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Joined: Jun 06, 2021
710 Q48 V39
DISCLAIMER AND VERBIAGE ALERT
1. A score of 710 may not mandate a debrief especially when there is hardly anything new I can add with respect to preparation tips, test taking strategies, motivational words etc. Notwithstanding, I am writing this debrief for two reasons primarily. First, to put on record my gratitude and indebtedness to all those who have knowingly or unknowingly helped me in my short GMAT journey. Second, I ve noticed that there are very few debriefs from people on the wrong side of 30/early 40s presumably because very few are crazy enough to go for an MBA that requires GMAT at this stage of their life and career. But I know that, for reasons of their own, such daredevils, though few and far in between, do exist. Therefore, being someone from such a demographic looking to transition from the armed forces into the civil world, my debrief is primarily aimed at those who might be contemplating GMAT while handling high pressure jobs and weighing the pros and cons of doing an MBA and/or making a career switch in the prime of their lives (20s may seem like the prime of one’s life but believe you me it’s not ;)).
OF NO RELEVANCE TO MAN OR BEAST – STILL ...
2. My first brush with GMAT was about a year ago when intrigued by the time and effort one of my senior was putting into his GMAT preparation, I took the GMAT prep mock just to see what the big deal was. I bombed quant without even getting to attempt 5-6 ques and got 640 with a V39, which I subsequently realized is not bad for someone who had not even heard about SC, CR and RC till before the test. After that, though I enjoyed the experience, promptly forgot all about GMAT till early this year when I started seriously considering hanging up my uniform. Someone who had already treaded the path advised me to get a good GMAT score irrespective of whether I use it or since getting one at short notice if required would be impossible. He also told me that based on past track record, a score in the late 600s would be sufficient for my experience and profile. I took the first advice but chose to ignore the second since I have always been a ‘go big or go home’ sort of guy and I naively assumed that I could easily get at least 730 if I worked on my quant and SC. Only time would prove how wrong I was.
3. Started by attending a few free weekend webinars by various prep companies and the ones by e-gmat really stood out. Liked their free trial and on a whim subscribed for the full course - one of the best decisions of my GMAT journey. It took me some time to build up a tempo and a fixed routine and my earnest preparations started in early Apr. After that I didn’t take a single cheat day till the exam except for a week’s vacation to recharge my batteries 10 days before the exam.
E-GMAT – ALL YOU COULD ASK FOR AND THEN SOME
4. Egmat was everything I could ask for in a course. It is highly customizable based on one’s performance at each level. The various performance parameters and data points ensure that you neither overestimate nor have any self doubts about your abilities. I used to think I was god's gift to grammar and comprehension but e-gmat showed me that I knew squat about SC. But it also told me that RC and CR were more up my alley may be because reading between the lines, critical analysis and paraphrasing came very naturally to me due to what I do professionally. I also realized that I had to first unlearn maths and tackle it from a totally new perspective for Quant. I followed a roughly 70(Quant)/30 (V)% time management split with about 80% of the 30% verbal time for SC. It's therefore ironic that CR and to some extent RC, which I considered my trump cards, let me down in the actual exam. More on that later.
5. I also happened to be lucky that Quant 2.0 was launched round about the time my preparations were peaking and it really helped me shift gears. The detailed explanations and entire format of pedagogy was something I had never seen before and were simply mind blowing. Scholaranium 2.0 was another revelation. Just when you think you are through and almost ready for GMAT, it delivers a sucker punch and literally knocks you out. Only option is to dust yourself, keep your bruised ego aside and keep learning. The deep dive analysis of each aspect is simply amazing and to be frank mind boggling at first. That’s when I happened to be approached by e-gmat for their last mile program by Dhananjay, DJ. He helped me make sense of the various data points and was the ideal pace setter, never letting me relax but also never letting me get totally out of breath. His customized plans for taking tests on the scholaranium, analysing the data and time management techniques helped me a lot. Thanks DJ for everything and so sorry that I couldn’t live upto your (and my) expectations. Special shout out to the resident verbal and quant experts Shradha, Shwetha and Atreya who are amazing amazing teachers from whom I learnt a lot courtesy their webinars. Only wish each webinar covered different questions.
6. My advice to all present and future e-gmat students would be to trust the process and not try and short circuit or game the system. Payal, Rajat and the other architects of e-gmat curriculum are visionaries and there’s a method to their madness. Average difficulty level of Questions on e-gmat and more so on scholaranium are definitely a notch higher than actual GMAT and sometimes it can be bit demoralizing to not see the expected % accuracy. Also don’t miss the wood for the trees and get too obsessed with the scores on scholaranium or other tests. Remember these are all means to an end that is the final GMAT score. Last but most important advice - keep reaching out to the e-gmat support team. They are a wonderful team. I actually got offered the mentorship opportunity with DJ when I wrote to the team to review my initial scholaranium performance.
GMAT CLUB – THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
7. Where do I even get started about the wonderful GMAT club community? It has truly been a godsend. To the moderators - apologies for being a wallflower and only taking without giving anything back in return. Bunuel, GMAT Ninja, other moderators and regular contributors are doing yeoman service to the GMAT aspirants without expecting much in return. if I were to pick just one thing other than e-gmat that helped me the most in my entire GMAT journey it would the GMAT NINJA lecture series on SC. They were pure gold and I am still in awe of his humility, crystal clear explanations and even his wonderful sense of humor. Other than his surname, which I could never grasp, each and everything he spoke is still imprinted in my mind.
8. My advice to GMAT aspirants with professional/personal commitments similar to mine:-
(a) Make a plan and stick to it. Irrespective of how tired one is try and spend 1-2 hrs daily and 4-5 hrs on weekends.
(b) Try not to exceed 3-4 months prep time coz the above pace may not be sustainable due to other commitments which can only be stalled for so long. Further, laws of diminishing returns might start kicking in.
(c) Get your family on board. Like mine, your spouse also may be working with his/her own professional and personal commitments. So, like most things in a married life, it would be impossible to embark on this journey without your partner's support. No more kid’s tennis/soccer classes during weekend, Saturday night family board games, grocery shopping or whatever it is that keeps the family ecosystem in balance. Make kids, if big enough, a part of the process. My 10 yr old son used to watch GMAT Ninja videos with me and the younger 7 yr old was my water boy, errand runner and biggest cheer leader.
(d) Announce your plan to people who matter at work . keep your boss informed. Even more important take your team and subordinates in confidence. They will have to deal with the extra delegation.
(e) Be innovative and jugadu. I can’t access internet or smart phone at work. So used to do OG ques or take printouts of 3-4 good questions and analyse them threadbare whenever I got time in office. I started using metro instead of driving to utilise the travel time effectively. But that experiment ended before it could take off due to COVID.
(f) Be ready to press the pause button on your interests/hobbies. Forget your golf, regular runs, gym visits, book readings, Netflix, and similar me time stress busters for at least the last two months of prep.
(g) By hook or by crook manage atleast 2 weeks off from work just before the exam. If one does not have the luxury of WFH or accessing internet at work this is indispensable.
(h) Ride the wave, there will be stages within the preparation cycle when your performance will rise and dip. Identify when you are peaking and take the test then. More prep time need not always translate to better score.
(i) Internalize and verbalize your envisaged score. Be ambitious but realistic. Best way to keep yourself reminded of the same is to tell it to your kid(s). But if your kids are anything like mine do have an explanation ready if you can’t reach your target ‘coz they sure will want one. The usual shoot for the starts to land on the moon BS won’t work and may come back to bite you. I started with a 730 target, revised it upwards to 750 based on mocks and data inputs from e-gmat/DJ. The fact that the final score was nowhere near it meant either that I was deluded or that I just had a bad day.
(j) Pick one source other than GMAT club to prepare and stick to it but not blindly. There is no one size fits all solution so customise the suggested methods based on your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, common wisdom dictates SC questions in less than 1.30 mins to leave more time for RC . For me I rarely, if ever, took more than 4 minutes for a RC set and never ever felt the need to make notes for RC and CR. The time saved I used for SC.
(k) Don’t be obsessed with +700 questions. I fell into the trap and wasted some time in my prep in the middle. Stick to only your test prep and OG questions specially for verbal. Only exception is LSAT questions for CR, which I now wish I had done more of.
(l) Last 20 days if possible dedicate solely for OG and mocks. Solve OG ques on GMAT club so that one gets and idea of timing, difficulty level and of course the threadbare analysis of each ques.
TEST EXPERIENCE – IF EVERYTHING SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE , IT PROBABLY IS
9. I had initially registered for online GMAT in end Jul which ran into all sorts of trouble due to technical issues and also ended up messing up my laptop settings ( has to be a separate debrief in itself). So I booked the retest at test centre on 18 Aug ( 0800 AM) which was the earliest available date. Went for a week’s road trip with family after that and once back didn’t want to tackle anything new. So just revised my error logs and redid some OG questions. With one week left and nothing much left to do, bought the GMAT prep tests 3-6. Did one test every day and with scores of 750, 770, 770, 730, 760 ( 2 to 6), coupled with the 720 and 750 from e-gmat sigma mocks, I thought I was peaking at the right time.
10. Test day ( Pearson, Noida) couldn’t have gone any better. Just 5 mins drive from my home, excellent facility, professional staff just about everything went without a hitch. Since my brain takes some time to start ticking and since mental fatigue has never been an issue AWA, IR, Quant, Verbal sequence works best for me. AWA felt good even though I never attempted AWA even in mocks and it was only the second AWA pssage I had ever written. IR was much tougher than any of the mocks, which was good in a way since it helped me focus better in quant for which I didn’t take the break. Felt really good through out the Quant, managed to keep pace (using the Manhattan yellow pad technique) and though I encountered some lengthy and tricky ques in coord geometry and algebra during the latter stages, didn’t have to skip or guess a single question. I thought I had managed to see most of the traps in DS. All in all this was the most comfortable and confident I ever felt. Up beat, took a small break and started verbal. It also went along the same lines as Quant. RC passages were a breeze as usual and though one can never be 100% sure about SC, I felt confident about most of my choices since I could eliminate four choices on solid grounds and then select the remaining one (hat tip to GMAT Ninja) . I was not confident about only one CR quant based double negation quest where I was stuck with two choices.
11. All in all, I was super confident and thought the test had gone as good as, if not better than my GMAT prep mocks. So I was totally shocked when the screen flashed 710 (Q48, V39)) . For a moment I did consider rejecting the score but then better sense prevailed since it really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things and based on my profile and experience, this should be enough even if I decide to apply somewhere. But my delusions of grandeur about my GMAT abilities have been shattered to smithereens
ESR HELP - LAYING THE GMAT GHOSTS TO REST
12. Once back, I mentally revisited most of the questions I could recall to visualise what could have gone wrong but I really couldn’t pinpoint anything other than the one CR ques. So hoping to solve mystery got the ESR though I ve absolutely no intention of taking the test ever again. The ESR ( attached for reference) shows about 5 ques wrong in Quant (mostly DS with 1,1,1,2 wrong in each quarter I guess) so must be some silly mistakes and/or GMAT DS traps which I failed to notice and I can reconcile with that. But, I also seem to have got about 6 ques wrong in Verbal (1,2,1,2 split) . I have absolutely no clue which the 5/6 ques other than the aforementioned CR are. If they were SC I could still have understood but %ile shows most are CR and one/two RC. Also based on what little I ve seen in other ESRs I thought my splits would translate into a slightly higher score than 710. Though DJ has been kind enough to analyse and make some sense of it I would be grateful if any of the other specialists here can throw some light on my score vis-à-vis ESR only so that I can get some closure.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS NOT SO WELL
13. To summarise, the short GMAT journey was exhilarating though the actual destination left a lot to be desired. I did get involved much more deeply than I initially thought I would and even if plain statistics reveal that I wasted my time without much improvement, ( V 39 baseline and V39 final), I would like to believe that I learnt a lot from the experience and any other day the score could have been different. Anyways in the end GMAT did get the better of me and though DJ has been asking me to retake the test I think its time for me to burn my bridges. Thanks for the ride everyone and may each and every member of this wonderful GMAT club community encounter fair winds and following seas in all his/her personal and professional future endeavors.