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My Path to a 770 - Dedication, Grit and a Dash of Luck

This topic has 1 member reply
Steve4090 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
09 Aug 2015
12 messages

My Path to a 770 - Dedication, Grit and a Dash of Luck

Post Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:22 pm
Hello All,

I've been looking forward to writing this post for quite some time and am thrilled that I can do so proudly and successfully. Those here at BTG has been outstanding (particularly Marty, David and Rich) and I attribute much of my success to the strong community we are fortunate to have here.

I took the GMAT back in September (life was calling, hence my procrastination in writing this) and I was fortunate enough to score a 770 (Q49, V46). My target score was a 740 and I feel lucky to have exceeded my personal expectations. Now I'd like to spend a short while sharing my story and a long while sharing my tips and suggestions to give you all the best chance of success. It feels good to have the opportunity to give back.

Here are my CATs and final result:

8/11: GMAT PREP #1 - 700 (Q47, V39)
9/2: MGMAT #1 - 680 (Q44, V38)
9/9: MGMAT #2 - 640 (Q42, V36)
9/14: GMAT PREP #2 - 740 (Q47, V44)
9/19: ACTUAL GMAT - 770 (Q49, V46)

I was in the beginning of a 2 month break between jobs and, on the advise of a mentor, I decided to dedicate myself to taking the GMAT. I set aside 5.5 weeks to fully dedicate myself. My goal was to take the exam once and only once.

Materials Used
This is a critical choice. I opted for the below:

1. Official Guide 2016
2. Manhattan Prep Complete Strategy Guide
3. The 60-Day GMAT Study Guide
4. Compulsive devouring of everything on beatthegmat.com

General Strategy
If you are curious, you can see my strategy organically unfold in my previous GMAT thread:


As my full-time job was studying for the GMAT, I wanted to maximize my efficiency while fending off the risk of burnout. I opted not to take part in a guided course in favor of self-study.

I began by taking a complete GMAT Prep CAT, properly timed and including AW and IR. I did this prior to any studying to set a baseline for myself. For reference, I scored a 700. I then deeply analyzed every question in the exam to learn about my timing and knowledge areas of weakness. For me, working too quickly (had ~15 minutes left at the end of each section) and SC were the biggest weaknesses.

With this baseline in mind, I began to tackle the Manhattan 10-book strategy series and, by default, the OG. For me these resources were interlinked. I used the OG problem sets to test my knowledge of the different Manhattan strategy books. More specifically, for each Manhattan book, I first tested my knowledge by completing a random set of related problems from the OG (this list is provided on manhattanprep.com). If I scored >75%, I gave myself a "pass," otherwise a "review." I did this for all 10 books.

Books that I scored a "pass" on I reviewed quickly and skimmed sections that I was already confident in. "Review" scores necessitated a thorough read of the book. Manhattan Prep provides mid-book and final quiz problem sets for each book as well. They provide 3 difficulties of problem sets and I always completed the medium difficulty set for each book as a way to gauge my progress.

It took me ~4 weeks to finish all of the books. Topics that I knew were a weakness I spent longer on (3 days for SC) and other books were a simple skim (CR in my case). Reflecting back, I felt like I was forcing myself to get further into the details than necessary at the time, but I now understand that that was when my true progress was happening.

The 60-Day GMAT Study Guide is an amazing resource. As my study plan was a bit more accelerated, I did not follow it exactly. However the articles it recommends were hugely valuable. Finally, this website was my guilty please during the whole process Smile But I deem it productive procrastination as I was always reading some post or article that added to my GMAT knowledge-base.

Steve's Keys to a Top GMAT Score:
I don't have an general structure here, but these are the top insights or pieces of advise that helped me to exceed my GMAT target score. Rather than a laundry list, I chose only my top 5:

1. Focus Energy on Timing - I started out with ~15 minutes to spare on each section during my first CAT. Later, I would get "stuck" on certain questions and would spent 4 minutes or more trying to figure them out. This resulted in my having to rush through the later questions. Both of these things negatively impacted my CAT scores. Its counterintuitive to much of the other advise out there, but for or me, moving quickly in the first 5 questions or so to secure a 4-5 minute buffer put my mind in the proper place. I didn't feel stressed spending 3 minutes rather than 2 on a question and felt that I was in control of my time rather than it me.

2. CAT Review - Its beating a dead horse, and I absolutely HATED doing it, but reviewing every single question on a CAT is crucial. If you missed the question, what was the exact mistake you made? What were you thinking at the time? How can you ensure that you will not make the mistake again? If you got the question correct, were you simply lucky? Did you spend too much time on the question? Was there a more efficient way? I often spent 5 hours or more reviewing my CATs.

3. Trust Only the GMAT Prep CAT - This is the CAT put out by GMAC, the company that actually administers the GMAT. Thus, it is the only exam that uses the same algorithm as the actual GMAT. CATs created by other companies are excellent for timing practice, identifying areas of weakness and drilling, but GMAT Prep will give the most reliable estimation of your score on the real test.

4. Don't Let the GMAT Consume You - After scoring a 640 on the MGAT CAT, I was stressing out badly. My sleep suffered, I began to make more foolish mistakes and my confidence was wavering. After reviewing the 640 CAT, I decided to take 2 full days off from the GMAT. In the remaining days leading up to my final CAT I studied only 2-3 hours per day. This refreshed me entirely. If you get stuck, sometimes all you need is a break.

5. Don't Expect Linear CAT Progression - As you can see my CAT scores dropped consecutively over a series of 3 exams. Frankly, this really sucked and it killed my confidence. However, I did lots of reading on this site and others about how progress is rarely, if ever, linear. This helped lift my spirits and likely my final score.

The community and resources here are outstanding. Be sure to capitalize on them. Feel free to ask any follow-up or clarifying questions about my experience with the GMAT. Thanks for your time!


Last edited by Steve4090 on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:42 pm; edited 2 times in total

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rahulzlpr Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
29 Jun 2015
32 messages
Post Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:11 pm
Hi Steve,

First of all congratulations for a stellar score. I have two queries regarding your debrief:

1> You mentioned about utilizing the resources on beat the gmat or gmatclub for that matter. Can you clearly specify exactly what content to access on these sites and how?

2> You made use of only Manhattan Guides and OG for your preparation regarding the content. I have come across posts wherein people vouched for the quant guides however were not too approving of the verbal guides as for instance they pointed out that the SC guide has lot many rules to cram and for RC the guide instructs you to take notes making the process lengthy and cumbersome and infact suggested aristotle verbal boooks. Kindly provide your view on this since Since I am also planning to use manhattan guides and am uncertain about their verbal guides.?

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