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GMAT Labor of Love

This topic has 4 member replies
drhomler Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
03 May 2007
141 messages

GMAT Labor of Love

Post Mon Jul 02, 2007 8:37 am
680(44Q39V)89th overall

I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of you who helped contribute to my experience. Jay you are a wealth of knowledge and I appreciate your efforts. And of course Eric, pure genius. If I ever make it out your way I would like to buy you a beer.

Background-I've been out of undergrad for 7 years, I graduated from a small liberal arts college in New England. I don't play number games or do math puzzles for fun (at least I didn't prior to 8 weeks ago) and I don't critique grammar for a living. I work in finance and I work 70hrs+ a week. I sacrificed all my personal time over the last 8 weeks to prepare for this test. I think the ideal time would probably be between 3-4 months with a plan of taking the exam twice. Obviously it varies depending on your background and your personal commitments, but if you are serious about it the test than you have to make sacrifices.

The Materials used-
2006 MGMAT books
OG 11/OG Verbal and Quant
Kaplan 800

My brief critique of the materials. MGMAT is very good for number properties, word translation and SC. On their practice CAT's the math is a behemoth and really helps accentuate the nuances of the material. Their practice SC seemed a bit too easy relative to the real thing, which is not to say the book is bad. In fact I consider the MGMAT SC to be a must have book for prep. The official guide is exactly what it says "the official guide" if you plan on studying for the test without those books you are on a fools errand. I cannot conceive of a logical reason to invest your time in the test and not use these books. I never really got into Kaplan 800 my prep time was a little under two months and there was so much material to cover, and I read some posts that referred to Kaplan questions as hard not because of their difficulty but because they were worded in a convoluted fashion and I didn't feel like freaking myself out towards the end.

One last thought on practice materials. You are your best resource. By this I mean you must work hard and use whatever material you have to the fullest of your own ability, no prep program can do that for you. I consider money to be a secondary issue in this endeavor. $1000, $1500, $2000 while nothing to sneeze at is a drop in the bucket compared to what your tuition will cost(150K all in). And in my opinion your time is far more valuable than anything else. Yes this business school thing has become a business, but now you are part of it, and it makes no sense to cut off your nose to spite your face. Of course some people can get through self study and do quite well, but is really worth 2 or 3 months of your effort to find out the answer?

All 6 MGMAT practice CAT exams at there center in NYC(there is no substitute for simulation-test companies cannot completely mimic the test, but the experience helps)
Week 1)620(40Q-35V)
Week 2)640(44Q-34V)
Week 3)650(37Q-41V)
Week 4)650(44Q-35V)
Week 5)690(46Q-38V)
Week 6)680(45Q-38V)
2 Powerprep(last 10 days)
2GMATprep(last week of study)
1)620-42Q-33V(A real gut check)-Almost all my wrong answers were SC-that when I decided to reread the MGMAT SC 3 times.
2)680-47Q-37V(Very confusing)

In July 2006 almost exactly 1 year to the day that I took the actual test I signed up and watched the MGMAT 9 week virtual class. I never cracked a book or participated in a single homework assignment, and I did not even try a practice exam. For all of you out there considering that approach I do not recommend it. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in this whole experience was you have to have a reason for taking the test. It doesn't matter what your reasons is, as long as it matters to you. Last year I was taking it to get it out of the way, which did not truly hold an value in my psyche and the result was clearly lackluster. If you are a born test taker and number games come easy to you, and obscure pseudo grammar is your forte than disregard my previous statements.

I began my most recent preparation by taking a baseline MGMAT test 8 weeks ago the first weekend in May of 2007. Immediately following that I found this website and tried to find inspiration and advice from other people's experiences. Without that starting point I think I would have been lost. There truly is an unbelievable amount of information and resources on this site and can help improve your score

Identifying weaknesses in your knowledge base are the keys to useful preparation. From the baseline test I learned such valuable lessons as what a 30,60,90 triangle was, and why I might want to learn it. I am terrible at grammar absolutely awful, when I was a kid I moved around a lot during my "grammar school" years and I always felt like somewhere along the way I missed grammar. It wasn't until recently that someone pointed out that students in the US are no longer taught grammar so I didn't miss anymore than anyone else. Nevertheless my skills were lacking and if I wanted to do well I had to work at it. For those of you whose native language is not English, my hats off to you-I have no idea how I would approach SC in French.

I studied during every free moment I could find. For the last Three to four weeks I put in about an hour a night during the week and about 10-12 hours on weekends(which included a 4hour exam every sunday). I highly recommend taking your exam on the day you normally take your practice tests, I didnt do that but I think it would have helped my comfort level. I do not neglect the gym, excercise is as valuable for your mind as it is for your body. I normally hit the gym 4-5 times a week during the last month I cut back to 3-4 but I always maintained the routine.

Top Ten Study Tips:

1) Take a baseline test in retrospect I think I would have benefited from a Powerprep test on day one. Quant on Powerprep felt easier. Save GMATprep until the end
2) Make notecards-Eric's are awesome and a great place to start, but one of the keys to notecards is the process of making them. You will also want to tailor them to your specific needs. I cut 3x5 notecards in half punched a hole in the lower left and put them on a ring and flipped through them constantly while on the subway or waiting for people.
3) Take the OG 11 both Verbal and Quant books and do every single problem at least once including the easy ones. I often have harder time with the "easy" ones especially in grammar. What is easy to them may not be easy for you.
4) Get all over this website and participate. People here will support you, and help explain things to you. I picked up a lot of great tips on here that were invaluable to my prep.
5) You have to learn the GMAT style-Kaplan, MGMAT..et al. are great resources but there is NO substitute for OG. Use the prep courses to teach you concepts and work on streamlining techniques. They are perfect resources for honing skills. But the key to those programs is to learn something about the material not depend on them for everything.
6) Practice good test taking habits-don't do your problems in front of the TV(I cant resist a Yankee game). When you are in the exam you will always revert back to the mean. Under pressure all your sloppy habits will come back to bite you in the behind.
7) Keep track of all the problems on you complete on a spreadsheet. Try to take note of why you missed certain problems(was it timing, conceptual, addition errors?)
8) When you miss a problem don't just read the answer. Mark it wrong, don't look at the answer and work it again until you get it right. Hammer the concept into your head.
9) Read MGMAT SC book at least 3 times-SC was my kryptonite on the test, but by the third time I read the book and practiced all the problems in the OG I started to get a handle on what was going on. I have to admit I was totally clueless but I improved.
10) Commit to the test-it's the only way. Don't look at it as the enemy. Remember it is also your friend because it can help you get what you want.

Test Day:
I went to bed around 11:30 my exam was at 9 and I woke up at 3:30 in the morning. There was nothing I could do I wasn't tossing and turning, I was up. So I spent the morning cleaning my apt. which had been neglected since the beginning of May(sacrifices).

The test center was packed, all of new York appeared to be taking the GMAT. If you live in an area where there will be plenty of test takers especially in the summer. You might want to think about taking a day off from work and going during the week. The center was also oddly hot.

AWA-I never prepped for this. I would write the essay's in the beginning of the practice but I didn't read any strategy or look at sample topics. I wrote whatever came to mind. During the real thing I was raw nerves and experienced some trouble writing my essays. As a native English speaker who writes often, I have a feeling I will get between a 5 and 6.

Quant-The first ten were on par with the OG type questions except for number 2 I have no idea even to this day(2 days later) what it was asking. After 10 I feel as though I blacked out, the test became very challenging. Towards the end I got a really easy one I than I became concerned.

I had practiced taking breaks so I got up to take mine but because it was so crowded I had to wait on line to get checked back in. If your test center is crowded be careful. I sat there waiting for the proctor to let me back into the test and I lost a minute on my verbal section. I was already frazzled from the quant and this didn't start my verbal off on a good footing. This point has been made on the board so many times and I tried to practice it, but in the end my old habit came back. You have to completely let go of the first section and concentrate on the verbal otherwise you are hurting yourself.

Verbal-I kept trying to reassure myself that I did ok on the quant and to stay focused on the task at hand. I was having a mental chess game in my head during the test. Not good for the confidence. My verbal section seemed exactly like the OG, and I was pleased that I seemed to be on top of the SC. It seemed as though half the test was SC. During the test I struggled with concentration especially in the RC and towards the end there was a short passage and the questions were so awkward I think I missed them all. I spaced out several times. Than at the end I had a massive time crunch 3 CR with 3 minutes left to go(if only I had had that lost minute in the beginning). I was so hurried at the end I know that it affected my score.

I am now left with a rather amusing conundrum. I feel like I could have definitely done better on the test overall. I really wanted to 700. Perhaps next time I will sleep more than 4 hours the night before, I wont be as caffeinated and jittery, and I will remember to stay loose. I turned a big corner on the SC in the last week, and I feel as though I could improve that further, I finally understand what they are getting at. And now I will have more time to devote to the difficult math questions and hone my skills. The second time around I wont be as nervous because I have a solid score under my belt, and that extra minute in the Verbal could help. And I am still convinced that on any given day if the test hits you with question that you are good at or questions you are bad at you could have a big swing in your score, and therefore luck is a factor.

On the other hand perhaps my time could be better spent preparing my application. I view the GMAT as a barrier to entry, but not a deciding factor in admittance. Unless you score 98th percentile or higher does a 90th percentile change your candidacy dramatically relative to a 92nd percentile? I'm not sure the answer to that, but if I can differentiate myself in other ways I might be better off. I haven't decided whether I will take the test again but if Im going to I better get started.

One final parting thought, when taking the test stay within your means, and stay liquid. You never know what they are going to throw at you, but you do know what they are testing you on.

Last edited by drhomler on Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:00 am; edited 1 time in total

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jayhawk2001 Community Manager
28 Jan 2007
789 messages
Followed by:
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Post Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:03 am
Well done, drhomler. Truly admire your killer instinct. Congratulations !

Excellent debrief as well.

isisalaska Community Manager Default Avatar
10 Dec 2006
363 messages
Followed by:
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Post Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:01 am
Wonderlful. Congratulations!
I am giving the exam this Saturday. I have been taking just GMAt prep tests for the past week and I will do the same this week. So far I have gotten 610, 680 and 640 (last night). I hope this will be a reflection of my performance this coming Saturday. I just need 600. Any thoughts? Smile

Isis Alaska


Post Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:44 pm
Hey I'll take you up on that beer. Smile

Congrats on the great performance!

Sorin Istrate - Community Manager

MBA Watch - Your one-stop shop for all MBA program research

drhomler Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
03 May 2007
141 messages
Post Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:53 am
Thanks guys-Im teetering on whether to retake the test. Im real close to getting back on the horse.

Isis-trust your prep, and stay focused on the task at hand.I wouldnt spend too much time taking practice tests within the last few days. I would do lots of practice problems, but make sure to keep your confidence level up. At this point having faith in yourself will be your most powerful weapon. I avoided practice tests the last few days because I did not want to start thinking about how I only got an xxx yest or I did great blah blah blah. I wanted to maintain focus on doing and not worrying.

And no matter what you do: do not study problems or take practice tests within 24 hours of the test. Go watch an inspirational movie, listen to some music, go for a run, yoga. In the morning do some warm up problems(advice from stacie koprince, I read on a post) dont look at the answers and go bring home that score.

Eric and Jay Im sure Ill be out towards the bay area soon.

Last edited by drhomler on Tue Jul 03, 2007 7:03 am; edited 1 time in total

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