The journey started almost 3 years ago in June of 2008. At last it is over and I am happy to say the least.
Brief Note on my previous two test experience:-
I took GMAT in Oct 08 and Aug 09. First time 680 (Q50/51,V32) and second time 610 (Q47,V21). The splits are approximate. From time to time, I used to teach high school mathematics to some students in my street, some for free and some for money. My math skills were always strong, but data sufficiency stymied me. I used to read what A,B,C,D,E meant most of the time. It took me about a month to get accustomed to DS questions.
SC :- Horrible, why would somebody want to test you on idioms. To top it, some sentences that may not sound right are grammatically right. Isn’t that unfair? Who said life is fair and we have equal chances. By the way, we speak “britisssh englissh”. It took me handsome 3-4months, before I started feeling confident. Frankly speaking, it was studying in a kindergarten. It was really an overwhelming experience. Manhattan and Aristotle SC Grail are really good books. Almost encompasses all topics you need to know. 1000SC is a must, do it twice and ears are bound to get tuned to GMAT language. I have heard that 1000SC is a collection of first ten OGs. It might be a little outdated but it is the largest pool of questions you can get. I used Aristotle only in my third attempt, highly recommend it.
CR:- Thankfully, I started with Powerscore, it certainly made life easier. There is question pool of LSAT CRs, they are really good, never managed to find explanations for them. However, I did find someone with explanation on TestMagic. He did post a few explanations but never provided a link or an attachment.
RC:- I was generally ok with it, averaging 70%, on a good day about 100%. Unlike others, I found RC contradicting with CR. In CRs, especially in address the discrepancy, we are trained to justify the whole argument and your answer is got to address both the contradictions. In RC questions, including ones in GMAT PREP, we have to give some leeway. For example, more criminals were brought to trail does not necessarily mean there were more crimes but my answer choice would have it, rest were even worse but I re-read all the choices just to ensure that I am correct. I learnt to give some leeway to gain speed. Once again, Aristotle RC 99 is a great book. Horrible passages, totally insane, but they make GMAT RCs so simple. Its strategic points are very useful.
What went wrong:-
1) Before my first attempt, I was consistently scoring above 700 (700-730). I used Manhattan for prep exams. The night before exam, I gave GMAT prep twice to realize that Math was not about strong skills but about tricky questions. I started of Quant well, got stuck in the 5th question, I went to the point of using Hero’s formula to calculate the area of triangle. Just relaxed for a minute and realized that I had plotted (x,y) as (y,x) and moved on. I spent about 10 minutes on this question, still I managed to complete the test with 5 minutes to spare. Moved onto Verbal, stymied at the first question, I knew I got it wrong because my next question was very simple, but managed to move on. I was stuck again at 19th, which was a assumption question. Spent too much time on this. The third RC was horrible and huge; I couldn’t get the hang of it. I was running out of time and had to select a random answer for last few questions.
1) Don’t believe in the first 10 question theory. I have given GMATPREP about 15 times. I can guarantee that first 10 question theory is stupid. Even if the first ten questions give you a headstart, if you do not answer most of the 700+ questions, it is going to bring your score down
2) Don’t waste time on any question. If I had enough time for the third passage, I might have got a few more questions right and probably pushed my score towards 700.
3) Wrong lesson learnt, my skills in math are so strong that I need not bother about time.
2) For my second attempt, I completed the 1000SCs. My SC skills were very strong, overall my verbal skills was much stronger than ever. My quant was much stronger thanks to Manhattan. This was a curse in disguise. Manhattan math is a lot more difficult than GMAT quant. It does mentally prepare you for the unexpected question. It instilled so much confidence in me that I couldn’t let go a math question at all. In the exam, I spent about 15 minutes on a question, still couldn’t solve it, and moved on. The end result, I had to let go 2 questions in the end. Forced myself to continue with exam and did my verbal in haste.
For my third attempt, I got enrolled with Kaplan. Attended a few online sessions, they were good, in fact great for beginner. However I knew, I wasting time trying to work on basics. I did the 1000SCs again. I got access to beatthegmat practice. I am not sure how “beatthegmat” prepares its questions, but they are the closest to GMAT questions. Kaplan is good, excellent explanations, but the quant is slightly only the upper side. I had not touched the OG until last week. Somehow managed to complete OG DS(from 100th question),PS(from 100th question) and SC.
I took a speed reading course with IRIS organization, got a Groupon thereby cost me about 100$ for a 4hr session. My eyes were literally paining after the session. They recommended that I use an app called Reasy in Chrome and practice daily. I diligently practiced speed reading for close to 2 months, probably just a few days off. I usually spend about 15 minutes reading various articles before starting for work.
Technique learnt, don’t try to read what you are seeing, but watch the words flow. I usually set my pace my 500 and re-watch at 600. I can confidently read about 350-400 words, partially understanding the passage. Although I will not remember every detail, I will get the flow of the passage. There are quiet few videos on youtube and documents describing how to practice speed reading, highly recommend those.
Is speed reading necessary for GMAT? Probably, no. If you have a comfortable pace of 300 wpm, you are good. However, it is mandatory for b-school life.
1) kapDiag – 750 (99,98)
2) CAT3- 720 (99,74) – I just gave this test to check whether it was by luck I got the previous score.
3) CAT4- 710 (99,81) – This is not a typo, I got a better verbal score, yet lower overall score.
4) CAT5 – 760 (99,99)
5) CAT6 - 750 (99,97)
6) CAT7- 750 (99,95)
7) CAT8- 720 (88,96) – This was my first wake up call, reminding me of my second attempt. After this I practiced math for a couple of days.
8) CAT9- 690 (79,92) – ALARMED TO HELL, I started practicing all the math, both PS & DS, on beatthegmat site. Had a similar timing issue to my second attempt.
9) CAT2- 700 (88,83) – I felt this result was skewed, I got a 88 in math in spite of just getting 3 questions wrong that were not considerably consequent. This is exactly opposite to Manhattan, where your results will be higher in the last test. In both cases, the test bin runs out of Hard questions. By the way, I gave this test in Pearson center, the staff were very good.
Some insight that I had gained during practice tests and sample questions:
If I have the luxury of time I can solve most of the difficult questions (applicable to Quant, CR, RC).
I need to be at peace, when reading the third passage, which is usually long.
Some skills can harm you, such as usage of fractions in inequalities. Even if the question said, X is an integer, I would substitute .5.
I will never be able to transform myself into Shakespeare and solve an SC within 5 minutes, let alone an hour. If I can solve it within 30 seconds, yes, if not move on. ( If you have heard Edward Norton’s rant in 25th hour, please echo it every time you are stuck in a question. “Move the F*** on”).
Test Day Experience:-
My exam was scheduled at 8:00 AM. Took a sleeping pill and slept at 10 PM. However I could not sleep until 12 midnight and ended up waking at 4:30 AM. Reached testing center at 7 30 AM. To my surprise, it was crowded and had to wait until 8 AM to get started.
Argument essay was simple, wrote down first paragraph and last paragraph. I found too many flaws and I could not choose what to attack. Just picked two of them and wrote why they are and how they could be wrong and listed how argument can be strengthened. Somehow, I could not use my favorite phrase, “A multivariate analysis of factors such as ….”. Read the phrase somewhere and fell in love with it. Use it, if you can.
“S**t Happens “ – Last 15 seconds left and I found a grammatical error. Used “will” in a past perfect tense. I modified the “will” to “would be”. Then realized it should be “would have been”, finished typing “would have be” and time expired.
Issue essay was an easy topic, but I had to drag myself to write it. So many times, in the initial 5 minutes, I felt like cancelling the essay and moving on to Quant. Somehow managed to write about the topic with some examples. Again time expired.
Took a break, told myself this does not matter, the real test begins now.
First 8 questions were relatively easy. I got stuck on the 9th, not that I was not able to solve it, I just could not understand the question. Echoed “move the F ON” and I did. I tried not using the Timer and managed to keep a steady pace until 30th question, I had about 24 minutes left. One 3D-geomentry question popped up. Tried to solve it but couldn’t. Timer said 17 minutes left, I decided to move on. The last 7 questions were not that difficult. Based on my experience with GMATprep, I could get 8 questions wrong and still end up getting a 50. My simple theory is be strong at whatever you know, avoid silly mistakes and LET GO of what you don’t know. I have spent about 500$ more to learn that letting go at the right time is required for a great score. If you plan to spend that money and learn it the hard way, you can wire it to me and I can give you a simulation exam. ;-) . More about me, I could finish 37 questions in 37 minutes and be 90-95% accurate. In most of Kaplan practice tests, I was able to comfortably finish with 15 mins left, except for the second last test. I am glad I stumbled, because it reminded of the failure last time.
It was all easy until 20th assumption question, my negation did not help me. By the way, when I mean easy, CRs and RCs can be answered without a lot of struggle and letting go of SCs that I don’t know. The humongous third passage came and I was pressed for time. I switched of the timer, read my passage with ease and scribbled some notes to rephrase the passage. This passage had about 5 questions , I could answer 3 of them easily, 2 of them were difficult to comprehend, picked what I felt was the best. Thereafter, pushed my pace and rushed myself until 4th passage, read it peacefully and answered quickly. I have to read the passage peacefully to comprehend it. Once I have done so, for detailed questions all I need is a quick look. Left with 3 minutes, I came across a CR, whose premise was on a familiar topic. I tried a lot to solve it, but couldn’t make my mind between 2 choices. Left with 20 seconds, got a SC, scanned picked a modifier that I thought was right and submitted just before 2 seconds.
The whole GMAT experience has been overwhelming. I lost confidence in myself several times; initially lack of knowledge and then lack of ability to handle pressure. Things are only as important as you deem them to be, do not over emphasize the need of GMAT. I recently attended the Booth event, adcom gave us an application and asked us to evaluate it. That is when I realized, GMAT is not the only factor. Just a word about forums, try not attempt questions that might appear in your practice exams. If the topic says, Manhattan or Kaplan SC, don’t attempt it if you are using either of them. Irrespective whatever forums you are member of, try to stick to it and make friends. I am glad to say I have made quiet a few friends through this site. Stay calm, and stay focused.
Now that you have read this, remember to “Move the F ON”
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