Sep 16, 2011

Sappy's GMAT Journey - how I aced to 740 in less than a month!

Well, well! A post after more than a year!!

At this moment I'm kinda obsessed with my b-school applications! So, let me start my series of stories with my GMAT experience.

So, why GMAT? Well, there was this really cool presentation about ISB YLP from Indian School Business (ISB) in our institute sometime in January or February earlier this year. That got me thinking that yes, this is my opportunity to get an MBA from a top global b-school. And thus the GMAT journey begun. But more about the ISB journey later in my next post!

Let me first share my GRE experience! I scored 1170 (Verbal 370/800) in GRE after 3 months of preparation and was totally shattered. Trust me I'm still looking for an IITian with a lower GRE score and haven't heard of anyone yet! But, somehow I got a feeling that well, while my vocab is abysmal (I'm not a native English speaker who studied in a regional language school), it won't stop me from doing well in GMAT! Trust me, it took a lot of courage and self-motivation to recover from that GRE score!!!

I started following gmatclub regularly and got some really useful tips! I'll list the materials I used for this preparation/ highly recommended and where to get them (Hey! I can't put up links to pirated versions!!):

  1. GMAT Review Official Guide 12th edition [If you're in India, consider buying from flipkart, normally they offer the cheapest. However, a little internet research never hurts! I myself got a cheaper one from landmark.]
  2. Manhattan Sentence Correction Guide [I personally did not use it, but I really wish I did!!]
  3. Various other self-study materials found on gmatclub such as GMAT ToolsGMAT FlashcardsGMAT Practice Tests (Free/ Priced with reviews).

I really did not want to spend a lot on GMAT and thought, "Heyy! If I can go through the entire 800 real questions of GMAT in the Official Guide, there is no reason why I would need anything else!!" :)

I initially had a few hiccups in the probability and permutation-combination. I just went through my high school books on them and things got sorted. Soon, the only problem I was having with Quant section was finding them too easy and thus making silly mistakes due to lack of concentration.

Now this was something I was worried about. I never had much problem with RC and CR was also kinda okay but SC gave me a headache right from the beginning. Even a few days before the test I was getting only about 50% of the SCs correct. Then whiplash's verbal flash cards helped me a lot. I owe her a biiig thanks!

I did not give them a thought till 5 days left. I went through chineseburned & 800score AWA guides which gave me quite an idea about the writing structure. I practiced a few essays and went through all the issue topics just once taking a mental note about ideas.

Study Strategy:
My study strategy was simple. I decided to practice a little everything every day. I divided the total number of questions in each section in equal sections for 14 days of study. So, each day I was doing about 17 PS, 12-13 DS and 10 each in RC, CR & SC questions each day. That meant I studied about 2-3 hours for 14 days. Yes, that's all I studied!!

Once, I got a confidence, I booked my date for GMAT. I am an impatient type of person and really can't prepare for something for too long. I realized if I try to prepare more and more, soon I'll get frustrated and screw it up. So, it was more like slam-bam-thank you GMAT kinda experience for me! :wink:

Practice Test Scores:
GMATPrep 1 = 710
Knewton = 710
Princeton Review = 650
Kaplan = 640
Veritas Prep = 680
Manhattan = 690
GMATPrep 2 = 690

As you can understand, I was really shaken seeing my scores dipping after starting rather decent. Nevertheless, I remain calm and composed for the test.

Advice: I practiced all my mock tests in my real GMAT timings and it helped me a lot to set my biological clock. Do that!! It helps! Really!!

The G-Day:
I'm normally a morning person but the earliest slot available was 10:00. That would have meant a 4 hour appointment would have left me hungry in the middle of the exam. I certainly did not want that. I took a convenient 14:00 appointment so that I could finish my lunch properly and then go for the test.

I made sure I did not eat anything funny for the last 2-3 days. I had good long sleep last night followed by a light breakfast and early lunch. It took me some time to find the test center. The lady at the test center was friendly and the center was rather okay. However, the keyboard was a disaster as it was old and not at all easy to press. Moreover it was making really loud noises. And the chair added some noises too! But those were something beyond my control, so I thought, "What the heck, let's get this over with."

Essay topics did not please me. However I went with the flow and wrote some gibber-jabber. I just had some water and went to the restroom during the break. I strictly wanted to avoid food. I did not take the full break (I hate simply sitting idly), came back after 3 minutes, I think.

Quant was going rather well till about 25th question. I got stuck with one question for really long then. Although I had plenty of time in the world, I just made an intelligent guess and moved on. I told myself probably it was an experimental question and so don't worry. I was pretty surprised to finally see I finished off with 12 minutes left on the clock! :O

After again a short break (3-4 min), I went back for the Verbal. I was rather happy with my Quant so had a really positive feeling about crossing 700 in total. Verbal went rather okay, or so I thought. I had a little time scare towards the end but kept my cool and finished off with 2 minutes on hand.

The Official Score:
740 (Q50, V40, AWA 5.0)

When I saw the score, well boy, was I surprised? I was shocked to the core of my heart! 30 marks above my highest practice score ever?? It was bizarrely breathtaking!! I went like, "Yes yes yes"!! I never remembered being that happy, ever!! :D

And kids, that is how I scored a 740! :D

So, what's next? I've already applied for ISB YLP & is in the process of applying for HBS 2+2. But more on that later.