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GMAT 740(Q50,V40).4 exams over 2.5 yrs.Never, ever give up.

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varunshetty_1 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
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GMAT 740(Q50,V40).4 exams over 2.5 yrs.Never, ever give up.

Post Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:18 am
This is my story and my advice for those of you who are planning for your GMAT and MBA. I worked hard for over 3 years. Now, with this score I got into an excellent school(top 12) with $$$. I hope it can help you guys too.

This is not a review for those who can study for the GMAT in 1-2 months and score a 700/750. This is especially not a review for those who aren't fighting for a top 20 or a top 10 B-school. If you don’t want more than 700 or more than 750, you’re better off not reading this.

This is a review for those who fail, or have failed, or are currently failing on this godforsaken test and consequently on your B-School applications.
For those who have done badly your first or second attempt, or even third or fourth attempt.
For those guys/girls who lost a year because they were wait-listed like me, or worse dinged by all schools they applied to (yes, it is because of your GMAT).
This is ESPECIALLY for those guys just starting out - with some naïve misconceptions about the GMAT and B-school applications.
And finally for those guys at the edge, doubting themselves and their dreams. This is for you.

The GMAT is tough, but it can be beaten. Trust me, I failed for 2.5 years - before I succeeded one day.
Be-warned, this is a REALLY, REALLY long review of the GMAT and correspondingly B-school applications. One of your first hurdles on the GMAT is a test of your patience. If you aren't able to finish this review and absorb the same, well - it’s probably why you won’t do well later or aren't doing well now. Also, I spent a lot of time preparing it- be nice and read the whole thing. Very Happy

It’s not for my benefit - it's for yours. I chilling in LA at B-school (finally!). I'm golden either way you decide to go through this article.

Think of this as practice RC - the highest and toughest scoring section on the GMAT.In all seriousness - If you don’t have the patience for a LONG GMAT review (and I was one of you guys), a 4-hour test as hard as the GMAT will eat, nay skin you alive.

This review is divided into 3 parts. Go thru them on your accord
a. Importance on the GMAT, applications and some “myths” debunked.
b. A comical analogy on how B-schools view us applicants and how we should approach them.
c. Actual review of my journey and my steps to conquer the GMAT.

First, some numbers. In a course of 3 years (the time taken to calculate percentiles) nearly 800K people (not attempts, individuals) take the GMAT. Many of them even take the test multiple times. Assuming you are targeting the top 5000-7000 seats in B-school globally, the odds are scary - especially if you are an Indian IT male like me. The GMAT is the only distinguishing factor for hundreds of thousands of us. Here are some myths which I will bust. They’re actually counter intuitive to what you may think:

1. There is no “holistic” review of your application. This is flat out BS. The GMAT is the first and biggest weapon to enter the world of top B-school MBA. The GMAT isn’t only 20-30% of your application- despite what people say. It is 100% of your first step to get into the door of B-school. It just gets my blood boiling when I hear that “holistic” word thrown about. Unless you are a mini celebrity that can be verified by press reports online in some form- know this, there is no holistic review. The GMAT is most likely your only key to a good MBA. Get this fact seared into your head right now, because a lot of well-intentioned, wrongly informed people will tell you otherwise. Believing them will set you up for failure. Avoid this point at your own risk.

Do not believe the charming B-school reps you meet in admission events who say “the GMAT isn’t everything” (Except the Canadian schools- these guys are honest. They genuinely review your whole profile for a fit). I have spent hundreds of dollars (thousands in total) on applications, and yet got dinged by all of them despite a stellar profile (honestly).

I have an international and national sports background (2 different sports), research papers, 3 Patents, awards, a genuine CSR and non-profit experience that started 6 years before, and a strong professional career with a highly paid salary (in India) from an US product company (think Adobe/VMware etc.)- but I had a 690. With a 690 I was dinged by 9 colleges from top 10 schools to lower ranked schools (25-33 in rankings). A 740 (with almost the same profile) next year opened the floodgates with 4, top 20 schools providing admit based offers. How good was it? A top 12 school gave $$$ too. Go figure.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled by charming B-school representatives who said,” Apply, you have a great profile!” - only to not even be invited to interview. Or get waitlisted one of the schools, who later said in a post-reject profile review that my “GMAT score was the norm”. I don’t think they are lying - I think they actually believe the BS they peddle when they say that the GMAT isn’t everything. But they do the exact opposite as soon as you hit the submit button. (I have tried to explain the reason for this bias in the next section.)

Very rarely will you find an Adcom (like from Kelley) honestly tell you that your scores, though it may be 30 points above the school average, fall short by your competitive pool standards and that you shouldn't apply unless you get a much better score. Thank you for your honesty Brad.

And it has gotten harder. The GMAT now allows select test runs where people can choose which the sections they want first (yes this is a thing!). The scores are only going to get higher with tougher candidates. If you are a guy, in IT - and/or are Indian/Chinese (or Asian with many students applying for B-school, for that matter) buckle up - this is one painfully tough ride.

2. The amount of Effort doesn’t necessarily equate to a good score in the GMAT. The problem with being a Bangalorean is that you met many people who scored 700+ on the GMAT. This leads to a false perception that this is the norm, and that with good effort- you can score the same (the people who I knew who scored 700+ weren’t exactly geniuses in my book - I knew them to be hard workers.) I assumed studying hard could do the same on the GMAT - especially if I spent let’s say 6 months or a year.

Here’s the truth -You can never study everything for the GMAT. There will be point when you will be ready - but there’s always a section or part you can study more to improve. Even those who have taken the test for 16 years and scored 800 will attest to the same (more on him later). So assuming (wrongly like me) that if you study enough or for a long time period you will get the great score you want is again, a recipe for failure. There are many, many exceptions to the rule - and again, you will hear from them - but know this: there are 800K test takers every 3 years, yet we hear from these successful exceptions far, far more often than those who fail. This makes our thinking biased. We rarely hear from those who fail, and if we do - not in enough numbers. Bottom line - study hard and Study smart (more on that later). This is why you need a tutor (elucidated in part 3). To break that 650 to 750 barrier, studying and brute force alone will not be enough. Luck and incisive studying are major factors to a score above 700.

Many times, especially those who aren’t able to crack the GMAT early, tend to believe a brute force attack will work get us just above the point or score we want. I studied twice as hard on second and third attempts, spent a year going through all the content I could find - but got a 640 in my 2nd and 3rd attempt. 50 effing points fewer! This is a common theme among many people who crack the GMAT on the 3rd or 4th attempt. Their first attempts are equal to or much higher than their next attempts despite harder work. On the GMAT - brute force only makes you spread yourself thin, and you miss out on focusing on important, high scoring content.
It isn’t my intention to put you guys down or scare you guys away. But this is the truth for most of us. If your goal is to attend a top ranking school - you should know what you are up against. Again, many will say they succeeded regardless of the points I made above etc. - but this review isn’t for the exceptions. It’s for the majority that languishes (for now) in 680’s and below. The people you don’t hear from.

**This is a comedic reasoning of connecting GMAT with B-school applications- skip if not interested***

GMAT is the main key because B-schools don’t have the time, resources or patience to verify everything in your application. Think of this in a different perspective - from that of the school. To illustrate my point here (since most of you reading this will be nerdy, male engineers), think of B-schools as a beautiful girl you are madly infatuated with. Let’s illustrate this further with women you may be familiar with:
a. Top 4 B-schools - These are your Miranda Kerr’s, Adrian Lima, Aishwarya Rai (in her 20’s) and Sofia Vergara.
b. MBA schools ranked 5 to 8 - You have your gorgeous Swimsuit Illustrated models- The Kate Upton’s, Nina Agdal’s and Chrissy Teigen’s. Maybe throw in a Katrina Kaif.
c. MBA schools ranked 9 to 13-14’s- These are the beautiful (though not necessarily “Hot” in generic sense) women you’d be lucky to be even seen with. You have your Emma Watson’s, Parineeti Chopra’s and Jessica Lucas’s. (I got in here - I put my genuine crushes here!)
d. B-Schools ranked 15- 20s- The Priyanka Chopra’s, Drew Barrymore’s and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
(note -this “ranking” isn’t meant to be insulting, just take it in good humor -mkay??)
Now expect these beautiful women to have hundreds, thousands of guys vying for their attention (for an Indian nerd, this is less an analogy and more of a retelling of our personal lives). It doesn’t matter how honest you are, or how perfect you think you are for them. Every guy out there will say the same thing. Many of these guys are 6 feet tall, have 6 pack abs, look gorgeous and are millionaires or worse - play the guitar. Sometimes all of the above (hate those guys!).
The GMAT is like combination of a fit-body and charm, things we actually have control over when we meet our prospective future girlfriends.
Even if you think (or are) the sweetest, nicest, generous and honest guy who will change the world in the future - it counts for natural manure here. No matter how exquisite you think your job profile is and how different you think it is from others- chances are - they won’t see it that way, you will be bundled into group or tag - Indian, Chinese, Engineer, White Male + finance, etc. (Some great schools say that they don’t make distinctions among internationals but these are very rare- most schools usually have a limit on how many they will take from each country and/or job profile - and I agree with them.) To them you are all from the same bus load of guys vying for her attention. You have 30 seconds to make an impression among the hundreds of guys who hit on her. If you don’t have the charm & good looks at that moment to get her attention, she isn’t going to give a second glance. You will get a polite (yet patronizingly insulting) mail saying you’re a great guy, but she’s just not that into you this year.

Now let’s be clear - no amount of charm or six packs will get you a date with Miranda Kerr (her last two boyfriends are billionaires), or Adrian Lima (who friend zones anyone below 6 feet 7 inches - that puts most of us Indians and Chinese manure out of luck). Getting into Harvard’s and Stanford’s requires a profile or preferences that you should have had locked in already - either you have it or don’t. The GMAT is almost the last thing they look at, but still something that’s important.
Now the M7’s or M8’s admits are something that you can control with the GMAT, but it also requires a profile fit that is hard to acquire. Sometimes, on extreme cases a great GMAT score alone with a common profile can open doors to these schools. For every school after the top 10 ranked MBA schools - your admission (and scholarship $) will be heavily based on your GMAT.
I know a guy. He’s infamous among Bangalore MBA aspirants (he’s attended every MBA admission event since 2011) - we’ll call him Mr. K. Now Mr. K wants to date only Miranda Kerr or Aishwarya, but when it comes to the GMAT he’s Donald Drumpf (charm and looks) without the money. He refuses to hit the gym any further or go to charm school- because he thinks it’s “superficial”. He thinks these girls should love him for who he is - a nice guy who will treat them right. They should love him for that. Admirable, yet delusional. He’s genuinely is a nice guy (in reality too) - but he’s as good as taken a restraining order against these women. This’s the reason he hasn’t gotten an admit since 5 years.

All these women(schools) are beautiful and each is perfect in their own way. But regardless of who you think is perfect fit - you better bring your “A” game looking your best. Your looks and charm will count for little after that first meeting - but till then you aren’t getting a seat at that table on that first date with her. That’s the only way you can get her attention. After that, let’s hope your generous and honest nature seals the deal!
**Thus ends our comical correlation between B-school applications and GMAT- start from here******

PART 3 - GMAT review starts here.

Use this review as an inspiration, or a learning board - whatever it is, make sure you pick some points that are critical to your application and GMAT. It’s long, but it is strong. (Yes, I said this intentionally!).
In all seriousness, save the link. It’s around 7000 words, but it includes all mistakes I did - so that you can avoid them. Take a few days, save the article - come back and read it regularly. Or else just go to the bottom for the main bullet points.

My prep started in 2010-2011. By that I mean I wanted to apply for B-school. I didn’t actually study. That time was wasted looking at rankings, talking to other idiots like myself, trying to “build” a profile for Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. Honestly all I did was talk about getting an MBA - not actually do anything. Now I doubt if anyone here is as lazy as I am (I am the exception here), if you are - Stop thinking. Start doing. And start with the GMAT. THERE IS NO PLANNING FOR THE MBA. Do or Do not. There is no try.

I spent a year plus looking at B-schools, rankings and basically daydreaming at work thinking of joining B-school. It was always, “I have time, I shall prepare next year, for now I will chart a nice path”. A year and a half went by before I actually started. All I learnt was that I needed a 760/770 to attend the B-school of my choice. I also spouted idiotic lines like “no point doing an MBA if it’s not from Harvard or Stanford”.. yeesh- I wish I could go back in time, just to slap myself.
Summer, 2012 I finally joined a Bangalore based GMAT instruction center. A well-known center in Bangalore, the proprietor had scored 800 on the GMAT and had been teaching the same for 16 years or so by then and specializes in training students who score 770+ (or so he advertises). He is a polarizing figure in the Bangalore GMAT and MBA-aspirants pool, so I am going to stay clear of taking any sides. I will say this - he does provide good content in math and provides a good base for SC and RC. He and his team are nice people-how you take that advantage of the center (or any other) is up to you. I spent months on classes, training videos, studying in the rooms etc. - and my GMAT base was built there. It didn’t help beyond that. A lot of people swear by his content and have scored extremely well. Probably more than any other center. Again - I am not going against them - but most people don’t excel here. That’s a fact. So it’s a matter of where you perceive which side you will be here, prior to joining.

With regards to training centers, I see it is as an expensive launch pad that forces you to get started on your preparation. Nothing more, nothing less. Some people go the whole 9 yards and use this time to get a 750,760+ etc at the end of the course. Most don’t. My advice when it comes to tutoring is this - get a personal GMAT tutor. Yes, it costs a lot but this is an investment into your future - one that will pay immediate dividends. It may cost you thousands of dollars over 3-4 months, but you will learn exponentially more from someone who is personally invested in your success than a teacher who coaches 200 students in a day. These guys have weathered the storm, and they know all the shortcuts and all the tricks you need to win. They push you far better than you can push yourself. Trust me, you need all the weapons you can find in this battle. Take both (generic coaching & private tutoring) if you have the funds - but you have to get a personal tutor. It helps in completing your GMAT in a few months rather than spend years studying on your own. This is one rule as a prospective MBA student you may have heard before, but haven’t absorbed yet- Time is money. A tutor-assisted 720 and a quick admit to a good school in a year is better than “hoping” you will study well on your own, “hoping” you will get a 760, and correspondingly “hoping to get” into a top 10 school next year. Sad truth is most of you will fail to understand this - and I include myself in this list. Getting in to a b-school a year earlier directly adds at least a $100k into your pocket. A $100k you won’t have if you miss out that year for a bad score. Many guys miss out on B-school for 2-3 years, just focused on hitting that target score/school. If that’s your plan - you better hope you succeed on the highest level.

So in fall 2012, I began my GMAT and (correspondingly) MBA prep for real. I already had 2.5 years of work experience. Although it didn’t help me in the long run, these classes gave me an understanding of what the GMAT entailed (truth be told a good friend who studied can do the same over a week or 3-4 days). So does this article to an extent. I later started my basics on Quant, SC, CR and RC. (My CR basics were completely wrong - I only learnt that later. I’ll come to that later).

The classes for the most part - didn’t help me. I ended up falling asleep more than actually learning something (but that’s just me - it’s not reflective of the class). It’s not that I didn’t have an interest - but this class-like learning wasn’t working for me. By 2013 I genuinely started a real preparation and strung together a few hours daily after work and during weekends. My math was good, my verbal passive. But I soldiered on. The content given by the training center, especially “Quant Latest” material was vast! But understandable. SC, CR and RC didn’t really help me much in the beginning though. And the “basics” that were provided was way too vast. After 3-4 months of studying varied content without any structure, I finally took a mock test (without IR and AWA) early 2013. My score - a miserable 550.
Yes, after studying months, I got a 550. I don’t remember the split - but I it was bad. I also knew I had just started. So then it ACTUALLY began - my tenuous, yet eventually successful GMAT journey.

Attempt 1
Study period: May/June - December 2013.
Exam on 1st week of December. Score 690 (Q48, V36)


Don’t assume I studied every day, every month. My studies were relatively consistent. I worked full time, but I managed to pull in 4-5 hours daily (studied early mornings for 2 hours, 1-hour afternoon and 2 hours in the evening). And on weekends I managed 6 hours. Sometimes I was busy and I didn’t study for months. But I got into a groove and started getting my basics with the content I had - I will list out all “required to study” content later -a lot of what I studied was a total waste of my time so I won’t waste your time with it too.

What worked for me was the quant content the training center gave me, what didn’t was my basics in CR. It was wrong - so wrong (will explain later)! Even my SC basics weren’t that good for a great score. My RC was good - but not really good. All these things come together when you take a test. Studying was hard - not that I didn’t know how to study, but sometimes a lot of the content I studied were not that good, or I didn’t focus hard on the important concepts. That’s the key - if you know a concept -especially in math well, you can answer any form the question is twisted in. The trick is in knowing which concepts to focus on more. Not saying anything should be skipped - but some concepts are worth studying harder than others.
I had a bunch of friends, acquaintances and strangers who joined me during this time to study with together. Most of them gave up as they gave excuses or just didn’t have the stones to study- some stuck longer than others, but most didn’t. In the end I did study on my own 80% of the time.
I took a mock twice a month initially. I saw my scores slowly increase. From 600’s, 640’s to 700’s.
During the last week all I did was take mocks. Take one test, and after that you really can’t do much in the day. I kept scoring 710’s to 680’s. Some mocks I scored a 740 (but this was a repeat). On the Manhattans I scored 680,690, and since everyone said it’s much harder than the real test - I was like “yay! I will crack the 700 barrier easily”.
The day of the exam, AWA and IR wasn’t too bad. I started Quant well. I didn’t time myself well, in the end I had 2-3 questions with 1-minute left and I guessed all 3. Quant didn’t trouble me at all - it was a breeze. I am unsure if I even finished properly. In my last question, I didn’t press the confirm button after selecting the answer - and time ran out. Verbal started with gusto, but soon the SC became harder and harder. CR too. My last RC question (Question 33 or 34) during the last 10-13 minutes was a doozy! I still to this day cannot understand what the hell was written or even what it was about -It was an extremely complex philosophy article (which means I was doing quite well) but mentally I was too tired to make an effort. So I guessed and moved on. I am sure I lost a ton of points there because of that. I had a few SC and CR questions I quickly guessed as well and finished. Saw my score -690 (Q48, V36). I was pissed. Little did I know this was one of my better performances. I knew better timing in Quant and a little management in Verbal could have helped hit 710 easy. It could have easily been my ONLY “good” performance - if I didn’t take a massive, emotionally draining 4th attempt a year and a half later.

Attempts 2 and 3
Study period: March 2014 - December/Jan 2015.
Exam on July and December. Score 640 (2nd attempt Q45, V34. 3rd attempt Q48, V32)


This time can best be described as a punch-in-the-gut, negative period. After my exam, I had a headache for a month. I could have applied to B-schools for Round 2, but I decided not to. I decided to forget the 2014 application cycle. I planned to write the test in August 2013- BUT I KEPT delaying it to December chasing that perfect score. I could have gotten into a good school in 2014 and I could have graduated in the coming months today as you read this. Certainly not as good as the school I choose to attend now, but it was an option. My point here is that me getting a 740 in the future was in no way certain. Anyway, what’s done is done. Those of you stuck in a similar situation- consider your options.
Anyway, In Jan/Feb 2014 I was slowly losing my GMAT study conditioning. When I finally got into the groove it was March/April. Now this section for those of you planning to retake the GMAT after getting a 660-690 range. This is the time many of us resort to brute force studying - to just push that score a little more. I knew that since quant was a breeze, and that I hit a 48 despite messing up the last three questions. But I assumed -wrongly - that studying 700-800 levels math questions (from the tutorial classes guy and other online content) will surely help me hit a 50 in quant. And since I studied harder sums - medium level sums will be easier/faster to solve. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Verbal - I don’t even remember how I managed to make worse - but I did. My CR went from average to horrible. The problem was my basics were bad. Also, online answers for Math can be trusted. Online CR CAN’T be trusted. Studying CR content online (non-official) is a sure shot way of messing up you logical thinking. My RC didn’t improve nor did SC.

But I went ahead. I ignored the signs I was doing badly. Manhattan mocks were 660, 640 etc, but the Kaplan’s and GMAT prep mocks were 690- 730. What I didn’t realize was that some preps were giving me higher scores because I had done most of them before. I also had SO much quant content I was studying math problems that were 700-800 level and around 3000 extra sums that were not usually asked on the GMAT. Basically it was a mess. Being an idiot - I went ahead saying- “These tests are wrong, I will do awesomely well. I am the exception.”
I took the Second exam on July/August/September (don’t recall - don’t want to recall). It was SO bad on many epic levels. I over studied, over-prepared and messed up my basics. Add to that I took more red bull and snicker bars than needed. During the exam I felt heavy, bloated and wanted to piss badly and I think I walked out too to take a piss during Verbal. I drank 2 red bulls to keep my focus, it only ruined it. I don’t remember Quant - but I knew I couldn’t solve anything! The sums seemed alien! I couldn’t believe how hard the exam was. Verbal was worse - But I fooled myself into thinking I was doing well. End result - 640. Q45, V34. I stared at the screen for what seemed like eternity before I cancelled it.
I came out - my entire plans were ruined. Round 1 with a 750 wasn’t happening. There was no way my post GMAT headache would allow me to study for a bit either. All my preparations, research for the M7 schools were wasted. I now had a choice - apply with 690 to a few schools, or study hard again and write the GMAT. I decided to apply for the schools- because at this point I didn’t know how on earth I could study anything else. I exhausted 30 mocks, and my books littered two massive tables. I hit a wall, and now top 5 or top 10 schools looked like pipe dream. What I didn’t know was that so were the top 20-25 US schools!
So I started applying. Just to be safe I applied to schools in the Top 30 also. As I have mentioned earlier - this was a colossal waste of money and effort. Most schools were in the ranks between 13-14 and ranked up to 24. I met a top 12 school (located relatively on north, eastern side) adcom at the school’s event in Bangalore, who said he loved my profile and said (I paraphrase) - “Your profile is amazing, don’t worry about the GMAT - we love exceptional applicants like yourselves.” He spoke about how he too was a B-school grad at that same school, like other adcom members. They had peers who knew nothing except how to score at the GMAT - so they don’t value the GMAT highly. Bought into this BS, I applied. They dinged me 1 and a half months before the decision deadline. I never knew there was an early reject- boy, that’s one way to get trolled! Well played sir, well played. @$$Ĥϕ£€.

I had 1 or 2 interviews, but it was clear that I wasn’t getting invites from most schools. In November Round 2 applications began, by then I had one interview in good west coast school that showed promise, but they waitlisted me in the end, despite an exceptional interview. When I spoke to the dean of admissions post waitlist, she told me almost apologetically, that my GMAT was the reason I was waitlisted (they in fact loved my profile and goals). Around November I decided to prepare for the GMAT along with Round 2 apps. I thought this would be a final attempt. I kept Dec end as the time frame.
This time, I got my math act together. I went back to my basics. Prepared that well. Verbal was still fundamentally off. So my preparation - despite the effort, was in no way going to get me the score I wanted. In fact, my CR regressed to a point where I didn’t know how to solve them anymore. CR was a TOTAL mess. RC also had regressed a bit; I couldn’t focus on long essays. SC was ok - but not enough. I barely remember my Mocks, but since I had recently taken them - I didn’t have many options for prep.
But in all my prep wasn’t too bad. I genuinely felt I was going to crack 700+ this time. I was out scoring my friend (who was preparing with me and eventually got a 720) in almost every department except CR, and maybe a bit in RC. We both decided to take the test together.

I took the third GMAT exam on December 2014/January 2015 (again I don’t recall exactly when). During this test - my mood was perfect. I slept properly the day before, I was in a great mood, I was feeling confident and fresh. My friend and I also joked along the way to the exam. Even in the background at work, I had good tidings and I was doing well. Basically all “signs” were that I was ready to finally crack this test and proceed to better things. And I told myself this. During the exam my food and drink intake was well maintained. In fact, I was fresh throughout the exam. I took one banana, and one monster and Red Bull. I drank half of each during the course from quant to verbal and it kept me really fresh. If nothing I finally figured out what works for me at the exam. If there was a “good signs” list, I was ticking all of them.

AWA and IR again, didn’t really matter. Quant started differently. My first question was exceptionally hard. It was a question I had never seen before, in any form! My answers didn’t even come close to options. It was mostly an experimental question - I took (I kid you not) 8 minutes to solve it, but I solved it. But after that I had no issues. Math was a breeze. Again, this time too in the last 3 questions of quant I had to guess as I didn’t have time. But I knew I had done well.
I felt good after quant. Now it was a matter of 75 minutes of verbal. A good run to finish. Truth be told I can’t remember how I did. I only found out how I did when I saw the score. 640! Again! Q48, V32. I walked out, my friend tells me he gets a 720. Saying that I had mixed feelings was an understatement.

4th GMAT attempt.
Study period: March 2015 - June 2015.
Exam on June last week. Score 740 (Q50, V40)


At this point in January, I was saturated. My 640 killed any hope of getting into B-schools I already applied to. From aiming at M7 schools - I was now looking at being rejected from the top 30 schools. Man that was a low point. Worse - by Feb, some promising plans at work didn’t pan out. It reached a point where there was nothing I could do there anymore. I gave my resignation letter in Feb with no idea what’s next. All I knew was that I didn’t want be a clichéd IT guy anymore. I wanted to actually make a difference. I had entrepreneurial plans - but little knowledge on how to exactly pursue them.
I spent this notice period relaxing and reevaluating what I wanted in life. 2014-2015 apps were over. All I did was spend the whole month watching TV shows/movies and spending time with my girl. l was just generally giving my head a break. It helped. A LOT. A month passed - and I knew whatever happened, I wanted an MBA - and for that I had to beat the GMAT.
So mid-march 2015, I began. Again. This time, I spoke less and worked more. Barely anyone knew I was preparing. Not even my closest friends. My girl (now ex) still has no clue I took the test! I found a tutor in an acquaintance - who himself was on a professional break. He had a 750, but he got dinged by the M7’s and was evaluating his next step. He was nice enough to guide me. He didn’t help “that” much content wise- but his guidance and support counted a lot. I also met two friends who quit recently and were preparing for the GMAT. I think these were the only people I told about preparing for GMAT. We studied during mornings on weekdays. I also started my entrepreneurial venture in April-May, and lucky for me since I was the boss - I arranged my work timings however I wanted. GMAT was secondary in all honestly for once, since I knew how I had done earlier- but I set a large of amount time aside at my convenience to focus on GMAT, which was critical to my eventual success.
By March I was going through my math basics again. I also finally fixed my verbal basics. Now this is critical. I finally started studying in long sessions of 4-5 hours at a stretch too. This helped increase my conditioning. I bought the GMATclub tests, which I feel helped immensely. This is REAL GMAT content. I found a few other tests which I hadn’t taken, I used my Manhattan tests again, since I took them almost a year back and all of the content felt fairly new.

Soon my scores finally reached the values I really wanted to see. On the GMATclub math sections my average was in the 50s, few times I got a 51. My verbal in Manhattan was hitting 45’s and 44’s. My Manhattan scores were 730’s and 750’s. My economist online tests also reflected a 730 to 750 range. I also went through Banuel’s content to keep in touch with 700-800 level math.

I planned to write the test in April/May as I wanted to be done with this to spend more time now on my entrepreneurial venture, but me being me, I pushed the GMAT to June. I booked it for June first week, and again promptly postponed it simply out of pure nervousness. Finally, I decided to take the plunge and book in the last week of June. In my head - I already thought I was going to write this test a month from now again. But I also had enough of the GMAT, I wanted to focus on my career. Before I took time out of my job (for a big company) to study- so I didn’t care. This time it was my own time the GMAT was eating into, and I didn’t want to feed it anymore.

At this point- work in the background wasn’t in an amazing shape. My co-founder quit since it was getting expensive, and our first web product wasn’t successful. I refused to let it get to me. Unlike my 3rd GMAT - all signs in fact didn’t scream “You are exceptional”, “You’re gonna do well” etc. I’m not a big believer in the supernatural or even religion for that matter, but as a former pro sports guy- I have superstitions. I look for patterns, signs, anything - for inspiration before a big game to spur us on. There were none, or if they were, I didn’t catch it. In caught viral fever though, 4 days before and just barely I recovered with 2 days to spare. I remember taking a walk, the day before the exam - telling myself one thing, “the lack of good signs doesn’t mean lack of a good result” or something to that effect.
The day of the exam, I nearly hit a vehicle while riding (talk about good tidings) to the exam center. I had to really calm myself on the way to the exam. Luckily that’s what the AWA and IR did. It barely fazed me this time. In the break I calmly had a bite of snickers, some Monster and started quant. It was SUPER easy. I double checked almost every answer and caught the traps too. In the end it was almost too easy - I thought I may have messed up. I had a ton of time (15 minutes) for the last 7-8 questions that I almost got cocky, but I managed to finish comfortably with 30 seconds left.

Prior to verbal in the break, I took another bite of snickers and gulped a bit of Monster again, and cleaned out my bladder twice in the 8-minute break just to be safe. I went in knowing I had done well in quant, but I knew the real battle starts here. I steadied myself - and I started again. SC started getting tough in the 6-7th questions. In my first CR question, I had a tough assumption question (it was the 5th question). I almost chose the wrong answer- and then I realized the right one (thank you CR Bible!). In my other exams I would have surely picked the trap answer. My CR base was perfect. I got tougher and tougher sums later on. But I didn’t have issues. There was one SC problem where I picked the right answer only based on a comma! It was that tough. There were some CR problems I knew I couldn’t solve- I didn’t waste more than a minute on them. I think I skipped/didn’t know anything for around 2-3 questions in total. If you don’t know how to solve it in 30-45 seconds, no point wasting time trying to solve it. Skip and move on. I’m sure, with little extra practice I could have done much better in CR

Finally, my toughest nemesis, RC. RC wasn’t hard, but a combination of fatigue, and tough passages at the end, inference questions and overall lack of confidence used to bring my scores down (especially in the 2nd and 3rd GMAT). You have to do REALLY well in RC if you want anything above 720. No question about it. The initial 2 RC para’s I breezed through, didn’t have too much of an issue. The RC passages got harder and even harder. But my prep was so good (I did LSATs - more on that later), neither time nor tough passages bothered me. I had 4 in total I think, none of them bothered me even a little. I finished the exam with the last two 2 questions done within 2-3 minutes pending.
For the first time ever, I felt good after the exam. I started sweating bullets filling in the info prior to seeing the score. Finally, I pressed the “see your score” button. It said 740. I screamed a (manly) “YESS!!” punched the wooden panel that held keyboard in exaltation. God alone knows what the rest of the people taking the test thought! Lol! I was so nervous, I don’t know what I pressed next to accept the score - I was scared if I didn’t select it, my score would be cancelled or something - I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was just holding back an avalanche of emotions. I then got worried - wondering if I cancelled the test by mistake, that I ran out, and asked for the print out of my unofficial scores. The lady said “yes, yes don’t worry. You accepted the scores.” But I couldn’t wait. Only when I finally got the printout in my hand was I finally at ease! Unfortunately for one of my friends, who wrote the exam with me, he scored less than 600. So I didn’t completely let out my exuberance.

5 years of idiotic “planning”, 4 goddamn attempts, 3 years of prep and 3 bad exams, 2 years of MBA applications and disappointments - finally lead to this 1 glorious day. What a journey. I hadn’t told my anyone about this test. Finally, it was over. Could I have done better - definitely! I was hitting 45’s in verbal sections, getting a 40 was a shocker, a 42 could have gotten a 760, AND I knew I was there - but it was time. I was happy with my score.

I can’t tell you how I felt that day. If I was a hugging person - I would have hugged everyone I spoke to. All I can say is this, for those of you still patient to be reading this - don’t give up. Life’s hardest things are the ones that keep you from following your goals. And the sweetest victories are the ones that make us give it our all. Give up here and you can kiss your dreams goodbye. Or fight. And win.

Below is the list of instructions that will certainly make sense now with the story at hand. With the context you will hopefully navigate your own GMAT exam to success.
General preparation information:

1. Get a tutor. Seriously - GET A TUTOR!
This point has been elaborated earlier. But it’s so important I thought I should share it again. Most of you will ignore this. Maybe reiterating it will have a few of you change your mind. If I did so, congratulations! You are already ahead of the curve. Thank me later!
2. You have to take your exam in April -May. Latest by June. (For fall applications)
Why? Because this gives you time to mess up and retake the exam with good preparation and a break in between. If you succeed- even better. More time for you to prepare for the school apps. I promise you, that is a beast in its own right. Give that section a wide berth.
3. Try not to study in bits (1 or 1.5 hours, and then take breaks). Study for 2-3 hours at a stretch.
I used to do this in my early exams. I studied 4-5 hours a day. A great amount - especially for us working professionals, but I wasn’t able to study long periods. You may not have a choice -and you would want to study at whatever time you get, but the GMAT is a marathon. Racing multiple 100 meters’ events daily, will not help in a 4-hour marathon. My advice - for working professionals - sleep early and get up really early (like 4 AM) and study 2-3 hours at a stretch. If you can study a bit later, good. Use that time for memorizing your formulas, flash cards, the idioms and other content you need to memorize only, not understanding content.
4. Never study one section (like SC, CR, or Quant) only for long days or weeks together.
For example, I studied one part of quant (example - permutations and combinations) for a week and studied it thoroughly before moving onto the next part. From an engineer’s point of view - its only logical to learn one part, do it exceptionally well, and then move to the next to build your solution. The problem is that the GMAT is so vast that you can never be perfect at all parts, together during the exam. Initially during your basics, it’s possible for you to learn things at stretch to make yourself comfortable in an area- but you have to mix it up daily. And this is how you will be tested too. Your base should be evenly built, and raised accordingly.
5. Study every day. Even if it is for half hour.
We are all busy professionals. Work will prevent you from doing anything productive weeks or months sometimes. These are the times you have to put you best effort. Studying for 2-3 concentrated months for 150 hours is better than studying 200 hours interspersed over 6-7 months. It’s not how much you study - it’s how much you recall over on that day of the exam. So even on your most busy days, put in half hour of studying - it goes a long way for success.
6. Don’t believe what people tell you about Mocks.
Many people have said - Manhattans are tougher, or Kaplans are easier, add or deduct 10 from the GMAT prep etc. Stop listening to them. Mocks serve one purpose - conditioning you for the exam. Nothing more. There is no formula to say how much you will get during the exam when compared to a mock. Mocks do help in one way - it gives you a range. A 750 guy will not get 690 on a mock, or vice versa. Take it as a range of 20 points below or above.
7. Get study partners - if possible.
This is not prerequisite, but it helps. The GMAT is a lonely marathon in a dark and desolate path. It helps to have someone fighting similar battles. They don’t need to be on the same level as you or hit the same targets (in my last GMAT study group, my friends averaged 600). But they need to be serious. It’s essential to get tips and pool information, and have fun at times.
8. Get some exercise done during the last stretch without fail.
What worked for me during the last exam was that for 3 weeks I regularly walked for 40 minutes. In other exams I didn’t - I locked myself in thinking every second studied helps. It didn’t. Exercise is a proven cognitive booster. Whatever works best- sweat it out & hit that 700+.
9. Want to make sure you stick GMAT goals? Bet money on it.
You can tell a million people or yourself sincerely that you will put your heart and soul into studying for the GMAT - it doesn’t mean squat unless you’re willing to back it up. And when you aren’t willing to back it up, with money - I guarantee most (if not all) of you will miss your goals. You can easily find out who will get a good score on the GMAT by simply seeing who is willing to bet their own money on studying for it.
How do you go about it? Give a trusted friend a good sum of money, such as Rs. 30000 or $1000 (not too much, but enough to pinch the pockets). Make sure that if you don’t hit your weekly goals, your friend spends installments (like Rs 1500) on himself (like an opposing football team’s jersey, gourmet meals etc. - something that you can’t use). Hit the targets, win your money back. It works best when you are studying with someone who has the same serious goals as you. They can verify your study targets too. Give each other a sum of money, and try to win it back. This’s also a good way to wean away those not serious from wasting your time. People will find a million dollars to attend HBS is given the chance, but they will squeam, give absurd excuses and weasel out rather than risk money on their own effort. Keep efforts realistic. I tried this with 6-7 guys who talked big, but none put up the money. None of them scored 700+ either. Only 1 scored more than 650. Remember - Talk is cheap, money and effort isn’t. Don’t kid yourself - you are doing this MBA for the money. No harm in that. But if you aren’t willing to bet $1000 on yourself now, forget that $200K salary 3 years from now.
10. DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN’T DO IT OR THAT YOU CAN’T GET THE GMAT SCORE YOU WANT.
Will Smith has said all that I can say about this topic in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” But it’s not just people who can’t do it who will dissuade you, it’s people who love you that will not want to see you torture yourself. But you decide when you stop. A LOT of people (well intentioned, mostly) told me that a 690 is awesome. It is the 87TH percentile. That if I couldn’t get if I can’t get 700+ in the 2nd attempt, I can’t get the score in my 3Rd time. For once I’m glad I never listened.
11. Finally - (this may not be for everyone). If you have enough experience - but a bad score despite many attempts - Quit your day job. Or at the least, take a sabbatical of 2-3 or even 4 months -GET THAT SCORE.
This is an argument similar to getting a tutor - 95% of you are going to ignore it and say, “Naah - that’s crazy talk! I can get the score without it.” What you are saying is “I am the exception”. Think about it - if you failed on multiple attempts, staying in the job is one way of giving up. What will you do different in time management that you didn’t do the first two, three or four times? It’s not just you, hundreds of thousands of people like you who don’t succeed. Many give up on their MBA dreams COMPLETELY because their scores aren’t good enough. They don’t want to take a risk. Or else they end up going to lower ranked schools and struggle to get a job they want. These are your choices. Again, this is if you want a top 20 School only and aren’t looking to compromise. I am not dissing the lower ranked schools (I myself attended “lowly” ranked college in India) - but if you have an aspiration & you think you are good enough you owe it to yourself. Otherwise be prepared to say- “naah, this was never my dream.”

A guy with 750 with a gap of a 1.5 years gap in his resume will look better than a guy with my strong career profile of 6 years’ experience and a 690. (p.s. - that guy went to Columbia, an Indian IT (Mech) guy who left Infosys, I promise you his profile wasn’t spectacular - he wasn’t an exception, his GMAT was). Some schools like MIT (not sure. It was an M7 school though) are ok with folks quitting 2-3 months before R1 to prepare for GMAT/applications. Some schools (I forgot which ones) are against it. Nonetheless, a gap of 3 months doesn’t look bad on your profile if you have 3-4 (or 5-6) years of experience. Also, add a year working from the R1 application time to entering school. Just show that you have a plan after you quit - & be genuine about it. Best case scenario- quit well before Round1, get your scores, and get back to work.

I wasn’t as brave. I didn’t quit for the GMAT - I left because there wasn’t anything for me at that clichéd job anymore. I left to start afresh. I used the transition time to finally break the GMAT 700+ barrier. I was lucky. But not everyone’s as “lucky” as I am. Make your own luck.

Exam writing prep points
1. Cultivate the right thinking. The exam isn’t for 4 hours - it’s for 2 and half hours.
Yes, that’s right. Your exam, and future, is decided on those 2.5 hours of quant and Verbal (unless your exceptionally bad on AWA and IR). That’s where all your mental faculty should be used and focused.
So how would you prepare? YOU HAVE to train for 4 hours, but you can train better. So the last 7-9 mocks I took were only the 2.5 hour mocks of Quant and Verbal. To tire myself - I did 30-40 questions of OG 13 Quant sums PRIOR my mock. So I strained myself for 4+ hours of effort.

So basically final few practice mocks prior to last GMAT were like this:
a. 1 hour (later I extended it to 1.5 hours) of OG Math doing 30-40 sums.
b. break for 8 minutes.
c. Start a mock with only Quant and Verbal
How did this help? For starters I fooled my brain into thinking the exam was only 2.5 hours long. The AWA and IR didn’t faze me at all - for me it was like something unconnected with the exam (like driving to the exam) that didn’t consume my mental resources. This is very important. In my 4th GMAT attempt, I never felt strained. Even after the exam! Except for like 5 minutes in the end, I wasn’t tired and my focus was rock solid. The AWA and IR are not a test - they are a burden to soften you up before the real fight. Don’t give them that power.
2. Take Red Bull, Gatorade, coffee or whatever you think is necessary for the exam to boost your focus. But just enough. Take your caffeine based supplement at the start of Quant, and have slight top up prior to Verbal. A banana helps. So does a snicker bar. Not both. Find what keeps you fresh during the exams and your combination of the same. And stick to it.

3. Do not believe in good omens before the test, or don’t feel bad if there aren’t good feelings or incidents that happen before the test.
I have touched upon this earlier. If you are someone who looks for signs and inspiration around you, know that the lack of good signs doesn’t mean no good luck. Be calm, whatever you can get will be decided in those 2.5 hours.

4. Sleep well. If possible workout the day before so that you definitely fall asleep.
The day before the exam is very critical, only study things you need to memorize. Nothing more. Try to sleep well- messing that can mean the difference between a good score and a bad one.

5. Your break isn’t 8 minutes - it’s 5 minutes.
When you practice your mocks, try not to use 8 minutes as your break. It’s actually 5-6 minutes. Most of time goes in the restroom, fingerprint scanning, processes, etc. Also you are bound to enter the exam back 2 minutes early, so that you’re not late. Unlike home, there is no timer - you make do with whatever clock is on the wall. In the exam, before I knew it I was back taking the test- the break felt like 3-4 minutes, not 8. Plan your mocks likewise.

6. Don't psych yourself out by coming to the exam too early either. Come half hour before just for safety.

7. Don’t lose hope when you mess up.
You can’t be perfect in the exam. There will be times when you won’t know the answers - be calm and soldier on. You can only improve your score, never reduce it. Keep that in mind.
Or even when you mess up the exam - its alright. There is a next time. Many of us crack it then.


Points on Each section of the GMAT:


AWA- Not really hard. Google “Chineseburned AWA” review. Takes half an hour of practice to get it right. And you can practice on mocks. Just check for spelling mistakes you may make but don’t catch in this age of MS Word and Outlook. I always used to type strengthen as “strengten”!
IR- I didn’t prepare and neither should you. Practice all you can during mocks. 6-7 attempts should be fine to get the hang of it. Unless you score less than 4 on a regular basis on mocks. Don’t prepare.

Quant and Verbal

Reading Content:


Compulsory
Official content: OG 13/15, Verbal Review, Quant Review, and buy the extra content available on GMAC - the 400 odd extra sums. (You get 100 or so free when you register - pay a nominal fee to get the rest)
Manhattan: All books (except CR)
CR Bible- (Very, very important)
Past LSAT solved papers - For RC
Non-compulsory
Banuel’s 700-800 level sums (really useful and really confusing too. But worth it if you want a 50-51.
Quant Latest - Or a set of sums on the multiple Quant concepts. This file is floating around the internet from the tutorials I mentioned earlier. Its good content, but too vast I feel.

Mocks/Tests:

Compulsory

Official GMAT exams: GMATPrep 1 and 2 (free). Buy the extra exam pack for exams 3, and 4.
6 Manhattan tests: Should be free with Manhattan books
GMATclub tests: 30 math, 6-7 verbal tests. (You can skip the verbal if needed). Buy it 2 months prior.
Free Economist tests - Kenan Flagler has a free test and another free test available is at Economist

Non-compulsory
800 Score - very good content. The Math mocks. I used these questions to study for GMAT a lot.
Veritas prep- 6 tests (I think- been awhile)
Kaplan - 6 tests I think.

Online resources:

Trust only BeatTheGMAT, GMATclub and Manhattan if you want to really research content online. And trust only expert replies. There’s a lot of wrong answers & idiots out there - listen only to the experts like Ron Purewal, Mitch and Banuel. These guys have superb answers to tough questions.
(All this may seem expensive- get partners to share costs if needed. You won’t be studying all content at one go - so it can easily be shared among many people)

How to study

Quant:
1. Manhattan content. The first 5 basics books: May seem silly because it starts from the absolute basics. I learnt a ton of points I may have missed otherwise. Condense these books into notes with pointers to important points and important practice questions in them.
I condensed the 5 books to notes of 30 pages or so (with references to tough questions in them)
2. Advanced Manhattan Quant: Again a must read, especially for those of you who want 650+. Make notes. Keep track of your mistakes.
3. Your GMAT Math content (May be ignored, may): At this point, most of you would have a collection of math practice sums. I used “Quant Latest”. From what I hear it’s readily available online. You folks reading this may have your own collection of 600-700 level sums. Use it to further improve your math.

Now it should be divided into 6 parts. Now explaining tips for all of these sections will be crazy long, so I will give some cliff notes.

a. Permutations and Combinations - Unfortunately there are too many problems and ways to twist these problems. You will have to learn them.
b. Geometry and Co-ordinate geometry- study this section really well. 2-3 times over If needed. Fewer examples available - but each one important. Focus more on Geometry. Coordinate is relatively easier.
c. Inequality - You have to make short cuts for all the complicated inequalities formulas you have. And there are tons. This includes the Mods as well. Condense a problem/formula to a derivative so that you save 1 minute or so on the GMAT every problem. Goes a long way.
d. Word problems - Too many sections are covered here. But I can give tips on Speed, Distance, and Time. May be the hardest of the lot. There are 100’s, if not 1000’s of problems. But what I noted is that there are only 30-40 ways they can twist them. Memorize each and every one of them. This was my weakest section in Math I think - but after I decoded all of the sums and saw that there were only a few patterns - I conquered it easily.
e. Number properties- Make notes on the properties. Such as prime numbers etc. And again memorize them. This section too is really vast, so learn the the formulas, synthesize it and move on.
f. Stats- This is probably the easiest to score. So don’t worry too much.

4. GMAT Club tests: Practice these tests daily. There will be time limit when you buy them so try to finish them before. 2-3 months is fine. Some days I just didn’t have mood to study- I used these tests. In fact, in March I was quite lethargic. I just forced myself to start the tests, and it forced me to study. Later I used to take 2 tests a day. Further improving my math conditioning. These tests have some of the best math problems. In fact- I kept a record of all mistakes, and studied only that prior to the test. Invaluable. I credit GMATclub to raise my Quant to a 50.

5. OG 13/15, Quant Review, Quant content on GMATprep software.

I left this section for the end. The GMAC official content is the most valuable content. People usually ignore it thinking it’s too easy - but the content here is worth its weight in gold. This is the content that the questions on the GMAT exam are directly based on. Do not ignore it!
So I used this content prior my last 8-9 mocks mostly. I also used it to condition myself for quant. I used to do 40-50 sums at a stretch. What happens is when these sums are taken individually, they may not seem hard. Together- it’s a challenge, especially after the 1-hour mark - these are the mistakes you will make in the actual exam!
And as always, mark your mistakes and keep them separately to review again

What I have seen, over the course of years is that the mistake I did 2 years ago- will happen again today! Its uncanny how so many same mistakes I did several times over the course of the years. So just knowing how to solve it once and moving on may not work. This is usually a lack of understanding concepts. So this is why an error log is critical. On your revision - go back to only your error logs. If you solved (not guessed - solved) a sum correctly - chances are most probably you will solve it again, so don’t worry too much. The mistakes need monitoring.

Finally- if you really want to hit the 50/51’s - try learning from Banuel’s 700-800 content. Be warned its EXCEPTIONALLY hard. Some of them (especially Permutations) don’t make sense to anyone online (a guy with 790 AND 800 both said so!). So study at your own time if you are confident. He has some brilliant tricks that is worth learning.

Verbal:

SC: Ah Sentence correction, the quant section of the GMAT. This is actually the easiest in GMAT. Though it may not seem so initially - as there are SO MANY rules. But the rules, however vast, are finite - and easy to learn and memorize with effort. Is essence like math.
a. Start with Manhattan SC. This is the best material for SC. Extremely sad that I learnt this only in the end. I should have started this early.

b. Official GMAC content. OG 13/15, Verbal Review, GMATprep software questions. Now this “should” be enough. But you need to go through this content 4-5 times. I did it in the end. Once you are at a certain average 600-650 level - it shouldn’t take 2-3 days to go through all the content. Every official sum has to be analyzed to the bone.

For example you have a sum. You got the right answer. What do you DO? Now you go through each and every wrong answer. See why each wrong answer is wrong. Usually each wrong option on SC has 2-3 points (mistakes) you can pick up. LEARN IT ALL. I made a notebook of only official SC sums. In that I kept a log of all points of every wrong answer. And I memorized them. Most of them I knew - not all. These are the ones I focused on.

Also check online. Every official GMAT SC answer is analyzed on the three sites I mentioned before. Pick up points from them too. This is a must do. The official GMAT answers sometimes aren’t clear- they just say this answer is wrong “because it sounds weird or sounds wrong”. Mitch, Ron Purewal et all bring a lot of points which make sense for these answers. They also bring out other points not mentioned in the GMAC official content. At an expert level - I instinctively figured out which ones “sounded wrong” but that came after years of practice. But as a beginner/intermediate don’t go on instincts - rely on grammar rules.

c. Idioms - Idioms are critical. Manhattan SC has a ton of it. Learn/memorize it all. This is the difference between an American doing well on SC with a week’s study and an Indian doing badly despite 5 months. Most of Americans, don’t even go into detail. The instinctively know what sounds wrong. So spend time learning them. Especially the ones from Official GMAC.

d. Unofficial content- There’s a lot of unofficial GMAT content online. Frankly I learnt this first. Mistake. Many of you may do the same. Do it at your own peril first. Learn the official content first. If needed, go through your collection of unofficial GMAT SC problems. There are some good content out there.

CR: CR bible. Nothing else. Don’t go with any other BS available online - I have gone through most of them. There are few problems, and the content is as vast as my review - But I promise you it is worth it! Most people get intimidated by the size of it and learn the wrong concepts. Now after you finish this - be judicious with the CR practice problems. This section has the least problems available (good content). Almost all of the good practice content is the GMAC official content (OG 13/15, Verbal Review, GMATprep software questions). There is a lot “CR practice” problems online which are fundamentally flawed. Solving them will do more harm than doing nothing!
Also unlike math and SC, you cannot repeat these problems as you will have an input from memory. So once you finish the CR bible - practice these sums and get perfect at them. I did the opposite, since my prep was a mess, I already finished all good content. Once I completed CR Bible (in the far end of my prep) I didn’t have any trust worthy questions which I haven’t seen to practice on - yet I did well!
RC:

You can start with Manhattan RC (honestly - I don’t remember studying from it). But your main learning will come from Practice only. Study the LSATs. They are RC passages on steroids! At the end, all I did was study LSATs. Daily I managed to do 4 passages from a test. I initially took 50 minutes to answer the 28 odd questions from 4 passages, later I brought it down to 37-40 minutes. That was perfect. Hit an accuracy of 70-80% and you are good to go for the GMAT. In fact as I mentioned, doing 2-3 LSATs a day helped me to manage the time in verbal and I never felt the passages were tough at all.

Well there you have it! If you stuck till the end. Congrats and thank you! I spent 2 weeks of “work” time writing it. Hope you learnt from it. And it was useful in some way. Le



Last edited by varunshetty_1 on Tue Dec 27, 2016 6:16 am; edited 8 times in total

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Ishanvs Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:06 am
Varun:Could you share the number of your private tutor

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ganith Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 8:38 am
Excellent writeup. Thanks for the tips. I am pretty much in the same boat. Do post your application details.

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Ishanvs Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:06 am
Varun:Could you share the number of your private tutor

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ganith Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 8:38 am
Excellent writeup. Thanks for the tips. I am pretty much in the same boat. Do post your application details.

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madhukumar_v Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:32 am
Hearty congratulations Varun. I read the whole debrief and really many thanks for posting it. Thank you again.

I have couple of questions based on your debrief:

1. For private tutoring for Verbal do you have any recommendations. Appreciate your input.
2. What is your view point on using resources to learn Math/Verbal using Grockit, TargetTestPrep etc.,
3. How much LSAT material should we use for GMAT, especially CR/RC?

Please let me know.

Thank you.

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nirnay Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 4:10 pm
Excellent debrief Varun. Congratulations and thank you for taking out time for writing this.

Do you mid sharing your experience for Bschool prep and how you got into the Bschool and which Bschool did you join?

Regards,
Nirnay

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Prjwl99 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 12:02 pm
Hello Varun,

First of all - congrats on beating the gmat.

And thank u for the wonderful long post.


I understand that during the long span of 4 years with gmat experience, u would have much more valid info and points. So I would like to ask you for some advice.

My profile: 710 in gmat (49 q, 40 v)
almost 4 years of IT experience
extra curricular - Event management etc

Though i used a consultants help to fill the applications, i got dinged - all 5 colleges(rankin betwee 12-22).

I am not sure of what went wrong- essays? score ? or R2 timing

Anyway I would like any suggestions from u and also details about the application consultants, who guided u.

Thanks and regards - prjwl


Namma kudla !!

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nchaswal Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:16 am
Hi Varun

I am just starting with my prep. I guess reading articles of people who have done it all should be the first thing a person, who has decided to give GMAT, should do.

Really open hearted & step by step detailed inputs. Thank you so much for this. I am sure the more a person reads or knows common pitfalls, the less he will remember not to make them.

Thanks a ton for sharing everything.

Cheers & all the best for your college. Would like to be in touch.

Regards
Nitin

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BHARATSINGH55 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:39 am
Hi Varun,
Congratulations..You cracked GMAT.
Please share with us your further journey experience as well after scoring...Application , interview etc..

Regards

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buzz-lightyear Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
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Post Wed Mar 16, 2016 12:53 am
varunshetty_1 wrote:
This is my story and my advice for those of you who are planning for your GMAT and MBA. I worked hard for over 3 years. Now I with this score I got into an excellent school(top 12) with $$$. I hope it can help you guys too.

This is not a review for those who can study for the GMAT in 1-2 months and score a 700/750. This is especially not a review for those who aren't fighting for a top 20 or a top 10 B-school. If you don’t want more than 700 or more than 750, you’re better off not reading this.

This is a review for those who fail, or have failed, or currently failing on this godforsaken test and consequently on your B-School applications.
For those who done badly your first or second attempt, or even third or fourth attempt.
For those guys/girls who lost a year because they were wait-listed like me, or worse dinged by all schools they applied to (yes, it is because of your GMAT).
This is ESPECIALLY for those guys just starting out - with some naïve misconceptions about the GMAT and B-school applications.
And finally for those guys at the edge, doubting themselves and their dreams. This is for you.

The GMAT is tough, but it can be beaten. Trust me, I failed for 2.5 years - before I succeeded one day.
Be-warned, this is a REALLY, REALLY long review of the GMAT and correspondingly B-school applications. One of your first hurdles on the GMAT is a test of your patience. If you aren't able to finish this review and absorb the same, well - it’s probably why you won’t do well later or aren't doing well now. Also, I spent a lot of time preparing it- be nice and read the whole thing. Very Happy

It’s not for my benefit - it's for yours. I am on 3 month vacation - before I move to my next exciting phase. I'm golden either way you decide to go through this article.

Think of this as practice RC - the highest and toughest scoring section on the GMAT.In all seriousness - If you don’t have the patience for a LONG GMAT review (and I was one of you guys), a 4-hour test as hard as the GMAT will eat, nay skin you alive.

This review is divided into 3 parts. Go thru them on your accord
a. Importance on the GMAT, applications and some “myths” debunked.
b. A comical analogy on how B-schools view us applicants and how we should approach them.
c. Actual review of my journey and my steps to conquer the GMAT.

First, some numbers. In a course of 3 years (the time taken to calculate percentiles) nearly 800K people (not attempts, individuals) take the GMAT. Many of them even take the test multiple times. Assuming you are targeting the top 5000-7000 seats in B-school globally, the odds are scary - especially if you are an Indian IT male like me. The GMAT is the only distinguishing factor for hundreds of thousands of us. Here are some myths which I will bust. They’re actually counter intuitive to what you may think:

1. There is no “holistic” review of your application. This is flat out BS. The GMAT is the first and biggest weapon to enter the world of top B-school MBA. The GMAT isn’t only 20-30% of your application- despite what people say. It is 100% of your first step to get into the door of B-school. It just gets my blood boiling when I hear that “holistic” word thrown about. Unless you are a mini celebrity that can be verified by press reports online in some form- know this, there is no holistic review. The GMAT is most likely your only key to a good MBA. Get this fact seared into your head right now, because a lot of well-intentioned, wrongly informed people will tell you otherwise. Believing them will set you up for failure. Avoid this point at your own risk.

Do not believe the charming B-school reps you meet in admission events who say “the GMAT isn’t everything” (Except the Canadian schools- these guys are honest. They genuinely review your whole profile for a fit). I have spent hundreds of dollars (thousands in total) on applications, and yet got dinged by all of them despite a stellar profile (honestly).

I have an international and national sports background (2 different sports), research papers, 3 Patents, awards, a genuine CSR and non-profit experience that started 6 years before, and a strong professional career with a highly salary (in India) from an US product company (think Adobe/VMware etc.)- but I had a 690. With a 690 I was dinged by 9 colleges from top 10 schools to lower ranked schools (25-33 in rankings). A 740 (with almost the same profile) next year opened the floodgates with 4, top 20 schools providing admit based offers. How good was it? A top 12 school gave $$$ too. Go figure.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled by charming B-school representatives who said,” Apply, you have a great profile!” - only to not even be invited to interview. Or get waitlisted one of the schools, who later said in a post-reject profile review that my “GMAT score was the norm”. I don’t think they are lying - I think they actually believe the BS they peddle when they say that the GMAT isn’t everything. But they do the exact opposite as soon as you hit the submit button. (I have tried to explain the reason for this bias in the next section.)

Very rarely will find an Adcom (like from Kelley) honestly tell you that your scores, though it may be 30 points above the school average, fall short by your competitive pool standards and that you shouldn't apply unless you get a much better score. Thank you for your honesty Brad.

And it has gotten harder. The GMAT now allows select test runs where people can choose which the sections they want first (yes this is a thing!). The scores are only going to get higher with tougher candidates. If you are a guy, in IT - and/or are Indian/Chinese (or Asian with many students applying for B-school, for that matter) buckle up - this is one painfully tough ride.

2. The amount of Effort doesn’t necessarily equate to a good score in the GMAT. The problem with being a Bangalorean is that you met many people who scored 700+ on the GMAT. This leads to a false perception that this is the norm, and that with good effort- you can score the same (the people who I knew who scored 700+ weren’t exactly geniuses in my book - I knew them to be hard workers.) I assumed studying hard could do the same on the GMAT - especially if I spent let’s say 6 months or a year.

Here’s the truth -You can never study everything for the GMAT. There will be point when you will be ready - but there’s always a section or part you can study more to improve. Even those who have taken the test for 16 years and scored 800 will attest to the same (more on him later). So assuming (wrongly like me) that if you study enough or for a long time period you will get the great score you want is again, a recipe for failure. There are many, many exceptions to the rule - and again, you will hear from them - but know this: there are 800K test takers every 3 years, yet we hear from these successful exceptions far, far more often than those who fail. This makes our thinking biased. We rarely hear from those who fail, and if we do - not in enough numbers. Bottom line - study hard and Study smart (more on that later). This is why you need a tutor (elucidated in part 3). To break that 650 to 750 barrier, studying and brute force alone will not be enough. Luck and incisive studying are major factors to a score above 700.

Many times, especially those who aren’t able to crack the GMAT early, tend to believe a brute force attack will work get us just above the point or score we want. I studied twice as hard on second and third attempts, spent a year going through all the content I could find - but got a 640 in my 2nd and 3rd attempt. 50 effing points fewer! This is a common theme among many people who crack the GMAT on the 3rd or 4th attempt. Their first attempts are equal to or much higher than their next attempts despite harder work. On the GMAT - brute force only makes you spread yourself thin, and you miss out on focusing on important, high scoring content.
It isn’t my intention to put you guys down or scare you guys away. But this is the truth for most of us. If your goal is to attend a top ranking school - you should know what you are up against. Again, many will say they succeeded regardless of the points I made above etc. - but this review isn’t for the exceptions. It’s for the majority that languishes (for now) in 680’s and below. The people you don’t hear from.

**This is a comedic reasoning of connecting GMAT with B-school applications- skip if not interested***

GMAT is the main key because B-schools don’t have the time, resources or patience to verify everything in your application. Think of this in a different perspective - from that of the school. To illustrate my point here (since most of you reading this will be nerdy, male engineers), think of B-schools as a beautiful girl you are madly infatuated with. Let’s illustrate this further with women you may be familiar with:
a. Top 4 B-schools - These are your Miranda Kerr’s, Adrian Lima, Aishwarya Rai (in her 20’s) and Sofia Vergara.
b. MBA schools ranked 5 to 8 - You have your gorgeous Swimsuit Illustrated models- The Kate Upton’s, Nina Agdal’s and Chrissy Teigen’s. Maybe throw in a Katrina Kaif.
c. MBA schools ranked 9 to 13-14’s- These are the beautiful (though not necessarily “Hot” in generic sense) women you’d be lucky to be even seen with. You have your Emma Watson’s, Parineeti Chopra’s and Jessica Lucas’s. (I got in here - I put my genuine crushes here!)
d. B-Schools ranked 15- 20s- The Priyanka Chopra’s, Drew Barrymore’s and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
(note -this “ranking” isn’t meant to be insulting, just take it in good humor -mkay??)
Now expect these beautiful women to have hundreds, thousands of guys vying for their attention (for an Indian nerd, this is less an analogy and more of a retelling of our personal lives). It doesn’t matter how honest you are, or how perfect you think you are for them. Every guy out there will say the same thing. Many of these guys are 6 feet tall, have 6 pack abs, look gorgeous and are millionaires or worse - play the guitar. Sometimes all of the above (hate those guys!).
The GMAT is like combination of a fit-body and charm, things we actually have control over when we meet our prospective future girlfriends.
Even if you think (or are) the sweetest, nicest, generous and honest guy who will change the world in the future - it counts for natural manure here. No matter how exquisite you think your job profile is and how different you think it is from others- chances are - they won’t see it that way, you will be bundled into group or tag - Indian, Chinese, Engineer, White Male + finance, etc. (Some great schools say that they don’t make distinctions among internationals but these are very rare- most schools usually have a limit on how many they will take from each country and/or job profile - and I agree with them.) To them you are all from the same bus load of guys vying for her attention. You have 30 seconds to make an impression among the hundreds of guys who hit on her. If you don’t have the charm & good looks at that moment to get her attention, she isn’t going to give a second glance. You will get a polite (yet patronizingly insulting) mail saying you’re a great guy, but she’s just not that into you this year.

Now let’s be clear - no amount of charm or six packs will get you a date with Miranda Kerr (her last two boyfriends are billionaires), or Adrian Lima (who friend zones anyone below 6 feet 7 inches - that puts most of us Indians and Chinese manure out of luck). Getting into Harvard’s and Stanford’s requires a profile or preferences that you should have had locked in already - either you have it or don’t. The GMAT is almost the last thing they look at, but still something that’s important.
Now the M7’s or M8’s admits are something that you can control with the GMAT, but it also requires a profile fit that is hard to acquire. Sometimes, on extreme cases a great GMAT score alone with a common profile can open doors to these schools. For every school after the top 10 ranked MBA schools - your admission (and scholarship $) will be heavily based on your GMAT.
I know a guy. He’s infamous among Bangalore MBA aspirants (he’s attended every MBA admission event since 2011) - we’ll call him Mr. K. Now Mr. K wants to date only Miranda Kerr or Aishwarya, but when it comes to the GMAT he’s Donald Drumpf (charm and looks) without the money. He refuses to hit the gym any further or go to charm school- because he thinks it’s “superficial”. He thinks these girls should love him for who he is - a nice guy who will treat them right. They should love him for that. Admirable, yet delusional. He’s genuinely is a nice guy (in reality too) - but he’s as good as taken a restraining order against these women. This’s the reason he hasn’t gotten an admit since 5 years.

All these women(schools) are beautiful and each is perfect in their own way. But regardless of who you think is perfect fit - you better bring your “A” game looking your best. Your looks and charm will count for little after that first meeting - but till then you aren’t getting a seat at that table on that first date with her. That’s the only way you can get her attention. After that, let’s hope your generous and honest nature seals the deal!
**Thus ends our comical correlation between B-school applications and GMAT- start from here******

PART 3 - GMAT review starts here.

Use this review as an inspiration, or a learning board - whatever it is, make sure you pick some points that are critical to your application and GMAT. It’s long, but it is strong. (Yes, I said this intentionally!).
In all seriousness, save the link. It’s around 7000 words, but it includes all mistakes I did - so that you can avoid them. Take a few days, save the article - come back and read it regularly. Or else just go to the bottom for the main bullet points.

My prep started in 2010-2011. By that I mean I wanted to apply for B-school. I didn’t actually study. That time was wasted looking at rankings, talking to other idiots like myself, trying to “build” a profile for Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. Honestly all I did was talk about getting an MBA - not actually do anything. Now I doubt if anyone here is as lazy as I am (I am the exception here), if you are - Stop thinking. Start doing. And start with the GMAT. THERE IS NO PLANNING FOR THE MBA. Do or Do not. There is no try.

I spent a year plus looking at B-schools, rankings and basically daydreaming at work thinking of joining B-school. It was always, “I have time, I shall prepare next year, for now I will chart a nice path”. A year and a half went by before I actually started. All I learnt was that I needed a 760/770 to attend the B-school of my choice. I also spouted idiotic lines like “no point doing an MBA if it’s not from Harvard or Stanford”.. yeesh- I wish I could go back in time, just to slap myself.
Summer, 2012 I finally joined a Bangalore based GMAT instruction center. A well-known center in Bangalore, the proprietor had scored 800 on the GMAT and had been teaching the same for 16 years or so by then and specializes in training students who score 770+ (or so he advertises). He is a polarizing figure in the Bangalore GMAT and MBA-aspirants pool, so I am going to stay clear of taking any sides. I will say this - he does provide good content in math and provides a good base for SC and RC. He and his team are nice people-how you take that advantage of the center (or any other) is up to you. I spent months on classes, training videos, studying in the rooms etc. - and my GMAT base was built there. It didn’t help beyond that. A lot of people swear by his content and have scored extremely well. Probably more than any other center. Again - I am not going against them - but most people don’t excel here. That’s a fact. So it’s a matter of where you perceive which side you will be here, prior to joining.

With regards to training centers, I see it is as an expensive launch pad that forces you to get started on your preparation. Nothing more, nothing less. Some people go the whole 9 yards and use this time to get a 750,760+ etc at the end of the course. Most don’t. My advice when it comes to tutoring is this - get a personal GMAT tutor. Yes, it costs a lot but this is an investment into your future - one that will pay immediate dividends. It may cost you thousands of dollars over 3-4 months, but you will learn exponentially more from someone who is personally invested in your success than a teacher who coaches 200 students in a day. These guys have weathered the storm, and they know all the shortcuts and all the tricks you need to win. They push you far better than you can push yourself. Trust me, you need all the weapons you can find in this battle. Take both (generic coaching & private tutoring) if you have the funds - but you have to get a personal tutor. It helps in completing your GMAT in a few months rather than spend years studying on your own. This is one rule as a prospective MBA student you may have heard before, but haven’t absorbed yet- Time is money. A tutor-assisted 720 and a quick admit to a good school in a year is better than “hoping” you will study well on your own, “hoping” you will get a 760, and correspondingly “hoping to get” into a top 10 school next year. Sad truth is most of you will fail to understand this - and I include myself in this list. Getting in to a b-school a year earlier directly adds at least a $100k into your pocket. A $100k you won’t have if you miss out that year for a bad score. Many guys miss out on B-school for 2-3 years, just focused on hitting that target score/school. If that’s your plan - you better hope you succeed on the highest level.

So in fall 2012, I began my GMAT and (correspondingly) MBA prep for real. I already had 2.5 years of work experience. Although it didn’t help me in the long run, these classes gave me an understanding of what the GMAT entailed (truth be told a good friend who studied can do the same over a week or 3-4 days). So does this article to an extent. I later started my basics on Quant, SC, CR and RC. (My CR basics were completely wrong - I only learnt that later. I’ll come to that later).

The classes for the most part - didn’t help me. I ended up falling asleep more than actually learning something (but that’s just me - it’s not reflective of the class). It’s not that I didn’t have an interest - but this class-like learning wasn’t working for me. By 2013 I genuinely started a real preparation and strung together a few hours daily after work and during weekends. My math was good, my verbal passive. But I soldiered on. The content given by the training center, especially “Quant Latest” material was vast! But understandable. SC, CR and RC didn’t really help me much in the beginning though. And the “basics” that were provided was way too vast. After 3-4 months of studying varied content without any structure, I finally took a mock test (without IR and AWA) early 2013. My score - a miserable 550.
Yes, after studying months, I got a 550. I don’t remember the split - but I it was bad. I also knew I had just started. So then it ACTUALLY began - my tenuous, yet eventually successful GMAT journey.

Attempt 1
Study period: May/June - December 2013.
Exam on 1st week of December. Score 690 (Q48, V36)


Don’t assume I studied every day, every month. My studies were relatively consistent. I worked full time, but I managed to pull in 4-5 hours daily (studied early mornings for 2 hours, 1-hour afternoon and 2 hours in the evening). And on weekends I managed 6 hours. Sometimes I was busy and I didn’t study for months. But I got into a groove and started getting my basics with the content I had - I will list out all “required to study” content later -a lot of what I studied was a total waste of my time so I won’t waste your time with it too.

What worked for me was the quant content the training center gave me, what didn’t was my basics in CR. It was wrong - so wrong (will explain later)! Even my SC basics weren’t that good for a great score. My RC was good - but not really good. All these things come together when you take a test. Studying was hard - not that I didn’t know how to study, but sometimes a lot of the content I studied were not that good, or I didn’t focus hard on the important concepts. That’s the key - if you know a concept -especially in math well, you can answer any form the question is twisted in. The trick is in knowing which concepts to focus on more. Not saying anything should be skipped - but some concepts are worth studying harder than others.
I had a bunch of friends, acquaintances and strangers who joined me during this time to study with together. Most of them gave up as they gave excuses or just didn’t have the stones to study- some stuck longer than others, but most didn’t. In the end I did study on my own 80% of the time.
I took a mock twice a month initially. I saw my scores slowly increase. From 600’s, 640’s to 700’s.
During the last week all I did was take mocks. Take one test, and after that you really can’t do much in the day. I kept scoring 710’s to 680’s. Some mocks I scored a 740 (but this was a repeat). On the Manhattans I scored 680,690, and since everyone said it’s much harder than the real test - I was like “yay! I will crack the 700 barrier easily”.
The day of the exam, AWA and IR wasn’t too bad. I started Quant well. I didn’t time myself well, in the end I had 2-3 questions with 1-minute left and I guessed all 3. But Quant didn’t trouble me at all - it was a breeze. I am unsure if I even finished properly. In my last question, I didn’t press the confirm button after selecting the answer - and time ran out. Verbal started with gusto, but soon the SC became harder and harder. CR too. My last RC question (Question 33 or 34) during the last 10-13 minutes was a doozy! I still to this day cannot understand what the hell was written or even what it was about -It was an extremely complex philosophy article (which means I was doing quite well) but mentally I was too tired to make an effort. So I guessed and moved on. I am sure I lost a ton of points there because of that. I had a few SC and CR questions I quickly guessed as well and finished. Saw my score -690 (Q48, V36). I was pissed. Little did I know this was one of my better performances. I knew better timing in Quant and a little management in Verbal could have helped hit 710 easy. It could have easily been my ONLY “good” performance - if I didn’t take a massive, emotionally draining 4th attempt a year and a half later.

Attempts 2 and 3
Study period: March 2014 - December/Jan 2015.
Exam on July and December. Score 640 (2nd attempt Q45, V34. 3rd attempt Q48, V32)


This time can best be described as a punch-in-the-gut, negative period. After my exam, I had a headache for a month. I could have applied to B-schools for Round 2, but I decided not to. I decided to forget the 2014 application cycle. I planned to write the test in August 2013- BUT I KEPT delaying it to December chasing that perfect score. I could have gotten into a good school in 2014 and I could have graduated in the coming months today as you read this. Certainly not as good as the school I choose to attend now, but it was an option. My point here is that me getting a 740 in the future was in no way certain. Anyway, what’s done is done. Those of you stuck in a similar situation- consider your options.
Anyway, In Jan/Feb 2014 I was slowly losing my GMAT study conditioning. When I finally got into the groove it was March/April. Now this section for those of you planning to retake the GMAT after getting a 660-690 range. This is the time many of us resort to brute force studying - to just push that score a little more. I knew that since quant was a breeze, and that I hit a 48 despite messing up the last three questions. But I assumed -wrongly - that studying 700-800 levels math questions (from the tutorial classes guy and other online content) will surely help me hit a 50 in quant. And since I studied harder sums - medium level sums will be easier/faster to solve. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Verbal - I don’t even remember how I managed to make worse - but I did. My CR went from average to horrible. The problem was my basics were bad. Also, online answers for Math can be trusted. Online CR CAN’T be trusted. Studying CR content online (non-official) is a sure shot way of messing up you logical thinking. My RC didn’t improve nor did SC.

But I went ahead. I ignored the signs I was doing badly. Manhattan mocks were 660, 640 etc, but the Kaplan’s and GMAT prep mocks were 690- 730. What I didn’t realize was that some preps were giving me higher scores because I had done most of them before. I also had SO much quant content I was studying math problems that were 700-800 level and around 3000 extra sums that were not usually asked on the GMAT. Basically it was a mess. Being an idiot - I went ahead saying- “These tests are wrong, I will do awesomely well. I am the exception.”
I took the Second exam on July/August/September (don’t recall - don’t want to recall). It was SO bad on many epic levels. I over studied, over-prepared and messed up my basics. Add to that I took more red bull and snicker bars than needed. During the exam I felt heavy, bloated and wanted to piss badly and I think I walked out too to take a piss during Verbal. I drank 2 red bulls to keep my focus, it only ruined it. I don’t remember Quant - but I knew I couldn’t solve anything! The sums seemed alien! I couldn’t believe how hard the exam was. Verbal was worse - But I fooled myself into thinking I was doing well. End result - 690. Q45, V34. I stared at the screen for what seemed like eternity before I cancelled it.
I came out - my entire plans were ruined. Round 1 with a 750 wasn’t happening. There was no way my post GMAT headache would allow me to study for a bit either. All my preparations, research for the M7 schools were wasted. I now had a choice - apply with 690 to a few schools, or study hard again and write the GMAT. I decided to apply for the schools- because at this point I didn’t know how on earth I could study anything else. I exhausted 30 mocks, and my books littered two massive tables. I hit a wall, and now top 5 or top 10 schools looked like pipe dream. What I didn’t know was that so were the top 20-25 US schools!
So I started applying. Just to be safe I applied to schools in the Top 30 also. As I have mentioned earlier - this was a colossal waste of money and effort. Most schools were in the ranks between 13-14 and ranked up to 24. I met a top 12 school (located relatively on north, eastern side) adcom at the school’s event in Bangalore, who said he loved my profile and said (I paraphrase) - “Your profile is amazing, don’t worry about the GMAT - we love exceptional applicants like yourselves.” He spoke about how he too was a B-school grad at that same school, like other adcom members. They had peers who knew nothing except how to score at the GMAT - so they don’t value the GMAT highly. Bought into this BS, I applied. They dinged me 1 and a half months before the decision deadline. I never knew there was an early reject- boy, that’s one way to get trolled! Well played sir, well played. @$$Ĥϕ£€.

I had 1 or 2 interviews, but it was clear that I wasn’t getting invites from most schools. In November Round 2 applications began, by then I had one interview in good west coast school that showed promise, but they waitlisted me in the end, despite an exceptional interview. When I spoke to the dean of admissions post waitlist, she told me almost apologetically, that my GMAT was the reason I was waitlisted (they in fact loved my profile and goals). Around November I decided to prepare for the GMAT along with Round 2 apps. I thought this would be a final attempt. I kept Dec end as the time frame.
This time, I got my math act together. I went back to my basics. Prepared that well. Verbal was still fundamentally off. So my preparation - despite the effort, was in no way going to get me the score I wanted. In fact, my CR regressed to a point where I didn’t know how to solve them anymore. CR was a TOTAL mess. RC also had regressed a bit; I couldn’t focus on long essays. SC was ok - but not enough. I barely remember my Mocks, but since I had recently taken them - I didn’t have many options for prep.
But in all my prep wasn’t too bad. I genuinely felt I was going to crack 700+ this time. I was out scoring my friend (who was preparing with me and eventually got a 720) in almost every department except CR, and maybe a bit in RC. We both decided to take the test together.

I took the third GMAT exam on December 2014/January 2015 (again I don’t recall exactly when). During this test - my mood was perfect. I slept properly the day before, I was in a great mood, I was feeling confident and fresh. My friend and I also joked along the way to the exam. Even in the background at work, I had good tidings and I was doing well. Basically all “signs” were that I was ready to finally crack this test and proceed to better things. And I told myself this. During the exam my food and drink intake was well maintained. In fact, I was fresh throughout the exam. I took one banana, and one monster and Red Bull. I drank half of each during the course from quant to verbal and it kept me really fresh. If nothing I finally figured out what works for me at the exam. If there was a “good signs” list, I was ticking all of them.

AWA and IR again, didn’t really matter. Quant started differently. My first question was exceptionally hard. It was a question I had never seen before, in any form! My answers didn’t even come close to options. It was mostly an experimental question - I took (I kid you not) 8 minutes to solve it, but I solved it. But after that I had no issues. Math was a breeze. Again, this time too in the last 3 questions of quant I had to guess as I didn’t have time. But I knew I had done well.
I felt good after quant. Now it was a matter of 75 minutes of verbal. A good run to finish. Truth be told I can’t remember how I did. I only found out how I did when I saw the score. 640! Again! Q48, V32. I walked out, my friend tells me he gets a 720. Saying that I had mixed feelings was an understatement.

4th GMAT attempt.
Study period: March 2015 - June 2015.
Exam on June last week. Score 740 (Q50, V40)


At this point in January, I was saturated. My 640 killed any hope of getting into B-schools I already applied to. From aiming at M7 schools - I was now looking at being rejected from the top 30 schools. Man that was a low point. Worse - by Feb, some promising plans at work didn’t pan out. It reached a point where there was nothing I could do there anymore. I gave my resignation letter in Feb with no idea what’s next. All I knew was that I didn’t want be a clichéd IT guy anymore. I wanted to actually make a difference. I had entrepreneurial plans - but little knowledge on how to exactly pursue them.
I spent this notice period relaxing and reevaluating what I wanted in life. 2014-2015 apps were over. All I did was spend the whole month watching TV shows/movies and spending time with my girl. l was just generally giving my head a break. It helped. A LOT. A month passed - and I knew whatever happened, I wanted an MBA - and for that I had to beat the GMAT.
So mid-march 2015, I began. Again. This time, I spoke less and worked more. Barely anyone knew I was preparing. Not even my closest friends. My girl (now ex) still has no clue I took the test! I found a tutor in an acquaintance - who himself was on a professional break. He had a 750, but he got dinged by the M7’s and was evaluating his next step. He was nice enough to guide me. He didn’t help “that” much content wise- but his guidance and support counted a lot. I also met two friends who quit recently and were preparing for the GMAT. I think these were the only people I told about preparing for GMAT. We studied during mornings on weekdays. I also started my entrepreneurial venture in April-May, and lucky for me since I was the boss - I arranged my work timings however I wanted. GMAT was secondary in all honestly for once, since I knew how I had done earlier- but I set a large of amount time aside at my convenience to focus on GMAT, which was critical to my eventual success.
By March I was going through my math basics again. I also finally fixed my verbal basics. Now this is critical. I finally started studying in long sessions of 4-5 hours at a stretch too. This helped increase my conditioning. I bought the GMATclub tests, which I feel helped immensely. This is REAL GMAT content. I found a few other tests which I hadn’t taken, I used my Manhattan tests again, since I took them almost a year back and all of the content felt fairly new.

Soon my scores finally reached the values I really wanted to see. On the GMATclub math sections my average was in the 50s, few times I got a 51. My verbal in Manhattan was hitting 45’s and 44’s. My Manhattan scores were 730’s and 750’s. My economist online tests also reflected a 730 to 750 range. I also went through Banuel’s content to keep in touch with 700-800 level math.

I planned to write the test in April/May as I wanted to be done with this to spend more time now on my entrepreneurial venture, but me being me, I pushed the GMAT to June. I booked it for June first week, and again promptly postponed it simply out of pure nervousness. Finally, I decided to take the plunge and book in the last week of June. In my head - I already thought I was going to write this test a month from now again. But I also had enough of the GMAT, I wanted to focus on my career. Before I took time out of my job (for a big company) to study- so I didn’t care. This time it was my own time the GMAT was eating into, and I didn’t want to feed it anymore.

At this point- work in the background wasn’t in an amazing shape. My co-founder quit since it was getting expensive, and our first web product wasn’t successful. I refused to let it get to me. Unlike my 3rd GMAT - all signs in fact didn’t scream “You are exceptional”, “You’re gonna do well” etc. I’m not a big believer in the supernatural or even religion for that matter, but as a former pro sports guy- I have superstitions. I look for patterns, signs, anything - for inspiration before a big game to spur us on. There were none, or if they were, I didn’t catch it. In caught viral fever though, 4 days before and just barely I recovered with 2 days to spare. I remember taking a walk, the day before the exam - telling myself one thing, “the lack of good signs doesn’t mean lack of a good result” or something to that effect.
The day of the exam, I nearly hit a vehicle while riding (talk about good tidings) to the exam center. I had to really calm myself on the way to the exam. Luckily that’s what the AWA and IR did. It barely fazed me this time. In the break I calmly had a bite of snickers, some Monster and started quant. It was SUPER easy. I double checked almost every answer and caught the traps too. In the end it was almost too easy - I thought I may have messed up. I had a ton of time (15 minutes) for the last 7-8 questions that I almost got cocky, but I managed to finish comfortably with 30 seconds left.

Prior to verbal in the break, I took another bite of snickers and gulped a bit of Monster again, and cleaned out my bladder twice in the 8-minute break just to be safe. I went in knowing I had done well in quant, but I knew the real battle starts here. I steadied myself - and I started again. SC started getting tough in the 6-7th questions. In my first CR question, I had a tough assumption question (it was the 5th question). I almost chose the wrong answer- and then I realized the right one (thank you CR Bible!). In my other exams I would have surely picked the trap answer. My CR base was perfect. I got tougher and tougher sums later on. But I didn’t have issues. There was one SC problem where I picked the right answer only based on a comma! It was that tough. There were some CR problems I knew I couldn’t solve- I didn’t waste more than a minute on them. I think I skipped/didn’t know anything for around 2-3 questions in total. If you don’t know how to solve it in 30-45 seconds, no point wasting time trying to solve it. Skip and move on. I’m sure, with little extra practice I could have done much better in CR

Finally, my toughest nemesis, RC. RC wasn’t hard, but a combination of fatigue, and tough passages at the end, inference questions and overall lack of confidence used to bring my scores down (especially in the 2nd and 3rd GMAT). You have to do REALLY well in RC if you want anything above 720. No question about it. The initial 2 RC para’s I breezed through, didn’t have too much of an issue. The RC passages got harder and even harder. But my prep was so good (I did LSATs - more on that later), neither time nor tough passages bothered me. I had 4 in total I think, none of them bothered me even a little. I finished the exam with the last two 2 questions done within 2-3 minutes pending.
For the first time ever, I felt good after the exam. I started sweating bullets filling in the info prior to seeing the score. Finally, I pressed the “see your score” button. It said 740. I screamed a (manly) “YESS!!” punched the wooden panel that held keyboard in exaltation. God alone knows what the rest of the people taking the test thought! Lol! I was so nervous, I don’t know what I pressed next to accept the score - I was scared if I didn’t select it, my score would be cancelled or something - I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was just holding back an avalanche of emotions. I then got worried - wondering if I cancelled the test by mistake, that I ran out, and asked for the print out of my unofficial scores. The lady said “yes, yes don’t worry. You accepted the scores.” But I couldn’t wait. Only when I finally got the printout in my hand was I finally at ease! Unfortunately for one of my friends, who wrote the exam with me, he scored less than 600. So I didn’t completely let out my exuberance.

5 years of idiotic “planning”, 4 goddamn attempts, 3 years of prep and 3 bad exams, 2 years of MBA applications and disappointments - finally lead to this 1 glorious day. What a journey. I hadn’t told my anyone about this test. Finally, it was over. Could I have done better - definitely! I was hitting 45’s in verbal sections, getting a 40 was a shocker, a 42 could have gotten a 760, AND I knew I was there - but it was time. I was happy with my score.

I can’t tell you how I felt that day. If I was a hugging person - I would have hugged everyone I spoke to. All I can say is this, for those of you still patient to be reading this - don’t give up. Life’s hardest things are the ones that keep you from following your goals. And the sweetest victories are the ones that make us give it our all. Give up here and you can kiss your dreams goodbye. Or fight. And win.

Below is the list of instructions that will certainly make sense now with the story at hand. With the context you will hopefully navigate your own GMAT exam to success.
General preparation information:

1. Get a tutor. Seriously - GET A TUTOR!
This point has been elaborated earlier. But it’s so important I thought I should share it again. Most of you will ignore this. Maybe reiterating it will have a few of you change your mind. If I did so, congratulations! You are already ahead of the curve. Thank me later!
2. You have to take your exam in April -May. Latest by June. (For fall applications)
Why? Because this gives you time to mess up and retake the exam with good preparation and a break in between. If you succeed- even better. More time for you to prepare for the school apps. I promise you, that is a beast in its own right. Give that section a wide berth.
3. Try not to study in bits (1 or 1.5 hours, and then take breaks). Study for 2-3 hours at a stretch.
I used to do this in my early exams. I studied 4-5 hours a day. A great amount - especially for us working professionals, but I wasn’t able to study long periods. You may not have a choice -and you would want to study at whatever time you get, but the GMAT is a marathon. Racing multiple 100 meters’ events daily, will not help in a 4-hour marathon. My advice - for working professionals - sleep early and get up really early (like 4 AM) and study 2-3 hours at a stretch. If you can study a bit later, good. Use that time for memorizing your formulas, flash cards, the idioms and other content you need to memorize only, not understanding content.
4. Never study one section (like SC, CR, or Quant) only for long days or weeks together.
For example, I studied one part of quant (example - permutations and combinations) for a week and studied it thoroughly before moving onto the next part. From an engineer’s point of view - its only logical to learn one part, do it exceptionally well, and then move to the next to build your solution. The problem is that the GMAT is so vast that you can never be perfect at all parts, together during the exam. Initially during your basics, it’s possible for you to learn things at stretch to make yourself comfortable in an area- but you have to mix it up daily. And this is how you will be tested too. Your base should be evenly built, and raised accordingly.
5. Study every day. Even if it is for half hour.
We are all busy professionals. Work will prevent you from doing anything productive weeks or months sometimes. These are the times you have to put you best effort. Studying for 2-3 concentrated months for 150 hours is better than studying 200 hours interspersed over 6-7 months. It’s not how much you study - it’s how much you recall over on that day of the exam. So even on your most busy days, put in half hour of studying - it goes a long way for success.
6. Don’t believe what people tell you about Mocks.
Many people have said - Manhattans are tougher, or Kaplans are easier, add or deduct 10 from the GMAT prep etc. Stop listening to them. Mocks serve one purpose - conditioning you for the exam. Nothing more. There is no formula to say how much you will get during the exam when compared to a mock. Mocks do help in one way - it gives you a range. A 750 guy will not get 690 on a mock, or vice versa. Take it as a range of 20 points below or above.
7. Get study partners - if possible.
This is not prerequisite, but it helps. The GMAT is a lonely marathon in a dark and desolate path. It helps to have someone fighting similar battles. They don’t need to be on the same level as you or hit the same targets (in my last GMAT study group, my friends averaged 600). But they need to be serious. It’s essential to get tips and pool information, and have fun at times.
8. Get some exercise done during the last stretch without fail.
What worked for me during the last exam was that for 3 weeks I regularly walked for 40 minutes. In other exams I didn’t - I locked myself in thinking every second studied helps. It didn’t. Exercise is a proven cognitive booster. Whatever works best- sweat it out & hit that 700+.
9. Want to make sure you stick GMAT goals? Bet money on it.
You can tell a million people or yourself sincerely that you will put your heart and soul into studying for the GMAT - it doesn’t mean squat unless you’re willing to back it up. And when you aren’t willing to back it up, with money - I guarantee most (if not all) of you will miss your goals. You can easily find out who will get a good score on the GMAT by simply seeing who is willing to bet their own money on studying for it.
How do you go about it? Give a trusted friend a good sum of money, such as Rs. 30000 or $1000 (not too much, but enough to pinch the pockets). Make sure that if you don’t hit your weekly goals, your friend spends installments (like Rs 1500) on himself (like an opposing football team’s jersey, gourmet meals etc. - something that you can’t use). Hit the targets, win your money back. It works best when you are studying with someone who has the same serious goals as you. They can verify your study targets too. Give each other a sum of money, and try to win it back. This’s also a good way to wean away those not serious from wasting your time. People will find a million dollars to attend HBS is given the chance, but they will squeam, give absurd excuses and weasel out rather than risk money on their own effort. Keep efforts realistic. I tried this with 6-7 guys who talked big, but none put up the money. None of them scored 700+ either. Only 1 scored more than 650. Remember - Talk is cheap, money and effort isn’t. Don’t kid yourself - you are doing this MBA for the money. No harm in that. But if you aren’t willing to bet $1000 on yourself now, forget that $200K salary 3 years from now.
10. DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN’T DO IT OR THAT YOU CAN’T GET THE GMAT SCORE YOU WANT.
Will Smith has said all that I can say about this topic in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” But it’s not just people who can’t do it who will dissuade you, it’s people who love you that will not want to see you torture yourself. But you decide when you stop. A LOT of people (well intentioned, mostly) told me that a 690 is awesome. It is the 87TH percentile. That if I couldn’t get if I can’t get 700+ in the 2nd attempt, I can’t get the score in my 3Rd time. For once I’m glad I never listened.
11. Finally - (this may not be for everyone). If you have enough experience - but a bad score despite many attempts - Quit your day job. Or at the least, take a sabbatical of 2-3 or even 4 months -GET THAT SCORE.
This is an argument similar to getting a tutor - 95% of you are going to ignore it and say, “Naah - that’s crazy talk! I can get the score without it.” What you are saying is “I am the exception”. Think about it - if you failed on multiple attempts, staying in the job is one way of giving up. What will you do different in time management that you didn’t do the first two, three or four times? It’s not just you, hundreds of thousands of people like you who don’t succeed. Many give up on their MBA dreams COMPLETELY because their scores aren’t good enough. They don’t want to take a risk. Or else they end up going to lower ranked schools and struggle to get a job they want. These are your choices. Again, this is if you want a top 20 School only and aren’t looking to compromise. I am not dissing the lower ranked schools (I myself attended “lowly” ranked college in India) - but if you have an aspiration & you think you are good enough you owe it to yourself. Otherwise be prepared to say- “naah, this was never my dream.”

A guy with 750 with a gap of a 1.5 years gap in his resume will look better than a guy with my strong career profile of 6 years’ experience and a 690. (p.s. - that guy went to Columbia, an Indian IT (Mech) guy who left Infosys, I promise you his profile wasn’t spectacular - he wasn’t an exception, his GMAT was). Some schools like MIT (not sure. It was an M7 school though) are ok with folks quitting 2-3 months before R1 to prepare for GMAT/applications. Some schools (I forgot which ones) are against it. Nonetheless, a gap of 3 months doesn’t look bad on your profile if you have 3-4 (or 5-6) years of experience. Also, add a year working from the R1 application time to entering school. Just show that you have a plan after you quit - & be genuine about it. Best case scenario- quit well before Round1, get your scores, and get back to work.

I wasn’t as brave. I didn’t quit for the GMAT - I left because there wasn’t anything for me at that clichéd job anymore. I left to start afresh. I used the transition time to finally break the GMAT 700+ barrier. I was lucky. But not everyone’s as “lucky” as I am. Make your own luck.

Exam writing prep points
1. Cultivate the right thinking. The exam isn’t for 4 hours - it’s for 2 and half hours.
Yes, that’s right. Your exam, and future, is decided on those 2.5 hours of quant and Verbal (unless your exceptionally bad on AWA and IR). That’s where all your mental faculty should be used and focused.
So how would you prepare? YOU HAVE to train for 4 hours, but you can train better. So the last 7-9 mocks I took were only the 2.5 hour mocks of Quant and Verbal. To tire myself - I did 30-40 questions of OG 13 Quant sums PRIOR my mock. So I strained myself for 4+ hours of effort.

So basically final few practice mocks prior to last GMAT were like this:
a. 1 hour (later I extended it to 1.5 hours) of OG Math doing 30-40 sums.
b. break for 8 minutes.
c. Start a mock with only Quant and Verbal
How did this help? For starters I fooled my brain into thinking the exam was only 2.5 hours long. The AWA and IR didn’t faze me at all - for me it was like something unconnected with the exam (like driving to the exam) that didn’t consume my mental resources. This is very important. In my 4th GMAT attempt, I never felt strained. Even after the exam! Except for like 5 minutes in the end, I wasn’t tired and my focus was rock solid. The AWA and IR are not a test - they are a burden to soften you up before the real fight. Don’t give them that power.
2. Take Red Bull, Gatorade, coffee or whatever you think is necessary for the exam to boost your focus. But just enough. Take your caffeine based supplement at the start of Quant, and have slight top up prior to Verbal. A banana helps. So does a snicker bar. Not both. Find what keeps you fresh during the exams and your combination of the same. And stick to it.

3. Do not believe in good omens before the test, or don’t feel bad if there aren’t good feelings or incidents that happen before the test.
I have touched upon this earlier. If you are someone who looks for signs and inspiration around you, know that the lack of good signs doesn’t mean no good luck. Be calm, whatever you can get will be decided in those 2.5 hours.

4. Sleep well. If possible workout the day before so that you definitely fall asleep.
The day before the exam is very critical, only study things you need to memorize. Nothing more. Try to sleep well- messing that can mean the difference between a good score and a bad one.

5. Your break isn’t 8 minutes - it’s 5 minutes.
When you practice your mocks, try not to use 8 minutes as your break. It’s actually 5-6 minutes. Most of time goes in the restroom, fingerprint scanning, processes, etc. Also you are bound to enter the exam back 2 minutes early, so that you’re not late. Unlike home, there is no timer - you make do with whatever clock is on the wall. In the exam, before I knew it I was back taking the test- the break felt like 3-4 minutes, not 8. Plan your mocks likewise.

6. Don't psych yourself out by coming to the exam too early either. Come half hour before just for safety.

7. Don’t lose hope when you mess up.
You can’t be perfect in the exam. There will be times when you won’t know the answers - be calm and soldier on. You can only improve your score, never reduce it. Keep that in mind.
Or even when you mess up the exam - its alright. There is a next time. Many of us crack it then.


Points on Each section of the GMAT:


AWA- Not really hard. Google “Chineseburned AWA” review. Takes half an hour of practice to get it right. And you can practice on mocks. Just check for spelling mistakes you may make but don’t catch in this age of MS Word and Outlook. I always used to type strengthen as “strengten”!
IR- I didn’t prepare and neither should you. Practice all you can during mocks. 6-7 attempts should be fine to get the hang of it. Unless you score less than 4 on a regular basis on mocks. Don’t prepare.

Quant and Verbal

Reading Content:


Compulsory
Official content: OG 13/15, Verbal Review, Quant Review, and buy the extra content available on GMAC - the 400 odd extra sums. (You get 100 or so free when you register - pay a nominal fee to get the rest)
Manhattan: All books (except CR)
CR Bible- (Very, very important)
Past LSAT solved papers - For RC
Non-compulsory
Banuel’s 700-800 level sums (really useful and really confusing too. But worth it if you want a 50-51.
Quant Latest - Or a set of sums on the multiple Quant concepts. This file is floating around the internet from the tutorials I mentioned earlier. Its good content, but too vast I feel.

Mocks/Tests:

Compulsory

Official GMAT exams: GMATPrep 1 and 2 (free). Buy the extra exam pack for exams 3, and 4.
6 Manhattan tests: Should be free with Manhattan books
GMATclub tests: 30 math, 6-7 verbal tests. (You can skip the verbal if needed). Buy it 2 months prior.
Free Economist tests - Kenan Flagler has a free test and another free test available is at Economist

Non-compulsory
800 Score - very good content. The Math mocks. I used these questions to study for GMAT a lot.
Veritas prep- 6 tests (I think- been awhile)
Kaplan - 6 tests I think.

Online resources:

Trust only BeatTheGMAT, GMATclub and Manhattan if you want to really research content online. And trust only expert replies. There’s a lot of wrong answers & idiots out there - listen only to the experts like Ron Purewal, Mitch and Banuel. These guys have superb answers to tough questions.
(All this may seem expensive- get partners to share costs if needed. You won’t be studying all content at one go - so it can easily be shared among many people)

How to study

Quant:
1. Manhattan content. The first 5 basics books: May seem silly because it starts from the absolute basics. I learnt a ton of points I may have missed otherwise. Condense these books into notes with pointers to important points and important practice questions in them.
I condensed the 5 books to notes of 30 pages or so (with references to tough questions in them)
2. Advanced Manhattan Quant: Again a must read, especially for those of you who want 650+. Make notes. Keep track of your mistakes.
3. Your GMAT Math content (May be ignored, may): At this point, most of you would have a collection of math practice sums. I used “Quant Latest”. From what I hear it’s readily available online. You folks reading this may have your own collection of 600-700 level sums. Use it to further improve your math.

Now it should be divided into 6 parts. Now explaining tips for all of these sections will be crazy long, so I will give some cliff notes.

a. Permutations and Combinations - Unfortunately there are too many problems and ways to twist these problems. You will have to learn them.
b. Geometry and Co-ordinate geometry- study this section really well. 2-3 times over If needed. Fewer examples available - but each one important. Focus more on Geometry. Coordinate is relatively easier.
c. Inequality - You have to make short cuts for all the complicated inequalities formulas you have. And there are tons. This includes the Mods as well. Condense a problem/formula to a derivative so that you save 1 minute or so on the GMAT every problem. Goes a long way.
d. Word problems - Too many sections are covered here. But I can give tips on Speed, Distance, and Time. May be the hardest of the lot. There are 100’s, if not 1000’s of problems. But what I noted is that there are only 30-40 ways they can twist them. Memorize each and every one of them. This was my weakest section in Math I think - but after I decoded all of the sums and saw that there were only a few patterns - I conquered it easily.
e. Number properties- Make notes on the properties. Such as prime numbers etc. And again memorize them. This section too is really vast, so learn the the formulas, synthesize it and move on.
f. Stats- This is probably the easiest to score. So don’t worry too much.

4. GMAT Club tests: Practice these tests daily. There will be time limit when you buy them so try to finish them before. 2-3 months is fine. Some days I just didn’t have mood to study- I used these tests. In fact, in March I was quite lethargic. I just forced myself to start the tests, and it forced me to study. Later I used to take 2 tests a day. Further improving my math conditioning. These tests have some of the best math problems. In fact- I kept a record of all mistakes, and studied only that prior to the test. Invaluable. I credit GMATclub to raise my Quant to a 50.

5. OG 13/15, Quant Review, Quant content on GMATprep software.

I left this section for the end. The GMAC official content is the most valuable content. People usually ignore it thinking it’s too easy - but the content here is worth its weight in gold. This is the content that the questions on the GMAT exam are directly based on. Do not ignore it!
So I used this content prior my last 8-9 mocks mostly. I also used it to condition myself for quant. I used to do 40-50 sums at a stretch. What happens is when these sums are taken individually, they may not seem hard. Together- it’s a challenge, especially after the 1-hour mark - these are the mistakes you will make in the actual exam!
And as always, mark your mistakes and keep them separately to review again

What I have seen, over the course of years is that the mistake I did 2 years ago- will happen again today! Its uncanny how so many same mistakes I did several times over the course of the years. So just knowing how to solve it once and moving on may not work. This is usually a lack of understanding concepts. So this is why an error log is critical. On your revision - go back to only your error logs. If you solved (not guessed - solved) a sum correctly - chances are most probably you will solve it again, so don’t worry too much. The mistakes need monitoring.

Finally- if you really want to hit the 50/51’s - try learning from Banuel’s 700-800 content. Be warned its EXCEPTIONALLY hard. Some of them (especially Permutations) don’t make sense to anyone online (a guy with 790 AND 800 both said so!). So study at your own time if you are confident. He has some brilliant tricks that is worth learning.

Verbal:

SC: Ah Sentence correction, the quant section of the GMAT. This is actually the easiest in GMAT. Though it may not seem so initially - as there are SO MANY rules. But the rules, however vast, are finite - and easy to learn and memorize with effort. Is essence like math.
a. Start with Manhattan SC. This is the best material for SC. Extremely sad that I learnt this only in the end. I should have started this early.

b. Official GMAC content. OG 13/15, Verbal Review, GMATprep software questions. Now this “should” be enough. But you need to go through this content 4-5 times. I did it in the end. Once you are at a certain average 600-650 level - it shouldn’t take 2-3 days to go through all the content. Every official sum has to be analyzed to the bone.

For example you have a sum. You got the right answer. What do you DO? Now you go through each and every wrong answer. See why each wrong answer is wrong. Usually each wrong option on SC has 2-3 points (mistakes) you can pick up. LEARN IT ALL. I made a notebook of only official SC sums. In that I kept a log of all points of every wrong answer. And I memorized them. Most of them I knew - not all. These are the ones I focused on.

Also check online. Every official GMAT SC answer is analyzed on the three sites I mentioned before. Pick up points from them too. This is a must do. The official GMAT answers sometimes aren’t clear- they just say this answer is wrong “because it sounds weird or sounds wrong”. Mitch, Ron Purewal et all bring a lot of points which make sense for these answers. They also bring out other points not mentioned in the GMAC official content. At an expert level - I instinctively figured out which ones “sounded wrong” but that came after years of practice. But as a beginner/intermediate don’t go on instincts - rely on grammar rules.

c. Idioms - Idioms are critical. Manhattan SC has a ton of it. Learn/memorize it all. This is the difference between an American doing well on SC with a week’s study and an Indian doing badly despite 5 months. Most of Americans, don’t even go into detail. The instinctively know what sounds wrong. So spend time learning them. Especially the ones from Official GMAC.

d. Unofficial content- There’s a lot of unofficial GMAT content online. Frankly I learnt this first. Mistake. Many of you may do the same. Do it at your own peril first. Learn the official content first. If needed, go through your collection of unofficial GMAT SC problems. There are some good content out there.

CR: CR bible. Nothing else. Don’t go with any other BS available online - I have gone through most of them. There are few problems, and the content is as vast as my review - But I promise you it is worth it! Most people get intimidated by the size of it and learn the wrong concepts. Now after you finish this - be judicious with the CR practice problems. This section has the least problems available (good content). Almost all of the good practice content is the GMAC official content (OG 13/15, Verbal Review, GMATprep software questions). There is a lot “CR practice” problems online which are fundamentally flawed. Solving them will do more harm than doing nothing!
Also unlike math and SC, you cannot repeat these problems as you will have an input from memory. So once you finish the CR bible - practice these sums and get perfect at them. I did the opposite, since my prep was a mess, I already finished all good content. Once I completed CR Bible (in the far end of my prep) I didn’t have any trust worthy questions which I haven’t seen to practice on - yet I did well!
RC:

You can start with Manhattan RC (honestly - I don’t remember studying from it). But your main learning will come from Practice only. Study the LSATs. They are RC passages on steroids! At the end, all I did was study LSATs. Daily I managed to do 4 passages from a test. I initially took 50 minutes to answer the 28 odd questions from 4 passages, later I brought it down to 37-40 minutes. That was perfect. Hit an accuracy of 70-80% and you are good to go for the GMAT. In fact as I mentioned, doing 2-3 LSATs a day helped me to manage the time in verbal and I never felt the passages were tough at all.

Well there you have it! If you stuck till the end. Congrats and thank you! I spent 2 weeks of “work” time writing it. Hope you learnt from it. And it was u

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Heseraj Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:43 pm
Hello

Wow, such a long passage. Well, my situation is like you in terms of understanding the GMAT, I trust my gut first and then write the test or apply to B Ss. The more i read and dive into a concept i realize the need of doing more. For two months, CR was what i was working. I bough CR Bible from Power Course and read it. Even though not really thoroughly, i read it and found it worthy of my expense. Having said that, i am a new immigrant to the United States from a very poor province in Afghanistan with very weak, even no, financial health or strength at all. I take on the challenge and am willing to give a go.

If nothing else, my pool of competitors might not be as tough as yours, yet, my credit and work experience is next to zero. (from a very optimistic perspective)

I, like you, realized that the only factor that will definitely distinguish me is the GMAT. my first mock test, (off of Veritas Prep) was 37 out of 100. (Interesting huh)! The mock, however, was heavily geared toward Verbal.

My score for the second mock, heavily great toward quant, was 44 out of 100. The next mock, hopefully, will be tomorrow or next Monday Marhc/21/2016.

I read your list of materials used and the only material that i don't have is LAST last paper. can you, would you, (do me a favor) ,being an expert of finding healthy and handy resources, give me specific addresses of where to go and what to look for, so i wouldn't waste my time trying to figure out everything on my own, pretty much what i have been doing up to now.

I will keep your advice and will not share my story of preparing to write the test until i crack to a 700 or higher.

All the best
Hesamseraj

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harshshah6789 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
Joined
25 Aug 2014
Posted:
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Post Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:28 pm
An inspirational debrief!! Heartiest congratulations Smile.. Can you share LSAT RC - harshshah6789@gmail.com. Thank you!!

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varunshetty_1 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Sat Mar 12, 2016 12:34 am
Thanks @faisal and Abhi.

Hope it was helpful.

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faisalkakar Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:59 pm
Wow what a journey - thanks for sharing!

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