My apologies to the forum for not introducing myself earlier. I hope my long story would serve as one. I intend to be more active forum participant in the future.Goal
I started out with the goal of somewhere between 700-750. In all honesty, it was “anything above 700”. I already have masters degree from good US university and at the time of application I would have had almost 5 years of professional experience. My understanding was that any score above 700 with good essays would give me a fair shot at the top schools. (I still hope that’s the case).
Following recommendation from GMAT Club on the material to use I started to follow the “Beyond Hardcore Plan” (at least I tried to). I work full-time and estimated around 5 months of time for doing the prep. With my engineering background I was not too concerned about the quant section but still needed to refresh on the concepts (especially inequality and combinatorics).
My plan was as follows:
1. Complete the MGMAT books
(I was pleasantly surprised to see that they made me go through all OG, Verbal OR and Quant OR questions). I estimated around 3 months to complete all of them thoroughly.
2. Review the books (this time include problems from Kaplan
) or sections I had problems in the first pass (around 15-20 days)
3. Start practicing AWA around the same time for about another 15-20 days.
4. Finally, for a month only do practice tests and online quizzes. Timed as much as possible (if not complete tests then at least timed sections).
5. Take the test!!What really happened
Plans always look good on paper. My plan was no different.
I didn’t end up finishing the books in the 3 month time I had estimated. It took me almost 15-20 more days to get done with the books. On top that, I had serious problems with the verbal section in general. RC wasn’t bad but my accuracy for CR and SC was absolutely horrible. The worst thing was that I did not realize this problem soon enough. The only good thing was that I actually did complete all the problems in the OG, Verbal OR and Quant OR books.
Still trying to stick to my plan, I decided to continue working on reviewing the problems in quanta and verbal. In retrospective, I should have spent more time on Verbal during that review period that I did. I spent about 15-20 days focusing on quant problem and CR problems that I had issues with first time around. Around this time I completed almost all small quizzes in Kaplan
and MGMAT’s online course material. I also got the MGMAT scratch paper (test simulation booklet) and pen started using it exclusively whenever I was sitting in front of my desktop.
By this time, I was fairly confident with my quant skills and somewhat confident about my verbal skills so with the test date approaching fast I decided to start practicing the writing. Not surprisingly my first few attempts were total failures. I wasn’t able to finish the task on time and had difficulties with coming up with examples for the issue task. I continued practicing for a week. I did nothing else but write at least 2-4 essays every day. Eventually, I started getting comfortable with the timing and the content. I recommend reading a few samples when you start the practice. They are extremely helpful, especially for argument task, where you end up using similar words for every argument.
With writing getting better and only 15 days left for the test I finally decided to start the practice tests. The first one I took was GMATPrep Test 1. The test was a catastrophe. On quanta, I ran out of time and wasn’t able to solve at least 5-6 problems and had to click through them randomly. In verbal, I had almost half the number of questions incorrect. However, to my surprise my score was still 680. I was supremely disappointed. Around the same time, I found out that there was a project at my company that required my attention for the next couple weeks. I had originally planned time off for about a week and a half to do practice tests and with this project it was going to be difficult for me to take the vacation.
Giving up to the circumstances (and bad score) I decided to postpone my exam date by another 20 days and took a vacation for about 10 days until the day of the test.
That was, by far, the best decision I made. I changed my strategy to focus more on accuracy for verbal and timing for quant. I ordered PowerScore’s CR and SC bibles and went through them in a week’s time. I prepared a rough estimate of timing for the quant section. Questions 1-10 in first 15 minutes, Questions 10-20 in the next 20 minutes, Question 20-30 in the next 20 minutes and finally, last 7 question in the remaining 20 minutes. The strategy served me well and gave me a good idea during the test of where I was and whether I needed to pace myself or I had some time.
Once my vacations started, I did full length timed tests from Kaplan
for a week. I made it absolutely sure that I did the test timed and without distractions. The scores for these tests weren’t too great but looking the GMAT Club score calculator website I got a confidence boost that lower Kaplan
score aren’t necessarily bad. Soon after Kaplan
I did Knewton, MGMAT full length tests. For MGMAT, I had to increase the time for the quant section. They have some really difficult problems there. It was during this time I did the free practice problem from GMAT Club (mostly untimed) for accuracy.
My GMAT was scheduled on Monday, June 6th. The last prep test I gave was GMAT Prep 2 on the Saturday before. This time I went even a step further and started the test at 8:00 AM, same time as my real test. I scored 720 on the prep test and decided to stop doing anything else. I spent my Sunday listening to some more AWA tips and visiting the test center.
On the test day, I had a moderately heavy breakfast, got to the test center early. The test started on time and the writing section went smoothly. I did think that I could have done better on the issue task but I didn’t feed too bad about it. I gave myself 5.0 on argument and somewhere between 3.0 and 4.0 on the issue task. In the quant section, I started out with good times but ended up slowing down on few really annoying problems in the middle. To my disappointment, I ended up missing 1 question in the end as I wasn’t able to click fast enough on a random answer. During the second break, I ate half a granola bar and went back in quickly. The verbal section wasn’t as exciting as the quant and I was able to finish the section in time. By that time, I just wanted to look at the results and be done with it. I knew I did well on the quant (except for the 1 missed question) and fair on the verbal.
Finally, I selected to report the score. I saw 710. I haven’t been able to stop smiling since.
PS. Yesterday I received my official scores. I scored 6/6 in writing.
===Complete List of Material UsedCommon books for practice
: OG 12th
Edition + Verbal Review 2nd Edition + Quantitative Review 2nd Edition + Kaplan Premier
+ MGMAT Scratch Paper and Pen (A MUST HAVE!)Reading Comprehension
Books: MGMAT RCCritical Reasoning
Books: MGMAT CR
+ PowerScore CR
Books: MGMAT SC
+ PowerScore SC
Books: MGMAT BooksAWA
No books. Practice. Practice. Practice. Use Google Docs with spellcheck turned off or a notepad equivalent.Other PracticeKaplan
MGMAT Practice QuestionsGMAT Club TestsMock Tests
All tests were online
GMAT Prep 1 - 680Kaplan
2 - 660Kaplan
3 - 690Kaplan
4 - 620Kaplan
5 - 660Kaplan
6 - 670
Knewton - 650
MGMAT 1 - 670
MGMAT 2 - 680
MGMAT 3 (untimed) - 710
MGMAT 4 (untimed) - 670
GMAT Prep 2 - 720
My GMAT Story: tale-of-a-first-timer