 3 questions I had 1 minute for. They were 2 very long CR and one very long SC question. I guess quickly on #39 hoping to get a shorter #40 that I could solve, (45 seconds left). Nope. So I took an educated guess from my speed reading, and went on to #41 which to my horror (20 seconds left) was a terribly long SC. I read the underlined portion, saw the splits, and guessed with 1 second left. I'm assuming I got the last 3 questions in a row wrong and dropped from score from a possible 39 or 38 to a 37.


What I hope you take away from this
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If you identify what your problem is, (mine was/is quant) then try to rectify the situation. If you can't rectify it, don't try more of the same thing. Try something different. If you're doing GMATprep exams and getting something that isn't representative of the time you're putting in - It's time to change approaches. I cannot stress this enough. Time is the most precious resource we all have when studying for the GMAT. Use yours wisely. If self study doesn't help you, don't self study anymore. If online courses are a crock, don't use them anymore. If you know how to solve problems, but have trouble identifying which approach to take - Don't just keep doing problems, practice different approaches. Simply throwing money at a problem also does not help; That, or I didn't throw enough money at the problem - not sure which one.

Summary

Official GMAT Scores

    -640 (42Q/38V) 5 IR, 5.5 AWA
    -650 (43Q/37V) 5 IR, 6 AWA
    -650 (43Q/37V) 7 IR, AWA TBD

Resources Used

If you're on the fence about GMATclub CATs - I'd highly recommend them. Great content, wish I had found them earlier... Maybe my quant would be better, maybe it's just more of the same thing. Not too sure, and too deflated right now to care.

Kudos [?]: 3 [1], given: 20

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Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 19 Apr 2017, 06:04
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meeh1872 wrote:
I walked out of the test center this afternoon for the 3rd time in the last 4 months with almost nothing to show for months of "preparation".

For those of you who are taking the GMAT for the first time, or thinking about taking the GMAT, let this post serve as a guide to hopefully steer you away from my mistakes.

Why do I even want to go to business school?
I'm a 25 year old American male. I'm an Officer in the National Guard, and worked as a personal financial planner for two years after undergrad. I love finance but wasn't in love with my job, I needed something bigger and more exciting. Through a happenstance meeting with an investment banker, I realized exactly what I needed to be doing - investment banking. I didn't know a whole lot about the industry, or how to get into it, so I started aggressively networking with I-Bankers in my area. After a month of meeting people, picking their brains, and making connections, I had two managing directors tell me that they would hire me on the spot as an associate - but I don't have an MBA. "Well, that's an easy solution"... I thought to myself, "I'll just go get an MBA."

This all happened in October 2016, and deadlines for round 2 were very rapidly approaching. I figured I'd quit my job (I had enough in savings to live off of for a year-ish) give myself a month for the GMAT and a month for putting my applications together. Once those are all submitted, I have an Army school that I've been putting off that I can attend from Jan-Mar, which will get me home just in time to get an acceptance and then leverage that with my connections in the IB world for a pre-matriculation summer internship, and I'll start off the Fall Semester already ahead of my peers. Easy!

What actually went down
I took my first GMATprep practice exam in October and scored a 550 (34Q/31V). I've always been good* at writing, but actively threw out every piece of non-essential math the second I left high school. Obviously I had a little bit of ground to make up there. For the next 31 days I devoted 8 hours a day to studying, and took one day a week off. I used the OG17, GMATClub, and the free bits of Magoosh to re-learn all of my basics. I was shooting for a 700+, because the only schools the IBanks I wanted to get into recruited from at the top 20.

My GMATprep exams for the first go around are as follows: ~200 hours of self study
    -550 (34Q/31V)
    -620 (38Q/38V)
    -640 (38Q/40V)
    -640 (37Q/41V) (

My first Official GMAT score: 640 (42Q/38V)

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed, but dang... Those GMATprep exams are exactly on point.

Second Go-Around
Obviously I wasn't going to get to my 700 on my own. I've always been a great standardized test taker. Didn't study a single second for my ACT and got a 29. I took every single advanced class, and AP class in highschool. I was even selected for the "Talented and Gifted" program throughout my primary and secondary education for those of you who know what that is. However, I think I relied too heavily on my own abilities - as I always have. For the second go-around, I decided to get a subscription to Magoosh. What drew me in was the great free content they have, and the money back guarantee. Can't argue with either of those. I kept using the OG17 (the first go-around, I did maybe 20% of the quant problems, and 0% of the verbal) This time, I was determined to cement my quant knowledge. I gave myself another 35 days of 8 hour a day studying. This time I didn't take any days off (actually maybe 3 days off). For whatever reason, (and thank god), I was so focused on my goal of getting a good GMAT score, that I didn't burn myself out.

I decided to take a holistic approach and focus on mental health as well as physical health. I ate right, and worked out consistently. I ended up dropping 20 lbs and got back to my freshmen year college weight (the finance world lifestyle sneaks up on you, I had 20 lbs to lose). I watched every single one of the Magoosh videos, did 90% of the quant problems they have, and worked through 100% of the quant problems in the OG17, as well as 40% of the verbal. I kept track of my correct/incorrect answers in a journal. I took very detailed notes on the videos, and made sure there was no problem I didn't know how to solve.

GMATprep scores for Second Go-Around
    - 680 (46Q/38V)
    -640 (42Q/36V) <- I was hung over, probably shouldn't have wasted a test that day
    -630 (38Q/38V) <- Had just come off 3 days of Army training, again, probably shouldn't have burned a test
    -690 (42Q/42V)

I did retake just the quant portions of the first two free exams on the software and got Q46 & Q45 respectively.

I felt good going into this test, especially because I had the 690 just 3 days prior. I figured I'd be on top of my game, got a good night sleep, ate right day of, brought food to the test center, and walked out with a measly 650 (43Q/37V)

Absolutely devastated. I had put in an extra month, done all of this work, and filled 10 notebooks with notes/problems/concepts/incorrect answers. I had made flashcards for basic mental math, nailed almost every single Magoosh idiom flashcard, and was 100% solid on how to solve every single quant problem in the OG.

99$ + 220 hours = 10 point increase..... What? At this point in time, all of my applications with a 640 had been denied, except for 2. I was wait listed at the U of MN Carlson and at Cornell Johnson. Their "unofficial" critique of my application was -> Increase your GMAT.

Okay, so... on to round 3

Third Go-Around
Limited time, low quant score, best bang for my buck on raising my GMAT? Take a quant class.

After looking through the reviews on here for quant courses, the obvious rising star was Math Revolution. "Get a Q51 and have 10 minutes to spare!" I signed up. Simultaneously, I actually found a couple spelling errors that the coders for GMATClub had made on the reviews page. I pointed the mistakes out to them and they gave me a month of free GMATClub CATs - Which was super awesome by the way. Definitely recommend people purchase those.

I scheduled my 3rd exam 17 days out, it was the next available slot at my test center. I religiously went through all of Math Revs videos for 7 days before coming to the conclusion that (This opinion is 100% my own, and your own experiences may differ wildly) its a complete crock, so I abandoned that ship.

For the next 7 days I went through GMATClub quizzes, one of their CATs, and took another GMATprep exam (only did the quant portion)

GMATprep Quant: 49 (2 repeated questions that I knew the answers to. I still solved them fully)
GMATclub Quant: 47

Okay, awesome. If I just get my normal 37-38 on verbal, and even get a 46 on quant, I'll be in the safe space for the two wait listed schools.

I walk out of the test center today with another 650 (Q43/V37). All of my RC passages were oddly long, and I ended up running out of time. My last 3 questions I had 1 minute for. They were 2 very long CR and one very long SC question. I guess quickly on #39 hoping to get a shorter #40 that I could solve, (45 seconds left). Nope. So I took an educated guess from my speed reading, and went on to #41 which to my horror (20 seconds left) was a terribly long SC. I read the underlined portion, saw the splits, and guessed with 1 second left. I'm assuming I got the last 3 questions in a row wrong and dropped from score from a possible 39 or 38 to a 37.


What I hope you take away from this
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If you identify what your problem is, (mine was/is quant) then try to rectify the situation. If you can't rectify it, don't try more of the same thing. Try something different. If you're doing GMATprep exams and getting something that isn't representative of the time you're putting in - It's time to change approaches. I cannot stress this enough. Time is the most precious resource we all have when studying for the GMAT. Use yours wisely. If self study doesn't help you, don't self study anymore. If online courses are a crock, don't use them anymore. If you know how to solve problems, but have trouble identifying which approach to take - Don't just keep doing problems, practice different approaches. Simply throwing money at a problem also does not help; That, or I didn't throw enough money at the problem - not sure which one.

Summary

Official GMAT Scores

    -640 (42Q/38V) 5 IR, 5.5 AWA
    -650 (43Q/37V) 5 IR, 6 AWA
    -650 (43Q/37V) 7 IR, AWA TBD

Resources Used

If you're on the fence about GMATclub CATs - I'd highly recommend them. Great content, wish I had found them earlier... Maybe my quant would be better, maybe it's just more of the same thing. Not too sure, and too deflated right now to care.


Thanks for sharing. What's the plan from here? Will you retake and re-apply next year if you don't get in off the WL?
_________________

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Status: On a 600-long battle
Joined: 22 Apr 2016
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Concentration: Accounting, Leadership
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GMAT 1: 410 Q18 V27
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Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 19 Apr 2017, 08:17
Great debrief, meeh1872 and congratulations, anyways.

My biggest take away of your tale is also your take away.

Quote:
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." by Albert Einstein


I've studied for over 1 year / 1000 hours and I hope I have corrected my course just enough to reach my goal.

Good luck with your future plans and keep on rocking!
_________________

"When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!"

|Welcoming tips/suggestions/advices (you name it) to help me achieve a 600|

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Location: United States
Concentration: Finance
Schools: Johnson '19 (WL)
GMAT 1: 650 Q43 V37
Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 19 Apr 2017, 12:33
okay - No idea what the plan is. The active duty Army is throwing around a ton of options right now for National Guard officers to join, maybe I do that for 2-3 years and try again when I'm out. Might just shoot for a stepping stone job and position myself better for R1 next year.

Thanks diegocml Good luck to you too! Sounds like you've certainly put in the work

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Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 23 Aug 2017, 23:32
Well, the good part is that you did what was necessary. Now you have no regrets. GMAT is the evil everyone with a dream will have to face and be bold to put it to death.

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Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes [#permalink]

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New post 24 Aug 2017, 18:45
Hi Meeh, thanks for sharing you experience. It came just handy at the right time as I am planning to take the exam for the first time soon.

Did you follow any test strategy when practicing? Or did you just notice quant was not your thing, so you mainly focused on improving that area?

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Re: Prepping to take the GMAT? Learn from my mistakes   [#permalink] 24 Aug 2017, 18:45
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